Monday, August 20, 2007

As Usual, Mr. Colbert Shows Laudable Poise

Sadly there's no way to embed videos from with HTML, but this clip is worth jumping through a few hoops for: just follow this link, scroll down in the player window to the Andrew Keen video, and get ready for the stupidest person who's ever been on television.

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Blogger Greg said...

Andrew Keen is a once in a lifetime putz and before watching this video, I hated him and everything he stands for, but after that atrocious comedy central page crashed safari, not once, not twice, but thrice, I think I might agree with him that the internet should be shut down! Seriously, it's time to put him, Elton John (, and all the other old-culture protectionist ding dongs in a Williams and Sonoma and hit blend.

10:16 PM  
Blogger Will said...

Tough to disagree with that progressive vision of carnage. Well worth watching the video if you already hate him, so I hope the page fixes itself soon; in the meantime, if you want to see him take a rhetorical beatdown—and I know you do—read this embarrassing email debate with Guardian columnist Emily Bell.

2:03 AM  
Blogger Tyson said...

What a doof. I like how his main rhetorical strategy is to take anything anyone says, regardless of semantic value, and claim that it "proves his point." But at least he kind of looks like an asshole Hugh Jackman, which made me laugh.

It's funny too, a similar debate about Amateurs v. Professionals is being played out in the political blogosphere between bloggers and journalists. Similar dynamic too, with many "old culture" types simply not getting it. Bleh.

11:54 AM  
Blogger Tyson said...

Having just read the debate a bit more thoroughly, I'm struck by how Keen seems so hung up on digital flattening and anonymity (which are kind of the same same thing, or at least related). The same things are often said about globalization. But those metaphors are really awful ways of thinking about both the internet and globalization - I mean cf. BoingBoing, Digg, Reddit, et al for the internet, and the continued expansion of cities for globalization. So basically I guess Keen is a double jackass.

1:34 PM  
Blogger either Mike or Vic or Jenny said...

The fact that Andrew Keen has been chosen by the cultural gatekeepers as the mouthpiece for the anti-Web 2.0 movement seems to be proof that the professional gatekeepers do a poor job. Was Keen seriously the best person they could find to rail against blogs and Wikipedia? All other things being equal, wouldn't a professional artist / musician / content creator be better equipped to argue Keen's case?

The fact that the cultural gatekeepers couldn't find an actual artist to make this case speaks volumes -- it's because the only artists that are hurting are the big label/well-established ones, and they're only hurting by virtue of (a) increased competition from small-time musicians, and (b) piracy, which is mostly unrelated to the whole blog/amateur/anonymity thing Keen's railing against. The vast majority of artists -- those without record contracts that tend to rip them off in the long run -- are doing much better as a result of the Internet.

(Interesting aside about how well the cultural gatekeepers treat artists: Steve Vai talks about record contracts)

The worst thing about Keen's arguments are that nearly every single one of them applies to mainstream media sources as well. In the Colbert interview, he laments that blog posts are written by (or written at the encouragement of) corporations or foreign governments. I'm not sure how this is all that different than our government producing TV news clips for mainstream consumption or product reviews in mainstream, "professional" publications that are blatantly biased in favor of advertisers' products.

And on the flipside, in countries where the government controls the media, blogs and the meager level of anonymity they afford serve a valuable purpose: the Internet is one of the few ways dissenting views can find any kind of widespread audience.

Finally, a note on anonymity. You're only as anoymous as your IP address. In the event that somebody has been libeled or threatened in an online forum, ISPs can be compelled to tell you who the originating IP address belonged to. The same laws that apply to printed speech also apply to online speech. The internet is not some no-holds barred wild west.

Keen is just some dude who started a defunct website about the suit-wearing side of the music business (and I'm not using "suit-wearing" as a dis, I just needed a catchall term), and went on to write a book griping about the state of the entire modern (sorry, "postmodern") Internet. He's not a brilliant lifelong artist feeling the burn of amateur writers stealing his readers, or some techie genius who strayed from the geek flock. His nerd credentials seems less than impressive. This is a dude who hadn't heard of Godwin's Law until after he'd appeared on the Colbert Report.

I'm not even sure if, after reciting his laundry list of harms, he proposes a solution to make "Web 2.0" more palatable. Are we supposed to stop reading blogs? Stop downloading music that small bands have released for free in hopes of finding an audience? Not read amateur opinions from unpaid pundits? Unplug our computers? The entire thrust of his book seems to be "I have an issue with people producing content on the internet," although this point is also intermingled with points about piracy and filth while failing to consistently draw a clear distinction between legal and illegal content.

Anyway, sorry for the long comment. This guy is just so absurd, makes such flimsy arguments, and has such wacky credentials that it really cheeses me off that the "cultural gatekeepers" let him through in the first place.

(Another mini-rant: the only job of the cultural gatekeepers is to identify content that can be distributed for profit. While this has resulted in the dissemination of some good art, it hardly seems like a recipe for it.)

(One last mini-rant: I hate the phrase "Web 2.0," and the long, drawn-out orgasm that people are having over "user-created content." The only thing different between a million terrible blogs and a million terrible Geocities pages is that at some point between 1996 and today, Internet users collectively woke up and said, "hey, we actually need to update our pages with fresh content once in a while." Meanwhile, Internet start-ups collectively realized, "hey, we actually need to have a viable business model other than just obtaining venture captial.")

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, so I'm just going to end my rant now. If only I were a paid professional pundit, you would have had adequate closure. Sorry.


8:01 AM  

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