Because the Internet is so new we still don’t really understand what it is.
We mistake it for a type of publishing or broadcasting, because that’s what
we’re used to. So people complain that there’s a lot of rubbish online, or that
it’s dominated by Americans, or that you can’t necessarily trust what you read
on the web. Imagine trying to apply any of those criticisms to what you hear
on the telephone. Of course you can’t ‘trust’ what people tell you on the web
anymore than you can ‘trust’ what people tell you on megaphones, postcards or
in restaurants. Working out the social politics of who you can trust and why
is, quite literally, what a very large part of our brain has evolved to do.
For some batty reason we turn off this natural scepticism when we see things
in any medium which require a lot of work or resources to work in, or in which
we can’t easily answer back – like newspapers, television or granite. Hence
‘carved in stone.’ What should concern us is not that we can’t take what we
read on the internet on trust – of course you can’t, it’s just people talking
– but that we ever got into the dangerous habit of believing what we read in
the newspapers or saw on the TV – a mistake that no one who has met an actual
journalist would ever make. One of the most important things you learn from
the internet is that there is no ‘them’ out there. It’s just an awful lot of
Incredibly this is almost 10 years to the day from when it was first published. Pure genius.