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Tuesday, July 12, 2005


I’m a newbie blogger, but there are a few things that immediately stand out about the blogosphere. The first is just how many blogs there are. The volume of type and graphics is staggering. It is the most significant written representation of ordinary people’s lives in human history. Never before have so many been able to say so much so easily. Gone are the constraints of geographic location and the harsh realities of commercial publishing.

And what’s everybody writing about? Well if we discard the blogs being used as a front for commercial enterprises (mostly porn), and discount those that simply re-post articles from mainstream news, we find one very clear trend. Blogs tend to reflect people’s quotidianal concerns, activities and obsessions. From the barely coherent ramblings of half literate teenagers, to the witheringly funny send-ups and put-downs, people are making good on the old maxim ‘write what you know’.

You might be thinking, “here comes a lecture on how little everybody knows.” Well, I do mention complaining about ignorance in the title bar, so you could be excused for thinking that. But this once, in the glow of new blog-hood, I am going to refrain from lashing out at the ordinary blogger.

Most blogs, and certainly the best ones, are quietly uplifting in their reflection on the small struggles and triumphs of life. The best bloggers have the facility to make you both care about them and to laugh at them.

But it quickly becomes apparent that for every well-crafted rumination, there are any number of lunatic ramblings. The internet has given people a chance to let loose ideas that would otherwise have remained sequestered in feverish cortices. Why is this?

I think that the key functional element of posting on the internet is that you are not in physical proximity to the people you are “talking to”. Where once people might have thought “I don’t think it’s a good idea to express my belief in [insert implausible codswallop]” for fear of being ostracized, both socially and physically, they now need fear nothing. Comments posted on the internet have nothing of the visceral disappointment associated with a face-to-face denunciation, and no matter how brutal a put-down is, it loses all of the implied threat it contains when typed into a computer.

Ideas, memes if you prefer, are therefore released into a network made up of people unburdened of their social reticence regarding unjustifiable surmises and suppositions. The longer this network produces this mental noise, the more normal it seems. The extreme oddity of what sometimes passes for information on the internet makes everyday life seem desperately pedestrian.

Some people, it seems, are so deceived by this more vivid version of reality that they implicitly come to believe that there must be more to the real world than they have been led to believe. After all, this is the thought pattern that underlies belief in religions as well, so why should we not expect to find a religion of fabulous exaggerations existing in cyberspace?

I have no difficulty with every individual cleaving to their own beliefs, but I will make my stand here and now: If your beliefs lead you or others to disaster then you must repudiate these beliefs. If a man walks off a cliff believing that gravity doesn’t apply to him and breaks his back, then he deserves no sympathy if he continues to believe he can defy gravity. If he convinves others to do the same then he is a criminal.

I think it is important to say here that while that may sound like a totally illiberal, mean spirited injunction against people’s inherent mental freedom, I do truly believe that everybody is entitled to believe whatever they like. But I believe that we are entering an era of our history where many of our most deeply held beliefs will be challenged, frayed, shredded and eventually exterminated. And so I caution all you bloggers and blog followers to examine very carefully the utility or otherwise of your beliefs. For example; is a belief in horoscopes adding anything to your life? Is prohibition of birth control fair in a world of limited resources? Do you really think that secretive elements of the government are trying to poison the population by spraying substances from commercial airliners? Sheesh!

Well, I’m sure you get the picture. So good work to all those bloggers who are keeping it real. And to those dwelling in the unreal, snap out of it, or prepare to be snapped.