05/09/2005 09:59 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Blogs, Lies, and Videotape


You should consider the possibility that everything on this site is a lie. Not necessarily a premeditated lie, although no doubt there will be some of that, too. Instead, the content posted here might be, objectively speaking, a lie--insofar as it will soon enough be revealed to be, simply, not true.

Why do I make this claim, which, of course, would also apply to this page? I begin by pointing to the past few decades of confident prediction about the Information Age and its impact. Remember Marshall McLuhan’s prediction in the 60s that the electronic media would turn the world into a “global village,” which would in turn increase our planetary empathy for one another? Sure, when the occasional tsunami strikes, the cable news cameras are soon followed by increased shipments of aid. But on the whole, tensions and ill-feeling around the world are increasing, not decreasing—and this is before the Next Big One, terrorism-wise, and nuclear-proliferation-wise. So scratch McLuhan.

Next, remember Ken Ohmae, who wrote a book called The Borderless World? Is that happening, as the Patriot Act marks its fourth year? Or how about Walter Wriston, author of The Twilight of Sovereignty —do you think that George W. Bush and John Bolton agree with that idea? Or, for that matter, do the Chinese or the Russians agree that national sovereignty, and nationalism, are obsolete? And of course, there’s the grand-daddy of dead-wrong info-age predictions, The End of History, by Francis Fukuyama. Right.

But wait just an information-wants-to-be-free second, the dear reader might protest. Blogs, all eight million of them in the US alone, are different. They represent multiple viewpoints, many different voices. Yes, the corporate media might be trying to “enclose” free speech through copyright restrictions and other speech-squelching tricks. And yes, the government, utilizing such sharp-toothed tools as Echelon, Carnivore, Total Information Awareness, is doing its best to Big Brother-ize the cyber-commons. But still, the reader might protest, the overall blogosphere, in its myriad diversity, offers great hope for the e-embodiment of Jeffersonian egalitarianism and Tom Paine-style common sense.

Maybe so. But I suspect that soon we’ll see that the dream of a freewheeling, freethinking, free-fermenting Net-utopia is proven wrong—which is to say, proven to be a lie. That is, the world is becoming less borderless, more bordered. It is becoming opaque, not transparent. And oh, by the way, with apologies to Tom Friedman, the world is becoming vertical, not flat.

So while the details of this or that claim about the Net might be correct, in a literal sense, the basic claim about the Net—that it is individually and socially empowering—is likely to prove to be a lie. A Big Lie. And if the lie about the Net is big enough, then all little truths about the Net are effectively irrelevant, in the same way that sugar-coating a cyanide tablet doesn't change the ultimate reality of the tablet; such a tablet is still poison.

In the next few days, I will be attempt to convince you that I am telling the truth when I say that everything you are reading herein is not true.