Remember that scene at the end of “Pump Up the Volume”, after Christian Slater is taken away by the police and yells “Talk hard!” at the crowd? The camera pulls up and we start hearing the voices of all the other pirate DJs who are springing up in Harry’s stead, carried on signals traveling through the air at a rate that no authority can stop. Now, we have the Internet, and for better or worse, an enormous reservoir of opinion is now available to take a dip in.
As opposed to the ruckus Hard Harry causes in the movie, the Internet doesn’t seem to intimidate authority that much. Authority likes to pick and choose those that they can turn into an example in order to keep the public’s resistance at bay. Consider that case of the woman who was found liable for $220,000 in copyright infringement for seeding 24 songs to downloaders. Later, she was ordered to pay a whopping $1.9 million in damages. People read this and think that maybe illegal downloading might come round to bite us in the ass after all. Yeah, maybe. It doesn’t make the case any less ludicrous. The record industry continues to panic when it long ago should have invented better practices for keeping themselves afloat. Now they’re bitter and pissed. Now they’re looking for blood. Now they’re looking to screw consumers, who were formerly their bread and butter, because downloading is ruining their no-longer-profitable business models. Previously, it was only the artists who got screwed. Now we can all feel free to take a place in line.
I rant. What originally influenced this update was a blog entry written by Roger Ebert a week or so ago entitled “The gathering Dark Age”, in which he said:
Certainly most of those who see “The Hurt Locker” become enthusiastic advocates of the film; but apparently those younger viewers who have seen it haven’t had much of an influence on their peers. While the success of the film continues to grow as it steadily increases its number of theaters, the majority of younger filmgoers are missing this boat. Why is that? They don’t care about reviews, perhaps. They also resist a choice that is not in step with their peer group. Having joined the crowd at “Transformers,” they’re making their plans to see “G. I. Joe.” Some may have heard about “The Hurt Locker,” but simply lack the nerve to suggest a movie choice that involves a departure from groupthink…If I mention the cliché “the dumbing-down of America,” it’s only because there’s no way around it. And this dumbing-down seems more pronounced among younger Americans. It has nothing to do with higher educational or income levels. It proceeds from a lack of curiosity and, in many cases, a criminally useless system of primary and secondary education.
I don’t have kids, so I find it difficult to have an opinion on exactly what is wrong with the youth of today, as they say. This I’m certain of: Though I’m still relatively young, I’m now far more on the adult side of youth. It’s been over 10 years since I graduated high school. I’m turning 30 later this year and it feels as though I’m entering into a pop culture reality where the things I care about don’t matter as much to people as they used to: film criticism, music, literature, art in general. If Ebert is right and the next generation is going to grow into adulthood not giving much of a toss about anything, I’m going to be a dinosaur before I hit 40. And that, quite frankly, is scary and disappointing.
The way I look at it, I have only one real option. I have to forge ahead. I have to make people curious. I’ve spent years on the Internet, having a look around at what people are talking about. I’ve seen the cynicism in forums on a wide range of topics. I have a feeling it’s there because people find it easier to complain, believing that a complaint without thought still qualifies as a valid opinion. They recognize that opinions are like currency in this environment. I’m not a nasty person. There are things that I dislike, sometimes with great vehemence, about that list of things I care about. But I’ve learned that the only way to truly appreciate art is to approach it with an open mind. I want to express my opinion and hear the well-founded opinions of others, because I want to continue to learn and grow and appreciate.
I can’t say one way or another if kids are getting dumber. I can say with relative confidence that their attention spans are lessening, especially with the advent of the Internet, which is influencing us more and more to speak in shortened sentences, make a point no matter how irrelevant and move along. Some kids will no doubt grow up and move on to university. They’ll learn how to love learning. They’ll learn to communicate and keep with them the desire to get to the bottom of the things they care about. Most won’t read this column to the end because it’s too many words long. But I know there are others out there who will. I know there are a few young Hard Harrys out there, itching to tear the system down and impose a new order on things that makes a more worthwhile use of our judgment and taste.
Are you out there?
Are you listening?