Monday, September 8, 2008

A Blog to Take Over the World (Part I)

In the novel Ender’s Game, while Ender Wiggin is away at Battle School, his siblings back on earth, Peter and Valentine Wiggin, become, in essence, bloggers as part of Peter’s plan to become a world leader. The idea being that on the net he can assume an identity of his own choosing and not be bound by the fact that he is only twelve years old. Through the net his ideas can reach anyone in the world. Thus he can become a person of influence, someone whom people across the world would willingly listen to. Orson Scott Card published Ender’s Game in 1985, before the rise of the internet so it truly was clairvoyant of him to appreciate how something like the internet could change how information is exchanged and how this could affect the discourse of power. The internet allows a person to reach everyone without any mediation, thus bypassing the traditional guardians of public discourse. The moment I have the internet to reach people with then I do not have to work for a major newspaper, hold public office or even hold an advanced degree and a tenured post at a prestigious university to be a major player in the public discourse. This makes me, a lone individual, powerful in ways that I could never have been before the internet.

Peter takes on the identity of Locke (a reference to the seventeenth century English political philosopher John Locke) and Valentine take on the identity of Demosthenes (the famous fifth century BCE Athenian orator). While one might expect someone with designs on taking over the world to become a rabble rouser, playing to the prejudices of the masses, Peter’s Locke does nothing of the sort. It is Valentine’s Demosthenes who is the rabble rouser. She plays a populist conservative, who whips up popular hysteria, particularly against Russia. In this role she serves as a foil for Locke, who is a voice of moderation and tolerance. In this capacity, Demosthenes is someone whom Locke can argue against, which is why Peter brought her into this project in the first place. Peter chooses not to play the role of the rabble rouser because he recognizes that, while such a position can easily lead to widespread popular support, it will close off any chance of gaining the respect of the intellectual and political elites, which is what Peter craves. (This is Card making fun of what he sees as the elitist liberal establishment. In reality they are just as prejudiced and open to manipulation as the populace they heap scorn upon; it is just requires a different and more subtle lever to push them.)

Initially, Demosthenes is much more successful than Locke at gaining popularity. This makes perfect sense considering the nature of their styles and whom they are trying to attract. Peter understood this going in, yet it still frustrates him. He preservers, though, and eventually succeeds. Over the course of the events narrated in the Shadow series, Peter rises to become the Hegemon and leads a united planet into a golden age of expansion into space.

Peter Wiggin is a model for me. Not that I really have any plans on taking over the world, though I do like to joke about that. I do wish to be Locke though. The internet is full of Demostheneses of both the liberal and conservative variety, spewing invective and playing to people’s passion. This goes to the very nature of the medium itself. In such a crowded marketplace the one who shouts the loudest gets heard. People like a spectacle and take a certain pleasure in beholding people saying extreme things. This is the secret to Ann Coulter’s success. I want to have a positive effect on the world. I believe that my background and my Asperger syndrome allow me to have a different perspective on things from most people and a message to give them. I do not see myself as trying to convince people to become more religious, less religious, liberal or secular. I see this blog as giving people an alternative vision of the world; one that transcends the categories that people are used to.

(To be continued ...)

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