Guys, I had this mostly written and thisclose to being ready to post on Friday, then Friday slithered out of my grasp. Yeah, I know. Excuses, excuses.
Remember when we all first discovered the internet? Whether you came aboard in the Compuserve era, or with America Online, or after that, or before, we probably all had our aha moment, when we realized this vast network of souls connected by keyboards meant we are not alone.
For years, I felt like the only Warren Zevon fan in the world. Of course I wasn’t the only one at the shows, but the fellow Warren fans I actually knew were few, far between, and could mainly be counted on one or two hands. Then I went on AOL and found…a community! Warren Himself sometimes came into the chat room, or the bulletin board, or whatever it was, and would say a few words. It was thrilling. It was amazing. The world felt smaller, and in an entirely good way.
Of course, sooner or later I realized that not everyone looking for a community wanted to celebrate the work of an underappreciated singer-songwriter. I recall a letter to Dan Savage, a guy confessing a terrible secret lust for pornography featuring women in snow-white Keds sneakers. Where can I find my tribe, he asked. Savage’s reply: Duh. The internet. When I turned 40, I told Alan he was permitted to buy me an Hermes scarf for the next significant gift-giving occasion, and went online to see what I might find under the tree. It turns out Hermes-scarf bondage porn is a thing, too, and I’m sorry to say that I am so bougie about these expensive accessories that the thought of some dude ruining one forever made me shut down my browser in horror. Shudder.
We all know how it went from there. The internet makes social movements easier to organize. It helped spread the early word about Barack Obama. It’s given us YouTube stars, and journalism stars, and generally freshened things up by elevating and amplifying new, interesting voices.
But because there is literally nothing we can’t fuck up, things took a turn. We once thought television would bring a university into every living room, and we got “The Apprentice” instead. And so the same internet that brought me together with new nursing mothers and Zevon fans also now provides you-are-not-alone cover to pedophiles, anti-vaccine lunatics and, we now know, so-called incels, or “involuntary celibates,” colloquially known as guys who can’t get laid.
You know all this, but here’s what bugs me: You know how newspapers are always on about their ethics, which invariably leads someone to roll their eyes and say, whoa, there’s an oxymoron? Well, it’s not. Journalists — traditional-source journalists, anyway, and most of the others — do have certain ethical standards, and most of them are based on a single principle: You are responsible for what you publish.
This is another idea that the internet’s creative destruction has done away with. Facebook isn’t responsible for allowing Russians to sow lies and confusion. Google isn’t responsible for its blogging platforms. Hey, don’t look at us! To them, they’re Goss, the company that makes printing presses, not publishers. Meanwhile, it’s hard to get them to even shut down websites that turn a mass murderer into a hero. What? You don’t like free speech?
A former state representative I once wrote about now spends significant chunks of time online, posting tinfoil-hat stories about crisis actors and chemtrails and government schools. He believes the UK’s National Health Service killed that sick little kid in cold blood. He is carrying on. He is nuts.
Here’s an article about the founder of 4chan, one of the most notorious sites for the sort of content that seeks to wound, to spread lies, to foment violence. The reporter describes it as “controversial.” The story is about this guy joining Google, where presumably he isn’t regularly pelted with rotten fruit, as he deserves.
The world is an awful place sometimes, and the worst among us are celebrated.
On to the White House correspondents dinner, of which I have only this to say: If people don’t want a comedian to make jokes, don’t hire one. I actually saw one tweet that claimed this evening is about showcasing “decency and purpose.” O rly? Coulda fooled me. I thought it was a mutual-congratulation schmoozefest with a comedy routine thrown in. I watched Michelle Wolf’s set, and I dunno, maybe I watch too many comedy specials on Netflix, but it didn’t seem that bad to me. From the advance whining, I thought she’d called Sarah Sanders something horrible. She called her “Aunt Lydia,” a Handmaids Tale joke, and said something about her eye shadow. BFD.
How Trump trickles down to the local level, in Michigan. Both the candidate featured here and the opponent he’s attacking are polling way, way below other candidates in their respective primaries, making this fight something else entirely, i.e., a sort of far-right virtue signaling to the base.
And with that, I’m wrapping and getting outside, because it’s a beautiful day. A bit chilly, but nothing terrible. A fine week ahead to all.