Pol ‘Thugs’ Think Twice in Age of Internet Media

Sure that Andrew Sullivan “would be horrified” by the idea that he and Cindy Sheehan agree on anything, Jonathan Schwarz nonetheless quotes (A Tiny Revolution, 4/25/09) the Atlantic.com blogger’s declaration of “love” for the Internet, because “can you imagine what those thugs would have gotten away with without it?” Sheehan’s similar 2005 statement–“Thank God for the Internet, or we wouldn’t know anything, and we would already be a fascist state”–spurs Schwarz to celebrate the democratizing power of online media:

I’m not sure we’d be a fascist state without the beautiful, beautiful tubes. But the difference they’ve made is gigantic. Recall this story about Obama’s decision to release the torture memos:

Mr. Obama wrestled with the decision into Wednesday night…

One key factor was the online publication last week by the New York Review of Books of an International Committee of the Red Cross account of detainee interrogations [penned by Mark Danner]. The president read the account and concluded “virtually everything that was in these memos was out in the public domain,” said the senior official.

Without the internet, would Obama have cared the Red Cross report had appeared in an ultra-egghead publication with a circulation of 140,000? Would he even have known? Likely no to both. As Donald Johnson commented over at Obsidian Wings:

[T]he issue has come much further than I would have ever expected–if you’d asked me in 2001 if the U.S. would torture people in the war on terror I would have guessed we would, but I wouldn’t have expected it to have ever reached the mainstream press, except maybe in scattered articles that wouldn’t receive much notice.

Schwarz opines that, “in any case, there’s no question the Internet will have a deeply chilling effect on the Cheneys of the future,” imagining how “during every meeting in which they organize their criminal conspiracies, someone will say: ‘What would this look like if it ends up online?'”