Einstein's Corner: Tolerance vs. Zero Tolerance
More recent years, however, have given rise to a counterculture of sorts. I call it the zero-tolerance culture. The medium of choice for the zero-tolerance culture is the electronic spreadsheet. I define the electronic spreadsheet as a meta-medium -- among other things -- because the singular language and culture of the electronic spreadsheet drive every media franchise on the planet. The same spreadsheet culture that drives CNN and PBS also powers Fox News and the FCC. The same spreadsheet culture that drives The Nation and The New York Times drives The New York Post and Reason Magazine. The same spreadsheet culture that drives Rush Limbaugh drives Howard Stern, Al Franken, and NPR.
The zero-tolerance culture rose to prominence in the mid-1990s, when we decided as a society to exchange the false utopian promise of increased leisure time for the equally false but far more compelling utopian promise of unlimited prosperity and wealth. The very moment we cashed in what remained of our leisure time, however, was the very moment we turned around and discovered that we had none. Zero tolerance was an understandable, if not entirely appropriate, response to the fact that we had just invented a way to institutionalize and promote chronic time deprivation. Of course, the folly inherent in the exchange of the false promise of leisure time for the false promise of unlimited wealth didn't become fully apparent until the dot-com market crashed and we were left with neither time nor money.
The precondition to opting into the new social order (digital) was the sudden and commensurate obligation to opt out of the old social order (TV), simply because we didn't have the time to pursue either exclusively anymore. About one-third of all young adults get their news online, largely because they don't have the time or typically won't take the time to catch it on TV.
The sudden absence of time now compels us to opt out on a regular basis. We still opt in, but we do so in a much more circumscribed manner, and the default condition is now out rather than in. Catching up with it all is what the national Do-Not-Call Registry is all about: opting in to opt out. It's Samuel Goldwyn all over again. "Include me out," he once told a colleague.
Many thanks, as always, and best to you and yours...
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