A lot of Internet blather just doesn't Czech out

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If I asked you to name the most important human invention or technological advance of the past 25 years, you'd probably say the Internet -- assuming I could distract you from your smartphone long enough to make eye contact.

I'm not against the Internet. Without the Internet, I wouldn't know which restaurants charge way too much for dry brisket delivered by a snippy waitress, or how much Matt Damon's house cost. My life would lack cats that can open doors.

But columnists get almost paid to take a bold stand now and then, so here's mine:

The Internet is kind of dumb.

Yeah. Stick that in your Tumblr and tweet it.

I don't mean the Internet in the sense of the concept or the hardware -- I mean the Internet in the sense of us, the users.

"It's true. Google it" is the most perfectly absurd statement ever crafted. It beats out even "We had to burn this village to save it" and "I'm leaving you because you deserve to be happy."

Back in the Dark Ages, we learned about the world from the morning paper and the evening news. Then we had the 24-hour cable news cycle. You didn't have to wait anymore -- you could turn on the TV any time of the day or night and watch live pundits discussing blurry video of something that happened yesterday morning.

Now, a third of Americans younger than 30 get their news from social media. On the one hand, most of what's being posted and retweeted is news from reputable journalistic organizations. On the other, some percentage of it is stuff that formerly appeared in the bathroom stalls of bus stations.

Because of the speed with which all this news flies around, you can very quickly organize a protest, a flash mob or a lynch mob.

In the wake of the marathon bombings in Boston, social media lit up with shared tidbits. Everyone wanted to know what was going on, but hardly anyone did, leading to a heartbreaking half-baked hunt for a missing student who had nothing to do with the attack.

But the situation went from deplorable to deplorable in a different way when it was announced that the suspects in the bombings were originally Chechens. From Chechnya.

Furious social media users began posting belligerent denunciations of ... Czechs. And the Czech Republic.

One tweet even suggested, "Just nuke Czechoslovakia," a country that has not actually existed for two decades.

In a phone interview with The Economist, Boston Bruin David Krejci (teammate of another Czech, former Penguins player Jaromir Jagr), wondered, "How can these people get it mixed up? I guess they never went to school."

It got so bad the Czech ambassador had to issue a statement clarifying that the Czech Republic is in Central Europe and Chechnya is a southern Russian republic next to Georgia (but nowhere near Florida). The distance from Prague to Grozny is just short of 2,000 miles.

The irony is how quickly all of this can be looked up on the Internet, if any of the itchy triggers had bothered to do 30 seconds of research before posting or tweeting.

Apparently there are people watching "The Sound of Music" and wondering why there are no kangaroos.

A Czech responded to jokes about an American invasion of the Czech Republic by writing on Facebook, "I say let them come! They will probably land in Estonia anyway." Hey, we're not stupid. That one doesn't begin with C.

So maybe the Internet is not the greatest advance of the past 25 years.

I'm going with the seedless watermelon.


Samantha Bennett, freelance writer: sambennett412@gmail.com.


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