Excess and Obscenity

The excess of pornography may not be the most serious problem that students face when publishing on the Web. What is often more of a problem is the excessive rhetoric of Internet critics (fraught with putative claims of moral decay and uncontrollable sexuality). From Neil Postman's Technopoly to Clifford Stoll's Silicon Snake Oil, the Internet is pictured as a place of hucksters, harlots, and confidence men that can destroy an already degraded and fragile American democracy, a "badly frayed social fabric" (Burstein and Kline 17). It is "unnerving," Burstein and Kline point out, "to imagine several million adults so socially alienated and lost in sexual obsession that they spend their time masturbating in from of their computers while our society--Rome, as it were--burns around us" (14). The seduction of the Internet is too strong for the average American, Postman concludes, because American religious and national symbols have lost their "potency" (55).