Defining “Digital Democracy” and the Fifth and Sixth Estate
If the fifth estate is bloggers and alt-media, then the sixth estate is the people, their comments, and social media.
If Democracy is the third estate having governmental power, then “digital democracy” is the power of the Sixth Estate in the digital age.
Below we discuss “digital propaganda” and “digital democracy” in the Fifth and Sixth estate. The goal will be to present the groundwork for a strategy for digital democrats, liberals, and republicans (small d, l, and r) that helps to prevent Digital Democracy Leading to Digital Anarchy and Tyranny due to Digital Oligarchy.
Clarifications and Definitions
Since I am essentially coining terms here, let’s start with some clarification and definitions.
In ye old class system there was:
- First Estate: The Moral Authority. The Church.
- Second Estate: The Nobility and Royalty.
- Third Estate: The people, urban and rural, workers, employers, investors, and peasants.
- and unofficially, The Fourth Estate: Media (in those days, the printing press).
- Today we generally consider alternative media and bloggers The Fifth Estate.
The idea is that media influences the other classes (it transfers data in and between the social classes).
Here, with this in mind, I’d like to confirm a Sixth Estate, and that is the people themselves; the 7.5-and-growing billion (or at least the fraction of them who have access to social media and comments sections).
This opens the door for, the propaganda of the Sixth Estate (which will ironically undo the Sixth Party Propaganda if we are lucky).
This can of course be very bad, as 7.5 billion tyrants is theoretically the tyranny of the online mob, but, if used correctly (in the way say we propagandize the Civil Religion Americanism to great effect), it may just be “very good”.
TIP: The image below shows a detailed illustration of the class system. The Fourth estate is the media. The Modern concept of the Fifth estate describes the “alternative media” and bloggers. Given all that accepted logic, I would submit that the Sixth Estate is the media equivalent of democracy, the “digital democracy” (the people’s ability to influence via social media and the internet).
TIP: To be clear, The Highest Good, what today we call utilitarianism, the General Will, what we would call the Common Good, and the Truth, that is that which isn’t half-truth, misinformation, or disinformation, is the goal of any good theory (including this one). Anything I can’t state clearly enough can be confirmed by figures like Plato, Locke, Rousseau, or Mill. If this somehow the theory on this page gets read as negative, I apologize to the reader that I was not able to articulate my intentions more clearly.
Liberty, Equality, Empathy, Ethics, and Education: The Virtues of Digital Democracy
Before moving on lets consider the virtues of digital democracy, like Liberty and Equality in the Digital Space.
Thus the digital democracy has a baked in problem, this is that things are likely to get messy and perhaps even stay messy (and these breeds digital anarchy and tyranny, which, in digital democracy, includes what I would call “digital terrorism” such as can be seen with “weaponized information”).
Luckily digital democracy, just like regular democracy, can be improved with things like ethics, empathy, and education.
A well informed electorate, with a set of ethics, and with empathy for other citizens can help ensure the digital democracy against the sort of digital anarchy we saw in the 2016 elections.
- Education, because when the digital democracy is smart and well armed with facts, fake news soundbites are less likely to be shared and propaganda is less likely to spread.
- Empathy, because when we see the other political factions as fellow citizens (or foreign entities with the right to self determination), and not enemies-no-matter-what, then we are less incentivized to wage digital war with them.
- Ethics, because general customs and ethics have been shown to work wonders in creating a positive environment online (a space like Wikipedia being a good example; but even Reddit being an example how basic community rules can keep a digital democracy relatively civil).
Shaping Public Opinion: From the 1400’s to Today
It used to be that the Church, the King, the Nobility, the Barons, and the Intellectual few were the taste makers.
Then, some rouge thinkers with some resources became taste makers, our Martin Luthers and Machiavellis, and then our Lockes, Madisons, and Hamlitions, etc (I’m using political philosophers as examples, but more examples of different types could certainly be offered).
Then, industrialization gave way to more books (and more inequality), and there was Mill and Marx.
Then mass media arose, and the Fascists and Communists tried to take us from one direction, while TV, radio, and film took us from the other, benevolently imbuing us with western values (and a consumerist itch; just being oligarchically honest here).
Then, fast forward beyond Madison avenue and past WWII to the rise of, for better and worse, “Main Stream Media”.
In this new Sixth Party era, the “vast strategies” of the free-enterprise factions and progressive factions began to inform us faster than ever, but also (as we can see on a voting map) split us apart.
The result was a form of enlightenment on one hand, but on the other more Rush-like hand, the result was stealing parents from children and children from parents, turning us into ideological Frankenstein’s monsters foaming at the Jacobin mouth, overwhelmed with political emotion, chanting “lock them up, lock them up”.
The fourth estate was a mixed bag, giving us Jacobins, Locke, Paine, and Marx and giving us both Edward R. Murrow and Sean Hannity… and the Fifth Estate was an even “mixey-er” bag giving us everything from Wikipedia to Wikileaks to VICE to Breitbart, to TYT, to Alex Jones.
This could lead one to think that expanding this all to the next sphere will mean our doom, but I don’t think so.
The difference is that the worst of the dividers have divided for one of two reasons. 1. Money and clicks and 2. politics. We can see that this has worked out poorly in many ways, but it worked out rather well for Wikipedia.
What does Wikipedia have that the others don’t, they have “enlightened” contributors contributing for enlightened values and not money.
