Web hits, "the current fool's gold of the newspaper industry," are bringing down the level of discourse in this country, says veteran Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Dwyre, in a column that leads with the saga of Golfweek's editor, who was fired after sticking a noose on the cover last week. The press, Dwyre says, spends too much time covering Britney and public demonstrations of stupidity, separate entities in this case. There's a war on, you know. What? We had no idea! This is a perfectly valid sentiment, but that's the problem-it's a sentiment, not an argument and it's about ten years past tired. I'm pretty sure William Randolph Hearst would have something to say about the web getting all the credit for inventing the proper way to monger a scandal or bait a race. (See racially insensitive image above, c. 1894.)
"We are afraid of quiet," Dwye says, and sure, sometimes at the end of a day I rue pixelation and curse each and every LCD screen around me. But the best spec feature they've got is the off switch. Last time I checked, there were more, not fewer sources of news on Afghanistan, Iraq, the economy, and our "energy policy," than there were ten years ago, and I'm free to partake as I wish (or can afford-$500 a year for home delivery of the Times?)
Dwyre's argument, like others before it and after it, assumes that the American public is so damn stupid (All those reality shows! All those trailer parks! It's a lethal combination!) that without the guidance of the fourth estate, it will revert to its default setting-the consumption of only the lowest common denominator of light innuendo-based trash. It also assumes this trash is new; that we've only started recording the idiotic things people say and do since the electrode was invented. Are any of these things true?
Does it really matter? The best way to effect change is to do something, not say something. Dwyre wants less noise and more substance. I look forward to his next LATimes column on locker room race wars and his suggestions on dealing with the brothelization of America's professional athlete.