It’s debatable whether the “good old days” when the Fourth Estate (i.e. newspapers) picked which news was worth reporting was better than the cornucopia of TV channels and Internet (includes newspapers) sites that are currently available. If I have to choose between the elite few publishers who decide what news is and the delicious diversity of offerings on the Internet, on the whole, I have to go with the choice that maximizes my choice. I think it’s better to have too much choice than not enough even though there are times when too much choice seems overwhelming — like shopping in a super-duper market for cereals. In fact, some think that this overabundance of choice contributes to the sense of ennui and irony of our age.
Unfortunately, having an abundance of choices does not necessarily mean we will use them wisely. Sites that analyze Twitter feeds clearly show that visitors to conservative and liberal websites do not overlap very much at all; if you are a conservative, you visit mostly conservative websites, and liberals visit liberal websites. One would hope that a plethora of information would inform the populace and promote toleration of other’s viewpoints but, sadly, this does not seem to be the case. Instead of tolerance, we get arrogance and righteousness that leads to insularity and polarization. And although it was Abraham Lincoln who said, “A friend is one who has the same enemies as you have,” we must ask ourselves: Are we all in this together, or are we not? Sulking in our enclaves is not only counterproductive, it is just plain childish.
Maybe we can find some ironic solace in the message from Kahlil Gibran: “I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.” If we could just follow his example but learn instead to be grateful to those teachers, I’m sure the world would be better for it.
Dr. Stewart A. Denenberg is an emeritus professor of computer science at Plattsburgh State, retiring recently after 30 years there. Before that, he worked as a technical writer, programmer and consultant to the U.S. Navy and private Industry. Send comments and suggestions to his blog at www.tec-soc.blogspot.com, where there is additional text and links. He can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.