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A Walk On The Stupid Side: How Does The Other Half Live?

Date/Time Permalink: 04/22/10 10:42:22 pm
Category: Geek Culture

Playing a bit of web ouija, in which I willfully allowed the mouse pointer to take me wherever it wanted to go, I ended up indulging some of the most ignorant minds one could fear to exist. Really, I know I can't be alone in this. When you know even a little bit about a topic like technology, and encounter people like these, it must feel like visiting a tribe of cannibals in deepest unexplored jungle. You just listen to the people with the bones in their nose rant about the volcano gods, and nod dumbly and get away as fast as you can.

I'm doing this to brace myself. My middle-school-age daughter this year starts a computer class in school, and I'm just dreading the first encounter with the staff. I know ten ways she could get to be tomorrow morning's news headline already, just by opening her mouth in front of the wrong closed mind. I haven't met the teacher yet. I actually expect a person with a bone in their nose who worships volcano gods. I'm at a loss for what to tell my kid. Should she mention that she's learned a little Python programming? If the teacher knows what that is, she might get extra approval. If I'm dealing with a bone-nose, she might end up in Guantanamo Bay in the "dangerous hacker" section next to Terry Childs. Are they going to quarantine her at Mercy Medical Center if she says she has Linux?

Keep your nerd rage in check and visit the tribe of savages. It appears to be a news item about teen hacking, kind of like teen sexting without the sex. It starts with a YouTube clip of 1995's Hackers, the most ignorant film ever made in history (including Reefer Madness). It regurgitates some percentages at random about this and that, like a mother bird coughing up half-digested news article for her chicks.

Then it gets preachy. "That proves, yet again, how little of an influence parents monitoring things they fear or don’t understand have at all on their children." Look who's talking. Mr. Sean Yeaton, if you're reading this (or perhaps your nurse is reading it to you), may I just say that I just hope you're on drugs, because it galls me that anybody could be that retarded while sober.

Wait, what's that you say? You can't take such a tabloid so seriously? Well, then it links to... WebWiseKids.org, where wisdom begins with you (no it doesn't, it begins with "w").

"Web Wise Kids is proud to be working with the Department of Justice to implement Project Safe Childhood... Web Wise Kids is honored to have been selected as one of only five organizations nationwide who will receive Federal funding to assist the Justice Department..."

Our troubles begin when we notice that the whole site appears to have been written by the same driveling moron who reported on teen hacking.

Let's see here. There's the Microsoft-sponsored "safer web surfing tips," being sure to imply that any software not made by Microsoft is slimy and evil. In the Parent's FAQ page, there's advice for checking up on your kids using AOL, Internet Explorer, or hitting something called a "Start" button.

"It is also a good idea to check the Recycle Bin on your computer to see if your children have discarded anything that you need to know about."

...because clicking "empty recycling bin" is simply beyond anybody but us wisdomy parent people.

And oh goody! It has one of those "glossaries" with code acronyms in a top-20 list. (Acronyms are scary! It's how teens sext! We should outlaw acronyms, call the FBI!) I always love reading these, because there's almost never anything used by actual people. It's like the jargon lists the vice squad puts together, sourced from - duh! - people who had fun feeding a load of bull to the clueless vice guy. In this list, how many acronyms have you actually seen in real life? Or as close to real life as 4chan gets? The source defensively threw a few right ones in there.

The amazing thing is that they get anything right at all. I've got to admit, I've told my own kids pretty much these rules for online safety. More or less. Just without trying to sound like an iCarly extra or anything. But before you start to perk up and think they're merely ill-informed people with good intentions, you stumble on AirDogs, with the bold headline "PIRACY... BULLYING... ILLEGAL DOWNLOADING..." Oh, these things must be all the same. When you're pirating Lady Gaga, that's just like you were bullying Universal Music Group. Hey, wait a minute, I thought this was about keeping kids safe?

This outfit, according to its own website, is sponsored by BofA, Wells Fargo, Toyota, Verizon, and other brand names, and is community partners with law enforcement and various associations and organizations. Your tax dollars, and your future government policy, at work. You know those bad decisions the US Congress will be making ten years from now and we'll all be blogging about? They're going to come from something they half-read and half-comprehended from sources like this, and of course, from the film Hackers.

Where could anybody start with this? What could you fix? How could you fix it? It's like a cargo cult where they get so much wrong but wear snappy uniforms that look just like the Army's, and when you try to tell them they're getting it wrong, they'll go change into nurse's uniforms instead.

This is why I don't give a damn anymore. I no longer want to try to fix it. It's too big a job for one person. All I do is coach my own kids, and hope that the bone-noses pick somebody else to sacrifice to the volcano gods today.

INB4 "Haw haw, he doesn't even know what a Start button is!"

we don't need no education

Update 5/17/10: Worse is the way these handy lists of "code" words get repeated over and over all over the web. Latest example here. Oh, the sensational drama!

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