Keen But Unkind

by | Jul 11, 2007

Andrew Keen has the digeratis’ panties in a twist. His new book, The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy grew out of a controversial essay published last year by The Weekly Standard.

According to the review in the The New York Times, his book is “a shrewdly argued jeremiad against the digerati effort to dethrone cultural and political gatekeepers and replace experts with the wisdom of the crowd.”

Mr. Keen argues that “what the Web 2.0 revolution is really delivering is superficial observations of the world around us rather than deep analysis, shrill opinion rather than considered judgment.” In his view Web 2.0 is changing the cultural landscape and not for the better. By undermining mainstream media and intellectual property rights, he says, it is creating a world in which we will “live to see the bulk of our music coming from amateur garage bands, our movies and television from glorified YouTubes, and our news made up of hyperactive celebrity gossip, served up as mere dressing for advertising.” This is what happens, he suggests, “when ignorance meets egoism meets bad taste meets mob rule.”

This reaction to the democratization of media is to be expected. I’m surprised there aren’t more such critics lurking about. Grassroots structures scare so called experts. This particular expert is also quite the name caller. The San Francisco Chronicle invited him to guest blog, and he used the opportunity to say:

Unfortunately, the intellectual life of Silicon Valley is monopolized by intellectual communists like Stanford’s Larry Lessig, hippies posing as futurists like Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelly, new-age geeks like Larry Page and Craig Newmark, wide-eyed economic utopians like Chris “Long Tail” Anderson and technophile impresarios like John Battelle and Tim O’Reilly.

Thankfully, he also calls himself an elitist.

I fully admit to being an elitist. I believe in a strictly meritocratic society of experts, one is which creative ability is rewarded. I think that most people have little talent and shouldn’t be encouraged to think of themselves as writers or musicians or porn stars. I want to be educated and entertained by the opinion of Habermas, Zizek, Lucy Kellaway or Maureen Dowd, rather than the ranting of some half-educated blogger.

This guy has the whiff of Ann Coulter about him. In other words, the more outrageous his babble the more press he gets.