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The existence of the internet may not be news in most places, nor that it does things astonishing to those alive before the net and boring to those who came after. But I wonder whether the net might have underlying consequences perhaps not well understood.

In particular, I wonder how to measure the influence of the internet in Battambang, Bali, Bukittinggi, or Tierra del Fuego. Or in small towns in Mexico, such as Jocotepec, down the road from me.

Fifty years ago, such places existed in near-perfect isolation from the world at large. Nobody, bright or otherwise, had much chance of learning much of anything. There was AM radio with a limited selection of music and governmentally controlled news. There might be a small library. If you lived near a big city, Guadalajara, in Mexico or Bogota in Colombia, there were good bookstores but books cost money. It was de facto intellectual imprisonment in an empty world.

The, ker-whoom, the internet. A kid in Aranyaprathet, Salta in Argentina near the Bolivian border, or a girl in Joco had virtually the same intellectual and cultural resources as people in Leipzig or Boston. This is nuts.

I am persuaded that it is also impossible, but since the internet is everywhere I may have to modify my views.

My question is: How much and what effect has this had without being quite noticed? Here in Mexico I watched my stepdaughter Natalia growing up from about ten. She was a bright kid. Bright kids litter the earth. Millions of metric tons of them have the internet.

Some things were predictable. Kids like music. Nata began spending long hours conectada, connected—plugged into earphones. So did her friends. Those earphones plugged into the entire earth.

One day she said that she had discovered a wonderful new form of music. What, I asked? “Se llama country.” Ye gods and little catfish, I thought. Boxcar Willie had come to central Mexico. Soon she knew more about country music than I did, followed by an interest in blues, bluegrass, jazz, –in short pretty much every form of music that existed.

You might ask reasonably, “So what?” To American kids, yes: So what? But to kids in remote towns in the “third world”—whatever that means—it was a huge jump in cultural sophistication. They listened to bands in South Korea, Japan, all over Latin America.

Then of course came Kindle for books, giving Natalia (and the whole earth) the Library of Congress in a two–pound box and, of course, millions of books in lots of languages. Further, the net allowed easy access to news the that governments didn’t want people to have, and the social media allowed people unhappy with things to realize that lots of other people were also unhappy.

Presumably people were doing the same in Vientiane, Taijung, Yellow Knife, and Lost Hope, North Dakota. It was crazy. It still is. We just don’t notice it. What, if any, practical effect does this have?

Granted, some consequences of the net were not so salubrious. Today there is a karaoke app that lets people on different continents sing together horribly.

Movies became equally available, junk movies ad Fellini and Kubrick and weird cult stuff nobody has ever heard of. Netflix, YouTube, pirated CDs put on-line. Larceny being a major component of adolescence, kids quickly learn to steal software, to use proxy servers (burlando los servidores, spoofing the servers) .Opera? I told Violeta that I’d like to hear the Habanera, whereupon she pulled up five versions that she liked–Callas, Carmen Monarcha and so on and one, so help me by the Muppets. On demand, streaming, good sound, no commercials.

Somewhat parenthetically, the universities in poor countries profit mightily from the net. In nations without much money, America’s ninety-dollar textbooks are out of reach. But when students have iPads, now expected at least hereabouts, a great deal of necessary reading is on-line.

And so I find bright kids, and the young adults they are turning into, far more sophisticated than I was at their age. In remote villages. What consequences does this have?

What about the effects of the net on the US? People in Casper now have access to most of the cultural and intellectual advantages of Manhattan of course, but what are the political effects?

Whether America has ever had freedom of speech or a free press can be debated. Until roughly the Sixties, free expression was limited by a combination of national consensus, governmental censorship, cooperative media, and lack of lateral communication. In the Fifties, television meant ABC, CBS, and NBC which, then as now, were almost federal departments. Communism was the hated enemy and nobody with any circulation questioned this. HUAC, the House Un-American Activities Committee punished dissent. Access to information that the government didn’t like barely existed. Minor socialist papers existed in New York, but people in Farmville,, Virginia had no access to them. Any sort of sexual content was quashed.

