FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Free of the Deadly Internet!

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 the author of the forthcoming “This Land: How Cowboys, Capitalism and Corruption are Ruining the American West,” out next year from Viking-Penguin.  He can be reached at cketcham99@mindspring.com.

Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
Binoy Kampmark
The Disgruntled Former Prime Minister
Faisal Khan
Is Dubai Really a Destination of Choice?
Arnold August
The Importance of Néstor García Iturbe, Cuban Intellectual
James Munson
An Indecisive War To End All Wars, I Mean the Midterm Elections
Nyla Ali Khan
Women as Repositories of Communal Values and Cultural Traditions
Dan Bacher
Judge Orders Moratorium on Offshore Fracking in Federal Waters off California
Christopher Brauchli
When Depravity Wins
Robby Sherwin
Here’s an Idea
Susan Block
Cucks, Cuckolding and Campaign Management
Louis Proyect
The Mafia and the Class Struggle (Part Two)
David Yearsley
Smoke on the Water: Jazz in San Francisco
Elliot Sperber
All of Those Bezos
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail