The Dark Tower

The Internet is a terribly misunderstood creature.  It writhes and shifts and shapes and meanders through culture and politics and society and life and art and we complain and we exult and we wonder and sometimes, just sometimes, we think what else it might do.  The good in us thinks that it is benign, a tool that we can use to help one another, to commune with one another, and that communication somehow is something amoral, nondescript, impersonal, that it’s not a noun but a verb, not a thing to be addressed, but a tool to wield.  But there is a darkness which we prefer not to mention.

Childe Roland to The Dark Tower Came

Childe Roland to The Dark Tower Came

The beast that lurks in the dark underbelly of the Internet is sometimes referred to as the Dark Web, or the Deep Web.  It is a place where people go so that they can be hidden, a place of political dissidents, nazis, paedophiles, naysayers, and evildoers.  It is not the mainstream, it’s a million miles from Facebook.  And it’s also, perhaps, a more honest place.

This writer has never been there.  And though I’m tempted to download the Freenet software and plunge headlong into the morass of sin and exploitation, I don’t think I would have the cohonés to stick my head around the door, even if only to drop in for a cup of tea.  The freenet logo is a bounding rabbit, or perhaps a hare.  It could be something out of Watership Down, or Alice in Wonderland, reminding us perhaps of childhood, or a blissful utopia.  It could also, of course, be something out of Animal Farm, an altogether different vision.  But that there is some kind of vision here is certain.

What I wonder about these liberating technologies is that as they loose us from the ties and norms of society, and as an individualization of the self (as opposed to the centuries old socialisation of man) accelerated through technology, who, or what, do we become?  Our darkest thoughts (that is, thoughts beyond simply “brazen”…) become realisable without consequence, our morals become irrelevant.  Our identity becomes pluralised, and compromised.  Spooky.

Francis Fukuyama wrote a book called The End of History and The Last Man, arguing that, because liberal democracy represented the ultimate in human achievement, allowing maximum expression and freedom for the individual, it meant that as a people we could no longer have ambition; and, devoid of ambition, we were dispossessed of a crucial defining element of ourselves, therefore mankind as we know it was at an end.  Maybe he was right, that mankind as we know it is at an end. But maybe for the wrong reasons.