Not a review of Cult of the Amateur
This post has been podcast.
Months ago I set out to read Cult of the Amateur, by Andrew Keen, Doubleday 2007. I want to review this book but I can't because it makes me so angry I can't finish it. I fling it across the room and leave it for weeks before I try again. So far I've made to page 19. I can't recall when I last read such an irrationally emotive, ill-informed, unbalanced diatribe. I even include here my own writings. What makes it worse is that my own opinions are not that far from the author's - I should be a cheerleader. But he just talks crap.
It should be a hilarious book because it defeats its own argument. If the internet provides a platform for the opinionated to push unreasonable positions based on unresearched drivel, then this book is the same, delivered using traditional print media. It is not the medium that corrupts the message - books are capable of exactly what this one accuses the internet, and it is itself a prime example.
Of course the book also accuses the internet of corrupting the nation's youth, much the same accusation that equally hysterical writers in the past threw at playstations, video games, video, arcade games, tv, pinball, pool, cars, motorbikes and for all I know Monopoly, card games and chess. The book doesn't corrupt with vice (ooooh vice) but it does corrupt with something worse: emotive text, bad information and fuzzy thinking.
As Clive James would say (The Dreaming Swimmer, Clive James, Jonathan Cape 1992) this is yet another " version of Amusing Ourselves to Death, a book which in the US gets published every five years or so, with predictable press reaction... It is an open question whether the worst game show is more culturally damaging than, say, gladatorial game shows were for Augustan Rome or bear-bating for Elizabethan England... My younger daughter loves [game shows], and I cannot see how that passion is destroying her character, her reading skills or her reason."
As I say, I can't get past the first twenty pages without yelling at nearly every one of them, so I can't speak for the rest of the book. Nor will I as I have no intention of finishing this bilge. It has all the classics of similar button-pushing prejudiced sensationalist trash. We have:
- The absurd linear extrapolation of a trend: "fifty-three million blogs on the internet and this number is doubling every six months.. there will be over five hundred million blogs by 2010, collectively corrupting and confusing popular opinion", ignoring that in the unliklely event of this coming true the average blog will have about four readers.
- The totally unsubstantiated generalisation about the younger generation: "These days, kids can't tell the difference between credible news by objective professional journalists and what they read on joeschmoe.blogspot.com". Given that the world's three objective professional journalists account for about .05% of the world's journalism, most kids have never seen objective professional journalism anyway. But I think they are a lot more savvy than the patronising Mr Keen gives them credit for... or at least they are no more gullible than the bulk of their elders, who continue to lap up the New Age, alternative medicine, women's magazines and television. The destruction of the collective intellect has been going on a lot longer than just this millenium, and it orginates not in media but in the hijack of western education systems by post-modernist idiots.
- Ignorantly false information: "Since Wikipedia's birth...three million entries... none of them edited or vetted for accuracy" ...wrong... "...a more trusted source for news than the CNN or BBC Web sites" ...no it isn't
- Emotive abusive diatribes: "Youtube eclipses even the blogs in the inanity and absurdity of its content. Nothing seems too too prosaic or narcissic for these videographer monkeys"
- Selective anecdotal examples that are not representative of the far greater typical body: "...one hugely popular video called "the Easter Bunny Hates You" showed... A few other favourite subjects include..."
- Illogical non-sequiteurs: "...people are buying less music too. thanks to the rampant digital piracy...sales dropped.." They are just buying less you idiot: they are probably listening more, thanks to the integration of the internet and the iPod. "Disney for example announced 650 job cuts..." How a decline in Disney's business represents a decline in public intelligence is beyond me.
There is more, way too much more. These examples came from just a few pages. It is crap. Don't read it. I didn't.
(For a demolition of this twaddle far superior to my humble effort here, see Lessig)