In the days after Sunset Electronica

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(A conversation in a world after the devices stopped working.)

The Printer grinned an ironic grin.

“See, now, there’s the whole point. The printed forum was a place where the community gathered, and people wrote their piece, and views were exchanged with a common respect,” he said, recalling the times before the times before theirs. “As it all sped up and the words grew more careless and it all began to blink and beep, the impulse replaced the carefully crafted phrase, the flash of anger ruled over the considered thought, and the respect vanished. We didn’t just disagree; we treated the other person as an idiot or downright evil.

“When you take the time to think out your thinking and spread it over paper with ink, the thoughts come out more clearly — more, well, thoughtfully — the way you meant them in your heart, not just a knee-jerk blast of emotion and venom.”

The youth smirked. “You cherish these papers so much because you own the printing press and censor what gets printed. In the old times, when the electronics worked, everyone could be heard.”

“Everyone censors themselves first of all,” The Printer said. “You decide what you want to say and then you say it. Sometimes in the heat of a moment you say something and regret it a moment later. When we substituted electronics for precious paper, we created a forum more like real life, with fewer filters, which can be a good thing and sometimes not. In a mob everyone can be heard but no one can be heard. When you only have one page to reach other minds and hearts, you work that much harder to say what you mean clearly and economically and persuasively. I do ask clarity from those who want me to print their words. Am I a censor? Only if you think a censor is someone who wants each perspective presented in as bright and clear a light as possible, because I do reject incoherence.”

“So you admit you deny your precious space to those who can’t put their ideas into words clearly enough, in your judgment?” the youth asked triumphantly.

The Printer’s mouth became a thin smile. “There is always the other choice: You may write your ideas in words that can be understood by all, and I will print them, or you can walk the streets shouting incomprehensible babble. I suggest that my way will take your ideas farther.”

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