Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Internet

Liberalism’s War on the Internet

Over the past few weeks, the occupation of the capitol building by pro-Trump demonstrators has legitimated a raft of security measures. The War on Terror is now the War on the Internet. In the wake of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, liberalism has become aware of the danger posed to it by the internet. On the internet, discourse proliferates rapidly, in an uncontrolled and unmediated way. Many web users begin to develop positions which are incompatible with liberal pluralism, which paint their political opponents as enemies who must be comprehensively destroyed. During the 90s, 00s, and early 10s, the internet was not treated seriously by liberal theory. The triumph of the populists in the mid-10s forced liberalism to reckon with it. Now liberalism is trying to change the internet into something compatible with liberalism.

Read the rest of this entry »

How Changing Understandings of Democracy Create New Possibilities for the Left

Yesterday, I gave a short talk for the Platypus Society at Goldsmiths‘ in London about interactions between democracy and leftism. The following post is a transcript of that talk.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Slow Corruption of Public Discourse Since Watergate

In the 44 years since Richard Nixon resigned the presidency of the United States, political discourse has deteriorated. There are many reasons for the decline in the discourse, but today I want to focus on two forces which have come together in America–one sociological, the other technological–to impose a spontaneous order which greatly reduces the scope for authentic expression, both in public and in private. This new social order is not planned by anyone–it has no author, it requires no institutionalised hard coercion. It arises spontaneously from the interaction of the two forces.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Decline of the 20th Century Political Campaign

Political campaigns started getting expensive in the 1960s, when television advertising became the next big thing in campaigning. Even before TV, reaching people was hard work. You needed to knock on doors, phone bank, and send out mailings. All of this required a lot of dedicated activists and dedicated dollars. And so politicians depended very heavily on the activists and donors who could provide these things. All of this is in the process of changing. Activists and dollars are becoming less important than they used to be. They still matter, but not as much. And as time goes on, they grow weaker.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fun.gov: How to Make Art Free without Starving the Artists

A few weeks back, pop star Taylor Swift pulled her songs off of Spotify on the grounds that free streaming services don’t compensate artists sufficiently for the value of their social contribution. You know who Taylor Swift is, right? If not, here’s a picture of her to help you out¬†(and get more people to click on links to this piece–for some reason, people really like photos of young female celebrities):

Swift’s argument makes some sense–art certainly adds value to our lives and contributes to our society, and we can’t have art if we’re not willing to pay our artists. The trouble is that these days it’s very easy for people to avoid paying for art over the internet, and there’s no practical means by which laws would be enforced to ensure payment. Going forward, this is going to get exponentially worse, until the entertainment industry is left with a fraction of what it brings in today. Additionally, the age of streaming and downloading introduced a new¬†principle that appeals to many young people–that all citizens, regardless of income, should be able to enjoy art equally in a free society. These two principles conflict. How can artists get paid for their art if their art belongs to society and individual consumers have the means to access the content for free with impunity? I’ve found a way to do it. I call it “Fun.gov”. If you’re a small government type, it’s going to rub you the wrong way at first, but hear me out. This could work.

Read the rest of this entry »