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Extreme Views on the Internet

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The Internet has suppressed the sharing of opposite views and their discussion, or so says recent studies. It takes little effort and even less time to search and find sites, online newspapers and magazines, blogs, and forums which support your views, whatever they may be. Believe that global warming is a hoax, for example? Google the phrase and over one million sites pop up. Or how about the US government masterminded the 9/11 terrorist attacks? Over seven million sites purport this as fact. The potential effects on society, government, and human relations in the future are immense.

With little to no debate also comes imbalanced views and extremism, as niches of like-minded people engage in one-sided discussions. If a group of supporters discussed the benefits of the Kyoto Protocol, for example, it stands to reason that few arguments would get raised about any possible negative impact. From this evaluation stems the idea that confidence grows with the absence of persuasive naysayers. An overabundance of confidence produces extreme views - a mob mentality on the Internet, if you will.

Discussions by large groups of like-minded people have the potential for good in the world, though. The Civil Rights Movement in the US and the movement for gender equality all over the world are but two examples. But it doesn't take much effort to realize the negatives, such as terrorism, cults, or fanatical regimes like the Khmer Rouge. There is the risk that people will band together and be both brash and utterly wrong in their views.

Unfortunately, sociologists worry that the harm to society's general welfare is more likely than any possible benefits. Suspicion of others whose views differ, unjustified rage, and the fragmenting of society are all grave concerns. Any adversaries could be viewed as the enemy in some kind of future war of ideals and beliefs.


Preview some of the lesson material:

Warm Up: Do you agree or disagree? Why?

  1. The Internet is the most important invention of the modern world.
  2. The Internet is the most important invention ever.
  3. The Internet harms society.
  4. The Internet will cause problems for society in the future.
  5. I couldn't live without the Internet.

Fragments: Remember how the fragments were used, and complete the sentence from today's article.

  1. The potential effects on...
  2. An overabundance of confidence produces...
  3. The Civil Rights Movement in the US and...
  4. But it doesn't take much effort to realize the negatives, such as...
  5. Unfortunately, sociologists worry that the harm to...

post-Comprehension: Talk about the following questions in pairs/groups. Remember to support your answers!

  1. What do you typically use the Internet for? Please explain.
  2. Do you often visit sites which old the same opinion as you? Do you ever read through other opinions?
  3. What positive events from history can you think of that were the result of extreme views?
  4. Assuming that the sociologists are correct, what can be done to prevent of limit extremism?
  5. Do you agree with the sociologists? Why/not?

Google Search: Type "extremists" into Google. Look at the websites, and/or read additional articles on this topic. Discuss or write an essay about your findings.


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