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Friday, April 26, 2024

I am at a loss to decide whether I dislike nuclear weapons or the internet more.

 A decade or so ago, I argued with clients that FaceBook was a waste of time because it was filled with silly stuff, that no serious person would find interesting.  I was eventually forced to acknowledge that “serious people” were indeed “following” trivial “posts” on FaceBook and I very reluctantly became a member of Facebook in order to better reach potential customers for my clients.  Since then, “social media” has blossomed into one of the most, if not the most important way, that people communicate and a diverse collection of “platforms” have evolved to facilitate this form of “communication.”  There is absolutely no question in my mind, but that “social media” is, today, a force that must be reckoned with in all aspects of life to include business and international politics.  I don’t like it, I think that it is contrary to humanity’s best interests, and I believe that it is here to stay, whether we approve of it or not.

The pejorative, cliche image used by the older generation, still critical of social media, is of a youngster with his or her nose in his or her phone.  The odds are extremely high that that child is watching a snappy, short, Tik Tok video.  Tik Tok is, in my mind, the logical evolution of social media generally.  The older generation is seriously concerned about Tik Tok for a number of reasons, to include its’ connection to the Chinese Communist Party, and, although I do not understand how the information collected from Tik Tok is used against us, I too have considerable angst about the connection.  I certainly dislike the overall content of the programing on that platform in this country and can easily see the deleterious effect that it is having on our youth, but I suspect that more fundamental forces are creating the basic situation that Tik Tok is exploiting.  I very much believe that banning Tik Tok, or transferring it to red blooded American ownership, will not resolve the more fundamental problems facing our youth today.  As I understand it, China has a far better way of dealing with Tik Tok - they dictatorially control its content and use it to support their regime.  Dictatorial control is, of course, anathema to all Americans (unless they are members of the tribe that is currently in control).

I acknowledge the problems associated with political dictatorship - both in China and here in this country - but I am even more interested in what is happening to our culture.  I do not pretend to understand all of the forces that shape culture, but it is clear to me that ours is in the process of being dumbed down at an accelerating rate and Tik Tok seems to me to epitomize what is happening.   I say again that I do not believe that Tik Tok is doing it.  I believe that we are, and Tik Tok is merely one of the manifestations of our changing attitudes toward life in general.  Our attention span is, today, measured in milliseconds and that has an impact on absolutely everything, including both national level policies and our individual lives.   The individual feels rewarded when he or she makes or views a “snappy,” ten second video that represents their “thinking” on one or another profound subject.  For reasons that I quite frankly, do not understand, that same individual is unable to digest any message longer than that video, which goes an extraordinarily long way in explaining the over-simplification that exists all through society today.

Now add in the fact that those people that are now entering command positions all through society in this country are increasingly members of this generation and they are facing elites in other countries that are conditioned far differently than are they.  I suggest that it goes an enormous distance in explaining the decline in our position in the world.  While we increasingly concentrate on making snappy videos, "backward" Chinese focus on making stuff and things that they sell to people all over the world, including us, for less money than our products cost.  Our reaction is to try to block their access to market and our challenge is to explain to ourselves why that is consistent with our vaunted “free” enterprise.  We increasingly use social media to explain the world around us to ourselves and that fact goes a very long way in explaining our increasingly simplistic view of that world.  Tik Tok merely takes us another step further than do Facebook and the rest of the tiny minds that pretend to explain the world around us to us.

I say again that we are good people, but we are hell bent on destroying the least bad society that has ever existed in human history and we are actually convinced that we are the most intelligent people that have ever graced the earth.  After all, we invented the internet and social media.  We also invented a lot of other stuff and things to include the atomic bomb.  I am at a loss to decide whether I dislike nuclear weapons or the internet more.

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