According to Jacoby, it is "more insulting to call someone a Luddite than to call her a cheat, a drug addict, or a slut."
Ye gods, how I wish that were truly so. After several chapters of explanation (and well-deserved excoriation) of the faith-based and anti-intellectual movements throughout American history, Jacoby makes it clear which of these epithets she most fears and deserves, as she diagnoses our national cultural problems primarily in terms of "screen media," notably failing to draw any significant distinctions between the various kinds of screens that are drawing Americans away from her lovely and nostalgic world of ink impressed upon flattened trees.
In the realm of new technologies that are displacing traditional reading, the concept of "enough" does not exist. The marketing triumph of Apple's iPhone in the summer of 2007 is the most recent example of the public's obsession with the acquisition of devices that provide instantaneous and continuous access to video and audio distraction - anywhere and at any time. [T]he iPhone is a powerful handheld computer offering Internet access and combining most (though not all) of the functions of the telephone, a music-storing iPod, a camera, and many other audio and video devices that used to be tethered to large machines in one's home, or, at the very least, to a heavy laptop.
The whole point of the iPhone, however, is it comprehensiveness; the availability of more distraction that can literally be held in the palm of one's hand will surely reduce whatever part of personal time is still devoted to reading. You'll never walk alone.
Jacoby implicitly assumes that the iPhone (not to mention those heavy laptops) will be used primarily for distraction rather than autodidaction, and she may well be right on this point. Perhaps people will not use their iPhone to listen to Jacoby's book, read Shakespeare or Arthur Conan Doyle, or conveniently grep through innumerable intellectual publications using Google Reader. Maybe they won't fill up on free videos from the CFR, the BBC, or the brilliant minds over at TED. They might well ignore countless educational podcasts offered courtesy of Canadian, British, and Australian taxpayers.
No doubt many people will continue to prefer entertaining themselves to a conscious program of personal development, but the genie is out of the bottle and all we can do is give people the tools they need to thrive in the brave new world.
It would be better if Ms. Jacoby was a drug addict or a slut, at least such folks are not actively working to dampen the flow of technological innovation.