Andrew Keen’s Train Wreck

The Cult of the AmateurI’d never heard of this guy until Doc Searls wrote about his new book, The Cult of the Amateur: How today’s Internet is killing our culture. I’ve ordered the thing, because it’s important for me to read this stuff, even though I can tell you it’s all bullshit.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Amanda Chapel, aka Strumpette, interviewed Keen (“interview” is perhaps too generous…“worship” would be better) and posted parts of it on her blog.

CHAPEL: Your book sounds like a total refutation of the premise and proposal that is the Cluetrain Manifesto. As Cluetrain is accepted as bible, that would make your book heresy! Your thoughts?

KEEN: Yes, my book is in the heretical tradition of modern dystopian writers like Huxley & Orwell as well as contemporary American cultural critics such as Christopher Lasch, Daniel Bell and Neil Postman. Cluetrain established a biblical orthodoxy around the four C’s: “community”, “citizenship”, “customer” and, most ludicrously of all, “conversation”. What it tries to do is displace the ethical and cultural truths that have traditionally defined our civic life — and replace them with the feel-good language of public relations. At the ideological heart of Cluetrain is the absurd cult of the amateur with its denial that real “truth” or “expertise” can ever exist.

CULT OF THE AMATEUR is not a book written for Web 2.0 radicals. Instead, it was authored for mainstream Americans — parents, business people and educators — who are troubled by the more extreme cultural and economic consequences of the hyper democratic internet. I expose the dangers not only of “citizen media” like blogging and wikis, but also of online pornography, gambling and identity theft. These are issues that have a significant impact on real people’s lives and need to be publicly discussed and debated.

To which Doc, one of the authors of Cluetrain, responded.

Good God. Where to begin?
Well, not only did Cluetrain contain no “four C’s”, but neither the words “citizen” nor “citizenship” appear anywhere in the original website or the book.
While Cluetrain certainly has an ideological heart, it’s not “the cult of the amateur”, or the cult of anything.
And while I don’t yet know which “ethical and cultural truths” Andrew is talking about, I’m damn sure Cluetrain’s authors would never hope to replace them with “the feel-good language of public relations”. Which we crapped on rather forcefully…

I predict that Mr. Keen will sell a lot of books, because there’s a lot at stake here, and he’s “tickling the ears” of those who wish things to stay exactly as they are. The mainstream press will give him all the publicity he needs to sell books and make money, and that’s really what this is all about.

I agree that the Modern culture is under attack, but who’s to say it doesn’t deserve it or need it. What exactly is Mr. Keen trying to protect? The 20% of the population with 80% of the wealth?

Damned amateurs!

And many people create, because it’s their life, not their livelihood (thank you, Harry Chapin). Ask funtwo if he feels slighted because 15 million people have seen his rendition of the Canon in D. Does he deserve a seat at Mr. Keen’s table?

I’m sorry, but the real tip-off about the foolishness of this book is its title. Calling amateurs a “cult” is an insult of the highest order, and Mr. Keen should be ashamed of himself. What about amateur astronomers, huh? They’re robbing the pros of all their glory, so why not attack them, too?

The biggest mistake all critics of the personal media revolution make is the assumption that it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. It’s not, and we shouldn’t buy the books of people who try to make it so.

This book will no more derail the Cluetrain than any other self-serving diatribe from the status quo. The only train wreck here is Andrew Keen.


  1. Well said, Terry. Perhaps Mr. Keen’s next book should be on the MSM folk who choose not to get it — The Cult of the Idiots. It might also work as his autobiography.


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