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Editorial board of Index and more than 70 staff members resign (index.hu)
653 points by pabo on July 24, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 413 comments

To put this in context: for imagine the largest, and one of the last remaining independent news site in a country where most of the media is centrally controlled. Criticism of the government in that media is unknown. This site is read by close to half of the online population. The government is clearly irritated by this.

This site was Index, in Hungary. The editorial board resigning is a response of the takeover attempt from government sources.

Going forward, the largest, independent news outlet accessible to Hungarians will like be the Guardian and the New York Times.

If this was happening in an autocratic country, we’d just shrug. But this happening in an EU country, in a democracy.

The question begs itself: can a democracy with no independent, local press be considered a democracy still?

Democracy? With guys like Victor Orban? Nope. You think you live in a democracy but it is something else entirely.

I'm not playing smart. I'm a Greek myself and our govt is mimicking Orban to a large degree. TBH I'm afraid that democracy is going down the drain for most of EU anyway. The way yellow-vests were treated in "democratic" France (hint: plastic bullets shot at demostrators' eyes) kind of convinced me on that one. As for Greece, well, yeah. You won't find anything but praise for the govt in the mass media. A few fringe ones daring the other side of events survive on readers subscriptions. All tied up in a tightly knitted nexus of political friends, family, friendly businessmen, huge debt (govt party has a massive debt on its own as most mass media also do), ever expanding police-state, religious leaders (Orthodox Christian Church) and God knows whom else.

So, anyway, all the best...

At least, in France, in my opinion, it's becoming difficult to find favourable coverage of the government in the press, even in state-owned media. I find it neutral at best.

At least you French have a decent and established culture of protesting, compared to us Germans...

Wrong. In France, this "culture of protest" means to go all-in, on strike, right from the beginning for any reason, be it serious or just a pettiness. And in France, taking it to the streets and making noise is more often than not some sort of a social happening, too often for economical reasons, like yellow wests initially did. Not for any "higher" reasons like democracy, justice, freedom etc. It's individual people and various interest groups competing (on a wider level) with each other in their subsidiary demands, united in their fear of loosing status and comparative influence of the social group they belong to. E.g. rail-road syndicates. In short: Citizens of a rich country worried about their pockets, demanding reforms, refusing change, regarding it be some a kind of a zero-sum game, thus preferring short-term egoistic strategies.

Compare it with Eastern Europe with seldom protests, maybe once in 20 years or so. And not against poverty but for justice (Slovakia), democracy (Ukraine, Serbia) or alike.

What's wrong with economic reasons?

What good is freedom and democracy if it doesn't give you enough to eat?

Economic trouble is was causes totalitarianism.

> What good is freedom and democracy if it doesn't give you enough to eat?

It's called escape from freedom.

My first question would be whether the culture of protesting and having constantly negative coverage of the government makes any difference in a country full of old money.

I'm not sure how much of a difference it makes, but given that France is on its fifth republic in 200 years, it certainly seems to be capable of changing how its governed.

France had literally lost control over it’s government about 6 times since 1815.

So of course it’s capable of changing how it’s governed - it was never a choice.

or, was, before the internet enabled fascism to the extent that it has.

We've yet to see that proven conclusively.

I feel like one the best examples of out-spoken minority rules might be the recent rabid defense of confederate statues. I agree that we have yet to see conclusive evidence - but we've got a whole bunch of strong indicators including my absolute least favorite: rampant nepotism.

What do you mean? Living in Germany I see plenty of protests.

I mean, we (US) helped set the stage for these kind of governments in Greece a few decades ago:


1949 is not what most people would consider "a few decades ago".

Greece's junta government lasted until '74. That's still ~50 years ago but it's not like this stuff goes away immediately.

I'm from South America where the US experimented with setting up dictatorships after WWII as well, and the effects are still felt today.

Exactly. Spain's government and institutions are still riddled with Francoists despite passing away in 1975 and there's still very much a fascist element that rear their ugly heads from time to time.

Spain's government is socialist + communist.

Sure, the "government" is, as in the elected representatives, which is just a recent thing, but I think you'll find the Franco old guard lurking in many non-elected but powerful positions. And it wasn't so long ago that Madrid sent the Guardia Civil to suppress, with violence and impunity, the Catalonian independence referendum. An organisation that still has links to modern Franco'ist supporters.


I have very strong links with Spain and would have been happy to engage in a discussion explaining my points but you decided to take things in a less than civil direction, so I won't.

Socialist + "extreme centre" at best. And that's the executive. The legislature and the judicial are still packed and dominated by francoists, respectively. And don't get me started on the military...

Spain was an openly fascist country that made the transition into a covertly fascist one in the late 70s. It wasn't the democratic forces who forced the transition, it was the fascists who half-conceded it because they wanted a halo of legitimacy in the international stage.

Ironically, the old King that allegedly lead the change into "democracy" just ran away after accepting millions in bribes from Saudis, and having mistresses in the press gloating how much he loves her, he even let her skim a couple million off the top to buy some luxurious house.

And that's not the worst. The worst is that all of this was well known by pretty much everyone in the country. I've been hearing about these dealings, the King's affairs, and generalized corruption in the Royal House for 30 years (pretty much ever since I started paying attention to these things).

Not only the country knew of the King's dealings with Saudis and other fascist dictators, they used those dealings to make a case in favor of the Monarchy. "Of course, he'll take a cut! It's the least he should get after sealing that multi-million deal!" went the general conversation (among the population, of course, the media remained silent at all times). This should give people a taste for how Spain works, and the attitude of their citizens.

Another interesting thing that nobody has mentioned in the press yet is that maintenance and servicing (staff) of most if not all of the Monarchy assets (houses, palaces, boats!) is paid by Patrimonio Nacional (National Heritage; supposedly in charge of public assets of cultural and historical relevance), not by Casa Real (Royal Household; in charge of the Monarchy expenses). I.e.: a significant part of the budget allocated to public affairs is redirected to the private affairs of the Monarchy. Then they will claim "but relatively speaking, it's not that expensive", when a significant portion of the cost is hidden behind a different institution.

> I'm from South America where the US experimented with setting up dictatorships after WWII




Though I'm pretty amazed it isn't just common knowledge - America has a long history of fixing democracies... It takes working democracies and replaces them with military dictatorships.


“Common knowledge” of history (ancient and recent) differs vastly from country to country. In Norway, we basically just learn of USA that it’s the country that turns the tide of war whenever it enters; for which we learn of two occasions: 1st and 2nd WW; not much else.

Pardon my english.

>In Norway, we basically just learn of USA that it’s the country that turns the tide of war whenever it enters

Well, even that's not true. See: Vietnam.

What is common knowledge in Norway is that ‘USA does a lot of stupid stuff;’ and there generally seems to us that there’s a certain lack of education. How much truth this carries I never thought to check.

I'm really sorry if that is all you got out of Norwegian history classes. Though I might add that what you get out of it is indeed highly dependent on who you get as a history teacher, because the books themselves are appalling. I would know. I'm an adjunkt (official Norwegian teaching title).

Personally I think I'm quite lucky. I got a self-appointed, and rather proud Marxist as a history teacher in upper secondary school. He solemnly declared that, while this was indeed his conviction, he would not let it colour his classes. Then he went on to give us college lectures about WWI and the Russian Revolution, because he trusted us to be smart enough to understand it anyway.

I shall never forget these amazing classes, but this style of teaching didn't sit well with the, shall we say, less aware pupils in the class, who promptly wrote up a complaint against his use of difficult to understand concepts and use of academic language.

After a meeting between us, him and the principal, he declared that he was very disappointed with us, and that—despite the authors retracting the complaint—he would not continue as a teacher for our class anymore. Then he donned his motorcycle gear and rode off on his Harley. I'm telling you! You can't make this shit up! :D

The next day we got a brand new history teacher. Instead of teaching, he would merely read up passages from the pre-approved history book, in the most passive and uninspired way possible. Then he would give us the lamest of lame assignements such as, "describe who was the prime minister of Great Britain during World War II and why," and other such mindblowingly boring stuff. Meanwhile the Marxist teacher would tell us interesting tidbits about Churchill and his role in the sinking of the USS Lusitania, and fascinating stuff like "contra-factual hypothesis", and so on.

You're probably wondering how I feel about Marxism now. Well, let's just say that I think it's a failed philosophy. But the stories that extremely Marxist teacher shared with us, were so good and so captivating, that they have simply stuck with me and everyone who were lucky enough to have this true rebell as a history teacher.

Anway, if you're still not satisfied, and just want bloody good "history lessons," then I can highly recommend the podcast Blueprint for Armageddon, about WWI as told by Dan Carlin.

Amazing! And indeed, my history teacher wasn’t much (he forgot to turn up for some classes o_O). Though I’ve had a couple of truly good teachers too; a math teacher gave me not good grades (I didn’t deserve them anyways), but he was extremely passionate about maths and such passion, it seems, easily transfers; had I been just slightly more daring, I would now dedicate my life to maths... Instead though, I just got in to the University of Oslo where I’ll study physics :D Which also is something I love, and I can keep doing maths!

> I can highly recommend the podcast Blueprint for Armageddon, about WWI as told by Dan Carlin.

I’ve been reading so much english lately, that I’m losing grasp of my native norwegian. (Yet I can’t seem to get my syntax quite right.) This is frightening and also the reason I’m always trying to find norwegian books on whatever subject I’m interested in — which isn’t always easy...

Don't worry about it. As long as you avoid obvious anglisisms, you should be fine. Considering how much Norse has affected English, it's really just going full circle. And if you're ever stuck, there's always "Det norske akademis ordbok"[1] (a Norwegian dictionary). :) It's particularly good because it includes etymology.

[1]: https://naob.no/

May I ask why this is downvoted?

