Internet is debasing our public discourse
“Speaking my mind.” What internet users seem to overlook is that the content of public discourse has not until now comprised the first-thought responses of contributors but (usually) something more considered, measured and refined.
The effect of the leaching of internet discourse into the mainstream, therefore, is more serious than a mere coarsening of public discussion: it is really reducing our public conversation to the level of exchanges between fishwives and pub bores, and ratcheting the collective intelligence down towards the lowest common denominator.
Internet fetishism has thus far prevented any discussion of these issues. Journalists, whose job it is to interrogate phenomena in an open and impartial fashion, are extraordinarily blase, acquiescent and unthinking when it comes to anything related to the web, despite the potential for profound consequences for the processing of information and debate in our cultures.
The general attitude – perhaps arising from a fear of seeming out of touch – seems to be that these new phenomena are unreservedly to be welcomed. Recently, there has been a soft initiative within this newspaper to persuade columnists to engage with posters who contribute to threads at the end of articles published on our web edition.
I am resisting, not because I am fearful of absorbing abuse (I am prepared to go on air with George Hook, after all) but because I believe these platforms are about something quite different from our conventional understandings of public debate.
Most internet comment traffic comes into being not on the basis of the instant issue but as a means for contributors to announce themselves to the world. And, since these announcements must take place in a highly competitive environment, there occurs an inevitable escalation in the abusiveness and venom, which contributes nothing to the discussion except heat and hatred.
Unfortunately, any attempt to enable society to focus on these questions is itself subject to the action of the problematic phenomenon, being instantly drowned in waves of abuse and derision.
The standard response of internet fetishists is that we “suck it up”.
It’s democracy, fascist! So, instead of looking squarely at the issue, we retreat into silence and wait for the next bureaucratic blunderbuss to intervene in a manner curiously in harmony with the offence.
Personally, I would prefer if, instead of pursuing individual tweeters, the police arrested Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter, and closed his network down. Actually, i wish they wud burn the Twitter founder in oil & leave his carcass out for the buzzards. Seriously.