By William Markiewicz
The Toronto Star (August 9th) reports the warning of Edward Duggan, president of the US Public Broadcasting System, that "Information technology is 'dumbing us down.'" What he really expresses in my view is his anxiety about losing the monopoly in the field of information.
Today's information technology, in the line of Gutenberg's invention, is the next greatest liberation of information in history. Not only because of the technical advantages in its unlimited speed and range, but also because people can communicate with total strangers about anything they want. According to your fancy you pass instantaneously from particle physics to pornography, from philosophy, arts and letters to a hot political debate and all this without being screened by some middle man. With the Web, the distinction between the provider and the receiver of information became obsolete. The idea that a middle man is needed to protect the public from themselves is an insult to individuals. Duggan speaks about restoring the notion of Truth as the highest good -- his Truth of course. Those who use great sounding words like "Truth," "Values," mean always their own bigotry and/or limitations. The Web is as good and as bad as the human race. It will be a future exploration site for sociologists and encyclopedists, much more than the official media which express mainly the bias and self-interest of those at the top.
As in fossils where the original substance which gave the shape disappears, in the established media information -- which should be their 'raison d'etre' -- is relegated to second place. Newspapers, magazines, TV and radio programs, once successful turn into institutions where business, jobs and power games dominate. "We are too important to be ignored, people will stay with us anyway" is the unspoken principle and in general it is true. If you want to join them as a contributor, being good is only fifty percent of the requirement. Another fifty percent is who you know, who may need you and what for. Otherwise don't approach them, don't waste your and their time, write for your desk drawer and for your friends.
"The Pity and the Horror" (Vagabond, Sept.95), which is one of the most popular articles in Vagabond as the readers' reaction has shown (Communication Pages), was rejected by newspapers and magazines. So much for their interest in human values. With the introduction of the Internet the nightmare of submissions is over and at least it is the reader, not a "king", who decides what is good and what isn't.
One of the Web's unsurpassed blessings is its harmlessness compared to the official media. I'll explain myself: if one plays dirty on his/her home page or in the newsgroups it's still only a homepage or a newsgroup. So, the reader can take it with a grain of salt. But when the same material appears in the established media it has an aura of respectability, of officiality, which helps to manipulate the reader. The media are big business holding power over souls and therefore over the fate of peoples. It's enough to see the despicable way the world's public was "informed" about the war in ex-Yugoslavia and the consequences of this. Very few people on the Web make any money. Instead, it costs money. Since nobody courts the "lonely ranger" on the Web, the vast majority of participants are expressing their true feelings and beliefs, which in this world of ours is a refreshing thing in itself . I hope that no Big Brother of Communication will change anything in this Communication Revolution we are lucky to witness and to participate in.
I permit myself to end with the words of an appreciative reader who sent me this short poetic note:
"this internet is really far out -- like a global community -- sounds hokey
but look at what we just shared ... when tv goes to sleep at night it dreams
that it's the world wide web...