Book Review: Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture

In his book “The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture,” Andrew Keen laments the loss of advertising dollars, TV news shows and Tower Records the way someone in the early days of the Industrial Revolution must have mourned the loss of blacksmiths. Every business has an era, and since the invention of the cotton gin, new technology has replaced former ways of doing things, and people have mourned the old ways.

Does anyone else get the feeling that Keen is an old man sitting around railing about how the world is going to “hell in a hand basket?” He claims that he isn’t anti-technology or anti-progress, but his book is a narrow-minded attack that blames many problems (as he perceives them) that can be ascribed to other factors besides the internet. The factor he seems most concerned about is the loss of income to trained professionals such as TV journalists, record companies and advertising agencies.

For instance, Keen spends considerable time lamenting the loss of Tower Records and the expertise that could be found there-in. The fact is, Tower Records was a huge conglomerate that put smaller record stores out of business. Like the days of Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, Tower wasn’t put out of business by the internet, but by the new technology that created mp3’s. People stopped buying records and CDs because there was a superior alternative available.

Another concern of Keen’s is that the music industry is falling into a pit of mediocrity from which it will never recover, despite the admission that “people love music more than ever.” Are we really supposed to feel sorry for the record companies that have notoriously been ripping off artists since the early days of recorded music? It seems to me that Mr. Keen’s real problem is not with the internet, but with the loss of revenues to big business and the abandonment of Capitalist ideals by the American People. I say, let advertising companies go out of business. TV programs and musical artists will find a way to go on without them. Newspapers and news shows have been pushing their own political and economic agendas for decades. At least the so-called “charlatans” posting to Wikipedia aren’t claiming expertise. Everyone knows that Wikipedia can’t be trusted. They teach that to kindergarteners today.

Before the record companies and even book publishers, people found ways to be artists and writers and people will write and make music long after these corporations are a distant memory. Whether or not the TV advertising model will survive, or there will be as much money in the recording, TV and book industries will be determined as new practices fall into place. Just because all the money in the world was in TV doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be. The fact that the salespeople at Tower Records knew what they were talking about doesn’t mean no one else knows. And the fact is, whether Mr. Keen agrees or not, those knowledgeable people are much easier to find today, thanks to the internet. I know how to find them – don’t you?

According to the NY Times:

. . . Mr. Keen’s objections to the publishing and distribution tools the Web provides to aspiring artists and writers sound churlish and elitist — he calls publish-on-demand services “just cheaper, more accessible versions of vanity presses where the untalented go to purchase the veneer of publication” — he is eloquent on the fallout that free, user-generated materials is having on traditional media.

I believe that talent always rises to the top, and the internet is no exception. In my less-than humble opinion, Andrew Keen is a “drama-queen” who should get with the times.

If I’m not the only one shaking my head as I read this book, or even if I am, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Works Cited

Kakutani, Michito. “Book of the Times: the Cult of the Amateur.” The New York TimesNew York Times, 29 June 2007. Web. 30 July 2014.

Keen, Andrew. Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture. Doubleday, 2007. EBook file.

Published by Karen

I'm a recent graduate with an MFA in Writing and Producing Television. I'm also a mom with two kids and a hubby, a feminist and equal rights advocate. Lately, I've been obsessed with minimalism and I'm addicted to self-improvement

%d bloggers like this: