Techno-Panic Self-Parody Alert

A member of the "Fox News Medical A-Team" attacks Facebook and video games.


In March, Facebook acquired the virtual reality firm Oculus Rift. At Fox News, Keith Ablow—identified as "a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team"—has reacted with a rant that reads like a parody of panicked rhetoric. Combining a fear of new technology with a fear of popular culture, Ablow issues a call for a federally enforced precautionary principle that doubles as a call for censorship, all of it offered in a tone that fluctuates unsteadily between unhinged letter to the editor and trust me I'm a doctor. Here's an excerpt:

Oh, Bill O'Reilly, will you ever win?

Is no one concerned that Mark Zuckerberg's zeal for completely immersing people in alternate realities might be toxic for them? Has anyone wondered whether his quest reflects an underlying contempt for something he lived through for real—or for our shared reality, our real relationships and solving our real problems?

I can't be the only one wondering whether someone who encourages people to make hundreds of false "friends" and block unwanted feedback and transport themselves into games where they pretend they are knights or murderers is the best shepherd to follow.

There is no FDA in the technology space to make sure that new inventions distributed to tens or hundreds of millions of people aren't going to hurt them. But maybe there has to be. Because any agency worth anything would be proactive about the data streaming in about Facebook users suffering a disproportionate amount of depression and video game aficionados increasing their risk of attention deficit disorder. And any such agency would insist that 1,000 people or more use the device as much as they want, then look at what happens to them over the course of a few years, before deploying it to the whole country as something "fun."

Adding that "Facebook is an addictive technological drug," Ablow predicts "an epidemic of psychiatric illness—with features of narcissism and depression and dissociation and violent behavior—such as the world has never known." So let's watch for that.

Bonus link: "A Short History of Game Panics."

NEXT: John Stossel on Genetically Modified Food Fears

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  1. The “Get Off My Lawn” aspect of Fox News is easily the most annoying. Even more than Hannity’s style of interviewing.

    1. No way. Hannity’s voice alone makes his style of “PROVE ME WRONG” “interviewing” more annoying.

      1. Hannity Interview:

        Do you agree with what I just said? Yes or No?

        YES OR NO?

        YES OR NO?

        Just answer the question. YES OR NO?

        Obviously, you want the terrorists to win.

    2. I don’t think what Hannity does qualifies as ‘interviewing’. Why anyone would agree to appear on the guy’s show is beyond me.

  2. There is no FDA in the technology space to make sure that new inventions distributed to tens or hundreds of millions of people aren’t going to hurt them. But maybe there has to be.

    And I presume that progressives agree with Fox News 100% on this? Yes? Hmmm?

    1. One of the Republicans in my area robocalled me with a message about the dangers of radio frequency radiation exposure. I was so baffled I looked the guy up.

      Minimize Radio Frequency Radiation Exposure from All Wireless Devices and Infrastructure to Protect The Health of Our Children

      CA Republicans are weird.

      1. Hint: They’re not republicans.

        Or shit, maybe they are and… never mind.

      2. Are these the same kooks who are convinced the magnetic fields around high-tension wires cause cancer?

        1. When the magnetic flux density exceeds the Poynting vector, a quantum effect is observed that disharmonizes the crystalline matrix of your chi. Thereby allowing evil to arise in your cells.

          1. I knew my chi was disharmonized!

            *Turns off wifi antenna on phone*


            1. Electro-magnetic fields!

              You’re soaking in it.

              1. I bet no one under 50 gets this.

                1. Madge is only 29 if she’s a day.

        2. No, the ones who are convinced that cellular phones emit harmful radiation despite the fact that the amount of energy a photon in the cellular spectrum carries isn’t enough to create the effect they propose.

      3. Ooh. So I want to start an insurance agency that only sells policies to people who have health insurance claims reliably related to EMF radiation and GMO foods. Say, $20/month for healthy patients.

    2. Oh you can bet the proggies would be on board with this. Anything that will give them pretense for limiting speech is something they can get behind. Haven’t they already been calling for regulation of Facebook, or nationalizing it because it is a ‘public good’?

