Jonathan Franzen hates the Internet and thinks it “should be really strictly regulated”
Jonathan Franzen’s a hater: the more he opens his mouth the more bile and venom spews out. The author of The Corrections and Freedom said recently in an interview with Scratch that “the Internet should be really strictly regulated, the way the airwaves used to be”. Really? And who’s going to do that, Mr Franzen?
It’s not like I’m militantly opposed to discursive interactive communication. It’s fine, it’s great. But there’s a tipping point you reach where you can’t get away from the electronic community, where you become almost physically dependent on it. And that, I persist in thinking, is not compatible with my notion of where terrific literature comes from… I think the model of the new technology is addiction. You’re sort of asking, “You can’t quit cigarettes, or you just don’t want to?”
Okay, right. This then, begs the question as to whether Franzen is a bit of a dinosaur and it seems the answer is 'yes'. He would really like to turn the clock back to the days when journalists got paid properly and everyone consumed their news via the medium of paper. That’s a) a bit anachronistic and b) smacks of being old before his time. He’s a journalist as well as a novelist, so it’s no big surprise he’s got sympathies with the trade.
I have many reasons to resent this new electronic world, and one of the big ones is that the people whose job it is to report responsibly are getting kicked out of work, downsized, reduced to half time, having their pay slashed, by this bloodsucking monster squid of the Internet. All these blogs—they all need information. Where’s the information coming from? Who is paying for the information? The Silicon Valley visionaries say, “Oh, well, we’ll crowdsource it.” Yeah, give me a fucking break. As if you therefore don’t need people whose job it is to have a beat, to work contacts for years, to understand a subject thoroughly, to put things in context, to be able to distinguish meaningful information from nonsense… it’s just not doable. And nobody is talking about what happens when the Internet kills journalism.
“Bloodsucking monster squid of the Internet”. That’s classic. Franzen also says he feels closer, in terms of his work, to literary authors like Kafka and Charlotte Bronte, again, harking back to an age that was sans internet. It’s interesting to see someone whose life is so much in the media — digital as well as traditional — kicking against the pricks of modernity. Should we care about his opinion when he obviously would rather be living in some kind of idealised pre-internet world without the benefits of technology? Or is it time for him to just shut the hell up? Besides which, he’s not going to see this anyway…
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