A conversation between Ron Rosenbaum and Lee Siegel, contributors to New Threats to Freedom, and Michael Goodwin, the New York Post
Is the Cyber Mob a Threat to Freedom?
Today's challenges to individual and public liberty are "much less visible and obvious than they were in the 20th century and may even appear in the guise of social and political progress," writes Adam Bellow in his introduction to New Threats to Freedom, an essay collection that he has edited for the Templeton Press. Indeed, Bellow suggests, the danger often lies precisely in our "failure or reluctance to notice them."
According to Ron Rosenbaum and Lee Siegel, in their provocative contributions to the volume, the extraordinary advances made possible by the Internet have come at a sometimes worrisome cost. Rosenbaum focuses on how online anonymity has become a mask encouraging political discourse that is increasingly distorted by vitriol, abuse, and thuggishness. Siegel argues that the Internet has undermined long-established standards of excellence, promoting participation and popularity over talent and originality. Both writers warn against the growing influence of what Siegel calls "interactive mobs."
Ron Rosenbaum is a culture columnist for Slate and the author of seven books, including The Shakespeare Wars: Clashing Scholars; Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origin of His Evil; and The Secret Parts of Fortune, a collection of his essays and reporting, which have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Harper's, the New Yorker, the New York Observer, and other publications.
Lee Siegel is culture columnist for the New York Observer and has written about culture and politics for numerous publications, including Harper's, the Atlantic Monthly, and the New Yorker. He was the television critic for the New Republic, where he was also a senior editor, and is the author of, most recently, Against the Machine: How the Web Is Reshaping Commerce and Culture and Why It Matters.
Michael Goodwin is the chief political columnist for the New York Post, writing on national, international, and New York issues. Before joining the Post in 2009, he was the political columnist for the New York Daily News. Goodwin also served as the Daily News’ executive editor and editorial page editor. In 1999, he led the editorial board to its first Pulitzer Prize in 58 years for a series of editorials revealing corruption at the famed Apollo Theatre.