If you are a regular reader, you probably know me. I comment a lot. I usually enjoy myself and find the stories at the very least interesting, if not sad and depressing. I think I have good relations with people. But, lately, I've gotten into the stupidest, most hysterical fights. Go figure. This is the week of Woody Allen news, where the prime directive has been to leave your reason and self-control at the door—to get as hysterical as possible. But it's just not Woody Allen. It's pretty much everything, including, of all things, sandwiches. We've hit maximum toxicity outrage when a simple, harmless question gets attacked over one word.
Maybe it's Gawker, it's existential nature, and the decline of the quality of the readership or the addition of the readership. Maybe it's just the Internet, which is a pool of many voices, all voices, and since the dawn of time people have been hostile and ignorant. (Someone will always be wrong on the Internet, just as in real life.) For no reason. But is online culture speeding this up? Is it changing genial people into sour, cynical attack dogs? Is it the Washington to future Congressman Clay Aiken? Should I become a disciple of Jaron Lanier?
And certainly there needs to be talk of media ethics. When tragedies like the Allen case are exploited for click-bait (I guess that's better than child-bait); sensationalism and partisanship sown; hysteria fomented, all in the name of making money. Gawker for all its virtues —pointing out injustice against and in various groups—does does this as much as the other media sites.
It's depressing. It hurts the culture. It hurts civility. It hurts discourse. It hurts basic human decency. It hurts compassion. It hurts reason and critical thinking, patience and judgement. But it can be an addiction. I spent a lot of time—more time than was healthy—reading a lot of comments on the Allen case. I did this to inform myself, when people helpfully provided links to primary sources, but also as a kind of fascinating anthropological and psychological train wreck. Epistemological. I wanted to see how people thought. Boy, were the results not good.
All of this long preamble to say that I will get off the Internet. It's Plato's Cave. It doesn't reflect the real America where people are much nicer to each other and the news isn't completely grim. You'd think America is a failed state reading the Internet. So goodbye. But as we are complicit in our own dumbing down and like seeing drama, I might be back soon. I'll try to fight it, but I think on a primitive brain level, we can't help but gawk at train wrecks.