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How the Internet is Ruining Journalism

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For anyone, almost anywhere on earth, the easiest way to do anything is to do it online. From buying to communicating, reading, researching or entertaining pretty much everything that has ever been conceived of is online, and will be delivered to your eyeballs or your doorstep without you having to even put on underwear.

And so, journalists, no more interested in putting on their underwear than the rest of us, appear to have looked to the internet to find the pulse of world culture. Rather than interview face-to-face and reach out into the real world, they have dragged in the cultural equivalent of roadkill for examination. That is, of course, internet comments.

And so, the internet journalists find racists, rapists and psychotic murderers so common as to be everywhere something isn't, and feel as though they have discovered a furiously growing trend. If 50 percent of internet comments below an article on any given black person are spectacularly racist, someone who doesn't instinctively understand the scope of the internet might feel that 50 percent of the population is spectacularly racist.

The trouble with this conclusion is that there are 13 year-old boys. Having been a 13 year-old boy at one time, I know that they love to torque up sanctimonious "authorities" and attract attention to themselves. I remember, specifically, many instances in which my friends and I would, under cover of internet anonymity, try to outdo one another with the most offensive things we could conceive of for the express purpose of winning that competition. This sport has a name. Trolling.

Trolling is so common that every successful internet forum has a moderator whose specific task is to boot out the trolls, and every seasoned internet user knows the adage, "don't feed the trolls" meaning that they shouldn't respond in outrage, to the delight of the trolls. 

Unfortunately, it appears that the cultural analysts of our day don't understand 13 year-old boys and the enormous quantity of free time that they almost always have. In their innocence, or perhaps because the idea of a millions-strong army of flaming racists make for a compelling article, the worst possible statements from the most twisted imaginations on the planet are mistaken for mainstream opinion. 

From the glowing screen of a journalists laptop, it might appear that a majority of the planet belongs to a viciously raping, murdering sect of the Aryan nations, and that the Dark Ages are back with a vengeance. Fortunately for humanity, this doomsday cult is actually a relatively small number of voice-cracking prepubescent boys in the suburbs giggling around their smartphones.

While Slate or Jezebel.com might have us believe that the Ku Klux Klan version of Genghis Khan's army is upon us, the reality is closer to a little league team that is too shy to talk to the girls in their grade.

Richard is an engineer by day, and a political activist by night, fighting would-be totalitarians and government busybodies everywhere.