Last month, Editor David Swindle introduced NRB guests to the sagacious Douglas Rushkoff and his latest work, Digital Nation. Joining the author in his musings about the mental dribble and dung that accounts for much of what is consumed by the “Digital Nation,” Swindle posed the question:
“Is the Internet Destroying Our Lives or Enriching Them?”
Before we have the opportunity to assume a thoughtful pose, Rushkoff hastens to answer the question with a question loaded with the answer:
“I want the luxury of being able to push the pause button, you know, really ask whether we’re tinkering with some part of ourselves that’s a little bit deeper than we might realize at first. You know, how are we changing what it means to be a human being by using all this stuff?”
Along with PBS, Monsieurs Swindle and Rushkoff direct their concern to the effect that life in Blogdom may have upon our powers of concentration and the dearth of substance in what we, as a “Digital Nation,” find worthy of our time.
These past few months, what I have found worthy of my time has been the influence of anti-establishment Libertarianism on American conservatives. I will save some “fans” the trouble of pointing out that I appear to be obsessed with Dr. Ron Paul. Obsession is metaphysically impossible for a mother with five small children…unless it involves what to make for dinner.
In addition to more “proof” that Building Seven was destroyed by missiles, that Halliburton crews rigged the WTC for demolition, and that I am a Zionist pawn of Goldman-Sachs, I have also learned, and can submit for consideration to Mr. Swindle and his friend, Rushkoff, that the internet is transforming some of us into callous barbarians and intellectual clods.
Upon reading posts that call for mature reflection on ideas, offended supporters of the criticized icon set upon their keyboards with the chivalry of Mordor Orcs. Here are some examples taken from those opposed to my observations concerning Ron Paul:
“No truth here…sad sheeple…go to your pens.”
“The world is filled with malevolent control freaks, and the sooner we admit it, the sooner we can escape this sheeple pen. But I am resigned to the fact that the sheeple like it in their pen, guarded though it is with wolves. They’d rather be consumed than free.”
“Horowitz only cares about one thing! Getting the United States involved militarily in the Arab, Persian and Israel conflict. Thus he smears Ron Paul because he wants the Republican party to return to its traditional foreign policy.”
“If Horowitz feels so strong. Get your butt in the military but, no, you want to send others and others kids to the meat grinder. What a transparent argument this is. How pathetic.”
“Why should we listen to someone like David Horowitz, shill for Israel? You didn’t predict the banking burst, you didn’t tell us not to go into Iraq, you merely serve your Neocon/Zionist masters by trying to tie Ron Paul to extremists groups in order to keep him on the fringe. We see through your dirty tricks. Those protesters were probably plants too.”
The anonymity that favors erosion of common courtesy is at the root of a more serious byproduct, the over-simplification of ideas. Many Ron Paul supporters asserted that, because I question the Pauls’ foreign policy, I hate the Constitution, love war, and wish to live in a police state.
Here are some examples:
“If we’d be “much, much worse” off with federal government that abides by the Constitution as a previous post states, we should just call a constitutional convention and rewrite the damn thing. Run it through the shredder if the Left and Right know what’s better for us than our libertarian founders.”
“Ron Paul is attempting to stop the WICKED fraud – the Federal Reserve – perpetrated against the American people. Is this why Ron Paul is being attacked?”
“Keep that neo con war wagon running! More blood for Israel! More fake paper money for Israel!”
The detrimental effect of facile categorization of people or distillation of their ideas is that, instead of constructive intellectual exchange, commenting on posts descends to jousting with caricatures.
We might all do well to pretend we are in a coffee shop while on line. Personally informing a total stranger that they are a “blood-thirsty moron working to abolish the Constitution” is harder to do if you can actually see their face.
Perhaps, to answer Mr. Rushkoff’s question, we can still be enriched by the Internet after all, if we remember that the words on the screen were typed by a human being, a tapestry of convictions, capable of persuasion if we present our own ideas in a way that is balanced and coherent.