Is this what Al Gore** and his fellow Internet creators envisioned? I doubt it. Despite being a great equalizer, it’s no secret that the Internet is a place where debate has taken on a dysfunctional and distressing tone.
No it hasn’t!
Yes it has!
No, you shut up!!
See what I mean? It’s like all topics except the most innocuous have a way of splitting the population into two enemy camps. Sometimes I wonder what any of the people writing comments online really believe, because if they are as demented and angry as they seem online I am a little bit scared to go out in public. Right now the lid is on Pandora’s Box, but it’s only a matter of time before the hate and vitriol so prevalent on the web becomes commonplace in the actual public square.
You’ve just been seated at the friendly neighborhood chain restaurant, you know the one, where there’s a ton of Twentieth Century memorabilia and crap nailed to the walls and there’s a giant statue of the restaurant’s mascot in the center of the room like some Pagan idol.
You and your family order your meal and soon enough you’re served. The server returns for the customary, “Everyone doing all right?” And you say yes, but your spouse says his or her hamburger/chicken/falafel is under/overcooked. The chef comes out from the kitchen to disagree. Someone from a nearby table states that they have the same problem. Someone else goes further, stating that there ought to be a law!
Someone else stands up and shouts down this proponent of law and order, claiming that “What this country needs is far less complaining and more doing. We need more laws like a hole in the head.”
“Maybe that’s what you need!” says the first guy.
“Big government junkie!” the second guy responds.
“Sit down and eat your meal,” someone else shouts.
“We’re exercising our rights to Free Speech!” shout both parties in unison.
Now, all your spouse wants is a meal that is palatable and is prepared in a manner that is consistent with his or her notions of taste, but suddenly you’re in the center of a political debate. The chef, near tears, demands an apology. The server asks you to leave. Someone from the other side of the room shouts, “Serves you right!”
“Yeah, why don’t you keep you mouth shut?” someone else joins in.
It’s only a matter of time before you and your family are castigated for ridiculous expectations at such an establishment. Just eat your food and get out! If you follow the arc of logic, (mine anyway), how long before the personal attacks of the cyber universe spill over into the real world? Where will things stop? Fistfights? Duels at dawn by the river? Full-scale class warfare based on tactics derived from Sun Tzu and Hannibal?
I think not, but you never know.
Everyone has the right to express their opinions, but why does it always seem to devolve into random, personal attacks and “Us vs. Them” speak? That’s rhetorical, isn’t it? There’s no answer. It’s in our nature. Yet when everyone has a soap box is anyone really listening?
(**That business about Mr. Gore was supposed to be a joke. We all know Al Gore didn’t invent the Internet, but he was integral in bringing margaritas to a restaurant near you. Or was that Jimmy Buffett?)