Friday, June 25, 2010

FUTURE SCHLOCK. For years most of my own work has been online, and the subject by which most of my readers know me has been the blogosphere. I know as well as the rest of you that online is not only the present, but also The Future, because it is tirelessly presented as such by people like Jeff Jarvis on websites and in well-compensated speeches.

I've always been annoyed by that kind of talk, and most of the time if you ask me why I'll say it's because I'm a miserable old curmudgeon who likes newsprint and daguerreotypes and LPs, and for whom everything has to be old and in black and white. But that isn't wholly true, as this Reason article by up-and-coming libertarian Katherine Mangu-Ward and some interns reminds me.

The article is a kind of guide to online stuff, a popular favorite -- why, I've done that sort of thing myself, pimping mostly small local blogs of diverse agenda.

But the premise here is that these Randian super-genii will instruct you in "kicking your dead tree habit." No, there's no Kindle promo tie-in -- the object of ridicule here is not longform dead tree, but newspapers. The intro is all ha-ha-stupid-foolscap-people:
Newspaper. Personally, I never touch the stuff. But rumor has it there is a certain amount of distress about the impending doom of the news-on-dead-tree industry...

We assumed for the sake of the experiment that The New York Times would be the last to go. Since I refuse to sully my delicate hands with filthy newsprint, Jesse and Robby paged through Wednesday’s edition in search of facts and insights that would need replacing in the event that print news goes kaput.
Though I don't know much about mockery myself, the tone seems a little forced to me -- as if KMW were not trying to summon a new audience of strangers not yet educated to the superiority of the internet, but instead trying to stroke and signal the usual true believers, who are always up for a round of ragging on paper-pushers.

It reminds me of the preemptive gloating of folks like Roger L. Simon, who tells his readers all the time that the MSM is a dinosaur, dying, on the ropes, in extremis, etc. (We're still waiting for the body to fall, but never mind.) For years this has been one of the key tropes of the rightwing online community -- which came out of the rightwing offline community's contempt for the offline equivalent, the impudent snobs of the lying liberal media, usually short-handed as the New York Times.

The Times, it just so happens, is mentioned several times in Mangu-Ward's article, mostly derisively ("New York real estate obsessives have long since left the Times behind... the Times tech reviewer, appropriately enough, senses his own irrelevance...").

Mangu-Ward does give the online edition a left-handed head-pat at the end, though. Clearly the Times and whatever it represents will be part of The Future -- just not so big a part. If years of yap have yet to completely displace the Times, they have opened up some space for an alterna-press which, like alt and indie vendors since time immemorial, not only hopes but asserts that it's The Future, your future. And they mean it, man!

In reality, when the smoke clears you are likely to find that the main effect of such a revolution has been to transfer some power -- not so much to you, though, as to those who have positioned themselves to profit from revolutionary sentiment. Here's who Mangu-Ward recommends for opinion journalism:
As for the Opinion pages, Reason should meet your needs there. But if you must, it could be supplemented with the columns aggregated at RealClearPolitics, or you could enjoy a firehose of opinion at Huffington Post or Daily Kos. Want to come back over and over to a name you trust? Hit up brand name bloggers like Glenn Reynolds, Matt Yglesias, Megan McArdle, and more.
Glenn Reynolds, Matt Yglesias, Megan McArdle! That's some groovy revolution right there.

That's the real reason this stuff bugs me. It's not that I like the Times and newsprint so much. I don't, really. And I like the internet fine. But I've also seen some come-ons in my time, and The Future is one that never gets old.

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