The Spiders on the Worldwide Web

A reader asked me recently, “Where do you get the information for your columns.”  Answer; Lot’s of places (and people).  All too often, I get stuff from the Internet.  The Worldwide Web is a treasure land of insights and information.  But spiders stalk there.
The Liar Spider (Arachnid Fibilius) lays its traps for the gullible.  In this space some months back I reported a $400 million gift from a Saudi Arabian prince to Yale University for the establishment of a new college, this to be located in the Saudi kingdom.  The story came from the Yale Herald student newspaper’s website.  I missed the small print below the article, which warned of the April Fool’s Day joke.  The paper, published in late March and not on April 1st, fooled me.  My bad… but their bad, too.
The Hate Spider (Arachnid Horibilius) waits to pounce.  HS inhabits such sites as  This URL is the website of an Allentown outfit, offering t-shirts with such logos as “Auschwitz Bakery” and “Dachau Pizzeria.”  The firm’s logo features spent, smoking cartridges, extracted, bloody teeth and broken bones.  This spider also lures us to our deaths with “Super Columbine Massacre”  Here you can pretend you are one of the kids who slaughtered their classmates, as your avatar stalks the classrooms and labs, gunning down anything that moves.
The Columbine game’s inventor writes on the site, “When I discovered a program called RPG Maker, I knew I had to achieve my childhood ambition of designing a video game. The question of what the game’s subject would be came almost instantly; a striking event from my own formative years tugged at my instincts to make the ‘unthinkable’ game. Little did I know as I began to research the Columbine shooting on April 20th, 1999 that the subject never went away in the minds of many others, either. From Germany to Australia and all across the United States, thousands of websites devoted to providing information/criticism/critique of the incident came to my attention. The question at the center of the storm was an elusive one: ‘why did they do it?’”
He continues, “Thus far, video games have been relegated to escapist entertainment—an industry known best for little blue hedgehogs and plucky mustached plumbers bouncing about in fantasy worlds. There is little in the realm of socially conscious gaming—software that does more than merely amuse for a few idle hours. Yet while some low-selling games offer pedagogical education (in geography, math, etc.), games that genuinely challenge social taboos or confront real cultural issues are nearly non-existent. I wanted to make something that mattered; I wasn’t willing to put months of my scant free time into an easily forgotten adventure set in a mythical realm of dragons or spaceships.”
The game’s opening screen tells you that you will be in the role of one of the two killer-kids and “How many people they kill is ultimately up to you.”  Despite the creator’s claim that “Super Columbine Massacre” is intended to teach social responsibility, the game’s original homepage, launched in 2005, described the game as, “A FREE Role Playing Game (RPG) for your PC devoid of malware, spyware or other junk not related to “killing as many f_ _ _heads as possible!” Check it out at
Last, but hardly least, is the Booby Spider (Arachnid Putzolius), the prolific species, which captures and cocoons all the stupidest things anybody ever thought, said or did.  Its sting causes verbal diarrhea of the stinkiest sort.  Betty Davis, once asked if the critics and gossip columnists bothered her, wryly retorted, “Yesterday’s newspaper is tomorrow’s toilet paper.”  So far, no one has figured out how to flush all the effluvia out of the net’s 11.5 billion documents.  Once on the web, it’s there seemingly forever, no matter how vacuous.
Is it any wonder, then, that I sometimes suffer from Arachnophobia?  Maybe you do, too.
[Jim Castagnera is the Associate Provost and Associate Counsel at Rider University.  A collection of his columns is available — where else? — on the Internet at]


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