Over the weekend, two of The Day’s columnists picked wildly different fights.
First you have Kenton Robinson, the paper’s enterprise editor and poet laureate, deciding that the internet is simply too easy to use and engenders solipsism.
The news is this: Sitting in front of that computer screen all day and ranting into cyberspace may make you socially retarded, even autistic or at the very least solipsistic.
He’s paraphrasing a comment from neuroscientist Susan Greenfield, the director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, about the large amount of time young people spend online with things like Facebook. Kenton extrapolates the brain-softening effect to The Day’s “snarky” online readers.
This strikes me as an odd argument on several levels. The most obvious one is that it’s plainly stupid to take on the nattering masses of internet readers, since after all, the Googles is where the industry is headed, whether the dinosaurs of the fourth estate like it or not. To bait these folks so boldly — not to mention offensively: I’m not sure it’s wise to unfavorably compare people who comment on theday.com to people with autism, but I’m not Mr. Robinson’s editor — is either a clever ploy to boost reader traffic or simply a fuck-off.
And secondly, anyone who’s published a collection of sonnets under a female Japanese pen name should not be throwing stones in the old solipsism house of glass. Perhaps Kenton was just having a moment of self-loathing and decided on the journalistic equivalent of kicking the dog.
Meanwhile, Chuck Potter opens the discussion on a hot-button double-whammy: lowering the drinking age and legalizing pot. I know and like Chuck, and I’ve always appreciated his wilingness to take on the more touchy subjects that we deal with, including race relations, homelessness and, well, legalizing pot.
By leading off with the nearly seven-month-old story about college presidents seeking a lower drinking age, the column softballs the more timely issue of legalizing marijuana, which more and more states are considering as a new source of desperately needed revenue. I wish Chuck had skipped the drinking debate, which has died down, and took the question of pot head on since there is a legitimate conversation to be had about this.
See Matt Yglesias on this subject. I largely agree with Yglesias’ point of view. The last thing the country needs is a fully-formed pro-grass-smoking lobby, but the money saved from policing and prosecuting these arrests may be worth an effort at decriminalzing the stuff.