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Voices

@Prince I [heart] you

Pop icon’s contempt for the Internet is music to my ears

By Alex Beam
Globe Columnist / July 13, 2010

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You don’t have to be a genius to hate the Internet. But it helps.

The artist occasionally known as Prince got his 36 hours of fame last week when he told London’s Daily Mirror: “The Internet is completely over. . . . All these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you.’’

This is not a new theme for the Elvis of Minneapolis. Three years ago Prince lashed out at YouTube, eBay, and the notorious Swedish web thieves Pirate Bay for distributing his work without permission.

Prince joins an impressive roster of Internet detractors, including Sir Elton John (“I do think it would be an incredible experiment to shut down the whole Internet for five years and see what sort of art is produced over that span’’); Oliver Stone (“It’s [fooling around] in front of the camera and I’m sick of it’’); and porn star Ron Jeremy (“I am a former school teacher, I have a masters degree and two BAs, and I think the Internet is making people stupid’’), to name just a few.

Another member of the don’t-need-no-stinkin’-Internet club is science fiction legend Ray Bradbury, author of “The Martian Chronicles’’ and “Fahrenheit 451.’’ “We are multitudinous lemmings driven by wireless voices to hurl ourselves into the Internet seas where tides of mediocrity surge, pretending at wit and will but signifying nothing,’’ he wrote in 2006.

Last year Bradbury, who — God bless him — has been thumping the tub for public libraries, described an attempt to digitize one of his books: “Yahoo! called me eight weeks ago,’’ he told The New York Times. “They wanted to put a book of mine on Yahoo! You know what I told them? ‘To hell with you. To hell with you and to hell with the Internet.’ ’’

Come on. Admit it. You hate the Internet a little, too.

Ten years ago, you could get away with saying that the Himalayan peak K-2 was “about 29,000 feet high.’’ Now, that obnoxious guy — you know who I mean — whips out his iPhone and cheerfully corrects you: “Actually it’s 28,251 feet tall.’’ Then he turns the screen toward you, as proof, and says: “Look! It’s on Wikipedia.’’ Oh, yes, the same people who say I was born in Oakland. It must be true.

There is that minor problem of Internet falsehoods. Last summer an Alaskan blogger reported that Sarah Palin was going to be indicted, and my loony left in-laws heard the “fact’’ repeated on NPR. They still insist that Palin has been indicted. After all, they heard it on NPR.

Good luck having a conversation about the Internet, unless you know what G4 means. I thought it was a bingo call out. It turns out to be just another expensive upgrade you don’t need. Can we skip to G8? Would that be OK? The Internet has its own, constantly evolving lexicon: Linux, tweets, Ku band, Chrome, Android. What the heck. It’s like bothering to remember band names, like Jane’s Addiction. Where are they now? Who cares?

Then there is the spectacle of undeserving young people (there’s a tautology) getting rich, writing useless “apps’’ for Apple and Facebook. Is FarmVille like FishVille? Do I really need to know? Why can’t we go back to delightful 2001, when the dot-commers were huddled outside Mollie Stone’s in Palo Alto, begging for food?

Before the Internet, I had maybe 20 friends. Now I have 576 “friends.’’ Like the lady whose uncle was the Nigerian minister for petroleum exploration. Or my second cousin who needed me to wire money to Europe, urgently. That was really my second cousin, but he didn’t need any money. Somebody hacked his Internet account.

Larry Lessig, who is a recognized Internet genius, sends me an automatic message via Foursquare every time he shows up at an airport or checks in at a hotel. Larry, I just took a bike ride and had to adjust the seat a couple of times. I thought you would want to know.

And who doesn’t love those anonymous Internet commenters? Thank you, DumpstrDivr 401 — you’ve really raised my game.

They are anonymous, but you’re not. Between Google Analytics and the National Security Agency, you haven’t made an unnoted keystroke in about four years. Privacy? Thy name is Zuckerberg.

You still think PrinceEltonJohnRayBradbury are idiots? I don’t.

Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is beam@globe.com.