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“Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.
For most of human history, people lived under authoritarian regimes where rights and privileges were subject to the arbitrary whims of the leader of the day. Answering questions on how society should be organized; the role of government in people’s daily lives; and the place of the individual amidst these institutions were determined by a few with little recourse beyond outright revolt.
Early adopters of democracy, like the United States, have had to learn the hard way what does and does not work and their scars are in the open for other nations to hopefully learn from. As a people we are still learning how to balance the concept of self-determination with government’s obligation to create institutions for opportunity.
Each of these experiments have relied on a free press to serve as an effective check on government overreach, and also provide an affordable and accessible medium for everyday citizens to remain informed. But, today everyone with a computer and Wordpress account is a publisher and they are able to manipulate social platforms like Facebook to reach millions of viewers with information that is incorrect at best and purposely misleading at worst.
Fake news’ influence is just one outcome of a society where technology has become integrated into every part of our lives. As the global society grapples with other destabilizing forces like the rise autonomous machines and state-sponsored cyber warfare, we are seeing new movements capitalize on the intersection of technology and politics. Modern movements like BlackLivesMatter show us how people organize in the 21st century and serve as a reminder that harmony between citizenry and sovereign is actually the exception not the rule.