Katharine Frederick: Theory of Systematic Ideology and Its Interaction with Social Media in Historical Perspective

Katharine Frederick and Richenda Walford

Winner, 2012 George Walford International Essay Prize.



2 A

2.1 Assumption, Identification, and Behavior
2.2 Inverse Characteristics of the Major Ideologies
2.3 A Brief Description of the Walsbeian Ideology Levels
2.3.1 Protostatic Ideology or “Expediency”
2.3.2 Epistatic Ideology or “Principle”
2.3.3 Parastatic Ideology or “Precision”
2.3.4 Protodynamic Ideology or “Reform”
2.3.5 Epidynamic Ideology or “Revolution”
2.3.6 Paradynamic Ideology or “Repudiation”
2.3.7 Metadynamic Ideology or “The Ideology of Ideologies”

3.1 A General Introduction of Social Media and Systemic Ideology
3.2 Social Media and Systemic Ideology in Historical Perspective
3.2.1 The Protest Reformation and the Printing Press
3.2.2 The French Revolution and Media of the Masses
3.2.3 Nazi Germany and the Top-Down Media Propaganda Machine
3.3 Social Media in the 21st Century
3.3.1 Social Media, the Internet, and the Masses
3.3.2 The Seven Major Ideologies and Modern Social Media Tools
3.4 Governments, Ideology, and Responses to Social Media
3.4.1 Examples of Protostatic Governments – Peru and North Korea
3.4.2 Examples of Epistatic Government – China
3.4.3 Examples of Parastatic Government – The United States





In the mid-1970s, George Walford began using the term “Systematic Ideology” to encapsulate Harold Walsby’s theory of ideology and human behavior, distinguishing it from other, unrelated threads of twentieth-century ideological studies. While other theorists such as Karl Mannheim focused exclusively on ideology as a political mechanism, Walsby identified ideological controls in all aspects of human behavior, eventually outlining a systematic pattern of characteristics and interactions between six major ideologies that govern our social and non-social existence. Ideology, Walsby enthusiastically explains, guides all purposive human activity: “[An ideology is] the complete system of cognitive assumptions and affective identifications which manifest themselves in, or underlie, the thought, speech, aims, interests, ideals, ethical standards, actions – in short, the behaviour – of an individual human being!”[1]

Walsby’s theory can be applied to nearly all aspects of human experience, but several elements must be reviewed in light of modern technological advances, namely, the phenomenon of unprecedented mass communication with the explosive expansion of the Internet and new forms of “social media.” Yet, despite its unprecedented impact, the Internet is not the first platform for social media that has direct application to Walsby’s system of ideologies. Throughout the ages, various technological innovations have facilitated various forms of social media that have interacted with systematic ideology, serving as a conduit and vehicle for the development and subsequent spread of ideological assumptions. While such technological innovations alter the medium by which ideological assumptions are disseminated, other contingent historical factors (which have hitherto been ignored by the theory of Systematic Ideology) have helped to shape the particular ideological composition of a given historical moment, sometimes affecting the Walsbeian pyramidal balance by fostering greater membership to and influence of certain ideologies, while still maintaining the general hierarchical structure and theoretical scheme of systematic ideology. As Walford explains, the system of ideologies is dynamically flexible and “different parts of it change at different rates, and for most social purposes its overall form can be taken as stable, but no part of it is permanently fixed and neither is the whole.” [2] Historically, various forms of social media have engaged the dynamic elements of systematic ideology, enabling large-scale ideological shifts in the system.

Today, the recent exponential growth of the Internet has facilitated a rapid worldwide spread of ideological material. The consequence is an intensification of the original pyramidal ideological structure as explained by Walsby. Relative freedom of information, communication, and online activity provides a platform for individuals to climb the ideological pyramid to greater ideological levels; at the same time, the Internet makes it more feasible to retain one’s original ideological position by finding informational “support” for ideological assumptions while also providing the basis for a community of fellow ideological subscribers from all corners of the globe. On the group level, the Internet has allowed the generation of international movements on an unprecedented scale, which has consequently inspired greater action of ever-more individuals, and thus furthered the potential for upward movements along the pyramidal ideological scheme. With the development of a greater international social media platform (supported by the prolific advancement of the Internet), modern national and regional governments struggle to contain the potential power of social media in an effort to maintain particular ideological compositions amongst their citizens, as a growing international “online” culture threatens to disrupt the distinct (and often carefully constructed) ideological systems within various nations and/or world regions.

A thorough understanding and analysis of the theory of Systematic Ideology is required to comprehend both the historical precedents of social media and ideology as well as the implications of instantaneous mass communication for the intra- and inter-group behavioral mechanisms of the six major Walsbeian ideologies, as well as for the “Ideology of Ideologies.”

2.1 Assumptions, Identification, and Behavior

As a young man, Walsby found himself drawn to socialist theory, but was disheartened by its pervasive dependence on class dynamics as the primary determinant of political (and ideological) behavior [3]. Walsby recognized the blatant incongruity between reality and socialist theory as evidenced by the fact that “there are Right-wing workers and there are Left-wing capitalists” [4]. Therefore, to resolve this apparent conflict, Walsby delineated other factors that he argued determine ideological identifications among individuals and groups. Through the examination of “volitional” behavior—which is governed by one’s ideological make-up—Walsby pinpointed six major ideologies [5] that operate with little regard to classic social theoretical identifications with “class” or intelligence, and instead find definition through adopted ideological assumptions, be they conscious or unconscious, and a series of behavioral characteristics that are guided by those assumptions.

George Walford explains that such ideological assumptions can be relatively true and relatively false. That is, nothing is certifiably true, because every assumption can be questioned, and often is, based on one’s environmental situation. For example, I may look out the window on a sunny morning and assume that it will be a beautiful day in typically storm-free Southern California. As a result, I go out for a picnic, my behavior determined by my ideological assumption that a sunny morning necessarily means a beautiful afternoon will follow. This assumption seems logical and true, but it is only relatively so; a freak storm may roll in during the afternoon, spoiling my picnic on the logically anticipated beautiful day. However, if I lived in a climate with erratic rainfall, I would not act under the ideological assumption that a sunny morning leads to a sunny afternoon, and accordingly, my ideological behavior would be different—I would likely be part of the minor ideological group that believes in carrying umbrellas at all times. Thus, our experiences help guide our assumptions, which, in turn, determine our membership in larger ideological groups.

The above example demonstrates the degree to which assumptions penetrate the most mundane aspects of our lives. Recognition of the variable strength of identification with various assumptions is crucial to understanding how assumptions guide our ideological tendencies [6]. For example, my identification with the assumption that sunny mornings are always followed by sunny afternoons would presumably be rather weak, since obvious contradictory evidence has been placed before me. I may still believe that sunny mornings typically lead to sunny afternoons, but my identification with the assumption that this is always the case is weakened.

Identification must be considered in both positive and negative terms. A completely positive identification with an assumption necessitates the wholesale belief in the truth of that assumption. Negative identification is conversely defined as the corresponding belief in the falsity of assumptions that oppose a positively identified assumption. For example, if I positively identify with the assumption that breathing is necessary to stay alive, then I must negatively identify with the (ludicrous) assumption that one can live without breathing. However, identification is not as black and white as this example suggests; instead, it operates in a spectrum between belief and disbelief. Once again, we return to the example of my ultimately frustrated assumption of a sunny morning. While my identification with the assumption that sunny mornings lead to sunny afternoons may have initially been quite strong (i.e., positive), it becomes relatively weakened (i.e., made somewhat negative) by the rainy afternoon outcome, which proved my original assumption to be relatively false. The disruption of my assumed outcome may lead me to alter the original assumption, as I realize that my ideas must change with the environmental situation at hand. Such ability to adapt one’s ideas to the truths evident in their surroundings marks the beginning of certain evolutionary steps toward a more “evolved” ideological association.

We next turn to the major ideologies first observed and analyzed by Walsby. When considering Walsby’s major ideologies, it is important to recognize that the theory of Systemic Ideology does not imply that individuals are ideological carbon copies, who may choose from only six or seven identical sets of assumption-based minor ideologies, which form their major ideological tendencies. Rather, it supposes that humans may have differing experiences, which yield varying assumptions, and then, unique minor ideologies, but these minor ideologies also carry with them assumptions inherent in certain major ideologies. The idea is cogently explained by Walford: “Each of us has… assumptions concerning his own body which he shares with nobody else. But each unique, personal set contains, in addition to particular assumptions, also more general assumptions, and these are held in common with other people. People identified with the same assumptions are thereby constituted an ideological group” [7]. The strength of identification with a given ideology varies by the degree to which the personal set of assumptions exist relative to the more general assumptions which are shared.
2.2 Inverse Characteristics of the Major Ideologies

Walsby introduced six major ideologies that govern human behavior [8]: protostatic, epistatic, parastatic, protodynamic, epidynamic, and paradynamic. These ideologies can be broken into two larger ideological categories: (a) the eidostatic ideology—characterized by the first three ideologies (noted by their “-static” nomenclature) which largely aim to maintain the status quo, subscribing to a static viewpoint, and (b) the eidodynamic ideology—comprised of the final three ideologies (similarly noted by their “-dynamic” nomenclature), which desire change in the status quo, not surprisingly subscribing to a dynamic viewpoint. Walsby then introduced a seventh major ideology, the “Ideology of Ideologies,” referred to as metadynamic, which stands apart from the rest as a sort of observer of the activity of the six lower ideologies. Each of these ideologies displays varying degrees of related characteristics and interacts with the other five ideologies in its quest for ideological domination.

To better understand the inverse, spectrum-like system of the six major ideologies [9], we imagine a triangle, built with horizontal rectangular blocks of varying size, with the largest of the blocks as the base, the smallest as the apex. The first ideology in the series, protostatic, forms the wide base of the triangle, while the epistatic ideology resting on top of it is slightly smaller, and the parastatic atop that is narrower still, and so on, until the paradynamic ideology rests at the top as the apex, and is consequently presented as the smallest rectangular block. The entire pyramid is then overseen by the highly exclusive metadynamic “Ideology of Ideologies.” While the image is not perfectly representative of the distribution of membership (a mathematically pure hyperbolic curve would be more precise) it does convey the general ideas quite clearly [10]:

(a) As we move from the base of the triangle to the top, we see that the volume of the representative rectangular block decreases, as does the membership of the seven major ideologies, with the protostatic ideology enjoying the most support and the paradynamic ideology the least. The implications of this idea are immense, as Walford explains in Beyond Politics, “Each movement exercises upon social life a degree of influence immediately determined mainly by the number of people supporting it” [11].

(b) If we start at the base of the triangle and move up, we see that the desire for change by each successive ideological group increases, with those subscribing to protostatic ideology the least desirous of change, and the paradynamic ideology the most. Accordingly, political activity increases along the upward movement. Further discussion of each major ideology will illuminate this phenomenon.

