(Pat Oliphant via GoComics.com)
If you’re like me, you don’t read Robert Samuelson’s columns very often, because he’s basically Tom Friedman without the phony charisma of MBA-friendly catchphrases. For your entertainment, Jonathan Chait in NYMag:
In the category of Luddite rants against the Internet, nothing will ever top John R. MacArthur’s famous exposition of his belief that this Internet fad is nothing more than a “gigantic Xerox machine.” But Robert Samuelson’s column in the Washington Post Sunday is surely a minor classic of the genre. Earlier this summer, Samuelson wrote, “If I could, I would repeal the Internet,” but couched his argument in the form of a warning against cyberterror. Sunday’s column scrapes away the cold policy rationale and strikes right at the heart of his fear of journalistic modernity, the cyberterror he already experiences every day.
Samuelson freely intermingles appeals to the public good with confessions of personal anxiety. He is stunned that Don Graham, a friend since college, would sell the newspaper; he considers journalism distributed via the Internet “spotty and unreliable” in comparison with journalism distributed via newsprint; he devoutly wishes we could return to the old days: “I’m a dinosaur. I’ve got three manual typewriters at home awaiting the Internet’s collapse, which I would celebrate.” Not one but three manual typewriters! When the collapse comes, Samuelson will command a mighty publishing empire, churning out vital commentary in triplicate, while desperate Ezra Klein pounds helplessly on his door….
Samuelson has spent 30 years lecturing Americans threatened by competition that they should suck it up. Only now, in the twilight of his career, does he see himself among them, and his response to this misfortune — a still-theoretical threat to his comfortable sinecure — is to wish the source of that competition out of existence…
You are making my day. The sooner Samuelson realizes the horror that awaits him the better.
Three manual typewriters? Sounds like the kind of guy who would enjoy being the brain cell at the end of the Twilight Zone that breaks his only pair of reading glasses.
And if we’d only get rid of the printing press, the Church could deliver it’s unquestioned message straight to the people.
This is very much like the time during W’s administration when Wall Street convinced regulators that offshoring financial services would be detrimental to the country. Can’t have some brilliant Chinese or Indian guy doing THEIR job for pennies an hour.
Geez, manual typewriters? Growing up my home had at least an electric typewriter, we’re talking the 60’s here folk.
@Gex: And the folk at Wall Street were perfectly able to fuck up the economy, they were right, no need to offshore.
And I’m keeping a coach and four awaiting the end times of that horrid contraption called an automobile.
Typical response: I got mine, so suck it up. Oh, wait, I don’t have mine anymore? I’VE BEEN CHEATED!!!
@BillinGlendaleCA: And what do you do when the zombies cut the power? Who will inform me of which stocks to short? How will I learn which candidate is first on the anti-zombie policy bandwagon?
I’m sorry, but now all I can think of is Tron.
Seriously, though. Can someone remind me again of the horrific fate of a nation plagued by a gunless, bombless, virtually deathless military conflict?
What’s more… isn’t the core threat of cyberwar that networking infrastructure might be turned off? Where Samuelson to get his “Repeal the Internet” wish, how would this be in any way significantly different from the most devastating conceivable blow a cyberwar could inflict?
And while we’re asking these pressing questions, who the fuck is in charge of reading this shit before it goes to print? I guess if I were Samuelson, I’d want the internet to go away, too. But only because I’d just read my own article and realized, with sudden horror, that anyone else in the world could now read it as well. Oh, the humanity! The shame!
@? Martin: No power, no problem. All wise folk have a coal powered household generator. Now, how do you kill zombies?
Well same as all those Social Security/MediCare folks supporting the TeaHaddist Dominionists.
Having three typewriters is like having three xylophones.
You can only pluck/play one at once and who the fuck cares.
no profits for war profiteers? the horror!
Good, now Samelson will get a chance to feel what a 63 year old, arthritic, high school drop-out roll doffer in a Bug Tussle, Alabama textile mill experiences when another truck load of Pakistani fabrics appears at the loading dock of the adjacent dye house. To quote one of them; “it feels like drowning.”
