Kill The Internet: Let’s Return to the Good Old Days of Manners, Conversation & “Dropping In”

Here was the news last Tuesday.

The Dow plunged 143 points in three minutes after a Tweet from the Associated Press flashed across the country reporting the White House bombed and Obama injured. Then the Dow rallied the whole 143 points back in seven minutes when the Associated Press said the Tweet was a fake. They’d been hacked. A few hours later, a group called the Syrian Electronic Army—a group that supports President Assad—claimed responsibility for the hack. But then there were those who said it might be the Syrian government in support of President Assad behind this, since, in recent days, the government has been trying to scare America into joining the civil war on the government’s side.

Also on Tuesday, it was reported that U.S. officials believe the two Boston bombers (one run over by the other and dead, the other now in the hospital and alive) built bombs from instructions they read in an online magazine: go to the kitchenware department and get a stove timer and a pressure cooker. Now go to the main part of the store and get some bolts, nails and other junk along with electric wires and several bags of gunpowder. Now go to a toy store, buy an animated furry animal, take out its mother board and then read the recipe. Boom. After that a Congressman asked—what nation funded this operation? Had to be an evil empire behind this.

Third item of the day involved Beyoncé. I heard this on the radio. People had posted not- very-flattering photographs of her performing halftime at the Super Bowl. They were now on YouTube and blogs and all over the internet, with appropriately adolescent remarks. She’s a pretty lady. Most ladies don’t like pictures of them from unflattering angles. But there they were. Beyoncé’s spokesperson then announced that henceforth, press photographers would be banned from shooting Beyoncé’s upcoming World Tour and would instead, to get pictures, have to get Beyoncé-approved images.

Here’s the fourth item. On Tuesday, U.S. prosecutors dropped charges against an Elvis impersonator named Kevin Curtis. A white powder called ricin (which is highly poisonous) had been sent to President Obama, U.S. Senator Roger Wicker and a state judge in Tupelo named Sadie Holland; inside the envelopes with the powder was a note saying “I am KC and I approve this message.”

The Feds had looked around and found that a fellow named Kevin Curtis had written notes on the internet that ended “My name is Kevin Curtis & I approve this message.” So they arrested him. And then, on Tuesday, they dropped the charges. The reason they gave was that they found no incriminating evidence against him at his home or place of work.

By this time, the feds had begun to investigate a man named Everett Dutschke, who some people in Tupelo said had a grudge against Curtis and was known for doing things to trip him up, such as calling his sponsors and telling them Curtis was a bad guy. They searched Dutschke’s house and business. Ricin and the sorts of things you need to make ricin (another internet recipe?) were reportedly found. Also, several years ago, Dutschke had run for state assembly against Judge Holland’s son Stephen and lost. Now Dutschke is under arrest.

Finally in the news was Anthony Weiner, a former Queens Congressman. He had resigned in disgrace in 2011 when it was found that he had taken lewd pictures of himself and then sent them to women by email and Twitter. The pictures were of his chest, his biceps and what may or may not have been his penis. Anyway, last Tuesday he announced he might throw his, um, hat into the ring and join the crowd running for Mayor of New York City. A poll had come to his attention. It said that if he were in the race and the primary election were held tomorrow, he would run second in the field of six with 15% of the vote. Only a Ms. Quinn (recommended by the current mayor, who is retiring) would run ahead of him, and she was fading amid reports that she was alledgedly a mean, bad tempered and vindictive lady.

The fifth item, there was Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, now holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to keep
from being extradited to Sweden on sexual assault charges, announcing the name of his campaign director in what he says will be his upcoming run for a seat in the Australian Parliament. He’s a citizen of Australia. If he can win a seat, he’ll be under the protection of Australian parlimentary privilege rules, which guard politicians against legal action over comments made in parliament.

Yes, it was a busy day in the news last Tuesday. And everybody knows because everybody is staring at their cell phones at bus stops, in restaurants, on street corners, even at the beach and even behind the wheels of their cars, which we know because we find such objects clutched in a death grip in their hands after they smash into cars ahead of them.

Wait a minute, there was one more item.

On Tuesday, the Morgan Library and Museum announced that an elderly woman named Marjorie Sheard, now living in Canada, had sold them nine letters she had received when she was young from the reclusive author J. D. Salinger. It was 1941 and J. D. was 22 and living in New York and it was before he wrote his masterpiece The Catcher in the Rye and she was 24 and living in Canada. She was a fan and  had written to him wanting to know how to get published. He wrote letters back, encouraging her and giving advice. The correspondence developed into a flirtation. He didn’t know what she looked like. He asked if she would send him a picture. She demurred, then changed her mind and did. “Sneaky girl,” Salinger wrote her. “You’re pretty.” Though she never got anything published and never came to meet him, she kept his letters in a shoebox in a closet for the next 70 years. Now 95, she is in frail health and needs money to pay medical bills, so the letters were sold to the Morgan.

After The Catcher in the Rye, and all the praise and publicity about it in 1951, Salinger bought a farmhouse up a long gravel road in rural Cornish, New Hampshire and lived there the rest of his life without ever making a public statement or being seen in public. (Except occasionally in a grocery, by a few farmers.)

How did he do that? Maybe it’s time we go back to the days when a Greta Garbo or a J. D. Salinger could do that. Keep to ourselves if we want to. Or just have a few friends. We’d sit around and once in a while the phone would ring. We’d go for walks on the beach. Write letters. Drive a few miles to “drop in” on friends unannounced. Have long, soul-searching conversations in coffee houses. Read the classics sitting by the fire in your library with the dog at your side.

Kill the internet.

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