Editorial

The Internet, an arbiter of peace?

World peace is a complicated construct. It's shaped by what we think we have learned from history. It's a noble aim for anyone who tries to achieve it. We know that human nature will always stand in the way of those who want to make this a better world. There are tools that can help facilitate the path to peace, though; one of them is the Internet. That's what the people behind the 'Internet for peace' initiative proclaim. They think the Internet should receive the Nobel Peace Prize 2010 — on behalf of all unknown helpers.

Before we examine the possibility of a Nobel for the net, we must ascertain whether the World Wide Web really is a realizer of peace. What is possible online is limited by what people make possible. On the Internet we can read news, and follow unfolding stories in real-time; we can play games, watch videos on YouTube and on Twitter we can see what others are doing. All this has a real-life merit, though. On many occasions young people in countries where freedom of speech is a commodity not yet shared by many, used the Internet to vent their distrust and dislike of their respective governments.

It's hard to apprehend that some people aren't able to browse the Internet freely, or acquire knowledge at will. They cannot visit a website of their choosing if the government deems it inappropriate. In the face of such tyranny, our routine of doing research online, without restrictions, feels like a privilege. One begins to wonder why freedom still is something that kindles conflicts among humans. Those who have brothers or sisters, remember how you bickered over trivial matters. Quarreling over natural resources or the supremacy of a state is principally the same. Someone always wants to be the one in charge, the king of the hill, subjugating everyone who thinks otherwise.

 


Image Credit: Flickr

 

Community prowess is one of the strengths the Internet has developed in recent years. This includes the easy reconnecting with long-lost friends on Facebook or similar services; however, the Internet is a platform for discussion, giving opportunity to those who could otherwise not speak freely. Some of the ideas and visions circulating online are preposterous, but some can inspire. Those are written and considered by individuals who share an urge for righteousness.

"Digital culture has laid the foundations for a new kind of society. And this society is advancing dialogue, debate and consensus through communication. Because democracy has always flourished where there is openness, acceptance, discussion and participation. And contact with others has always been the most effective antidote against hatred and conflict." With these words the 'Internet for peace' initiative states its vision. It's based in facts, to be sure, but it's half the story. Since it's not the Internet that aids world peace, however, it's the people who use the Internet to pursue higher ideals. Online communities are becoming a medium of choice to digest ethical, political and social issues. As such the net enacts the ideals of moral betterment individuals under pressure quest after. This is why the Internet is a lawful force.

Yet it's not my field of expertise, so I won't try to illustrate how the Internet can alleviate political ramifications. As someone who uses technology on a daily basis, I do know how it helps understand how society works. Computers in general offer a stage that prompts creativity, as much as it does sentiments of urgency. When I turn on my computer I sometimes wonder whether I can contribute to human lore. Just by surfing the Internet I can't.

A Nobel Prize is the highest-possible award for those who contribute greatly to humanity. Whether it was in the field of economics, physics or literature, past laureates have spread ideas that pushed the human race forward. Has the internet done enough to receive such a prestigious accolade? Any answer to that question is subjective. No one person uses the Internet the same way. Everybody reads different blogs, and watches different videos on YouTube. Not everyone uses the Internet to cry out for freedom.

 

 

Many would surely deem a Nobel Peace Prize for the Internet premature — if not entirely inappropriate. It could be seen as an overarching commemoration of those to whom the Internet is a measure of last resort. 70 years ago, in Nazi Germany, people didn't have the possibility of telling the truth. It's in dark times especially that we long for a vehicle to carry our feelings into the world. The internet can do that. Before the Internet there were only newspapers and newscasts in cinemas; people read what high commands had authored. Nowadays the public can interact with newspapers, blogs and websites. It's no longer a one-way trafficking of information. At all times someone somewhere has something worthwhile to share. Only a few strive to miff others; while a few select truly aim to inspire.

"Peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please; choose their own leaders or assemble without fear. ... A just peace includes not only civil and political rights...it must encompass economic security and opportunity. For true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want." This is just a brief excerpt from President Obama's openly liberal acceptance speech in Oslo, Norway on December 10th, 2009. He put in words so eloquently what some wish for and die for. He also says, "I cannot argue with those who find these men and women -- some known, some obscure to all but those they help -- to be far more deserving of this honour than I."

It's easy to coat Earth's problems in eloquent, almost poetic, streams of thought. Does this help solve the addressed issues? No, it doesn't. While on the hand, it does offer leverage; a way to levitate the global awareness of anxieties troubles such as hunger and poverty cause. Some politicians sit in their high castles, looking down on their minions, like kings of yore. Online the people can speak their mind, though; regardless of nationality, belief or faith. Online everyone is truly equal, if not made equal by anonymity. Should one have to compromise one's self-image to be able to speak freely?

