Politics constitute an indomitable itch for those of us inclined to discuss them. This is not a post about politics. This is a post about Clint Eastwood’s chair.
Clint Eastwood’s chair was first made known to me at about 3:30 this afternoon. I know, I’m behind the times. At my ripe old age of 27 it’s hard to keep up with the world. But I made that perilous journey to youtube, and with, I am proud to say, no great difficulty, I procured a mouse cursor in a blank textbox, from whence my journey began.
Arriving at my destination, and bearing witness the public oration there displayed, I found myself not at all befuddled or amused by an old man’s rant. Quite the contrary, I thought it a reasonably clever comedy sketch in consideration of his age, chuckled at his tongue-in-cheek endorsement (which amounted to little more than a ‘lesser of two evils’ vote), and felt inclined to comment on his behalf. Then my troubles set in.
I was caught off guard. The text below the video bombarded me like an artillery barrage, every 10 seconds a new string of demented rambling surpassing all of my direst expectations for the video at hand:
“LOL do you just make shit up? California well off? LOL just keep making shit up your boy will gone in November.” (kEMCO2)
“YOU’RE PROBABLY A LOSER SITTING IN YOUR MOTHER’S BASEMENT WATCHING FADING POSTERS OF OBAMA WAITING FOR YOUR NEXT WELFARE CHECK.” (Chloe Smith)
“You’re an idiot. You’re going to get old to you moron. Old age has nothing to do with dementia. People become deranged at 35, look at your hero Obama, he is as stupid as they get.” (DonDraperism)
“Ask the ones that OUR military freed and saved! Your a pansy and have no clue! Your part of the reason we’re in the shape we are!” (bessedchevy20)
“LOL. congratz u have been brainwashed” (bobilo95)
And I realized something.
I realized something terrible.
My internet was gone.
It was gone. It was dead. The shroud tailor measured it for a deep six holiday.
I didn’t believe it at first. I panicked, frantically hammering out search terms into Google, but no relief was in sight. I turned to Gogloom, dear old friend, but its springs too had run dry; IRC, my last vestige of hope, failed me.
And I thought maybe, just maybe, this tragic loss and the verbal assault upon Clint Eastwood’s chair were somehow related.
I was born and raised on the internet. I remember when we first got dial-up in 1996. I passed the tender age of 11 sharing insightful comments much akin to those I experienced today, only geared to my youthful interests. “LOL u dont even know ff3 is rly ff6 and u wasted $200 on a PSX even tho ff7s gonna suck NINTENDO FOR LIFE” Ah, such fond memories. A prodigy no doubt, I learned quickly to curb my intellectual idioms to placate the masses, adapting to the drudgery of coherent English in my teenage years and beyond. Was it some cruel twist of fate that now finds me linguistically isolated from the very internet users for whom I learned to converse? All I wanted to do was talk about Clint Eastwood’s chair.
The fact of the matter is the internet no longer functions as an outlet for sharing free thought. Oh, I am “sharing” my thoughts here, with the four or five of you who happen to read this, but should you choose to respond you will do so in the form of a comment, in reply to my post which I moderate. I am in charge here, and that means I am not really intimately engaging with anyone. These WordPress blogs completely lack an equal playing field for discussion, but they’re ideal for sharing one’s opinion with the wind. We’re all special. We all have a voice. Here’s mine.
That’s the state of WordPress. That’s the state of Facebook. That’s the state of Twitter, I suppose. I don’t use the latter two, frankly because the notion of making an isolated personal statement bores me save on rare occasions such as these. I post here because all of my previous outlets have slowly withered away. Are new outlets out there? I suppose there’s 4chan. The launch of /r9k/ encompasses some of my fondest memories of the internet, specifically due to the brief period of intellectual discussion it spawned. Coincidentally coinciding with the launch of Project Chanology, it generated countless debates on the political and social impacts of anonymity and collective thought, perhaps culminating in a collective realization of and expansion upon the notion of Stand Alone Complex (Ghost in the Shell). We were each participants, debating and trolling in turn, in the very social experiment we were conducting. It was a grand culmination of everything I loved about the internet in the 1990s and 2000s, but it was indeed a culmination–an end–because complacency and the totality of its form of anonymity rendered it non-sustainable. I remember acknowledging that at the time, and feeling as though my online world was passing away even as it stood resplendent in its most accomplished form.
And so it did. It took me four years to admit it, but the internet is dead. The pathways and connections through which such experiments as /r9k/ emerged as hubs for collective contemplation (a great majority of us, myself included, were not active 4chan members, and that fact was pivotal to elements of the discussion) dried up into defunct forums and dead irc channels. Our mutual file-sharing ties, the final tether, were severed by delayed but decisive corporate rationality headed by the likes of Apple and Netflix. The generation-spanning cultivation of anonymity was wiped clean and even culturally discredited by Facebook, with present-day internet users lavishly emblazoning their identity upon all electronic activity. The collective internet mind dispersed into relegated pockets. I am now an individual, and I despise that fact.
I wanted to talk about Clint Eastwood’s chair, but I couldn’t. I could tell a few people about it. I’m not really doing so at the moment, but I could. I could also scream at the wall, as so many youtube users of voting age are doing right now. And indeed, they’re relatively anonymous. Chloe Smith and blessedchevy20 will certainly never know that I read their banter, and, though I could probably trace down their thorough identities with easy today, apathy preserves them. But they aren’t engaging anything. Their ‘thoughts’, if what they wrote even amounts to thinking, involved not but petty rebuttals to the most recent of 12,000 comments, by now surely buried behind thousands more. The /r9k/ ideal, of thoughtful engagement under the shroud of total anonymity, was short-lived. Perhaps it carries on in some diminished form. But the long-sustained anonymous community is what we’ve truly lost. The modestly sized forum; the casual irc channel; the self-contained communities where one could engage under independent but locally consistent identities: it’s their loss that we now suffer.
Would so many adults scream at the wall if they had any alternative? In an age where everyone has access to the internet, would we be so simultaneously excitable and yet devoid of well-formed opinions if we had any means of discussion? I can talk here and hope you hear me. I can shout on youtube knowing you won’t. In neither medium am I well positioned to receive an intelligible response by an identity in equal social standing. You’re either on my turf or in the combat zone with barely time to breathe before taking aim. And even if the spirit of youtube calmed down a bit, what can you meaningfully say in 500 characters?
I don’t want to talk about Clint Eastwood’s chair anymore. I was going to say some silly crap about a metaphor for lack of political leadership that would sound corny as hell but would spark up some discussion. But I can’t do that here, because as an editor I’m in charge and that means I have to maintain boundaries. And there’s no point in doing it anywhere else. I guess I’ll just go back to playing Warcraft, maybe discuss the new expertise cap or auction house inflation. In the absence of loosely-moderated discussion boards and public chats those seem to be the approachable topics we have left on the internet.