Category Archives: History Repeats…

The Right to Create Schlock

If you haven’t heard this before, there’s a lot of schlock on the Web. If you’re out on the loop on this, check out this review from the Times Online of The Cult of the Amateur.

In an alarming new book The Cult of the Amateur. [Andrew Keen] argues that many of the ideas promoted by champions of web 2.0 are gravely flawed. Instead of creating masterpieces, the millions of exuberant monkeys are creating an endless digital forest of mediocrity: uninformed political commentary, unseemly home videos, embarrassingly amateurish music, unreadable poems, essays and novels.

I actually agree with Keen’s assessment on the schlockiness of most Web 2.0 content, but do we have any right to stop it? Don’t we have a right to express ourselves…even if others find it tacky? Maybe you find this blog tacky, but I know that I’ve had a chance to express myself in a way I couldn’t before. Unlike child pornography, tacky content doesn’t really hurt anyone except for the media that might be used up (which is usually pretty cheap).
Actually any media that is accessible to the mass populace will inevitably be dominated by schlock in the short term. Jane Austen is a notable author from the Regency Era, but she was hardly the only one out there. Dime novels are a cliche based on reality.
Even writing itself is dominated by schlock. How many grocery lists have you written in your lifetime? Or silly postcards? And would you want your teen diaries to be published? I didn’t think so… Even letters from the Roman outpost of Vindolania include requests for socks.
What Keen forgets is that the marketplace actually filters out the worst of the content. You Tube contains some trite material, but little of it will ever reach the front page. Pretty much every “featured video” (as determined by votes) has been what I would deem “quality” (if not literary masterpieces).
Sometimes a genuine new talent will be discovered.
Yes the tacky “bestseller” will still sneak through, but then there’s the power of time which may be the deadliest foe of all to schlock. The surviving cannon of Greek drama and poetry is all first caliber, but scholars still wonder what other gems we lost in the meantime.