Crucially, there was no lateral communication: You could write letters to editors—vertical communication—which would be censored according to the editors’ whims. That was it.

The aggregate effect was a manufactured unanimity, or the appearance of one. In the post-war prosperity, Americans bought washing machines and tract houses and were content. Television was wholesome, sterile, and not very informative. Superman jumped out of window to promote truth, justice, and the American way, then thought to be related.

Came the internet. Fairly suddenly, every point of view became available to everybody: The KKK, the Black Panthers, communists, fascists, feminists, loon left and loon right, the-earth-is-flatters. The social media and comment sections allowed lateral communication with a vengeance.

A consequence was that the major media became known for what they were, propaganda organs of those who ran the country. Stories that the fossil media would have liked to ignore flew instantly to hundreds of thousands of inboxes, appeared on countless blogs and websites—often with cell-cam video.

What effect, if any, has the net had on sexual mores? When children of nine years can watch pore-level porn of any imaginable type, what happens?

A related question is whether any code of sexual morality can be enforced by a society with internet pornography. Almost all civilized societies in almost all times have imposed restrictions of some sort. Often these have been of religious provenance, and religion is fast being squeezed out of Western societies.

Another question is whether the internet causes, or merely reports, the current fragmentation of the public into warring groups. Today the country seethes with hatreds that were unknown in 1955—perhaps existent, but unknown. Without the Salons and Breitbarts, would their respective readerships even know of each other’s existence? Would misandrist feminism have the enormous traction it enjoys if CalBerkeley could not communicate easily with Boston U? Would all the deeply angry people of today have same political clout if the net had not allowed them to learn of each other and coalesce?

In a country with a fairly homogeneous society, the net may be less politically potent. If there is only one race and one religion, you don’t have racial and religious antipathies. But America is heterogeneous. When the internet forces very different regions—Massachusetts, Alabama, and West Virginia—into digital propinquity, does this arouse hostilities? When widely distributed members of fringe groups the governments don’t like can congregate on websites and in the social media, does this encourage fragmentation?

I dunno. You tell me.

NOTE: I will be in LA for three weeks attending the launch of a new and wonderful granddaughter who will doubtless revolutionize our conception of humanity but, thanks to the magic of WordPress, the flow of lies, distortion, treason, and irresponsibility will continue unabated. No emails, though.

(Republished from Fred on Everything by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: Internet 
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  1. OutWest says:

    There need not be hostility between Massachusetts, Alabama and West Virginia. Let each do as they see fit. For those that don’t abide the local mores and habits relocation is available. Now everybody is bent to a rather artificial national standard.

    Getting what you wish for can be very educational.

    • Replies: @Epaminondas
  2. Plus it allows you to make your living wherever you go.

    • Replies: @Fred Reed
  3. Ninety-dollar textbooks? I wish. If you’re in a specialty field, multiply by six.

  4. NOTE: I will be in LA for three weeks attending the launch of a new and wonderful granddaughter….

    An anchor baby?

  5. For those without a titanic and saintly self-discipline, the internet is basically a time-wasting extravagance and an expensive one to boot. The existence of the physical IT infrastructure which makes the internet possible depends on an enormous investment of physical capital and social cohesion which is disintegrating under the very pressures which the internet is in part enabling.

    What’s more, mere exposure to different musical genres and books does not result in one becoming “sophisticated.” Sophistication implies belonging to the cultural milieu which produces and inwardly understands such things. Sophistication requires tradition—otherwise the appropriation of cultural goods is just cargo cultism, dilettantism, profanation, and theft.

    • Replies: @dearieme
  6. dearieme says:
    @Intelligent Dasein

    So, because I am not a Lutheran German, my enjoyment of Bach is unsophisticated and appropriative? Because I’m not a Roman Catholic Austrian, Mozart ditto. Because not black, ditto Louis Armstrong; because not from Davenport, Iowa, ditto Bix Beiderbecke.

    If you say so, but I think that’s bonkers.

  7. Fred Reed says: • Website

    Anecdotal, but received as an email:

    “Five years ago I and some friends motorcycled from Puerto Vallarta to San Sebastian del Oeste, a small place way up in the Sierra Madre.

