Here’s a great article in The Wall Street Journal today. Its main subject is what author Daniel Henninger calls “the great white whale of the 21st century”: “American influence.” (If that’s the white whale, one guess as to who’s Ahab?)

In it Henninger writes:

Not that long ago, in 1989, the world watched demonstrators sit passively in Tiananmen Square and fight the authorities with little more than a papier-m?ch? Statue of Liberty. Poland’s Solidarity movement had to print protest material with homemade ink made from oil because the Communist government confiscated all the printers’ ink.

In 2004, in Ukraine’s Independence Square, they had cell phones.

Using the phones’ SMS messaging technology, demonstrators sent messages to meet to 10 or so friends, who’d each SMS the message to 10 more friends, and so on. It’s called “smart-mobbing.”

Meanwhile, community Web sites in Ukraine would post the numbers of tents on the square where medical help was needed, or the sites would recruit people with specific TV skills needed at Channel 5, the lone independent TV station. The Ukrainian Supreme Court’s historic Dec. 3 decision, declaring the election a fraud, was streamed on the Internet live from a Kiev courtroom and watched real time in London, New York, Washington and Toronto, sent out on e-mail distribution lists so the next steps could be discussed by the reform network and put in motion within an hour.

Until recently, one-party or no-party governments had a standing list of answers for people with a different notion: a) we don’t care what you think; b) shut up; c) we kill you. There’s no sure cure for c, but Plans a and b are becoming obsolete. Once impervious political authorities must now face the possibility of having their information monopoly hammered by an array of mostly American-engineered technology ? smart cell phones, communication satellites, e-mail, Web logs (or “blogs”) and a seemingly endless stream of information-sharing programs whose arcane names (RSS, Atom) hide their great power. The mass-market power of the older media ? radio, TV, print ? is also being integrated with the precision targeting of new technologies.