The Internet -- assessing its main social, political, and cultural impacts in America (Part Four)
By Mark Wegierski
This series is based on a draft of a paper read at the “Media in America/America in Media” Conference (Lublin, Poland: Maria Curie-Sklodowska University), May 25-26, 2017.
It is an open question whether the provision of good ideas through the Internet will be sufficient to challenge today’s informational and cultural monopoly. It is possible that the Internet simply does not (and perhaps cannot, for the foreseeable future) provide enough authority and financial, administrative, and infrastructural weight to dissenting ideas.
One may indeed note in today’s society the virtual disappearance of middle-level commentators. There appears to have emerged a situation with a division between a tiny handful of very comfortably-funded, mostly court academics, intellectuals, media-people, and commentators – and a broad mass of powerless wannabe pundits, usually with little financial resources, who appear mostly in various eclectic small publications and comparatively little-known websites. They can all too often be simply written off by the establishment media as extremists or whackos – regardless of the possible perceptiveness and clarity of their views. Indeed, it is entirely in the interests of the media elite to permit the promulgation of the wildest conspiracy-theories and vitriol on the Web – since it tends to discredit those who try to make their way as serious critics and commentators there.
Those among the masses with little intellectual curiosity and engagement (whom the media-elite probably privately consider little better than cattle or “sheeple”) are given what George Orwell characterized as “prole-feed” in his famous dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Today, this consists mostly of endless, stupefying, consumption-driving advertising, reality-shows, and celebrity-gossip news – combined with rock- and rap-music, the fashion-industry, the massive excitement of sports, the titillation of various kinds of porn, the sneering cynicism of today’s comedy (especially stand-up comedy), and the extra jolt of horror and violence. Most of these kinds of emotional engagements are also delivered frequently enough through the regular evening news.
Today, one can usually have one’s opinions appear somewhere on the Internet if one is committed enough to setting them down, but the media elite make absolutely sure that one won’t be able to make any kind of living on the basis of one’s writing endeavors. So, one’s social and cultural commentary and criticism becomes for most a purely existential endeavor. Nevertheless, for most persons with dissenting views, having one’s ideas appear somewhere on the Internet offers a great deal of comfort and reassurance, and a stabilizing sense of community, that, among other results, definitively turns one away from pursuing violence.
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.