Nicholas Carr thinks that Google is making us "stoopid." In a recent piece in The Atlantic, he says those of us who constantly surf the Net can't concentrate properly anymore -- that instant access to virtually all information reduces our attention span. Mr. Carr says he can no longer immerse himself in a book or a long article, something that used to be easy for him. Has this happened to you? I thought so. It's happened to me as well.
Mr. Carr points to research that suggests we may be in the
middle of neurological changes in the way we read and
think. He has been influential and controversial in his writings
on information technology, which he doesn't believe to
be the savior so many think it is. If you want to learn more
about this man and his message, well, just Google his
name; it's as easy as that. Which kind of illustrates his point.
"My mind now expects to take in information," says Mr.
Carr, "the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving
stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of
words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski."
I've been zipping around the Net, reading, among other
things, about the extraordinary events in Georgia, the former
Soviet republic turned American ally in the Caucasus,
whose leader decided to beard the Russian bear in his den.
He set about ethnically cleansing (don't you love the bloodlessness
of that idiotic euphemism for driving populations
from their living spaces by attacking and killing them?) the
province of South Ossetia of Russians and Ossetians who
are opposed to living under Georgian rule and are in an
autonomous region under the protection of Russian
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, educated at
Georgetown and Columbia universities, seemed to think
American assurances of support in moving his troops and
armor into South Ossetia meant more than, "We'll hold
your coat while you get your butt whipped by the Russkies."
He was wrong. When Russia
countered his attack and routed
his American- and Israeli-trained
and -equipped fighters, it became
quickly apparent that the United
States wasn't about to battle Russia.
It would use harsh words and
threaten bad things to come if the
Russians didn't back off, but that,
so far, is the extent of it.
Most of the mass media here
have been singing the government's
tune on this confrontation
--blaming it on Russia and overlooking
the Georgian crackdown
in South Ossetia. But on the Internet,
it's become quite evident that elsewhere in the world
there is a different take on the crisis: simply put, that the
United States erred in thinking it could continually encroach
upon Russia's periphery without consequence.
For years, recent American administrations have been
provoking Russia by lobbying NATO to include former Soviet
republics while denying Russia itself membership.
And when Sen. John McCain, whose chief foreign policy
adviser, Randy Scheunemann, is a lobbyist for Georgia,
says, "In the 21st century, nations don't invade other nations"
-- a statement quickly echoed by President Bush --
laughter is heard around the world. If what Mr. McCain said
is true, how is one to account for our invasions of Iraq and
Afghanistan, and the forces we've arrayed against Iran
while powerful voices argue for us to attack it? Talk about
The president complained that Russia's response was
"disproportionate," perhaps forgetting that he found nothing
disproportionate about Israel invading, blockading and
bombing Lebanon for more than a month in 2006 following
the abduction of two Israel Defense Forces soldiers by
Finally, The Wall Street Journal points out, "Russia's attack
on Georgia has become an unexpected source of support
for big U.S. weapons programs, including flashy fighter jets
and high-tech destroyers, that have had to battle for funding
this year because they appear obsolete for today's conflicts
with insurgent opponents."
It may not make sense to most of us to fire up the Cold
War again, but to the military/industrial behemoth, it's
money in the bank.
Ron Smith can be heard weekdays, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., on 1090
WBAL-AM and wbal.com. His column appears Wednesdays
in The Sun. His e-mail is email@example.com.