  3. Fuck the precautionary principle. Proactionary principle and extropy.

    1. Nice. The futurists lean further libertarian over time, as the restrictions on them become more aggressive.

    2. It’s the Wesley Crusher principle!

  4. Can Ablow point to anyone who has been driven insane by this technology? Besides himself, that is?

    1. It just allows people to express their stupidity, that’s all.

      1. And he is the guy to demonstrate that!

  5. I said the same thing about the telegraph. How can letting yourself get lost in a bunch of clicks and beeps with someone you can’t even see be any substitute for riding up in person and shooting that claim jumper right in the face?

    1. I don’t agree with the ‘Government must do *something*!’ panic, but I certainly sympathize with Plato;

      Thamus replied: O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.

      1. tl;dr: it’s luddites all the way down.

      2. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.

        If only Thamus lived to see today.

  6. When his family came here through Ellis Island, they dropped the “-hard” suffix from their surname as, to them, it sounded too Jewish.

  7. I am sure that Mr. Zuckerberg is crying him self to sleep on his infinity thread count sheets on his bed with his gold-plated, ranch flavored hooker.

    1. I think, when your gold-plated hooker is ranch-flavored, it’s time to throw her out and get a new one.

  8. “Facebook is an addictive technological drug,” Ablow predicts “an epidemic of psychiatric illness?with features of narcissism and depression and dissociation and violent behavior?such as the world has never known.”

    Fucking projection, how does it work?

  9. FFS, is there anything or anyone left in society that we oughtn’t be pants-soilingly afraid about? What the fuck has gotten into everyone all of a sudden?

    1. Dude, you have to be afraid. Very afraid. So the Government can come in to protect you from all the things your afraid of.

      1. *you’re… damnit, been away from a computer for far too long.

    2. One thing I’ve learned over time is that there are certain people out there who really, really like shitting their pants. Now, you or I think that’s not enjoyable, and our failing was to assume everyone else felt the same way. But nope. Some people just really love the feel of blasting a hot sticky dump into their jeans.

      1. I think that’s not enjoyable

        Paul.’s mom tells us that you’re lying about this.

        1. Paul’s mom likes to make shit up. Like how she’s actually female.

          1. I dunno, there’s an awful lot of truthiness there.

            1. Paul’s mom is in an urn, next to Paul’s dad. Therefore, Paul’s mom doesn’t opine about much.

              But if she were still with us, it’d be bit like listening to Phantom Limb.

              1. Your mom hated David Bowie?

                1. No, but she damned sure wasn’t going to be driving around in a Honda Accord with a ghost painted on the hood.

                  And she got really pissed if you got blood stains on her carpet.

                  And was extremely embarrassed if she didn’t have enough pickle forks for her dinner parties.

              2. Paul, no one wants to hear about your orphan privilege.

              3. Epi is right, I can only underestimate him and his depravity.

      2. The way you phrase it kinda makes me want to shit myself.

        1. If I can inspire just one pants explosion, I will feel like I’ve achieved something.

      3. Fire: Yes, it wards of predators, warms you on a cold day and cooks your food, but how can we justify using such a dangerous technology? How long until we burn down our entire world? How long until we offer our own children to stoke its dwindling flames?


        1. Man, this backwards ass logic is great and can be applied to anything I hate!

        2. This is my go-to for poking fun at luddite techno-fears: CAVEMAN SCIENCE FICTION

  10. FFS. Last December I wrote a satirical/trollish call for a department of technology to approve new technologies. I was intending to run it up the flag pole at Kos and see how many I could get to salute. Never polished it/finished it, though. It was mainly after the “cyberlibertarians” article in Jacobin.

    It’s important to step back and look at a movement’s long-term goals occasionally, and to make sure that they still make sense, and that each action the movement takes is in the direction of those goals. It’s too easy to forget the long term in the heat of short term battles.

    As progressives and leftists, our goals certainly should focus on reducing inequality, including making sure everyone has access to basic needs, promoting a tolerant, inclusive society, and helping people to be the best citizens they can.

    1. I fear we’ve become too focused on technology. An example is our Affordable Care Act — while the goals behind it are admirable, we rely on a website to enroll in it. How many people who need health insurance don’t even have access to a computer that can view the website? Or a computer at all? Or can read and understand it to enroll? Or unbanked people who don’t have a credit card to make the first month’s payment? This is a case where we don’t move closer to the goal of satisfying basic needs, nor towards the goal of equality. It’s a worthy thing in itself, and this isn’t a complaint about the act or the site — just an example of letting technology get in the way of equality and needs.

