Michael Kinsley is whining that the internet doesn’t operate the way he wants it to operate and so he’s taking his marbles and going home. Or something like that.
He’s just acting like the old-media guy he is, wanting to control the medium as they all do. But, of course, that misses the essential point of the internet. It can’t be controled.
The New York Times reports today that Kinsley is going to take some other, unnamed job at the LA Times, this coming only two days after he wrote a column whining about the web and after Dan Gillmor issued him a proper lashing for that. Waaaa:
The nasty parts of the Web are where people are doing what the Founding Surfers intended: expressing themselves and forming communities. Why is the tone of conversation on the Internet, especially about politics, so much lower than in the material world?
This from a guy who spent years on Crossfire — the very show that did to political discourse what Jerry Springer did to daylight? Here’s a man who knows about lowering the tone of conversation about politics; he was an accomplice in the crime!
Then he whines about getting too much email that disagrees with him and thinks it’s something about email and not about him. Waaa:
Or maybe cyberspace just has more than its share of undersocialized geeks, sitting in front of their computers and sharing their bitterness with the world.
Sounds like many a press bar I’ve sat in.
Cyberspace communities — and the cyberspace community at large — often seem to be more energized by rejecting heathens than by embracing soulmates. They love staging inquisitions and anathemas. Having spent a decade working at the devil Microsoft and then at a big “old media” institution, the Los Angeles Times, I am amazed by the hostility that greets any effort to stroll into the clubroom and buy the boys a round of drinks.
But you weren’t trying to do that, Michael. You were trying to get people to talk about what you wanted them to talk about. You were trying to control the conversation. Oh, I know you were trying to do something new; it was just that you didn’t understand and still don’t.
Recently at the Times we tried using a Web innovation called “wiki” — a shared-editing process very much in the cyberian spirit. For two days, thousands of people seemed to be enjoying it. But our e-mail boxes oozed unwelcoming contempt from cyberoids (except for the real innovators of wiki — the founders of the amazing wikipedia.com — who were helpful and sympathetic). Then a guerrilla attack in the middle of the night flooded the site with pornography and we had to take it down.
I went into detail about why this was a well-intentioned but doomed misuse of a tool here. If they’d asked the community for help beforehand — if they’d acknowledged that those undersocialized geeks might know more than those editors about this — they could have succeeded. And rather than trying to get people to talk about what Kinsley wanted to talk about — ‘gather round my editorial, people’ — how much better it would have been just to listen. But that’s not the newspaper way. And that’s why Kinsley’s whining about the club is so ironic. Just try to be a blogger getting past the press club door. Waaaa:
It’s not surprising that cyberians make lousy communitarians, but the ugliest aspects of libertarianism — the me-me-me, the stay-out-of-my-space — have dominated.
Newspaper folks don’t make great communitarians either. But they can learn. Or go home.
I do think Kinsley heart was in the right place. But he couldn’t stop himself from complaining that things didn’t go his way. Welcome to the internet.
: I just opened a press release announcing the Batten Awards and what do I find but Kinsley and Wikipedia’s Jimbo Wales speaking together:
Highlighting the symposium will be a keynote dialogue on participatory news with Michael Kinsley, Editorial and Opinion Editor of the Los Angeles Times, and Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia, a collaboratively written online encyclopedia, and President of the Wikimedia Foundation, which recently launched WikiNews, collaboratively written online news reports.