(c) According to the original theory, the economic character of the ideologies is also illustrated by the triangle, with groups toward the base more inclined toward economic individualism (wherein individuals control means of production), while ideologies further toward the top are drawn to economic collectivism (wherein the whole society controls means of production and thus has free access). However, in many ways, this economic-based portion of the Systematic Ideology theory is anachronistic – the theory was formulated during the socialist fervor of the twentieth century when questions of economic collectivism and individualism dominated intellectual debate. Today, however, government-controlled distribution of income is commonplace across modernized nations, and desires for economic individualism or collectivism have become more tied to individuals’ particular income bracket, rather than their ideological material.

(d) Conversely, the political collectivism of the major ideologies is highest at the base, while political individualism becomes more characteristic as we move toward the apex of the triangle. That is, ideologies closer to the base rely on conformity, while ideologies closer to the apex value independent thought.

(e) Finally, the triangle reveals the relative value placed on theory by the various ideologies, with the ideologies closest to the base interested in action, rather than theory, while the groups closest to the top value theory very highly (in fact, some paradynamic ideas are entirely theoretical and remain untested) [12].

2.3 A Brief Description of the Walsbeian Ideological Levels

Considering the implications of instantaneous global mass communication, we can now begin to analyze each major ideology, and later its reaction to mass communication, with their unique characteristics and principles, which Walford suggests should be seen as essential elements of a greater system of ideologies, each necessary for a society to function [13]. We will see that, despite this supposed systematic complementary nature of the ideologies in social functioning, the ideologies are diametrically opposed to one another, with hostility and repression directing inter-ideology relations. However, Walford addresses the necessity of a hostile, yet cohesive system of ideologies in the modernizing world, explaining that while “a society which is to endure must be supplied and maintained…[which are] functions [with which] the eidostatics are concerned…If the society is to endure in the face of accelerating technological development then it must not only be supplied and maintained, it must also be constantly reformed and, on occasion, revolutionised, and with this the eidodynamics are concerned” [14].

We begin with the protostatic ideology, comprising the largest, most influential group and the most extreme of the eidostatic ideologies and move our way through the ideological spectrum, concluding with the metadynamic ideology. As we progress along the ideological spectrum, we find that adherents to the “higher” ideologies (in the triangular scheme) must first pass through the “lower” ideologies, like stages, in their progression toward their ultimate identifiable ideology (which can change at any time). As Walford explains, we all exhibit behaviors relating to these preceding ideologies, through which we pass on our way to determining our final ideological identity: “In the ideological series each phase beyond the protostatic is not merely, or purely, epistatic, or parastatic, and so on, but is epistatic and protostatic, parastatic and epistatic and protostatic, until, at the eidodynamic extreme, the metadynamic is also paradynamic and epidynamic and protodynamic and parastatic and epistatic and protostatic” [15].

2.3.1 Protostatic Ideology, or “Expediency”

The prototostatic ideology makes up the largest ideological group, and concerns itself with maintaining the status quo to the fullest degree possible. Walford identifies this ideology with the characteristic of expediency. That is, this group operates upon the principle of the simplest and easiest way—either not acting at all, or acting in a way that agrees with our preconceived ideological assumptions. It is more challenging to alter one’s thoughts/assumptions, and thus one’s behavior, than to maintain the status quo. As suggested by Walford’s explanation of the overlapping nature of ideological principles, every individual, from the protostatic to the metadynamic persuasion, exhibits expedient behavior each day: Every time we do something in a certain way because that seems to be the quickest, pleasantest, cheapest, easiest, most advantageous way, we are acting by the expedient ideology” [16].

While every human regularly exhibits expedient behavior, the true expression of those subscribing to the protostatic ideology can be well illustrated in the group-think exhibited in successful fascist and totalitarian political movements [17]. Identified members of this larger group, the so-called societal “masses,” tend to favor maintenance of the familiar, the easy, as opposed to the complexity wrought by change (e.g., in socio-economic structure, ideological thoughts, etc.), and are inclined to detest those forces which alter the traditional, be it an unfavorable new group, an unfavorable ideological assumption, or any other number of threats to the status quo. However, if vast change is required by a ruling regime (for example, Germany’s Nazi party) protostatics will accept change, but only because it is most expedient to do so.

2.3.2 Epistatic Ideology, or “Principle”

Like the expedient protostatic, the epistatic ideology largely concerns itself with maintaining the current structure/traditional assumptions. However, members of the epistatic group recognize that reality may not entirely fit their earliest (read, traditional) assumptions (due to environmental change, originally false assumptions, etc.), and that they must alter their assumptions to protect the status quo from changing further than is absolutely necessary. As the progessive theory of Systematic Ideology suggests, the epistatics share similarities with the preceding protostatic ideological group, especially in both groups’ pronounced focus on maintaining traditional forms. However, unlike the expedient, protostatic approach to action and theory (characterized by malaise) the epistatic group is politically active in its goals to maintain the status quo, recognizing the need for compromise when the environment shifts (conservatives assume the environment is largely static, although not entirely so, like protostatics). Walford explains that the epistatic ideology, most commonly associated with conservatism, “distinguishes itself from the non-political group [protostatic] by not seizing the advantage of the moment [expediency] but guiding itself by considerations such as duty, loyalty, patriotism, consistency, moderation, responsibility, respect for superiors and consideration for inferiors” [18].

The epistatic, or conservative “principle” ideology maintains the defining characteristics of the major ideologies and their relationship to the others as outline by Walsby: (a) the epistatic group upholds economic individualism (although I would argue that in the current historical moment, this is a product of the typically high income bracket enjoyed by many adherents to the conservative, epistatic ideology), while strongly favoring political collectivism, as suggested by our triangular ideological scheme; (b) it shares some characteristics of the preceding protostatic ideology, while (c) the relative desire (or more precisely, willingness) to change exceeds that of the preceding group; (d) finally, the epistatic group exercises more political action than the protostatic group, while embracing some theoretical ideas to more logically pursue actions (i.e., ideological behavior) necessary to maintain stasis. Thus, as predicted by Walsby, the epistatic group aims to repress the expedient nature of the protostatic ideology, by introducing, to a relatively minor degree, some ideological characteristics that expedients oppose.

2.3.3 Parastatic Ideology, or “Precision”

The next ideology, and the last of the eidostatic (change-deterring) ideologies, is the parastatic, or precision, ideology, typified by “liberal” (read, change-accepting) political behavior. While the epistatic ideology “tends to cherish methods and institutions proven viable by experience even when their performance is admittedly defective, rather than risk endangering them in a chase after perfection,” the liberal ideology aims to use precision to perfect existing institutions [19]. Thus, the liberals share with the eidostatic and protostatic ideologies the notion that the existing system is inherently good. However, the liberal parastatic ideology willingly alters institutions to suit changing environmental conditions, striving to achieve ever-greater precision in the existing system. This desire for perfection necessitates the consideration of theory, which decreases the practical application and thus overall presence of the parastatic ideology, as suggested by the triangle of ideologies. As Walford explains, “Precision stands near the middle of the range, it is an ideology in which theorising plays a considerable part, and we therefore expect the activities expressing it to exercise a relatively limited effect” [20].

Accordingly, Walford applies the parastatic ideology of precision to the realm of the sciences, which values accuracy above all and operates within the eidostatic framework, relying on certain entrenched assumptions for the very function of scientific study (e.g., the validity of the scientific method). While the scientific community values accepted “laws” (just as eidostatics value entrenched systems), paradigm shifts are bound to occur when sufficient evidence demonstrates that new scientific laws will allow for greater precision. And like the eidostatic ideology, the relative influence of science is considerably low, given its vast offering of invaluable knowledge due to its ideological belief in the importance of theoretical studies in the pursuit of precision and accuracy (as suggested by the ideological pyramidal scheme). And yet, the impact or influence of science is inherent through its enabling, to the protostatic masses, ever-more expedient methods of living. However, these expedient scientific offerings fall under the realm of the protostatic, which (as previously expressed) is present in all ideologies [21].
2.3.4 Protodynamic Ideology, or “Reform”

The first ideology in the eidodynamic set, classified as protodynamic, is characterized by Walford as the “reform” [22] of the total existing system through gradual, peaceful means. Protodynamic ideology is best exemplified by the socialist reaction to the existing capitalist structure. Walford explains that “even if capitalism held to its professed principles in practice, even if it did so precisely, it would still, socialism holds, impose unacceptable conditions upon the majority of people. Socialism proclaims the need for a substantially different system and sets out to achieve it peacefully by an accumulation of minor changes” [23].

Protodynamic ideological behavior patterns are in accord with its mid-range position on the triangle of ideologies. In the example of socialism, Walford explains that instead of fundamentally altering the total industrial system, it would reform the market system: “Socialism would regulate industry and commerce more closely, still seeking to subordinate competition and private interests to the welfare of the collectivity” [24]. The real influence of the protodynamic ideology is more heavily felt through the relative popularity and success of socialist political tendencies over the more extreme dynamic movements such as communism or anarchism. And while the partial ideological dependence on theory dampens the overall influence of protodynamic ideology when compared to the popularity enjoyed by the eidostatic ideologies [25], decades of persistent reformist ideology have played an increasingly critical role in the changing relationship between citizens and modern welfare states.

2.3.5 Epidynamic Ideology, or “Revolution”

The epidynamic ideology of revolution stands in contrast to (and aims to suppress) the protodynamic ideology’s ideal of peaceful, gradual change through reform. Instead, revolutionaries call for upheaval through revolutionary change, identified by Walbsy with economic collectivism of the masses through collective organization [26]. While revolutionaries exhibit greater political activism (resulting in great social noise and public exposure) than the preceding ideologies, according to the theory of systematic ideology, revolutionaries have less real influence because of their reliance on theories that have proven largely faulty, and lacking, when actually applied to real situations. However, as we shall see in subsequent sections, when the epidynamic ideology is combined with contingent historical technological developments (e.g., the printing press, radio, television, and most importantly, the internet), the relative power of the epidynamic ideological group has the potential to exercise real, tangible power, and sometimes, to put theory to the test.

While the revolutionary ideology may appear to fit neatly within the triangular scheme of ideologies, an interesting point of contention surfaces upon closer analysis of the behavioral characteristics exemplifying the epidynamic communist movement–instead of enjoying the freedom of nearly complete political individualism (as suggested by the triangle), many communist group members are forced to prescribe to the views of the party, or risk severe punishment. Walford attempts to explain away this apparent paradox: .”..this may seem to run against our connection of the eidodynamic ideologies with independent thinking. [However, we] … need only comment that the eidostatic organisations do not need to impose such a requirement; their members rarely display a tendency toward independent thought strong enough to need restraining” [27]. Rather than treating the epidynamic ideology as its own, distinct and apolitical entity, Walford cites communism as a concrete example of an ideology that is predisposed — by the theory of Systematic Ideology — to be widely applicable beyond politics. Instead of confronting this discrepancy head on, Walford dismisses away the communistic tendency of enforcing “group think,” without much consideration for the implications to the theory of Systematic Ideology.

