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Democracy and Digital Disorder

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Wajaht Sultan

Democracy operated on twin principles of Truth and Trust. From 10,000 years ago to the 21st Century human societies evolved from particularized and selected trust circles to generalized and universalistic trust spheres which are the backbone of democracy. From authoritarianism to democracy human beings expanded their circle of trust from a particular community to a global community. Autocrats established heated rhetoric that favor some ethnicity, ideology, or racial superiority. Democracy prevailed in Post-Cold War societies because it extended the trust of people in universal institutions and global appeal. In the 21st Century, democracy is at the backseat because of fading trust from the societies and appealing lingual, ethnic, and selected community rhetoric. The struggle for global expanded empathy and advancement is overshadowed by regional and nationalistic interests. Democracy appeals for its universal struggle for recognition of all. The intervention of Russia in the Parliamentary election of Italy and the Presidential election of France through cyber-attacks and disinformation compromised the autonomous decision-making of people during the election which halted the democratic transition and empowered the populist leaders derailing the democracy with a proclivity. The digital malice and digital manipulation to sabotage democratic transition is a vivid manifestation of compromised democratic transition in the global order. In the 21st Century Digital spaces through social media and engineered tactics proved to obstacle democracies and appeal to Populism, Nationalism, and Autocracies by fading trust of people in Institutions, Constitutions, and Rule of law.

Particularized Trust constitutes small alliances within a small subset of society i.e. alliance of China and Russia. In democracies, generalized trust establishes large-scale trust that extended market relations, human progress, and trade i.e. alliances between European and Western States. The citadel of democracy in the 20th Century was sustained through the extending circle of trust in the society. Information technology and science subdued this trust in contemporary times. The complex and integrated societies are economically linked together. The equation of economic dependency established peace and prosperity in recent decades due to wish democracies sustained. In contemporary times the digital disorder and digitally dependent economies are vulnerable to trust. As the modern markets become digitally dependent the threat of cyber-attacks and financial costs has grown in the last decade which is problematic for the integration of the system and overall democratic sustainability because modern democracies are founded on economic growth together. In 2021 a gang named DarkSide attacked American oil provider Pipeline through cyberspace. This pipeline provides 45% of fuel to the East Coast of the United States. After the shutdown of supply, the people flocked to gas stations and it created social anarchy leading to distrust which threatened the digital economy and the trust in economic institutions which act as the backbone of democracies in the modern world.

Institutional harmony plays a key role in modern democracies. The digital disorder and cyber-attacks fomented a distrust in the authenticity of the institutions. The data of different institutions ranging from banks to government institutions related data is hacked and used as a proxy to campaign against the government institutions. This creates a small fraction of people with particularized trust to destabilize the institutions and question the integrity of institutions that threaten the democracies. The most beautiful structure of democracy is global altruism and the spirit to work together in a human network for the progress of humanity. In the 21st Century, Cyber-attacks target the cohesion of human bonds that builds trust between people and communities.

Coming to the truth factor of democracies the rampant disinformation and echo-chambering of in-group and out-group divisions compromised the democracies in the current century. Through social media campaigns, the engineering of misinformation and malignant campaigns against the institutions, governance, and democracy by the forces of authoritarianism and populism created a division in society. The truth is fading from society due to digital deregulation and galvanized campaigns of distrust and fear in the masses. The excessive race of China and America, Russia and America, and Pakistan and India created a War of disinformation and distrust in the society which is a lethal threat to democracy.

In 2016 Russia interfere in the American elections and rigged the election campaign of Hillary Clinton a candidate for Presidential Election through a cyber-hack. Nowadays the world is struggling to win global order through digital detox. The struggle to sabotage the democratic transition and voting turnout obstructed the democracies to flourish and sustain. The enemy states use to destabilize countries governing institutions through hacking and different leaks. The sudden shutdown of electricity in the entire country stakes the trust of people in the incumbent institutional governance. Through cyber-attacks, the entire system can be paralyzed and operates on the whims and wishes of an enemy state which threatened the overall sovereignty of the country. In this way, the digital spaces are used to backslide the public trust in the institutions further deteriorating the stability of democracy in any country.

The concocted information about the state, governance, and institutions through fake accounts and hacking vanquish the mass’s belief in the leaders and politicians that spurred the anti-state and anti-government rhetoric with the appeal. The direct intervention of different states to capture the state’s sovereignty through military might has become irrelevant in this century. The digital capture is proportional to defeating the other state through cyber guerrilla warfare tactics. The elimination of trust and truth from any society fulfills the ulterior motives of an enemy state. Human beings took 10,000 years to progress and end the violent conflict in the 20th Century by establishing democracies and universal governance through UNO and World Bank-like institutions.

The world is again at the helm of anarchy due to expanded technologies and cyber inventions. Democracies are backsliding to authoritarianism because the foundational elements of democracies like trust and truth are compromised in this century. The defeat of hereditary monarchies, fascism, and communism paved the way for democracies. In 2022 democracies are facing international rifts and global push due to the rising manipulation of undemocratic forces for the populist appeal. In this century we can move towards the universal struggle of democracies by regulating social media, media literacy, and control of Big Data. The uncontrollable and excessive digital disorder can create social dysfunction and space for wars and conflicts as they are getting traction in the form of the Ukraine and Taiwan issues. Digital control is a panacea for democracies in the 21st Century.