    We stopped for lunch on the town square and tried to pay by credit card. The lady running the place could not get the internet based credit card machine to work. She called her 14 year old grandson who immediately, with a good English play by play, rebooted the system, reformatted the satellite, Googled the matrix und so weiter. I have been a systems analyst by trade and still fool around writing database access webpages. The kid was good, and he was fast at being good. He told me he learned his skills and his English on the net and spent part of every day skyping with fellow computer nerds all over the planet.”

    • Replies: @JW Bell
  8. Well one result of the Internet is that expats can flee the country and bark orders to us from their walled compounds in Lake Chapala. Yay Internet!

  9. J says:

    The internet distracts and entertains. Boys in San Sebastian spend their days and years in their rooms disconnected from the real world. The Japanese have a name for this: ‘Hikikomori”. No revolution coming out of the internet.

  10. Better more information than less, for we the people.

    Knowledge is power, and just like the pre-Reformation priesthood, our own high caste sought to keep it from us. How do these elites feel? They are doing their worst to silence whistleblowers when they can get their hands on them, spy on everyone’s communications, and harry those public truthtellers currently beyond their reach, like Snowden and Assange, as quarry. Meanwhile the nation’s new media organizations, like The Intercept, are guided by American journalists, but who must remain safely beyond the reach of angry political authorities and their secret grand jury indictments, in exile.

  11. The thing that’s likely to happen is business as usual but quicker.

    More information doesn’t mean more comprehension. People will skim and then regurgitate what they find for quick ego boosts and social brownie points.

    They will find outlets that cater to their particular views and ignore others with algorithm assisted efficiency.

    They will have a sense of worldliness without actually learning a second language, an instrument, or ever visiting a symphony.

    In short they will become tattooed, noodle armed, Skrillex haired, bearded snark machines with something akin to omniscience but nothing that can even begin to be called comprehension.

    Figure 1 a.

    Goodbye West,
    Alex V. Weir

  12. Thirty years ago I knew a rustic Moroccan Berber who told me he was a fan of American music, and especially liked Neil Young. I pointed out that Young was actually Canadian. Yes, he knew– and had memorized Young’s date of birth in Toronto.

    So this phenomenon is hardly new.

  13. Greg Bacon says: • Website

    These days, I’m not so ‘excited’ about the ‘Net. It’s used more for porn and rabid carnival barkers, each of whom has absolute knowledge of all things, just send them $19.95 a month to get enlightened, than it is used for expanding knowledge.

    The ‘Net has also jacked up the ‘Chicken Little’ factor, giving the more talented loud mouths a large platform for shipping out their own brand of stupidity and hate to the world, finding like-minded haters all over.

    Before the ‘Net, someone that liked to parade around in their undies and take pics used to get arrested for obscenity.
    Now they have their own web site, reality TV show and scores of adoring fans.

    We’re heading the wrong way.

  14. one thing I know almost for sure: without the Internet I would have never found out about HBD, alt right etc. I would have had doubts about the mainstream world view, but this would have been at a rather low level, since there would have been no people to talk about about those things.

    • Agree: Pseudonymic Handle
    • Replies: @Rob McX
  15. Stogumber says:

    From a German point of view I would never promote the idea that people are more “warring” today than in former times. Yet there’s more equality between the sparring partners.

    “Today the country seethes with hatreds that were unknown in 1955”?? I, too, have been a child in a village in the Fifties, and I, too, remember these times as extremely peaceful. Only in hindsight I see that this was due to my infancy. The grown-ups had just survived so much hatred and so many conflicts by the skin of their teeth and were mostly exhausted. The embittered were quietly embittered, but the rest consoled himself with the (just returning) simple joys of everyday life.
    I don’t think that lack of information had much to do with that.

  16. The internet, which includes social media and sites like Reddit and 4chan, threatens the leftist order, which mainly depended on ‘old media’ to spread their unchallenged propaganda

    • Replies: @AndrewR
  17. TheJester says:

    Fred, good work as always! My humble contribution:

    Can the Internet connect you to the world? Yes, but the impact depends on your connections — the who, what, where. The Internet can spread ignorance, hate, and depravity just as easily as it can spread culture and knowledge … and it does. It can destroy communities just as easily as it creates them … and it does.

