“I fear the Internet for so many reasons,” the Men in Black auteur told a radio and TV trade association this week. Such as? “[T]he Facebook generation is not concerned with what people know about them… they will have no problem withadditional governmental supervision, spying and intervention… I suspect we are probably looking at the last generation of Americans that exist in a democracy. Totalitarianism is not far in our future, and the next generation will go down that road happily.” Uh, of all people or things to blame for America’s slow slide toward fascism, Sonnenfeld is bashing Facebook?! I think we can all agree that Wild Wild West did way more harm to our precious democracy than any social-networking sites ever will.
In all seriousness, I guess there might be some merit in his argument that sites like Facebook have made today’s kids more comfortable with violations of their privacy. (Though it should be noted that the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance of Americans’ phone calls and e-mails began in 2002, two whole years before Facebook launched.) But it’s pretty clear that the Web as a whole hasn’t made our society less free. Quite the opposite, in fact: These new technologies have massively democratized the flow of information and creativity. There’s more culture, entertainment, and ideas out there than ever before in human history — not exactly the picture of a totalitarian lockdown. And, of course, that’s precisely the reason Sonnenfeld’s anti-Internet rhetoric would play well at a broadcasters’ convention. Radio and TV corporations don’t fear the Internet because of some nebulous threat to our civic ideals. They hate it because they believe that YouTube and such are eating away at their bottom line. Don’t they? Or do you think Sonnenfeld’s right, and status updates will soon enslave us all?