Update: Some asked for a fuller response and so here it is, on a Google Doc because it’s just so darned long. Here is a link to his response, in turn.
The thrashing my book and I just received from Evgeny Morozov was as preordained as the last election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Months ago, he bragged that he had me in his crosshairs, assigned to review Public Parts — even before I had finished writing the book. The New Republic assigned him with the sure expectation he would do this, for Morozov reliably dislikes me, just as he dislikes people I quote, whom he lists: Clay Shirky, Don Tapscott, Jay Rosen, Arianna Huffington, John Perry Barlow, Steven Johnson, Robert Scoble, Seth Godin, Nick Denton, Umair Haque, Doc Searls. We are, in his view, “comrades in the Cyber-Uptopian International.” Good company in my view.
I wish Morozov had tackled issues and ideas to show how it’s done. He wants an intellectual examination of the topic — accusing me of not providing it — but then he doesn’t offer one himself. Instead, he only writes a personal attack. It has the air of history’s longest troll’s comment. I could choose to feed him and reply to his complaints — his mischaracterizations (I imagine no “privacy police”) and his hysterics (he finds Streetview to be a case of Germans “tyrannized by an American company”) and his amusing overreaches (he complains about the names Habermas and Oprah appearing in the same book). And I could point out that he omits my agreement with and praise of him (putting him in bad company, to be sure) . But in the end, such a discussion would end up looking like this… Me: “You don’t like me.” Him: “No, I don’t.” So what? One price of publicness is haters. He fulfills that role for the people listed above and more.
Of course, I am linking to Morozov’s piece. I worship at the altar of the link, remember. “Geek religion,” he calls my faith. I trust that you’ll make your own judgments — because, you see, I am a utopian and a populist and fool enough to trust a public empowered by these new tools, which I hope to see us all protect. But then, that’s what my book is really about. You wouldn’t know it on the other side of this link.
(By the way, you’ll find you’ll have to read this very, very long screed in very small type on a printer-only page — the link Morozov provided — because that gets around his publication’s pay wall.)
First, what does stopping the test do for a man? It makes him ignorant of what is happening in his own body. It makes him incapable of making a decision about his own health and fate. Since when and how is a lack of information better than information?
Second, prostate and testicular cancer are curable when caught early. Why the hell would we not continue to try to detect these men’s diseases?
Third, the panel treats men as a statistical pool, not as individuals. It says that overall, the test does not reduce deaths. Whether or not that’s so is of no concern to me. I’m not member of a pool or a data point in it. I’m not random. I’m one man with one prostate. It was cancerous.
The problem here is that medicine cannot yet detect the difference between fast-spreading — and often fatal — prostate cancer and slow-spreading tumors that take so long to grow that oftentimes something else kills their hosts first. So, yes, some tumors are taken out that would not have killed a man. But there is no way to know that.
So who wants to take that gamble? Not me. I had prostate cancer. I was told I could react with “watchful waiting.” But I chose not to. Of course, I did. Informed I had cancer in my body, I had to get it out. I have a responsibility to my family to stay alive so I can provide for them (among other things, I hope). I also have a responsibility as a member of an insurance pool to get a disease treated earlier and for less, if possible. If I let the disease progress, it could involve extremely expensive treatment — radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, hospitalization — for a cancer that spreads from the prostate to the bones to the rest of the body. I know. That’s how my grandfather died.
Does the surgery have side-effects? Oh, let me tell you, it does. I’ve made no secret of them — quite to the contrary, my publicness about them inspired me to write Public Parts.
It has been two years since my surgery and I owe you an update. I am still impotent. I have tried Viagra and Cialis to no effect other than indigestion. I went through the ordeal of shopping for and buying a penis pump (once again being nice to my insurance pool by not buying the one that’s overpriced for those bringing prescriptions; I bought the exact same thing for much less with my own money). It did nothing but mangle and misform my already abused penis and cause pain. I am getting ready to get trained in the art of sticking a needle in my dick to make it engorge, if it still can.
Oh, yes, there are side-effects. The government wants to protect me from them while not protecting me from cancer, a cancer that could or could not kill me, no one knows.
That is my choice. It is a choice I can make only with information, information about my body the government now wants to keep from me.
#OccupyWallStreet is a hashtag revolt. As I learned with my own little #FuckYouWashington uprising, a hashtag has no owner, no heirarchy, no canon or credo. It is a blank slate onto which anyone may impose his or her frustrations, complaints, demands, wishes, or principles.
So I will impose mine. #OccupyWallStreet, to me, is about institutional failure. And so it is appropriate that #OccupyWallStreet itself is not run as an institution.
We don’t trust institutions anymore. Name a bank or financial institution you can trust today. That industry was built entirely on trust — we entrusted our money to their cloud — and they failed us. Government? The other day, I heard a cabinet member from a prior administration call Washington “paralyzed and poisonous” — and he’s an insider. Media? Pew released a study last week saying that three-quarters of Americans don’t believe journalists get their facts straight (which is their only job). Education? Built for a prior, institutional era. Religion? Various of its outlets are abusing children or espousing bigotry or encouraging violence. The #OccupyWallStreet troops are demonizing practically all of corporate America and with it, capitalism. What institutions are left? I can’t name one.
In a Foreign Affairs essay in 2008, Richard Haass argued that the world is moving from bi- and unipolarity (that is, the Cold War and its aftermath) to nonpolarity (i.e., no one’s in charge). “We now operate in an open marketplace of influence,” I wrote in my last book. “One need no longer control institutions to control agendas.”