I didn't downvote it, but I guess it was for asking for a source for something that at least I thought was common knowledge.

You seemed to be expressing curt disbelief of a broadly uncontroversial historical fact. Could easily be seen as trolling or an unwillingness to take the time to do some basic self-education.

Ah, I suppose it seems that way, thanks.

I really had not heard of this; which was why I asked for a source, so that I could learn of it. The request was stupidly lazy, I admit; but I think asking (if done properly) for a source is one of the things that never should be met with disapproval.

Downvoting is a bit like flipping the finger to someone, or sticking out your tongue. It's not really an argument, just a rather nasty symbol of dismay. Now watch this post get downvoted just for divulging this HN secret. ;)

The EU handling of Greece hasn't helped either. And it happened only a decade ago rather than half a century ago.

You mean installing a dictatorship is comparable to attaching (perhaps excessively harsh) conditions to financial support?

AFAIK that Junta was removed almost 40+ years ago. It's effect is lesser than something that happened relatively recently.

Meanwhile, by refusing to help Greece with its debt, not only did EU increased the debt, but inadvertently legitimized the right option, by saying there will be no debt canceling (which was left position at the time).

Giving money in exchange for reforms seems like help to me. You're helping when you teach a man to fish, not when you just hand him a fish to only eat for one day.

Except the reforms were not reasonable. More like telling a man to cut off an arm to get a fish. Doesn’t teach you to fish in the future and creates lots of suffering in the present.

I wonder who would be suitable to decide what is reasonable. Is it:

a) a country with a record of mismanagement and debt it cannot pay back

b) a set of countries that do not have a record of mismanagement and have the ability to help out a country that is in debt

If we take your metaphor we could say the choice is:

a) do not accept the terms and starve to death

b) cut off your arm and live with rules to live by to prevent the scenario from repeating

Let me rephrase your first (b).

b) a set of banks who were willingly ignorant that they were lending to a state with a history of bankruptcy over many decades, because they believed/knew that when push came to shove the EU (taxpayers) would bail them out (which they did. You realise that the Greek "bailout" was a bailout of the EU banks that lent to the Greek state).

I think it is widely accepted that the terms imposed on Greece were unreasonable – not just because they caused very high unemployment and poverty, but also because they were based on a completely unrealistic assessment of the country’s ability to pay back its debt. A good book on the topic (and much else) is Adam Tooze’s Crashed.

>Except the reforms were not reasonable.

So the optimal option would've been to leave Greece to its own devices?

The optimal option would have been to demand root and branch reforms in exchange for very substantial debt relief.

The EU's "financial support" means that Greece's economy will be in slow growth or recession with high unemployment for decades. That will probably lead to unhealthy governments. They would be better off if they had gone through with grexit when they had the chance.

The difference is that a military junta doesn't give the people a choice.

Contrary to that, the agreement with the EU was negotiated by multiple democratically elected governments and confirmed in a referendum.

They had a chance to make different choices and they still do. No one is taking their democratic rights away from them.

> the agreement with the EU was negotiated by multiple democratically elected governments and confirmed in a referendum.

Excuse me? Syriza reneged on the referendum result! The people spoke, and Tsipras did the opposite!


I was wrong (can no longer edit). The referendum did not confirm the bailout terms. In fact it went against the agreement, but the newly elected government still made a deal.

> The difference is that a military junta doesn't give the people a choice.

That's not true. Military junta gives you option. Serve us or be punished. Prison or death.

EU negotiators gave Greece a choice too. Agree to our demands or we destroy your economy.

Thing is, that works for Greece, since the debt was small compared to EU budget. That won't work for Italy or Spain.

And if they get debt relief, when Greece didn't, there are going to be problems.

>EU negotiators gave Greece a choice too. Agree to our demands or we destroy your economy.

No. The destruction was done in decades of mismanagement by successive Greek governments.

But if you think that I agree with the bailout terms you are mistaken. Quite the contrary. I think there should have been debt relief so that Greece can make a new start.

But I reject the idea that installing a dictatorship is comparable to not granting someone debt relief or not extending new loans to them.

a few decades ago

~70 years ago.

Check out Bolivia, Honduras, and the failed attempt at Venezuela for some more recent examples within the last 15 years.

The "attempted coup" in Venezuela was a couple crazy dudes who got rounded up immediately. You think that represents an attempted coup by the American government?

Are we forgetting Guaido’s coup attempt last year? He had full support of the US government. He went to the US Congress this year and was praised and lauded. This is after years of US sanctions on Venezuela.

Define "full support"? Do you mean a vigorous nod, or arms and air support?

I approved of that coup attempt. Does that responsibility for the coup can be laid at my feet?

It definitely was NOT a "real" attempted coup with full US backing. That being said, the guy in charge of the coup ran security for Trump at many events and explicitly mentioned his relationship with the president when recruiting people. I suspect that there was tacit knowledge and approval of the attempt from a few people in government but it definitely wasn't a well-funded operation, backed by the US.

> "the guy in charge of the coup ran security for Trump at many events and explicitly mentioned his relationship with the president when recruiting people."

Just so no one over-reads into this, it's important to point out that 'doing security for Trump' is essentially meaningless as Trump has frequently held stadium-sized public events and all kinds of local security contractors from off-duty police to mall cops are hired as temps to help do outer-ring security from parking lot patrol to outside line management. There's very little vetting because they have no special access to the president. The inner rings of presidential security are handled by active-duty law enforcement, then active-duty military/national guard and lastly the secret service.

I read a lengthy interview with a former special ops person that knew and occasionally worked with this guy up until recently. The guy was widely known to exaggerate his history, credentials and contacts. He tried to recruit his 'friend' to this effort but, according to the interviewed guy, anyone with half a clue avoided getting involved as the whole thing was clearly a half-assed cluster-fuck with no real support from anyone that matters. This erstwhile 'coup leader' appears to be no different than thousands of other ex-military dudes squeaking out a post-service living doing security contracting and playing at being a 'solder of fortune', except this guy was even more fringe than most. The only people that are known to have given him any real encouragement or money were some U.S.-base Venezuelan ex-pats fantasizing about over throwing the govt.

Honduras? Obama was friendly to Zelaya and condemned the coup.


The US has global reach and dictates quite a lot when it comes to how the international markets operate coming down hard on countries that try to isolate.

America loathing is relevant world-wide.

Yes, let's keep our America-loathing focused on what America does to itself. ;). Plenty of things to loathe about that at the moment, sadly : ( .

> The way yellow-vests were treated in "democratic" France (hint: plastic bullets shot at demonstrators' eyes)

France is in no way behind the USA in repressing popular demonstrations.

AFAIR in France nobody sent out paramilitary units to quell the protests - read: instigate violence and save his/her election. And that makes for a huge difference. But if you prefer to ignore the facts not supporting your interpretation, well then...

> AFAIR in France nobody sent out paramilitary units to quell the protests

Only Benalla, the president's personal praetorian.

This is the current normal in many countries.

Actually many of these have been empowered by some kind of internet troll movement. The emergence of such parties is eerily similar - an overwhelming majority who is peeved at some designated and vilified minority getting even minor privileges. Plus a lot of ranting against left liberalism and globalism. They conveniently forget the fact that such egalitarian viewpoints have more or less assured a stable 75 years in recent world history. Nearly a century of peace in large parts of the world - this has been a great achievement unprecedented in the last 500 years.

Unfortunately for us, I think since Internet 2.0, this trend has been exacerbated by the echo chambers which constitute most social media.

>Actually many of these have been empowered by some kind of internet troll movement.

It's not a "movement". It's information warfare enabled by the fact that most information sources online don't even give lip service to the idea of separating propaganda and manipulation from honest public discussion.

The Russians are (obviously) getting very good at this, and other countries like China aren't far behind. Until companies like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and others recognize that protecting public discussion from interference isn't optional, you can expect this to continue.

The Russians didn't start this brand of insanity in the US, it has been a cornerstone of Republican policy for the past ~12 years. (And has been present, on a lower-key note, for the prior 20. The toxic culture war isn't anything new - Reagan was fighting it against homosexuals[1] and welfare queens 40 years ago.)

It's a monster of our own making. When politicians start courting that fringe, you get a virtuous cycle, where the fringe starts impacting policy, which emboldens and encourages more and more radicalization.

[1] Look at the rhetoric surrounding the AIDS epidemic, and tell me if anything has changed.

It's not just such countries. All political parties all around the world are doing similar things, and have their own troll farms and twitter armies. Look up the profiles of the "followers" of major world leaders. Many of them are 'shallow' - not old enough as profiles, and not enough activity.

It's naïve to think that companies are unaware of this. I think they actively encourage this outrage-fest, because it increases eyeballs. We are paying a heavy social price for a flawed advertisement revenue model.

You can look up the documentary on Cambridge Analytica. The logo _most_ prominently displayed the CEO's office is that of major Indian political party. And that party is not even the top dog in this game.


WWIII has already started - but its "hearts and minds" but with Corporatocracy and with covid being the opening salvo to drive fear and socially engineered behavior into the global populous.

You cant control 7B people without first taking over their minds.... (emotions and behaviors)


Give me an fn break

@Dang prove chinese are not here

> They conveniently forget the fact that such egalitarian viewpoints have more or less assured a stable 75 years in recent world history. Nearly a century of peace in large parts of the world - this has been a great achievement unprecedented in the last 500 years.

Isn't a large part of this from nuclear detente?

I'm from Hungary and I agree. I don't think this is a democracy. In fact it never was. We never recovered from communism we just changed the old mafia to a new one.

"recovered from communism"

Recover what? You say it as if what was before communism was better than communism.

Communism was probably the best system ever to exist in Hungary up until 1989, at least it was certainly the best to last.

It wasn't democratic by any means, but to me it's weird to say "recovered from communism", as if there was something before communism to recover.

