Sunday, August 21, 2016

Poison waiting in the dregs

Shorter Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, "The Virtues of Reality", New York Times, August 21 2016:
These kids today and their internets! What's the world coming to? Instead of driving drunk, getting in bar fights, and having furtive unprotected sex they now stay home, play violent video games, and jerk off to electronic porn. I bet that's why they won't move out of their parents' houses and get jobs and wives. (It couldn't have anything to do with the economy, right?) It makes me so mad I could spit.
Ross is now in favor of hooliganism and hookup culture? He's a booster of that Caligulan Thrill that used to get him so hot and bothered back when he was a pious lad of 35, last year sometime? I guess what pisses him off today is that, in this fantasy world he's constructed for the pure pleasure of screaming at it, the young men (he says "people" but it's all about boys) are all avoiding God's just punishment for their irremediably sinful nature.

The funniest thing in the column, aside from including a link to an essay by his mother—no, back up, that's part of the funniest thing in the column, speaking of fantasy worlds:
My mother, Patricia Snow (yes, even columnists have mothers), in an essay for First Things earlier this year, suggested that any effective resistance to virtual reality’s encroachments would need to be moral and religious, not just pragmatic and managerial. I never could induce her to read Frank Herbert’s “Dune,” but her argument made me think of the science-fiction novel’s “Butlerian jihad” — the religious rebellion against artificial intelligence that birthed Herbert’s imagined far-future society, which has advanced spacefaring technology but not a HAL or C-3PO in sight.
That kid arguing with his mom about the literary merits of the Dune cycle is precisely the same kid as the terrified Lost Boys invented for the column, as pointed out indirectly by non-theocratic reactionary P. Suderman in response to Ross's early draft (three years ago) for the piece:

What Ross is really upset by isn't the Internet at all, but the small-souled, timorous lad he sees in the mirror every morning (though he has of course moved out and has been employed and married for quite a while by now—proving that the issue isn't about who's small-souled, but rather who comes from a world of privilege that will never let him down). He singles out video games as opposed to sci-fi novels or Dungeons & Dragons because he's never played video games, so that makes the column not about him.

But the other thing about Dune is that while he is idolizing the heroic character of a population that has resisted the enslavement of dependence on computers and robots—
virtual reality’s strange gift — a cup that tastes of progress, but might have poison waiting in the dregs.
—he forgets that the entire fictional political economy of the Dune world is based on universal drug addiction to melange or spice, a hallucinogen habit that it is fatal to kick. Is that really better, or somehow nobler, than computers?

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