2.3.6 Paradynamic Ideology, or “Repudiation”

As we move to the paradynamic ideology, the last of the eidodynamic ideologies at the peak of the triangle, we find its ideological characteristics positioned in greatest opposition to the first ideology, the protostatic, at the base of the series [28]. The paradynamic ideology is exemplified by the endless theories of the anarchist movement, populated by endless political, paradynamic individuals, with each deciding his own path within the ideological set. Identified with the concept of “repudiation” of all that has come before, anarchists aim to abolish all existing forms of government, and then peacefully establish a theoretically “free” collectivist economic system.

In The Domain of Ideologies, Walsby explains how the anarchist movement expects to eventually attract groundswells of adherents: “[Anarchists maintain] that at some future date, near or remote, the mass modes of behaviour, thought and feeling will die out, will cease to exist as such; and that the masses themselves will, in freeing themselves from the group ties and the crude modes of group expression, permanently and universally adopt the critical, objective, independent mode of thought typical of the intellectual, together with its necessary corollary and content of ‘economic collectivism.'” This idea is referred to as the mass rationality assumption, and is critical to the paradynamic ideology. Walsby continues to explain the overarching implications of this particular assumption to Systematic Ideology as a whole: “This implication is of supreme importance in our study, for it presupposes a certain form of intellectual, ideological and political evolution on the part of human society, which, if it corresponds with the facts, renders the implication valid and with it the general position of these outlooks” [29]. While paradynamic ideology has yet, if ever, to gain mass adherents to its anarchist program, social media technology may eventually lead to the growth of this currently minute ideological group.
2.3.7 Metadynamic Ideology, or “The Ideology of Ideologies”

With Walsby’s discussion of the mass rationality assumption, we turn to the final and smallest major ideology, the metadynamic “Ideology of Ideologies,” which stands alone in its appraisal and study of ideologies, while admittedly, even consciously, adhering to assumptions from the preceding eidostatic and eidodynamic ideologies. Walford describes the broad ideological make-up of metadynamic group members, “imply[ing] by their behaviour that they are not exclusively identified with any one of the various forms of either the static or the dynamic principle but with all of them” [30].

Metadynamic ideology is the province of the ideologists, those who study ideology in an effort to determine how ideologies work together. As adherents and conscious observers to some aspect of all seven ideological groups, [31] metadynamic members can analyze the system of ideology, with its complex inter- and intra-group characteristics and ideological relationships. As a result, “in the field of politics this ideology does not appear as a separate movement or organization but as a concern with the relationships between the other major ideologies, their political expressions, and the groups identified with them” [32].


3.1 A General Introduction to Social Media and Systematic Ideology

With a firm grasp on the basic theory of Systematic Ideology, we can now move on to an analysis of how the system interacts with social media to help form public ideologies, that is, the ideological groups to which individuals belong on a public level. While we are all protostatic to some degree (certainly in our homes where habit often trumps reason), our public ideological identifications are more readily guided by external forces like social media and provide a more nuanced object of study. While some static individuals remain firmly entrenched in their original ideological assumptions, others may move along Walsby’s pyramidal spectrum of the seven major ideologies through interaction with social media, which provides the opportunity for more dialogue that can help to alter older assumptions.

An official definition of “social media” is rather elusive, although Wikipedia sums up the most generally held understanding of the purportedly “modern” phenomenon: “Social media includes web-based and mobile-based technologies which are used to turn communication into interactive dialogue between organizations, communities, and individuals” [33]. However, this essay requires a broader definition of social media, one that can adequately accommodate important historical precedents of today’s internet-based social media phenomenon – precedents which emerged well before the invention of the Internet. I argue that in the context discussion at hand, the definition should be modified to read, “Social media includes any form of media that can be actively produced by members of the general public and used to transform communication into interactive dialogue between organizations, communities, and individuals.” Such a definition can allow us to explore social media in an historical perspective and examine how socially-oriented, media-based networks have fostered the expansion and alteration of ideological assumptions.

Social media has always existed within the context of the “public sphere,” a place in which public dialogue can be freely shared, a sphere which has continued to grow in size and importance since it began to infiltrate the lives and mold the ideological material of individuals as far back as the Early Modern period. While Jürgen Habermas conservatively dates the origins of the public sphere to bourgeois developments of civil society in the eighteenth century, the antecedents of a coherent public sphere, with its characteristic “domains of common concerns” (i.e., group-based “problematization of areas that until then had not been [publicly] questioned”) [34] actually emerged as early as the 16th Century with Martin Luther’s nailing of the “Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” to a church door in Wittenberg, an action that created a veritable public “space” for debate (i.e., the domain of the printed word). With this act, a public sphere opened, an interactive form of social media emerged, and preconceived ideological assumptions were confronted with new ideological questions. As a result, an ideological awakening was generated and a concerted movement along Walsby’s ideological spectrum reverberated across the European landscape, from rural farms to populous cities.

Pamphlet literature, a classic form of social media, takes a lateral, democratic form, rather than a top-down, centralized form. Many governments have attempted to control literary publications, but by the sixteenth century, any rogue pamphleteer with access to a press could publish and join the public dialogue, while others re-printed such works if they were well-received by the public, an early form of today’s “liking” and “sharing.” In eighteenth-century France, literary social media enabled and perpetuated a wholesale upheaval of the existing ancien régime as the masses confronted and digested new ideological assumptions and developed more advanced ideological associations. A similar sort of literary social media has developed with the rising popularity of online blogs, which allow anyone to publish their ideas and reach out to the masses. Importantly, the power of social media remains with the public – what they publish, “like,” or “share” with their “friends” (to use thoroughly modern terminology) determines the kind of media – and consequently the kind of ideological material – that is readily available for consumption. The non-hierarchical structure of historical and modern social media networks allows for a wide variety of ideas and opinions to circulate, thereby stimulating higher-level ideological development, since numerous ideological assumptions are made available to the public and thus there is little potential for an overriding political collectivism to dominate in social media networks.

Social media is distinctly different from top-down media, in which a small group of individuals controls and disseminates the spread of media to the masses. Until recently, radio, television, and films have been strictly top-down enterprises, in which the general public has been a largely passive audience, playing no role in the production or selection of top-down media-disseminated ideological assumptions, and thereby receding from a previously active role in the production and spread of ideological material via literary social media. When coupled with oppressive ideological leaders, top-down media can result in the formation of a largely protostatic and politically collectivized public, as the example of Nazi propaganda in war-era Germany illustrates.

Section 3.2 will illustrate how social media has historically served as a catalyst for certain types of ideological change, with particular ideological groups seizing the opportunity at different times. Walsby’s system of ideologies and its interaction with social media is analyzed in each of the following examples of ideologically charged historical moments. Vocal conflict, often with other ideological groups, has historically helped to stimulate and generate new ideological assumptions, which has led individuals to alter their ideological material and (in many cases) ascend the Walsbeian pyramid to higher ideological sets. However, some interactions with top-down media have generated large-scale ideological regressions, as vast sections of the general public returned to a mostly protostatic ideological state.

While Systematic Ideology can be easily applied to many historical moments, the analysis that follows in the next section focuses specifically on those historical events that were fundamentally affected by historically contingent forms of social media. These examples help to demonstrate how social media has developed over time into a powerful ideological tool, which continues to affect ideological development on an ever-greater scale with the globalizing powers of the Internet.

The traditional interaction between ideology and social media has been intensified with the internet revolution of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. In Section 3.3, we will explore how internet-based social media currently serves as both a catalyst and a tool for all ideological groups. However, as we shall see in Section 3.4, some select static groups – especially governments – respond to social media, which when wielded correctly, holds the power to dramatically affect the status quo.

3.2 Social Media and Systematic Ideology in Historical Perspective

3.2.1 The Protest Reformation and the Printing Press

The fifteenth-century invention of the moveable type printing press has traditionally been hailed by historians as one of the most historically significant technological innovations of all time. With the rise of internet-based social media, historians have begun to reconsider the dynamic role of printed material in generating a nascent form of early modern social media through literary-based “social signaling” that helped alter public opinions (read, ideological assumptions) regarding the Church and the Protestant Reformation.

A vast decentralized “networked public” system of media sharing developed as Luther’s vitriolic words were passed from one house to the next, one town to the next, and eventually, one state to the next, with millions of copies of his pamphlets having been printed and shared within ten years of his nailing of the Ninety-Five Theses to a Church door in Wittenberg [35]. Luther, himself, was initially astounded at how rapidly his ideas spread in the form of printed text, and soon switched from scholarly Latin to vernacular German to allow ever-greater numbers to engage in the debate that his original Ninety-Five Theses had ignited [36]. The question remains, how does this fascinating historical moment fit into the grand scheme of Systematic Ideology?

For starters, protostatic non-politicals found themselves confronted with fundamental assaults on the prevailing system of religion, a system that many sixteenth-century protostatics obligingly accepted. The unprecedentedly public nature of the ensuing battle between Protestants and Catholics was dramatically amplified by the wildfire spread of ideas through literary “social media,” which touched even those non-politicals who would have otherwise ignored theoretical debates. Furthermore, with religion serving as the overwhelming organizing force behind sixteenth century ideological life, protostatic non-politicals were forced to choose a side. However, neither side of the emerging schism remained static: Protestants wholly restructured the Church, while Catholic leaders agreed to reforms to save the existing structure. Non-political protostatics were forced to partake in at least some form of politicization, given that there was no truly static positions to expediently take. By altering some of their preconceived assumptions in the process, they moved up the Walsbeian ideological pyramid (if only temporarily) as some amount (however little) of principled theory fostered assumption-building and decision-making in the immediate absence of an expedient choice. While it could be argued that the protostatic masses of sixteenth century Europe would merely have selected the side that was most expedient in the moment, I would argue that when the world as one knows it is rent asunder, there is no easy choice.

The wholesale ideological upheaval that resulted from the Reformation was not only propagated by, but was made possible through one of the first interactions of technology with society through media, forming perhaps the first natural experiment in social media, an experiment that forced the vast protostatic masses of early modern European states to (at least briefly) ascend Walsby’s pyramid of ideologies. Of course, protostatics were not the only ideological group affected by the proliferation of literary social media during the Reformation. Through the literary dialogue that was originally stimulated by Martin Luther in 1517, theoretical inquiry coursed its way into the minds of previously more static groups, particularly, those parastatic individuals, who despite detecting certain flaws, did not yet desire a total overhaul of the existing church system. Parastatic Catholics became protodynamic – and sometimes epidynamic – Protestants, theorizing and building new ideological assumptions through social, literary dialogue. Accordingly, compared to the politically collectivist Catholic monolith, the Protestant movement allowed for greater political individualism, with several branches of the movement splintering off and forming their own ideological assumptions that differed from the original ideas espoused by Martin Luther.

More wholeheartedly static (yet politically active) groups also found their ideological material altered by the media-driven Reformation: epistatic Catholic leaders found themselves confronted with the real threat of the Protestant movement, which flourished by way of the printing press, and were subsequently forced to reassess their ideological assumptions and accept the need for precise reform with the ironically-named “Counter-Reformation” in order to salvage and perfect the existing system, thus climbing the ideological pyramid to the parastatic rung. Catholic leaders recognized the threat of literary social media, which enabled the rapid spread of ideological material, even across regional boundaries. They responded by calling the ecumenical Council of Trent, which was tasked with counteracting the spread of Protestant ideology and gathered Catholic leaders from around the world to debate and theorize about the necessary reforms and organize the subsequent dissemination of the reforms from an ideologically-characteristic central point, as opposed to the decentralized, social method utilized by media-savvy sixteenth century reformists.

