I knew I couldn’t be the only one who thought Andrew Keen was writing with more than a hint of parody in The Cult of the Amateur (earlier post on the subject). Lawrence Lessig came to a similar conclusion in a blog post dated May 31:
And then it hit me: Keen is our generation’s greatest self-parodist. His book is not a criticism of the Internet. Like the article in Nature comparing Wikipedia and Britannica, the real argument of Keen’s book is that traditional media and publishing is just as bad as the worst of the Internet. Here’s a book — Keen’s — that has passed through all the rigor of modern American publishing, yet which is perhaps as reliable as your average blog post: No doubt interesting, sometimes well written, lots of times ridiculously over the top — but also riddled with errors. Keen’s obvious point is to show those with a blind faith in the traditional system that it can be just as bad as the worst of the Internet. Indeed, one might say even worse, since the Internet doesn’t primp itself with the pretense that its words are promised to be true.
Is Keen pompous? Yes, of course he is, but he stands up for what he believes (or so we are led to believe). If he is parodying himself, if his entire “experts, yay!” attitude is just a facade, then we are probably looking at one of the greatest entertainers of recent times and one of the biggest jerks in the history of the Web. Why? No one likes a know-it-all who tells you, after you’ve been led through the mire, that he was doing it to teach you a lesson.
That’s why Keen is in the proverbial Catch-22. If he really is as pompous yet righteous as he appears, he’s a closed-minded fool. If he’s parodying everything in an effort to get us all thinking, he will appear a self-righteous ass. Ay, what a conundrum!