Another example that is quite astonishing, one that will be recognized by future historians as an extraordinary phenomenon in the 21st century, is that the aging populations are buying into their own impoverishment. There’s this strange way in which people who are older tend to be conservative, and what conservative means now is no government: “Don’t you dare support my dialysis, don’t you dare support my nursing home expenses! That reduces my liberty! I need my freedom and my options.”
But if you look at how this transformation has come about, where the elderly are, for the most part, advocating their own impoverishment and misery, you find the same thing, this prevalence of social media, new media. You tend to find “conservative,” nutty politics using social media better than mainstream sensible stuff. And that’s true both on the left and the right, but it’s the right that’s taken off with it, and that’s striking to me. Of course, that story is still unfolding, so we don’t know how it will turn out, but it’s absolutely remarkable.
To me, a lot of the culture of youth seems to be using the Internet as a form of denialism about their reduced prospects. They’re like, “Well, sure we can’t get a job and we need to live with our parents, but we can tweet”, or something. “Let us tweet!”
This “rights” kind of stance, as opposed to a “wealth” kind of stance, it’s exactly the mirror image of what you see in Tea Party older America, of “we don’t want our healthcare paid for. What we want is the right to not have our healthcare paid for, and that’s more important to me.”
It’s very strange, this notion of impoverishment and lack of prospects, but this absoluteness of expression and speech. And in a way maybe that’s admirable, maybe there is something about that that’s very American, and very pure. I don’t know. But at any rate, it’s not sustainable, whatever it is. I don’t think it leads to a workable scenario, and I also think it just includes too much suffering and cruelty.
A lot of the people I track with online simply dismiss Lanier, usually mockingly, but if you actually try to answer his arguments you’ll discover that it’s not as easy as it may seem. He may be wrong, but if so, he’s wrong in a far more thoughtful way than many of his critics, and anyone who tries seriously to argue with Lanier will get smarter int he process.
(I write this as someone who’s not sure just how much I agree with Lanier.)