You know, I’m sure, the old saw that starts out, “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck...” Well, I want to tell you that that would not be your local philosopher-bookseller! You’d know that, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you be able to tell the difference after over nine years of Books in Northport? If you’re a friend and/or a customer or even if we’ve never met but you follow Books in Northport from afar, don’t you recognize my voice in these lines? And if a strange voice were to break in and take over Books in Northport, wouldn’t you know something was wrong? Wouldn’t your suspicions be aroused?
What the -- ?! Why on earth do I pose these silly rhetorical questions? If curious, please read on.
|Insisting on holiday cheer|
A look at ‘traffic sources’ did nothing to dispel the mystery, largest numbers of visitors coming from Google or Facebook, as is usually the case. ‘Audience,’ however, showed a different story. There on the world map, with shades of green showing where viewers are located when they visit, the darkest green covered the area of the former USSR. The rest of the world paled in comparison.
I shared the surprising result with David, who asked why Russians would be reading my blog. Well, I don’t think they are. Ten times as many Russians as Americans? Why would Russians feel a sudden hunger for a northern Michigan bookseller’s take on Hermann Hesse or scenes of our village in winter? I doubt there is anything in my content or CV fascinating to these new “viewers,” but in light of current events their presence is alarming, even if, as seems likely, "they" are machines rather than people.
Think about it. Blogger is a big deal world-wide. As the anniversary of Tienanmen Square approached, the Chinese government blocked Blogger, making it inaccessible to Internet users in China unless they were able to cobble together a circuitous alternate route to the blogs, and the same was true of Google and Tumblr.
(Do a search and read about it if you don’t believe me, but bear in mind that searches are tailored to individual searchers, and your results would not necessarily match mine. In that way, creators of algorithms need to take their share of the blame for Americans reading only news sources with views matching those they already had.)
Moreover, with the new Google Plus service (which I do not use), blogs can be automatically connected to Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Pages, LinkedIn, Tumblr, WordPress, Gmail, DO Note, Weebly and other sites and services. And now, think of all the bloggers who update using their mobile phones. “We’re all connected” means, among other more positive things, that we are all that much more vulnerable.
For over nine years, I have loved writing Books in Northport and connecting with people around the world -- those who actually connect, that is, not hostile, anonymous individuals, groups, or worms that only hover and stalk, with no interest in what I write, not even anything personal against me as a person or bookseller. Now I wonder how long I and other blogger friends will be able to maintain this precious outlet that has been for so long, for us and our readers, literary as well as social. I don’t know what might happen or when anything at all might come down on us.
“The personal is political.” Do you resist that idea? I’ll tell you, I’m really feeling it today.
Repressive governments are not interested in our fates as individuals, but they are very interested in restricting, in the most general, sweeping sense, our freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of movement, and the free exchange of ideas. It’s unlikely that darkness and silence will fall on us tomorrow – more likely we will be overwhelmed, day by day, by blinding metaphorical searchlights and fake news and enemies masquerading as friends.
If another voice breaks in here one day, though – or if your access is mysteriously denied – I'm telling you now, ahead of time, not to take it lying down. In fact, start now to do what you can. Think about it. What can you do? Now do it!