Getting It All Wrong

Because the internet is such a big place, occasionally you will read something that is so profoundly wrong that at first you are sure it’s parody and only later, does it come clear that the author is in fact earnestly trying to argue for something based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how the world works these days. The latest example I’ve seen of this is this commentary by Henry Porter in The Guardian that makes more dumb statements in 500 words or so than I’ve ever seen. Among them:

  • Google doesn’t produce anything
  • Google doesn’t have the right to control the content it offers on YouTube.
  • Google should have to pay whatever royalty amount an artist demands for YouTube videos.
  • Google is a monopoly (how can one be a monopoly and not produce anything?) and there is no other way to get content out to users other than YouTube.
  • Without old-style newspapers, democracy will crumble.
  • Google Street View invades the privacy of citizens. (The irony that this is a British writer who lives in one of the most privacy-insensitive places in the world with all the cameras they have watching people is apparently lost on Porter as is the delicious irony that Google Street View is a product of Google.)
  • Google is an amoral menace.

I know that this man is clearly an anachronism, longing for a time far past that can never return and would undoubtedly be detrimental if it did return. I feel sorry for his obvious bitterness at a world changed before him but that doesn’t excuse the fact that he’s writing in a major paper fundamental inaccuracies about, well, everything he writes. It’s called commentary which excuses it in the newspaper world but that’s just a cop-out. In any other profession, making this many mistakes in so short a period of time would warrant his dismissal. This is yet another reason why newspapers are failing.

I can’t fathom someone so confused as to look at Google and say they don’t produce anything. Perhaps there is nothing tangible to the old coot, but then there’s nothing tangible produced by his local pub or mom and pop market. These types of companies are what is colloquially called “service providers”. They don’t actually produce things, they provide services. How it is that he can both work for a major newspaper in Britain and yet fail to comprehend such a fundamental fact is beyond me. Again, it seems like it would be grounds for dismissal in any other profession.

His assertions that artists should be able to charge whatever they want and Google should not only have to bear the costs of the royalty demands but also the costs of hosting the content for free on YouTube is ridiculous on its face. Google should no more have to do that than a publisher should have to pay some third-rate author whatever he demands.

I put off writing about this article for over a week because it just seemed so sad that I wasn’t sure it warranted a response. But in the end, it’s these kinds of “voices” that have to be pointed out and held to task for things to improve. I’m sure that there has always been people like Porter resisting technological change to the end and the world has progressed quite fine. However, ignoring the fact that people like this still work for major newspapers and are allowed paid to write such tripe is a mistake. He says nothing true and nothing of value. Articles like this shouldn’t make it past the editors’ desk.

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