To the person who downvoted I ask, which pre-1989 political system of Hungary was better than communism?

Hungary exists as an independent nation since 31 July 1921. Since then, these are the political systems that lasted any significant amount of time:

- Kingdom of Hungary: created anti-semitic laws before the nazis, waged wars of conquest against it's neighbors and collaborated with the Nazi regime, perpetrator of Holocaust

- 1944 until the end of world war: Nazi control of Hungary, perpetrator of Holocaust

- until 1989: a few years of Soviet military occupation, then Communism

- since 1989 current system

So which of the pre-communist political systems of Hungary is the one worth recovering in your opinion?

May I suggest you re-evaluate your history reference material?

Which pre-communist political system of Hungary do you wish to recover?

Exactly like in Portugal, except for the religious leaders.

And India, but includes religious leaders.

A democracy doesn't give you the right to block traffic and public transportation every weekend because you think you have an important cause.

In a free democracy, it actually kind of does. As long as it is done peacefully and with willingness to engage in open dialogue. The ability to influence the powerful and rich requires being able to force their hand to have discussions. Without it, the democracy crumbles. And despite the irritation it may cause you or I, peacefully shutting down transit is one of the levers that doesn't require that power/money.

"As long as it is done peacefully and with willingness to engage in open dialogue. "

No, it absolutely does not.

You have absolutely not right to suppress other people with your ideology for anything other than a moment.

"Without it, the democracy crumbles"

This is completely false.

There is no such thing as 'peaceful' closure of public transit, it's only authoritarian, frankly.

There are exactly 0 examples of 'democracy crumbling' because protestors were not able to stop public transit and public roads.

In very certain terms - you don't have the right to close public spaces, to stop public activity with your political ideology.

It's completely illegal if 1 of you do it, it doesn't make it legal if 1000 of you do it, though you might get away with just a fine or whatever if you 'take it down' soon enough.

It's helpful to think of a cause that you don't support, or are perhaps against, even think of as 'immoral' and consider how you'd react if they shut your office down every few days.

It depends on where you live. Where I live, I certainly am legally able to block the road as an individual. I have to do so peacefully and if I'd like to do more, file the appropriate permit. But I certainly can.

I don't have to think about it. My office has been shutdown on multiple occasions by causes I don't agree with (we are located by federal land). In fact, it happens at least once a year. Not once have I wanted the protesters to be prevented or forced to disperse. Is it an inconvenience? Yes. But it is their right and a right that is critical to democracy.

No it does not. In a democracy you are to free to voice your opinion, any way you prefer as long as it does not infringe on others' lives.

Blocking the road to work, hospital, etc. is infringing on others.

You seem to be conflating "democracy" with "libertarian" or some flavor of anarchist or some vague notion of "good" Democracy means "the people rule"

There are two kinds of protests. One where you go on the main square with a banner inviting people to join your fight for a noble cause. And the other is... well, not that many will join you in your fight for full pockets and you know it. So you go for the next round-about, straight on.

Yes, it does. It may be inconvenient, but that is part of the democratic game. The option is to live in an authoritarian regime.

If the people blocking roads were a majority of the population, they wouldn't need to engage in such protests.

Control of the majority by the minority is by definition not democratic.

Authoritarian regimes are the exact ones who control the majority with a small minority of the population.

Tyranny of the majority can happen and so allowing minority populations to protest is part of democracy.

No it doesn't. Democracy means you have the freedom (free press, independent judicial system, etc) to vote for the government you want. It doesn't mean you get the government you want. And it surely doesn't mean you get to block something because you don't get what you want. A democracy is not a kindergarten.

If people are in the street demonstrating, this is a sign that something is not right. Unless there is some mental disease going on, people will not let their fulfilling lives to be protesting against living conditions. This is a sign that something is broken and should be fixed, which is the whole of government, even if that government is not the one that I voted for. This is democracy 101.

This is a confused argument to me and I think many other comments in this thread are similarly confused. By confused I don't necessarily mean "wrong" but more like "muddled" or hard to understand.

I'm coming at this from a US point of view but would be interested in hearing other perspectives.

In casual use I think "democracy" is best understood to mean the more technically accurate concept of "democratic republic" and additionally that there are a core set of individual rights that are not subject to infringement by the majority via legislation. One of the primary roles of the government is to protect those individual rights.

The right to peaceful assembly, to free speech, to association, and to petition the government are all protected and foundational to what we might call "protesting" or "demonstrating".

I think "democracy" is generally used as a short-hand to refer to this bundle of ideas and not to the concept of a "direct democracy" where "majority rules" is the operating principle with no limitations.

But those rights aren't absolute and they have to be balanced with rights of others who aren't participating in the protest. If your group is no longer peaceful, or your speech is inciting violence, or your group is unlawfully impeding the free movement of others, or your actions are in fact crimes against people or property then you are no longer engaging in protected activities.

Blocking a public right-of-way without permission (like getting a parade permit, for example) is infringing on other people's rights and is not peaceful. It is not protected activity. It is dangerous and puts other people at risk. Similarly arson, vandalism, and other destruction of property is not part of the idea of "peaceful protest" and is not protected activity.

What does any of that have to do with democracy? A democratic government can still kill people in various immoral ways. A democracy can have slaves, apparently! Why can't democratic civilians be violent?

Hard to sort out what you are saying.

I was pointing out that "democracy" doesn't mean that "protest" is automatically lawful, which was the confused assertion of the comment I was responding to.

I'm not sure what anything I wrote has to do with government killing people in "immoral ways" or democracy having slaves or civilians being violent. That just seems to be a bunch on non-sequiturs.

I'll attempt to respond though:

Government officials can obviously act in immoral ways regardless of the political system. But that is basically just a statement that people have free will. Laws don't magically make people obey them, so we can have a discussion about what is or isn't lawful but the statement that people can be immoral is just an obvious assertion about humanity without some specific fact pattern to discuss.

A liberal democracy that upholds individual rights (which I claimed was what people mean when they use the shorthand "democracy"), can't simultaneously assert the legality of slaves. That is a contradiction. Of course reality can be full of contradictions and people and governments can fail to adhere to their own laws. Is that some surprise to you?

It is hard to know what "Why can't democratic civilians be violent" means. People have free will so of course they can be "violent" and those actions may or may not be crimes, depends on the motivation and target of the "violence".

Yes, people can protest, nobody is arguing that.

But you can't block the highway, subway, or traffic and it has little to do with 'democracy'.

The only reason people are not cleared out sooner, is because politicians are afraid of ugly images - it's hard to physical move people with someone, somewhere getting hurt.

If there were an easy way to move people, they'd be moved.

People can picket all they want in front of Parliament or wherever, just not on the subway tracks.

Dying in an ambulance or shot to death because police could not get there because "democratic" protests block the road is not inconvenient.

Police are incredibly unlikely to save you from being shot, they mostly clean up after the fact.

And protesters tend to allow ambulances to get through, because most of them aren't monsters.

" but that is part of the democratic game. The option is to live in an authoritarian regime."

Both of those statements a very false.

I can't really speak for the media landscape of Hungary, but on a general basis a diverse media landscape that allows for different and even unpopular opinions, is very important for a functioning democracy, because, believe it or not, but Hungary is in fact a democracy. Unlike most other states in the EU, Orbán enjoys a clear parliamentary majority. That means that his policies enjoy wide support within the national assembly. Moreover, it means that whatever he proposes will be voted in much more easily.

On the other hand, the Hungarian opposition owning such a small minority, may even feel oppressed because of it. This is why I think it's unfortunate if this alternative media outlet is indeed being pressured into being more polite towards the sitting government. But speaking of poor resources among alternative and fringe media may also be misleading. In some respects it is no different than the alternative media in Left leaning countries, such as Sweden or Norway. Over here it is the alternative Right Wing media that are on the brink of extinction, and Left Wing supporters are constantly calling for their defunding and cancellation, even resorting to call out or boycott businesses who dare advertise with them.

This tactic certainly seems to have worked with the big tech companies. Moreover there seems to be little to no discussion in Left Wing media about the larger ongoing censorship happening in Western Europe and the USA. As such, some may even call this event welcome when compared to what is happening on giant platforms like Twitter, Google, Facebook or YouTube. However I'm unsure if fighting cancel culture with more cancel culture is a very bright idea.

Of course not. "Democracy" isn't just it being written in the constitution "this is a democracy". That's a terribly simplistic view. By that measure, NK is democratic...

In fact a true democracy only exists when a huge number of very complicated systems and institutions are working properly. You need a well-educated population with equal access to opportunities, a free, healthy, and diverse press, an independent judiciary, a healthy political landscape, etc.

> You need a well-educated population with equal access to opportunities, a free, healthy, and diverse press, an independent judiciary, a healthy political landscape, etc.

Then the US isn't a democracy?

> A report by the The Economist Intelligence Unit, released today, reveals a host of unsettling statistics about the scope of democracy around the globe.

One such fact — that for the first time ever, the United States is no longer considered a “full democracy,” but rather a “flawed democracy”...

The US designation as a “flawed democracy” is really more nominal than anything, simply meaning that the country’s Democracy Index — which is based off of five categories related to governance — has fallen below eight out of 10.


And that was 2017. It hasn't gotten better since.

What changed to make it drop? The voting system in the U.S. hasn't changed, the first amendment is still in effect, media is independent (no equivalent of DW or BBC). I'm trying to find out what aspects did change to cause a ranking drop.

> The voting system in the U.S. hasn't changed

Not true at all. The minute the VRA was gutted, there were bills passed in nearly every Republican state to make it harder for PoC to vote. Look at the elections in Atlanta last month for example.