      Recently, David Golumbia, writing at Jacobin pointed out the widespread “Cyberlibertarians” — and he’s right. I work in IT, surrounded by libertarians who would sell their grandmothers for the latest, biggest Android phone, and would gladly automate entire industries away. There’s a smattering of other progressives and liberals, of course, but those tend not to be as loud. Maybe they spend more time glued to their iPhones.

      Which brings me to the point of this essay. The Cyberlibertarians are all over the place, and they don’t share our goals. In fact, they are actively against our goals, and are (unknowingly) likely bringing about massive social upheaval.

      1. Let me explain. Technology can be disruptive. It isn’t always, especially if it is introduced at a measured pace. But when something shows up and is immediately adopted, it is disruptive. The people in the old industries that lose their jobs because of the new technology are definitely disrupted. Congress stumbles along not dealing with a new issue until it is already well established, when it is too late to effectively regulate it.

        In the past few years, we’ve seen two huge technological advances that are and will disrupt the world as we know it. Of course, I’m referring to Bitcoin (or other decentralized currencies) and 3D printing. Both of these have the potential to change the world, but not in a way to make people more equal, or satisfy needs, or even promote tolerance. They’re related, too. Bitcoin rewards early adopters who trade numbers back and forth to make it look worth more than it is. 3D printing promises the chance for Cyberlibertarians to make their own guns to blow up in their hands, without any account of the damage a bunch of armed libertarians would do to society. Oh, and they can print trinkets.

      2. Bitcoin, of course, has the greatest potential damage. A currency that isn’t controlled by a central bank has wild swings in it, as we’ve seen in the last few days of bitcoin. No one is there to close an account of a terrorist, or say that you can’t do business with this person because he is a terrorist. No attention paid to the harm caused to society by pseudononymous transactions for hard drugs, or worse. If you can’t tell who is making the transactions, can you tax them? Or prevent them? If not, that means less or no power for the state, and an eventual withering away of the state, along with all of the important things it does — safety net, regulations on industries, and even forcing tolerance. If some Cyberlibertarian selling 3D printed guns or trinkets for Bitcoin won’t do business with minorities, who can stop him? The state ran out of money because those transactions couldn’t be taxed.

        Aside from that, there’s the amount of environmental waste created by the Bitcoin mining, wasteful computers running algorithms for no reason. Burning fossil fuels to power computers for no reason. To trade numbers back and forth. It’s an ecological and economic disaster.

      3. And it could destroy industries. The true believers brag that it moves more money than Western Union already. Where are the Western Union employees supposed to go? Are they supposed to work for the non-existant Bitcoin company? They’ll be left jobless, looking for minimum wage work. Bank tellers? All of the bank employees? Leaving aside the investment bankers on Wall St., most of the employees of banks just want to get by. What are these people, rendered redundant by this technology, supposed to do?

        3D printing is another huge danger. It’s proponents say that people will be making their own trinkets in their spare bedroom or garage. Maybe print thousands of Warhammer figurines. Which seems harmless enough. But plenty of those Cyberlibertarians will have kids one day, and eventually the kid will start playing with Dad’s 3D printer, and end up finding the plans and printing a gun. If society is lucky, it’ll blow up in his hand, and we’ll just be left with a generation of young men with mangled hands. Otherwise, we’ll have armed every idiot child of someone who wanted to make an army of figurines for a table top game. And every remaining manufacturing job in the US is gone.

      4. Both of these technologies represent grave dangers to society, the environment, and the economy. Both should have been restricted by now, but by now it’s probably too late. Some might call me a luddite. That’s fine. I’ll throw my wooden shoe in the works. These technologies are too dangerous and need to be stopped. It’s unlikely these will, so the next ones should be.

        I suggest it’s time for a Department of Technology — a cabinet level department, that would be tasked with bringing new technologies into the wider world at a more managable pace. Give people time to adjust to change. Bring the patent office under this department. DARPA. Job training programs. The Department of Technology can be responsible for researching technologies, and then bringing them to market a more measured pace. While pure science can still happen other places, turning new ideas into technology should happen at the DOTech, or with it’s approval.

