While I do not intend to come across a Linh Dinh fanboy (this makes for my second Dinh post in a row), his latest submission at the Unz Review beautifully laments a postliterate America. He begins by reminiscing on the pleasure that he used to take in reading various newspapers, both the corporate kind and the alternative weeklies. While many newspapers may have only encouraged their readers to be “uniformly brainwashed,” the real virtue of a newspaper was the insight it gave Dinh into the particular personality of a town/city: “Traveling to a new town, I always looked forward to browsing its newspaper, for here was its self-portrait, exotic and absolutely inaccessible to me previously.” However, with the transition from print to the screen, the medium metamorphosis itself has brought about a change in not just what we read but how we read and digest information:
Whatever its flaws, the local newspaper gave each community a social forum and common culture, and though newspapers haven’t died off completely, the remaining ones are eviscerated, and hardly read, for nearly everyone is on social media, all day long, where they can broadcast themselves. From reading about their town, people now upload endless selfies and self-important proclamations. Everyone is his own news, superstar and universe. Self-publishing, each man is an insanely prolific author, of gibberish, mostly, delivered to almost nobody, but it’s all good, for he can endlessly worship his preening self, on a screen, an intoxicating experience. With FaceBook [sadly, I know this as sic], Twitter and Instagram, everybody is famous all the time, to himself.
As I reread and type this, I realize that this statement indicts bloggers as well. Well, then, why should lovers of the non-self-promoting printed word continue their clumsy efforts to co-opt a medium that inherently destabilizes what they value most about the craft of writing? Linh gives one consolation: the Internet “has allowed deeply heretical views to surface, so that we can be swayed by writers who would otherwise be entirely silenced….” This consolation, though, may still prove to a net loss (heh heh), for there “are no coherent stories left, and no reflection, and if something makes sense, it can only do so for a flash, before it’s washed away by a deluge of lies and trivia. Nearly as soon as something is read, or rather, skimmed, it’s permanently forgotten.”