    Election Day problems are hardly new to Georgia, where Republican officials have overseen voting procedures that have led to hours long lines, most recently during the 2018 governor’s contest, which Brian Kemp, a Republican who at the time was secretary of state and in charge of running the election, won by 50,000 votes over Stacey Abrams. Tuesday’s primary was also a test of the state’s preparations to hold an election during the coronavirus pandemic.
    Voting is a deeply felt and politically intense issue in Georgia because of its long history of disenfranchising black voters. The governor’s race was marred by accusations of voter suppression, particularly of African-American and other minority voters, which Mr. Kemp denied.

Look at Florida's attempts to re-disenfranchise felons with a 21st century poll tax.


Look at the constant gerrymandering in every state.

We don't live in a "one person, one vote" country when half of the country consistently tries to make voting as hard as possible for the other half.

You don’t have “one person, one vote” anyway. Rural states are over-represented in the Senate and Electoral College by design, without considering gerrymandering and other disenfranchisement tactics.

According to the report's summary, it was a drop in citizens' trust of the government:


So nothing changed in practice and yet the rating drops? Sounds like the media did its job.

I think it's a pretty good measure to include. It can act like a catch-all for what other measures don't capture. And, as we've seen, it's a pretty good way to forecast changes not likely good for democracy.

I've noticed a correlation with poor opinion of the government and willingness to accept undemocratic actions. A lot of people give a cynical quip and check out.

When Biden gets elected, they'll change it back and celebrate a successful democratic transition. A restoration of human rights and liberalism.

The world will be wonderful again. The press will be free again. Maybe they'll even give him a peace prize in the first year, right before he launches several large wars and destroys several nations.

This is kind of ironic because one of the reasons the US and its government has generally been as successful is because of a distrust of democracy and the government. Democracy is just another term for mob rule. Just because it is rule by the will of the majority doesn't mean it is flawless. For example, a true democracy also has the ability to vote away the democracy. What the founders realized is that most forms of government had their problems so they set up a system of checks and balances to curb the worst of various styles of government they considered.

People from lesser populated regions can't trust a government based on population and people from highly populated regions can't trust a government based on equal geographic representation. Marry the two ideas to mitigate the impact of government.

Government is an institution that can never be just trusted because at the end of the day it's run by people, who may or may not have your best interests at heart.

You are mistaking cause and effect, I believe. If a government behaves in a way that earns trust, trust increases. If it behaves in a way that earns distrust, trust decreases.

I actually think that widespread perception that the government is corrupt increases corruption. If you think you can bribe an officer of the law, or a judge, then you might try. If an officer or judge believes that it wont' be reported or that nothing will happen because of it, they may ask for a bribe. If Republicans think Democrats are cheating in elections, then Republicans are going to cheat to even the odds.

Trust, but verify, right?

Everything in the voting system has changed. Citizen's United, the voting rights act was neutered, gerrymandering is constitutional now in many states...

The status quo didn't change. Money was in politics before Citizen's United and it is after. The voting rights act remains in force, though some irrelevant points that no longer apply were allowed to no longer have to be enforced by the Supreme Court. I really don't see what practically changed.

> I really don't see what practically changed.

The law. Are we arguing essentialist philosophy here? The things that were seen as implicit by cynics (and observation) were made explicit. We just know all of the megadonors by name now, and monitor their relationships with various candidates (and the ways those candidates can influence the donors' businesses, for possible investment opportunities.)

When you eliminate principles in law, society becomes unmoored. If they eliminate the First Amendment, will we just say "there wasn't ever really total freedom of speech anyway. Remember cancel culture?" That's the most useless possible internet-typical reaction to catastrophe.

Have you looked? Does asking for an ID to prove that you are a legal voter too much now? Did you know that everywhere in the world, except the U.S., you must prove that you are who you are before getting the ballot? There are some exceptions like the purple finger in Iraq, but those are extraordinary and are not examples of proper anything anyways.

Again, I ask, how are people kept from voting? If showing ID is an example, I'm sorry, that's just silly.

Article linked has many, many examples unrelated to voter ID.

I also reject your framing. Unlike some other countries, the United States has a constitutional prohibition on poll taxes, called the 24th Amendment. Regardless of what sophistry SCOTUS might hold, it is empirically self-evident that requiring only forms of ID that cost money is equivalent in outcome to having a poll tax.

This is just so ridiculous that "silly" is the only word to describe a simple requirement to prove that you have the right to vote as a step on the 24th amendment. It can only be demanded by people that want to rig elections.

Article linked has many, many examples unrelated to voter ID.

> Did you know that everywhere in the world, except the U.S., you must prove that you are who you are before getting the ballot?

False. In Canada, a voter with ID can vouch for one other voter, whose name and address are recorded.

Also, you'd have a better point if voter ID laws were not combined with a well-documented campaign to make it more difficult for POC to get IDs. This is classic voter suppression - install a byzantine set of rules that unwanted demographics will have a harder time navigating.

Also, I may point out that disenfranchising eligible voters happens to be voter fraud - carried out by the state.

It's harder for darker people to get id than lighter people? How so?

Fees, limited operating hours when you can get IDs, limited operating locations, limited utility of the ID (if you can't afford a car, paying money to get a driver's license is a bit of a harder sell, while offices issuing non-DL IDs may be hours away from you...)

Donald Trump, a political outsider, broke the stronghold of career politicians and was elected President. This event shocked the bi-partisan cabal of politicians and their support systems (including journalists and other intellectuals). This group has been continuously constructing narratives to undermine the highly democratic processes in USA that allowed Trump to achieve this breakthrough.

So USA is now a "flawed democracy" now, as its systems allowed an outsider to upset the status quo.

I've been trying to figure out the "assault on democracy" narrative ever since the 2016 election. It seems to have come out of nowhere, though probably boosted by the Russia Collusion tale. The reality, indeed, is that the wrong guy won. Democracy was expected to elect Hillary, but it failed to do that and is therefore flawed.

"Clinton received 2.87 million more votes than Trump did."

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_United_States_presidentia...

I wonder why people think "the wrong guy won".

This is not a new occurrence in US presidential elections. So I don't think this is a factor in the current "flawed democracy" narrative.

You do know we have a Senate and a unique system of voting? Did you know that in none of those European countries that have a parliament did the common people vote for their Prime Minister? Does that infuriate you even more?

I was providing you evidence of why people might think that. I am not a stakeholder in this conversation so I'm not sure what your "infurate" comment is meant to provoke.

Binary is/is-not is not correct way to think about that.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index there are 22 full democracies. The US is flawed democracy (rank 25)


I would say 90% of my US-based Facebook friends fall into one of two groups at any one time: posting things about how "we're not a democracy, we're a republic", and posting things about how we should suspend things in the Bill of Rights because we've been needing to exercise "emergency powers" continuously for the last 20 years.

Let's ask ourselves: what do you think is the probability a year from now that the US presidential election later this year will be contested by a significant portion of the country, regardless of the outcome?

Why look to the future? The last election has been openly opposed by a large percentage of the population AND agencies of the public service.

Not like the Obama terms where much different. Just a different group of people saying "My team didn't win so I'm going to have a tantrum".

I predict the next election cycle will just be more of the same, no matter who wins.

When you have a situation where the winning candidate has fewer votes than the other candidate, that clearly leads to some saying it wasn't a fair representation of the feeling of the country.

I don't think many contested Bush in 2004, when he got a majority (not even just a plurarity) of votes. They might not have liked it, but it was a given.

Clearly in 2000 there were complaints, Gore got more votes, on top of that was the whole hanging chad fiasco.

In both 92 and 96, Clinton got the plurarity of votes, but didn't reach 50%. Most who voted, voted against him. Not as bad as not getting a majority of votes, but will lead to some resentment.

Now on top of that there's the whole "Hacking" the election, which is far more woolly, and isn't just because of Russia and Cambridge Analytica, it's also about how informed a population is, the ease of getting onto the voting register, the ease of casting a vote, etc.

Democracy is hard

All good points. I would add that democracy in the workplace, which affects most people's day to day lives far more than that of the government, has been decreasing for decades, with the decline of unions and skyrocketing of wealth inequality.

agreed though I think the appearance of workplace democracy affecting day to day more than governmental democracy is only historically (rather than inherently) true of post-war america. that standard could radically shift in the future and I'd also say that it's government policy or stagnancy that enables the context in which workplace democracy has declined.

Would the election being contested by the losing candidate be more of the same to you? Because there's a massive difference between voters being upset their candidate lost, and the candidate not accepting the results.

Especially if that candidate is the acting president and refuses to go through the peaceful transfer of power.

And the fact it's even being discussed as a serious possibility that the current acting president would do that should raise so many alarm bells about how democratic the US really is ... it's not even funny.

> And the fact it's even being discussed as a serious possibility that the current acting president would do that should raise so many alarm bells about how democratic the US really is ... it's not even funny.

That was discussed with the same seriousness by the other side with Obama stepping down. Complete load of tosh.

If the electoral college fails to elect Trump as president when it meets at the end of the year, the secret service and/or army will remove Trump and Pence from the White House at noon on Jan 20th, revoking their security clearences. That will be done by force if necessary, and the winner of the EC will take the presidency.

If the EC fails to meet before Jan 20th for whatever reason (including elections being unable to be held etc), Then at noon on Jan 20th both Trump and Pence are removed and (baring a change in the makeup of the House), Nancy Pelosi will be sworn in as President.

The idea of a military coup in a country so enamoured by its constitution is fantastical.

Trump has refused to say that he would accept the results of the election, constantly saying he "will see".

This is absolutely not something Obama has done and claiming the situations are similar is blind and absurd.

Removing the president by force does not help the stated case by the way.