The Protestant Reformation represents perhaps the first major historical interaction between systematic ideology and social media in the public sphere. The outcome demonstrates the important influence social media can have on the formation and/or alteration of ideological material: it has the power to amplify the gravity of historical situations and theoretical debates by including ever-greater numbers in the conversation and resulting in large-scale ideological shifts along the Walsbeian pyramidal spectrum. The next major interaction between ideology and social media began with the onset of the French Revolution. A large-scale ideological awakening was ignited by print-based social media, eventually resulting in the total destruction of the existing system of governance at the hands of the ideologically stimulated, politically activated masses, who were freed from their initial protostatic or epistatic positions by the rapid spread of new ideological assumptions.

3.2.2 The French Revolution and Media of the Masses

In eighteenth century France, socio-political frustrations were the major initial source of new ideological associations—the financially needy monarchy began to undermine an old system of corporate privileges, which threatened and inflamed the epistatic aristocracy. At the same time, the public sphere began to broaden with the dissolution of a monarchical “representational” sphere (whereby “public opinion” depended solely upon one person, the monarch), and the field of political action opened up for previously barred or previously uninterested members of society [37]. As a result, an alternative “sovereign” of public opinion was born and as historian François Furet put it, “the kingdom of France [became] a society without a state” [38]. As we shall see, when coupled with eighteenth-century social media, the socio-political dissolution of the ancien régime opened the floodgates for vast and complex ideological reorientations across France (and even Western Europe).

In 1789, angry epistatic aristocrats began to question their principled, traditionalist assumptions in the face of mounting monarchical threats to traditional aristocratic privileges. Many soon entered the ranks of the parastatic ideology and demanded a meeting of the Estates-General to reign in the heavy-handed monarch, Louis XVI. Many of these early malcontents were further swayed by the growing circulation of publications by enlightened philosophes and committed themselves to reform, but certainly did not desire or anticipate an overhaul of the existing system, which had historically served the aristocracy well. Their actions, however, set in motion a series of historical events that would dramatically alter the political and ideological landscape of France. Without eighteenth-century social media, however, these ideologically charged historical events could very easily have never occurred.

Ideological assumptions that were originally called into question by politically frustrated elites percolated through the ranks of French society by way of revolutionary newspapers. They soon reached economically frustrated peasants, who had been ideologically oppressed by circumstance—their perpetual squalor and traditional lack of political voice generated a set of assumptions that made prostatic ideology the natural choice for most. The media-based influx of new ideological assumptions created a groundswell of support for the revolutionaries, with many peasants and other lower-order Frenchmen quickly shifting from the protostatic ideology to parastatic, protodynamic, and even epidynamic levels. Initially, the original revolutionary leadership (which would remain in constant flux) attempted to create a uniform set of ideological assumptions and made use of various types of abstract media, a sort of “politics of representation,” [39] which included strategically commissioned artwork and the adoption of the famous tricolore flag, amongst other things. However, as the revolution endured, ideological assumptions changed, and ideological groups of the original revolutionary leaders soon began to branch off, in accordance with Walsby’s postulation of increased political individualism as we move up the pyramid of ideological sets. While moderate, parastatic “Girondins” called for reform of the system, the more extreme, epidynamic “Jacobins” demanded the head of the King.

Extremist social media perpetuated such radical (and violent) epidynamic ideological assumptions. Revolutionary pamphlets flooded France, creating a public literary dialogue and subsequently generating ideological assumptions that inspired ever-more intense political action. For example, numerous publications, like L’Ami du people, the newspaper of vitriolic revolutionary leader, Jean-Paul Marat, circulated around France and called for the heads of the aristocracy, whom Marat claimed were enemies of the people, allied with foreign forces intending to crush the revolution. True or not, assumptions like these found their way into the minds of previously more static individuals, who soon rose to the revolutionary epidynamic ideology, resulting in the so-called “Reign of Terror,” whereby extreme, violent “political” action became the norm.

Eventually, revolutionary leaders lost control of the production of ideological assumptions, which fell into the hands of the growing masses of ideologically-maturing revolutionary activists, who began to generate their own personal assumptions, which they subsequently spread to others through various accessible media forms, including plays, songs, and attire (including the famous sans-culottes pants), what historian Lynn Hunt has referred to as a democratized form of “political culture” [40]. Revolutionary leaders had misunderstood the system of ideologies: since many of these independent, radicalizing revolutionaries had begun as oppressed protostatics, they assumed they could corral the ideologically awakened masses. Instead, they found themselves attempting, in vain, to reign in growing parties of more dynamic individuals, a mistake that would prove fatal to many of the original revolutionary leaders, such as the infamous Robespierre, whose own head rolled from the guillotine to which he had sent so many others before him.

Interestingly, much of the activity of the protostatic-turned-dynamic masses was driven more by emotionally charged assumptions and misunderstandings, than by sound theoretical reasoning. Thus, while they may have been ideologically epidynamic in their highly active “political” behavior and their willingness to alter their pre-revolutionary assumptions regarding the ancien régime, a lack of cogent theoretical consideration would likely place many of these behaviorally radicalized individuals on a lower rung of the pyramid of ideologies. And yet, in spite of their lower ideological ranking, these individuals were ideologically swayed into greater political action by social forms of media that circulated throughout France and made possible the total upheaval of the ancien régime.

The French Revolution is arguably one of the most important ideological moments in modern history (in fact, many historians claim that it marks the start of the modern period). Not only did media-stimulated individuals reach higher levels on the pyramid of ideologies, but the world changed as a result of the unprecedentedly international and media-based nature of the Revolution. Ideologically charged pamphlets spread throughout Europe and the world even before Napoleon’s army fanned across Europe. New ideological assumptions were disseminated throughout the world via the same media that was democratically circulating in France. Revolutionary ideas reached even places as remote as the Caribbean islands, where a massive slave uprising known as the Haitian Revolution was ignited. With the French Revolution, the entire Western world found itself confronted with new ideological assumptions that were not to be ignored. The very definition of the word “revolution” changed as a result of the French Revolution: where it used to mean “any sudden change in a state,” it has since come to refer specifically to “the overthrow of one government by the people and its replacement by another government” [41].

However, revolutionary ideas were not the only altered ideological assumptions that arose from the Revolution. For example, new ideological associations with rationality and order emerged, as the revolutionary leadership dramatically redesigned the system of weights and measures to reflect a revolutionary desire for reason over tradition. One of the most historically important ideological impacts of the French Revolution was an emergence of a so-called “land and blood” nationalism, which was propagated by the increase of eighteenth-century social media. As revolutionary pamphlets, newspapers, songs, plays, and clothing circulated throughout France, a new type of national ideological connectivity developed. It is a rather ironic turn of events—just as individuals began to learn to question ideological assumptions, they also began to more rapidly congregate around the group-based ideology of nationalism, demonstrating greater political collectivism. And just as revolutionary literature made its way across Europe, so too did burgeoning nationalist sentiment and, as historian William Sewell Jr. explains, nationalism went “farthest in Germany, where French nationalism and French domination [at the hands of Napoléon Bonaparte] led to an explosion of nationalist thought and agitation” [42].

As we have seen, social media has historically enabled ever-greater vocalization of ideas to ever-greater numbers and consequently served as an amplifier of ideological change. Historical moments that have been magnified through the widespread use of social media provide excellent illustrations of Systematic Ideology in action. And when viewed in chronological order, we can see the greater functioning system: just as individuals must pass through each preceding ideology to climb the pyramidal scheme of the ideological structure, so it may seem, historical eras similarly progress along the ideological spectrum, resulting in an ever-greater ideological maturity of the majority as time moves forward. As Walford explains, “the major ideologies have developed through history…each of them provid[ing] the conditions which permit the next one to emerge” [43]. However, the function of the system of ideologies is not so simple. As we shall see in the next historical examples, media can also perpetuate a downward movement along Walsby’s pyramidal scheme. As new ideological assumptions are formed, new associations with certain ideological sets begin to take hold. In the case of early twentieth century Germany, these new associations had disastrous effects.

3.2.3 Nazi Germany and the Top-Down Media Propaganda Machine

Walsby strongly identified the protostatic ideology with Nazi Germany and its aggressive political collectivism. Walsby explained that individuals immersed in protostatic ideology are readily willing to forgo logic to maintain the current system and/or traditionally held assumptions, a characteristic that was readily exploited by charismatic Nazi leadership through the abundant use of illogical propaganda (which proved highly successful with the protostatic masses) [44]. The willingness of a majority of the German people to engage in illogically-led group-think is evidence of two protostatic characteristics: first, the tendency toward political collectivism, and second, an associated low regard for theory amongst expedient protostatics. The protostatic masses prefer illogical ideological propaganda to careful, analytical study and theorization. As Walford explains, “[Protostatic] Nazism… claims to be guided by non-intellectual factors such as blood, race, the Will of the Leader” [45]. This disregard for theory is implicit in Walford’s use of the term “non-politicals” to identify these protostatic members in the political arena [46]. He explains the expedient nature of the ideologically driven behavior of “those who vote either not at all or as seems most advantageous at the time…adapting their conduct to the circumstances, following the convenient or advantageous course…without regard to any more remote or long-term considerations” [47]. A tragic irony lies in the observation that the non-political nature of this largest of the major ideological groups can clear the way for, and actually perpetuate, great human horror, as evidenced by the genocidal atrocities of the Nazi years.

The question remains, how did a general public that had once been acclaimed for its particularly intellectual upper and middle class culture [48] degenerate into a largely protostatic society ruled by irrational ideological assumptions? Answers can be found in a combination of fear, authoritarianism, and top-down media. With the rise of German nationalism resulting from the French Revolution in the eighteenth century and the unification of Germany in the nineteenth century, certain ideological assumptions about German greatness developed amongst the general populace. With the stunning German defeat in World War I and the consequently staggering war reparations which plunged the nation into economic despair, the German public found its static ideological assumptions of German grandeur severely shaken.

Hitler was conscious of the ideological lure of expediency and went to great lengths to ensure that the Nazi plan appealed to the mounting protostatic nature of the German masses. In the realm of domestic economics, historians argue that Hitler strategically sacrificed some elements of wartime armaments mobilization in order to appeal to the protostatic masses by ensuring a regular flow of domestic consumer goods. Even those individuals who questioned the Nazi program found themselves turning a blind eye and following the economically expedient route as Hitler offered a “system of waging war without reducing civilian consumer standards” [49]. Thus, the fear of renewed economic misery led even some of the more skeptical Germans to more readily accept the most expedient path, relinquishing personal theory and following the ideology immediately presented by the state, an ideology of blame, mistrust and anger.

