The Internet Is Not Some Giant Living In The Hillside Coming Down To Visit The Townspeople


I’ve seen a bit of end-of-year commentary recently saying things along the line of “let’s take the internet back” “the internet in 2013 was awful” “in 2014 we fix the internet” etc. and it kind of baffles me because it represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what the internet is, and exacerbates the very problems people want to address.

The internet is not the problem. Twitter is not the problem. They possibly don’t help the problems, as medium they are not passive etc. and they shape and form the messages transmitted, but in the end we’re the problem.

In the opening to his classic album “Black On Both Sides” Mos Def says the following:

People be askin me all the time
“Yo Mos, what’s gettin ready to happen with Hip-Hop?”
(Where do you think Hip-Hop is goin?)
I tell em, “You know what’s gonna happen with Hip-Hop?
Whatever’s happening with us”
If we smoked out, Hip-Hop is gonna be smoked out
If we doin alright, Hip-Hop is gonna be doin alright
People talk about Hip-Hop like it’s some giant livin in the hillside
Comin down to visit the townspeople
We are Hip-Hop
Me, you, everybody, we are Hip-Hop

I think you can use the exact same argument about “the internet”. “If we doin’ alright, the internet is gonna be doin’ alright”. If “the internet” seems like a shitty, broken place, it’s because the world is a shitty broken place. But the place to start fixing it, isn’t the network, it’s the nodes that make up the network. It’s us. Racism, misogyny, violence, hatred, are problems we have as people. They are not problems of the internet.

The network has problems itself; but again these problems are caused by the people on the network. It’s controlled by massive corporations and all watched over by state security agencies because we’re controlled by massive corporations and all watched over by state security agencies.

To say “let’s fix the internet in 2014” is to say “let’s fix human society in 2014”. That’s fine, that’s worthy, but it’s not easy and you have to remind yourself what the real problem is. And, like the network, I believe you can’t fix it until you start fixing the individual nodes. And that means ourselves.

“What’s gonna happen with hip-hop?
Whatever’s happening with us?”