The Empire Strikes Back


“….gimme a sec Vader, and I’ll be right with you…..”

A few days ago we wrote about the rise of the ‘peasants’ as they took control of the media. As in the 15th Century, the nobility is pissed off. They are going to talk about ‘divine rights of Kings’, how God meant for them to rule, and how the peasant class is ‘utterly unqualified’ for the rarified haunts of the privledged class.

Now, here it comes:

Writing in The Times yesterday, Andrew Keene deplores the “cult of the amateur”.

Writes Keene:

Before the internet it seemed like a joke: if you provide an infinite number of monkeys with typewriters one of them will eventually come up with a masterpiece. But with the web now firmly established in its second evolutionary phase – in which users create the content on blogs, podcasts and streamed video – the infinite monkey theory doesn’t seem so funny any more.

“Today’s technology hooks all those monkeys up with all those typewriters,” argues Andrew Keen, who believes that “web 2.0” is killing our culture, assaulting our economy and destroying time-honoured codes of conduct.”

How can we respond to this?

Of course, my intitial response is, ‘up your’s Andy’.

But I don’t want to be accused of destroying any time-honoured codes of conduct.

So lemme do it this way:

This feeling that ‘the barbarians are at the gate’ is nothing now. And, by the way also not wrong. The barbarians are not only at the gate, they’re already here, living in the palace. And good thing too, because the palace was a dead place; immobile and calcified.

Free presses are messy. You unleash ‘the masses’ and the next thing you know, they go and start doing what they what to do, writing and producing what they want to see, talking about what interests them!

What nerve!

What a collapse of ‘culture’.

Heraclitus, the 5th C (BCE) Greek philosopher who said “much information does not teach wisdom“, only gets 850,000 Google hits. On the other hand, Jessica Simpson, the 21st Century philosopher who once said “Chicken of the Sea? Is it tuna or is it chicken? I don’t understand” gets a tad over 7 million.

Does it make Jessica Simpson 9 times smarter than Heraclitus? I don’t think so.

As the wise Heraclitus once wrote, ‘much information does not teach wisdom’.

So do not be afraid of much information. Or much mess for that matter.

It’s a sign of a healthy culture.

Free presses are messy. They are supposed to be. Democracy is messy. They are also supposed to be. It is fine, in fact it is healthy to have lots and lots and lots of voices, as opposed to a few state controlled or corporate controlled ‘voices of truth’.

As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, the answer to bad free speech is more free speech.

Worries Keen:

At a working breakfast in 2004 Keen was alarmed to be told the new democratic internet would overthrow the “dictatorship of expertise”. And that’s happening already. Wikipedia, with its millions of amateur editors and unreliable content, is the 17th most trafficked site on the net., a subscription-based service with 100 Nobel prize-winning contributors and more than 4,000 other experts is ranked 5,128. As a result, Britannica has had to make painful cuts in staffing and editorial.

Well Andrew, the ‘people’ have spoken.

Perhaps, if Britannica wishes to survive in this brave new world, they should pay more attention to ‘the people’, and my guess, (uniformed amateur that I am), is that Britannica’s primary problem lays in their subscription-based model, as opposed to the quality of their content.


10 responses to “The Empire Strikes Back

  1. We have the most highly paid professional journalist in the world proudly announcing to People magazine that on the morning on the Asian tsunami she phoned the newsroom anxious for the latest on Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston.

    Pass round the bananas Michael.

  2. As usual, there are more places to go with this post than I ought. To stick to ”codes of conduct,” I’ll limit myself to my two first impressions (the restraining order and all…).

    Before the internet it seemed like a joke: if you provide an infinite number of monkeys with typewriters one of them will eventually come up with a masterpiece. But with the web now firmly established in its second evolutionary phase – in which users create the content on blogs, podcasts and streamed video – the infinite monkey theory doesn’t seem so funny any more.

    His misapplication of the monkey theory is so poorly done, incomplete, and flawed that I won’t waste time on it. Everybody knows the monkeys were supposed to create the unabridged complete works of Shakespeare. One side of his argument has monkeys using typewriters, contrasted with monkeys using typewriters, and so on.

    I know that Microsoft is the scorn of many, but they have a knack for buying good technology (maybe they just buy “everything” and only show off the good stuff.) On Peter’s blog (, there is a demonstration of a product that Microsoft bought called Seadragon. A truly cool product; it nearly seamlessly stitches zillions of digital photos together into a composite “environment” that can be panned, zoomed, “flown through,” whatever. I’ve seen it compared to google’s keyhole or google earth, but this app. can stitch together anything. Microsoft has integrated it into its “Photosynth” product.

