There’s no such thing as a free internet

This article (Yes, the media bears some responsibility for the rise of Donald Trump) got me thinking about the American desire for stuff to be free (news, social media, online services). We, as a nation, haven’t really reconciled that desire with the fact that stuff has to be paid for.

How many times have Americans derided Europeans for having high taxes and using those taxes to pay for free services like health care? Americans expect things like TV, and radio, and news and the internet to be free, but they don’t want to pay taxes. How do we get things for free when the things have to be paid for?

We let commercial entities (whose motivation is not serving citizenry but making money for itself) do a service that the citizens come to depend on. And we sorta turn a blind eye to the things they do to make money. And we shrug when clickbait takes over the news. And we shrug as vile and vitriol take over the comment sections of web sites. As long as it has the veneer of integrity, we don’t scratch the surface and we suspend our disbelief.

And suddenly we find an ignorant racist bigot with a real shot at the presidency.

We lit these fires. We fanned them. We brought wood to the fire, click by click. And as we watch that fire consume America, will we confront the hard choices about what we want our country to be? Can we admit that we have to pay for the things we want, or will we keep kidding ourselves that we can pay no taxes and pay no fees? Just get free everything, paid for by advertising. 

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