In the ’60s we had the “television generation,” the first generation to grow up watching TV. Today we have the “Internet generation.” The change in ways of finding out about the world ought to mean something, even though the effects are diffuse and so hard to interpret. Still, other people have theories on the subject, so why shouldn’t I? So here’s a proposal:
- Both TV and the Internet present the world as immediately present, all on a level, and capable of being taken in at a glance to whatever degree is necessary without much thought, argument or subtlety. Everything’s right in front of you, so how could you go wrong?
- The big difference between the two is that big-media TV presents the world from a single top-down point of view, while the Internet presents it as an infinitely branching web with no privileged perspective.
- Bottom line: TV turns people into socialists, because issues and solutions are obvious and determined from a single superior point of view, while the Internet turns them into lifestyle libertarians, because all points of view are equal and each can assemble whatever connections he wants to make his life what he chooses.
- Both TV and the Internet are at odds with “family values” and density of tradition, which require that people form their understanding of what’s real and how things work from a standpoint defined by particular stable personal connections more than media organizations or global electronic networks.
- Still, in modernity “all that is solid melts into air,” which means that all its components disappear and cease to matter. By extending and perfecting modernity the Internet is thus bringing about its self-dissolution. What will remain to carry on the business of life and the world, apart from force, fraud and money, are things—ethnicity, blood relationship, religion—that were always fundamentally at odds with modernity and will therefore survive its evaporation.
- So the left/liberal obsession with what it calls “hate”—recognition of non-technocratic distinctions as legitimate factors in social life—is understandable although in the end pointless. Those are the things that will win in the end, not however because they will destroy liberalism but because they will remain, in however tattered a form, when liberalism destroys itself.