Tuesday, June 26

Falling Skies: Daily Mail

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! And the culprits bringing it down are anyone who happens to use the Internet, especially youth.

At least that is what A.N. Wilson with the Daily Mail would have us believe with this article, entitled "The internet is destroying the world as we know it."

It was brought to my attention yesterday, being cited as a discussion point by the collective Amanda Chapel, this time at myRagan.com.

"Your child is next door on the computer, destroying the world as we know it and wrecking two of the most fundamental values that underpin society..." leads Wilson.

Yep. Ten-year-olds are the new villains of modern society, responsible for destroying the record industry, the publishing industry, newspapers, and cinema; while amazingly enough, still finding time to become addicts of gambling, pornography, and insidious forms of self-deception.

Fortunately, my son is still two years shy of this now infamous age group when he will be formally indoctrinated into the new axis of evil that is the Internet. Or maybe, something much simpler will prevent him from taking the plunge. What's that? Parental guidance.

So at the risk of sounding like overly cautious parents, we created a hot list of sites that he can visit and put up parental blocks on those he cannot. (And never mind what I think about most shows on Cartoon Network, which he no longer watches.)

To be fair, Wilson starts by thinking through some questions about online privacy (though sadly, no one seems to care). But then, it turns toward good old fashioned doomsday op-eding. You know the kind; the same stuff that sold millions of Y2K books.

For example, Wilson warns us that the Internet is filling our children's heads with blatant propaganda by drawing a comparison between Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica online, but never gets to the real reason Wikipedia is better read (online, at least).

It seems to me that the so-called seductive power of Wikipedia is not the reason it ranks higher than the Encyclopedia Britannica on the Web. It's much simpler than that: Wikipedia is free, void of excessive advertising, easier to navigate, and enjoys the benefit of major consumer marketing. (Despite this, I too caution people against considering Wikipedia the most reliable source on the planet.)

So where does this leave us? Are we to bar our children from all things Internet, starving their development to make independent judgements?

Hardly. Our responsibility lies in guiding our youth (our own children, specifically) who sometimes place too much faith in a single source of information (like television commercials with irresistible toys or Wilson's article for that matter). And, we can educate them so they know that history is being rewritten as we speak, every day, and has been for all of, well, history. Among other things.

Then again, maybe Wison and the collective Strumpette aren't really to blame for this point of view that puts our children at risk. Perhaps it is because they too, it seems, bought a questionable bill of goods. The argument they are forwarding is not original; it comes from author Andrew Keen, who claims to "have invented the model of integrating commerce, community, and content." He's also a F**ked Company Hall of Famer.

Ironically, Keen employs the same tool he chastizes for creating a "grand utopian movement" similar to "communist society" that "worships the creative amateur: the self-taught filmmaker, the dorm-room musician, the unpublished writer," preferring, I imagine, a fascist, snobbish world where an elite class of overmen might dictate who makes the cut into the professional talent pool.

Never mind that almost all of our greatest writers, artists, poets, and filmmakers once belonged to the ranks of this lowly amateur class. (No, Keen, not everybody starts as a child television star, not that there is anything wrong with that; some of us start by mowing lawns and drawing pictures of the neighbor's dog.)

So therein lies the rub. Just because something has a cover doesn't make it any more truthful, credible, or accurate than something you might find online (and vice versa). To find the truth, you have to dig deeper, look at multiple sources, ask the right questions and, if you are able, conduct your own research beyond giving in to citing other people (including polar opposites, which is the trend nowadays).

I think social media is as much the same today as it was when I likened it to the Force a few months ago. How one uses it will make all the difference. How we teach our children to use it will also make all the difference.

There are Sith, Jedi, and everybody in between. But the Internet is largely just a public space that can be used to further a business strategy, for individual or collective good, for entertainment, and, as some people know, to peddle "fear" and polarizing viewpoints as if the world were black and white.

Fortunately, the world is not black and white. The sky is not falling. And our children (though you might want to check up on them) are not ushering forth a world of unparalleled evil because of the Internet. On the contrary, they might just use the Internet to prevent it.

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5 comments:

Jericho Saved on 6/26/07, 12:58 PM said...

Rich,
Really great article. I remember having to be content with books, records, and TV. No internet of course. My parents were very careful to monitor what I saw or listened to or read and I complained like any teenager. I was also deprived because my parents never bought me a new car. Back then the culprit was music.
Today, as a grown-up I am proud of what my parents did because I think I'm a pretty good person. I care that they cared enough to watch out for me. I wasn't stifled but I was protected.
So, I agree with you on all points. It's up to parents to allow or disallow what they choose. The internet is not a devil but some of the things on it surely are. No matter what " it" is what matters is truly how we use it.

Rich on 6/26/07, 1:40 PM said...

Thanks JS.

I was raised by two households, with very different styles. Even then, I kind of knew, that we can hope for the best though appreciate any given child will learn something different in the same household.

It seems like your parents did a great job, but you've biased me. As all things, a healthy balance seems to be the best course of action with the emphasis on guiding children toward making the right decisions.

Besides, the Internet cannot be the devil ... it saved Jericho. Raised money for Greenburg. And helped me meet hundreds of wonderful people.

Like most things, it always comes back to being true to yourself, not finding excuses in the objects around us (even when it is convenient). I do believe we can create our own experience; good, bad, indifferent. — Rich

Jericho Saved on 6/26/07, 2:30 PM said...

Well said. The Internet brought all these Jericho fans together so we could save our show then you came along to help. We'd never have known about each other if not for that. Imagine peanuts flying into CBS in an unorganized mess.
We all created that experience and look how wonderful it is. Yes, the Internet can be used for good and Greensburg is a prime example. So is changing the mind of CBS.

Rich on 6/26/07, 5:08 PM said...

Famous Words:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtfull, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has." — Margaret Mead

SaveJake on 6/26/07, 5:55 PM said...

Well, I came to say that so many amazing things can be accomplished on the internet and in much less time than before. When I came to the comment section I saw my neighbor and was reminded that when we set out to do good verses evil, we are paid back in ways we never even consider!

Morality is in the person, not the internet. Putting it on our children is a cop out to me. Children need our guidance on and off the computer.

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