The Cult of the Amateur author Andrew Keen hates the Internet because it gives the uneducated, tone-deaf masses access to the media through YouTube, blogs and all that.
So of course Keen is horrified by the the prospect of the universally-accessible Internet President-elect Barack Obama proposed as part of his economic rehabilitation package.
In a post to The Daily Beast, Keen writes that a universally-accessible Internet will lay “the foundations for a return to fascism, the political catastrophe of the 1930’s.” He writes:
The 1930s fascists were expert at using all the most technologically sophisticated communications technologies—the cinema, radio, newspapers, advertising—to spew their destructive, hate-filled message. What they excelled at was removing the the traditional middlemen like religion, media, and politics, and using these modern technologies of mass communications to speak with reassuring familiarity to the disorientated masses.
Imagine if today’s radically unregulated Internet, with its absence of fact checkers and editorial gatekeepers, had existed back then. Imagine that universal broadband had been available to enable the unemployed to read the latest conspiracy theories about the Great Crash on the blogosphere. Imagine the FDR-baiting, Hitler-loving Father Charles Coughlin, equipped with his “personalised” YouTube channel, able, at a click of a button, to distribute his racist message to the suffering masses. Or imagine a marketing genius like the Nazi chief propagandist Josef Goebbels managing a viral social network of anti-Semites which could coordinate local meet-ups to assault Jews and Communists.
It’s all very ridiculous. Part of the reason “cinema, radio, newspapers, advertising” — the media — was so dangerous under the control of facists and hatemongers was because it was bestowed with the aura of authority. They were one voice, speaking to the masses.
These days — as the masses speak to the masses over the Internet while Fox News preaches to the right and MSNBC to left on TV — there are no such authorities anymore. Readers and viewers don’t trust anybody.
No nightmare, but reality as we already know it, a “FDR-baiting, Hitler-loving Father Charles Coughlin,” would be just another screaming weirdo on YouTube.