It is important to consider the effect free and unfettered use of the Internet has on a national dialogue that festers with hatred. It is corrosive.
While it is impossible to control what invective is posted on which site, it is incumbent upon all of us to take it for what it is: an opinion. Moreover, much of it comes not from intelligent people capable of well-thought-out presentations of fact but from the lunatic fringe. And absent anything proving otherwise, should be treated as such.
If you are interested in gaining a reasoned perspective on issues, you should consult reasoned sources and websites and read those. Learn which outlets peddle far-right, or far-left propaganda and take those with the appropriate grain of salt, if you choose to read them at all. They do not promote understanding. They evoke hate and resentment, and their authors are absolutely intent on digging it out of us until it practically explodes. And sadly, it can often explode out of the barrel of a gun and into a crowd of innocent people.
By now, we should know enough to choose our vessels of information wisely, and to see through emotion-charged responses that serve more to incite than to encourage honest feedback.
The word “radicalized” was thrown around after the Boston Marathon bombing. The Tsarnaev Brothers were said to have been “radicalized” after being directed to various internet sites. We nod, and accept as a fact, that people with foreign-sounding names, and foreign-looking faces, can consult a few websites, and end up twisted enough with hate and resentment to plant bombs in front of eight-year-old boys. But we refuse to consider the fact that Americans can do the same thing, develop the same hate, and then go out and shoot six-year-old children and — in the case of the man who killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio — their own sisters.
The Broadway stage did not reflect the conscience of Americans very much in the 1940s and early 1950s. Pure, family entertainment was the objective. But Oscar Hammerstein managed to sneak one in while he was composing the lyrics for “South Pacific.” The song was “You Have to be Carefully Taught,” and it received its share of criticism for hitting too close to home in an era where lighthearted romps were far more the norm.
“You’ve got to be taught/To hate and fear,/You’ve got to be taught/From year to year,/It’s got to be drummed/In your dear little ear/You’ve got to be carefully taught.”
It was true in 1949, when Rodgers and Hammerstein composed that song, and the United States was emerging from World War II with the knowledge of what had happened in Europe. And it’s true now.
And it was true in the early 1970s when Anthony Burgess and Stanley Kubrick conspired to perpetrate one of the most dystopian of dystopian horrors on the movie-going public with “A Clockwork Orange,” with its marauding packs of disaffected teenage boys who were so bored and disillusioned with life that “a bit of the old ultraviolence” was the only antidote.
It’s even truer now, when the hate just overflows throughout the Internet.
Is this really what we want?