    The GOOD: I and lots of other people find themselves on their smart phones whenever they are away from their computers or tablets. What’s happening in the Middle East, Europe, Russia, South America? What is the Federal Reserve up to today? What propaganda is the MSM “planting” today? And touching base with the Unz Review and a number of other blogs on a daily basis are a must for “The News That’s Fit to Know”.

    Over lunch, if someone has a question of fact about politics, history, engineering, IT, health, medicine (you name it) we don’t scratch our heads, we get the answer in a few seconds. And, yes, Wikipedia is a credible source without the dry, pompous academics of the encyclopedias of my generation.

    The BAD: Numbers matter. You can find a (false) sense of camaraderie and community on the Internet to fuel whatever fetish turns you on. Before the I-world, if there was a pedophile in the small town in Kansas where I grew up, he would have felt alone and isolated. The isolation and the pejorative judgement of the community would have helped keep his dispositions and behaviors in check. He might even agree that he was depraved because he was so isolated within the confines of his necessarily private, secretive world. Now, he can ignore the mores of the local community and join world-wide “clubs” that empower him to feel and act as if he was part of a wider community — a community of “normal” people just like him. Ditto for whatever political, social, racial, or religious dispositions and beliefs you might have.

    This sense of instant digital community is tearing traditional communities apart. In the process, it is recreating a new kind of isolation — digital isolation. A cameo: A commentator once lamented on the Internet that he took his clan to a family reunion to reacquaint his children with cousins, aunts, and uncles. No go! The children isolated themselves in their rooms and elsewhere to keep in digital touch with their “friends” on social networks. To hell with cousins, aunts, and uncles!

    Facebook and “friends”. I won’t go there. I’ll leave it at this: If you have 300 “friends”, you don’t have any friends. It would have been better to try to get to know your cousins, aunts, and uncles. The social, moral, and emotional diseases caused by the explosion of digital communities with digital isolation is spreading across the globe like a medieval pandemic.

    But in the end, the GOOD outweighs the BAD. The potential for the Internet is so unlimited that the young and old today are going to have to learn how to navigate these digital seas to avoid the social, moral, and emotional shoals that can and are wrecking their lives.

  18. Rehmat says:

    Internet is good and bad depends who uses it and what for.

    As for freedom of press is concerned – United States and most of the so-called “Champion of Freedom of Speech”, are world’s top abusers of freedom of speech especially when it comes to Islam and Christianity. It only protect the Organized Jewry’s rights to insult other faiths, leaders and intellectuals.

    Who would know this better than Ray McGovern?

    He staged a ‘silent protest’ during Hillary Clinton’s talk on the importance of ‘freedom of speech’ in the internet age at George Washington University on February 15, 2011. Ray, who is an American war veteran, was left ‘bruised and bloodied’ after being violently dragged out of the hall while hypocrite Zionist Hillary Clinton was lecturing governments in the Middle East, especially the Islamic Republic of Iran, on how people should be allowed to protest in peace without fear of threat or violence. She also condemned governments who arrest protesters and do not allow free expression.

    Roy McGovern was put in two sets of handcuffs and taken to the police station where he remained in the cell for three and a half hours. He was charged with disorderly conduct.

    Roy McGovern was interviewed by Iranian Press TV (watch video below).

  19. @OutWest

    “Let each do as they see fit.”

    Tell that to the Bush Family. And they are considered “conservative” by many.

  20. Rob McX says:
    @Erik Sieven

    Same here. If you had to rely on the old channels of information, the closest you’d get to a HBD explanation of things would be books by people like Steven Pinker and Edward O Wilson, and they steer clear of confronting the facts about race head on. Perhaps if you had a background in biology or genetics, you might find out the truth in academic publications, but for the layman there’s no substitute for the HBD/alt-right blogosphere.

