A new twist on cyberfear come from this interesting scenario over at the Chronicle of Higher Education. It posits ending all humanities scholarhip in the United States.
The main argument is that such an event would lead to the establishment of a theocracy, which is interesting enough. But, for this blog's purposes, note how it relies on a certain type of fearsome digital media to happen.
First, the scenario depends on delinking technology and the humanities, then assigning cybertools to an antihumanities, profit-focused academia:
The university became a technology lab and trade school.
Next, within that new world, digital tools displace critical thinking, helping speed the way towards dictatorship:
[A]s knowledge of computers replaced knowledge of constitutional history, and familiarity with business cycles replaced familiarity with the Bible, the voices of opposition grew feebler, and the activists, with their moral certitude and superior knowledge of the Bible and of America's founding, overwhelmed their opponents.
After that, a kind of capital-science alliance makes technology an active tool of oppression:
Business supplied the activists with capital, while scientists and engineers gave them access to sophisticated computer and weapons technology. Swelling in numbers and power, the activists grew dissatisfied with the American political system, which, with its checks and balances, they saw as too slow in promoting their agendas.
The result? "The country continued its descent into chaos, and civil war seemed imminent."
A few reflections.
First, the author conflates technology with a certain kind of socially aggressive business sector. This isn't explained, and doesn't make much sense. Interesting to see that alignment, though. We'll probably see it again.
Second, the piece links tech with extreme religious politics. The combo seems to be a marriage of convenience - no mention of Facebook requiring people to read The Fundamentals to join up, say - but the huge dissonance between the two worlds just vanishes.
Third, the internet's role in supporting and growing free speech also disappears. Instead all of cyberspace folds up into a 1930s-style propaganda apparatus.
Overall, such a narrative requires a weirdly ahistorical sense of digital technology. Does this mean bracketing out a couple of generations' worth of development?