You’ve heard the slogan: “Information wants to be free.” Not so long ago the internet was hailed as a way to break media monopolies, escape government censorship, and give total liberty to the expression of diverse ideas and arguments. In fact its results have been --
1. To trivialize communication (because complex arguments can’t be expressed briefly, as in tweets, and we lose the taste for serious thought);
2. To enrage it (because intense anger and contempt can be expressed briefly);
3. To degrade it (because whatever is honorable, pure, and lovely floats in a swamp of filth and sewage);
4. To radicalize it (because readers who encounter only items with which they already agree, rather than the mix presented by old-style media, are continually reinforced in their prejudgments);
5. To dominate and control it (because social media giants shut out or buy up competition, their search results strongly favor certain viewpoints over others, they censor posts by political criteria, they kowtow to authoritarian regimes to protect their market share, and they allow the systematic publication of the home addresses of those who hold unwoke views so that they and their families can be terrorized);
6. To excite it and direct the excitement (not so much because the internet facilitates the rapid spread of wild rumors, as it does, but because media czars crown themselves as sole arbiters and censors of what counts as wild rumor);
And finally, 7. to cripple the souls of the young, whose defenses against such dangers are very weak, whose character is increasingly shaped by the worst people rather than the best, and whose guides and elders, naïve about what is happening, are increasingly deprived of the means to protect them.
Consequently, the brave new technology that was supposed to let a hundred flowers bloom tramples the blossoms and threatens the green shoots with blight.
This is unlikely to go on just as it has.
On one hand, the moral character necessary to oppose it effectively is sapped and eroded by it. Which is part of the point. To make the population docile, the first step is not to spread fear, but to destroy virtue.
But on the other, the strong-arming of dissenting opinions has become so blatant that a great many people who previously didn’t know they were being manipulated know now. Not those who get all their information from NPR, of course. I mean people who still think.
If the attempt to trample the blossoms isn’t stopped, the trampled plants may soon discover that they can propagate themselves by exploding their seed pods. I take no pleasure in the thought.