In "The Virtual Community", Chapter Ten: Disinformocracy, Howard Rheingold states in the very first sentence of chapter ten that virtual communities could help citizens revitalize democracy, or they could be luring us into an attractively packaged substitute for democratic discourse. Focusing on journalism and the public sphere, I'm going to apply theories used in our text book, and compare them with Rheingold's ideas. These theories include the hegemonic and political economy theories, democratic participant theory, Rheingold in some way uses the hegemonic theories and political economy theories to express his position about free communication and discussion of ideas. These theories are ideas about how elites, who are mostly economic institutions, use media (as well as other economic related bodies) to maintain control. They tend to focus on social elites' use of financial influence to inspire media bodies. Rheingold argues that "if a few people have control of what goes into the daily reporting of the news, and those people are in the business of selling advertising, all kinds of things become possible for those who can afford to pay".
Rheingold presents a resolution, a solution to this problem. He sustains that putting the power into the hands of the citizens can ultimately guard us from totalitarian authorities as discussed above. This is the direct opposite of the authoritarian theory which places all forms of communication under the elites. Let us examine a real life example of a recent case with an Emory patient. According to the AJC, a patient went missing for two days, and later found dead in a bathroom. "Had this case been at a hospital with less monetary pull, it would have gone national", as quoted remotely by Dwight Fancier, Director of Radiology, at Henry Medical Center.
Rheingold sketchily touches on the democratic participant theory. This theory promotes media support for cultural pluralism at a grass-roots level. He never says that the media support cultural pluralism, but emphasis more The theory, developed by George Gerber, says that television cultivates or creates a world view that, although possibly inaccurate, becomes the reality because people believe it to be so.