Andrew Keen, Welcome to the Outrage Farm

I’ve been hearing a little about Andrew Keen’s new book that basically tells all of us in citizen media that we suck. Apparently Keen’s Big Message is that blogs are irrelevant and books, TV and newspaper are important. He published a book to that effect and also has, ummmm, ironically enough, a blog with the same message. I guess the message is important in book form but irrelevant in blog form, or perhaps he has a special dispensation that allows his blog to be important while all others are not.

I ran across one of Keen’s posts about debating Jeff Jarvis. I’ve had it open in Firefox for over a week but I hadn’t blogged it out of a vague sense of unease that Scoble captured perfectly. I disagree so fundamentally with what Keen is saying, and moreover it seems like he is deliberately being a dick in how he says it. However, it also seems like arguing with him and calling him out is exactly what he wants. Note that on the sidebar of his blogs at the time of this posting, almost every personal appearance scheduled is a “debate” rather than just a book signing. Apparently, picking fights is the tent pole of his promotional machine which supports my thesis. Just like an Ann Coulter or a Michelle Malkin or a John C. Dvorak that deliberately and cynically farms controversy in order to gain attention, Keen seems to want to be at the center of a storm. Just as long as his name and the title of his book get blown about, bring on the gale force winds. I’m such a sucker for that play, it almost always gets me. I’ll give myself the luxury of one paragraph and then never again.

Keen is a courageous slayer of straw men. You can tell he is a big thinker because he refers to new media as “new meeja”. You can’t be an effective outrage farmer without dismissive nicknames. His core argument that new media is inconsequential pretty much fails out of the box for me, since in my own life it has consequence. As a producer it has brought me much joy and connection with people I enjoy. Having not five days ago had a coffee and conversation with a listener who was quoting back to me ideas I’ve expressed in my podcast, that’s a consequence to me and also to him. Almost three years into this podcast era, I don’t listen to NPR in my car anymore. After all the time spent listening to authentic voices, I can’t listen to the archness of All Things Considered or even This American Life. In fact, if my MP3 player runs out of juice, I usually just switch off the radio. Nowadays I prefer silence to NPR. Yes, Mr. Keen, I turn off the professionally produced in favor of rougher media on topics more of interest in me. That’s a consequence. You can make it your life’s work to tell me that I shouldn’t enjoy the things I do but that seems like a wasted life to me. Trying to elevate your personal tastes to that of moral truth and cultural standard is ridiculous.

And with that, I promise you the readers and myself that I will never again throw Brer Keen in the briar patch by arguing with his points. Instead, I’ll disprove them empirically by the choices I make in my life.

And to Jeff Jarvis, don’t debate Keen. He’s the troubled kid who pisses on the coffee table to get attention. It doesn’t matter what happens in such a debate, he wins when you show up. For someone so down on bloggers, he is working hard to get legitimized by them, isn’t he?

4 Replies to “Andrew Keen, Welcome to the Outrage Farm”

  1. agreed dave – speaking as someone who has spent a large part of my career as a part of the media industry – my perspective is that all signs point to a strategic and rapid movement by msm towards integration w/ and utilization of the content, tools, community and communication methodologies being utilized by citizen media and ugc practitioners…

    keen is a self-serving troll and should be ignored after this post of yours of course 😉

  2. While this is hardly an earth-shattering news event in the long run, I should mention it was the case of Reverend Magdalen’s custody case that convinced me of the power of the “blogosphere.” Since her court case in 2006, what kind of media coverage has she gotten in the mainstream press? One 60-second TV news spot on the local TV station, and two articles published in small, local newspapers. (The newspaper articles were both outstanding, nonetheless.) But it was because of the case going across the blogs that she has gotten as far as she has. The constant phone calls to the court house from angry Netizens convinced Judge Punch to run away and assign someone else to the case. The call for funds in March led to us raising $3,000 for her legal fund in one week. And in particular, we have such giant, popular blogs as Boing Boing and Fark to thank for spreading the word far and wide — especially ”Boing Boing,” and Rev. Mark Frauenfelder! Without their help, Magdalen would be one mother among many, struggling futilely against an uncaring legal system. But the blogs have had a big effect on this case. Magdalen’s case may not be the type of thing that makes the front page, but it is certainly important to her — and to us.

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