Andrew Orlowski has written a rant about bloggers 'googlewashing' the phrase 'second superpower'.
Separating out the bizarre attacks on Joi Ito for eating lunch, his thesis seems to be that 'A-list bloggers' have hijacked and neutered the phrase from the Anti-war (or anti-Bush) protesters, and swamped Google with this new interpretation.
In fact, the original article he cites (reproduced here) did not contain the phrase 'second superpower'; it had a throwaway rhetorical flourish in the first sentence:
The fracturing of the Western alliance over Iraq and the huge antiwar demonstrations around the world this weekend are reminders that there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.
(Orlowski elides the first part about the Western alliance to support his thesis that it's all about the street, man).
As he says, this meme circulated about the web a bit, and eventually James Moore explored the idea in more detail, and a broader context than just marching against Bush, combining it with the preceding discussions on 'emergent democracy' that had been going for a while. Of course this gets a higher rank for 'second superpower' - it is in the title, and enough people found it interesting enough to link to. (Update: today the NYT removed its archives from the web, so any links to the original article would now be dead).
Instead of a lot of incoherent slogans, here are people discussing how to bring it about.
Orlowski then completely distorts the quote from Patrick Nielsen Hayden I posted to the list. Discussing a report on the very disruptive, street-blocking protests, where protesters in San Francisco, Boston, Washington and elsewhere shouted the same slogan, "This is what democracy looks like!"
No, that's not what democracy looks like.
It's what protest looks like, and it's often the right thing to do. And of course "democracy" had better entail significant tolerance of unruly protest, or it's not very democratic.
But that slogan is stupid, even by the standards of slogans. Long and often boring meetings are what democracy looks like. Tiresome horse-trading is what democracy looks like. Talking to your neighbors is what democracy looks like.
Democracy can function perfectly well without people painting their faces and blocking streets. It can't function at all without that other stuff.
The emergent democracy group is about how to build tools and structures to capture democratic intent in a digital world. If you're interested in this, join in.
Perhaps what Orlowski is really worried about is that a group who aren't part of the clerisy of professional Journalists and activists are taking an interest, and actually discussing ideas calmly and rationally, and thereby attracting links from other people, Doc and Dave earned their high Google rankings by writing lots of things that people found interesting enough to link to, day after day for many years.
Andrew, if you have interesting things to say about the future of democracy, join the discussion, but don't troll for cheap links by stooping to selective quotation and ad hominem attacks.
I like to link to Orwell's Politics and the English Language essay at least once a year, if only to remind myself to re-read it. Mr Orlowski could profit from reviewing it too. His neologism 'googlewash' falls down on Orwell's criterion of creating a meaningful metaphor. Orlowski derives it from 'greenwash' which evidently derives from 'whitewash' - to paint over flaws to give a gleaming exterior. Yet 'googlewash' does not follow here - the complaint is not that the new google-friendly definition is hiding the flaws of the old, is it?
As Orwell puts it:
The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not.