Remember the title of that play, Stop the World, I Want to Get Off? Sorry folks, it's too late. The Internet has made our planet spin too fast. If you let go, you're a dead duck and if you manage to hold on, you never know where you are.
The days of leisurely contemplating and observing our world through the morning and evening newspapers is long gone. The reassuring news coverage of the fixed-time network news has disappeared. We are living in a 24/7 world. The planet never sleeps and the message in the media is a blur.
It is only on the Internet that we can be, for a nanosecond, slightly ahead of what is coming next. Turn away for a nanosecond and we are behind. That is the true definition of spin and it's going too damned fast to make any sense of it at all.
I am talking about what is commonly known as "news," which means new information. News happens all the time. It is pervasive and ubiquitous. It comes and goes in a nanosecond. One blink and it is gone. There is no time for reflection, no time for contemplation. What is happening is always past tense. The next new thing is not new.
We will have to wait for historians to tell us what occurred. We are too shell-shocked to understand.
Once news was doled out through the strainer of agencies like newspapers, wire services, broadcast and other media who employed a vast network of human filters who, at some level, checked the facts or were supposed to. Their ranks are diminishing. There is no time. Attention must be squeezed into the nanosecond. Can the human brain move that fast? Maybe so. Not mine.
Case in point. Something momentous occurs on the planet. It might be in Antarctica, Saigon, Baghdad, Nigeria, Chile, Washington, a tiny village in Somalia or Yemen, wherever. It is instantly reported by somebody somewhere. It travels around the world in nanoseconds. It sets off an avalanche of opinions, analysis and comments by a vast army, battalions of bloviating people who crowd the blogosphere and social networking sites convinced that others are panting for their comments and opinions about these events.
But before they can finish typing the first letter of their blogs, postings, tweets and bleats, another event occurs, travels at warp speed around the world, making their thoughts instantly obsolete. The mortality of their opinions is instant. A happening is barely a blink.
The accuracy of this fast-moving information is impossible to assess as to its truth or validity. There is no longer any mechanism to find out. Only opinions, conjecture, and words, words, words spinning relentlessly.
Remember the swine flu scare? It was a new strain. Someone on the Internet says it has jumped from pigs to humans. Someone suggests pandemic. Someone blogs about the 1918 flu which killed millions. The Internet is flooded with opinions, suggestions, and dire predictions. Officials warn people not to take public transportation. People become uneasy, frightened, and demand government intervention. Governments intervene. It may or may not be the right thing to do. I am not taking sides, since I am also uneasy. The point I am making is that the speed of the information comes in nanoseconds.
What we are left with is an echo within an echo within an echo. It does not register. It is a fast-moving blur.
Hard on its heels is other news, the economic slowdown, murders, floods, tornadoes, terrorist bombings, a woman shot on her doorstep, a child raped, a student's disappearance, protests, invasions, forest fires, plane crashes, plagues and protests. Whatever. There is always something new, something coming in the next nanosecond.
All these events are followed by battalions of reporters, analysts, endless squadrons of bloggers and tweeters, millions of them, pontificating, arguing, ranting, insulting, approving in every language known to man.
Tell me you know whom to believe and I'll call you a liar. No one knows. Few, if any have checked. Gossip rules. Rumors swirl. Many insist they know for sure. We are all buried under an ever-growing mountain of bullshit. Even that word has lost its meaning. The output is beyond words of current invention. Even the effluvium does not linger.
Things happen so fast, that one can barely remember what has gone before. And even if the bloggers, the talking heads, the politicians, the pundits, anyone who is plugged into the Internet, of every age, sex, race, religion or ideology is shouting his or her words on the fast spinning planet, they will all be quickly deleted and everyone will begin again, shoveling you-know-what against the tide.
Indeed, we are living in a totally new paradigm. Master that perpetually spinning paradigm for your own personal ends and you are a genius. Sorry, pal. You're trapped on the perpetual motion of a Disneyland ride.
Stop the world, I want to get off. No way.
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Warren Adler is the author of 32 novels and short story collections. His books are published in 25 languages worldwide and several have been adapted to movies, including "The War of the Roses" and "Random Hearts."
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