Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Circle Of The Elitist

Andrew Keen doesn’t like me. He doesn’t know me personally; he just hates me for what I am.

Why do I say that? Let’s look at a couple of typical passages from his book, the cult of the amateur – how today’s internet is killing our culture (2007).

Most amateur journalists are wannabe Matt Drudges—a pajama army of mostly anonymous, self-referential writers who exist not to report news but to spread gossip, sensationalize political scandal, display embarrassing photos of public figures, and link to stories on imaginative topics such as UFO sightings or 9/11 conspiracy theories. – Page 47

“So instead of a dictatorship of experts, we’ll have a dictatorship of idiots,” I might have responded. – Page 33

Yup, a pseudonymous blogger who writes about UFOs and other “imaginative topics” is destroying culture. Man, what a menace I am.

Keen is concerned that the Internet is too democratic; it’s not keeping the lowly rabble under control. He’s one of the privileged few who scorn the so-called mobocracy.

There are problems with the Internet, issues such as privacy, identity theft, scams, plagiarism, etc. In those areas Keen does raise some valid points, even though he fails to mention that such problems existed before the Net.

But his main attack is how the Net allows many to bypass the gatekeepers of mainstream media. He declares that mainstream gatekeepers are needed to decide for the unwashed masses what is valid and invalid. Bloggers like me are putting real journalists, publishers and editors out of work.

To some extent that is true. Tough shit. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve tried playing the game with getting published through traditional outlets. Thanks to the Internet I can reach an audience. And if my stuff sucks, no one will read it. Unlike what Mr. Keen thinks, the Net isn’t completely populated by idiots.

Mainstream media is taking a hit. Double tough shit. If the New York Times had done its job, questioning the “facts” offered by the White House before the invasion of Iraq, the US wouldn’t be mired down in a dead end war. Instead, it just printed what that neocon plant, Judith Miller, “reported” without a second thought.

Keen rants on about how you can’t trust everything on the Internet. But he never mentions how the same can apply to the lamestream media.

Keen goes on about “real” writers, how they have to be trained and nurtured by editors and other such gatekeepers. But the mainstream media is known for stifling true creativity. Publishers, TV and movie producers, etc. want a sure thing. They won’t touch a Stephen King or JK Rowling at first; such authors are too original, different. They won’t sell. But after one gatekeeper takes a chance and shows the way, everyone jumps in and starting imitating the flavor of the month. Then a new standard is established: if you’re not a King or Rowling, beat it, loser.

All that free content on the Net, rants Keen, is killing off true talent. Keen must regard himself as a real writer because Doubleday published his book. Of course, maybe some of his anger is stoked by the fact that free stuff is infringing on his turf. As a member in good standing of the select circle, he’s upset because the barbarians are pressing in from all sides. Let’s face it: if someone is reading Ray X for free, enjoying some common sense and straight talk, then he probably isn’t going to pay to read Andrew Keen’s professionally published spewing.

If you want to see what’s wrong with mainstream publishing, examine his book. A small hardcover, widely-spaced text, not that much meat for $22.95. Of course, I didn’t pay that price: I borrowed the book from the library. (Gee, I hope Keen doesn’t consider that “stealing” because I read his snooty whining without paying.)

Maybe I’m a lowly amateur, but it’s better than being a narrow-minded elitist.


Doug said...

Hold on. Were we supposed to be posting embarrassing pictures of celebrities?

Man, no wonder we have so few readers; we;re doing it all wrong, Ray.

It's good that books never pass along sweeping generalizations the way the dreaded internet does. I'm sure that Mr. Keen did in depth investigation of the millions of blogs out there.

(It's good that Mr. Keen never lets us lose sight of the primary job of those in positions of power: To hold on to that power.)

R. Lee said...

Great post. Sure, there are all kinds of people blogging away, so what? That's life. There's as much good as bad, and it's a free country. I'm always suspect when someone wants the "folk" to stop doing whatever it is they're doing.

As you pointed out Ray, there's as much crap on the "lamestream" (lol) media as on the internet.

Reminds me of those anti UFO bloggers who waste time blogging about the bloggers who waste time writing about UFOs. . . :)

X. Dell said...

Thanks for the review. I haven't read the book, but I certainly concur with your view of how professionalism views the Internet, and why it's such a threat.

My experience with professionalism is that it yields consistency, but is often at odds with excellence. As for bypassing the gatekeepers, like you, I'm all for it.

Ray said...


You wrote: It's good that books never pass along sweeping generalizations the way the dreaded internet does.

In the introduction to his book, Keen mentions T.H. Huxley and the "infinite monkey theorem," i.e. one monkey among an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters might produce something of literary value. Then Keen refers to bloggers as "amateur monkeys." Of course, such an observation isn't a sweeping generalization.

R. Lee:

I'm always suspect when someone wants the "folk" to stop doing whatever it is they're doing.

Yup, gotta keep that rabble under control. Or as Elmer Fudd might say: the Wabble (i.e., Web + rabble).

X. Dell:

My experience with professionalism is that it yields consistency, but is often at odds with excellence.

And that's why one monkey with a typewriter can produce a classic. His inconsistent pecking on the keys can create something new, original, not another unit of uniform blandness. So, my fellow monkeys, keep typing away!