Primates typing away in cyberspace

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Comedian Bob Newhart had a routine about the theory that an infinite number of monkeys typing for an infinite amount of time would eventually reproduce all of the world’s great books.

He envisioned the daily grind for the people who would have to read through what the monkeys created. The punchline is when one of the workers checks Station 15 and reads, “To be or not to be, that is the … gorzenblatt.”

Newhart never knew it at the time, but he described how I feel every once in a while logging onto the Internet. The great thing about the Internet is the world’s greatest thoughts and most useful information are available. The problem is that to get there, you must wade through seemingly all of the world’s dumbest thoughts and most useless information available.

Don’t believe me? Just go to any national story and click on the “Discuss this article” link. You might see two or three posts that use intelligent discourse to either strengthen or weaken the theme of the story. The majority, however, are ad homonym attacks, responses to those attacks and discussions broached about topics having nothing to do with the primary topic.

I should know. I went into a sports discussion group and saw hundreds of messages in the discussion topics of “NASCAR is not a sport” and “Golf is not a sport.” The discussion group’s users either said the activity was a sport, it wasn’t a sport, or the person who commented a few minutes before is stupid.

In my attempt to point out absurdity by being absurd, I started the topic, “Scrabble is not a sport.” Of the 15 people who responded, one-third argued that Scrabble is a sport. About 40 percent of the users said I was being obvious and wasting their time — never mind they took the initiative to reply, or that every poster after the first was being obvious by repeating the point.

The remainder actually figured it out and had a good laugh, but the people I had to go through first show me we’ve obviously got a real life example of the monkeys banging away.

The examples are even greater in political groups, because most people have some opinion on leaders and policies. Go to any topic on DailyKos.com or BlogsforBush.com and look at the comments posted. If even half of the comments further the conversation at hand, it’s quite a shocker. I don’t even read discussion forums on political blog posts anymore because of all of these columns.

No matter what the polls are telling me as I’m writing this column, there’s really no way to tell what type of election results you’ll see in the pages preceding this column. But I can guarantee you’ll have to wade through a lot of commentary just to get to the truth. The monkeys continue to type away, and the items that don’t inform you will always outnumber the items that will. I guess it’s a necessary evil of the First Amendment in the age of instant information.

Good luck to you, and avoid the gorzenblatt on the way.

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. He can be reached at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by e-mail:
kevin_wilson@link.freedom.com