A Perfect Storm: Andrew Keen at the Berkeley CyberSalon

If there was any hope that Andrew Keen was only kidding a few weeks ago when he laid this nugget on us:

If you democratize media, then you end up democratizing talent. The unintended consequence of all this democratization, to misquote Web 2.0 apologist Thomas Friedman, is cultural ‘flattening.’,

such hope was crushed by Keen’s statements at the recent Berkeley CyberSalon.

Christopher Carfi posts a report from that gathering that makes it clear that Keen is still preaching that blogging allows idiots too much of the soapbox that should be reserved for the old media elite.

If I’d been there and managed not to hurl all over my laptop, I would have raised my hand and asked him two questions:

(a) Who decides who is elite? Is merely a press pass from a newspaper evidence of elite status or is there more to it?

(b) Are you one of the elite? If so, who anointed you such? And if not, aren’t you adding to the problem by having a blog?

The first thing I ask myself when someone tries to create a line of demarcation (elite, non-elite, etc.) is “who decides where the line goes” and “who decides who decides where the line goes.” Those two questions will help you cut through more bullshit than any other questions you could ask.

Scott Rosenberg has a report on the CyberSalon as well, which contains some past and present Keen quotes:

The purpose of our media and culture industries is to discover, nurture, and reward elite talent.

What is the value in sharing experiences? I grow weary of your scribblings.

Clearly this guy is either the most arrogant person to ever poke at a keyboard or he’s found an angle and is going to ride it as far as it will take him. I don’t know him, but he certainly seems to have come upon a recipe of arrogance, big fancy words and outlandish statements that gets him a lot of attention.

My grandmother used to tell me that arrogance was a distraction to mask insecurity, but she wasn’t part of the elite media, so what did she know.

Scott sums up the recent non-conversation very well:

To Keen, that sort of talk is part of a “cult of creative self-realization.” “The purpose of our media and culture industries,” he writes, “is to discover, nurture, and reward elite talent”; blogging opens the door to too many mediocre voices. When he tried to apply this critique tonight, Des Jardins shot it down with a single line that exposed its irrelevance to the conversation: “The cream also rises in the blogosphere.”

In the interest of cooking the whole pancake, let me say that I agree with some of what Andrew says on his blog, particularly the Web 2.0 stuff. He has this need to make sure you know how smart he thinks he is, but once you filter out the extra noise, a lot of what he says is spot on. And, perhaps intentionally and perhaps not, he can be very funny (as in his MySpace take).

But he’s completely off base on the whole elite media business.

Oddly enough, my hunch is that he knows it.