2008 In Which My Internet Addiction Gets the Best of Me, Even in Mexico
posted by January 24 at 15:15 PMon
I know you won’t believe me when I tell you that I took the above picture a short time ago, during the late afternoon of the fourth day of something that is not, technically, a vacation. That’s the part you won’t believe, the “not a vacation” part.
It’s really not, at least not in the sense that you’re imagining right now. But who wants to hear why someone with a view like that isn’t, technically, on vacation? I barely even want to hear it, to be honest.
What you more likely want to hear about—and what I definitely would rather hear about, even in Mexico—is this presidential race. I came down here promising to institute a media blackout on my refresh-button-junkie self but that vow (obviously) hasn’t worked any wonders against the allure of getting online and checking the latest.
I tried. I turned off my cell phone as soon as I got to SeaTac. I brought my laptop with me, yes, but only for my personal writing. There would be no wireless here, I assumed, so no problem.
On day one I noticed a guy in my tiny hotel using his laptop in the lobby. I couldn’t resist. I asked if there was wireless. He said yes. I told myself no, but by day two I was at the front desk asking for the password, feeling a bit like Bubbles on The Wire. I then told myself I would only use a little gmail to catch up with old friends. No blogs, no news sites, and definitely no Slog. That lasted until I got a gmail from a friend saying:
YOU HAVE TO WATCH CLIPS FROM THE DEM DEBATE FROM LAST NIGHT. Obama came to fight and him and Clinton straight up brawled.
Ok, maybe a little YouTube, I thought. I spent forever downloading the handy debate recordings of some guy named researchris, listening to the waves hit the beach as the red “loading” line crept across the YouTube player, and didn’t regret a second. That was, as most of you know already, the best debate of the season.
Day three came and I was mainlining the political blogs again. It was sad, really. But I felt great. (When I didn’t feel pathetic.) I don’t know if it’s the addictive qualities of the Internet, or this particular election, or both in tandem, but I am certifiably cracked out on the presidential race. Will The Stranger’s benefits pay for me to go to one of those Chinese internet addiction treatment centers when this is all over?
Anyway, comes now day four and my brother arrives holding the current New Yorker, which he tells me contains a long profile of Hillary Clinton by George Packer. I tell him I already have the piece up on my browser and am planning to read it tonight. He looks much less disappointed in me than I am.
I make one of those junkie rationalizations: It will be less a sign of internet addiction to grab my brother’s copy of the magazine, take it down to the beach, and read it there. Something about paper not being part of the problem, or some such.
I walk down to the beach.
Where, shortly after finishing the article, I decide to come back up to my room and blog about the piece, thus negating any fake progress I might have made on pretending to reinstate my media blackout by reading things on glossy paper rather than online.
And now here I am, your click-addled presidential election coverer, telling you, as per usual: Read this!
It’s good, and it zeros in on the different attitudes toward presidential leadership on the part of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately:
The alternatives facing Democratic voters have been characterized variously as a choice between experience and change, between an insider and an outsider, and between two firsts—a woman and a black man. But perhaps the most important difference between these two politicians—whose policy views, after all, are almost indistinguishable—lies in their rival conceptions of the Presidency. Obama offers himself as a catalyst by which disenchanted Americans can overcome two decades of vicious partisanship, energize our democracy, and restore faith in government. Clinton presents politics as the art of the possible, with change coming incrementally through good governance, a skill that she has honed in her career as advocate, First Lady, and senator…
These rival conceptions of the Presidency—Clinton as executive, Obama as visionary—reflect a deeper difference in how the two candidates analyze what ails the country. Obama’s diagnosis is more fundamental: for him, the illness precedes the Bush years and the partisan deadlock in Washington, originating in a basic failure of politicians to bring Americans together. A strong hand on the wheel won’t make a difference if your car is stuck in the mud; a good leader has to persuade enough people to get out and push. Whereas Clinton echoes Churchill, who proclaimed, “Give us the tools and we will finish the job,” Obama invokes Lincoln, who said, “As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
Ok, back to pretending I’m on some sort of not-quite-a-blackout media diet. See you when I’m back in Seattle on Monday—or, more likely, see you tomorrow or Saturday when the South Carolina primary brings me back online.
Hasta whatever that was I was hoping for with my failed attempts at staying offline, and hola, once again, politics and internet addiction.