Kurlantzick, Joshua
April 2004
New Republic;4/5/2004, Vol. 230 Issue 12, p21
This article discusses how the Internet is not automatically a tool for democracy, as many supposed. My experience in the Vientiane cafe was a sobering antidote to a pervasive myth: that the Internet is a powerful force for democracy. For years, a significant subset of the democratization industry--that network of political scientists, think tanks, and policymakers--has placed its bets (and, in many cases, its money) on the Web's potential to spread liberal ideas in illiberal parts of the world. Whereas once American politicians and democratization groups focused on older technologies, such as radio, today their plans to spread democracy rest in considerable part on programs for boosting Internet access. In early March, Secretary of State Colin Powell told Congress that a crucial part of the Bush administration's democratization initiative will be establishing "American corners" in libraries overseas, complete with Internet kiosks where locals can surf the Web. Yet the growth of the Internet has not substantially altered the political climate in most authoritarian countries.


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