Posts Tagged: the internet


12
Dec 17

A Simple Dilemma: The Internet Intensifies Idiocy

There are a thousand complex, nuanced theses about the value of the internet and, alternately, about its destruction of values. But I suspect the main thing to be concerned with is madly simple. It is this: the internet magnifies stupidity. It’s like one of those converters that boosts voltage…the voltage of sheer stupid. It’s like insistently wearing the wrong prescription glasses–glasses intended for clarity suddenly make things blurrier. Lenses that increase blur! The internet intensifies imbecility. If we quantify stupidity, if we look at stupidity as a kind of data-set, we can see that the internet tends to magnify it. It’s like gravity, erosion, and where the water goes.

We can blame the internet for the astounding increase of people who are *not joking* when they insist that, yes, the world is flat. This is a THING now. We actually, truly have to get in complex arguments explaining that no, those pictures from space aren’t faked, no, planes aren’t flying around the edges of a disc, no no no. They overlap with the clueless clods who claim we didn’t land on the moon…Conspiracy-theory political groups, radically idiotic racists, were relegated to a tiny little corner before the internet. But the web allowed them to find one another and they propagated ideologically on the web, using its cheap marketing methods to sell ideas…and Alex Jones became a big name, an actual success, who influences the President of the United States. The people who claim that gun massacres are faked–they propagate their fallacy through the internet.

You can choose your filter, your bubble of pseudo-info on the internet. You need never get another point of view–ironically–if you just keep following the same links in a moronic circle reinforcing falsehoods. The internet is the greatest tool of the Big Lie. Repeat, repeat, and repeat in variations. And its superpower is this: it rewards laziness and impulsiveness, it rewards what’s low in us…

Oh I could go on and on with examples…Like the degree to which it helped Trump get elected…Yes, I know I’m using the internet to say this, and intelligent people magnify one another on the web too–but we are in the minority. Because thinking requires thinking–it requires effort. It requires a willingness to engage complexity. The internet seems designed (or has devolved) to do a better job of spreading lies than truth; of supporting stupidity instead of sense.

We have to find some proactive way to change the goddamn thing before it gives us permanent societal brain damage.


6
Jan 17

Is the Internet an Engine of Information–or Destruction?

I’ve been inwardly debating, as many likely have since the election, as to whether the internet is a “win” for the world; whether it’s more positive than negative. What’s the net of the internet? What’s the ultimate sum of its value? Yes, I can think of many, many positives. For me, a great one is its value to science as an information sharing tool; its instantaneity helps spread scientific data, ideas, so that research is rocketing ahead. This is enormously helpful to medicine, of course–it will accelerate the arrival of treatments and cures. It’s hugely useful in all the sciences. . .Then there’s its social value. The Web helped Obama get elected President and yes that was a *good* thing–no President is ideal for everyone (if any President ever seems that they are, stop taking the government issued Soma). It’s useful in quickly exposing corruption; it’s useful on the street level for organizing resistance to oppression….The internet is useful to artists, to writers, at times. It’s useful to business. It’s useful to isolated people who need help, or just contact.

But the negatives are *powerful*. If anything, lies spread more easily than truths–since lies appeal to something in a way that is as primeval as internet porn’s appeal. Internet media is designed–almost instinctively, perhaps unconsciously–to exploit the set up of the human brain. Our reward wiring, our hormones. Fake news is more exciting, usually, than the contextual complexity of real news…People who are frustrated, scared, find it pleasurable to engage in the release of simple explanations, the outre but exciting explanations of conspiracy theory…or racism. Racist imagery can be addictive, for those people. It provides the embattled a reinforcement that stimulates internal pleasure, a pleasure released by the illusion of belonging. The internet can provide that over and over and over. It’s free drugs. The internet was supposed to bring us together; it seems to bring at least as much divisiveness as unity. Human beings are what they are– in any medium. Do not underestimate the bestiality and malleability of the human mind.

The internet has evolved (or devolved) into a mind control tool. And since social media itself massages our narcissism, social media is addictive–it can be good but one needs self control to indulge in it–and in order to avoid the hard work of going back to my novel, I’m spending too much time online. So…later on.


21
Jan 15

The Internet Left…as opposed to The Actual Left

There’s such a thing as “the Internet Left”. This isn’t the real left’s use of the internet, which is a good thing–eg, Mother Jones online, The Nation online, MoveOn.org programs–no, it isn’t that.

The Internet Left (and yes there’s an Internet Right too, even larger), is all about making decisions about America via memes; it’s about getting stoned and watching youtube videos suggesting that “Fascism Has Already Come and You Are Its Slave, Fool!” It’s about assuming that you’re so important to the world that the NSA is breathlessly reading your email. It’s about 9/11 Truthers and loopy notions that the USA is about to invade China. It’s kneejerk reactions, judgements made without real research. It’s assuming that everything said about the Obama administration’s prosecution of people who were doing illegal things with state secrets is true; it’s assuming that because a few smug internet pundits say that the President is against a free and open internet that he really *is* against it (whereas he keeps saying over and over again he supports net neutrality, and free and open internet); that the President took us into “a war” when we had a minor supporting role in the overthrow of Khadaffi in Libya…

They twitch and decide that every last politician anywhere is a puppet of Wall Street; that voting is giving into the corporatocracy and not voting is somehow a meaningful protest. That there was a nationwide conspiracy to undermine Occupy Wall Street (it did a fine job of undermining itself). That terrorism isn’t real, that al Qaeda doesn’t exist because someone in a video somewhere quoted one line from one CIA report saying that there’s no one center to al Qaeda…

The Internet Left is about deciding, without really deciding, that if an idea is repeated enough online with clever pictorial imagery then it’s true. And this superficiality makes these people the tools of the right; it often puts them in flaky enough territory that they flake off into supporting Rand Paul and other libertarians, without acknowledging that libertarians are fine with deregulating industry and consequently destroying the environment.

The only solution is –read deeply, and make up your mind only when you get all the facts, not cherrypicked facts. And do not assume that one guy having a PhD means that when he says 9/11 was an inside demolition job, why, It Must Be True. Do not assume that terrorism is a boogeyman made up by the establishment to keep us in war–because if you’re wrong, we’re going to lose an entire city. And for God’s Sake, or Goddess’s Sake, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s Sake, don’t decline to vote because someone told you it doesn’t make a difference.

For a good many people, the Internet Left is about laziness. It’s much easier to let your opinion be formed by snarky internet-comment sophistry than to do the footwork and get out there and vote. It’s easier to stay at home and yawn and and practice sneering.