        With this control on the rate of change, we can have a chance at bringing about equality. We can make sure everyone can access this new technology, and that those who would have been left behind, are instead brought up to meet the new technology. As I said before, I work in IT, around these Cyberlibertarians. They won’t stop and look at if a technology is harmful to society before they embrace it. Someone needs to make sure it is safe for them, first.

        1. Well done. If it wasn’t for context, it’s totally accurate progderp.

      5. Man…that shit a A- or even A. You should have posted it.

        1. I had good intentions of posting a hash of it in the bitcoin block chain so I could prove that I wrote it later. Ah well, it would take a lot of effort to troll them.

    2. and helping people to be the best citizens they can.

      It never fails to amuse me that you can directly substitute “Slave” for “Citizen” in pretty much any sentence a prog uses. Usually a better description too.

    3. And damnit… that was long, sorry about indianing the thread (no I’m not). I needed to give it another pass of editing… but it was fun to write some prog-techno-hate/stasist pron.

      1. For proper trolling, you need to start the essay with, “As a court approved IT guy who is surrounded by cyberlibertarians…”

    4. Very well done. You certainly pass the ideological Turing test.

      I have a few pieces like that I keep meaning to revisit and polish off. They’re not so much for posting at kos or anything, but similarly tongue-in-cheek. One is a piece about how Republicans have no consideration for the greater good, how their policies will impoverish blacks, how they don’t respect laws on the books, etc. At the end you see it’s dated 1859 and the writer is in SC.

  11. Ablow just needs some VR insurance to protect him in case he gets sucked in.

    I don’t even know why the scientists make those robots!

  12. “Lawnmower Man is in *your* head now.”

  13. I remember a Superman episode in which George Reeves takes a charcoal briquette and squeezes it in the palm of his hand into a perfect cut diamond.

    Would pearls turn into diamonds when clutched at unimaginable pressures, or do they just turn to dust?

    1. My bet would be dust, because of the calcium. Best case scenario, a shitty diamond.

  14. As always, there’s an xkcd for this.

  15. At Fox News, Keith Ablow?identified as “a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team

    TV news doctors are quacks. Psychiatrists are quacks. TV News psychiatrists are quacks squared.

    1. Just to be contrarian, I’ll say that I actually find Ablow to be rather interesting. Half of his articles are like this…hysterical gibberish, but the other half are usually pretty good and surprisingly insightful. He tends to be at his worst when he gets caught up in some solely partisan storyline or commenting on social media or pop culture, but when talking about social issues like prostitution or drugs, he’s not a knee-jerk conservative…and on criminal psychology he writes some pretty good stuff.

      If you go through his bio, he’s an interesting guy…kind of tough to categorize.


    2. And his article on prostitution, which was kind of interesting.


  16. Ablow, back in 1838, warned us about the dangers of the steam engine: “This will lead to the inevitable, and execrable, use of mass transportation on mechano-rails. The foreseeable danger in this is that the application of molded steel prevents the human and the horse from forming interconnectible bonds and trust among living things. Inevitably, the mechano-train will divide people further as they self discriminate one against the other in these passenger cars.

    In addition, when not moved by the animal or organic means, camaraderie is lost among men. No longer will they have the time to join together in commerce or challenge as they move at a leisurely pace across land. Nor will the animals under their control bond with their human master. This will only increase the alienation of man to man, and man from the fruit of his labor.

    Nay, I say to the locomechanotrain – it will certainly increase the alienation from man to man, man to beast, and man from the market. The turn to deviancy will be unstoppable.”

    1. Locomechanotrain would be a great band name.

  17. “Facebook is an addictive technological drug,”

    No, its not. Facebook cannot be a thing if that thing does not exist.

  18. “narcissism and depression and dissociation and violent behavior?such as the world has never known”

    Little known fact – Hitler started out as a kind, giving person who always helped his neighbor, Mrs. Epstein, across the street…then he started spending time on Facebook and it warped his brain.

    1. So that’s why Juan Epstein always forged those excuse notes from his mother. She was in Germany the whole time.

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