It's not removing the president by force. If Trump fails to win the electoral college vote by 12:01p on Jan 20th, the president will be Biden or Pelosi. If Trump then refuses to leave the white house he'll be treated as an intruder and arrested and/or shot. He has no individual power, and no loyalty to him, the loyalty is to the office of president, which is currently occupied by Trump, but unless he is declared

The peaceful transfer of power is about the operation of the government transferring - the head of the army, the secret service, the finance, etc.

You might get civil unrest if some Trump supporters refuse to accept it, but unlike other countries where ballots are counted, the US does not elect a president by popular vote, instead a joint session of congress counts registered votes from 538 electors across the country. The sitting president isn't even the room. There is no question.

In all your replies you are defending against a claim nobody is making.

Nobody said the president will just remain a president if he just says so. What I originally said is that the fact this (the acting president refusing to go through peaceful transfer of power) is a serious discussion is symptomatic of a serious issue, and I maintain that, and nothing you said contradicts it. You then replied with a weird tangent about Obama.

> He has no individual power, and no loyalty to him, the loyalty is to the office of president, which is currently occupied by Trump, but unless he is declared

You should note, the man has shown many times to be able to gather a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people with a few tweets, and phone calls.

Not at his inauguration, and not at his Oklahoma rally.

Look at how many heavily armed right wing fanatics show up whenever people remove a racist statue. It isn't so hard to imagine hundreds of them marching into the white house to "protect" the president after he loses the election.

It won't be a matter of a few secret service agents escorting Trump out. It will be a full on armed standoff in the white house with 40% of the country rooting for Trump.

Top that off with a raging pandemic, unprecedented economic devastation, homelessness, shutdown schools, and sophisticated digital propaganda campaigns designed to exacerbate every divisive issue and it is hard to see how US democracy survives.

> It isn't so hard to imagine hundreds of them marching into the white house to "protect" the president after he loses the election.

If the secret service can't cope with a few protesters what is the point of them?

> That was discussed with the same seriousness by the other side with Obama stepping down.

I'm just going to call that out as a straight-up distortion and falsehood. In it's effect, equivalent to a lie.

Show me reliable quotes of saying Obama he would "have to see" about the election results, as Trump has, and I'll be more charitable.

Otherwise I (mostly) agree with you. Bear in mind though that when Trump wanted to deploy paratroopers to cities during the first wave of protests and the riots associated with (but not really a part of) them after the murder of George Floyd, the only check and balance in our system left was our military leadership itself, which, to their credit, saw that such an order would be immoral, probably illegal, and un-American.

But literally all the other checks and balances meant to prevent a President from turning the military / law enforcement into their own personal squad of doofuses have been removed at this point.

Look at Barr and the FBI. Or the current behavior of DHS in Portland.

So I mostly agree with your prediction but certainly have my unsettled moments.

I mean the guy got the Army to have a Blackhawk helicopter go hover over and intimidate peaceful protestors like it was part of an occupying force.

Plus, let's not forget that the election could be a shitshow this year in terms of how long it takes to count the votes, voter access to polling places (because of neglect or deliberate disenfranchisement), etc.

So there could be a lot of gray areas and areas of concern unrelated to a "military coup."

> Show me reliable quotes of saying Obama he would "have to see" about the election results, as Trump has, and I'll be more charitable.

It's meaningless what Trump says or does. It's what Congress, Senate, Military and (in the short term) various federal agencies like the secret service. The Federal government obey legal orders from the President. Come 12:01pm on Jan 20th, barring a valid electoral college vote being declared in a joint session of congress in Trumps favour, Trump ceases to be president, and the Federal entities start following the lawful orders of either Biden or Pelosi (assuming Biden wins the EC or the EC doesn't happen but the democrats maintain control of the House)

Of course it's entirely possible for the election to be "stole" by keeping all non-trump voters away from the polling booths, that's a far woolier version of the word "stole" though.

What if votes are still being counted? What if so many votes are lost because of screwups that it's hard to know who won in certain counties? What if Trump lies, as he does, and says he won in places where he didn't?

Also I'd like to point out that the orders to create concentration camps for immigrants which Trump issued to ICE may very well have been illegal. Federal agencies receive orders all the time from various folks and sometimes those orders are later acknowledged as illegal.

It's tricky for an officer to know if an order is legal or not, hence the issues. What an chief of staff is sure of is that a legal order can only come from the president, and at 12:01p on Jan 20th the president will be whoever the joint session of congress says it is.

I think you're missing me point. Most likely you'll be correct.

But if all the votes aren't counted yet - like what happened with the Bush/Gore election - then the Supreme Court or whomever makes these decisions could legally extend the timeline (however it happened before). Trump remains President then until it's sorted out.

And it probably would get sorted out. But my point is that there is historical precedent for a gray area of when an election is over - I mean come on, the Supreme Court had to decide when the Bush / Gore election was over, and Gore could have contested that, if he had chosen to.

So it's obviously a possibility considering how messed-up our electoral process could be this year from a combination of covid-19, neglect, and deliberate neglect. And possibly foreign sabotage though I'd put that at the bottom of the list.

The 20th amendment literally says

> The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January

It could not be plainer.

Supreme court can rule about the process of counting, when the joint session to verify the votes happens, when a given state has to appoint its electors etc, but can't possibly interpret this as anything other than the plain text it says.

Thanks for the info on that. :).

What if on January 20 there is disagreement about who the President is?

I actually don't know how that works.

The practical test isn't the political system. Voting alone certainly isn't the definition of democracy.

It's the distribution of benefits that accumulate within the system, and also the ease with which costs/hindrances/outright abuse can be inflicted on selected elements in the population.

The more concentrated the benefits, and the easier and more violent the restrictions and abuse, the less democracy exists.

Yeah, I would argue it isn't. It's at least not a healthy democracy.

> Then the US isn't a democracy?

It is teetering on the brink.


The US is part first world, part third world: parts of it are a working federalized democracy, other parts not so much.

It's at the very least debatable. It always has been, viz the entire Internet smart people brigade trotting out the "It's not a democracy, it's a republic" trope.

But even if we set this aside, we can certainly question if an institution like the electoral college doesn't deliberately move power from the people to the ruling group.

We can question if the extreme form of gerrymandering we practice around here doesn't remove power from the people.

We can debate Citizens United.

We can debate the existence of blatantly partisan media, and the monoculture of media owners.

We can debate a regime that has clearly abandoned ethical delineations, and that values loyalty over competence.

All of these, individually, chip away at democracy. The question is if together they've chipped away enough that we aren't one any more. (My current assessment is that we still have a small window to turn this around, but it's closing. It's open wider than in Hungary, it's less wide open than in Germany or France)

I don’t know why you’re getting downvoted. It’s absolutely true that the US is losing its grip on a democracy due to these factors becoming issues.

Noam Chomsky's been saying the US isn't a democracy since the 70's? Post ww2? I'm early in my introduction to him so it's fuzzy. Statistically, the laws passed and the actions the government takes are primarily influenced by corporations, thus making it a plutocracy.

Some interesting scholarship on this has happened in the last 5-6 years: https://www.vox.com/2016/5/9/11502464/gilens-page-oligarchy-...

TLDR: it's pretty debatable

It is a somewhat flawed democracy.

Not only somewhat, but critically: increasingly.

As is every democracy.

The U. S. has never been a true democracy. It was founded as a democratic republic.


You say this like most of us don’t know.

Constitutionally speaking, all states must be a republican form of government. The federal government is also republican.

A republic is a kind of democracy. HN is not somewhere I would have expected to see people forgetting about the existence of subtypes.

Strictly speaking, the early us was more of an Aristocratic Republic rather than a democratic republic.

> The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states, and the electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature.

Article 1, Section 2.

In the Early US, only white male land owners could vote (the upper class, aka, the aristocracy). Inasmuch, it was not what most people would consider a democracy. The lower class had no representation whatsoever.

So, when you say that a "A republic is a kind of democracy" it's actually not true, at least not for what most people would consider democracy.

> the upper class, aka, the aristocracy

It was a bit wider than that, the US was notable at the time for a highly unusual degree of land ownership. After all, there was a lot of land to steal from the native americans.

Regardless, the US was a democracy before women could vote, and it was a democracy before black people could vote, and it was a democracy before non-landowners could vote. It was a democracy in which many inhabitants didn't truly have full citizenship, but to this day there are millions and millions of people who live in the US (including many citizens!) who cannot vote, and it's still a democracy.

The United States is not a democracy. It’s a democratic republic. The founders explicitly did not want to create a democracy.

Please not this misguided pedantry. A country can be a republic and a democracy. Those terms are not mutually exclusive.

I didn't write this frivolously.

There are people marching through the streets chanting, "this is what democracy looks like." They don rose-tinted glasses - projecting their mob rule fantasy of popular vote and pure democracy on our explicitly democratic republic.

Words have meaning. It's not misguided pedantry.

Moreover, by the conventional definition of democracy (government legitimacy derives from the votes of some subset of the population) all republics are necessarily democracies.

As I understand it, "democracy" can be used narrowly to mean a direct democracy, more broadly to mean a range of democratic political systems (e.g. constitutional republics, constitutional monarchies, etc.), or even more broadly to mean the overall philosophy and approach to government associated with liberal democracy.

It's sort of like how functional programming can just mean "programming with pure, mathematical style functions" or more broadly it can mean the techniques associated with functional programming like pattern matching, currying, etc.

In this case, it seems to me that the intention was to use the most broad sense of democracy.

A republic is a way to organise a state and its government (with elected head of state and a kind of legislative or governing assembly). In a representative democracy, the people doing the governing and the legislating are elected by the citizens who grant them legitimacy.

You can have democratic (e.g. Iceland) or oligarchic republics (e.g. Ukraine), all the way to dictatorships (e.g. Russia).

Being a democracy and being a republic are completely orthogonal.

Besides this being unhelpful "misguided pedantry", there's also the issue that what the founders wanted to create and what exists today are not necessarily the same.

