Poor Cassandra, the Trojan prophetess, was condemned never to be believed after having turned down the advances of Apollo. She foresaw the plight of Troy and her death in Agamemnon's bath but could never avert her country's (or her own) sad fate. Bloggers often share Cassandra's catastrophist tendencies, although it remains to be seen whether our own worst fears are wildly speculative fantasy or a grim reality which many of our contemporaries shirk from confronting.
What does this highly pessimistic mindset indicate? Is it a valuable voice of discontent that can stop things disintegrating before they are too late or the last cries of a dying civilization? I have heard some say that Blogging compares with the pamphleteers of the Seventeenth Century who supposedly turned the world upside down during England's brief republic. The comparison brings together the crumbling of barriers to publication that in times prior to 1639 were set up by strict blasphemy laws and an authoritarian Monarchy, and nowadays, by a press that have caved in to an oafish populism and subservience to a court whose information they depend on for advancement. Our press have found out they have backed a bunch of liars and middle managers whose only solution to our problems seem to be to rename things, yet they seemingly cannot summon any way to effectively criticise the magicians who so wowed them at first with their presentational skills. At the same time the public over the last 10 years has had a complicated lesson in the power of Newspeak and simultaneously a medium has arrived which allows us to express what we think to one another bypassing the contented and lack-lustre news-gathering middleman.
This is in some ways what I would like to think, but I also worry that the sheer scope of the internet and the failure to fully discuss issues can mean this new medium has several flaws. It is incredibly surprising, for instance, how quickly some on the internet launch in to attacks, not on the arguments of others, but their personal characters. This might just be a direct consequence of the enraged silenced masses who have had a new medium open up allowing them to say what they really think. Yet how will any of this change policy and how do we hold government to account as the minutiae of the latest acts and trends at Westminster are overlooked even as distrust spreads like a cancer? The detail and the professionalism of traditional news reporting is scrapped and instead disparate bits of information, are discussed all over the web with far greater interest then the irrelevances of celebrity gossip, yet often lacking the contemporaneity we would demand from a traditional news feature. This is great news for minority interests, but could it also mean that as the traditional news institutions crumble from the levelling effect (produced by millions tapping away at their computers, eschewing the tittle-tattle that even the serious press have now stooped to publishing) the net result will be worse, for the sea of information will carry on expanding and we will have no way of checking its veracity.
The problem with our attempt to take on the grand themes is that the Cassandra complex will arise. Looking at the world we will in general see many horrendous things. I have simply talked of the new changes I see afoot in the information age, and part of me surges with optimism yet other doubts envelop me. If we are all talking together and expressing similar doubts why is it that nothing seems to change? Could it be that the groups we form on the net, like in life, are largely self-selecting and that the grave doubts we so often express are not perceived by millions of our other fellow men? Is the net full of sound and fury, signifying nothing?