One of the oldest conceits in American literature is the battle of good and evil set in a mock court room with an angel and a devil dueling for the right of a man or mankind to merit continued existence. I imagine the same scenario, except with our virtual mankind on trial: the Internet. For all the wonderful things the Internet brings to our lives, it comes at a high cost of human bullshit. The daily death threats, rape threats, and anonymous trolling of all sorts pollute the zeitgeist into despair. As an occasional educator, I am horrified by the proliferation of absolutely terrible, cluttering words full of garbled ideas and half-baked info-linkbait. I often try to teach students why Google doesn’t just hand us all properly vetted sources for all our questions. Feeling lucky is not really going to be successful most of the time. The information is just terrible. And, it is addictive. The Internet constantly feeds little pellets of shiny newness, someone responding to a post or a topic, a wrinkle in news, a momentary search for a tiny, tiny piece of information that suddenly takes on the psychic gravitas of a theological controversy. Is it all worth it?
Some days, no. Some days, all horrible things occur, and the shiny pellets of new just make one feel awful, just awful. In the same sense that we as writers and readers of imaginative fiction are often challenged to invent a better set of political and economic and material conditions, we must invent a better Internet. In what we write and read, think hard and seek out the sort of system that will convince the judge in the clouds that we and our web of wires are worth keeping around, after all.
Today, I read multiple threads accusing Ursula K. LeGuin of not knowing the book publishing business based on her comments on the web about imagining a non-capitalist future as an alternative to the tides of BS. The ageism was vast and brazen. It was horrible.
today, the Internet is found guilty. Shut it down. Shut it all down.