Hitler and the Nazi machine preyed on this ideologically fragile population by utilizing top-down media to replace more advanced (if shaken) ideological assumptions with base, theory-weak assumptions about Germany and its so-called enemies. As in the French Revolution, media played a crucial role, but Nazi propanganda was centrally distributed by the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda rather than democratically created and disseminated as in the French case. The structure of Nazi propaganda removed social power from media, replacing it with centralized power, thereby creating an artificial atmosphere of ideological unity. Ideologically charged, party-commissioned films and posters replaced democratically circulated pamphlets and publications, and consequently curtailed the free formation of ideological assumptions through traditional social media channels. Through the powers of top-down propagandistic media coupled with ideology-weakening historical events, a once largely epistatic or even parastatic society descended into the protastic ideology, succumbing to the temptations of expedient assumptions and behaviors, which resulted in a horrific, genocidal outcome.

3.3 Social Media in the 21st Century

3.3.1 Social Media, the Internet, and the Masses

Even outside of Nazi Germany, twentieth-century radio and television facilitated a top-down media structure, and the construction of many ideological assumptions and associations fell primarily into the hands of individuals in control of top-down media sources. However, the introduction of the Internet in the twentieth-century, and its subsequent exponential global proliferation in the twenty-first, have ushered in a new era of social media. As a result, the new and growing internet-savvy masses have reclaimed the production of ideological material, just as the pamphleteering public had done during the tumultuous eras of the Protestant Reformation and the French Revolution. Today, instead of clandestine pamphlet publications serving as the conduit of ideological material, seemingly limitless blogs and networking websites spread ideas across the world instantly. Moreover, “commenting” has facilitated instantaneous dialogue, leading to ever-more production of new ideological assumptions, as well as the strengthening of old assumptions, depending on the ideological character of individual internet users.

The Internet provides a new medium of public exchange and dialogue and is consequently changing the size, composition and behavior of ideological groups as more people are introduced to new ideas through communication technologies. However, positive identifications with ideological assumptions can easily be maintained—anyone can theoretically “prove” anything online using vast sources of user-published information, be it reliable or not. And while “truths” can be exposed online, they can also be lost in the mire of “theoretically” baseless information clogging the worldwide web. However, as they progress up the pyramid of ideologies, internet users tend to become more aware of the reliability of their online information source (for example, by consulting scholarly journals). At the same time, this wealth of available information online, which internet users are confronted with daily, makes it more difficult to remain ignorant of other ideological assumptions and their potential validity.

Thus, the Internet can be used in a multitude of ways and by all sorts of ideological adherents to weaken and/or strengthen ideological assumptions. However, the spectrum of online behavior follows the Walsbeian pyramid of ideologies – as the pyramid goes up, people are more likely to take in more viewpoints and make more new assumptions than those at the base of the pyramid, who may choose to simply ignore online information that contradicts their original assumptions and use the Internet as a means to fortify their prevailing assumptions. In a way, the internet-based social media revolution may help to balance the system of ideologies—since all of the major ideological groups have access to online social media tools, theoretically no group can become so strong that it trumps the others.

While the revolutionary ideology has recently experienced an impressive internet-fueled expansion, the next section will illustrate how individual subscribers to each of the major ideologies detailed by Walsby have effectively utilized what can reasonably be considered an internet-based technological revolution of social media to further their ideological agendas. Each of the major ideological groups has the potential to spread and strengthen its basic ideological assumptions and membership base through online social media. And as we shall see in Section 4.0, various governments have reacted differently to the growth of online social media depending on the reigning ideology of particular political regimes. All governments, however, seem to maintain a generally static ideological stance regarding the Internet Revolution. First, we shall look at how each of the major ideological groups interact with internet-based social media, beginning with the protostatic ideology.

3.3.2 The Seven Major Ideologies and Modern Social Media Tools

(a) Protostatic Ideology

Modernity has brought technological innovations that alter the expected behavior of the protostatic masses. The Internet is the ultimate tool of expedience and has been accordingly adopted by the so-called non-politics. Movements (political, social, or otherwise) that may have interested the naturally inactive expedient (deterred by the requirement of participation or action to affect change) suddenly become accessible—with the simple click-click-click of a mouse, anyone can sign and send a petition to free slaves in the farthest reaches of the globe. Thus, previously non-political expedients now have the easy option to become more active because it is now expedient to do so, a behavioral phenomenon referred to as “slacktivism,” a portmanteau of “slacker” and “activism.” The limit to which this unprecedented expedient slacktivism can go is entirely unknown. A recent example of the power of slacktivism can be seen is the popular KONY 2012 movement, which drew in millions of supporters, who did nothing more than click on their “share” button on Facebook, YouTube, and other online social networking websites. The movement generated a U.S. Senate resolution condemning Joseph Kony. With minimal action and little researched knowledge on the realities of conflict in Uganda, young – and perhaps typically uninterested – youths became politically active, simply by participating in social media. As Senator Lindsay Graham said of the KONY 2012 phenomenon, “When you get 100 million Americans looking at something, you will get our attention” [50].

Furthermore, if the protostatic is defined by the easy choice of sometimes falsely preconceived assumptions over the adaption to new truths, then the Internet age provides the fodder for extreme protostaticism. Through vast stores of uncorroborated “knowledge,” one can “prove” – or convince others of – almost anything with a small amount of internet research, and as we have discussed, protostatic group members are typically uninterested in the validity of theory and logic. Thus, the ideologically unbending protostatic masses may rise in numbers and influence on the ideological spectrum, while pushing their inflexible beliefs upon the world with the simple, expedient click of a mouse. Walsby quoted Gustave Le Bon’s warning about a “barbarian phase”: “Universal symptoms show in all nations the rapid growth of the power of the crowd. The advent of the crowd will, perhaps, mark one of the last of the Western civilisations, a return to the periods of confusion and anarchy which precede the emergence of new societies” [51].

Social technology researcher Ben Roberts takes a more positive view of the interaction between the non-political, protostatic masses and technology:

On the one hand is an ongoing and increasing concern about public participation, or lack of it, in modern (predominantly Western) democracies. This participatory deficit is to be seen in falling voter turnout at elections, public apathy on key political issues and scorn or indifference for elected political representatives. On the other hand, there is a wave of optimism concerning the potential of new technologies, particularly the web, to enable new forms of participation in economic and public life, to transform political debate and citizenship and to renew the ailing (or perceived to be ailing) institutions of democracy [52].

Thus, by using internet-based social media, protostatics may begin to engage in greater, more open dialogue. It may become more attractive to consider adapting one’s ideological assumptions to newly perceived truths, both because the information is more available (or more expedient to obtain) and because the actions associated with such adaption are made more expedient through technological change. Perhaps with social media, some protostatic individuals may incrementally move up the ideological pyramid and embrace the epistatic ideology in their willingness to adapt, albeit in an expedient fashion.

(b) Epistatic Ideology

Like subscribers to the protostatic ideology, the conservative epistatic group has embraced the Internet, although this technological relationship does not appear to substantially alter the behavioral patterns of the epistatic group, which instead utilizes the Internet as a tool to ensure their ultimate goal, general stasis. That is, the epistatics have characteristically adapted to the new environment (i.e, by altering their assumptions and joining the wave of technological change) to best maintain the status quo. For example, in a recent BBC news segment covering the e-G8 forum [53] (a discussion regarding the regulation of the web) we find that governments are generally desirous of some level of internet regulation [54]. But on the other hand, we find individual epistatic politicians taking advantage of social media by increasing their ability to reach their constituencies and spreading their ideology of stasis (often to the protostatic masses) through progressive technological means. Furthermore, politicians can respond more quickly and effectively to pressures on the current status quo, for example, by following instant online polls and observing ongoing internet discussions. In this way, epistatic politicians reveal latent expedient protostatic tendencies.

Like the protostatics, epistatic internet users can utilize internet sources to “prove” their viewpoints, which are typically in support of the status quo. As epistatics, however, they are more likely to ensure that their sources are at least somewhat reputable, because epistatics place greater value on some sort of theory than the protostatic masses, which rarely consult theory. However, since the Internet allows for greater exploration of other options, epistatics, who value principle, may find themselves swayed away from the status quo and drawn toward more radical ideological principles, thus scaling the pyramid of ideologies.

For the epistatic ideology, internet-based social media offers benefits, while posing certain challenges. Social media can be used to increase opportunities for epistatics to appropriately respond to changing circumstances and adapt in efficient ways that may preserve the status quo. However, the wealth of information and open dialogues online may begin to deplete the epistatic membership as those more open to new principles find themselves drawn to the parastatic ideology, whereby the status quo may be maintained, but tweaked to achieve greater perfection.

(c) Parastatic Ideology

Despite a fundamental willingness to change to achieve greater precision, the parastatic ideology remains in the realm of the static, unwilling to give up certain systemic assumptions, and instead, focusing on the best possible means of perfecting the existing system. Like conservative epistatics, liberal parastatics have adapted to the Internet, which provides an expedient means of research and communication.

The ideology of precision is strongly associated with science and technology, which places great weight on both the perfection of existing systems and innovation to generate greater precision. In many ways, the parastatic ideology is directly related to the growth and proliferation of the Internet, which was developed through painstaking research, innovation, and trial-and-error. Interestingly, parastatic scientists and innovators strive to provide the world with more expedient tools (the very tools that give greater power to the protostatic masses) and the Internet is perhaps the greatest achievement of this type.

The Internet is constantly changing, which in many ways is a result of parastatic activity. Wikipedia.org is perhaps the best example of this ongoing process of parastatic, user-based perfection—while protostatic internet users turn to Wikipedia for the most expedient sources of information, parastatic “authors” constantly update and alter Wikipedia pages to perfect the information that is available to the public. Wikipedia has been designed to facilitate parastatic activity—pages can be edited by the registered members of Wikipedia.org who consequently provide a constant source of parastatic “peer review.” Furthermore, pages with questionable information warn readers and ask parastatic users to correct mistakes, with messages like, “This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed” [55]. Wikipedia.org may be the best media-based parastatic tool to date.

According to their ideological nature, parastatic individuals react in predictable ways to the prospect of regulating the Internet. Wikipedia Founder, Jimmy Wales, explains, “I’m very skeptical of government regulation of the Internet. I think we should be very cautious about it. That’s not to say, that there aren’t legal remedies for certain wrongs that are done” [56]. Wales embodies the precision-based parastatic ideology in his defense of the freedom of internet expression and his simultaneous willingness to regulate the original system (which facilitated the creation of Wikipedia) to better perfect the system.

(d) Protodynamic Ideology

The protodynamic ideology also embraces the Internet age, utilizing it as a tool to incite precipitous change in a peaceful way. In our general review of current publications (both traditional and web-driven) we can see elements of the reformist ideology in the behavior of various online activists, most notably, WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, who initiated an internet whistle-blowing organization designed to promote open government by disclosing information considered critical to the welfare of the existing states. Reaction from the preceding, more static ideological groups resulted in Assange’s arrest for his protodynamic actions. Assange displays protodynamic tendencies in his non-violent activist approach to open government via the Internet.