World peace is a game; it's possible to umpire a team of goodwill ambassadors, like a team of quarterbacks and wide receivers. Combating evil so that humanity can prevail in tranquillity is like confronting an opponent over a chessboard — intentions are out in plain sight, but only the mindful will notice the ulterior motives. Freedom of speech also implies deliberate actions. So, in a metaphoric sense every peace keeper belongs to a team. All those who fight to defend ideals of righteousness, devoutness and dignity, are arbitrators of justice too. The Internet is a bit like an ocean; it can't and shouldn't be moderated by any institution. Baggage doesn't belong in tomorrow's information networks.

Understanding is a key to success. Strong communities build substantial databases of information. Knowledge of economic and social concerns doesn't suffice, but with the help of technology we can determine the parameters by which peace becomes more practical. To some it may be nothing more than an abstract concept, hard to grasp or to put in perspective.

 


Image Credit: Flickr

 

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation advocates better equipped schools and libraries. For Bill Gates a library is the local centre for gathering and learning, and it should also be the hub for international communication in developing countries. With Microsoft he helped usher in the mainstream use of computers and software. Now he hopes to achieve similar triumphs in global health. A healthy community is as important as having healthy people to populate it. These are the base requirements for intellectual equality; a lack of it leads to conflict.

"In the year 2525" ends with a verse, which adequately captures in words one big dilemma humanity faces. "Now it's been 10,000 years, Man has cried a billion tears, For what, he never knew, Now man's reign is through," Zager and Evans sang in 1969 — the same year Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Rarely any person is willing to step forward to take the blame for something they may not have done. Peace isn't abstract, it's a longing humans have had since the dawn of time. Today we have great opportunity to grant everyone's most-wanted wish. It's no coincidence that in 1776 the United States Declaration of Independence declared that every man, woman and child should have the right for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". In my own country, Germany, the first point of constitution is that human dignity is unassailable. Unfortunately, these rights are not upheld in every corner of the world.

The Internet doesn't offer hope, or a solution. It simply is a means to an end. Globalization spreads speedily, and the Internet makes it possibly to engage with the world without having to fear loss of one's personal identity. If a recently elected president can be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in anticipation for great deeds yet unrealized, then the Internet can also be rewarded for kindling an urgency for action.

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22 Comments

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War is peace. Obama is evidently taking a huge leap towards 1984's perpetual state of war. Awarding a peace prize to the internet makes about as much sense as awarding the peace prize to peace or freedom of speech.

So what is your plan Sparky, pull all the troops out immediately? Yeah, that would certainly bring peace.

/shakes head in disbelief

What would happen? The coalition forces would stop occupying a country they invaded. OH NO! Yeah, sounds like a real recipe for disaster.

Staying there.. more genocide. Good plan!
Look up how much of Iraq has been irradiated. Do you know how many children are being born with horrible birth defects?

War will continue as long as it makes some few people billions and billions of dollars. That's the bottom line.

Internet an arbiter of peace? Heck no, the internet's too full of hatred and porn to bring peace. It's a cesspool of human mental refuse, the disgusting Morlock pit from which we Eloi are deathly afraid of.

I know there's some good in the internet, but there's not enough good in it to earn a Nobel Peace Prize. Besides; what would a non-sentient thing like the internet do with a million dollars in prize money?

Thank you for the great article. I'm not sure where I stand on the internet getting the Nobel Peace Prize but it was an interesting read.

Interesting read -- interesting topic... Thanks Max

Absolutely, Totally FWIW...

The Nobel Peace Prize, as I understand it, is to encourage more than reward -- indeed rewarding the Internet itself would be near impossible. If such a prize could be used, built upon to increase the use of the net as a tool furthering peace, then it could at least potentially make as much sense as many past awards.

Underneath, perhaps fueling many (most?) of the debates on whether the net is good or bad, lies a broader divide that's lasted for millenia: "Are people inherently good or bad"? And there is that question's Siamese twin: "Are the masses inherently stupid" [& thus needing to be controlled]? ... at best the net is simply an enabling tool, in that respect no different than the earliest metalworkers, who could produce tools for farming or war.

While we should be having those sorts of debates, they're unlikely to get us anywhere -- if we couldn't agree in past centuries, why now? There is however another way of looking at whether or not the net is a tool for peace... At its simplest: you're far more likely to pull the trigger on an invading army than your neighbor. Demonizing & de-humanizing people (or companies, or countries, or nationalities, or whatever targets) makes them into the equivalent of ancient invaders we're hard-wired to at a minimum distrust. Politicians have always used it; in advertising think of the Apple vs. Microsoft ads; shouldn't have any trouble thinking of governments that propagandize about their country vs. others (or the world).

