Evil surrounds us
The latest threat to the English language, public discourse and the intellectual development of children is — wait for it — Twitter. Language Log rounds up some of the most egregious examples of threat-or-menace writing, but that post is two days old and almost certainly out of date.
Nancy Friedman has gotten some attention with a delightful send-up of Maureen Dowd on Twitter, “Ms. Dowd Interviews the Inventor of the Telephone.” In doing so, she reminds us of the multiplicity of these threats to Civilization as We Know It.
There was also radio (“Red Rubber Ball” as a specimen of the richness of metaphor in pop music). There was broadcast television insidiously weakening the minds of the American public (Gilligan’s Island). Now we have cable television accelerating the rot (reality shows, Donald Trump). And Facebook. (Of the “five most” quiz selections, the one that appeals the most is the Five People I Want to Punch in the Face, but, unfortunately, I do not know the identity of the inventor of Facebook’s “five most” quizzes.)
Twitter, like the telephone, radio, television and Internet, affords multiple opportunities for wasting valuable time with inane stuff, and, like the telephone, radio, television and the Internet, it is useful within limits. It’s up to people to arrive at sensible limits. People who waste their time and yours on Twitter would, lacking Twitter, waste their time and yours in some other manner.
I thought that the silly season fell in the summer, but perhaps global climate change has sent it out of whack. In addition to the nonsense about Twitter, we have the governor of Texas apparently advocating secession — an issue we thought was settled one April morning 144 years ago at a little town in Virginia. We have Rod Blagojevich talking about starring in a reality TV show, which would out-Trump Trump. We have George Will carrying on about the evil cultural influence of denim — and providing fodder for Stephen Colbert and half the bloggers in the known world.
Take a break, people. Close this page. Get out of the basement. Turn off the TV. Make yourself a cup of tea. Pick up a book. The Wordy Shipmates, Sarah Vowell’s breezy account of our half-loony Puritan forebears, can give you a little perspective. You need it.