Well look at that, imagine, wealth accumulation is both incentive creating and corrupting, but the human desire for enlightenment is just generally incentivizing and enriching. If only Plato knew… oh wait he did, it was sort of the point of his works. Anyway, moving on.
Shaping Public Opinion: Crash Course Government and Politics #34.
Digital Democracy, New Propagandists, and The New Propaganda of the Sixth Estate
To repeat the above, the Sixth estate simply refers to those of 7.5 billion with access to the internet with the ability to shape tastes. The digital Democracy, or what we can call “the New Propagandists”.
We have already seen the bad they have to offer, but we have also seen some of the good, what I’d like to focus on here is the good (while working on tactics to pivot the energy of the bad toward the good with as little work as possible; social [media] judo).
What I am saying is that, just like the “Big Eggs” somehow got us all to think eggs were a good breakfast food under Bernays, or how we are all certain a pair of Jordans will increase our status and game (thanks Madison Avenue), the sixth estate can use propaganda to enlighten the globe (especially if it becomes incentivized by social values instead of “the vast accumulation of capital via “click seeking”).
No political party is going to tell you to push for world peace on a global level, but the reasonable citizen always desires peace.
No political party is going to tell you to drop divisive issues and focus on reasonable middles, but most good people want this.
No company is going to pay you to tweet for world peace, but it has value.
No company is going to pay you for armchair reasoning and philosophy, but good information is priceless.
Yet, all good people have a phone, and they know how to use it.
Can you change the world in a Tweet? Well prior to the past election I would have said no, but now me-thinks, all joking aside, the answer might be yes.
The answer might be that, after getting our sea-legs (like the way we are adapting to fake news on social media, learning to spot the divisive bots and fact-check alt-claims and instead engaging in debate), the Sixth Estate can take the world by lawful, peaceful, digital and democratic revolutions, with the digital pen so to speak.
It is as easy as correcting an alt-lie, or making a meme, or sharing an idea. It may be a weak force, but multiplied 7.5 billion times, a weak force can become a very strong force.
With all that said, let me be more clear: I’m not calling for revolution. I’m predicting it.
I’m predicting an invisible digital peoples’ government, formed of uncoordinated shared interest.
I am predicting that our collective intelligence kicks in alongside our human reason, and although a few taste-makers will agitate and push the conversation, essentially the moral self-interest the masses will end up coming together in a social influence campaign never seen before in history.
Sure, there is a chance that this turns out even worse than if it had not been a thing. And perhaps people are better off being passive and guided toward consumerism than they are tweeting for world peace… but perhaps not.
Perhaps, the content of blogs, comments, and conversations will become more and more enlightened as everyone adapts, and in turn we will influence each other to become more enlightened, creating a web of enlightened principles previously only enjoyed by the intellectual aristocracy in any era.
Consider, one can read Plato’s Republic online right now, or get it explained six ways from Sunday in written or video form. It used to be only a select few had access to this.
Creating a Rule-Set For The Sixth Estate
Since this prediction seems uncertain, and since someone could write an “evil guide”, someone should write a “good guide” first.
A ruleset for influence, but one that considers morals and ethics (and one that avoids pure click-seeking, as that is what corrupted the Fourth and Fifth… you know and third, second, and first… Estates).
The goal would be to use social judo to detect and counter “fake” and “divisive” propaganda, and to instead propagandize what I call Progressive Centrism and purple strategy (in other words, propagandize facts and centered enlightened values in the spirit of Western Republicanism and Democracy; and the good Eastern values too).
So to be very clear:
- I am not suggesting revolution. I am predicting a non-violent revolution of information via the Sixth Estate (social media and such).
- I am not suggesting the use of pure and corrupt propaganda. I am suggesting the propagandizing of pure information and enlightened values.
- I am however saying that an easy to follow and effective ethical rule-set should be established, so people understand “how to research”, “how to confirm facts”, “how to debate without being divisive”, “how to reason”, and “how to enlighten with vigor” (how to propagandize enlightenment values in an exciting way, rather than a overly complex or dry one”). I am sure I’ll end up doing this over time.
The other option, if this isn’t done or is ignored, is this bizarre trap that is already happening.
I really do think we will avoid “the bizarre trap“, since we are currently flailing around in it, and that is uncomfortable, so I think it will likely force us to recalibrate quickly (which I think we may already be doing)… that is, currently, especially leading up to the 2016 election and Brexit, we seem to all be getting indoctrinated by divisive bias and foreign bots and are reacting by further dividing ourselves (and that is fully unsustainable and a waste of our collective talents).
That isn’t ideal, but if we can spread true information and enlightened values instead of alt-lies and despotic views, well there is no force on the planet that can stop the entire force of the planet.
That is either an enticing or not concept, depending on your frame of reference. Plato warned us of Democracy and Poets, but he also popularized the idea of loving philosophy. Likewise, Aristotle taught us how to use rhetoric in terms of logic, ethos, and pathos.
So then, clearly, propagandizing and using rhetoric in defense of enlightened ideals to help spread the love of wisdom helps to create an ideal digital state is good.
Meanwhile, click-seeking, wealth-seeking, sophistry, and poetry (speaking very loosely here, I love art and poetry, so in these terms I mean more like what those who sell political emotion and luxury items do) is not ideal.
That is the gist, I’m sure it could have been stated better, but whether I state it or not, it is obviously in the process of happening, so best to address it early.
Oh, also, humor is very important, also I could be wrong about any of the above. Who am I? What do I Know?
Thank You, Scott – SNL.