He was once the most powerful voice in France but that fateful day his jaws wrapped in bandage he rode a cart through the roads of Paris towards his last meeting – with Madame Guillotine. As he stepped unto the scaffold Monsieur Robespierre stared at the crowd that had come to witness his demise. The same device that ended the life of Louise the XVI , Marie Antoinette and his enemies. Now it was his turn … one of the guards then pulled the bandage from his face and he screamed. The crowd cheered and jeered. In a few moments the life of Maximilian Robespierre came to an end.
Was Robespierre a hero? A tyrant? A monster? Who knows but in the end the crowd in front of the guillotine turned him with a ferocity that may have surprised him. The crowd had their individual and collective reason that drove that ferocity.
A few days ago I was talking with a couple of friends and the talk veered towards the person who had mistreated a traffic officer and was caught on video, and said video was released on the Internet and it unleashed a wave of anger. One friend was delighted at the prospect and said it was the power of social media, while another raised the question granted what the guy did was wrong but was not some of the reaction online also as deplorable?
Why do such things happen?
I guess certain actions , like inciting violence against a person , can be considered deplorable. But what is surprising is that there are times if you try to picture the person making the threat seems to be embodiement of meek mildness. Far from the persona he or she projects online. It is one of the facets of the Internet and our digital life.
The digital life allows us to access information more easily. It allows us to contact friends despite time and space, provided both of you are connected. And among other things it frees us from conventions and social norms of society.
We are not shackled by the disapproving stare of parents, friends and others when we do things. Of course there is still reproach but it lacks the strength of a physical stare and presence of a person. OF course this is not for all. There are those who still retain control by mere thinking of what was taught to us. Of course this freedom can be both for the good and the bad of the community.
In a sense the Internet has become the magic ring to us. This is an old story I first learned when I read the works of Mortimer Adler. As far as I know the latest incarnation of this tale has come about in the form of a game which begins slightly like this, –
You wake up one morning and discover you were given a magic ring for a day. The only power the magic ring had was to render its bearer invisible to everyone. How would you spend your day?
It is a test of character. And I think such is the bane and boon of magic rings, Bilbo and Frodo had to bear this when they carried the ring of Sauron. And the Internet is the magic ring that allows us to do a number of things and more, And it is a test of character.
Motormania:Here is an old Disney Catoon that is humurous commentary on driving. In certain respect it seems to apply also to what happens from time to time in Cyberspance.