The Rant

If I see one more commercial for a department store trailed by a World Wide Web URL (you know, the little http-thingy you seem to see everywhere,) I'll go mad. If I hear one more radio station proclaiming that it can now be reached at "," I'll be sorely tempted to jerk the wheel and send the car careening into the nearest convenient bridge abutment. And if one more friend runs up to me, grinning stupidly and yelling that he got AOL and now he's SURFING THE INTERNET, I'll not be responsible for my actions.

Why? Because it's wrong when anything is blatantly exploited for commercial gain, and it's especially irksome when what's being exploited happens to be what I consider my own particular area of expertise.

Eight years ago, I had my first computer, an IBM 8088XT. In those eight years, I progressed through bigger and better computers, spending so much time using, learning about, and programming them that I began to develop severe difficulty with seeing in three dimensions. Three years ago, (long before it was popular or at all easy,) I began to use the Internet, and my obsession grew to the point that it necessitated another phone line to my home.

But, if you get lemons, so the saying goes, make lemonade. I plan to begin a corporation devoted entirely to the production of diced canned aardvark. I realize that at first, there might not seem to be a big market for canned diced aardvark, but hey! This is the information age. Why, I'll simply slap a little neon-colored sticker on the side of each can emblazoned with that ubiquitous logo of the '90s, "on-line," and right then and there I'll sell 50 cases. If I add the word "Internet," I could very well move ten time that number. If I add the words "Multimedia" and "World Wide Web," the sky's the limit!

The point here is that after dealing with computers for eight years, troubleshooting them for four, and building and upgrading them myself for two, I have seen the magic smoke in the magic box, and I know that computers are not all they are made out to be by the advertisement industry. And after more than 450 hours of tinkering on and with the Internet Relay Chat protocols alone, to say nothing of the rest of that vast untamed electrowilderness, (yes, there is more to the Internet then the World Wide Web, no matter what Sony and the Discovery channel tell you,) I think I am justified in feeling like I'm in a position to say the what the mainstream media and their corporate cohorts would have you believe about all things computery is at least 99% hype.

Why the hype? Because the media and business world operate on the principle that if the consumer ain't happy, ain't nobody happy, and since people like to look smart and feel informed, this frenzied pseudo-technobabble does just the trick. The consumers are happy. Guess who else is happy? The media and business world. So everybody's happy, what's the problem? The problem is that the people are not really better informed, not really in a better position, they're just been fed their weekly ration of feel-good, meaningless hype.

Please don't judge me amiss, I am no elitist, there are quite a few people with better gripes and better ways to voice them then I. There are no small number of people, I am sure, (I know a few,) who have forgotten more about these things then I am eve likely to know. Unfortunately, they seem to be shouted down by these megalithic forces of rank-and-file quackery, these purveyors of silicon snake-oil. I have nothing against a computer in every home, we should have more computers and fewer televisions. Nor do I have anything against widespread, easy access to the Internet. But those who use computer must realize the power they have, learn to use it well, and more importantly, learn to use it responsibly. As it stands, it requires relatively little knowledge and absolutely no sense of responsibility to access the Internet or use a computer, with often disastrous results. (Ask any Internet-savvy person about the proliferation of spamming, or the use of the cancelmoose addresses, both byproducts of widespread easy access to the Internet by childish, ignorant vandals.) The result is that the awesome potential of these tools is buried by which they function from malicious, small-minded morons. These people haven't the foggiest as to what they're doing, proceed along stupidly, and take glee in the chaos that ensues. To clarify, this gripe is not against those who do not know how to use computers... given the relative youth of widespread computer power, it is heartening to see how many people already understand their use and function. The problem is with the ignorant who wish to stay that way, to seek no greater understanding of the wonder and power at their fingertips than is necessary to type naughty words or cause other people annoyance or heartache. For every neophyte computer nerd or Internet junky who is delighted to be a part of something great and useful, there are about forty bucktoothed, beady-eyed twelve-year-old gremlins cackling at the thought of the trouble they can make with the same power. The only solution is for the consuming public to remember its power of unhappiness, to stop rewarding the media and business interests by buying into their propaganda and start demanding real information. Instead of relying on user-friendly programs with cute names to do our work for us, to the point that we are dependent on the whim and word, beck and call of the producer, we must get off our hype-soaked duffs and (brace yourself) learn something (a proposal, I realize, odious to many,) about what it is that we're using. Instead of being led down the information garden-path with blinders on, trusting entirely in our tour guide with the America Online uniform, we need to step out of line and begin to think for our selves again, assess our REAL position in "The Way Things Are," and reject, yes, completely and utterly refute the new improved, interactive, plastic-wrapped, fun-sized, multimedia, atomic age, futuramic, gazillion-boud, automagical, miracle cure, extra value, not-from-concentrate, extra-strength, point-and-click mentality that's being pushed on us by corporations, politicians, and the media for their own personal gain. This is important concerning not only computers, the internet, and other tools of the information trade, but also any time some higher force with a few bucks want to pull one over on us by appealing to our collective ego and giving us a way to make it look like we're modern up-to-date state-of-the-art info-denizens of the 21st century who know what the story is, who's who and what's what. This is not to say that we are stupid, just that we are not as smart as we think we are, as smart as certain entities that shall hence remain unnamed would like us to think we are. The bottom line is that with enough blood sweat and dough you can give almost any kind of power to very nearly anyone, but to actually do so if foolish. And to do so with full knowledge that many of those who receive it have no desire to use it wisely, no understanding, and most importantly, no desire to gain any understanding is the act of criminals and lunatics.

So what's the point? The point is that we need to take a step back and make sure we know what's happening and who's doing it. We need to realize that electronic world is not a cure for all our problems that will be maintained indefinitely without any effort on our part to learn more about it and improve it ourselves. We need to stop believing in the cyber-fairy, and begin to realize that just as we are fallible, computers and the internet are things of man, and they are fallible also. We need to realize that most of us have not the faintest shadow of a clue as to the workings of the internet, or the computers that compose it, and we must combat our tendency to become it's slave. Like that of money, the god of technology is a cruel one, a useful ally, a useless slave, and a tyrannous master. We need to acknowledge that not everyone that uses a computer can have a degree in computer science, while at the same time we acknowledge that everyone that uses a computer can have some small measure of knowledge about it, and treat it with respect. We need to stop seeing the electron as an instant solution, and start seeing that the electron has no clothes. Most importantly, the very crux of all this raving, the single most crucial thing to the Holden Caulfield that ranted out the above indictment of cyberphoniness for the reader to see, is that we must stop buying into every snowjob someone pulls with all the laughable gusto of a fifties sitcom cast, start demanding real answers, and asking real questions.