More widespread online protodynamic behavior has been evident in numerous online phenomena. An obvious example is the rise of BitTorrent sites–a form of social media, whereby users share their files with other online users–which emerged in reaction to the apparent greed and artistic constriction of media distributors, particularly music conglomerates. Before the emergence of BitTorrent sites, musical consumption was controlled by large-scale, top-down music corporations, which determined what music would be available to the masses and set high prices for sought-after albums, partially to meet the costs of production and partially to ensure an excessive profit. Independent musicians (who could not break into the top-down music industry) and listeners alike suffered under the established system. When an improved, far more democratic system emerged, protodynamic online music consumers boycotted rigid music conglomerates, eventually affecting serious reform to the original distribution system. But rather than toppling the prevailing system altogether, BitTorrent sites have forced the existing industry to change its distribution methods. As one online commenter put it, “You can’t move time backwards. The technology is here and now and it’s too late. Don’t want people downloading for free?? Stop over-pricing media” [57]. Today, programs like Itunes and Rhapsody provide uniform pricing of songs and/or cost-effective online memberships, which offer media from an unprecedentedly wide array of musicians. By using yet another form of online social media, protodynamic online users have effectively spread their ideology of change to the epistatic music conglomerates, who have responded accordingly by making the necessary reforms to the prevailing system in order to maintain at least some semblance of the status quo.

However, it is important to recognize that while the protodynamic ideology stresses reform at a gradual pace, protodynamic behavior can generate destructive results. And continuing with the example of BitTorrent sites, while some musicians hail online music sharing sites as the savior of independent music [58], others have argued that infringement on musician copyrights could put professional musicians out of business, or at least set them back several millions of dollars, as the Metallica v. Napster, Inc. lawsuit illustrates [59]. However, the systematic nature of ideologies has prevented protodynamic online users from wholly destroying the original (but subsequently reformed) system. An ongoing battle rages between epistatic music distributors and protodynamic users of BitTorrent sites, and the primarily epi- and paradynamic courts have sided with the music distributors, forcing protodynamic downloaders to begin to use the legal music distribution system that was reformed as a result of their original protodynamic activity.

(e) Epidynamic Ideology

The epidynamic ideology has experienced an enormous boost in both influence and membership with the rise of social media websites. And the changes they have incited span far beyond protodynamic victories in media distribution reforms. Revolutionaries have never before enjoyed a time when their ideas could be so rapidly disseminated to the massive number of potential epidynamic supporters required to produce serious change.

To find examples of social media as a catalyst for revolutionary action, one need only turn to the Arab Spring phenomenon, a contemporary revolutionary social experiment in North Africa and the Middle East. The Egyptian revolutionary events of 2011 provide a compelling example. Wael Ghonim, the Middle East and North Africa Manager for Google–calling for action through his Facebook page–successfully invigorated the revolutionary spirit in thousands of Egyptians, and consequently landed himself in jail for several days at the hands of the epistatic Mubarak government [60]. From his computer (or even cellular phone), Ghonim became the leader of a successful revolutionary movement, clearly illustrating the catalytic power of the Internet, which can be utililized by revolutionary-minded epidynamics to spread the epidynamic ideology to others, including parastatic and protodynamic individuals who need some social prompting to begin to alter their ideological assumptions, scale the ideological pyramid, and incite rebellion and change. The Arab Spring movement illustrates the potential for revolutionary epidynamic ideology to spread rapidly via social media, and although the current Syrian movement has descended into a bloody assault on the rebels by the existing protostatic regime, the epidynamic ideology has clearly gripped much of the population, which relentlessly fights to topple the current protostatic government.

Despite the potential for the epidynamic ideology to swiftly expand in online social media communities, the success of web-stimulated revolutionary movements is in no way guaranteed—numerous pitfalls exist for internet-facilitated epidynamic movements, as the 2011-2012 global Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement illustrates. Without a strong central organization, large-scale (in this case world-wide) epidynamic movements may be doomed to fail, even though the revolutionary ideology may succeed in generating greater membership by sharing new ideological assumptions with massive numbers of social media users.

Organization of action – and even of specific ideological assumptions – via social media is difficult because of its fundamental social, ultra-democratic, and non-centralized nature. Although the OWS movement (espousing the general idea that greed and corruption of the so-called One-Percent have generated the current global economic crisis) has readily spread to the epidynamic masses, a specific program of action and an official set of ideological assumptions associated with the movement never fully formed. As a result, unlike the Arab Spring movement, which began with the central voice of Wael Ghonim, who made specific appeals and voiced particular ideological assumptions, the OWS movements initially succeeded in capturing the world’s attention and striking fear in the hearts of “One-Percenters,” only to ultimately fade away.” Lacking a clear message and a centralized vision, they have since failed to generate any real or substantive reform at the frontier between their dynamic position and the otherwise more static conditions. A review of innumerable OWS blog posts illustrates the confusion, uncertainty, and lack of singular theoretical assertions, which stymied the movement, causing its eventual breakdown. It seems that while the revolutionary ideology has gained an invaluable tool in internet-based social media, there are still many constraints to successful revolutionary movements.

(f) Paradynamic Ideology

Unlike the revolutionary ideology, the paradynamic ideology operates almost entirely on conceptual theories, with little practical application of these theories having ever been achieved. As we should now expect, this final eidodynamic theory enjoys the least success in drawing membership, while its members are among the most political of all groups. In fact, the anarchist movement is so exclusive that as Walford explains, “Anarchism consists of individual people and small groups so independent of each other that the very existence of an anarchist movement sometimes gets called in question” [61].

It is here that the impact of the Internet has the most potential for paradynamic ideological adherents. Membership can now be rapidly expanded amongst like-minded fringe individuals who by their very nature choose to avoid defined allegiances. The Internet allows a more open dialogue amongst diverse members of this activist population and could possibly facilitate somewhat more concrete movements through organized, concerted action against undesired social norms that may include government, law, economic structure, as well as traditional mores and folkways.

However, there are certain inherent constraints to large-scale paradynamic activity. For one, paradynmaic movements, just like epistatic movements, may falter because of the intrinsic de-centralized structure of online social media. With no centralized voice, activist movements can find no footing. Moreover, paradynamic anarchists are by their very ideological nature reluctant to adopt group identifications and may be unwilling to subscribe to any group-based activity. The most important paradynamic use of online social media will likely involve open dialogues on the countless fringe theories maintained by paradyamic individuals. Some of these individuals may find themselves confronted with many diverse ideological assumptions, which as theory-conscious paradynamics, they willingly reflect upon, regardless of their opinion. And perhaps a select few may reach the highest and smallest ideological level of Walsby’s pyramid, the metadynamic ideology, or the the “Ideology of Ideologies.”

(g) Metadynamic Ideology

As the preceding sections have illustrated, the interaction of the major ideologies with social media has generated certain patterns in group-based online activity, while simultaneously changing the way that people confront new and different ideological assumptions. With this in mind, the metadynamic group can make large strides in understanding the system of ideologies as a modern function through analysis of behavioral trends online.

As global complexity increases with internationalism, understanding the system of society’s essential major ideologies is becoming more important than ever before. Governments that seek to maintain the status quo by closely observing citizen behavior will need to consult prescient metadynamic individuals who can help them sort out the system of ideologies, including the contentious relationship between ideologies, the system’s interaction with social media, and possible consequences for existing social and political structures. However, just as individuals and groups identify with certain ideologies, government structures develop ideological assumptions and behaviors of their own, most of which are static in nature, making outside metadynamic counsel an important asset.

3.4 Governments, Ideology, and Responses to Social Media

Governments are wary of the power that the new internet-based public sphere affords to the masses. As Jürgen Habermas put it nearly half a century ago:

Only when the exercise of political control is effectively subordinated to the democratic demand that information be accessible to the public, does the political public sphere win an institutionalized influence over the government through the instrument of law-making bodies. The expression “public opinion” refers to the tasks of criticism and control which a public body of citizens informally – and, in periodic elections, formally as well – practices vis-a-vis the ruling structure organized in the form of a state [62].

Habermas was both correct and incorrect in his assertions, for he could not have foreseen the proliferation of free information in a social, web-based form. Democratic freedom of information is critical to “public” influence over the political regime because it allows for the free formation of individual ideological assumptions, largely unfettered by governmental propaganda. However, Habermas was wrong in assuming that public power is only exercised “in periodic elections.” Today, citizens across the globe affect change via the Internet, through the creation of new ideological material as well as through the active organization of movements, as the example of the epidynamic Arab Spring illustrates. As a result, governments are beginning to take notice of the power of online social media, and are beginning to attempt to regulate online activity. The actions that individual governments take to control internet behavior is directly related to the overarching ideological character of the government structure itself. Modern governments, which maintain static idelogical identifications do not have a comprehensive understanding of the system of ideologies, and have consequently developed ideologically-driven responses to an increasingly internationalized online community.

Walford observes that despite their oppositional nature, each of the eidodynamic and eidostatic ideologies are necessary for society to function, and that a sound governmental structure which recognizes this balance is requisite for maintaining an ideal system:

The theory of systematic ideology indicates that we have to accept the range of major ideologies, and the groups identified with them, as enduring features of our society. This points to the conclusion that an adequate political structure would be one in accordance with the ideological structure, one which recognised that the major ideologies, and the major ideological groups, are complementary, rather than merely opposed, one to another… this is only to say that an adequate political system would be one that works with, and not against, the way in which people in our society behave [63].

This ideal-type governmental structure has yet to develop, as governments currently find themselves as deeply embedded in the system of ideologies as those they hope to govern. The rapid increase of social media and the subsequent growth in the membership and power of certain ideological groups has put governments on the offensive. They cannot extricate themselves from the ideological system and rise above it to lead coherently; instead, they find themselves subscribing to ideologies and engaging in hostile battles with conflicting ideological groups along ideological frontiers largely defined in social media.

Governments in power are prone to maintaining stasis and consequently strive to inspire static ideologies upon their citizens. The lengths to which governments will go to prevent the free spread of ideological material through media depends on the regime type, with authoritarian governments taking the strongest measures to force largely protostatic ideological sets on its citizenry, while more democratic regimes tend to promote a parastatic ideological view. Governmental response to social media and the Internet vary accordingly, although modern governments primarily subscribe to eidostatic ideologies.

3.4.1 Examples of Protostatic Government – Peru and North Korea

Authoritarian leaders recognize the power of media, especially social media, and take extraordinary measures to control that power, lest it be unleashed and undermine the status quo through a flood of ideological awakenings. A striking example comes from Peru under the dictatorship of Alberto Fujimori, who spent tens of millions of dollars bribing newspapers and television stations to control the distribution of ideological material through top-down media. As General Bello, a powerful regime member admitted in a candid video, “If we do not control the television we do not do anything” [64].

