Written by 5:00 am Audiophile

Internet “Bumper Stickers”

Roger Skoff wonders what those short messages are really trying to say, and why

Save the Whales!
Nuke the Whales!
Repent: The End is Coming!
Vote YES on Proposition NO!
Only YOU can Prevent Forest Fires!
Vacuums Suck!

sticker copy.jpgDo you remember bumper stickers? You know, the printed short messages about some current or perennial subject that people used to put on the bumpers of their cars? They used to be much more common — especially the political, religious or funny ones — but they’re still around, although their position on the back of a car now seems to have been largely replaced by a much more ubiquitous one on the Internet.

Wherever they are or were, bumper stickers or their equivalent have long seemed to serve the function of a sort of written version of Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park and similar “Free Speech Zones” in other great (and not-so-great) cities, and on university campuses around the world. They allow anyone at all to express an opinion, to make a comment, to urge an action, or to rally for, rail against, or wisecrack about, just about any subject anyone could ever imagine.

Some of the places where I have recently been seeing the kind of short, pithy and usually partisan sloganeering one used to expect only from bumper stickers are in tweets, and in comments on Facebook posts and blogs like this one. When I see one, I always find myself wondering why the poster put it up. Did he or she really think someone would see their post, think “Eureka, I have found it!” and instantly undergo a change of their business, politics, religious beliefs or thoughts and practices? Will they instantly seek to ban GMO foods? Stop eating meat? Oppose gay marriage? Stop or start being a Democrat, a Republican, a Socialist, or a Libertarian? Will they find God because a 140-character message told them to?

Here at Audiophile Review, and on the many hi-fi group pages on Facebook and elsewhere, the comments are particularly interesting. They range from the genuinely informative (much appreciated), to the gratifyingly laudatory (also much appreciated), to the perplexing, to the outright and belligerently wrong.

Often I wonder why the person wrote. Is it because he has real knowledge or an expert opinion to share? Could it be, on the other hand, that what he has written is a test — something that he doesn’t really know, but that he suspects might be true, and is putting out to see if anybody agrees with (or challenges) it? Could it be he doesn’t care if it’s true at all, but is simply putting it out the way people wear campaign buttons to show their support for something? Or to recruit others to lend their support? Could that what he’s really doing is just wearing the button in hopes of being accepted (or looking like he’s already been accepted) into whatever group, page or blog he’s posted to, and has no real feelings for the subject at all? Is it possible that he, rightly or wrongly, simply thinks he’s being funny?

In other articles, I’ve already commented that our hi-fi hobby can be enjoyed in nearly as many different ways as there are different people to enjoy it. Maybe indiscriminately flinging-out one-liners (or even lengthy but ill-advised or incomprehensible treatises) about things you’ve read but may have no knowledge or comprehension of is one of those different ways. Maybe, as often seems to be the case, the people who do it aren’t even real hi-fi crazies or audiophiles of any stripe at all, but are simply having fun doing “hit-and-run” comments about posts they’ve seen on sites or in groups that they’ve visited at random.

Actually, that sounds like it might be sort of fun, and doing it on the Internet instead of on a piece of paper more or less permanently stuck to your car would let you choose a nifty alias. Strike whenever and wherever you feel like you have something to say, points to score, or a fitting slogan or talking point to pass on. You’d never have to worry about anybody finding you and expressing their contrary opinion by keying your car.


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