  21. unit472 says:

    I admit the internet is a vastly more powerful medium but before the internet and even TV there was shortwave radio that allowed the curious to globe trot from even the remotest village. The BBC World Service, Deutchewelle, Radio Moscow and a host of other national broadcasters broadcast cultural fare as well as their take on the ‘news’ and in a variety of languages. I remember listening to a shortwave station many years ago and hearing the English rock band The Yardbirds on a show called “Morning In the Mountains” out of Peru! It was a cut off one of their albums too not a ‘hit’ record so I wondered how did they know about the Yardbirds in the Andes? Well they did.

    • Replies: @Ace
  22. Ace says:

    I will never forget the lovely tune “Lilibulero” that preceded the BBC World News that my family listened to on short wave in southern Africa in the 50s. Our receiver had a bright green cat’s eye that waxed and waned as we tuned to the right frequency every day at tea time. A SW station in Lourenço Marques, Mozambique was equally exotic. Hilversum could be heard and Deutschewelle as you note. I later met a stunningly beautiful and sophisticated woman broadcaster for Deutchewelle who was from Malawi. If you thrive on mystique it was one-stop shopping with that beauty. And Christ’s message boomed out of Ecuador and stirring choruses of Maoist energy from the Chinese mainland.

    It was a thrilling illusion of international insight, instruction, and intelligence and it was all magic. It had nothing to offer of substance that didn’t pass through layers of official filtration and offered not a scintilla of the wild, democratic, earthy, erotic, witty, stunning, endearing, maddening, infuriating, horrifying, absurd, iconoclastic, contemptible, shallow, crass, enchanting, loathsome, obnoxious, ridiculous, and utterly wonderful content instantly available to us now at all hours … but it was wonderful in its own way.

    It and the other electronic, vinyl, and celluloid streams – and then torrents – added to what Gutenberg and the Chinese came up with in the realm of hard copy. And it was all good.

    However, I think it was Macaulay who said, upon learning that the telegraph had reached India, that now the nonsense would reach India immediately instead of in weeks. I have never been able to nail down that quote but, if someone did say that, it does make clear that the medium of information is neutral. Even when, however, it’s anything but nonsense that’s transmitted, it can be snapped up like Fred’s tech savvy kids, or … it can plow harmlessly through stolid, mulish, obtuse skulls like gamma rays from very ancient and distant heavenly events. Gigatonnes of information are proving insufficient to awaken the faintest glimmer of understanding that socialism violates the iron laws of arithmetic, that races are different from each other, that arbitrary government leads to murder, that Islam is satanic and a threat to all that is decent, that the Constitution is an object of contempt for our nation’s judges and politicians, that the MSM and Hollywood are our enemies, that a large subsidized, parasitic, violent, rejectionist, black underclass is an existential threat, that immigration is a solution only to the problems of foreigners, that Republicans will sell their grandmothers, and that treason and violence are the mother’s milk of the left.

  23. Anonymouse says: • Website

    A commenter mentioned that $90 textbooks was often a low-ball figure. For scholars or researchers (1) most of the scholarship published in books are NOT on the Internet (the scholarship published in periodical publications and that ARE on the Internet cost ~$30 an article – unless you have free access to JSTOR) and (2) many books are out-of-print and absolutely NOT available in the used book market being ONLY available in university libraries (if they have not been stolen). Libraries will not send Inter Library Loans of rare books. So scholars in most fields MUST live near a university with a serious research library. Here is a work around when book is inaccessible: if you know the exact page(s) and write a nice cajoling email to a librarian at a library that DOES own the book (every library’s holdings are listed in World Catalog), she will usually, I would say invariably, go to the trouble of scanning the pages and sending you a pdf of the scan. Depends on how charming you are in asking for it.

  24. Sam J. says:

    “…There need not be hostility between Massachusetts, Alabama and West Virginia. Let each do as they see fit…”

    We tried that. If I remember correctly it lead to reconstruction.

    The internet is just starting. Soon with three-d printing and robots everything will speed up even faster.

  25. AndrewR says:
    @grey enlightenment2

    Reddit and 4chan were taken over by SJW lackeys of the elite

  26. JW Bell says: • Website
    @Fred Reed

    And yet s/w is made by the same guys as 40yrs ago, with exception to some Indians

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