Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury

The Internet is an amazing example of modern technological achievement. It seems like not that long ago, although it has been more than 25 years, we first heard talk of an “information super-highway”, and wondered what it would be like. It was simply too huge a concept for me, at least, to wrap my head around!

What I recall of those days, there was a lot of concern about things that in the end, never came to be. But I also remember, there was no concern about some things that did come to be, and that is very interesting.

There was a lot of talk that with the ease of computer use, our kids would stop reading. However, with the way information “goes viral”, that is no longer a concern. There are more kids reading than ever before—remember the Harry Potter craze? Followed by the Twilight craze?  All fueled in part by the Internet. No, they don’t teach “cursive” in schools anymore, and that’s a damn shame. But I don’t think we need to worry about reading going out of style anytime soon.

Another positive that I have touted often with regard to the Internet is the way it has helped the elderly and the shut-in to re-connect with society again. That was my first lesson. I first “went on line” in the aftermath of my open-heart surgery in early 2003. While I healed and tried to focus on writing, it was a comfort for me, this Internet, especially when I found a free game site. There, playing bingo online, I ‘met’ several wonderful women and men, some of for whom that game site and others like it were their only socialization, their only source of fun and their best contact with the outside world. What a blessing for me, and for so many others, to be able to find a place to get together, to chat, and to be entertained without having to go anywhere when that going would be so difficult to do.

There are so many benefits to be found with this amazing medium. The Internet itself is neither good nor bad. It’s the usage of this medium wherein the wiles of the user are revealed. It is ultimately the user who determines if this instrument is wielded for good, or for evil.

There are several ways that the Internet is used for ill, and I don’t think we imagined such would be the case at the dawn of this new age. At least, I know I didn’t.

It’s now much easier for those looking for illicit things—child porn, the drug trade, and even those who would become terrorists—to find what they want on line. There are hackers who specialize in ‘identity theft’ and who manage to take the unwary for thousands of dollars every year. Cyber-Crime is a growing industry on both sides of the law.

But to me, the most insidious use of all is the spread of misinformation, under the guise of “the public has a right to know”. It continues to baffle me, the degree of success those people have who spout ridiculous conspiracy theories. Also incomprehensible to me is the following those who like to spread hate-filled diatribes are able to claim. Where once someone making a speech about the craziest of stories or theories, or who would slander another person’s good name without real proof, would have been jeered off their soapbox, now, there’s an entire realm of crazy talk, crazy theories, and hate to which more than just the crazies are drawn—unfortunately. Remember that old saw, “if it’s in the newspaper, it must be true?” Yeah, that has no place in our reality anymore—neither in newspapers nor on the Internet.

Just because you can read it on line doesn’t make it true. You have to use your brain; you have to use your discernment. Some people with very high IQs, and allegedly very high morals, believe some of the most ridiculous and vile things about the so-called famous—things that absolutely defy logic or anyone’s definition of decency.

Some of the weirdest stuff of course, has a political bent to it. It doesn’t matter that most of the wildest stories circulating these days have been proven false. These characters who spread this crap care nothing for the truth. There are, with every new election cycle, people who haven’t heard those old lies, and thus, new people who now believe them starting the cycle of insanity all over again.

Did you hear the one about the Royal Family of Great Britain all being reptilian, and that at certain times, during secret ceremonies, they eat babies? I can’t tell you much more about it than that. It took me a few seconds for my logic to overcome my shocked disbelief to get the hell out of that video. If you have the stomach for it, go ahead and search YouTube. Seriously.

Now, some of you are going shrug, and say, “hey, there are crazies all over the world, and we all know there’s a lunatic fringe out there.” Yes, there are and yes, there is, true enough. And as long as they remain in the “fringe” category, I really have no problem with that. People have the right to believe whatever far-out crap they want to believe. They have the right to be crazy.
I’ll say that it again. People have the right to be crazy.

My only problem? What happens when the lunatics take over the asylum? When the fringe bleeds into the mainstream? And if you think there’s no danger of that happening, well, my friends, you haven’t been paying attention to the news lately.

I hope and pray and choose to believe that those of sound and discerning mind will continue to outnumber the wackos, at least for the foreseeable future.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go line my hat with aluminum foil to keep the aliens from reading my mind.

Love,
Morgan


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