And these three men made a solemn vow, John Barleycorn must die
An old ballad speaks of John Barleycorn, grown, reaped, and sown. He is an inoffensive chap, pale and wan with a little beard. Spoken of fondly, he must eventually be killed to be of use. His body is made to grain and, to stretch this personification to its most grotesque, his blood must be consumed to receive his full blessing. This is, of course, a farmer’s tale. Agriculture is a marvel whose brilliance will never fade – I do not fear the anarcho-primitivists! – but I cannot say the same for the Internet. For though the Internet may at first appear a wonder next to the humble stalk of barley, it leaves a bitter aftertaste. Indeed, the more the Internet is consumed, the more biting the flavor. Cyberspace is acidic by nature. It is the ultimate corrosive, the great de-bonder.
Why dare attack this marvel, this great miracle of copper and fiber? The truth is not always popular. We do not want to hear criticisms of the things we love lest we cease to love them, and so that our own identities, entwined with those things we love, are not marred. To criticize mining is to criticize the miner; to criticize football is to criticize the footballer. So it is with us, denizens of the internet.
Nevertheless, the Internet will perish.
In fiction, it is most often a virus that burns this technological world tree asunder. In Mike Pondsmith’s Cyberpunk, Rache Bartmoss unleashed the R.A.B.I.D.S virus, unintentionally infecting most of the internet. The regime seals it away behind a firewall known as the Blackwall. What remains thereafter is transformed into a series of walled gardens, playgrounds for corporate power.
The walled garden is in our future too, though we need no rabid virus to clear the virgin forest. We shall do this to ourselves. Or should I say, they shall do it to us. Those who look like us, but aren’t.
A wild, free Internet no longer favors the regime. Throughout the 90s and 2000s, the Internet was an effective method of degrading social bonds, evaporating moral codes, and globalizing horizons. By wire and screen, language was degraded, society was atomized and the pornography industry expanded from grimy video stores to the minds of millions of moldable teenagers.
But now the process is near complete, what use has the regime for a store of potentially explosive, dissident material? While the Internet may have spread degenerative ideas like anti-natalism, consumerism, and transsexualism, it also enables dissidents to network and reveal to the masses fringe ideas and behaviors which they have not yet been conditioned to accept and internalize.
Ergo, the Internet is doomed. Preparation has already begun. What other use has mass pro-censorship signaling among elites? Any attempt to reverse the coming tide is maligned as poor governance – consider the reaction to Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter and his ensuing policies.
It is merely a matter of how finely the Internet shall be partitioned.
Some have postulated regional nets – a North American net, a European net et al. I find this proposed network of webs too wide. The nation-state is the obvious structure upon which to mold these ‘Neo-Nets’.
But doesn’t the regime consider the nation-state outmoded? Without a doubt; the average MEP (Member of the European Parliament) would rather label themselves a pedophile than a nationalist. The structure of power, however, does not favor limitless ideologizing. The nation-state is fundamentally easier to control than a broad empire – and lifeless technocrats have enough trouble controlling smaller states as it is.
Such is the contradiction of the leftist revolutionary state; they become conservative revolutionaries in power so that they might better maintain the structure that enables them above the masses. Even the most extreme regimes are not exempt. Stalin himself recriminalized homosexuality, outlawed abortion, and promoted an intense form of (albeit atypical) nationalism. In this matter, the left is no different from any other ruling class.
When, then, will this happen? For how long will we enjoy the Internet?
It is impossible to estimate. Not tomorrow, to be sure, or next week. Not even next month or next year. But one day, not too far distant, a crisis will come upon us, and we shall all be divided in that crisis. Perhaps we shall be allowed a limited connection with other ‘nets’. Perhaps the subsequent moral panic will permit such a separation that only the elites remain in international contact. Perhaps a series of continental webs will proceed with an ever more extreme shrinkage. I dare not predict this particular of the future.
Rather, I must draw your attention to the wording of my second question. Enjoy. It’s a peculiar phrasing, is it not?
I have deigned to employ the usual designated verb, chosen chiefly by the Commentariat who consider technological progress and connection to be a universal Good.
We know better. The Internet is a strange reflection of ‘real life’ – another bizarre term, which implies that the Internet is somehow a dream world. But the Internet is no dream: it is billions of people interacting in almost every way possible, experiencing a full spectrum of emotions, and all through the mirror-portal of a monitor.
The monitor, keyboard, and mouse measure input, translating intent into the aether that is the Internet. And the measurement of any phenomena will serve to alter said phenomena in the measuring. At the most superficial level, tone of voice vanishes in short text; sarcasm is notoriously difficult to catch. Emojis and shorthand (/s, for instance) were specifically created to assuage this issue, but they can be with sarcastic or ironic intent.
The conversation is only the most superficial of distortions. It is the effect on the mind which is more worrying. Through the Internet, we are bombarded by the unrealistic, the alternative, and the degenerate with such verisimilitude that our own internal perceptions must alter. It is no hardship to consider examples of this phenomenon. Fame. Money. Fitness. Love. Power. They surround us every day
Slightly less obvious, yet just as worthy of contemplation, is one of the most virulent and unfortunate viruses spread through our shared connection. Laughter. They say laughter is infectious, but in cyberspace, it’s become an infection. Laughter is cheap; it is easy. And it is self-replicating.
Sincerity and sobriety exist in the dark corners of political cyberspace, buried beneath layers of frogs and irony. The center is diseased; you need only examine popular political subreddits to understand this to be true. Actually, you don’t. You knew this before you read these words.
So perhaps you’ve wondered yourself:
Why should we, in power, maintain the Internet? After all, once it’s served its purpose, John Barleycorn must die.