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Second Superpower

"The Second Superpower" is a term used to describe a global Technocratic peace movement. The term refers to the meme (idea) that the blogosphere (internet "blogs", or popularly-written news journals) enables a community of global citizens to become an emergent democracy that can influence the media and change governmental policy.

Although some credit this term with New York Times writer Patrick Tyler, he never actually used it in writing. On February 17 2003, Tyler wrote:

"...the huge anti-war demonstrations around the world this weekend are reminders that there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion."

The New York Times article was widely circulated in the peace movement during February of 2003, adding to the hope that galvanizing world public opinion could prevent a United States invasion of Iraq. By March, however, interest had waned in the face of the actual invasion of Iraq and the seeming success of the initial war effort--and by implication the failure of the second superpower to stop the first. In fact world public opinion, and certainly American opinion, increasingly supported the war. A search of Google using the term "Second Superpower" in late May highlighted a high school football team that had become the "second superpower of Florida football," as well as former president Clinton's designation of China as a superpower. There was no notice of the peace movement's term, and the New York Times article, hidden behind a firewall at the paper. was not indexed.

On March 31, 2003 James Moore of Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, posted a thought piece to revive interest in the concept, and to discuss among the left how to make the technocratic peace movement effective-- i.e. a real superpower and not simply a fantasy. The piece is called The Second Superpower Rears Its Beautiful Head. His four ideas: embrace the concept explicitly within the peace movement as an inspirational goal and a counter to the "first superpower" meme promoted by the Bush administration, continue to develop blogging and other means of linking the community globally, find ways to influence first superpower institutions including international institutions and international law, and continue to develop reflective personal consciousness so as to be able to lead from love rather than fear.

"Overall, what can be said for the prospects of the second superpower?  With its mind enhanced by Internet connective tissue and international law as a venue to work with others for progressive action, the second superpower is starting to demonstrate its potential.  But there is much to do.  How do we assure that it continues to gain in strength?  And at least as important, how do we continue to develop the mind of the second superpower, so that it maximizes wisdom and goodwill? The future, as they say,is in our hands.  We need to join together to help the second superpower, itself, grow stronger."

This paper received 50,000 downloads in five days. The substance of the piece was debated by a number of authors, including Jonathan Rauch writing in The National Journal. Many bloggers linked the paper with Joi Ito's Emergent Democracy concept and paper.

The paper was the subject of an attack on the dissemination process and the relationship of the author and his reviewers to Google, by Andrew Orlowski of The Register (a frequent critic of Google). Orlowski accused the blogger community of "Googlewashing", a word Orlowski invented to describe media manipulation by Google to remove or mellow the political significance of the word. Orlowski's piece had the effect of bringing more notice to the piece, and stimulating a months-long debate in the blogging community, of which Kevin Marks' rebuttal to Orlowski is illustrative.

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