27 January 2007
Reviews and revolutions

Brian Micklethwait has a theory.  He hasn’t actually written it down yet and he may not so you’re going to have to put up with my version which may, in all manner of ways, be wrong.  If it is then, well, Brian, my apologies.

Brian’s observation is that while in the past everything got an average of three stars, these days everything gets four and a half.  His theory about this is that in the bad old days newspaper reviewers got sent a lot of things they didn’t want to review but had to anyway.  But these days reviewers are amateurs, they only encounter things they are probably going to like, so their reviews tend to be good ones.

This has a parallel in my own life and probably yours too.  I have noticed recently that unless I make the mistake of switching on the telly, I hardly ever encounter an opinion with which I don’t heartily agree.

The point about this is that the online world is fragmenting existing societies.  We are starting to form into our little groups which have almost nothing to do with one another.  Instapundit readers have little to do with their IndyMedia or Kos counter-parts.  There are for all I know, Muslim discussion groups out there in which the participants earnestly but politely debate the merits of killing infidels by hanging or boiling.

What I find interesting (and indeed alarming) is the apparent contradiction between the physical and virtual worlds.  In the physical world the Dhimmi-boiler could be living next door.  We would be sharing the same streets and (more worryingly) the same polling booth.  In the virtual world he might as well not exist - at least not from my point of view.

The frightening thing is the historical parallels.  It is not as if this hasn’t happened before.  During the Reformation, as new religious beliefs started to spread, many people must have found themselves totally alienated from their neighbours.  The lucky ones, like the passengers on the Mayflower, were able to up sticks and found their own settlements, the unlucky found themselves imbroiled in the mother and father of all religious wars.

Is it to be the same again?  If so, is there any way to escape the carnage?

Update.  Seems I have prompted Brian into writing down what he actually thought rather than what I thought he thought.  So, you didn’t have to hack your way through the foregoing screed after all.  Sadly in his review of my review of his thoughts he only gives me four stars.  Not the extra half? Oh well. As he says: “On the internet, if you get grumpy, you aren’t doing it right.”

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