While access to information may be an antidote to propaganda, it can arguably be a double-edged sword, as differences in what *they* have & we don't can be turned into a cause for anger. But the net also makes neighbors of us all. You may not be a neighbor I particularly like or agree with, or you might think just like me, or be anywhere in between, but most importantly you're familiar... I know *you*, at least to the extent that leaders in my country can't make me believe you are some evil that has to be wiped out. No one can de-humanize you in my perceptions because I've read what you &/or others in your country have posted.

Yes, some people do use the web to propagandize, & many, many use it to paint false perceptions as absolute truth, but, The Real Truth is There *If* I take the time to find it. Perhaps that could be a worthy focus of any proposed Nobel Peace Prize, whether it results in a win or not.

the internet needs more monitoring, some of the stuff people say on the internet is just vulgar and sometimes dangerous, and i for one dont think its right........yes there is always freedom of speech, but it has its limits, and i should be enformed better on the internet!

peacemf said,
the internet needs more monitoring, some of the stuff people say on the internet is just vulgar and sometimes dangerous, and i for one dont think its right........yes there is always freedom of speech, but it has its limits, and i should be enformed better on the internet!



Limits on speech? You do realize that what one person finds good, another person finds discusting. There is no need to limit speech, only actions.

Wow, I hope that never happens. I think that freedom of speech should be absolute, especially on the internet. If I have no interest in those kinds of ideas I don't have to go to those web sites.

Zirus said,
Wow, I hope that never happens. I think that freedom of speech should be absolute, especially on the internet. If I have no interest in those kinds of ideas I don't have to go to those web sites.



Exactly. Thank you. There are a number of things in this world that bother me (to put it lightly) but I can; change the channel, turn of the device, walk away, etc. I have NO desire or need to censure what someone says/writes, and neither should anyone else.

Have a great weekend.

Obama gets it, then pledges more troops to Afghanistan. The Nobel Peace Prize has lost all credibility.

VTSV said,
Obama gets it, then pledges more troops to Afghanistan. The Nobel Peace Prize has lost all credibility.

Working for peace is not the same as being completely pacifist. Sometimes you have to fight for it.

This is not me making a political point, but just saying ... it's just not the same thing.

You have to fight for it. Imagine trying to negotiate with Nazi Germany. I don't think it would have worked. You guys tried to negotiate a peace treaty with Japan and look what happened at Pearl Harbor. I don't think you want to see another plane come crashing into a building or live in constant fear of being attacked when using public transport. Sometimes you have to fight for your freedom.

Why do people like you not seem to realise the consequences of NOT fighting the war in Afghanistan? I'm not saying that war is a good idea but in this case it is inevitable. If we don't fight in Afghanistan then they will bring the fight to us in one way or another and it will be our civilians dying on our soil. It's one or the other, because there is no way of negotiating with these terrorists.

Billus said,
You have to fight for it. Imagine trying to negotiate with Nazi Germany. I don't think it would have worked. You guys tried to negotiate a peace treaty with Japan and look what happened at Pearl Harbor. I don't think you want to see another plane come crashing into a building or live in constant fear of being attacked when using public transport. Sometimes you have to fight for your freedom.

Who are these so-called "terrorists" that we are fighting? Where do they come from? Not a single 9/11 terrorist, nor the Anthrax killer, was from Iraq or Afghanistan. The 9/11 terrorists did not train in Iraq or Afghanistan, they did not come from there, yet for some reason we are playing nation builder there.

Americans are not ready to accept that George W. Bush lied to them, and that Obama is a charlatan. Eventually, America will have no choice but to face the truth, because a war that's fought under false pretenses can never be won.

toadeater said,
Who are these so-called "terrorists" that we are fighting? Where do they come from? Not a single 9/11 terrorist, nor the Anthrax killer, was from Iraq or Afghanistan. The 9/11 terrorists did not train in Iraq or Afghanistan, they did not come from there, yet for some reason we are playing nation builder there.

Americans are not ready to accept that George W. Bush lied to them, and that Obama is a charlatan. Eventually, America will have no choice but to face the truth, because a war that's fought under false pretenses can never be won.


those terrorists were funded and supplied by the people in power in iraq and Afghanistan. we went into Afghanistan because bin-laden was taking refuge there. make sense yet? or should we allow the people who fuel al-qaeda continue to do so? think.

toadeater said,
Who are these so-called "terrorists" that we are fighting? Where do they come from? Not a single 9/11 terrorist, nor the Anthrax killer, was from Iraq or Afghanistan. The 9/11 terrorists did not train in Iraq or Afghanistan, they did not come from there, yet for some reason we are playing nation builder there.

Wow, are you seriously that ignorant about who funded those guys and gave them their orders (and continues to do so)?