One State? Only on Twitter! "Techno-Utopianism" Promotes the Misconception That a Shared State Is Possible
Gorenberg, Gershom, Moment
The American student had a question that boiled down to this: Would Twitter and Facebook change the dynamic between Israelis and Palestinians and make a one-state solution possible?
I'd just finished my lecture to a group of overseas students in Jerusalem on the need for a two-state agreement. The student who asked about social media was earnest, polite and curious. His was a real question, not a rhetorical one.
For me, it was also an indication of how the one-state concept continues to seep into the American intellectual milieu. It seems only logical to some American academics, students and politically engaged writers that Jews and Palestinians should get over their particularism and live in a single, shared state. In part, this is because of misperceptions of the conflict--misperceptions to which Americans are particularly prone.
One is techno-utopianism. That's the faith that new technology will build a better world--not just in the practical sense, but also in the political and moral sense. This is not a uniquely American faith. It was born of the industrial and scientific revolutions. But a utopian streak in American culture, along with pride in inventor-heroes of the 19th century, made this way of thinking resonate strongly in the United States. Techno-faith was shaken by the Bomb and other 20th-century horrors, but the Internet brought a great revival: All the world's information will be accessible to everyone, says the 21st-century version. Facebook will unite the oppressed. The geeks will erase borders and inherit the earth.
So in that new cosmopolitan universe, won't national identities fade and demands for separate Palestinian and Jewish nation-states become obsolete?
Actually, no. Technological advances, particularly in communications and transportation, do reshape politics. They don't homogenize humanity. In his classic work on nationalism, Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson writes that the invention of the printing press and later of the newspaper pushed people to standardize languages and to think of themselves as belonging to nationalities--and to fight for their nations' independence. Long before the Internet, the telegraph and railroads made it possible to publish the Lincoln-Douglas debates in close to real time across the antebellum United States. Those inventions did not resolve the slavery debate.
Today the Internet lets information move more quickly, but the data still flow in a multitude of languages. Social media enable movements to organize more easily--including movements demanding national self-determination. Next year Scotland will hold a referendum on independence. The "Yes Scotland" campaign is thriving on Facebook. In Catalonia, supporters of secession from Spain used Facebook to bring out 1.5 million demonstrators in September. The printing press may be the mother of nationalism; the Internet is not its undertaker. …