Change for the sake of ChangeThis

Change for the sake of ChangeThis

: Something about ChangeThis has been bugging me. I was mulling over precisely what it was when Clay Shirky beat me to it and posted what bugs him about it. So I’ll link to his nits and add my piks.

ChangeThis says in its manifesto (PDF) that it will publish the manifestos (PDFs) of others about changing things. So what problem could I have with that? Well….

: First, I don’t buy change as a virtue in and of itself. That’s something I would have expected to hear in Moscow (in the old days): Revolution for revolution’s sake. But, of course, change can be for good or bad. 9/11 changed the world and not one bit for the better. I don’t trust political candidates who only push change as a slogan without substance. I don’t trust movements that do that, either. For them, change is the means and the end.

Wouldn’t it have been better if they’d called the effort DiscussThis? But that’s not what they really want.

: The effort is essentially undemocratic. It’s snotty. “People are making emotional, knee-jerk decisions, then standing by them, sometimes fighting to the death to defend their position.” Oh, yeah, what people? Name two. I distrust people who make such vague and damning generalizations about people, don’t you?

: Whose fault is this? How did mankind get into this state? Who’s the boogeyman? Media, damnit, it’s all media’s fault, big, bad media. The bold — read: tabloidy — headline on the site says: “THE PROBLEM LIES IN THE MEDIA“. Oh, yeah? Oh, yeah:

In the old days, we had the time and inclination to consider the implications of a decision. Everyone wasn’t in quite so much of a hurry. At the same time, most conversations (and most arguments) were local ones, conducted between people who knew each other.

In what old days? Mesopotamian old days? These are the sort of naive and vague blanket statements I’d expect to read in a fifth grader’s paper. It continues:

Today, it’s very different. Television demands a sound bite. A one hundred word letter to the editor is a long one.

Radio has become a jingoistic wasteland, a series of thoughtless mantras, repeated over and over and designed to fit into a typical commute.

Even magazines have lost their ability to present complex arguments that take more than a minute or two to digest. BusinessWeek would rather put another picture of Jack Welch or Bill Gates on the cover than actually teach its readers something new.

Well, we are busy. You think media is doing this out of some secret, evil agenda: “Heh heh heh,” cackle Murdoch and Redstone and Eisner and Welch in their secret lair, “we are meeting the prime directive of our master to shorten the attention spans of the world!” Says ChangeThis:

The winners are the media companies (that exist to sell ads and attract the maximum audience size) and the demagogues and fundamentalist leaders that gain in power when large numbers support them