Final exams are wrapping up, and I had one last extra credit assignment for my Democratization students. This time – 3 lessons about democracy that they learned over the course of the semester. While a lot of students submitted some interesting, thoughtful, and even funny answers, here is our top submission:
Growing up the United States, democracy is one of those things that is taken for granted, especially when you are little. I have very salient memories of learning all about the United States and our government’s structure, being politically socialized with what makes that structure work. It was always portrayed as a perfect balance, a revered exemplification of American democracy. As I have gotten older, some of the romanticism has been removed, as no system is perfect. There is a certain expectation that is common in Americans that our system is the best system for democracy. Over the course of this past semester, three of most interesting things that I learned about democracy revolve around our system not being nearly as great for the rest of the world as it has been for us, showcasing its various flaws, breaking some of that sacred American Uncle Sam democratic perfection illusion that so many Americans perceive.
Lesson 1: Presidents aren’t always the best idea Continue Reading
In my Democracy and Democratization class this semester, we spent some time covering how modern nondemocratic leaders exert their control…and how democratic oppositions try to undermine this control. Or, as I like to call this unit, “updating Machiavelli.”
As a fun challenge, I had students submit their suggestions for how to run a modern dictatorship. The best of the answers is featured below:
Knowyourmeme.com has an entire page dedicated to Vladimir Putin.
The realm of politics has changed in fascinating ways over the past few decades. Not necessarily in its core nature, but at least in how politicians are portrayed across the internet. Take Vladimir Putin for example, a man of millions of memes, presented as strong, suave, and menacing. Non democratic world leaders have been internet icons, if a bit ironic in their portrayal, with Putin and Kim Jong-un often gracing internet forums in the form of gifs. However, a leader like Putin doesn’t just show up and establish themselves over a nation by doing whatever they please. So, for all of the aspiring dictators out there, here are two rules for ruling as a modern dictator, and if you follow these, you might just be able to have some memes of your own. Continue Reading
And the final featured article from the students as part of the “media freedoms in post-communist countries” series, this one describing media repression in Uzbekistan.
Image from the MIT Center for Civic Media
Ever since Uzbekistan gained independence from the Soviet Union, they have failed to maintain any sort of consistent media freedom. In a country where nearly all local media is directly run by or associated with the state, it’s no wonder that Uzbekistan ranks 164 out of 179 according to Reporters Without Borders’ 2014 World Press Freedom Index. Since the Andijan Massacre in 2005, foreign media has been expelled at such a rate that they are virtually non-existent in Uzbekistan, and local media exposed to increasingly more harassment.
Karimov has kept a tight hold on Uzbekistan since his rise in 1991. The state owns the major media outlets, such as the only Internet provider, Uztelecom, which has the right and ability to censor, restrict, block, and control all Internet access and international phone calls at the will of the state. When we think about how much information we glean from the Internet, an entirely state-proctored connection is hardly one step short of brainwashing. Want to read the New York Times? Blocked. BBC? Yeah, right. Deutsche Welle? Nope. Any other Western or independent news sites? Blocked, blocked, blocked. Continue Reading