Andrew Keen’s Fear Of Citizen Journalism

In today’s Washington Post is an article audaciously titled Storming the News Gatekeepers. The author apparently meant to explore the nature of “citizen journalism” and its impact on conventional media and society. The end result however is far less significant than its ambitions as it focuses on a single Brooklyn blogger and fails to embrace the broader new media influence on the blogiverse.

At one point though, the article takes a noticeable dip in IQ by quoting Andrew Keen, author of The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture:

“The term ‘citizen journalist’ has an Orwellian ring to it. People are becoming Big Brother, either with a camcorder or a keyboard, and following the candidates around. It’s ridiculous. You can’t just be a great journalist, the same way you can’t be a great chef or a great soccer player.”

Journalists, he continues, “follow a set of standards, a code of ethics. Objectivity rules. That’s not the case with citizen journalists. Anything goes in that world.”

For Keen to associate citizen journalism with Orwell is…well…Orwellian. Big Brother, as illustrated in “1984” is the personification of an all-powerful and controlling government. The notion that the people, acting on their own behalf, could be characterized as such tyrannical overlords is preposterous to the point of idiocy.

Likewise, Keen’s dismissal of citizen journalists as distinct from the conventional variety, who are supposedly objective and have standards and ethics, is as insulting as it is naive. Sure, there are bloggers who fly fast and loose with facts, but the same is true for pundits on TV and in newspapers. The best of the online reporters actually have greater transparency and include live links to sources and documentation.

Keen obviously prefers media that is certified by corporate boards and is fearful of media that emanates from the streets. He would likely have denounced James Madison’s pamphlets as irresponsible and amateurish. On page 68 of his book he exposes his disgust for real people who have the temerity to engage in democratic discourse:

“The YouTubification of politics is a threat to civic culture. It infantilizes the political process, silencing public discourse and leaving the future of government up to thirty-second video clips shot by camcorder-wielding amateurs with political agendas.”

Contrary to silencing public discourse, YouTube and other web communities have expanded political dialog by including voices that previously were shut out of public debate. And the irony of Keen’s criticism of thirty-second video clips, without reference to the grandfathers of the genre – campaign ads – is the height of intellectual dishonesty.

Keen would like to leave the future of government up to news bites produced by the professional propagandists in Corporate Media ivory towers. Apparently the political agendas of the old-school media hacks are superior, in Keen’s mind, to those of average Americans. With any luck the future of government will continue to benefit from greater participation and diversity, and will keep as far away from Keen’s nightmarish abomination of democracy as possible.

For more on Keen and his book, see Lawrence Lessig’s excellent deconstruction.

For even more on Keen’s wankery, see his appearance on The Colbert Report where he favorably compares Nazis to bloggers saying, “Even the Nazis didn’t put artists out of work.”

I suppose that’s true if you define the corpses of assassinated artists as no longer being in the job market. What a repulsive piece of crap Keen is!