Like a lot of others, I love Lord of the Rings. The plot revolves around the incredible lure of the ring. It is evil but almost irresistible. Its offers temptation tailored to the particular individual's desires. Amazingly Tolkien came up with this notion without the inspiration of the internet.
The web offers so many ways we can fritter our time away or worse. The opportunity to be someone online that we are not in real life is one. This could be very sinister indeed, but like most things there is a spectrum. Posing as someone you aren't to con people out of money or take advantage of them is one end of it, but there are less serious but probably a lot more common ways of deceiving people online.
Every internet forum has people who are being much more strident than they would be in real life. And no doubt not every fact quoted is rigorously checked. Some people go further and plug products and services they are affiliated with without making clear their connection. And the potential for deception takes many forms. When you have been writing a blog like this one for several years and had almost no responses, the temptation to quickly create a new Google account and to start posting some comments is a very real one. I have managed to resist it, but it has been touch and go some days.
The world has been watching agog as the mysterious affair of Orlando Figes has unfolded before our barely believing eyes. We now know the whole sordid truth. A tale of academic bitchiness that sickens the heart. The short version is that Orlando Figes, a leading historian of 20th Century Russia, has been posting damning reviews of his rivals online anonymously, while lauding his own work. When caught out, at first he tried to use his substantial personal fortune to hire lawyers to sue his accusers. Then he tried to blame his wife. But now the truth is out. He is now known as Filthy Figes.
I think the reason that we all find this story so fascinating is that all of us have a little of the Filthy Figes in us. Okay we feel the temptation but we somehow resist it. But like Gollum, Figes has gone down the path we have avoided. It is also see easy to understand. I am sure what Goldmann Sachs got up to was very bad, but I have only the haziest notion of what it is they are supposed to have done and no concept of what was going through the minds of the bankers involved. But slagging someone off behind their back thinking I wouldn't get caught? Er yeah, I can sort of relate to that.
Still, History Books Review readers can rest assured that I at any rate review books honestly. And I don't write any, so you can be sure I am not biased.