Friday, August 01, 2008

Hail to the Blog

I've been a lifelong Democrat (although earlier this year I tried to register Republican in order to vote in the GOP primary, but that doesn't count for much, especially since my registration didn't go through as far as I am aware), but I'm obviously not so taken with partisan politics as many people are in this country. In particular, I recall back in the day thinking that there was something wrong with the way mainstream media seemed to be criticizing the Bush/Quayle administration. I would often tell people, "If the best people can come up with to pick on Dan Quayle is that he spells 'potato' wrong, he must be doing pretty good!" I mean, think about it; our current Veep is shooting people in the face while on a break from supporting a highly immoral war that's funneling money to his friends at his old company. Could we get the guy who's a bad speller back, please?

So just this week, Anna Quindlen writes a column explaining how horrible it is that John McCain doesn't use the Internet. She points out that she herself goes online to see people's reactions to her work and, "...she's already been told many times that she's a left-wing idiot." This is what she calls being informed, or "tak[ing] the people's pulse." I was glad to be informed of this, as I myself have considered writing her many times to tell her that, and look! I managed to get informed about the issue without going online!

Quindlen is actually a very interesting writer, in no small part due to the fact that she is so very liberal. She's the sort of writer who can spout the liberal view on issues of the day in a very eloquent manner, far more eloquent than I can, and she can do it whether she's saying something insightful or spouting a load of crap. I remember clearly her saying many years ago that she was surprised there was controversy over the RU-486 pill; after all, it was a safe method of terminating a pregnancy without an abortion, and isn't that what everyone wanted? Seriously? Was she so dense that she thought the abortion issue was at heart about a surgical procedure? Crazed pro-lifers standing in front of abortion clinics are known to call abortionists "baby killers", not "questionable surgical practitioners". It was the first time I was tempted to write Quindlen and tell her she was an idiot, but not the last.

Of course, as I also hinted, she's written a lot of stuff that's come across as very intelligent, but I'm short a good example, mostly because we tend to remember things that upset us rather than things that are generally agreeable. Newsweek chose well when they signed her on as a columnist, I think. They seem to do very well in that respect. Even as someone who considers himself fairly liberal, though, even when George Will says things I don't agree with, he still doesn't ever seem to sound stupid.

But to speak to Quindlen's point, is it really so bad to have a President that doesn't use the Internet? Quindlen is right about a number of things. It makes McCain look old. But then, what doesn't? The guy's in his 70s, after all. Is it bad to look old when you are old? Hmm, maybe. I'm still out of work, and sometimes, on the few days I have an offer of an interview, I briefly consider buying some sort of hair product to get rid of my grey. Having grey hair is something I've actually always looked forward to oddly enough, but now I realize ageism happens, and I'd rather look my age or younger, not older. Ageism happens in politics, too. This is a year where one of the issues is that one candidate seems too old to be President, while the other seems (to some) to be too young. We like our presidents old, but not McCain old.

The more important issue, though, as Quindlen points out, is that McCain seems to be OUT OF IT, and may actually be so. Is it enough to have aides "take the people's pulse" for you? Heck, doctors do it. I can't remember the last time I had my pulse, temperature or blood pressure taken by an actual doctor! I think it's more important to have aides that will be honest about their findings. Often it seems the current administration is suffering from the problem of a President surrounded by aides that refuse to tell him anything is wrong. Imagine going to the doctor and having the nurse find you with a fever, but he tells the doctor you're at a perfect 98.6°F no matter what the thermometer actually reads! But is being "connected" necessarily going to change that in any way?

The Internet is like television, but moreso. You can sit and watch television and be blissfully unaware of what's going on in the world quite easily. There was a time not even so long ago when I'd have gladly watched the Cartoon Network 24/7, but will that make me any more or less informed than spending all day at I happen to know for a fact that when Dick Cheney isn't busy shooting people, he spends a fair (and balanced?) amount of time watching Fox News. Would he really be more connected with reality if he took some of that time and spent it perusing

The Internet is what you make it, both as a writer, and as a reader. From the long list of people who will probably never read my blog, we can guess the inclusion of John McCain, Dick Cheney, Barack Obama, and Anna Quindlen herself, who probably is more "connected" than any of the others just named, and named more times in this entry than any of the others. It has nothing to do with being OUT OF IT or what amount of time one spends on the Internet. And if any of these people happened to come across my blog and read it, it's unlikely it would deeply change their lives in any way. We hear what we want to and see what we want to (and write what we want to!). When on rare occasions, a person reads my blog, they will come away from it with the same sort of benefits they come away from in reading a column in Newsweek: either "That's so insightful and true!" (because I agree), or, "What a (fill-in-the-blank-)wing idiot!" (because I disagree). Furthermore, as so many have observed, including Tim Berners-Lee himself, the WWW is largely a repository of crap, my own blog not excluded from that assessment. The Internet's new world of "pushbutton publishing" (is that's motto?) has some potential for changing the world, for people have observed that cream floats to the top. Crap floats, too.

In the modern world of politics, is the new rule "He who eats the most crap wins"? I guess you are what you eat, so why not? We know politicians are full of crap, so why not give them the Internet to help them mainline the stuff in its true, unadulterated form? (Did I just refer to "crap" as "unadulterated"? Man, I hope I'm single-handedly bringing blogging to a new low...) It's crap. Crap, crap, crap. The Internet has left-wing crap, right-wing crap, Christian crap, atheist crap, crap art, crap photos, crap news, crap fiction, crap discussions of current events, and of course just plain crap. Man, I feel better now that I've gotten that out.

Is it really such a handicap for a potential President to not be on the Internet? I'm on the Internet every day, and I have no idea what's going on in the world until Jon Stewart makes a joke about it, and I see the clip a few days later. Of course, then I still don't know what's going on, but at least I can laugh about it. Can I be President? I'm obviously not busy with anything else at the moment...