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The Internet – assessing its main social, political, and cultural impacts in America (Part Three)

By Mark Wegierski
web posted October 15, 2018

This series is based on a draft of a paper read at the “Media in America/America in Media” Conference (Lublin, Poland: Maria Curie-Sklodowska University), May 25-26, 2017.

Today, there are also many “displacement syndromes” in a public discourse where consideration of many serious matters is mostly proscribed. These displacement syndromes include, for example, the viewing of tobacco products, guns in private hands, fast food, and soft drinks as inherently and unquestionably evil – and as targets for massive government intervention and class-action lawsuits.

The displacement syndrome is at its most acute when people express such overbearing concern about the purely physical health of individuals (especially children), while paying virtually no attention to the cultural and spiritual aspects of what might constitute a “healthier” social setting and society.

Ironically, physical health itself has been undermined (especially in the United States), by the increasing division between an overweight, spectator public, and a handful of “beautiful people” and sport-stars. Another obvious point is that overeating often arises from deep personal and social frustrations – and many persons’ sense of inadequacy is reinforced by media advertising, programs, and films that push the most excessive consumerism and celebrity-worship. It could also be argued that, in most cases, the more men imbibe readily-available erotic imagery, the less they have of real sex, and still less of prospects of actually getting married and real intimacy.

It makes more sense to examine the deep-seated social and cultural reasons why people are, for example, over-eating or looking at porn, rather than blaming the fast food companies or Internet sites for catering to those needs.

Other vehicles for the diminution of serious criticism of the current-day regime are those “escapisms” which are offered to the more manifestly bright, inquisitive, and comparatively decent among the youth and children today (or had been offered over the last few decades). These include things like “properly-steered” volunteer work – and such deeply engrossing endeavors as role-playing games (such as Dungeons and Dragons); various video, computer, and electronic games (including the so-called massively multi-player online role-playing games such as Everquest); the popular study of dinosaurs or astronomy; science fiction, fantasy, and serious comic-book fandom (such as, most prominently, Star Trek); and so forth. Most of these could be (to a large extent) characterized as “geek subgenres” – and what geek does not desire to somehow transcend his or her geekhood. Instead of awaiting the next dark future electronic game (however intelligently designed) – such as (some years ago) Deus Ex: Invisible War – or endlessly arguing in excessively obsessive ways about the philosophies of The Matrix movies -- young people might seek to inquire about the lineaments of the world they actually inhabit, and how it might be changed for the better.

To be continued. ESR

Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.

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