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Jeff Jarvis vs. Evgeny Morozov: Public Parts vs. Publicisaurus Rex

the one and twenty

the one and twenty

Meet Evgeny Morozov, bully of the week.

Think what you will about Jeff Jarvis and his latest book Public Parts, but you can’t call Evgeny Morozov’s “review” in the New Republic and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung a “review” except if you consider bona fide character assassinations to be a distinct and valuable category of criticism.

While I might not be his greatest fan, Jeff Jarvis is terrific at provoking people into exposing their 20th century mindsets—complete with booming and intimidating roars like Tyrannosaurus Rex, and equally ultimately futile and doomed. Vide Evgeny Morozov.

I really like Jarvis’s quip that Morozov’s hit job “has the air of history’s longest troll’s comment.”

Also, Morozov does not seem to be afraid of Freud when he deploys the term ”intellectual” a record 23 times and sends them out like a cohort of thugs.

Addendum: Okay, gloves are off, and this is not a review. (For good measure I will repeat it:) Think & say what you will about Jeff Jarvis’s Public Parts—there’s quite a lot there to argue with in a serious fashion. Go on and discuss it! It deserves it! But before you consider jumping on Morozov’s bandwagon, please check out Jarvis’s exhaustive reply, with ample quotes from his book. And if that’s not enough for you, then go on and read Morozov’s reply to Jarvis’s reply—the latter’s pretty much everything you ever need to know if you’re on a career path to becoming a first class troll, decorated with the Golden Infantility Diaper for Lifetime Achievement.


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8 Responses

  1. Just to be fair, the polar opposite of a troll is arguably a sycophant. I see lots of sycophantic behavior on sites like Twitter and other such places. Lots of people trying to impress people or get in their good graces for some personal reason — often at the expense of actual critical debate. And it’s either sycophantic or it’s just the filter bubble phenomenon in that too many people are only directly connected to like-minded individuals/networks on the Web. I think there is room to criticize Morozov and Jarvis both, but one thing I do know is that it’s a whole lot easier to call Morozov a troll than it is to grapple with some of his legitimate criticisms.

  2. TJ: It seems to me a profound observation to see the sycophant or sycophantism as the opposite of trollism. Thats really, really worth to think about. Meets something I am thinking about in our culture of exploitation of knowledge workers…

  3. Thanks Siggi for the comment. This is something I’ve been thinking about lately in the context of how communication works in the online, often polarized “enclaves” that we find ourselves in. I’m doing some research related to this. The common assumption is that social networks are diversifying of our perspectives and sometimes they are, but in some ways online networks and the blogs and other content we are drawn to online lead us to a lot of like-minded thinking. Thus, a lot of sycophantic communication. Are you a researcher yourself?

  4. P.S. The “Tom” above is also me — “TJ” and “Tom” are one in the same.

  5. sorry, no researcher. EOF? ;-) – No, really, just seeing this sort of symmetry. Rationality could never be the counterpart of trollism. Sycophantic communication seems to me the more natural counterpart and circumcircle in written internet communication. Especially when it takes place in a environment of economic precarious intellectuals.

  6. There’s lots of stuff in and around Public Parts or, for that matter, What Would Google Do? that is in need of constructive, even severe criticism—as I stressed several times already, I’m not a fanboy of Jeff Jarvis’s. But Morozov has removed himself so completely from any reasoned discourse that he could well be dispatching his invectives with semaphore signals from Mars.

    Otherwise, Tom—and that’s way more interesting—I’m as intrigued as Siggi is by your juxtaposition of trollism vs. sycophantism. I wonder what that can tell us about the behavior of discursive fields under such axial strain in digital communication.

  7. @gyokusai: I certainly didn’t mean to imply that you are a fanboy or sycophant of Jarvis’s. The fact that I intend to agree with several of Morozov’s points means that I see past a lot of his invective and to his legitimate criticism.

    One note I should make is that I found your blog because Jarvis linked to it on Twitter. I’m presuming he liked the comment which connects people like Morozov to “20th century thinking.” Like calling him a troll as Jarvis does, this point about Morozov suffering from 20th century thinking seems like another way to sort of dismiss all of his criticisms full stop without facing the criticisms that are legitimate. His main point, for me, is not only to call attention to the potential problems of “Googlization,” etc…, but to express the view that the implications of Googlization are not being adequately addressed. While Jarvis’s overriding point seems to be “don’t be so paranoid — be more public!,” Morozov is intending that the public needs to have exactly the opposite lesson on media literacy–that more or less their instincts to be private are good. It is unfortunate, as you suggest, that the personal nature of Morozov’s “review” seems to have made his points seem less fair overall. Then again, if he hadn’t been so personal and at times unfair, I suspect we might not even be talking about his review.

    As far as the juxtaposition of trolling vs. sycophantism, I would be curious what else you have to say about this. I’m not suggesting that all social networks sites are is a bunch of sycophants and trolls and nothing in between, but discourse online does seem to too often follow that pattern.


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