I got really upset about Rupert Murdoch buying MySpace, so I wrote a distressful letter to Douglas Rushkoff. And he totally responded. The same day. And I almost crapped my pants with surprise.
Here's the correspondence.
Hello, Mr. Rushkoff. My name is Matthew Louv, brother of Jason, whom I hear you are giving Timothy Leary's coffee table. That was considerable news back at home.
I'm writing to you because I'm distressed by Rupert Murdoch's purchase of Intermix. Basically, I feel like my generation (I turned eighteen last week) is about to be steamrolled by corporate America and we lack any discernable avenue of resistance. Jason told me the other day that people my age are, statistically, the most complacent and trusting generation in history, and I believe it. Those who understand that they are being subtly exploited are either passive about it or rattle off diatribes justifying complacence in the face of media onslaught, about how "if they want to fine-tune their advertising to suit my tastes and make my internet experience that much more enjoyable, more power to them." Those who do not understand, being the vast majority, are totally defenseless.
I feel so passionately about this that I persuaded my father, a journalist, to write a column in the San Diego Union Tribune on the subject. I'll tell you what I told him: I really feel like the preservation of free space on the internet is a secondary issue to preserving free space in the minds of people who don't have the faculties to analyze the bombardment of stimuli they experience every time they turn on the TV or log on to the internet. A lot of the people who use MySpace are children, and these subversive tactics are setting a precedent in their mind that advertising is an inherent facet in not only their virtual experience but also their social; that corporate power permeates even the most personal aspects of their relationships with other people. The internet has inexorably changed the way people my age interact with each other - in many ways I think it allows us to be more intimate - and such a prevalence of manipulative advertising has poisoned the well.
I am sick to my stomach of media conglomerates bidding for ownership of my thoughts. I can't tolerate the saturation of substanceless pandering that dominates pages like MySpace, but I simultaneously feel a great sense of ownership, like MySpace has become so central to the collective youth experience that we shouldn't have to acquiesce to having our modes of self-expression sold to the highest bidder. I've tried to find non-corporate alternatives to MySpace, but there are none.
I am curious about your opinon on this issue, and whether you can offer any solutions. Mainly, I just think major advertisers' newfound interest in the internet poses a major threat to our intellectual integrity, and I hope commentators such as yourself will be vocal about it.
Thanks for taking the time to read this,
Yeah - I wasn't an Intermix user but I did hear the sad news.
I've been writing articles against the commercialization of the net
for, gosh, about ten years, now. There's a couple of hundred columns
that all say the same thing, in one way or another, on my site. I get
whacked for it every time, often by bloggers looking to make money
off their sites and seeing my concerns as attacks on their hopes to
make a profession online. Unfortunately, they can't see the forest
for the trees.
For what it's worth, I feel your pain. I pitched an OpEd to the
NYTimes when that deal went down, but they didn't bite, alas. I don't
know anymore if the best strategy is to hit from the top down or the
bottom up. Or maybe both.
Still, things can only get so bad before people turn to truly
alternative media. And that will always exist. Right now, you're
right. Kids are pretty satisfied, or think they are, by what the
corporations are providing them. So all I can do is continue to make
media that tries to wake them up, keep doing talks at colleges around
the country, make a few documentaries exposing MTV and the like, and
hope for the best.
I just can't find a better answer than education and a bit of
stimulation. If kids can be shown that chilling with one another is
more satisfied than doing it alone under the spell of some marketer,
then things will start to change. Find the others, conspire with
them, and have as much fun as you can. That's the best weapon. Deep fun.
And of course, it's really as much up to you as it is to me. Maybe
more so. I'm some relatively old guy, now. You're the actual target
of all this shit. Conspire with your friends, and do it as equals
with as little ego as possible. Past movements were killed and are
still being killed by people wanting to be stars. That just won't
work in a collaborative future.
all best to you - and let me know what you're doing,