Jewish World Review Oct. 1, 2001 / 14 Tishrei, 5762

Ian Shoales

Ian Shoales
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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 investors.

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."

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.

Wisely, of course.

JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.


09/11/01: The end of Mom
09/07/01: Boy Loses Girl, Boy Bites Girl, Boy Gets Girl
09/05/01: Virtual elegance?
08/28/01: Buzz!
08/23/01: Radio workout
08/20/01: I robot, you Jane
08/15/01: A wild and crazy world!
08/10/01: When the future was "as real as a dime"
08/08/01: Garage Dearth!
08/06/01: That Big Clock
08/02/01: Stop the pop!
07/31/01: Catchphrase history of the world
07/26/01: The Bride of Science
07/23/01: That java jive
07/17/01: Homogenized hegemony
07/13/01: Applying Newton's First Law of Physics to textbooks
07/10/01: The dumb and the dead

© 2001, Ian Shoales