The internet is not a place – so not a terrible place

Hakenyang, by the Author

Hakenyang, by the Author

The internet is not a place. ((Or: the internet is specifically not any place specifically.)) So it cannot be a terrible place. To whatever extent it can be thought a place, it would be a place terrible at being a place, a place without sticks and stones, so without terror: an inconsequential place. Without sticks or stones, without pains or pleasures to achieve except vicariously or via the imagination, we are free to amplify our soundless voices and grasp with our weightless hands and unfeeling fingertips at the other ghosts, and nothing happens forever, or, to be perfectly precise, exquisitely little happens except vicariously or via the imagination or the verbal imagination.

One natural reflex when facing this re-doublingly double abyss, the abysmal difficulty of communicating at all and the further abysmal difficulty of communicating strictly through pixels to almost-no-one, is to overcompensate, and overcompensate again, ever more hopelessly whatever we tell ourselves: To make more real or nearly real what little really real there is amidst the nullity, the easiest and obvious thing to try is to exaggerate or accentuate and re-double down and further down, at the same time to exploit the near-meaninglessness of the near-nullity by anonymously or nearly anonymously saying or nearly saying things one might never say where saying whatever might seem to matter at least potentially.

This tendency or opening leads to a possibly vast amount of mostly nearly nothing at all that happens to be nearly completely ugly and imbecilic on its own terms, so is nearly perfectly imbecilic and brutal, but it also enables a vast if also vastly nearly completely meaningless freedom to think and to argue. To the small extent the internet is a place, and that its quasi-anonymity and near-non-reality allow for pseudo-terrible pseudo-things to pseudo-happen in its so-called social sphere, and on occasion and by design and intensive effort for things much desired also to happen, it also allows, by the same principle, for a particular type of, for the sake of those who desire to think and to have thoughts thought through as thoughts, highly desirable fairness. The promise and opportunity remain, for those interested and able, to say what can be said or needs to be said in a way that, precisely because it is nearly completely weightless and anonymous or largely effectively anonymous, allows a thought to be expressed and received for and as what it is intrinsically, or as if apart and relatively apart if never absolutely apart from externals of authority and identity that we tend to use as shortcuts to sense and often against it.

Those externals never disappear entirely. They persist and must persist, and they recur within the expression itself, as, for example, each of us speculates on what kind of individual would say or write such a thing in such a way at such a time and so on, but we are at least referred by the naked words themselves back to the naked words themselves as such. Even if the appearance and reception as thoughts of thoughts worth thinking and able to be thought is unthinkably rare, in mass far less than one trillionth of all the nearly weightless electronic transmissions circling the globe every instant, or if meaningful connections and thoughts worth thinking and re-thinking are authentically infinitesimal compared to the deluge of brutal and imbecilic nonsense, who can say that such femto-measures of anything conceivably meaningful are not justification enough, perhaps the only justifications or possibilities of justification or of judgment at all?

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  1. […] that article about the internet, which is not a place, being a terrible place, Tod Kelly rightly criticizes Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo for the […]

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