Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Internet: Terrible Scourge Of Our Country???

UPDATE: In the comments of The Washington Monthly post I link to below and comment on, someone wrote that verbal test scores haven't declined in the decade since the internet caught on, except for the past two years-- and the commenter attributed that to problems with the No Child Left Behind legislation. So if that's correct, that adds all the more reason behind my criticism of the NYT article's anti-Internet angle, and it makes that article look all that much weirder.

I was just complaining the other day about the closed-off nature of news media in our country, and the media has today produced another dramatic assault against the Internet. You know, the Internet, that gave you e-mail, blogs, books from, online newspapers, downloadable music, NetFlicks, Wikipedia, Google, and so on.

Here's my response, from my comments on Washington Monthly and in response both to the NYT article and Kevin Drum's characteristic rich-milquetoast-lib chirping in support:

I don't know if I agree with you. I think a lot of books I read are fine. The details tend to supply valuable trivia, insight or clarity, and if what you're looking for is a dumbed-down or summary version, and the book or article you're reading seems too long, it's probably just because you're reading the wrong book / piece to suit your needs. I think the ocassional piece that does indeed have too many words / sentences just indicates that the writer is stupid and that his / her being published is kind of a fluke. Somebody else out there who could write something better has been passed over to publish this person's book.

As far as these anti-Internet articles that come out every once in a while, I view them with suspicion. I think the right-wing would love an anti-Internet movement, because if they could restrict Internet use it could end up shutting down liberal politics in a big way. I think it's a really vain cause, though, because the advantages of the Internet are just too obvious. Americans are just not dumb enough to call for our nation to become Nazi Germany, in light of all we know and have experienced. There are only a few Americans who are that dumb. Anyway, since the source of these articles is the mainstream media, we have every reason to be distrustful.

Young people suffer from the same problems they always have as far as wanting to sound cool and not always taking grammar, appearances and studies seriously enough. If the Internet age has coincided with a tiny bit of increase in that, it's hardly something that merits a lot of concern or attention.

Someone like Sy Hersh, who writes for those magazines that print longish articles, is often a little melodramatic, but that's a particular problem that's particular to somewhat pretentious magazines. It's not a symptom of a wide-ranging plague of overlength.

Nor is what Sy Hersh and the like do with their magazine articles related to the Internet-- it's related to people who buy the NYT magazine, Harper's, The New Yorker, etc., wanting to feel like they're getting bang for their buck (that is, the writers have something profound to say that takes a lot of description).

And in defense of it, sometimes those long articles in relatively highbrow popular magazines are really called for, and the depth / context is nice to have, although the article certainly could have been done in a much shorter form. Again, if you feel like you waste a lot of time on that, better to find blogs that excerpt and comment on those specific sources.