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Bai on "Digital Democracy": Not Fairytale, But Not Quite True. Yet.

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, March 12 2009

Over on the demurely-named Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, New York Time Magazine political writer Matt Bai has a review of Matthew Hindman's new book, "The Myth of Digital Democracy." Hindman's argument is that rather than democratizing politics, the Internet has actually boiled the American political system down into an even more pungently elite, white, and over-educated reduction. The New York Times dominates a greater share of the media market online than offline. The roster of top political bloggers is even more "elite" than the elitist press.

Reading Hindman's book, it's tough not to recognize that he's conflating metrics on whose jabber gets listened to online with the much wider world of civic engagement, from social activism to political organizing. And Bai uses Netroots Nation organizer Gina Cooper as a counter example; a former Georgia teacher, Cooper became a leader in the online left through the power of her own words and actions. Generally though, Bai's otherwise sympathetic to Hindman's argument, writing "To suggest that the voices of 100 or so prominent bloggers of similar pedigree represent some new, more inclusive voice of the American everyman–which is what the bloggers themselves like to profess -- is just fantasy."

Still, Bai's eager to cover his bases: "Digital democracy isn't necessarily a myth. It's just not yet a reality, and those are two different things."