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Thinking more about the “weighty topic,” here are some things that ran through my head:

For all of the good that the Internet has accomplished, it has made people lazy and surprisingly disinterested. It is difficult to get lots of people interested in one thing because the Internet allows each of us to find “our” thing, whether or not it’s what’s of general interest.

For instance, in the late 1950s, there was great fascination with the Space Race. (As late as 1974 I had a children’s card game called “Space Race,” even though man had already landed on the moon.) The evening news brought all of the latest developments. When something really exciting happened, newspapers printed “Extra” editions. No doubt, there were many people not particularly interested. (I watched an old episode of “The Simpsons” yesterday where Homer was singing “I’ve Got Love in My Tummy” while his father watched Neil Armstrong.) But overall, the idea was that this was the topic of most importance in the day.

Children learned about space at school. Book publishers and game makers created new products to feed the public’s fascination with space and landing on the moon. “Mrs. Baker” was a name everyone knew because she was the monkey who went into outer space.

It was that kind of fixation on one subject that also propelled the entertainment industry (movies like “Forbidden Planet” and shows like “The Twilight Zone” grew directly from this fascination), not to mention things as disparate as food (Tang, anyone?) and clothing (nylon — the wonder fabric of spacemen!). Disney built an entire cottage industry out of the public’s excitment over space.

Could such a thing happen today? Is it even imaginable? Look at what happened with the “X Prize” a few weeks ago — someone accomplished something that used to be thought impossible by building a private craft that went into space … and it got two minutes on the national news. There was very little attention focused on it.

Even the “war” we are fighting today hardly gets people worked up. Sure, lots of people think we shouldn’t be there (me among them) … but where are the rallies, the protests, the marches?

I’d argue that the Internet and cable are largely responsible, because everyone has too many (yes, too many) choices now. Choice isn’t wrong, don’t misunderstand me … but when I can decide if I want to watch an examination of the crisis in Iraq on “Frontline” or a repeat of “Three’s Company” on Nick@Nite or the umpteenth airing of Little Nicky on Showtime, who’s to say I watch what is “good for me” or even simply relevant to our society?

Choice is a very, very good thing. But when the choices make it impossible to figure out what’s important to know or understand … it’s easy to think that maybe we’re being overrun with choice, to our detriment.

1 Comment

J Expounded Thusly:

P.S. It’s kind of fascinating to me that 42 years to the day, I saw nothing on TV or on the Internet about the JFK assassination, other than a news story that said a British game company was putting out a videogame based on the event and that Ted Kennedy thought it was horrendous.

Monday, November 22nd, 2004 • 10:41pm • Permalink


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