Three Years Late: A Lengthy Review of Mark Helprin's Digital Barbarism, Part 3

This is part 3 of multi-part series; things will make more sense if you start at the first post.

Intellectual Barbarism

The public reaction to Helprin's article was incredibly negative, with an almost barbaric approach in the comments--hence the title of the book. His discovery of this side of humanity shocked and appalled him, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, I feel that Helprin, in an understandable emotional reaction to such negative feedback, swept far to many people under the label of savages.

Certainly individuals bare their teeth when they are allowed to hide behind a veil on anonymity--we see this all the time.  Online media allows people to speak (or write, really) before thinking, or the occasionally worse: speak without having anything to say.

As Helprin points out, people often don't read things in full (or at all) before responding to them.  There is no time to process the material and form a coherent thought, let alone with proper grammar, lest your place on the comment thread is unfathomably low.  Group thought is also pervasive, and taints opinions before individuals can form their own. These problems relate to the acceleration of life that he discussed at the start--that we need time in order to function as our best selves.

I cannot help but agree that there does exist a kind of intellectual barbarism in online communities, or in Helprin's words "Blogging's anonymity makes it the intellectual twin of road rage." This made me laugh out loud--I have seen this, the intellectual twin of road rage.  However, I do believe that it would be better put, The Internet's anonymity allows for the intellectual twin of road rage. Simply put, this is no more full of rage than is a leisurely Sunday drive.

Setting down the too-broad brush, we can see a more resounding message.  As individuals, communities, and perhaps even as a society at whole, we need to address intellectual barbarism. We need to take the time to attempt to comprehend others and then carefully craft our responses. I want to see more thoughtful questions and fewer accusations.

Continue to Part 4

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