In Oscar Wilde’s A Few Maxims For The Instruction Of The Over-Educated, his collection of smirk-inducing aphorisms published in 1894, the erudite wordsmith wrote, “In old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public. Nowadays books are written by the public and read by nobody.” Where else than on the internet could this lament be more appropriately applied?
I don’t take Wilde’s sentiment as academic elitism so much as a caveat to be more discerning with whom we decide to validate with our attention and approval, especially as more people gain access to the public’s ear thanks to the internet. In essence, we must be active listeners instead of a passive audience indistinguishable from mildewy sink sponges just waiting to sop up whatever gets poured over us.
Keeping that tenet in mind, former Vice Presidential candidate and mama grizzly-in-chief Sarah Palin recently gave the keynote address to the RightOnline 2012 conference about the “birth of citizen journalism,” crediting Matt Drudge as the progenitor of what now might be considered the activist contingency of journalism. And while citizen journalism has certainly grown to become a valuable asset to our global collection of news, Wilde likely never imagined that his caution for the audience’s vigilance would be as necessary as it is in our new age of all internet, all the time.
Below, Palin describes Drudge’s breakout moment in the late 1990s:
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