What bugs me about your review are statements like these:
"Once a diehard highway warrior on the Internet and the World Wide Web, Shenk
has finally had enough, and he won't take it anymore."
"He sees electronic democracy as nearly a violation of the U.S.
"He wants the federal government to govern the Internet and the World Wide
Web....Let's license all those computers. Make certain that there is public
broadcasting on those computers, perhaps a family hour."
Anyone who has read the book with any care whatsoever will understand these
characterizations as either sloppy or malicious. Taking them one by one:
In no way do I indicate that I have given up on the Internet. With all of my
concerns, I am still a huge fan, as I make clear throughout the book and by
inviting electronic correspondence.
My concerns about electronic democracy are considerably more complex than
your summary, and not nearly as extreme. Mostly, I argue against the specter
of direct democracy. Are you arguing for it?
Not only is my call for limited government action regarding the Net
considerably more subdued and specific than your cartoonish characterization.
I also go out of my way to warn against too-much-government intrusion, while
you imply that I do exactly the opposite.
Then, if I read you correctly, you go out of your way to mention your point
of view that you don't think we should rush into wiring the schools. What you
entirely omit is that this is also an argument in my book.
Two other statements of yours (in a review of less than 800 words) warrant
"As for the author's notion that 'cyberspace is Republican,' he should take a
look at the Pew Research Center's recent survey on the subject. It shows that
the Internet is slightly more Republican than Democrat."
Mr. Harper: If anyone else on the planet reads my entire chapter 16 and comes
away thinking that what I meant is that cyberspace is overwhelmingly
populated by Republicans, ask that person to give me a call. My point is so
utterly different from the one that you imply, I have to wonder if you read
the chapter yourself.
You also write: "The author preaches that niches are bad."
Please, please, please tell me that you didn't write the last half of your
review by skimming my table of contents (I have a chapter entitled
"De-nichify"). It's true that I do explore some of the problems of
nichification in my book. I also explicitly discuss the many benefits of
niches, concluding with the sentence: "What marketers call 'nichification'
is, in fact, an important part of our improving quality of life."
In your review, you insinuate that I am a bad journalist. I spend hours
working to make my sentences into fair characterizations of the people and
events and ideas I am describing. I work very hard to avoid unfair
overstatements. Can you re-read your review and make the same claim? Of the
dozens of reviews of my book that I have come across, yours wasn't the
absolute sloppiest. But I beg you to be more careful and thoughtful in future
book reviews. It matters, maybe more than you realize.
Copyright © 1997 by David Shenk. All Rights Reserved.