Wasn't there a paper a while back that showed how the US is more than likely a plutocracy.

You might be thinking of the Princeton study which determined that policy is mainly influenced by wealthy interest groups[1]. The conclusions rang true with how a lot of people see the system operate in the past century. Interestingly enough, this was ranking higher in search results, when I was looking for a link to the study itself[2]: "Remember that study saying America is an oligarchy? 3 rebuttals say it's wrong." Worth noting that the VOX article finds high agreement between the rich and middle class, while the lower class appears to get their policies enacted in less than one fifth of the cases.

[1]: https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/fi...

[2]: https://www.vox.com/2016/5/9/11502464/gilens-page-oligarchy-...

These days it's closer to a pathocracy: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/out-the-darkness/201...

>a true democracy only exists when a huge number of very complicated systems and institutions are working properly

Falsehood. True democracy only exists when the voters' will is unimpeded by very complicated systems or institutions.

What you are describing is known as "managed democracy"[1] - i.e., political system that's notionally purely democratic, but where will of the voters is surreptitiously influenced, and their voice channeled through and shaped by gatekeepers, and their consent is manufactured by unelected institutions. North Korea and USSR are examples of such.

The free, effective, and prosperous countries like USA are democratic republics rather than true democracies - for a reason.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guided_democracy

>>a true democracy only exists when a huge number of very complicated systems and institutions are working properly

>Falsehood. True democracy only exists when the voters' will is unimpeded by very complicated systems or institutions.

Those things are not mutually exclusive. The phrase "working properly" in this context clearly implies that the "voters' will" is being honored.

> ... can a democracy with no independent, local press be considered a democracy still?

Expanding this question: can a country where the government lies to its citizens, and withholds information from the press, and actively seeks to discredit news sources critical of it be considered a democracy?

If citizens cannot be informed they cannot make rational, democratic decisions.

I think those all pale in comparison to the freedoms lost from the Patriot Act. Complete and total government surveillance. Gag orders that make it illegal for you to disclose that your business is being forced to comply with surveillance. Government bullying when you try to build systems that are surveillance proof (Apple said to reverse course on end to end encrypted iCloud earlier this year due to government pressure). Not to mention extrajudicial killings of American citizens.

I agree that the Patriot Act was a sad day for America.

Whether it meant to or not the Bush Administration kicked off a lot of terrible stuff for America and for the world. I remember obsessively watching the news after 9/11 and just having a terrible sinking feeling about the road we were preparing for ourselves.

To be a bit fair to them, it's easy to imagine many other administrations, of both parties, behaving similarly, though not in such an extreme way, after 9/11.

I'd like to think that Al Gore specifically, if he was President then, would not have invaded Iraq, and, would not have passed something like the Patriot Act, but the truth is we don't know.

Plus Gore might have paid more attention the the CIA warnings about Al Qaeda.

But again - who knows. And America itself has a lot to work on, on both sides of the political aisle.

And Obama kept these going or even doubled down. Regardless of your own political lean that particular area of bipartisanship is interesting.

He did, with the drone wars and such. Yeah - presidential power tends to accrue.

> can a country where the government lies to its citizens, and withholds information from the press, and actively seeks to discredit news sources critical of it be considered a democracy?

Doesn't this describe every country?

Such a country can be considered a democracy, as long as the government isn't too successful in suppressing information and the press. Especially if, in the end, the citizens vote that government out of power.

What about a country in which the press, as a bloc, systematically lies to the populace even without government coercion?

While the parent is getting down-voted because his comment is presumed to be supportive of the "enemy". I think he brings up an important talking point regarding the press/media. While I don't think lies are the right way to describe it I do think there is a truth problem in much of the media today left/right and both political and non-political news. Sensationalizing and Click-Bait is a form of dishonestly and leads to people having skewed understandings of events and their relative importance. I think this is not primarily driven by politics but the economics of the "attention economy." And the question of what is the effect of this on wider society is import to consider.

That is an oligarchy. Ultimately, it does not matter much if coercion is based on political or economic power, or the media.

That being said, in these cases media and politicians tend to align over time, either because media help compatible politicians, or because politicians created the media landscape themselves. Oligarchies tend to be symbiotic. For those close to power, anyway; for the rest of the country it’s more like parasitism.

To add on to what you're saying, it doesn't necessarily have to be an oligarchy.


IIRC Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman make the argument in "Manufacturing Consent" that basically consent can be manufactured in the U.S. because of the role that business and corporations play. Which is sort of a critique of capitalism, but I also recall Chomsky talking about how it's hard to really call the U.S. capitalist considering how much of the military industrial complex and academia (especially defense-related) is government funded, and how central those things are to the U.S. econonmy.

I'm not sure of the details but my takeaway is media consent can be manufactured in a corporatist/capitalist-like system, which may also be but is not necessarily an oligarchical one.

I think the thought that it’s not dangerous because it’s not the government is itself dangerous. As you say, private interests and multinationals have a lot of power to ensure compliance. Economic power is as powerful as political power.

I think that concentration of wealth in the hands of an ever-shrinking elite is a form of oligarchy.

Right. It's excessive and unaccountable power that's dangerous --- no matter what form that power takes. Limiting your worries to abuses of state power and ignoring abuses of private power is like worrying only about being shot with a gun and so ignoring someone pointing a crossbow at you. Both will injure you.

For sure. When the book was written income inequality wasn't extreme as it is now.

Also the whole idea of a government / multinational divide gets a bit blurry, doesn't it, when you look at the longstanding U.S. government relationship with companies like G.E. , A&T, etc, and, I'm sure in one form or another, today with Google and Amazon.

I mean government-funded research created the tech giants.

Lastly, as much as people love to knock government, ideally it's how people organize to do stuff, and, has an accountability mechanism (elections).

I'm kind of riffing off of what you are saying but yeah. Power comes in many forms and can be abused in many forms.

Exactly. Power is power, whether it’s wielded by a government or a company. Money buys governments and elites give favourable conditions to their friends’ companies. This problem is not exactly new either, it was already the case e.g. with the East India Company and its equivalents (not to single out the English).

At the risk of breaking the rule on talking about votes, this comment would probably be more welcome if it dealt with a specific situation. Right now, it seems like a coy lead into a "gotcha."

The press needs to behave too. They need to report, not sensationalize. They need to be objective, not politically active. And when given the opportunity to sit before a president addressing a global crisis, and then granted the opportunity to ask questions they should not inject their bias and call him a racist. When subsequently shut down "you're a terrible reporter" the rest of the press should not claim they are being attacked.

It all boils down to defining the roles (on all sides) and then doing that job. It's when government, press, companies, or individuals make light of their responsibility that things fall appart.

Calling someone a terrible reporter didn’t shut anything down, and it is an attack (on a person not even an action).

Don’t answer the question, or call it out as a poor question.

There are many sources of news and media.

Name calling and attacks are not coming from just one side, but this doesn’t seem like an honest appraisal of how roles are being filled so much as just tribal finger pointing.

Where is the alternative or proposed solution? The person who possesses one of the biggest platforms and with the most reach in the world cannot articulate anything more substantive than complaining of persecution?

The initial attack came from the reporter. Even if true it was totally off topic. He also asked a relevant question which was answered.

I found the exchange petty on both sides, but the media made much more of it.

"The press needs to behave too. They need to report, not sensationalize. They need to be objective, not politically active."

This is not accurate.

The free press has the freedom to report however they want. That is the whole point of the free press.

How a free press operate and what the people need are not necessarily aligned. The populace needs the sum total of the free press to result in something approximating objectivity. If that's not happening, the people aren't being served by the concept of a free press.

If all you've got is two sensationalising ends and nothing in the middle, it's very difficult to tell what's going on. Worse, if you've got one broadly accurate and reliable wing opposed by a group who will intentionally exaggerate, lie, and demonise, and the public think the truth is actually somewhere in the middle, the latter group win.

What's not clear or easy is how you might go about cleaning up such a situation.

If the people's needs aren't being served by the existing media, part of the 'free' bit of 'free press' is the fact that anyone can be a journalist. They can research, write and publish stories to fill any gap. The internet enables this even more than has historically been possible.

The problem in the latter case isn't solved by adding more journalists.

> ... when given the opportunity to sit before a president addressing a global crisis, and then granted the opportunity to ask questions they should not inject their bias and call him a racist.

Look - I know it's hard to say this and remove the judgement from the statement, and I certainly do have my own judgement in play here, but, empirically speaking, President Donald Trump is racist. Or at the very least someone who consistently makes racist statements over time. And at that point what's the difference?

So w/regards to that I think reporters should have been saying that more, tbh. Let's review the facts:

1. Trump's comments about The Central Park 5, back in the day. 2. Trump's pivotal role in racist birther conspiracy theories about former President Obama. 3. Trump's racist language about Mexicans / Latinos, U.S. judges who happen to be Latino, his coded racist dog-whistle language about cities like Baltimore, Chicago, etc. 4. "Very fine people." 5. Every single thing he's done since the murder of George Floyd.

And I'm sure there's more.

> Going forward, the largest, independent news outlet accessible to Hungarians will like be the Guardian and the New York Times.

Not true, they will likely start an other site and ask for donations, so it's up to the people to support them.

In Hungary like elsewhere people don't like to pay for news sites and in Hungary the government works hard, so that every freely available media pushes the government propaganda.

People have to realize they must pay if they want independent news sites to exist. Relying only on ad revenue is not a solid foundation.

>People have to realize

This is how I see it as well. We, collectively, are confronted with the reality that clean information is required for a healthy civic function.

Maybe like the Broad Street Pump cholera outbreak rectified unsanitary civic water management?

>We, collectively, are confronted with the reality that clean information is required for a healthy civic function.

I feel the opposite. We must learn to filter that news for ourselves, because you never know when the news is lying to you.

