Christine Rosen of TNR has a review up of "An Army of Davids" - and boy, she doesn't like it. The review is a hack job of the worst sort though - the "I'm an elite journalist and you're not" thing shines through like a fog light:
Glenn Reynolds is an unlikely visionary. Before he emerged as the "InstaPundit," he was just a law professor at the University of Tennessee, writing on administrative law and the Second Amendment for publications like Law and Policy in International Business and Jurimetrics.
Step one: denigrate the author as a small time hick from nowhere-ville. This is the oh so predictable response from *cough* professional *cough* journalists. Quick translation of her point here: "Pay no attention to this guy. He's a professor from Tennessee, for gosh sakes!". That works so much better than engaging his actual points...
She then goes on to make the claim that the book is all about blogger triumphalism:
Like many of his cyber-colleagues, Reynolds believes in a form of triumphalism: that his medium has transformed the exchange of ideas and information. When this triumphalism appears in the course of a 200-word blog post, it seems remarkably plausible. As bloggers never tire of reminding the world, they brought down Trent Lott and Dan Rather and powered Howard Dean's ascent. But, at book length, as the ideology's core assumptions and convictions are laid bare, the idiocies and dangers of this triumphalism become all too apparent.
The book is about trends in technology in general, and it hops all over the place - so this makes me wonder just how carefully Rosen read the book. There's blogger triumphalism to be sure, but it's actually a small part of the book - Reynolds makes the point that technology is empowering people across the board, with blogs and the internet being one piece of that. Her verbal sneer became clear in this section:
The little guy can be a poet or a pop star; with technology as his handmaiden, anything is possible. But this follow-your-bliss vision of individual fulfillment has little patience for the standards necessary for judging genuine talent, which is why Reynolds's book reads more like a middle-aged hobbyist's utopian manifesto than a blueprint for cultural renaissance.
No patience for us paeons from Rosen - no, we should stand back and let our "betters" decide on what's popular, what's trendy, and what works. Best not to get in the way - we might strain ourselves, or something. I've seen the kinds of people behind the "standards, Christine - they're the bozos at the RIAA and the MPAA, and thanks - I've had enough. Give me the amateur who isn't trying to outlaw future technology any day, any time.
Now, I have to say that I thought Reynold's interview of Kurzweil was too wide eyed, so I actually agree with Rosen there. I was able to get past that bit of triumphalism though, and see the wider picture Reynolds was painting. In her seeming desire to keep the hoi polloi away from the keyboard, Rosen utterly missed that. That's very clear with her closing paragraph:
Like his fellow techno-utopians, Reynolds dismisses criticism of these ideas as "the usual skepticism regarding the new." As long as individuals control the technologies, we should welcome them, he argues. As for the risk of catastrophic unintended consequences from our use of these technologies, Reynolds is sanguine. "You'd better hope that I'm right," he says, chuckling. "It's basically an unstoppable phenomenon."
There's the call for the amateurs to step back, and leave it to the *cough* professionals *cough*. Sure, there's a plan. I think I'll take my chances with Reynolds and the amteurs - the "pros" simply haven't demonstrated that they have better judgement.