(Above: more xkcd here).
Is there anything that the internet can't do?
... what about positive educational outcomes?
On balance, there probably are none. The research suggests the internet is probably making us dumber. It allows us to access millions of facts but does nothing to improve our problem-solving and cognitive capabilities. While screen-based learning can enhance visual-spatial intelligence, it weakens our higher-level intellectual functions.
Well yes, the intertubes allows me to read Mirko Bargric, and as a result I can feel myself getting dumber by the minute. My higher-lever intellectual functioning is foundering, flopping about, and and enfeebled as it turns to jelly.
Could it be that the internet is about to bring about the decline and fall of western civilisation as we know it?
Gillard's persistence with her fanatical plan force us to pay $2000 each to improve a tool that makes us more stressed, dumber, fatter and less healthy is the ultimate proof that she is incapable of making decisions that have positive outcomes in the real world.
Yes, I can feel my stress level rising by the second as I read the fatuous insights of Mirko Bagaric, and that's certainly making my brain fatter and my body less healthy.
But do tell us more:
Most internet use relates to email, (anti-)social networking sites and trash searches, including music videos and porn.
But what about trash searches that turn up the vigilant thoughts of Mirko Bagaric? A kind of rhetorical intellectual pornography full of fear and loathing of the intertubes?
It is even more retrograde from a work and health perspective. Online technologies make workers contactable 24/7, breaking the separation between work and family and social life. High internet users report increased levels of stress and anxiety. It is hardly surprising that in the first large-scale study of Western young people looking at the effect of the internet on mental health, psychologists at Leeds University in Britain found high internet users "had a higher incidence of moderate to severe depression than normal users".
But what about the severe depression provoked by reading Mirko Bagaric, his thoughts littering the intertubes and somehow managing to get past the aluminium foil hat I wear whenever I go near a computer, for fear the aliens will get me? What about the increased levels of stress and anxiety provoked by reading him?
Hang on, hang on, why on earth does he allow his thoughts to be posted on the intertubes? Doesn't he realise that by doing this he's increasing our stress, making us fat and dumber, and generally increasing the anxiety level? He's aiding and abetting and consorting with the enemy ...
And amazingly he's a professor at Deakin University, in the School of Law, with a quite astonishing hatred of the intertubes, almost worthy of Susan Greenfield ...
Pity the poor students I say, forced to deal with all those bees in just one bonnet ... but if you want more ranting you can trot off to Flood of bad decisions from Gillard.
With just one caveat. If you're a lawyer, and you've used ComLaw, or perhaps the AustLII Databases, or perhaps the Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales 1788-1899, or the Family Court of Australia, or dozens of other sites dedicated to the law or legal decisions in Australia, do not pass go, do not collect five hundred bucks, but instead go directly home and go to bed, because you've just made yourself even stupider and dumber than the stupidity and dumbness generally associated with lawyers and our system of justice (which is to say teh law, since justice and the workings of the law are quite different concepts).
That barely leaves us time to honour David Burchell for his usual steaming pile of twaddle, replete with the standard irrelevant historical references, which this time see the Bastille and the French Revolution chain ganged in to service in relation to current events in Egypt, in Swept along by Egypt's uprising.
In the usual fetid, blithely ignorant way of the commentariat, Burchell managed to avoid considering the depths of depravity of Western allies (of a loose kind), like Egypt, which did a lot of dirty work for the United States, or Saudi Arabia, a repressive, oppressive society which has done even dirtier work for the United States.
And so all he can bring to the table is alarm and concern and fear that the old tyrants will be replaced by new tyrants.
It's a kind of let them eat cake philosophy, because they're only likely to want to eat cake again ...
But I guess the kindly Hosni Mubarak government was only concerned for Egyptian citizens when it shut down the intertubes. You know, so they wouldn't get fatter or dumber or overload on stress and anxiety.
Never mind, Burchell is well placed to know about cake-eating.
It was after all the completely inept meddling by Britain, the United States and others in the propping up of the Shah of Iran that led to a most unfortunate subsequent theocracy.
And for generalisations worthy of a profound form of online dumbing down, you can't go past Burchell:
There have been only two popular ideologies of consequence in the Middle East since colonialism's squalid death in the 1950s: Soviet-style authoritarianism, with its specious liturgy of anti-colonialism, and the grand, exultant nihilism of the Muslim Brotherhood and its fellow extremists.
No mention of rabid fundamentalist Zionism, or rabid fundamentalist Wahhabism? Or the wondrous achievement of splendid democracy in Iraq thanks be unto the warmongering of Blair and Bush? And the lingering implication that somehow anti-colonialism is some kind of specious liturgy belonging to authoritarian leftists and commies? And wouldn't the middle east be a much more jolly place if the British had been left in charge?
Yes, this is the same gormless chappie who wrote in That convenient scapegoat, Israel not so long ago:
Christianity, we are told, bequeathed to the modern secular West a fundamental aversion to the idea of the scapegoat, since Christ, the God-man, freely allowed himself to be scapegoated in order to assume all our sins, and in doing so shamed us forever.
Well I don't know who told him, or who told 'we', but of course it takes a blithe capacity to overlook the peculiarities of 'blood libel' (a term even Sarah Palin knows about now), or the ongoing scapegoating of Jews by the Christian church for killing Christ (yes deicide is the only appropriate word for that level of scapegoating).
Burchell wrote that piece before the Palestine Papers unfolded and provided a different perspective on Israeli-Palestine negotiations, but don't expect those revelations to change his mind, in much the same way it's typical that he damns all Egyptians and the future of Egypt because people are mad as hell and not going to take it any more.
After all, what's thirty years in power when the dictator happens to be friendly to the west? No need to do an Allende on him because he's a handy overlord ...
Who knows what will happen in Egypt as things work themselves out. Naturally when Burchell looks at the current events, he sees grim foreboding:
The next few months will show whether the Egyptian opposition has learned this bitter yet profound lesson - or whether it is doomed to repeat that familiar tragedy where the tyrant's executioner turns tyrant in turn, and is compelled to erect an even grander and more messianic political fantasy in his wake.
Uh huh. What luck that Burchell has avoided the familiar tragedy of falling into the hands of Egypt's secret police. (try Heavy Hand of the Secret Police Impeding Reform in the Arab World, and the friendly art of interrogation).
Yep, there's democracy, and then there's presidents that hang around for thirty years, and everybody's terribly worried when actual Egyptians get a little upset ...
Not to worry, anyone who can speak of grander and even more messianic political fantasies, and ignore the works of Blair and Bush in the middle east, is surely involved in a quite deluded and grand messianic political fantasy all on their own ...
By the end of this crooked path (reached with crooked cane and crooked eyesight) a disturbing thought came to me.
Both Burchell and Bargric, the two B's, are academics, in a tertiary education system supposedly dominated by leftists, yet here they are blithely blathering in The Australian on a regular basis, in ways that can only be described as full of sweeping generalisations, and distorted perspectives loaded with generous amounts of twaddle ...
Pity the poor students, I say.
(Below: and meanwhile, speaking of Sarah Palin, this from Doonesbury - click to enlarge. More Doonesbury here, still going strong after all these years).