Yes, in the meantime that you and I and the rest of our politically and technologically savvy demographic are exercising our darwinian news filtering improvement capacity, millions of less globally aware, less up-to-date and less capable, given other more present temporal, logistical and emotional burdens, are still going to vote with whatever news filtering skills they have at the moment

I agree that the problem is that filtering out the truth is hard, but creating an arbiter of truth also has many other problems. Whoever gets control over the arbiter can shape the truth top their liking. Right now what we view as the truth as a society is shaped by the sum of everyone speaking out, but if you think you know better then you can simply override it. Others might disagree, but you're still encouraged to think for yourself rather than rely on someone else.

Index asked for support, they got support: https://tamogatas.index.hu/

Didn't matter.

They got support, but the editors didn't own the site, so the main editor could be dismissed by some representative of the owner.

It's a different situation if the editors are owners of the site and the donations go directly to them, instead of to some rich guy who bought the site from some other rich guy.

Hold on: Hungary is not an autocratic country?

Hasn't Fidesz controlled the country for over ten years now? Haven't they amended the constitution? Packed the courts?

This is not a topic that is at the top of my mind, so I am not an expert. But Hungary being a democratic society is news to me.

You make it sound like being a democracy is a binary decision, when in reality it's a multidimensional spectrum with lots of grey areas at the edges. Just look at the current state of affairs in the US, there are plenty of warning signs. Is it still a democracy? In my mind it is. The other commonality is that both countries chose their autocrat by fair elections.

Your response doesn't address the points of concern I raised about the quality of Hungary's democratic institutions.

I agree that it is debatable as to whether those concerns make it an autocracy. As you say, it is not a clear cut matter. Countries walk a path towards authoritarianism, they don't flip a switch. But this news item didn't come from out of the blue. The state of Hungary is walking further down a road it set out on some years ago.

> The other commonality is that both countries chose their autocrat by fair elections.

There's almost zero evidence to support the notion that Trump is an autocrat.

He's a badly performing political outsider that is about to go down in flames with one of the least successful, least effective Presidencies in US history. He's going to lose by normal democratic means, being voted out of office. His Presidency ultimately isn't going to matter much at all. In the first months Biden will unleash a wave of executive orders, mostly wiping out anything Trump did that the Democrats disliked. He's about to be thrown out of office by a candidate that can barely make it through four minute interviews, a candidate whose prep team has to keep him hidden away and tightly controlled because of obvious severe problems.

There is hardly anybody in the establishment in Washington that supports Trump at this point. There is almost nobody in the media / press that supports Trump. The press is never afraid to attack him, they do it 24/7 openly.

What autocracy? Trump is closer to a bumbling clown with no business being in politics, than an autocrat.

What did Trump do? He built a wall? No he didn't, he didn't build anything. He banned all the Muslims? No he didn't, other previous presidents similarly blocked many of those same nations for security reasons. He shut down all the illegal immigration, and deported a zillion people? No he didn't, Obama deported more people. He radically remade our immigration system? No he didn't. He abolished the ACA? No he didn't. He took control of the military industrial complex levers and launched a bunch of wars? No he didn't. So what did he do?

Trump's entire Presidency has only a few signatures to it. He cuts taxes, he was wildly divisive (he raged a lot, tweeted a lot), he conflicted with China a lot, he didn't launch any new wars, he failed over and over again to accomplish much of significance, he fought with the press a lot, and he installed a bunch of federal judges (which is going to be limited by his single term anyway). And then he was gone after a mere four years (his polls are so bad, the Democrats would all have to drop dead of Covid for Trump to win again).

So the world is upside down, everything is bad, the US is over, it's an autocratic nightmare, because of this clown that was thrown out in just four years. I call bullshit.

Is that you, Dave Smith? :)

I cannot believe braindead Biden is a) the candidate, and b) has a very solid chance of beating Trump. The man can hardly get through a sentence. The emperor has no clothes! (https://twitter.com/brithume/status/1286130348888403976?s=20)

Yes, Trump has been a fantastic disappointment. At least he didn't start any new wars (sorry mustache man!). Some part of me cannot believe the fiscal/budgetary travesty perpetuated by the Republicans in federal office. They took Obama's deficits and tripled them. The same deficits and Fed policy they (rightly) harped on for the previous 8 years.

One thing I would say is don't put too much faith in the polls. Republican voters are notoriously unwilling to talk to pollsters. Trump will say Covid is outside of his control and you're welcome for all the welfare checks; the minute they put Biden on stage, some percentage of the electorate will realize he's actually senile. My guess is that it'll be close.

Thank you for the local context. Can you clarify more about the takeover attempt? The article portrays it as a conflict between the site's editor, and the Board President. Can you clarify the government's role in this? Are there any governmental barriers preventing these journalists from forming a new independent news site?

> To put this in context: for imagine the largest, and one of the last remaining independent news site in a country where most of the media is centrally controlled. Criticism of the government in that media is unknown. This site is read by close to half of the online population. The government is clearly irritated by this.

Thanks for providing this context to foreigners; I wouldn't have known any of this or been able to succinctly summarize it with some research the way you just did.

> can a democracy with no independent, local press be considered a democracy still?

Looking at you Japan.

"The taming of Japan’s media watchdogs has attracted growing attention from overseas. On April 19, David Kaye, the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of expression, wrapped up a weeklong fact-finding mission to Japan by expressing “deep and genuine concern” about declining media independence in Asia’s richest democracy. The following day, the Paris-based media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders lowered Japan’s place in its annual ranking of world press freedom to 72nd out of 180 nations, between Tanzania and Lesotho"

And no, this is not whataboutism. This is just a context so to understand that the above turn of events that the OP refers to is not unprecedented in other strong democracies either. Or is Japan an autocracy too?

> Or is Japan an autocracy too

In this specific case, I'm not certain there is a trivial answer. Having worked for a Japanese company, the unshakable hierarchy is unknown to Western culture.

> is Japan an autocracy too?

Ehh... it is a "flawed democracy" in that same index, as you would expect from a country where the same party has ruled almost uninterrupted for 65 years.

Well... they can just start another index. As long as that isn't prohibited

There are no prohibition of independent journalism in Hungary, it is the opposite, it is broadcasted as essential. The way the governing party is obstructing independent and critical voices is by manipulating financial background and adjacent concepts (taxes on advertisement coupled with gigantic marketing spending on friendly organizations avoiding critical medium, stigmatize and regulate foreign financial sources classifying as undue political influence and limiting by regulations, taking over and influencing the market players supporting friendly media only, etc.) ruining the livelihood of opponents. They can theoretically start new Index but basically they must work for free or on charity of readers (who have very limited financial means). The current story was started by changes in the ownership structure of the Index, escalating only (and precisely) after EU budget negotiations got closed - where news of endangered independent press could have put the prime minister into disadvantageous position.

Still blows my mind how people believe giving government more power is the answer to any problem. Sorry to hear that democracy is being attacked in this way. Best of luck to you.

The EU is based on democratic principles.

Too bad some bad actors ruin or for the rest of us ( I'm not saying the EU is perfect though, just young).

I spoke to someone from Hungary and they literally said people voted for Orban because of 1 thing: keep immigrants out.

They very likely were exposed to the same kind of anti-immigrants propaganda most governments use against their citizens. It happens pretty much everywhere.

Immigrants can't vote, so they're extremely easy to use as scapegoats because they can't fight back politically. Once a government plants in their citizens that immigrants are the root of all evil, they've pretty much won: anything wrong in the country will be attributed to illegal immigrants so that the attention will be taken away from the government. It's the same old trick of blaming a weak minority that cannot defend itself using any legal means, and frankly I find appalling that people still falls for it.

Another way to put this..how much does the news media influence people?

In the U.S. 90% of the news media is held by 5 conglomerates.

You get creepy stuff like this.


Makes you wonder how reliable the news media is in the U.S.

I can't even imagine how bad it is in countries where oligarchs control things.

The thing you're linking to is a phenomenon specific to the Sinclair Broadcast Group[0], a partisan media organization that is actively attempting to undermine local journalism in the US and replace it with neo-conservative propaganda.

To compare any of the major US news conglomerates to this would be a false equivalence.

Also, any comment on the centralization of media in the US that doesn't mention Facebook is outdated at this point.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinclair_Broadcast_Group

Controlling media and influencing it social or otherwise is a concern when media is a oligarchy , social media is also an oligarchy , there are few players who dominate most of the readership .

The big American conglomerates are just as partisan as Sinclair , there is still some professionalism that they have not devolved to Sinclair level.

However trends in recent past point towards only downward movement simply because of economics , you make more money telling people what they want to hear.

>But this happening in an EU country, in a democracy.

Not anymore. Freedom House classifies Hungary as a "Transitional or Hybrid Regime".

Frankly speaking, each country gets what it deserves. I'm sure there are some Hungarians who are opposed to the current government but majority seem to be just fine with ' It's all Soros' fault' or 'Screw the EU'. Back at home,a few years ago, people decided that it's a good idea to give majority to the party that mainly consists of millionaire farmers, who barely pay minimum wages. And people were stupid enough to say things like: ' they'll increase income for everyone and etc.'. It's like we are walking into some high end spaceship and some guys are concerned where they've left their pitchforks... People also seem to be happy buying some 3rd class newspapers writing crap instead of trying to read at least a bit of investigative journalism. Maybe this is the time where it all goes down to shit for 20-30 years and then it will get better again. Europe especially can't seem to have normal life for too long.

Hungarian here. It stopped to be a democracy the moment they attained more than 66% of the votes (with gerrymandering of course).

They also control the other branches of power. They also control the attorney general who can stop any prosecution against any member of the Fidesz before it starts.

