Received a recent Mother Jones story link in an email from a dear friend the other day. The story examined a perceived rise in misogyny. The lead, of course, featured Rush
Limbaugh’s recent attack on Sandra Fluke, but later in the story, the author speculated that the perceived rise of misogyny might be owed to the suddenly public nature of everything and
everyone, thanks to the Internet.
With the possible exception of my pre-teen daughter, all the women I know are more than capable of defending themselves, so I won’t even comment on any perceived rise in misogyny -- or on any of the talking-head buffoons on either side of the political spectrum. Except to say that nothing is profane when everything is profane. But here’s what I replied to my friend.
“Don't know if misogyny is on the rise. Then again, why not? Seems like everything else is (except peace of mind). Seems to me that we tend to find whatever it is we're looking for nowadays, at least online. But isn't the whole point of search engines to justify the query, however spectacular, base or banal?
"Google pornography and you'll find a universe of nothing but pornography. Google misogyny and all you'll find are articles and videos about misogyny. Either way, we sleep with dogs and wake up with fleas.
“Fast information, like fast food, always comes at a price: the ancient Vedic Seers observed several thousand years ago that we have a tendency to become our
attention. Dreams -- they knew for certain -- are powerful. Perhaps the pursuit of everything at once, all the time, simply leaves no room at the end of the day for civility. Perhaps
freedom of speech will die as it becomes too expensive to sustain.”
Real freedom of speech is far too politically incorrect and chaotic to sustain for the biggest TV and online networks, and political correctness is a poor surrogate for civility, a ham-handed attempt to enforce values in a culture that traded them years ago in a massive drug deal for 24/7 access to reality TV and all its online derivatives.
That’s why we find whatever freedom of speech still remains on TV so far up the dial these days, and buried so far off the beaten path online.
Generally speaking, the farther up the dial we go, the less political correctness and the more freedom we encounter.
Civility, of course, ended more than a generation ago, with the arrival of MTV. But that’s what happens when we hand the keys to the kingdom over to a generation too young to remember Barney Fife. Then again, why bother to remember anything when we can Google everything then proclaim ourselves as instantly knowledgeable and wise? As the Egyptian King Thamus told the god Theuth, the proud inventor of writing (and lisps):
"Those who acquire it will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful; they will rely on writing to bring things to their remembrance by external signs instead of by their own internal resources. What you have discovered is a receipt for recollection, not for memory. And as for wisdom, your pupils will have the reputation for it without the reality: they will receive a quantity of information without proper instructions, and in consequence be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant. And because they are filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom, they will be a burden to society.”
Civility, like freedom, is a casualty of our addictions to all things media, an unfortunate concession to the digitally scaled conceit of wisdom.