Number Two

« August 2007 »

I'm on vacation, and while I'm gone, with computers and Net connections in short supply, I'm counting down the Ten Greatest Crimes Against Humanity Committed By The Internet. The series begins here.

We're almost home. The air's getting thin up here, but we must press on. There are two spots left on the list of the ten greatest crimes against humanity committed by the Internet, and it's long past time we invoked the name of Harry Knowles. Because Ain't It Cool News stands proudly, and suitably metaphorically, at number two.

By all rights, AICN should be the single greatest crime against humanity committed by the Internet. That it is not is a testament to just how bad #1 is. But AICN not only brings together everything that's hateful and wrong about the Internet into one ugly, beige spot, it actually formed and originated many of them.

Started in 1994 by self-proclaimed movie geek Harry Knowles, AICN codified the standard for overactive fanboyism, piss-poor grammar, and complete lack of self-awareness that had previously existed in the pure anarchy of Usenet. Before AICN, Internet nerdity was like a free-range chicken. AICN came along, strapped the chickens down, and started making Nerd McNuggets.

The Internet was a lot smaller in the late 90's than it is now. People were just starting to realize that one person with a bit of stupid and useless information could reach all the other people who inexplicably cared about that information, and do it in a matter of hours. These days, we know stuff's gonna get out. And the executives know. And the PR guys know. And everyone plans accordingly. But back in the day, if someone managed to luck into a test screening of some crappy SF movie, they could write up a report, send it to AICN, and AICN would print it. Without editing, proofreading, fact-checking, or judgment of any kind.

It was revolutionary. It was unprecedented. And it was being done, in large part, by morons. Say what you will about the modern Internet, but at least Markos Moulitsas can fucking SPELL. There's enough competition now that Knowles, had he not gotten in on the ground floor, would be relegated to constantly having his Benicio Del Toro entry revised on Wikipedia, instead of having a Wikipedia entry of his own.

And even if you look beyond the ugly nerditry, the uglier syntax, and the uglier still layout and color scheme, AICN still has one crime up its sleeve that makes it a lock for #2. The TalkBack.

I'm not saying Ain't It Cool News invented the idea of posting a news story, and then letting the readers comment immediately below it. I can't prove that. But I know AICN was where I saw it first, and I certainly know that AICN was the first place to build a vast dipshit community using the concept. Maybe it would have caught on without them, maybe not. It's possible that, like herpes, it would have popped up a year or two later and burned just as much.

But we're not dealing with what could be, we're dealing with what was. And since AICN was where I saw "FIRST POST!" explode upon the Internet like a dirty bomb packed with moronium, they get the blame. And Harry Knowles gets the coveted silver medal.

Who gets the gold? Tune in tomorrow. The answer may surprise you.