Internet advocates have long taken credit for anything progressive that has been happening politically around the world. The Arab Spring. The Obama election. Popular rebellions against the regimes in Iran, Turkey, Hong Kong, and Myanmar. The Occupy Wall Street movement. And maybe China, next. Wherever one looks, it seems that the internet is a force for social progress.
Conversely, when something happens that runs counter to such progress it must be the result of leaders who are behind the times technologically and of followers who don’t get it by reason of education or age. If they only had been connected, this would never have happened! Thus, the conventional wisdom is that the internet is good for democracy and for progressive politics. Sceptical voices have been rare.
It is therefore jarring to face the fact that it is not the absence of the internet that has led to the election victory of Donald Trump but rather its prevalence. How is that possible, one might ask, given that the candidate did not even have a computer until 2007, rarely uses email directly, and had a low-visibility online campaign outside of idiosyncratic Twitter bursts?
What are these internet-based factors that favoured Trump and led to his election? There are several inherent to the internet and independent of any particular candidate. Some of these factors have been around for a long time but have accelerated.
The factors that combined to help elect the new US president have the internet as a common denominator, reckons Eli Noam - and these factors are now inherent in an internet-based economy.
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