NYTimes book reviewer Michiko Kakutani didn't skewer the reactionary new book by Andrew Keen -- remember Keen? he's the guy who called Lawrence Lessig an "intellectual property communist." Wow. I guess that makes Keen sort of the Christopher Hitchens of Silicon Valley...
(Re: "Tubes" -- anyone remember the name of the Republican Senator who publicly referred to the Internet as a "bunch of tubes"?)
UPDATE: It was Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska:
By Adario Strange
June 29, 2007 | 11:32:32 AM
You have to wonder if there is a design behind the fact that The New York Times review of Andrew Keen’s “The Cult of the Amateur” was published on the same day as the arrival of the iPhone—a day when nearly all other tech news will be drowned out completely.
The controversial (at least in Silicon Valley) book that argues against the egalitarian user-generated party known as Web 2.0 was assigned to Michiko Kakutani, the infamous reviewer known for laying the guts of many an author on the side the road to be pecked mercilessly by media vultures slowly in the hot sun of publishing hell.
But Kakutani spares Keen (pictured right) the normal vitriol and lauds the book with a relatively positive review. Kakutani said, “Although Mr. Keen wanders off his subject in the later chapters of the book — to deliver some generic, moralistic rants against Internet evils like online gambling and online pornography — he writes with acuity and passion about the consequences of a world in which the lines between fact and opinion, informed expertise and amateurish speculation are willfully blurred.” In Kakutani-speak that translates into “give this book a try.”
Ugh. Ready for a fight? Here we go, via Stephen C. Rose Up Close and Personal:
Rarely does a book review convince me that this is a book I need not read.
The book is called The Cult of the Amateur -- How Today's Internet is Killing our Culture. The author is one Andrew Keen.
Nothing against him. Such a book had to be written. It reflects the unanalytical bias of thoughtless critics everywhere. Web-bashing is as superficial and easy and idiotic as Ann Coulter. Sorry to be so blunt.
My suspicion is that my reaction is aided by the participation of the actual NYTimes review. The headline reads "The Roar of the Herd is Deafening on the Web".
The irony is that everything is going to the Web. So brickbats of all sorts are being thrown at an inevitable tide. Without much attention to what is actually there or how things actually develop.
The irony too is that the facts cited in the review, if they be true, argue not for a herd but for a modest-sized group which has always been with us -- those who seek to influence search results by tactics ranging from the nefarious to the legitimate.
This is not a herd. These folk do not roar.
The argument that the Web is being overrun by amateurs is patently absurd to anyone who uses the Web as I do, for serious inquiries.
The implied reverence for some other sort of research venue leads straight to academe where the deficiencies are too numerous to set in opposition to the cliches that propel the thinking in this book.
A simple example is the field of New Testament study. Vastly better with the resources now available online.
The degree of herd thinking in the world out there is reflected online but what else is new. It is all a spectrum and you can find whatever you are looking for.
If anything, I believe that an amateur like myself has as tough a time online as off gaining access to dialogue with so-called experts. But at least online there is a chance to find an appropriate forum or podcast. Comments are a viable means of communication too.
What I believe gets ignored is the fact that generations on the Web last about five years.
I remember a stupendously good site about Francis Bacon that existed in the 90s but is NO MORE. Terrible. I remember a wonderful online presentation of the life of Kelly Miller Smith. NO MORE.
Does this mean the sky is falling? That the thundering hoofbeats of the Nietzschean mob are drawing nigh? Not in the least.
Like a giant mixing bowl, the Web yields new versions all the time and the accomplishments are on balance an improvement because on the Web you can see the warts and do something about them.
What this book is about is simply what Foucault and before him Jesus observed -- in essence that nothing is doomed to remain secret, unexposed. Discourse will have its day ad nauseaum. This denouement is embarrassing but it is human and the purpose of the Web is to move to Hamlet's things I could tell you, to movement beyond the idiocies of the past.
The roar of the herd is an interesting thought. What is the herd? Who actually drives it? What lies behind the evocation of a herd? Are herds in the eye of the beholder? Or the auditor?
If we are dealing with the Web, relax. This is our home now and in the years to come. The more time elapses, the more expertise and analysis will surface and by their fruits they shall be known.
The author of this book says the herd took us to Iraq.
Look more deeply folks. The publisher, btw, is Doubleday.