    One demo showed how hundreds (thousands?) of individual stills (simply lifted from those monkeys tagging things over at flikr) of Notre Dame had been organized and stitched by Seadragon into an experience that is beyond cool – you can zoom in on artwork high on a wall that would be unreachable in person. These were all photos that came from hundreds of different people (monkeys with cameras). The monkeys can build a digital Notre Dame? Huh?

    I think that the part of this piece that should offend us all is not simply the “elitist” mentality (Nobility and Serfs), but that those in their towers looking down at the moat see monkeys dancing in it and not people. Anyhow, the heating bills on those castles are outrageous.

    Now, back to that light-saber. You know that Darth never said the words: “Luke, I am your father.” Right? It’s a misquote.
    Stayed under 400 words this time too.

  3. Deploring the democratization of the press speaks of such elitism as to imply that the state knows what is best for the populace.

    What a load of crap.

    Rantings like this are the very reason we have taken up the cause to, as Morpheus said to Neo in the Matrix – “Free Our Minds”

    We don’t need some highly educated, puffed up pseudo-intellectual telling us what we can and can’t do – we are taking personal responsibility for our futures – we want to stay informed – know what’s going on – without the filters of bought off media outlets whose agenda is to provide selective information to further some hidden agenda.

    The pseudo-intellectuals are losing any illusion of control they thought they had and we now control what we want to learn. The only thing that can prevent that from continuing is for the Internet to be regulated by the large companies like ATT, Comcast, etc where they are the gateway to the Internet.

    Let’s hope there are sufficient political representatives who will see the Internet as needing to stay free and open.

  4. “under 400 words”

    is that voluntary, or did the head monkey impose it?

  5. not from the head monkey. write away…

  6. you do know that was a joke, right?

  7. Actually, back on the 29th, the invitedmedia guy (the original !) suggested a 300 word limit because the comments were getting into Ted Kaczynski lengths (and some were making as much sense).

    This was a humorous reference to that golden age. I apparently can’t create a comment in under 500 words, though I gave it a shot here.

    Now! Off to groom myself before storming the castle!!! Where’s my light-saber? Chewie??

  8. Speaking of pseudo-intellectuals Cliff, I have to ask when you are going to join the rest of us in this revolution you and others love to talk about, but, for whatever reason, don’t seem to want to actively join?

    You don’t even put video on your own web site.

    I, like many full time news photographers are currently producing daily material both for broadcast and the web. We are doing it! We are adapting and getting paid to do it!

    I can not understand with all the enthusiasm and verbiage you’ve shown, Cliff, why you haven’t joined in. You seem convinced about the future and what is needed to succeed but when it comes to walking the talk, you don’t.

    When is that going to happen? Why hasn’t it happened already. These thoughts are not directed only towards Cliff, but many who have posted here. Lots of theory but little or no practice. Well, lots of practice in classes, I’ll give you that, but nothing that puts money in the bank. Nothing that leads to helping create this brave new world of video journalists doing it better.

    It’s a “duh” thought to say the web is going to have more impact in the future but unless you get involved now, you’re going to be left behind.

    Meanwhile I and others are doing it. Every TV station in the country already is on the web and putting video out there. Newspapers are too but the ugly truth for those print folks who would love to shoot video is most of the successful newspapers see no need to retrain their print staff. They partner up with an existing TV station in their market to piggy back the video to their readers. Some will even subscribe to the AP video feed. They aren’t dying for video. It’s already available to them and best of all, they see the future when they can trim their staff. They don’t need still photographers on staff any more! Money saved and they still have that better product for the future to offer their readers!

    The question for the rest of you is when are you going to join in and prove what you believe? Or is it safer for you to continue being spectators on the sidelines endlessly jabbering about what the future is but never being a part of it?

    Cliff, if VJ video is so important, and you are so well trained to produce it, when are you going to get around to practicing what you preach with your own blog site? Or do you need to take another class or two before you feel comfortable enough to actually let the public see what you can and can’t do?

  9. lol

    guy is trying to light his cigarette with light saber are they lasesrs or just light?

  10. Just briefly mentioning that the person in that photo is me, Robert Kersey. IMDb Profile

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