Over on Belgravia Dispatch poster ZF made this observation:
“It suddenly occurred to me the other day that the influence of the MSM on public opinion is much greater in European countries than in the US, while the current influence of blogs there is far less developed. This has to mean that the biggest impact of the blog phenomenon still to come will in due course be seen in Europe.
Europe has the bigger ‘popular democracy deficit’, and is thus more exposed to this phenomenon even if it is going to take a while longer to mature, non?”
I think ZF is really on to something here.
I have long observed that Europe has a much more elitist and hierarchical culture than America. It keeps recapitulating its feudal past. For Europeans, the question isn’t whether some group of elites should rule but which group of elites. As a result, they end up with very homogeneous institutions, like major media, which reflect the world view of a self-selecting few. Ordinary Europeans have always had less of a voice than ordinary Americans.
During the 20th century, technological realities exacerbated the European tendency towards elitism. Economies of scale dominated everything, even the production and distribution of information. Large systems, controlled by a few people at the very top of a deep hierarchy, decided what the vast majority would consume as news and education.
The arrival of the mass Internet has changed the technological realities. Economies of scale no longer apply to the dissemination of information. Deep hierarchies are expensive, slow and exhibit poor error correction. America, with its more open and experimental economy and culture, has exploited this change first, but the rest of the world will not be far behind. Blogs and other Internet forums will begin to play a major role in European politics within the next few years, and will begin to erode the stranglehold of media elites there just as they have done in America.
I think the change will come more slowly in Europe, mostly due to cultural issues. Europeans are far more deferential to authority than Americans. They will defer in debates to professors, politicians, scientist and journalist much more quickly. Eventually, however, they will learn that many emperors to whom they have bowed for generations are in fact stark naked. However, the awakening of the European masses to power will have a far greater impact on Europe than it will in America, because of what ZF termed the “popular democracy deficit.”
This will be interesting to watch.