Remember the last time you read Harpers magazine? You know, the magazine that had the lists of interesting statistics, that your friends in college quoted when they wanted you to know that four years after the speech 36% of George Bush's "Thousand Points of Light" were unemployed, or that for the cost of Bill Clinton's state dinner for Boris Yeltsin three million Russian babies could have been given a year's supply of infant formula.
Of course you don't remember the last time you read Harpers. That's because it's behind a paywall.
It's behind a paywall because, according to Harpers publisher John R. MacArthur, no one in the history of the internet has ever made money by "giving away" words and ideas in return for advertising. It's because the very act of displaying words on a monitor cheapens them, and cheapens the writer, transforming talented journalists and opinion leaders into monkeys desperately tap-tap-tapping away at disease-ridden keyboards with vile, feces-encrusted paws.
In fact, as MacArthur recently lectured students at the Columbia Journalism School, the internet has all but destroyed their once noble profession. Even Harpers is infected by the rot: it's behind a paywall. According to MacArthur, the one way to save writing of quality is to unplug the internet entirely, and to return to selling magazines on paper only, as God intended them to be read and as the droll wits behind MacArthur's favorite journal of sophisticated French humour have done, much to their profit!
As for the notion that the internet democratizes opinion, MacArthur wishes it known that this is a myth, because people who use the internet have no opinions worth reading. No doubt if called to speak at a flight school, MacArthur would agree with his kindred spirit Sideshow Bob:
Aaah for the days when aviation was a gentleman's pursuit — back before every Joe Sweatsock could wedge himself behind a lunch tray and jet off to … Raleigh-Durham.
I recommend every word of MacArthur's lecture, for its comedic value alone. In many respects it reads as a parody of Luddism until one reflects that MacArthur admits, quite openly, that his magazine cannot earn a red cent through the internet.
And don't get him started on the evils of Xerox Machines!
Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White
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