One of my friends, Don, is always getting pissed off at the media for various reasons, but one of his big complaints (okay, besides that they’re outright lying to us most of the time) is that people have ridiculously short memories about certain subjects. In particular, they forget that every new form of media/technology has usually been accompanied by a counterpart scare in society.
In my case, I can remember the various Video Games scares, the D&D scare, the Internet Scares (they started right after the WWW became commonly used) and of course the Heavy Metal scares (it’s making our kids into Satanists!) of my youth. (My grandparents and great aunts were terrified of Ozzy Osbourne. Not realizing that he’s normally as stoned as a statue.) It’s almost like the media make money off scaring people (hmmm…imagine that?) but a new article in Slate by researcher Vaughn Bell shows that perhaps there’s just something endemic in humans that any change is accompanied by fears. So maybe the media in the end is just acting as a mirror to what’s already there?
My favorite quote from the article:
The writer Douglas Adams observed how technology that existed when we were born seems normal, anything that is developed before we turn 35 is exciting, and whatever comes after that is treated with suspicion.
Either way, I think we need to all just chill out. There’s an old saying that I’ve loved since I heard it, and is embedded in Rob’s personal book of quotations:
There are two kinds of fools in the world.
One fool says: If it’s old, it’s better.
The other fool says: If it’s new, it’s better.
For those who want to learn more, here’s an interview with the writer from NPR’s On the Media from earlier this week.