I just read yet another report on 911 on digg.com. This time, as opposed to affirming the strength of design of my tinfoil hat, a comment someone made struck me. “I don’t know what to believe in anymore,” wrote docholiday22. Sardonic responses ensued, but for a brief moment, I felt something I hadn’t. Perhaps I have been spending too much time online, or perhaps it genuinely struck an accord with my mood, but I felt something that I haven’t felt before. Online empathy.
I have never been comfortable with empathy, and certainly not mediated and public internet empathy. But maybe it is due to the nature of 911, or the stark frankness of the statement, that I really agreed. I don’t know what to believe in about 9/11. I have seen the films, heard the bullshit, tried to rationalize the left and right conspiracies, but all I am left with is that there is a giant crater in NYC, lots of people died and are still dying from it, and I also don’t know what to believe anymore. I do know, though, that I am beginning to believe in the possibilities of the internets again, if for a brief fleeting moment.
I first used the internet over at my friend Aram and Greg Shumavon’s place in Oxford, Ohio. It was maybe junior high, around 1987. They could send electronic messages to Thrasher Magazine, which I thought was amazing. I didn’t understand it at all.
Then, there was PINE at Macalester college, in 1993. My teacher was quite radical, and insisted that we email our final papers to him. I actually didn’t really succeed in getting to work, so I both printed it and emailed it. In that frigid winter, though, I began to chat, though it seemed futile as there was no way I would have ventured forth into -45 degree weather…still, a community was there. And I would look at university of Michigan’s weather, and other universities’ books, and sometimes people. And I thought, “this might be great, if I could understand it.”
I don’t claim to understand the internet. But I do know that the same desire is hidden underneath. To somehow empathize, and to be heard, if but for a brief moment.