The medium is the message

Last year’s debate surrounding the Nobel Peace Prize was whether a president in office for just a few weeks had done anything to earn it.

This year, it might come down to this question: Does the Internet promote peace?

The Nobel Prize committee reportedly has received more nominations for the award this year than ever before, and various media outlets are reporting that one of the nominees is “the Internet.”

The nomination was pushed along by a group called Internet for Peace, whose manifesto reads:

We have finally realized that the Internet is much more than a network of computers.

It is an endless web of people. Men and women from every corner of the globe are

connecting to one another, thanks to the biggest social interface ever known to humanity.

Digital culture has laid the foundations for a new kind of society.

And this society is advancing dialogue, debate and consensus through communication.

Because democracy has always flourished where there is openness, acceptance,

discussion and participation. And contact with others has always been the most

effective antidote against hatred and conflict.

That’s why the Internet is a tool for peace.

That’s why anyone who uses it can sow the seeds of non-violence.

And that’s why the next Nobel Peace Prize should go to the Net.

There are certainly cases to be made. This video of a dying woman during the uprising in Iran led to worldwide condemnation, although it didn’t appear to have any effect other than convincing Twitter users to turn their avatars green:

Of course that which can used for good can also be used for evil. Take Jihad Jane, for example, who is accused of using the Internet to recruit terrorists.

In any event, the Internet is not unique to galvanizing world opinion. Back in the earlier days of television — 1984 in this case — images of famine in Africa were so shocking that it led to a worldwide effort to alleviate the suffering.

Here’s the section of a New York Times article that year:

The plight of starving Africans had been recounted previously in newspapers and on television but it was not until a film report by a British journalist appeared on NBC late last month that governments and individuals were galvanized to help. Catholic Relief Services has received nearly $3 million in donations and Save the Children, $1.4 million since the report, according to officials of those organizations, and other groups have reported a similar influx. In recent weeks, the United States has increased its food assistance to Africa, including an estimated $37.5 million worth of grain for Ethiopia and several other countries.

The irony? The very medium that shocked us into action, also desensitized us to the problem.

  • justacoolcat

    Anyone that has read message boards or any news comment sections know the answer is a resounding HELL NO.

  • Bob Collins

    ANY news comment sections? Harumph!

  • justacoolcat

    Heh. Present company excluded, of course.