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Hail, WAIS Internauts!



     The computer terms invented by Silicon Valley are silly, even goofy. They are being adopted even by the supercilious French, who speak of "un bug". Frivolous terms suggest that the internet is for playing games, but not by WAISers. They do not surf the web, as though they were enjoying a seaside resort. They deserve the Spanish neologism replacing web-surfers: they are Internauts.
     Alas, they are a small minority. the polling service QTopics has made a nationwide survey of the questions in which people were interested; only four concerned international affairs. U.S. News and World Report prints the last three words in small type, indicating that it is not a priority. The cover of a special issue shows Uncle Sam, with the caption "Man of the Century. From movies to microchips, Uncle Sam led the way." It does not say which way. To that empire of evil, Hollywood?
     There is an air of triumphalism about the account, entitled "The American Century". The U.S. produced 4 billion cigarettes in 1900, in 2000 it will be 720 billion. The number of daily newspapers has declined from 2,226 to 1,489. California led the way, being the birthplace of McDonald (over 1 billion Big Macs). "We fell in love with the high jinks of Lucy" (Lucille Ball and her goofy pals). "An excellent concluding essay, "The times of our lives" by Editor-in-Chief Mortimer B. Zuckerman radiates optimism in such statements as "a higher education in the right of every American"; it seems unrealistic to those of us who have toiled all our lives in higher education. Like America, the whole issue stresses rights, not responsibilities. The very title of the elegant closing piece "The power of freedom" by Harold Evans has the same stress. I finally found the word "responsibility" in a quotation from Henry Luce, founder of Time magazine. He spoke of " lifting the life of mankind from the level of the beasts to what the Psalmist called a little lower than the angels." That is not the language of this year's Christmas newspapers. Evans ends betting on America and dismisses people like Rudyard Kipling as Cassandras. In the England I grew up in, he displayed the same Cassandra-like pessimism in his "Recessional," but he was right.
     This celebratory issue of U.S. News (the last part of the title is deliberately suppressed) shows at best a negative interest in the outside world. I hope that is just Christmas euphoria. I have cancelled my subscriptions to Time and Newsweek because they have not lived up to their original mission. I hope that is the end of my disappointments.
     So hail! WAIS Internauts, more idealistic than the Argonauts. I know you will not give up the search for the Golden Fleece of world peace.

Ronald Hilton - 12/28/99


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