Akh, This “Satanic” Internet

Mesrop Harutyunyan

Writer by calling

There was a need for such an article, perhaps, 18–19 years ago, when the computer was just entering Armenia, and few knew about the Internet. Some had heard some things, without seeing or imagining what possibilities it opens up. So, why have I now suddenly — when it’s difficult to even imagine our life without it — decided to write about this?


The background is as follows: about a month ago, local TV station Shoghakat had invited me for an interview on this very topic. I took the metro. A man of about 60 entered the subway car and stuck small pieces of paper in a few places. It piqued my interest, I approached and read what was written: “Internet = perversion = apathy = ruin.” For someone going to an interview about the Internet this was simply a gift and during the broadcast we turned our attention to this piece of writing. However, probably there’s more to say, and that’s why I decided, nevertheless, to address this topic again.


I truly find it difficult to understand what prompted this man to such a desperate struggle. Is he the only one who thinks this way or has he an organization whose members have decided to fight against that “satanic” invention, the Internet. I don’t know. But I know for sure that this man’s struggle is meaningless. Probably he knows it too. He can’t cut the internet cable entering the country and he is powerless in fighting against satellite connection. And he has chosen his way to fight: expressing an opinion by posting such leaflets. He has the right. Moreover, he can do this (I want to say, he has the right to do it) also through news outlets and through the very same Internet. But he’s probably never gone online; he’s heard about it and considers it some satanic thing, just as at the start of the industrial revolution, the steam engine was considered some satanic thing, just as at one time in the Soviet Union, genetics and cybernetics were refused, considering them sciences that contradicted the teachings of Marxism-Leninism, just as some initially fought against radio, then “that satanic box” television — boycotting it, urging to refrain from it and so on. 


So, is the Internet really that dangerous that it has forced this man to protest this way?


Let’s begin from the first component of his “formula”:


Perversion (or degeneration): In what way is the Internet perverted or who does it pervert? To tell the truth, I can’t understand it. Yes, there’s a huge amount of unacceptable content online; yes, it’s full of pornography, violence and so on. But it’s a simple thing: if you don’t want it, only a single or repeated click on the mouse is needed in order not to enter such sites or leave if you accidentally find yourself on them. You say, won’t you explain that to everyone? You say, “forbidden fruit is sweet”? Yes, there is such a thing, really there is. But those types of sites will grow while there’s still the demand; that is, while people still visit such pages. Boycott it; they’ll have fewer visitors; that is, they won’t “get sold” and they’ll die. Of course what I’m saying is utopian: it’s hard to convince a few hundred million (or perhaps one billion, I don’t know the actual number of visitors to such sites) people not to visit such sites. But, in any case, people have the opportunity to choose — to reap useful content from the Internet or to view pornography, violence and so on. That is, if you don’t want to, you won’t become perverted. I’m sure that I didn’t convince many. 


Apathy (or indifference): This too I find hard to comprehend. On the contrary, the Internet brings broadening of interests; moreover, it widens the circle of contacts, and in recent years, due to social media, it also provides opportunities for people to organize, to solve some problem or another. There is, of course, the phenomenon of withdrawing into oneself and spending hours in front of the computer. But again I have to say that everything depends on the person — on the individual, on his or her nature. Isn’t it so that there are many casinos and gambling addicts too? But there are also many people who step back in time, realizing that addiction can lead to bankruptcy.


Ruin (or destruction or catastrophe): I don’t know whose ruin he means or how many ruined lives the author of this formula has seen. Or, the ruin of what is he referring to? But probably he’s seen it and knows something, if he says so. Of course we’ve heard stories about the negative impact of the Internet: incidents of suicide or murder. But this man, from what I understand, meant the destruction of humanity. This too is nothing new. People have expressed themselves this way even after the invention of typography. But humanity, as you see, still exists and comes up with new inventions.


Let me conclude: the most painful thing for me in this entire story is that that man is not going to read this article of mine and won’t have the opportunity to object or debate with me. But I’m convinced that he is going to continue his desperate struggle against the Internet, posting his slogan on the windows of subway cars or electric poles. That entire territory is his “Internet.” Moreover, that territory is smaller than the Internet, but perhaps has more readers (for now). And what he’s written is his blog post or short note that people like me read and to which we turn our attention to in this Internet territory.


Mesrop Harutyunyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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