Saturday, March 7, 2009

Civic Media or Civil Disorder?

It's a long shot, to say the least, to speak of the inevitability of civic media in resolving the global economic crisis. Long, perhaps, to the point of whistling in the wind or tilting at windmills. Yet there are reasons, strong ones, to do so. Here are some.

First let's consider two factors, one positive, the other negative. On the positive side is President Obama's campaign promise of an era of responsible citizens: his promise to listen to and work with liberals and conservatives in order to shape a viable future for the nation. (Senator McCain made similar promises.) On the negative side are two facts, as the public sees them now: the uncertain status of Obama's promise today and also his halting early steps in managing the worsening global crisis as described here and here.

Now consider a third factor: the Federal government, under the Bush and presumably Obama administrations, is taking definite steps - military ones - to keep public impatience from mushrooming to civil disorder. "Impatience" is too soft a word to describe the public mood today. "Economic deprivation and pent-up outrage," as expressed here, here and here, more accurately describes it. As the Dow sinks to new lows, as unemployment soars past 8% and as 20% of all U.S. homes fall underwater, Americans are witnessing the draining of nation's treasury in order to prop up the insolvent "zombie" banks that caused the crisis in the first place.

If the Obama administration's bank-bailout strategy fails to turn economy around, citizen outrage could harden into civil disorder. In that case, America might well find itself asking what's best for the nation: civic media or civil disorder? Democracy or autocracy? And it might be too late to ask that question: the situation by then would be out of hand.

The obvious counter to this alarmist view is that the situation is less dire than I maintain. I'll post some credible proponents of this view, which, as I see them now, hinge on the claim that massive T.A.R.P and T.A.R.F infusions into the banking system will produce positive results in coming months. (Rumor has it that a third infusion, the Borrowed Assets Relief Program - B.A.R.F - is also in the works.)

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