WaPo has a piece commenting on the unorthodox nature of Herman Cain's campaign. A comment from Phill Musser in the article struck me:
“If Facebook could be used to topple the Egyptian government, then perhaps Herman Cain can use it to win Iowa,” said Phil Musser, a Republican strategist who most recently worked for the short-lived presidential bid of former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.
Did Facebook really serve as the tool to topple the government in Egypt, and can social networking sites become the means of democratic election? The organizers of the uprisings across the middle east this past spring certainly give Facebook credit. I was reminded of a comment by Wael Ghonim, an organizer in Egypt, when he commented:
"We would post a video on Facebook that would be shared by 60,000 people on their walls within a few hours. I've always said that if you want to liberate a society just give them the Internet."
Does technology liberate society? Certainly it seems to increase the power of the individual voice. It makes free speech free, or at least lowers marginal costs for communicating to thousands. But the argument that increasing the options available to an individual increases liberty assumes a very unconstrained definition of freedom. It can be increased through material wealth -- even Facebook and the "cloud" require massive humming rows of very material servers in some datacenter basement.
This is why President Obama's push to make high speed internet a federally developed public utility makes sense to a progressive mind: It increases options; it increases freedom; it liberates the lower-classes.