If the Internet is compared to a garbage dump, we are deeply offended

An editorial by Giuseppe De Tomaso in the Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno published on April 19 compared the web to a garbage dump. That is why we, who work on the web, are offended

On Saturday, April 19, Giuseppe De Tomaso, editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno (one of the most important newspapers in southern Italy), signed an editorial regarding one of the measures of the Renzi government’s tax wedge decree, namely the one that should abolish the obligation to publish in printed newspapers announcements of public administration tenders and auctions, which will instead have to be published on the web. The title of the editorial is President think again, with the press freedom dies and you can read it by clicking on this link.

We do not go into the merits of the criticism of the decree measure: we understand that newspapers will have their reasons. However, we find it unacceptable that editor De Tomaso trivializes the role of the net with serious statements such as these: “the Internet is to information as a porn star is to virginity” and “the Internet is a sewer, a dumping ground, an outlet for moods and feelings in the name of that direct democracy that constitutes the antechamber of totalitarianism.” For those who, like us at Windows on Art, do their work on the web, and have always done so with passion, rigor and seriousness, these phrases are tantamount to insults and insults.

In the meantime, because they lump everything together. Of course: in the mainstream media, the network only makes headlines when insults to this or that politician are mentioned on social networks or certain blogs, when demented videos are posted, or when some story of bullying emerges that has matured, still, on social networks. It almost seems as if the mainstream press does not care instead to talk about what is good on the net: to stay in our field, just think of the many blogs and projects that are concerned with bringing art to the general public. It is logical that everything can be found on the Internet: but it is completely superficial to demonize an entire medium just because there is some fool who misuses it. Stupid people can be found everywhere, not only on the net: reasoning like De Tomaso, the concept of “dump” and “venting” could be assigned to any information medium. And all this is aggravated by the fact that such statements come out of the pen of a journalist, that is, a professional figure who, precisely by virtue of the job he or she does, should not be inclined to generalize. Let’s not even mention the chosen term of comparison: and yes, for many, net culture is almost exclusively limited to pornographic sites, but using allusions to pornography to reinforce a negative concept is a truly detestable operation (as well as veiledly disrespectful to those who work in the pornography industry).

We are then offended because De Tomaso places the web and information in antithesis: as if all the work of those who work on the web (and often do so better than those who work for the printed media) is worthless. We at Windows on Art, in our own small way (our current one thousand or so visitors a day are nothing compared to the readership that a large national newspaper can have, not to mention that ours is a site about a very specific topic) strive to inform correctly, to disseminate art history by drawing on traditional studies and the most up-to-date research while trying to make it easily usable by a non-specialist audience, to provide those who pass through our parts with a convenient and efficient service. And all this when we can, since Windows on Art is not our job: we do it for passion and without giving ourselves regular deadlines. Instead, it almost seems that for De Tomaso, all this activity is part of one huge dump.

Our audience, the art history audience, on the other hand, knows the heavy limitations of traditional printing, especially in our field. In his A cosa serve Michelangelo?, Tomaso Montanari provided an interesting overview of the way newspapers usually talk about art history: they do so in terms of sensationalism, with journalists who “have revealed an incredible embarrassment in handling the elementary concepts of this subject so ingrained in Italian cultural identity,” with attributions that “are seen as magical practices,” and with the stories of great artists being translated “into bar sport anecdote.” And then do we want to talk about the reviews of exhibitions in major national newspapers? We challenge anyone to find resounding critiques, even of the most blatant box office operations: it is almost impossible. And this is for a simple reason, explained by Montanari in his book: “exhibition reviews are mostly written by people who belong to the same small world of universities and superintendencies to which the curators of the exhibitions themselves also belong.”

We have, after all, witnessed all these limitations whenever reckless attributions have been proposed: and the task of clarifying and explaining to the public why certain lofty attributions cannot be well-founded has always fallen to the sites and blogs of the field. Which have gone on to fill the gaps in the print media. And more and more people are using the web instead of newspapers to inform themselves about what is happening in the art world: evidently, the web manages to guarantee high quality, whatever the detractors think. And the public is not stupid and notices it. All this is to show how the web is not at all the junk heap it would seem to be by reading De Tomaso’s words: the reality is much more complex, and De Tomaso probably knows it too.

For our part, we only hope that in the future Editor De Tomaso, an experienced journalist, will be able to talk about the web in a more shrewd and professional way, and possibly without offending those who work on the web. Traditional newspapers also have their faults: rather than attributing all the world’s faults to the web, it is better for them to reflect on their shortcomings, because they are far from perfect. And let us also hope that sooner or later this work of discrediting the web by the mainstream media will end once and for all: we would all gain.

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