Every so often, a book comes out that changes everything. The Cluetrain Manifesto was such a book. It was a seminal work that articulated a genuine paradigm shift.
Well, mark this down. There's a book coming out in June that again changes everything. Ironically, it describes the Cluetrain Wreck.
Authored by Silicon Valley insider and pundit Andrew Keen, we were lucky enough to get an advanced copy. It is a hard-hitting and provocative polemic that exposes the grave consequences of today’s new participatory Web 2.0. It demonstrates definitively how the Web Train is off track and threatens our values, economy, and ultimately the very innovation and creativity that forms the fabric of American achievement. THE CULT OF THE AMATEUR is a wake-up call!!
Here we sat down with Keen for a brief Q+A.
CHAPEL: Your book sounds like a total refutation of the premise and proposal that is the Cluetrain Manifesto. As Cluetrain is accepted as bible, that would make your book heresy! Your thoughts?
KEEN: Yes, my book is in the heretical tradition of modern dystopian writers like Huxley & Orwell as well as contemporary American cultural critics such as Christopher Lasch, Daniel Bell and Neil Postman. Cluetrain established a biblical orthodoxy around the four C's: "community", "citizenship", "customer" and, most ludicrously of all, "conversation". What it tries to do is displace the ethical and cultural truths that have traditionally defined our civic life -- and replace them with the feel-good language of public relations. At the ideological heart of Cluetrain is the absurd cult of the amateur with its denial that real "truth" or "expertise" can ever exist.
CHAPEL: What do you think of the proposal that corporations cede control variously to the blogosphere?
KEEN: Such a proposal is unwise. As I demonstrate in CULT OF THE AMATEUR, the blogosphere has no formal editorial checks ot balances and is thus structurally corrupt and corrupting. After reading my book, I doubt that any chief marketing officer of a large corporation will have the confidence to let go of their brand and allow any anonymous Internet user to corrupt it.
CHAPEL: We've made similar warnings that have been met with tremendous resistance. Are you prepared for that?
KEEN:CULT OF THE AMATEUR is not a book written for Web 2.0 radicals. Instead, it was authored for mainstream Americans -- parents, business people and educators -- who are troubled by the more extreme cultural and economic consequences of the hyper democratic internet. I expose the dangers not only of "citizen media" like blogging and wikis, but also of online pornography, gambling and identity theft. These are issues that have a significant impact on real people's lives and need to be publicly discussed and debated.
CHAPEL: Some say that your book is a harbinger for a tipping point where the general public wakes up to all this. Do you think we are getting close to that?
KEEN: I hope that the game is now up with the Web 2.0 utopians. Early response to the CULT OF THE AMATEUR has been particularly enthusiastic from mainstream media and the general public. CULT OF THE AMATEUR addresses many ordinary people's concerns about the way that the digital revolution is undermining the core tenets of American culture.
I am confident that my book will generate a serious debate about the future of media, technology and culture. If we fail to address these issues now, we jeopardize the future viability of our newspapers, record labels, movie studios and publishing houses.
CHAPEL: We, of course, are most interested in how all this "can alter the public debate and manipulate public opinion, truth becomes a commodity to be bought, sold, packaged, and reinvented." As you may be aware the public relations business is looking at Web 2.0 and salivating. Thoughts?
KEEN: Yes, part of my book addressed this very issue. Salivating PR people aren't a pretty sight and we certainly don't want a flattened, editor-free media in which everything degenerates into public relations spin. I invest an entire chapter in CULT OF THE AMATEUR to exposing this commodification of truth and throughout the book I describe the corrosive consequences of Web 2.0's cultural relativism. Absolute truth, decency and values are all casualties of the Web 2.0 upheaval. We ignore this descent into PR heaven at our peril.
CHAPEL: The "cult" seems to advocate the abolishment of "copyright protection and intellectual property rights." What do you think the consequence of that might be?
KEEN: The consequences are the end of professional creativity. We need to protect an entertainment/information economy in which creative souls -- writers, musicians, movie makers -- are all financially rewarded for their work. CULT OF THE AMATEUR reveals a Web 2.0 economy in which Google is making a fortune and most creative artists are struggling to be paid for their work. THE CULT OF THE AMATEUR argues that the abolition of copyright protection will force authors to achieve monetary reward for their work by selling themselves (their "brands") rather than the product of their creative labor. Thoughtful creative souls will, therefore, be metamorphosized into salivating PR hucksters. Not a pretty sight, I'm afraid.
Fact is, that knee-jerk proposal is just plain dumb. Sure, this new frontier is akin to the Wild West; but WE ALREADY HAVE LAWS TO MANAGE SUCH PROBLEMS (and then some). What we need is education and enforcement.
Well, here possibly we get both. There’s is a new sheriff in town. Meet David Ritter from Neal Gerber Eisenberg. David's professional focus is labor and employment law. He has extensive nationwide experience in federal and state court litigation in the areas of employment discrimination, including harassment claims, noncompete, trade secret and restrictive covenants, employment torts and all other litigation related to the employment relationship.
On Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 7:41 AM, Ronn Torossian, President and CEO of 5WPR, emphatically promised that he was going to sue us. No real reason, he was just irritated by our teasing him about getting in bed with pornographer Joe Francis. Anyway, Ronn gave his obscenity-laced word that we'd see the complaint in 72 hours. It's now late by
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