Andrew Keen, in his new book The cult of the amateur, ruminates on the blizzard of blogs and other user-generated free content on the Internet. Everything from Wikipedia, YouTube, and MySpace fall under Keen’s scathing polemic.
The author is no Luddite. He is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has written for paper and online resources. He is the founder & CEO of Audiocafe.com. However, he urges us to “consider the consequences of blindly supporting a culture that endorses plagiarism and piracy and that fundamentally weakens traditional media and creative institutions.”
He is right on the mark when he questions how bloggers, who sit on their duffs in some anonymous room, can bloviate so authoritatively on current events of which they have no knowledge. Every second hundreds of blog pages are transmitted burying the uninitiated under misinformation, forgeries, plagiarisms, libels and lies. Amateurs with no professional standards or editorial filters are altering what’s left of public debate. Public opinion, which wasn’t much to talk about beforehand, is now so replete with fundamental errors of fact that most Americans still think that Iraq had something to do with 9/11. Truth is something to be discarded in the greater good of giving anyone with a computer a voice.
Print and television media have not done their jobs either. Our political discourse revolves around $400 haircuts and Lindsey Lohan. However, our democracy will not be able to withstand the Web 2.0 assault on the deliberative gathering of news and information by traditional media. Any changes that newspapers and TV make in response to the Internet (and they’ve already occurred) will only serve to diminish their ability to inform.
As the Bush administration has so ably demonstrated, once something is announced it is remembered as being true no matter how often that statement has been proven or shown to be false. The Web 2.0 resources spew out so much of these kinds of half- truths or lies that our political culture will no longer have to do it.
Read Keen’s book and see how your Internet browsing fits in with his findings. Does empowering everyone to be a musician, critic, essayist, filmmaker, journalist or information specialist truly add to our achievements as a nation or culture?