E.J. and Nate have censored this post for reasons that are probably obvious.
I swore to myself that I would never write about Amazon, pricing, price checking, and the suckery of NPR ever again, but
then of course, NPR has to go and run this insipidly stupid piece about a “predatory” Amazon. I’m half-tempted to go back to my normal argument that of course they’re predatory, in much the same way all corporations are predatory and take advantage of the system as it exists and tax loopholes and economies of scale and all of that shit. Bottomline: corporations only exist to make money, not to make the world a better place. Does that disturb me? Hell yes it does. I’m a pretty anti-corporate person, but trying to change the nature of Amazon by complaining that what they’re doing is unfair seems similar to trying to convince people to read translations because it will “make the world a better place.” Not to go all 2002 on this subject, but this is a time when the phrase “don’t hate the playa, hate the game” is pretty fitting. But I don’t want to talk about Amazon in this post . . . Instead I want to talk about how NPR sucks and is helping make this conversation about Amazon and other corporations really stupid and middlebrow and unproductive. Let’s start with a little thing called timing. Aside from the bit about Nancy Pearl’s new book series (which no publisher would touch until Amazon decides to publish it at which point everything is EVIL), everything in this article is at least a month old. The Price Check App? We burned that bridge long ago. And then there’s those pesky little things we call “facts.” This article, which is as typically lazy as all NPR journalism is, implies that the Price Check App applied to books, which is PATENTLY NOT TRUE. But why bother researching things when you can just throw shit at a wall and create a “controversy” by just riding whatever opinions get you the most hits. But the thing I really want to get at is how this article actually impairs any sort of intellectual discussion about the corporation vs. culture situation. Check this quote from O’Reilly’s publisher, Joe Wikert:
“The word ‘predator’ is pretty strong, and I don’t use it loosely,” he says, “but . . . I could have sworn we had laws against predatory pricing. I just don’t understand why that’s not an issue — because that’s got to be hurting other device makers out there in trying to capture this market.” Now what should follow this quote? If NPR had any journalistic balls, they would do a bit of research into anti-trust laws, and explain whether Amazon is violating something or not. If not, the discussion could be about whether anti-trust laws need to be updated, or why they’ve been corroded over the past half-century and what that’s resulted int. THAT would be an interesting article, and a fucking useful one. Does NPR go in that direction?
But Wikert is also well aware that Amazon has made life very convenient for consumers. GAAAAGGH! This is not journalism, this is explaining that we need air to breathe. Well done, NPR. Glad no one broke a sweat on that. One last example of the illogical crap that is this article. Dennis Loy Johnson (an amazing publisher and the face of the War Against Amazon), talks about an app he wants to create to promote independent bookstores:
Melville Publishing is trying to develop a number of products to help booksellers. One of them is the “shelf talker,” a digital display that helps customers browse through print books in a brick-and-mortar store but buy e-books from that store’s website instead of Amazon. Naturally, because everyone at NPR is so tuned in, they realized immediately that when you buy an ebook from an independent bookstore, it’s actually being supplied by GOOGLE, another corporation that is EVIL and should be investigated and could be violating anti-trust laws. Did they ask Dennis whether he’s uncomfortable favoring one corporate behemoth over another?
But such devices might be too little, too late. Johnson would prefer to see Amazon investigated for antitrust violations, but he doesn’t expect that will happen anytime soon. Why not? Tell me why no one will investigate them if they’re obviously breaking laws. THAT IS WHAT WE ALL WANT TO KNOW. Explain something useful to me, NPR. Please. Go out and dig around. Learn things. Pass along that knowledge. Just once, NPR, just once. God damn it.
OK, I got my heart rate back under control, but
then came across this piece about Kodak’s bankruptcy and how Rochester “hasn’t lost its sparkle,” and which may well be the most insincere article I’ve ever read. Thanks to Kodak’s inability to adapt to the world around it, Rochester is getting a ton of attention these days, with most pieces being of the “what will Rochester do without Kodak?” variety. Despite the fact that Kodak’s decline took place many years ago, and this bankruptcy just a formality, questioning Rochester’s future is a valid enough approach to the story. The problem I’ve had with all of these articles is that they address absolutely none of the actual problems present in Rochester, instead covering up everything with pollyannaish statements about how everything here “sparkles.” Seriously, Rochester (especially at and around the universities) is a very decent place to live, but the weird segregated nature of the city, the terrible impact of the soulless suburbs, the incredibly high teen pregnancy rate (one of the highest in the country), the laughably bad urban planning, the mismanagement of almost all beautification projects, the fast ferry failure, and the implosion of the city school district are REAL ISSUES. But rather than even mention that Rochester faces a plethora of challenges and has to be very ingenious to save itself from becoming yet another mid-sized American city whose main export is crippling depression, lets just reiterate that we love our hometown because it is wondrous good and filled with unicorns!
Every time I turn around it seems like there’s a new building in the medical center. There are gleaming spaces full of people in lab coats and blinking racks of computers. From new medicines, to computer chips — it feels like it’s all being invented here. People walk together with their heads down in deep discussion and you can just sense them going places no one has ever gone before. What does this even mean? The U of R Medical Center is stunningly impressive, but I’m pretty sure they don’t make computer chips there. (I know, I know, but this article is intentionally misleading in those juxtaposed sentences, which is exactly why it makes me furious.) So for anyone struggling to survive in a former blue-collar town, they should look ahead to the future with stars in their eyes because people in lab coats walk around talking about “deep” subjects?!?? Are you even serious? NPR has gone from being the alternative to the crap that is Fox News and CNN and MSNBC to being a voice of middlebrow authority that is absolutely unquestioned by most left-leaning thinkers. Which is a terrible mistake to make, and will only drive the conversation about important issues into a more banal and misguided place.
That is all.