‘Idiotes’ in the digital democracy era

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‘Idiotes’ in the digital democracy era


What a spectacle it is! Members of the ruling party are ashamed of the party’s name and are reluctant to show its logo. Meanwhile, opposition party members try to please non-party members while electing a leader. It is pathetic, but that’s the reality of parliamentary politics in Korea. But changing the party’s name is not a solution. The political establishment has grown so enfeebled.

The regression of representative politics is not limited to Korea. Americans have lost interest in the endless political contests, and the French are tired of parliamentary leaders fighting over the “lesser of two evils” instead of finding the best solution. In Russia, distrust over the election has overridden the fear of Putin.

It fact, representative democracy was the daring invention of industrial society. In the name of the citizens, the interests of the establishment and the bourgeoisie were effectively represented. No other system was better at overcoming the limitations of time and space.

However, things have changed in the information age. As soon as a problem arises, it becomes national news, and people act as a group. Representative democracy is now a high-cost, low-efficiency structure. Why would you pay high wages to hire representatives who do not follow your wishes?

The envelops of cash distributed before a party chairmanship election are reportedly routine for both the ruling and opposition parties. Where does the money come from anyway?

The “smart mob” is armed with the Internet and mobile devices. They are eager to fire the proxy and do the job at hand. Will the public make the right decision?

U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower had an answer half a century ago, though he did not have direct democracy in mind. He said that citizens may not have the wisdom to solve a problem, but democracy is based on the premise that the decision of the majority is generally accurate in a time of crisis. Even if the decision is wrong, the majority will have a way to correct it.

At the height of democracy, the Greeks had problems even during the Golden Age of Pericles. Those who did not fulfill the rights and duties of a free man and only minded their own business were called “idiotes,” the root of “idiot.” Who are the idiotes in the era of direct digital democracy? The fools who mindlessly spread the arguments of instigators without ever verifying the facts deserve the title for sure.

*The author is a culture and sports news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Lee Hoon-beom
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