Why Katz Gets Flamed

PopPolitics.Com has a profile of Jon Katz which, among other things, tries to figure out why people on Slashdot flame him so much. The answer, of course, is inadvertently contained in Julia Lipman’s piece.

1. Lipman writes,

He’s maligned and even dissed by members of his own constituency who fail to recognize him for what he is: a leader of one of the important social movements of the Internet Age.

I suspect if Katz doesn’t think of himself as any sort of leader of a social movement, but he comes across as a self-appointed spokesman for what he thinks is some broad “geek” social group. Thanks, but no thanks.

2. Lipman writes,

But most of the flames his stories receive aren’t just about the stories; they’re about him. Katz is a big-name writer using his own name at a place where most of the monikers are more along the lines of “Hemos” and “CmdrTaco.” He’s writing about technology from the perspective of a journalist. Some of what makes Katz distrust big media might make Slashdot readers distrust Katz.

Give me a break. First, I know I don’t and I doubt most other Slashdot readers think of Katz as a “big name” writer. Maybe Lipman’s impressed by his resume, but I’m not.

But more importantly, the problem is that he writes like someone who cut his teeth writing for major magazines. His analyses always tend to be mind-numbingly superficial.

Just compare Katz’s review of several books about the Internet including Carl Sunstein’s Republic.Com to Matthew Gaylor’s review, both of which were published on Slashdot this month.

Katz’s flowery prose would probably be adored by fans of the New York Review of Books but for the life of me I have no idea what Katz means when he writes things like, “Net culture is not known for carefully dissecting its own implications” or “…a new strain of rationalist political sensibility is emerging from this tech generation” and especially thing like, “As John Raulston Saul wrote, this is a brilliant, successful and creative culture, but an Unconscious Civilization in many ways, unaware of the political realities spawned by the very technology they are making and using, or by the daunting challenges the unchecked rise of corporatism poses. Sometimes the fallout can be serious. As a consequence, it created an Unconscious Revolution.”

For Katz, it’s all about the platitudes. For Gaylor, on the other hand, even if you aren’t a right wing nut like myself the review at least gives you some idea of what Sunstein actually said in his book rather than Katz’s vague description that, “Unplanned, unprogrammed encounters are central to democracy” without ever mentioning that what Sunstein is really calling for is more state control over free spech (ironic for someone who writes for the Freedom Forum, isn’t it?)

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