WHAT happens when we tear up the past, replace people with bots and culture with content? Those are some of the question on the mind of former New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier in his piece “Among the Disrupted.”
He begins this way:
Amid the bacchanal of disruption, let us pause to honor the disrupted. The streets of American cities are haunted by the ghosts of bookstores and record stores, which have been destroyed by the greatest thugs in the history of the culture industry. Writers hover between a decent poverty and an indecent one; they are expected to render the fruits of their labors for little and even for nothing, and all the miracles of electronic dissemination somehow do not suffice for compensation, either of the fiscal or the spiritual kind. Everybody talks frantically about media, a second-order subject if ever there was one, as content disappears into “content.” What does the understanding of media contribute to the understanding of life? Journalistic institutions slowly transform themselves into silent sweatshops in which words cannot wait for thoughts, and first responses are promoted into best responses, and patience is a professional liability.
This story, from today’s New York Times Book Review, has been floating around for a couple weeks now; in part because I’m a member of the tribe of the disrupted, I’ve been sent it about a dozen times.
I’ve not posted it yet, because I’ve been busy launching my book and leaving for a tour around Culture Crash. But the essay isn’t going away. It’s helping clarify our situation for some people.