A true friend not only helps you move your old dormitory couch out of the basement man-cave because your wife complained about the smell even though you don’t smell anything amiss–but she does, and you know what it is she’s smelling, and whom–not only does a true friend help you move aromatic furniture, he also helps you move a body. As the bard proclaims: Ne’er is friendship made more sure than ‘neath the docks/ In darkness for the poor deceased creating concrete socks (Now the song is stuck in your head, isn’t it?)
In civil society, we generally wait for the body to assume room temperature, even refrigerator temperature, before we hire men to dig the hole or stoke the furnace. Moreover, we ask for information regarding death: what kind of sickness? What manner of death? Next of kin? On the other hand, when a friend is required in order to perform a burial, we’re no longer in civil society, and the body is still warm. Most importantly, no questions are asked, not even, “Remember that thing we did?” And whenever someone asks, “What ever happened to Johnny Two Shoes?” the answer is along the lines of “He did seem kind of heavy the last time I saw him.” “Yeah, like he had a kind of sinking feeling about him.”
Many are nostalgic for print media, but we haven’t even buried print media yet. Basic questions have yet to be answered: what killed print media? Was it self-inflicted morbid living (lowest common denominator marketing)? Or was it old age (ineluctability of new technology)? Could the cause of death actually have been suicide (shooting its own customer base in the head repeatedly)?
It was this sentence fragment in Clay Shirky’s “Nostalgia and Newspapers” post which aggravated me (I thought the post was otherwise commendable), concerning print media: “…an industry that prides itself on pitiless public scrutiny of politics and industry…” That’s like saying Johnny Two Shoes loved gambling when in fact Johnny Two Shoes loved running a fixed and illegal roulette game in the Miami Beach area. For a while there, before the sudden demise of print media, we all agreed to play the fixed game because it was fun and there was still a chance to come away with something of value. We small government types tacitly acknowledged that print media was in the tank for Big Government types, and we bought the paper just so long as there were boundaries of decorum. But when Drudge Report, a digital media source, broke the news that Newsweek had declined to pursue the Monica Lewinsky story, the general public abandoned the print media casino. That was it. Too many of us had seen too much violence done to truth, virtue, honesty, integrity, etc., to look the other way any longer; our secondary benefits had been tainted by an arrogant culture of liars and power mongers. News media is not supposed to be terribly objective, but neither are they to be so crass in their power influencing.
The Drudge/Lewinsky example might be too fraught as an example (I’m feeling bombastic), but I repeat for emphasis: it wasn’t the Monica Lewinsky story, it was that Newsweek declined to do its job. Thus, the nascent digital media, which could have died in the birth canal, was delivered, and print media was no longer. Digital was a favorable alternative for many reasons, but not ineluctable, and it didn’t have to mean the demise of print; it still doesn’t.
These quick and easy eulogies of print media seem to me to be disposing of a warm body.