Everybody is talking about the rights and wrongs of downloading music from the Internet. Some people believe it's no big deal. I might think it was no big deal, too, if my computer didn't crash every time I did it. But never mind that. Downloading songs is a contemptible act. Yes, I said "contemptible" and I didn't even use spell-check. (Um, let's just see … . Yes. Good.) As I was saying, contemptible.

And I'll tell you why it's contemptible. It's contemptible (okay, I'll stop) because in all the hoo-ha over the legality and morality of the practice, the single most-important thing is getting lost, and that thing is: active, demonstrable snobbery.

To illustrate, let me tell you a little story from my teenage years.

I'm hanging out with some other guys at a friend's house listening to records when somebody stops by. "Come on in," my friend says, opening the door for the guy. "We're just hanging out."

The newcomer is a stranger. None of us knows the guy, except for my friend, who had only recently met him and invited the guy over to hang out. When he comes in, he nods to the rest of us who are slouched into a couch and lumpy chairs. "Hey." "Hey."

Just then, the record comes to an end.

"Hey, man," my friend says to the guy. "Wanna pick something out?"

"Cool," the guy says.

He goes over to the beautifully decorated wall of vinyl and thumbs rapidly through the records, his head cocked at an angle to get a good look at the covers. Finally, he stops at one, pulls it out, and hands it to my friend.

My friend holds it in both his hands, looks down at it, and says nothing. Still looking at it, he says: "This one?"

The stranger says, "Yeah, man."