They control the media now. The whole system makes me sick. And I'm one of those people who would vote for a paty like Fidesz if it was a regular country (I'm not left wing at all).

Can they be voted out in the next election?

I honestly don't know. We thought we can the last time there was a vote and they won with a strong majority. The real problem here is that there is no good alternative. The left wing parties are a joke at best. I'm kinda torn between all the major parties since I don't believe that any of them would work. That's why I voted for the new kid on the block (Momentum).

That sounds like he's winning legitimately. He may not be the candidate people want, but just from your comment it sounds like he's the best they have.

"Opposition parties are so inept: they could not even operate corruption."

(Do not know if it is original or some old joke: I have heard it from hungarian stand-up comedian Tibor Bödőcs - who is btw basically the only comedian left who dare (or talented enough to get away with) criticizing every side of the political spectrum here - nowadays mostly Orbán of course...)

> And I'm one of those people who would vote for a paty like Fidesz if it was a regular country (I'm not left wing at all).

And you should be ashamed because it's parties like Fidesz that fuck up countries like Hungary is fucked up now. It is your (and your kind's) fault.

You misunderstood my sentence. I'm right wing. I wouldn't vote for any of the left wing parties in normal circumstances. If by "my kind" you mean right wing paties then you are clearly delusional. Note that I am not voting for Fidesz. Please pay attention to what people write before going personal.

I don’t have a dog in the race, but there’s no dearth of brutal left wing dictators.

"Going forward, the largest, independent news outlet accessible to Hungarians will like be the Guardian and the New York Times."

Don't forget 444.hu. They are nowhere near as large as Index, but just as outspoken and critical of the government.

>The question begs itself: can a democracy with no independent, local press be considered a democracy still?

Yes but likely only for a short time. Every government has people outside of journalism that makes democracy happen.

Russia has that right now?

Even an independent press doesn't fare well against state assassins.

Maybe it’s because I’m tired, but for a moment I thought we were talking about Hong Kong.

If I can’t keep straight in my head which country is having its press shut down, we live in sad times.

In America, we don’t have press shut down, as much as it becomes “sponsored.” Someone decides to run it at a loss, or close to one.

Quality goes down, advertising goes up, and ideology seeps in.

Lots of “small town papers” are just brands managed by conglomerates.

In what sense, news organizations that you've mentioned are "independent"? (if you live outside the bubble, the bias is clear)

You know what Orbán has in common with, say, Kádár? They were both "democratically" elected.

Hungary is not considered a liberal democracy, it’s considered an “illiberal democracy”. Orbán has pioneered ways to degrade a liberal democracy to an illiberal one, and is the template many right wing leaders of other countries are in the process of emulating: Bolsonaro, Trump, and Poland, though I believe their strategy has been more concerned with compromising their judicial branch.

> But this happening in an EU country, in a democracy.

Democracy was a 20th century construct.

More precise would be: ”idea that democracy is best-for-anyone solution is sooo 20th century”. It is probably best for many, maybe most, but the others need to find their own local best. People can be equal, but history, culture, neighbourhoods etc are not

Yes. Democracies aren't about public funding of poorly viable corporations.

Independent press does not exist:

  - if the money comes from the state they're incentivized to speak good of the state
  - if the money comes from ads they're bound to report what does not make to many waves
  - if the money comes from readers, they're going to write articles for better retention / more new subscribers
Democracy does not need the press. It needs an informed population which has learned to think critically.

> Democracy does not need the press.

I don't agree at all. There's numerous instances happening very, very frequently of the press shaping public events sometimes only by their revelation of an ongoing investigation. An informed, critical thinking population won't/can't do investigative work.

> It needs an informed population which has learned to think critically.

How does the population get informed about the government without the press?

I think a lot of these comments are trivializing the situation in Hungary. The point is that if the government has shut down the last newspaper independent of it (even though maybe not of ads) then they will shut down any public speech independent of it and then you cannot have a population informed about how it is being governed (whatever about being informed about consumer choice which is a bit more trivial)

Independent press would mean that there are many different news organizations under independent control.

We used to have that in the US because we used to have and enforce laws against media consolidation.

As the case of Cambridge Analytica shows most people overestimate their ability to think critically. We do need reputable sources of information, otherwise we're just a manipulable flock.

Why do people read the Guardian and the New York Times? Or are these just illustrative?

By the way:

> The question begs itself

Rather: This invites the question.

Begging the question is assuming the conclusion in a circular argument. [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question

Ah, always nice to be downvoted. But if you say "this begs the question" it may be a common thing to say, but it is also incorrect.

How is independence defined? In France, every big newspaper is funded partially by the state. The total amount is close to 2 billions euros, with big news paper getting from 5 to 7 millions a year. Without this they will close. Sure, on the surface they criticize some government action, but the real control is more about the questions they don’t ask, the topics they don’t cover and the not-so-subtle political orientation of every article published. Control by big entreprise is the second factor that make they not really independent. Again, this make the newspaper not challenging anything when is comes to corporate interests. In a way it’s better in the Hungarian case because things are really obvious so it may trigger people to take action for a change.

Funding != control. Newspapers are floundering all over the world. It's great that the state ensures the continued existence of a healthy and diverse press through independent grants. The potential for abuse is low if the rules for awarding those grants are transparent and the comitee that oversees it is plural.

Because the choice isn't "government money" or "no money", it's state (democratic) money or corporate (undemocratic) money! Looking at things like the murdoch empire we can see which we prefer.

There's usually a relationship between being funded by and being critical of something. That may not be true in all cases, but it's true often enough that we ask everyone to disclose it when they speak on something/someone they get money from.

This doesn't even have to be an explicit thing. You don't need to threaten people to cut their funding, they will like the system the way it is set up, because they profit from it being set up that way. You can't be independent from something if you depend on it to pay your bills.

And you get situaions like in the US where big Pharma pumps millions into advertizing and the news looks a blind eye.

I agree that funding != Control. More specifically the more diverse is the source of funding the less it is subject to control by that source.

But then the rest of your message seems to contradict that statement.

If "healthy and diverse press" is only guaranteed by single source of funding (state) then I don't see how this is diverse or healthy or independent.

I think you’re right. The best guarantee would be not to depend too much from any single source (ads, subsidies, private investment, etc).

A democracy has a vested interest in keeping independent newspapers afloat. Subsidies are not shocking, provided that this is impartial ans according to well-defined criteria, and that it does not become the main source of income for the media.

France has the Canard Enchaîné, which is thriving and funded only by sales and subscriptions, although it is well integrated in the political landscape. There are other examples in other countries but far too few.

Funding doesn't have to mean editorial control.

Around the world there are numerous instances of Government-funded news publishers and broadcasters that have superior editorial independence than their commercial competitors. The BBC in the UK and the ABC in Australia come to mind.

Funding CAN mean editorial control if the funder deems it so, but that's equally true of commercial media as it does public broadcasters. Unless you happen to like the political bias of Rupert Murdoch, it would be hard to argue that he doesn't exert more influence over his publications than the British and Australian governments do theirs.

What’s more ominous in France is the decline of journalists-owned newspapers.

> In a way it’s better in the Hungarian case because things are really obvious so it may trigger people to take action for a change.

That sounds dangerously naïve. I know gloom and self-hate is de rigueur in a broad part of the French population, but going from “also, France is bad” to “actually, maybe Hungary’s better” on a piece about the death of a democracy is a bit much.

> The question begs itself: can a democracy with no independent, local press be considered a democracy still?

The press doesn't have to be a centralized, edited company. Citizens can report news independent and locally.

Indeed, this type of journalism is resistant to the oppression of government, and the bias of media conglomerates.

David Simon (creator of The Wire) has what I think is a good take[1] on why an organized, professional media is important:

> "But democratized and independent though they may be, you do not — in my city — run into bloggers or so-called citizen journalists at City Hall, or in the courthouse hallways or at the bars and union halls where police officers gather. You do not see them consistently nurturing and then pressing sources. You do not see them holding institutions accountable on a daily basis...I'm offended to think that anyone, anywhere believes American monoliths as insulated, self-preserving, and self-justifying as police departments, school systems, legislatures, and chief executives can be held to gather facts by amateurs pursuing the task without compensation, training, or, for that matter, sufficient standing to make public officials even care who it is they're lying to or who they're withholding information from."

There are, of course, very smart and well-qualified bloggers and indie journalists, but they're relatively few and far between. The institutions of journalism matter more than most people realize, if for no other reason than people have to be paid to put in the time to do the job.

1. https://votesmart.org/public-statement/422651/hearing-of-the...

Citizens are doing this with what spare time and what spare income? And with no backing of a larger entity if they get lawsuits?

There’s a need for well funded journalistic organizations everywhere. Well funded (and independent) being the key because people have to eat.

> The press doesn't have to be a centralized, edited company. Citizens can report news independent and locally.

Citizens can, but the quality and length would for the most part be short and incidental (outbreaks, viral videos, etc.)

But in-depth investigations, into corruption, into nation-wide, critical issues, will usually require dedicated staff with budgets. Can't place that on a citizen's shoulders

In all fields, there is work that is necessary but not fun. Money/incentives are needed to bridge that gap.

> Indeed, this type of journalism is resistant to the oppression of government, and the bias of media conglomerates.

And to being self-sustaining, because no one pays the reporters to actually do their job and to verify their sources or be verified.

Yes, but do you know of any good examples?

In open-source this seems to work (i.e many free contributions make up a good whole), but in journalism I'm not sure.

The barrier of entry to journalism is much higher. We don't need to spend days hounding a politician, perusing archives, handling sources, cross-checking information and doing all the (sometimes dangerous) legwork an investigative journalist needs to do.

When I write open source, my primary information sources are right at my monitor.

One problem with relying on this is that it throws the door open to state-funded trolls posing as independent citizen journalists.

So basically Twitter?

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