THE ELECTRONIC REPUBLIC: Reshaping American Democracy in the Information Age by Lawrence K. Grossman

THE ELECTRONIC REPUBLIC: Reshaping American Democracy in the Information Age

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The former Public Broadcasting Service CEO and NBC News president lets loose with a fusillade of bold predictions on how rapidly advancing communications technology will radically change the public's role in the national political process. After leaving NBC in 1988, Grossman taught briefly at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and Columbia's Gannett Center for Media Studies before becoming president of the Horizons Cable Network. His academic sojourn perhaps explains why Grossman's first book often bogs down in tediously written scholarly detail. The narrative comes alive when he reports on media and political events in which he took part. There is an instructive, behind-the-scenes look, for example, at the international controversy that erupted in 1980 when PBS--under Grossman's leadership--decided to air ""Death of a Princess,"" a docudrama about Saudi Arabia. The main focus, however, is his interpretation of the seismic changes in American political life that will be caused by advances in telecommunications technologies. Grossman contends that interactive telecommunications already have influenced the way Congress works and the way presidents govern. And 1995 is just the beginning. According to Grossman, ordinary citizens soon will possess the electronic means to propel their opinions directly into the governmental process. He predicts that the entire nation ""may vote not only for term limitations and balanced budgets but also to use citizens, teleprocessors and electronic keypads to bypass, or override legislative powers of Congress."" To facilitate this new ""plebiscite democracy,"" Grossman calls for ""a national policy granting universal access by all citizens to the evolving broadband digital transmission networks."" That policy sounds a bit farfetched, as does Grossman's belief that in the electronic future members of Congress ""may even be able to live at home instead of moving to Washington."" The information superhighway intersects with the Greek ideal of true democracy, and if Grossman is correct, American politics never will be the same.

Pub Date: Aug. 23rd, 1995
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Viking