If You Read it on the Internet, It’s Bollocks

By on March 17, 2010

If you read it on the internet, it’s complete bollocks. Doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about BDSM, the general election or alternative medicine. The subject matter is totally irrelevant – it’s all nonsense.

When Gutenberg introduced the movable type printing press to Europe in the fifteenth century, mass communication arrived with a bang, spreading political, artistic and scientific ideas and liberating us from church-controlled dogma. A vital catalyst for the renaissance. Freedom, after centuries of ignorance and repression. A very good thing, surely?
Five hundred years later, desktop publishing allowed anyone with a basic home computer and access to a photocopier to publish anything they liked. Students on benefits could spread their ideas far and wide. Remember ‘fanzines’? We were no longer restricted to the power and profit hungry mainstream press. OK, this also made life very much easier for every loony from the National Front to the Trousers for Pets Party, it must be admitted, but then you could hardly read a word of the punk-published mags in a mad jumble of typefaces printed white-on-black anyway. So no real harm done. Counter culture for the masses. Yay! Not the best journalism, not the best design, not the best anything — but, overall, a good thing, surely?

Only twenty years ago, though it seems like another age, Tim Berners-Lee set up the first website and we all know what happened — communication exploded worldwide in the biggest, most dramatic and far-reaching stride forward yet. Whether the web will triumph over repression in China or find a cure for cancer has yet to be seen, but it has certainly been a breakthrough for every special interest group, from transvestites in the Australian outback (we know you’re there, Bruce) to political prisoners on death row. Another giant leap for humankind, surely?

Well, not totally, no. What‘s so different about the web, exactly? Well, publishers, newspaper editors, TV producers and so on are answerable. They need experience to start with and maybe even a qualification — even if only a media studies degree from the University of Donny Osmond — and when they lie, they can be sued. They have names. They can be traced. Having done this (twice, actually) I can tell you it’s possible. OK, this may not work so well in a socialist or fascist state and our British press is hardly a bastion of truth and fair play, but consider the alternative. Consider the web.

Wikipedia is written by just anyone and it’s a joke. I looked myself up and found a list of Conservative members of parliament. Trust me, much as I’d like the expenses, I am not guilty. I asked my doctor about a nasty rash (don’t ask) and the first thing she said was “for goodness sake don’t look this up on the web”. They do get fed up with wide-eyed patients insisting that a compress of badger droppings gathered at midnight from along the M4 will cure whatever you’ve got.

Forums and message boards are where the real nutters roam free. Safely hidden behind false names like Captain Midnight and Princess Moonbeam, pale, spotty, geeky loonies tap out their twisted fantasies into their PCs from the back bedrooms of the world. (They are usually men, by the way — even Princess Moonbeam. And it’s always PCs, never Macs.) In no time at all, a friendly exchange of views descends into wild accusation, name-calling and reason takes a holiday. We’re talking serious nastiness here — kids have killed themselves after online bullying. The web is the lifeline of the most violent of political activism. Sensible, intelligent people like you and me are vastly outnumbered. We rarely post. We have lives. Ergo, most online content is a complete load of Barry White.

Did Gutenberg and Berners-Lee waste their time? Is humankind so downright witless and unpleasant that it would actually be better if we had never been allowed to communicate freely? No. Over the centuries, the best books have lasted. The best writers from the fanzine days graduated to the quality papers. Serious newspapers are starting to charge money, as they must, for quality online content, written by paid journalists. It will all settle down, until the next revolution.

Next time some anonymous coward on the web bullies your kids, bullies you, or suggests that Sharia law would be a great idea in your town, you may want to track them down, go round to their nasty little back bedrooms and shove their PCs where the sun don’t shine. I’d like to tell you to chill out, don’t worry, just ignore them. But… I won’t. Do me a favour and take me with you.

Meantime, do be aware that, if it’s on the internet, it’s bollocks. Apart from this.

Tim Woodward
tim@skintwo.com

2 Comments

DavetheButcher

March 20, 2010 @ 11:36

Succinctly put Tim, but on a personal level, slightly disturbing.
It now looks like I may have been a little hasty in remortgaging the family home, to then go wager it all on Lord Lucan and Shergar opening up the 2012 Olympics, after they were discovered alive and well busking outside a donkey sanctuary in Bulgaria. Damn! Bloody internet tipsters!

Mark Ramsden

March 19, 2010 @ 22:07

Back to carrier pigeon, I say. At least you could eat therm afterwards…

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