Fujimori’s regime began in 1992 and was toppled in 2000, just before the social media revolution engulfed the world. The rules of the game have changed and controlling the flow of information is not nearly as simple as bribing newspaper publishers and television stations. While previous forms of oppression have been met with mostly ineffective, quickly silenced protests, the Internet has provided a global megaphone for ideologies and, in some places, young dissidents have relinquished a perhaps otherwise passive-agressive expression and instead taken a defined dynamic ideological stance against protostatic governments. A case in point is the 2009 blog- and twitter-organized protest movement against the alleged fraudulent election of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This web-based insurrection was soon followed by the Arab Spring movements, whereby tech-savvy dissidents garnered mass support for anti-authoritarian uprisings across the Arab world. These movements have inspired dynamic ideological assumptions and behavior in previously oppressed, behaviorally static groups. Technology and social media have provided the necessary drivers for widespread ideological change; as individuals gain access to ideas, arguments, and movements, they become ideologically awakened, while the Internet allows ever greater organization for movements, providing an ideal platform for concerted dynamic action. It seems that oppressive protostatic governments misunderstand the importance of the system of ideologies – that is, the critical importance of allowing for more than one state-sanctioned ideology – and consequently, have the most to lose from the rapid spread of diverse assumptions and ideologies through social media.

However, as the Internet has rapidly internationalized information and provided a platform for group organization, some nations have taken extreme measures to maintain stasis and limit or eliminate social media as a conduit for alternative ideological material. North Korea is a classic example.

In North Korea, the public sphere is not in the hands of the public, rather it is a “representational” public sphere (similar to pre-revolutionary France), in which the leader creates national ideological assumptions and identifications and thus guides all publicized opinion, forcing a protostatic ideological character upon North Korea. Korea University Professor Sung-Han Kim suggests that any sort of dynamic ideological public movement is unlikely to occur in North Korea because, “Unlike the Arab countries, there is no concept of civil society from the grass roots level in the North” and thus, “any sort of political unrest will not come from the bottom in North Korea” [65]. As we shall see, this is a direct result of closed channels of alternative, non-regime sanctioned information and a complete lack of any form of social media.

It seems that over time, the protostatic ideology may infiltrate the overarching ideological character of individual citizens in strongly oppressive regimes, like North Korea, for two reasons. First, dangerously oppressive regimes dramatically up the stakes of behaving outside of the expedient ideology generated by the regime. Peter Hughes, the U.K. ambassador to North Korea explains that as a result, no “center of descent or intellectual grouping” has developed in North Korea [66]. And second, oppressive regimes like North Korea do everything in their power to prevent outside ideological material from penetrating national barriers or dissenting voices from spreading new ideological assumptions from within the regime, so individuals are exposed to very few alternative ideological choices, and thus resign themselves to the regime-enforced expedient ideology—uniform political collectivism is achieved.

In North Korea, connections to the outside world are completely blocked. In fact, North Korean workers sent to Libya (allowed only because Muammar Gaddafi was a fellow oppressive regime leader) to work and raise money for North Korean nuclear missile projects were barred from returning home once the Arab Spring uprisings began, for fear that the revolutionary ideology might infect North Koreans at home. It should come as no surprise that social media is a veritable non-entity in North Korea, where recently deceased leader Kim Jong-Il and his son and successor, Kim Jong-Un, have kept the nation in the technological “stone age” to prevent the spread of unsanctioned ideological material through social channels. In a country of 24 million, only about 400,000 people (1.6 percent of the population) have any mobile phone access, with most calls listened in on by government officials [67]. Internet access is even further restricted, making social media networking and the spread of information virtually impossible. In fact, news of Muammar Gaddafi’s death did not reach the North Korean masses for several weeks following the Libyan dictator’s demise [68].

The tack taken by the North Korean government toward the rise of social media is highly indicative of the protostatic ideology of the existing regime. By preventing access to the Internet and social media, and therefore to any alternative ideologies, the North Korean leadership hopes to strictly maintain the status quo. Epistatic governments, by contrast, try to maintain the status quo by allowing some necessary, but highly controlled, adjustments to the status quo.

3.4.2 Examples of Epistatic Government – China

Epistatic governments are predictably resistant to change, but recognize that some alterations to the status quo are required to maintain happy citizens and prevent the development of widespread dynamic ideological assumptions. By adhering to at least some of the desires of its citizenry, epistatic governments can maintain relatively strong political collectivism.

China is a particularly interesting example of a once protostatic government that has been forced to adopt new ideological assumptions and morph into an epistatic government. As China has become a major global political and economic player, it must rely on the cooperation of its citizens, especially as a more independent-minded middle class continues to grow. The Chinese government has thus made concessions to its citizenry, altering the status quo so that it may survive, if in an evolved form, in the face of ever-increasing interactions between Chinese citizens and the international environment.

Even though the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) maintains a strict ideological regime and harshly punishes dissidents, Chinese citizens have relatively broad access to the Internet and can communicate with those outside of China. However, this is by no means free access to online websites and social media, for as former Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping once famously said, “If you open the window for fresh air, you have to expect some flies to blow in.” Consequently, the epistatic Chinese government structure keeps close tabs on the activity of online users through state-owned internet service providers (ISPs). Furthermore, the Chinese government blocks dozens of websites that are deemed a possible threat to the regime’s status quo through “dangerous” free dissemination of alternative ideological assumptions [69]. These sites include most Google and Yahoo websites, as well as social media sites, like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook [70]. The Chinese government has created its own Chinese versions of these sites, which can be easily controlled and monitored by the government [71].

Although less severe than the protostatic North Korean regime, the epistatic Chinese government deals harshly with ideological dissidents who disregard PRC internet regulations, using an internet police force rumored to be about 30,000 officers strong [72]. According to Amnesty International, China has the “largest recorded number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents in the world” who are accused of communicating with forbidden groups abroad, signing online petitions, and calling for reform to the existing ideological structure [73].

Thus, while the epistatic Chinese government willingly acquiesces to its citizens’ desires for access to the Internet, alterations to the status quo only go so far. Unlike parastatic governments, epistatic governments like China by no means offer unfettered access to international (and even national) social media, which leaders fear could possibly incite large-scale dynamic ideological awakenings.

3.4.3 Examples of Parastatic Government – The United States

Parastatic western governments, like the United States, are generally characterized by the most liberal eidostatic assumptions and behaviors, and are currently responding to the rise of the Internet and social media accordingly. While maintaining the status quo is the overarching goal of parastatic governments, the importance of controlling alternative ideological assumptions is far less of a concern than amongst epistatic and protostatic governments, thus social media does not prevent a great threat to parastatic regimes.

That is not to say that parastatic governments do not monitor social media websites. A particularly telling example comes from an incident that occurred in early 2012 when two British citizens traveling to America on holiday were immediately detained by Homeland Security upon arrival in Los Angeles, thrown into holding cells, and sent back to Europe. Why the gruff treatment? One of the British travelers had previously posted twitter messages about his upcoming trip, which read: “Free this week for gossip/prep before I go and destroy America” (in British parlance, “destroy” roughly equates to “partying hard”) and which referenced a joke made on Family Guy (an American television series) about digging up the body of Marilyn Monroe [74]. While this was clearly a case of a total misreading of intents, it is telling nonetheless. The parastatic United States government has recognized the potential power of social media as a means to monitor its citizens and those of foreign countries, and has characteristically adapted to the modern environment (in this case, the Internet) and is now using social media as a tool to preemptively secure the status quo.

Parastatic governments are characterized by more flexible ideological assumptions when compared to epistatic and protostatic governments, but maintaining the status quo remains the main objective. Although the Internet is a very new phenomenon with innumerable legal grey areas, parastatic governments have made efforts to impose the legal status quo upon the virtual web-based world. For example, in the case of media sharing websites discussed earlier in this paper, parastatic governments have sided with existing media industries and agreed to prosecute against BitTorrent file-sharing copyright infringements. In the month of June 2011 alone, a single movie studio, Voltage Pictures, filed lawsuits in U.S. federal court against over 50,000 BitTorrent users in an effort to maintain the industrial status quo. In the Netherlands, the government has ordered several ISPs to ban user access to certain media file-sharing sites.

Parastatic governments aim to maintain the status quo by regulating (or in parastatic parlance, “perfecting”) the existing online system through a series of measures. And while “liberal” governments do not regulate social media websites like epistatic and protostatic governments (especially given that most individuals living in parastatic nations are unwilling to allow reversions to more ideologically restrictive systems), parastatic governments are currently searching for ways to build and maintain a virtual, online status quo, without generating responsive social unrest that could disturb the political status quo. After all, any rash political movements against internet freedoms would almost certainly generate instantaneous, vociferous outrage amongst millions of social media users, whose ideological assumptions regarding the government could quickly become a social media-based frontier of ideological conflict.

Legal debates over network neutrality, for example, continue to grip the United States Congress and demonstrate the concept of protostatic perfection of the status quo. Proponents of “net neutrality” argue that the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) initial Open Internet Report and Order, designed to regulate ISPs, will ensure open access to all legal websites for users and will consequently facilitate healthy competition to best maintain the current online status quo. As the FCC explains, “The ‘Open Internet’ is the Internet as we know it” [75]. However, opponents of the FCC’s Open Internet Report and Order, argue that the FCC is currently disrupting the status quo by attempting to regulate the hithertofore unregulated Internet. The very nature of parastatic governments, which are open to debate and discussion about the perfection of the status quo, will likely keep the topic on the table for years, and even decades to come.

As we have seen the response of governments to the rise of the Internet and social media varies with the ideological character of the reigning regime. While protostatic governments, like North Korea, seek to maintain the status quo by preventing internet access altogether and shutting out all alternative ideological assumptions, epistatic governments, like China, have accepted the Internet, but severely restrict the ideological material that reaches their citizens, both from outside the country and from within. Parastatic governments, by contrast, make no attempt to restrict access to social media, but continue to try to perfect the new online status quo in a way that will simultaneously ensure the existing political status quo. However, because of the freedom of social media allowed by parastatic governments, the Internet and social media may still pose grave dangers for such governments if they make serious missteps in their quest to perfect the online status quo. Millions of web-savvy and connected social media users have the capacity to rapidly spread new ideological material that could potentially generate mass dynamic movements should parastatic governments overstep in their quest to ensure the status quo and fail to respect the perceived “rights” of online citizens.


Governments of all ideological characters would be advised to be cognizant of the system of ideologies and the potential for vast ideological activity, interaction and conflict with the rise of the Internet and social media. However, while social media is typically viewed as a modern phenomenon which has arisen only with the proliferation of the Internet in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, social media has actually existed for hundreds of years and has historically provided a critical vehicle for the formation of new public ideological assumptions and subsequently spurred on ideological conflicts.

As the cases of the Protestant Reformation and the French Revolution demonstrate, early modern print-based social media allowed the rapid and fundamentally democratic dissemination of new ideological assumptions, and consequently led numerous initially static individuals to identify with more dynamic ideologies. The critical importance of the decentralized, social aspect of social media is illustrated in the case of Nazi Germany, where top-down, propagandistic media helped generate a centralized, protostatic ideological stance amongst many Germans, creating a national situation that ultimately resulted in a horrific genocide of European Jews during the Second World War. From the 1950s to the turn of the twenty-first century, top-down media continued to dominate the public ideological scene as the distribution of ideological assumptions via television, radio, films, and music remained firmly in the hands of a select few media conglomerates.

