Jewish World Review Oct. 1, 2001 / 14 Tishrei, 5762
Confessions of a sarcastic scribe
OVER the course of a long career in sarcasm, I must confess that I've never really ruffled
as many feathers as I would have liked. I've insulted presidents, old girlfriends, Supreme
Court justices, and erstwhile employers, with nary a peep. I wouldn't even know that
anybody's paying attention, except that every once in awhile, I get an angry response about
some obscure point I hadn't even known I'd made. "The waltz wasn't even brought to England
until the 19th Century, you idiot!" someone will inform me. "The bat is not a rodent, you
illiterate moron!" "Learn the difference between coniferous and deciduous before you open
your fat mouth about telling the forest from the trees, you synapse-impaired maggot!"
This hasn't bothered me. I have a pretty thick skin. Besides, as my fourth grade report card
showed, I do not play well with others. If I really cared what others thought, I'd shave
more than twice a week.
Ever since I got a computer, however, things have changed a little bit. Every once in a
while, you see, I am commissioned to write something. Since this is the Digital Age, I am
often asked to speak or write about digital issues. But whenever I am critical of the World
Wide Web, I am asked to tone down my criticism. I can understand this to a certain extent.
The people asking me to speak or write about the World Wide Web generally work for digital
companies. They're designing portals and web sites. They're trying to bring high quality
video to your computer screen. They're service providers. They're trying to attract
On the other hand, when I wrote for one such piece, that there is a certain amount of
frustration in surfing the Internet, that often one has to wade through a wilderness of
links, banners, and error messages, to download a plug-in that doesn't work, then get put on
hold by tech support for six hours, all to obtain a tiny bit of information you could have
got from a book in three minutes, tops-- well, my sponsor told me that I was being
Mean-spirited? Towards whom? Well, nobody. Towards what, then? The World Wide Web? Oooh, did
I hurt the Internet's feelings?
Is the Internet so fragile, despite the hyper-inflated worth of its denizens, that a few
grumbling remarks by a wretched scribe like me can cause the whole infrastructure to tumble
to dust, cause the whole Web to unravel and spin away to nothing like the strands woven by
an unstable spider?
If I really had that kind of power, do you think I'd waste my time writing puff pieces for
nail-biting corporate types. No. If I had that kind of power, I'd use it.
JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2001, Ian Shoales