Vernon, California, is a small "city" a few miles south of downtown
LA. According to this fascinating article at
the LA Times:
The city is five square miles of low-slung industrial and commercial
buildings, laced with railroad tracks. Green space is nearly
nonexistent. Among the few splashes of color is the landmark mural of
farm animals on the side of the Farmer John pork processing plant.
Although (the Times reports) about 44,000 people work there,
the live-in population is estimated at 93. There are less than 60
Now, without looking at the article, can you imagine what sort of
city government Vernon has? Well, it's probably worse than you can
imagine: it's basically a setup to enrich those in charge, and
to maintain their grip on power. There hasn't been a contested
election in a quarter century. Almost all voters are "either city employees or
related to a city official."
The story concerns the efforts of a small group of people to
move into Vernon and get on the City Council. Who could blame them for
attempting to hop on the gravy train,
right? Of course, they get massive thuggish pushback from the entrenched
government; it's also an iffy question whether a convicted felon
is behind the effort to horn in on the cushy situation.
As Mel Brooks famously said in Blazing Saddles: "We've gotta
protect our phony baloney jobs, gentlemen!" Libertarians of all stripes
can only look, chuckle, and draw parallels between Vernon's government
and ones that differ only in degree, not in kind.
The Weekly Standard has an article
on "Web 2.0" by Andrew Keen. The main problem, thinks Keen, is that
it will get too many of the Great Unwashed
into the media creation game.
Just as Marx seduced a generation of European idealists with his fantasy
of self-realization in a communist utopia, so the Web 2.0 cult of
creative self-realization has seduced everyone in Silicon Valley.
The consequences of Web 2.0 are inherently dangerous for the vitality of
culture and the arts. Its empowering promises play upon that legacy of
the '60s--the creeping narcissism that Christopher Lasch described so
presciently, with its obsessive focus on the realization of the self.
Sorry, I don't see it. Nothing in current or future technology
is likely to repeal Sturgeon's Law ("Ninety percent of everything is
crap.") Keen bemoans the destructive changes in the mainstream media:
newspapers, TV networks, the music industry, all in decline!
This shows, I think,
one of the cleavages between conservatives and libertarians: most
libertarians know that marketplace-driven destruction is creative
destruction. Conservatives just see change, and bemoan the coming dark
ages. I'm sorry, but the coming dark ages have been coming ever since
I was a kid.
The corollary to Sturgeon's Law is that ten percent of everything
isn't crap, and that's still going to be an unprecedented
flood of good stuff, that we don't have to rely on an "elite" set
of gatekeepers for us to find and present. This isn't utopian; it's just
what's gonna happen. To a large extent, it's already happened.
The real problem with Web 2.0, by the way, appears in passing
near the beginning of the article, meant to display a canonical
LAST WEEK, I was treated to lunch at a fashionable Japanese restaurant
in Palo Alto by a serial Silicon Valley entrepreneur who, back in the
dot.com boom, had invested in my start-up Audiocafe.com. The
entrepreneur, like me a Silicon Valley veteran, was pitching me his
latest start-up: a technology platform that creates easy-to-use software
tools for online communities to publish weblogs, digital movies, and
Yes, exactly. "Web 2.0" is, God bless it, an overhyped creature of
entrepreneurs making "pitches" in fashionable restaurants,
trying once again to turn the crank on the old money machine.
That's fine, I love capitalism and entrepreneurship, probably
more so than the next guy. But, come on, do we really have to
take the resultant hype all that seriously? No; keep your checkbook in
your pocket, unless there's something concrete behind the buzzwords.
Ironic note at the end of the article:
Andrew Keen is a veteran Silicon Valley entrepreneur and digital media
critic. He blogs at TheGreatSeduction.com and has recently launched aftertv.com, a podcast
chat show about media, culture, and technology.
Oh, OK then.