Now one needs a network. #OccupyWallStreet is that network, the headless tail. Even it’s not sure what it is. Indeed, I think it would have been better off not issuing a manifesto written by a committee of the whole park, going after even animal rights and ending with its own Ninth Amendment: “*These grievances are not all-inclusive.” Henry Blodget mocks many of their demands. Feminisnt says they aren’t specific enough. They can’t win.
But I think they are already winning. #OccupyWallStreet is a start and it is growing, as Micah Sifry wrote: “There’s something happening here, Mr. Jones.”
What’s happening is an attempt to define a new public, now that we can. Iceland, Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya are all countries being reimagined and remade: start-up nations. Hear Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir talk about building a new constitution, using Facebook, on the principles of “equality, transparency, accountability, and honesty” — liberté, égalité, fraternité, updated for the networked age.
In the end, this is why I wrote Public Parts, because we have the tools and thus the opportunity to rethink and reorganize our publics and decide what they stand for. The power and freedom that Gutenberg’s press brought to the early modern era, our networked tools now bring everyone in this, the early digital age. “They empower us. They grant us the ability to create, to connect, to organize, and to aggregate our knowledge…. They lower borders, even challenging our notion of nations.” That’s what the youth of these countries are doing.
Media have mocked the denizens of #OccupyWallStreet as scruffy, young hippies. But you should have seen me — and more of media’s bosses than you can imagine — in ’68. Scruffy, simplistic, bombastic, angry, determined, self-righteous, right, and high — that was us. Media dismissed us just as they dismiss the denizens of Zuccotti Park. Authorities thought they could round up all the ’68ers in Grant Park, just as they do now on the Brooklyn Bridge.
When I visited #OccupyWallStreet’s park Friday, I wore a sport coat. I had to because earlier that day, I had a meeting at a place where they wear them. But I’m glad I brought it, for it’s time to show that #OccupyWallStreet represents more than scruffy young leftists. I don’t say that for a moment to denigrate them and their spirit. They built #OccupyWallStreet. No, I say it’s time for more of us to follow their leadership and join them, to show that what they represent — the anger, the determination, and the inherent hope — speaks for more of us, even people in suits.
What #OccupyWallStreet has done with considerable success — as the best hashtags and publics do — is open a conversation, one we must have, about the shape of our nation and society and future. If you don’t like their manifesto and demands, fine: What are yours?
At the end of Public Parts, I present mine, knowing they aren’t the right ones but urging people to enter a conversation not about complaints or demands but instead about the principles of our new and open society.
I don’t think #OccupyWallStreet is or should be about just venting anger or demonizing business or complaining or demanding. Indeed, of whom are we making these demands? The failed institutions? The ones our networks will disrupt if not displace? I say the message of #OccupyWallStreet should be more hopeful than that: building a new and open public based on the principles of a society that will replace the dying institutions and their ways.
That’s the provocative question at the core of Jeff Jarvis’ new book, Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live. While he ultimately concludes it isn’t, Jarvis makes a powerful case for re-framing the way we think about privacy, and for better appreciating the benefits of “publicness” in the information age. . . .
Certainly, everyone values their privacy to some extent. But who will stand up for the value of “publicness,” or the benefits that come “from being open and making the connections that technology now affords?” Jarvis makes that his mission in Public Parts. . . .
He explains how publicness improves interpersonal relationships, empowers communities, strengthens social ties, enables greater collaboration, promotes transparency and truth-seeking, and helps enliven deliberative democracy, among many other things. Innovations in information technology—the printing press, cameras, microphones, and now search engines and social networking—have always spawned new privacy tensions, he correctly notes. Ultimately, though, they also bring tremendous benefits. The Internet revolution and all the angst that it entails is just the latest in this reoccurring cycle. We’re going through the same growing pains our ancestors did with previous technologies and it’s important not to overreact. . . .
What Jarvis has done in Public Parts is to force us to have a serious conversation about these trade-offs. Some will bristle at the notion that privacy “rights” should be balanced against any other right or value. If we desire the benefits of a more open and transparent society, however, it is a conversation we need to have.
How do we define what is public and what is private? What are the benefits and dangers of living a life in which everything is shared? Jarvis explores these questions and more in his immensely readable, chatty style. . . .
From revolutions in the Middle East to how some businesses are slowly coming to embrace “publicness”, technology is enabling the sharing of information, the digital conversation, like never before in history. No one knows what’s going to happen next. But people like Jarvis are having fun making sense of these confusing early years.
And friend Stephen Baker, author of The Numerati and Final Jeopardy, says he wanted to write a book like Public Parts himself. He examines the value of secrets.
I’ve been reading Jeff Jarvis’ new manifesto, Public Parts. It’s a very welcome rebuttal to the concerns of privacy advocates. Jarvis, while making it clear that some of their concerns are warranted, focuses on the other side of our relationships online: sharing with others, and connecting with them.
I wish I had this book when I went on my Numerati book tours, in ’08 and ’09. I would talk about the future of the data economy, and everywhere I went, people would ask me about privacy. My stock response back then was that in the industrial age, we were regarded as identical dots, or perhaps as vast herds, and now companies were learning to look at us as individuals. Was that necessarily a bad thing?
But Jarvis focuses on the advantages of being public.