Does Digitial Media Substitute for Democracy?

Mickey Kaus Columnist

In China, peasants with cell phones can now air grievances, and the authorities often respond. Is this a good thing (because responding to grievances is the basic function of government) or a bad thing (because it allows the unelected Chinese party oligarchy to buy off enough dissent to stay in power)? Bob Wright says good, I say bad in what I thought was the most interesting segment of Monday’s bloggingheads.  …It seems to me Bob a) has a shallow idea of what democracy is all about–as if it’s only about being responsive to citizen demands and can be rendered otiose by an efficient complaints bureau; b) characteristically constructs a sliding scale in which the U.S. is only quantitatively ahead of Communist China in this all-important ‘responsiveness’ index–but hey, neither country is perfect, so who are we to lecture!; and c) ignores the possibility that some forms of incremental progress may actually lead to a larger lack of progress–if, for example, they allow a dictator to maintain just enough support to stay in power for decades. But that’s just me. You make the call! …