Today, top-down media is largely a thing of the past (at least for now), as the Internet has re-opened old channels of social dialogue (previously the province of pamphleteers) through new technological innovations. The creation of the Internet and social media websites has changed the way Walsby’s major ideologies interact with the world by facilitating greater online dialogue and thus allowing for more widespread dissemination of ideological assumptions, while also providing the means to more easily strengthen existing assumptions through vast stores of online knowledge (reputable, or not).

Social media also provides a new platform, or frontier, for opposing ideological groups to engage in ideological battle. Static governments of all varieties are becoming more aware of the power (and danger to the status quo) inherent in the rise of the Internet and social media. Governments have consequently responded to social media in different ways, depending on the particular ideological character of specific governments. While protostatic governments, like North Korea, have attempted to guard the status quo by eliminating the threat of social media altogether, epistatic governments, like the People’s Republic of China, have appeased citizens’ desires for social media access, while strictly monitoring and regulating online behavior. Parastatic governments, by contrast, have made little effort to regulate social media, but are beginning to use social media as a tool to monitor citizens, while working to perfect the current online system, thereby preemptively securing the status quo.

Social media will continue to play an important role in the affairs of the world as it interacts with the system of ideologies, just as it has for over 500 years. Although the technology behind social media may change, as it first did with the advent of the printing press and then again with the rise of the Internet, social media will continue to impact the way ideological assumptions are formed in the public sphere, which always has and conceivably always will, have important consequences for the structure of societies.


[1] Walsby, Harold. The Domain of Ideologies: A Study of the Development and Structure of Ideologies, Glasgow: William MacLellan in collaboration with the Social Science Association, 1947. Web. 22 May 2011. (Please note: this was accessed as a webpage, so page numbers cannot be supplied.)
[2] Walford, George. “Meet Systematic Ideology.” Ideological Commentary. No. 64 (June 1994). Web. 13 May 2011.
[3] —–. An Outline Sketch of Systematic Ideology, London: The Bookshop, 1977. Web. 23 May 2011. (Please note: this was accessed as a webpage, so page numbers cannot be supplied.)
[4] —–. An Outline Sketch of Systematic Ideology, “Ideology and the Left.” Web. 16 May 2011.
[5] The major ideologies house the endless minor ideologies that guide human behavior, but these must be ignored in this discussion for the sake of simplicity (George Walford, Beyond Politics, “From Politics to Ideology”)
[6] Walford, George. An Outline Sketch of Systematic Ideology, “Assumption and Identification.” Web. 17 May 2011.
[7] —–. An Outline Sketch of Systematic Ideology, “Assumption and Identification.” Web. 17 May 2011.
[8] With the exception of “eidostatic” and “eidodynamic,” the terminology used here to describe the major ideologies was not used by Walsby, himself, but was later applied by students of the theory.
[9] This excludes metadynamics for reasons, which will become clear upon further discussion.
[10] Walford, George. “Meet Systematic Ideology.” Web. 23 May 2011.
[11] —–. An Outline Sketch of Systematic Ideology, “Ideological Groups.” Web. 23 May 2011.
[12] —–. Beyond Politics: An Outline of Systematic Ideology, “The British Political Series.” Web. 23 May 2011. (Please note: points a, b, c, d, and e were all derived from this chapter.)
[13] Walford explains that, despite the constant warring amongst ideologies, inherent in their desire to dominate the others, ideologies work together and must be recognized as such for government to function optimally: .”..an adequate political structure would be one in accordance with the ideological structure, one which recognised that the major ideologies, and the major ideological groups, are complementary, rather than merely opposed, one to another” (George Walford, An Outline Sketch of Systematic Ideology, “Conclusion”)
[14] Walford, George. An Outline Sketch of Systematic Ideology, “Conclusion. ” Web. 26 May 2012.
[15] —–. An Outline Sketch of Systematic Ideology, “Personal Ideological Structure.” Web. 23 May 2011.
[16] —–. Beyond Politics, “Ideology Beyond Politics.” Web. 23 May 2011.
[17] Political movements do not define the six major ideologies, but they serve as examples for explanation of the principles of the theory of Systematic Ideology. In using political movements to describe the theory, it is critical to remember that the theory applies to all purposive human behavior, not only political behavior.
[18] Walford, George. Beyond Politics, “From Politics to Ideology.” Web. 24 May 2011.
[19] —–. Beyond Politics, “After the Empires.” Web. 24 May 2011.
[20] —–. Beyond Politics, “Ideology Beyond Politics.” Web. 24 May 2011.
[21] —–. Beyond Politics, “Ideology Beyond Politics.” Web. 24 May 2011.
[22] “Reform” here literally means a re-reforming of the existing system.
[23] Walford, George. Beyond Politics, “From Politics to Ideology.” Web. 25 May 2011.
[24] —–. Beyond Politics, “The British Political Series.” Web. 25 May 2011.
[25] —–. Beyond Politics, “From Politics to Ideology.” Web. 25 May 2011.
[26] —–. An Outline Sketch of Ideology, “Political Individualism and\ Collectivism.” Web. 25 May 2011.
[27] —–. An Outline Sketch of Ideology, “Political Individualism and\ Collectivism.” Web. 25 May 2011.
[28] Despite vastly differing ideological assumptions and behaviors, it is important to recall that the expediency of protostatic ideology pervades even paradynamic ideology.
[29] Walsby, Harold. The Domain of Ideologies, p. 67-68. Web. 25 May 2011.
[30] Walford, George. An Outline Sketch of Systematic Ideology, “The Major Ideologies.” Web. 25 May 2011.
[31] Recall the evolutionary nature of the systematic ideology theory, in which individuals pass through and adhere to elements of each preceding type of ideology in their quest toward ideological identification
[32] Walford, George. An Outline Sketch of Systematic Ideology, “The Major Ideologies.” Web. 26 May 2011.
[33] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media. Web. 27 June 2012.
[34] Habermas, Jurgen. (1962) The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Trans. Thomas Burger. Cambridge Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1989, p. 30 and 36.
[35] Social Media in the Sixteenth Century. The Economist (17 Dec. 2011); Ben Roberts, Beyond the ‘Networked Public Sphere’: Politics, Participation and Technics in Web 2.0.” The Fibreculture Journal No. 14 (2009).
[36] Social Media in the Sixteenth Century, The Economist. (17 Dec. 2011.) Web. 20 Dec. 2011.
[37] Blanning, T.C.W. “The Rise and Fall of the French Revolution” Chicago, MI: University of Chicago Press, 1996.
[38] Furet, François. “The French Revolution Revisited,” The French Revolution, Recent Debates and New Controversies. Ed. Gary Kates. New York: Routledge, 1998, pg. 85
[39] Hunt, Lynn. Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1984.
[40] —–. Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1984.
[41] Sewell, William, Jr. “Ideologies and Social Revolutions: reflections of the French Case” The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 57, No. 1 (Mar., 1985), p. 57-85.
[42] Sewell. “Ideologies and Social Revolutions: reflections of the French Case” The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 57, No. 1 (Mar., 1985), p. 57-85
[43] Walford, George. “Meet Systematic Ideology.” Web. 25 May 2012.
[44] Walsby, Harold. The Domain of Ideology, pg. 49. Web. 25 May 2012.
[45] Walford George. An Outline Sketch of Systematic Ideology, “Intellect.” Web. 26 May 2012.
[46] —–. Beyond Politics, “The British Political Series.” Web. 26 May 2012.
[47] —–. Beyond Politics, “From Politics to Ideology.” Web. 27 May 2012.
[48] The famous German Bildungsbürger movement of the late nineteenth century saw an emerging middle class increasingly focused on education, literature, music, and general self-betterment through the study of careful, rational theory and through open debate in an emerging political public sphere.
[49] Milward, A. S. “Could Sweden have Stopped the Second World War?” Scandinavian Economic History Review. No. 15 (1967), p. 135.
[50] Wong, Scott. “Joseph Kony captures Congress’ attention.” Politico (March 22, 2012). Web. 23 May 2012.
[51] Walsby, Harold. The Domain of Ideologies, pg 47 (quoting Gustave Le Bon’s The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind). Web. 27 May 2012.
[52] Roberts, Ben. Beyond the ‘Networked Public Sphere’: Politics, Participation and Technics in Web 2.0.” The Fibreculture Journal No. 14 (2009).
[53] BBC News. “The e-G8 forum: Can governments regulate the web?” (27 May 2011). Web. 27 May 2011.
[54] We will see precisely why this is the case in a later section on epidynamic, or revolutionary ideology.
[55] Quote from Wikipedia.org. Web. 27 May 2012.
[56] BBC News. “The e-G8 forum: Can governments regulate the web?” (27 May 2011). Web. 27 May 2011.
[57] Dsalgado08, Comment on article “50,000 sued for BitTorrent downloads” (10 Jun 2011). Web. 27 May 2012.
[58] “Rapper Chuck D throws weight behind Napster.” Cnet News. (1 May 2000). 27 May 2012.
[59] Marshall, Lee, “Metallica and Morality: The Rhetorical Battleground of the Napster Wars.” Environmental Law. Vol. 1, No. 1 (Spring 2002) Frank Cass: London, p. 8
[60] CBS Evening News, “The Face of Egypt’s Social Networking Revolution” (12 Feb. 2011). Web. 26 May 2011
[61] Walford, George. Beyond Politics, “From Politics to Ideology”
[62] Habermas, Jürgen, Sara Lennox and Frank Lennox. “The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article” (1964) . New German Critique. No. 3 (Autumn, 1974), p. 49-55.
[63] Walford, George. An Outline Sketch of Systematic Ideology, “Conclusion”
[64] Acemoglu, Daron and James Robinson, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty, Crown Business (March 2012), pg. 461
[65] ABC World News, “Are North Koreans Welcome Home After Witnessing Arab Revolts?” (2 Nov. 2011) Web. 4 June 2012.
[66] ABC World News, “Are North Koreans Welcome Home After Witnessing Arab Revolts?” (2 Nov. 2011) Web. 4 June 2012.
[67] ABC World News, “Are North Koreans Welcome Home After Witnessing Arab Revolts?” (2 Nov. 2011) Web. 4 June 2012.
[68] ABC World News, “Are North Koreans Welcome Home After Witnessing Arab Revolts?” (2 Nov. 2011) Web. 4 June 2012.
[69] “How Censorship Works in China: A Brief Overview.” Human Rights Watch. (2006) Web. Web. 4 June 2012.
[70] “List of Blocked Websites in the People’s Republic of China,” Wikipedia.org. Web. 9 Jun 2012.
[71] The Washington Times, “Party Directs China’s Twitter,” (8 Feb. 2012). Web. 9 June 2012.
[72] Watts, Jonathan, “China’s secret Internet police target critics with web of propaganda.” The Guardian, London: (14 June 2005). Web. 9 June 2012.
[73] The Washington Times, “Party Directs China’s Twitter,” (8 Feb. 2012). Web. 9 June 2012.
[74] Forbes, “Destroy American on Twitter: Get Deported,” (31 Jan 2012). Web. 9 June 2012.
[75] http://www.fcc.gov/topic/open-internet. Web. 9 June 2012.