Desperate to cling on to his schoolboy literati dreams, Nick Cohen, the Observer’s head grump, again directs the monstrous anger of his guns against the internet. (In Books We Trust) This is a parasitic medium, he tells us, which is apparently proven by the fact that travel guide ‘The Lonely Planet’ does much of its research online, rather than going to the places it informs its readers about. He quotes Lonely Planet co-author Thomas Kohnstamm with the gem; “what I can’t plagiarise, I can always make up.”
But how much better then that those seeking information about, say, Colombia, draw their information directly from source, rather than relying on a capital intensive, cost-cutting medium such as print, from which Lonely Planet still earns most of its profit, in spite of its alleged shoddiness.
But where are we to find this source? Where are the people on the ground, the people with the real inside story, those who live in the country all the time. Not the playboy hacks flown in for a week to the local Hilton, and shown around their patch by a government-approved guide – or one affordable by the expenses department of the publishers concerned. Where are these fonts of local wisdom? Why, writing away ‘for love’ to use one of Cohen’s sneers. Producing and publishing their own accounts online of the place they live in, based on real experience. But how can they be believed? As we all know, the less a writer is paid, the less truthful are his words. The closer he is to his subject matter, the more biased his opinion.
The failings of Lonely Planet, and much of the rest of the bankbound print media, are in fact an argument for more use of the internet in the form of the bloggers who Cohen despises. Of more elimination of the dubious middle man from Del Media.
In his yearnings for a return to the good old days of print, when hacks were hacks and civilians were civilians and both knew their place, Cohen displays a serious morbidity which will not do him any good in the long run, and which will gum up his synapses until he is indistinguishable from Victor Meldrew.
“Let’s hope the authority of the civil society can be strengthened and the wings cut of the politicians who have robbed the people by action or omission.”
It isn’t all white sands and the quality of the pina coladas, Nick. And the more bloggers there are, writing without fear, the wider the view we can get of any country which allows freedom of expression. As for countries which don’t allow freedom of expression, why would journalists, of all people, want to encourage anyone to go there in the first place? I know I know – because they are PAID to encourage them. Silly question.
In the meantime, Nick Cohen howls like Lear against the storm, and those pesky bloggers simply refuse to go away. Why, he seems to ask, can’t they all be as jaded and bitter as him and the rest of the print junkies at Grouchos, then the world would be a much happier, or at least better informed place, or at least, more profitably informed.. Where anyone living in the age of Wapping gets this idea is a mystery. How can anyone who saw the Miner’s Strike buy the myth of the integrity of the Fourth Estate? Pretending that politics throughout the ages haven’t been distorted by the press and the money the press needs to exist is a neat mental trick for a journalist to be able to perform with the truth. But it seems that writers are becoming more like their cousins, the lawyers and accountants, in that respect.
And how exactly do Nick and his grumpy fellow-hacks propose to stem this tide of filthy lies – which nobody even gets paid for? How do they propose to turn the clock back? What is it they actually want? The uninvention of the internet? The shackling or censoring or pricing of the internet to make all content pay for its keep? A Commissariat of the Inky-fingered to oversee the ‘quality’ of all content, and allow only the acceptable gems in the shop window as in the China and Iran which Cohen and Friends shed such crocodile tears over? Totalitarian regimes rigidly exclude all unnecessary information, they do not think it is the kind of truth their subjects need or which they are prepared to verify, and refuse to be accountable for its dissemination. As editors of The State News, they make their decisions on which information is profitable to publish and which not.
Cohen does not think blogs are necessary either, and almost says they are evil. So he has to either recommend their eradication by some means, which would put him on the dole, or use his column and its parasitic blog to try to poison as many people’s minds as possible to the idea that their minds are capable of telling the difference between shit and sugar.
Reason not the need, Nick. Allow not nature more than nature needs, man’s life’s as cheap as beast’s’ And all that. Or, if you prefer a more modern sage: ‘Let a thousand flowers bloom, let a thousand schools of thought contend.’