In a new essay, “I Used to Be a Human Being,” Andrew Sullivan goes on and on about the damage that his frenetic 24/7 online reading-and-commenting lifestyle did to his own precious psyche. But in his usual narcissistic fashion he still seems blithely unaware of, or indifferent to, the extraordinary damage that the recklessly hyped-up B.S. on his blog did to others. He routinely banged out fervent, fiercely opinioned posts about subjects he really didn’t know much about and really didn’t care much about. This was a great way to win and keep attention – but it was also breathtakingly irresponsible toward others.
Andrew and I had been friends since the early 1990s, but when Anders Breivik massacred 77 people in Norway five years ago, Andrew rushed to his blog and wrote that I’d influenced Breivik and was thus partly responsible for those deaths. One could hardly level a more serious charge – yet Andrew did it instantly, without taking the time to do any research at all. (He didn’t bother, for example, to read the killer’s own manifesto, in which the monster made it clear he had no use for me whatsoever.)
For Andrew, it was always more important to squeeze out one more sensational piece of clickbait — and then move on to the next item, ever desperate to retain his distinction as king of the bloggers — than to slow down, get the facts right, mull them over, and make at least some effort to come to a judicious conclusion. When will Andrew own up to this toxic aspect of his own severe Internet addiction, and offer up a mea culpa?