Web has opened new avenues

The last time our company Internet and e-mail went down, many of our editors and reporters fled for home where they could once again be connected.

For most of us, there was no point in staying at our desks – without access to e-mail and the Internet, it was virtually impossible for us to do our jobs. We couldn’t look up information for our stories or receive or send pertinent e-mails.

In a few years, the tools which journalists and many other workers rely on to do their jobs have been completely transformed, all thanks to the Internet. By going home and back online, we could not only connect to the outside world, but we could remain connected to each other and continue to collaborate. Without the Internet, we were seriously hindered.

But as far as Steve Maich is concerned, “the Internet sucks.” In the cover story of the Oct. 30 issue of Maclean’s, the author writes that the Internet is little better than a refuge for “cranks, liars and perverts” and that it is far from being the revolutionary technology that luminaries once claimed it would be.

His article, “Pornography, gambling, lies, theft and terrorism: The Internet sucks,” goes on to say the Web is the place “where the masses indulge their darkest vices (and) pirates of all kinds troll for victims.”

Other than encouraging people to explore their sinister side, the Internet doesn’t really have much to offer, according to Maich, who draws on the works of Robert Gordon, an economics professor at Northwestern University: “It has produced precious little that is really new.” It was the telegraph that shortened distances, and e-mails only replace faxes and phone calls, Maich argues.

No doubt there are people for whom the Internet is an avenue for crime and indulgence – but it is so much more than that.

The Internet does more than replace old means of communications – it creates new avenues. The telegraph may have shortened distances, but it wasn’t an every day occurrence for most people – it was an event that typically signified something significant such as a birth or death. The Internet shortens distances on a daily basis and for more people than ever before. I can talk to friends and family overseas in a way that I couldn’t before given high long-distance charges.

Maich also charges that the Internet isn’t the great repository of knowledge or vehicle for exchanging ideas that everyone hoped it would be. Instead, it’s a hotbed of “conspiracy theories, conjectures and outright fabrications” and that blogs “tend to devolve into vitriolic screeds or sophomoric insults.”

But if some Internet sites contain misinformation and some blogs are biased, this is a result of human nature and not a unique function of the Internet. There’s no shortage of news organizations in the traditional media that are prone to misleading their audience. A great many Fox News watchers, for instance, still believe that weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. And the mainstream media is also full of personalities who aren’t interested in engaging in real dialogue, only spouting hate. Fox New’s Bill O’Reilly, for instance, recently said if he could get away with it, he’d go after the blogosphere “with a hand grenade.” And Maclean’s is no better – rather than engaging in a serious discussion about the Internet, it attacks it with statements such as “the Internet sucks.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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