Fueled by Falsehoods, a Michigan Group Is Ready to Challenge the Vote
“We’ve had a very difficult time for years. There is a growing awareness that, in our country, our civil rights have been threatened. That’s a big reason why we’re here today.”
Sitting in a small auditorium at Kent State University’s S.R. Smith Hall in downtown Detroit, about 60 students in blue and gray suits are learning how to use the latest political weapons: the Internet.
They’re here to participate in the nation’s first-ever political Internet forum, which is being offered by a group of students from Michigan State University and the State University of New York at Buffalo. It’s the brainchild of a young professor at MSU, an expert in American politics and history, who wants to expose the students he teaches to the dangers of a system that he says is biased, not to mention undemocratic; the very system, in fact, that the young, idealistic students he’s taught to love is responsible for their disillusionment.
The Internet forum will be the first of its kind, according to Dr. Barry Lynn, who is the director of the International Institute of Asian Studies at MSU. For more than five years he has been teaching classes on Asian-American politics and history. “It’s a radical idea,” says Lynn, whose own father is from Taiwan. “What we’re trying to do, in short, is to teach people here that the Internet can be used to counteract many of the evils of the past.”
The forum is called “Safer Votes: The Internet and Political Participation.” And the idea is to teach students that the Internet is an instrument of democracy.
As they prepare to use this new tool to combat the problems of our country’s electoral system, the students think it’s important to remember what a democracy is.
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On a warm Friday afternoon in March, Dr. Barry Lynn sits at a small, cluttered table in front of the S.R. Smith auditorium of Kent State University. It’s a place where politicians and protesters, in the tradition of the 1960s’ student demonstrations, have been known to congregate. It’s also the site of a growing controversy: in this auditorium, Michigan State University students are asking the campus to become the first to test out a new voting system in a political forum.
In recent months