Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Superficial Extremes: A Consequence of Too Much Information

When too much information (the Internet) is presented to too many people (smart and stupid alike) the result is going to be that most people will understand only a fraction of what they see. The result of this, it seems to me, is that the less intelligent (and there are more of these than those who are more intelligent) are going to pick up the surface message and run with it. This results in superficial extremes of thought and action.

For instance, I was teaching a class about comparison and contrast writing the other day, and I showed two videos. One was of civilians respectfully and calmly resisting an invasion of their privacy by the police. In this video, the citizen who was stopped at a drunk-driving checkpoint refused to present ID, because he was neither suspected of nor observed in doing anything illegal. The officer let him go on his way without any fight.

The message here is that this person chose to "call BS" on the police and to hold his ground so that they did not violate his privacy. Apparently, he was within his rights, because the police let him go on his way.

So, if you put a few videos like this on the Internet, those without insight or without the necessary intelligence to see the real message are going to react with superficial extremes. Case in point: the second video I showed my class. in which a man is pulled over for doing 60MPH in a 35MPH zone. When asked for ID, he refuses, even after being told he was clocked at way over the speed limit. Through a series of events, starting with the driver rolling up his window and ending with him spitting on the police officer, the officer pulls him out of the car and tried to cuff him. As he is being subdued, the driver begins chanting. "I do not consent. I do not consent..."

In this guy's walnut of a brain, he had processed reasonable resistance to an invasion of privacy into the notion that the police may not detain or arrest anyone who does not want to be detained or arrested. All of the middle-ground has been bypassed. All questions of probable cause or lawful orders by the police have been graced over by this guy because he is not equipped to understand the real substance of the information he has been presented by reasonable, rights-conscious citizens. (And, also because he, too, want to be an Internet star.)

Take this all as a metaphor for any other number of concepts presented on the Internet, from the "science proves" posts to the "top ten reasons" articles to the analyses of reasons that millenials support Bernie Sanders. Those unequipped to deal with the information they are handed are going to go to superficial extremes of thought and action.

If "science proves" that coffee is good for you, you can bet legion of idiots will begin hooking up the intravenous, 24-hour drips within the span of five minutes.


  1. Decades ago, quite a few not-disinterested people suggested that television would usher in a new age of education and culture. The common people could learn about all sorts of wonderful things! They could see opera right in their homes! I try to keep that in mind when people continue to make similar claims about the Internet...

    1. They certainly both had and have just that potential. Commerce trumps all, though. So does the greed for "information" I guess.