Strategic Living

The Cult of the Amateur, by Andrew Keen

Conventional wisdom tells us not to judge a book by it's cover, yet that's exactly what I did last November when I looked over a copy of The Cult of the Amateur: How blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and the rest of today's user-generated media are destroying our economy, our culture and our values, by Andrew Keen. I admired the yellow and blue cover as well as the typography, and my eye wandered away.

I have not read this book, nor do I intend to.

I recall when experts in law enforcement told women that if faced with assault they should not fight back or they'd "get hurt worse." We now know this is untrue, that self-defense for women does work most of the time. In the late 1960s and early 1970s a handful of young women across the country were alarmed at the rape rate as women became more involved in social and political activism; they collected success stories, collaborated with sociologists and psychologists and martial artists, and began those first self-defense programs. They were amateurs, and many conventionally-minded folk at that time believed these women were destroying society and its values.

Battered women's shelters and sexual assault relief agencies are now managed by professionals mostly, and rely on government funding and grants. But in the 1970s ad 1980s, when they were just emerging, they were grassroots organizations run by dedicated volunteers (amateurs all), often at odds with the legal justice system. Those women saw a need, and worked to assuage it. Many conventionally-minded folk, including experts, saw that as interfering in family rights.

Theodore Sturgeon, science fiction writer, was asked why 90% of science-fiction writing was crud. He replied that 90% of everything is crud. No doubt there's lots of blogs, videos and sites along the Information Superhighway. I just assume that 90% of internet diversions are crud, just like everything else. However, I'm not inclined to give the conventionally-minded "expert" any more credit.

Experts are also human, have their own perspectives and prejudices and peccadillos. And often their own interests. Before relying on an expert, do check into not only their credentials but what they've got invested in their position.

Published in Strategic Living's News & Views Dec 2008

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