Huge corporations are now running roughshod over the Internet. At the illusion-shattering core of Digital Disconnect are a pair of chapters on what corporate power has already done to the Internet — the relentless commercialism that stalks every human online, gathering massive amounts of information to target people with ads; the decimation of privacy; the data mining and surveillance; the direct cooperation of Internet service providers, search engine companies, telecomm firms and other money-driven behemoths with the U.S. military and “national security” state; the ruthless insatiable drive, led by Apple, Google, Microsoft and other digital giants, to maximize profits.People so often forget, or never understood, that a social system consists of many subsystems all of which must be mostly compatible with the major organizing system of a society. In our contemporary societies this organizing system is capitalism. It was established by a certain class of people who became known as capitalists for their benefit. Hence, it is not surprising that the world wide web has gradually developed into mainly a vehicle for the private accumulation of wealth. Still it provides a very useful vehicle for social change; and to the extent it does so, we will see increasing attacks made against the dissemination of information that even questions the major organizing system.
We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up