FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Free of the Deadly Internet!

by CHRISTOPHER KETCHAM

First off, this hypocrisy: publishing a piece on the Internet that decries the Internet.  No allowance for it.  It is straight-up hypocrisy.  Best to shut up, crawl back in my cave, ass in hand, and utter not another word.  Yet, and yet.  For the thousand and thousand years that print and, later, books offered their plague and joy in our civilization, the same cries were raised.   Much later, when vinyl went to 8-track, which went to cassette, which went to CD, ad nauseam, oh the crying – need we belabor it?   When CDs first came out, my buddy Davide Gentile, musician extraordinaire, warned that the technology excised, like a surgeon from above, the lows and the highs of sound.  It was a less true sound than vinyl; the secret noises, hidden to the ear but felt in the heart, were cut from the equation.  The representation of the music had become more so.  I accepted it with a shrug.

Years later, I want out.   The totalizing force of digital, the unremitting, unrepentant, capturing completeness of machine access of everywhere, every time: It is something qualitatively different.  Like the dead sound of the CD, we are hearing more efficiently and hearing less.  We are told information has greater clarity, but all I hear is noise. Information becomes paramount in its immediacy.  Yet it is whim answered without wisdom. The gesticulation of e-mails, the hysterical immediate response (required always), the distraction, the false concern, the need at every remove to satisfy the blasting of noise with more noise, talking louder against the silence in the inbox; the flashing, the flipping of the pages, the dancing of the links, the light, the buzzing, the newness, the news, the latest, the flash, the crash.  How often, poor fool, do you awake and check e-mail before you stretch your arms and look at the sun?  How is the addict with his drink or syringe different than you?

The computer and its connection to the mass mind is but a tool, an appropriate technology if properly used.  But it is not properly used.  It dominates, so that the user is the used, and the user, like the addict,  weakens at every return.

An experiment of the last few years: I go to a cabin in Utah where there is no Internet, no telephone line, no cellphone signal. What happens with only the wretched self and the empty page?  The attention span accords with the desert sky, wide and widening, and there is a gigantic increase in productivity.  Thousands of words – good words, worth keeping – are written in a few days of deep concentration where it would have taken weeks to produce the same amount exposed to the fool’s continuum of constant access to the hive mind and the blinking screen.   I write, I balk, I walk out in the cold night, I climb the hills beyond the cabin, get lost in the dirt of the desert, swing somehow home to the sound of the coyotes calling.  In town, when I get a cell phone signal, a friend tells me there’s a presidential election, and of course I know there’s nothing so irrelevant as the election of one slut or the other for the boudoir of office.    I know there are more important things than the news.

Nicholas Carr wrote a great book, a beautiful book, that diagnoses the situation of modern man crushed under the totality of digital access.  He called his book “The Shallows.”   His main contention is commonsense and hardly to be argued with: As we engage more and more with the flitting of the Internet’s slipstream, it rewires our minds to be less than we are capable of, less than we imagined, less we hoped for – it is stupefying and stupidifying.  We leap from one small object to another, like children chasing bubbles.  We click on the links. We click and clack and turn and toss in an “ecosystem of interruption technologies.”   We become less able to think deeply, to encompass ambiguities, nuances, to hold with a single thought and parse it out.   We are searching, skimming; the machine we employ looks for keywords, with the highest efficiency, and with this efficiency our ideas become cheap, evanescent, easily swayed, easily swept away.   Subordinated thus, there is no meditative life.  It can’t cohere, it can’t go deep.  When the iPhone intrudes every 3 seconds, it is a reminder of the shallows.  When the person across from you answers like the dutiful robot, remember those places in your heart in the wild and ancient desert.

Christopher Ketcham writes for Harper’s, the American Prospect, Orion, and many other magazines.  He can be reached at cketcham99@mindspring.com

 

More articles by:

Christopher Ketcham is a freelance writer.  You can write him at cketcham99@mindspring.com or see more of his work at christopherketcham.com.

January 17, 2018
Seiji Yamada
Prevention is the Only Solution: a Hiroshima Native’s View of Nuclear Weapons
Chris Welzenbach
Force of Evil: Abraham Polonsky and Anti-Capitalist Noir
Thomas Klikauer
The Business of Bullshit
Howard Lisnoff
The Atomized and Siloed U.S. Left
Martha Rosenberg
How Big Pharma Infiltrated the Boston Museum of Science
George Wuerthner
The Collaboration Trap
David Swanson
Removing Trump Will Require New Activists
Michael McKinley
Australia and the Wars of the Alliance: United States Strategy
Binoy Kampmark
Macron in China
Cesar Chelala
The Distractor-in-Chief
Ted Rall
Why Trump is Right About Newspaper Libel Laws
Mary Serumaga
Corruption in Uganda: Minister Sam Kutesa and Company May Yet Survive Their Latest Scandal
January 16, 2018
Mark Schuller
What is a “Shithole Country” and Why is Trump So Obsessed With Haiti?
Paul Street
Notes From a “Shithole” Superpower
Louisa Willcox
Keeper of the Flame for Wilderness: Stewart “Brandy” Brandborg
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Sinister Plan to Kill the Iranian “Nukes” Deal
Franklin Lamb
Kafkaesque Impediments to Challenging Iran’s Theocracy
Norman Solomon
Why Senator Cardin is a Fitting Opponent for Chelsea Manning
Fred Gardner
GI Coffeehouses Recalled: a Compliment From General Westmoreland
Brian Terrell
Solidarity from Central Cellblock to Guantanamo
Don Fitz
Bondage Scandal: Looking Beneath the Surface
Rob Seimetz
#Resist Co-opting “Shithole”
Ted Rall
Trump Isn’t Unique
January 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Democrats and the End(s) of Politics
Paul Tritschler
Killing Floor: the Business of Animal Slaughter
Mike Garrity
In Targeting the Lynx, the Trump Administration Defies Facts, Law, and Science Once Again
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Hong Kong Politics: a Never-Ending Farce
Uri Avnery
Bibi’s Son (Or Three Men in a Car)
Dave Lindorff
Yesterday’s ‘Shithole Countries’ Can Become Classy Places Donald, and Vice Versa
Jeff Mackler
Lesser Evil Politics in Alabama
Jonah Raskin
Typewriters Still Smoking? An Interview with Underground Press Maven John McMillan
Jose-Antonio Orosco
Trump’s Comments Recall a Racist Past in Immigration Policy
David Macaray
Everything Seems to Be Going South
Kathy Kelly
41 Hearts Beating in Guantanamo
Weekend Edition
January 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
George Burchett
Wormwood and a Shocking Secret of War: How Errol Morris Vindicated My Father, Wilfred Burchett
Roberto J. González
Starting Them Young: Is Facebook Hooking Children on Social Media?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Between the Null and the Void
Andrew Levine
Trump After Bannon: What Next?
John Davis
Mud-Slide
Ajamu Baraka
The Responsibility to Protect the World … from the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Stirs the Methane Monster
Paul Street
Lazy Liberals and “the Trump Effect”
Carmen Rodriguez
Trump’s Attack on Salvadoran Migrants
Mike Whitney
Oprah for President, Really?
Francisco Cabanillas
The Hurricane After Maria
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail