(un)common ground

a commonplace book

Comments of Perpetual Malice

Thus the limitless malice of Internet commenting: it’s not newly unleashed anger but what we all think in the first order, and have always in the past socially restrained if only thanks to the look on the listener’s face—the monstrous music that runs through our minds is now played out loud.

Adam Gopnik, “The Information,” The New Yorker, February 14, 2011

I love the poetry of the last clause. I love, too, the acknowledgement of Internet interaction’s fundamental difference from in-person interaction: the face. Without that empathetic anchor, there is nothing but ourselves to challenge the temptation to rattle off paragraphs (or one-liners) and then immediately flee, click off without having to somehow reconcile a given conversation.

There are doubts about this argument as well. Did we (or rather, do we) always restrain ourselves in front of people? I can acknowledge the statement is hyperbole for effect. (And Gopnik qualifies the sentiment a little later: “Shut off your computer, and your self stops raging quite as much or quite as loud.”)

Another doubt: do we think our anger in the first order? And even if we did, does the Internet nonetheless provide not only tools and space for escalation, but also novel spaces/practices for anger/rage that would not apply to that “first order” of thought?


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This entry was posted on August 20, 2015 by and tagged , .
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