Well, Tom Hanks had an utterly charming article in the Times about his typewriter collection. But it wasn’t sour and Luddite at all. He just takes pleasure in the physical attributes of the machines. I understand that.
I miss my Selectric II.
@kuvasz: Let’s not get overly dramatic. Samuelson undoubtedly has a cushy pension, a home in the country to retire to, and years yet of dallying among his country club confederates. Mr. Textile Guy will be lucky if he gets more than a boot in the ass on his way out the door.
Reminds me of the raging controversy over typewriters vs. word processors that raged through the writing community in the early 1980’s.
Oh, the horror of word processing! People were going to hang onto their typewriters until the bitter end!
Which lasted about nine months, because, you know, come on!
As a lifelong geek, I sympathize, but I’m also impatient. Shut up. This is better. Stop bragging your brain is made of cement and you don’t want to learn anything new.
@gogol’s wife: True, I’ve collected all(well most) of my old cameras. But I’m not going to take out my old Brownie to take any pics.
Don’t know. Waiting for MoDo to tell me how to do it properly. I suspect her power has gone out.
@Zifnab: Sometimes I wonder if people worry about cyberwarfare so much because the sound of the word seems so seriously sinister. Or maybe it’s the unusual spelling. Siberwarfare just looks cold, not dangerous.
Typewriters in the same room as the Victrola?
If I could get a computer keyboard that felt like a Selectric’s, that would be the Best Day Ever.
The Pale Scot
I ditched Journalism when CNN and the NYT both cut their international staffs by a third back in ’92? Realized the dude that was transitioning the school newspaper from cut, paste and camera to Pagemaker had better prospects than the rest of us. Knew I had done the right thing when CNN started selling their video stock to other channels and “Media” companies were going into debt to buy up newspapers just as the school was wiring the computer rooms for the internet.
Still annoyed that was forced to discard one electric typewriter because the last manufacturer of its particular ribbon stopped making them.
Also, saw your comment about preferring YouTube – here ya ago. Someone thoughtfully has made available all 13 episodes, in order.
I blogged about Samuelson’s earlier column and it even inspired me to make a lol which made it to the front page of ICHC.
Reminds me of gun nuts with thirty guns who say, “We have all the guns, mwah ha ha!” How many are you gonna shoot at once?
just finished watching Dogma…Alan Rickman as an Angel and the Voice of God!!! Yum!
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Really Mr Samuelson, Manual Typewriters – were is your pride in your art? SERIOUS writers use quill and parchment.
You can shoot 2 handguns at a time. Aiming is a little iffy, at least with one of them but still.
The big thing about having 30 is not having to waste time reloading, you know, losing the few seconds it takes, while trying to kill someone. Cause you know at least one day in your life you will have to kill someone.
Blaming the intertoobz for the demise of newspapers is easy, may be it has something to do with the product your newspaper puts out. I haven’t forgotten the Post beating the war drums for Iraq, for example.
I’m not sure the person in question would ever consider anything he has ever written to be an inferior product. On the other hand many that have seen his product would consider almost everything he has written to be an inferior product.
@BillinGlendaleCA: Or even if you did, you could probably do so without demanding that everyone else ALSO go back to ancient technology.
ETA: It is so very conservative to want to restrict everyone else’s freedoms so you can live in your comfort zone. The WATB moniker suits them perfectly.
Stuff like this always reminds me of a Socrates quote from Phaedrus, wherein he rails against the newest information technology, “literacy”:
@Mnemosyne: Here you go: http://www.daskeyboard.com/product/model-s-professional/
Has a very similar feel to a Selectric.
Villago Delenda Est
@Enhanced Voting Techniques:
A adze on stone tablets. Anything else is communism!
The Post’s op-ed page is a museum. Crazy aunt appears over there every other Tuesday, funny uncle vents here on alternate Mondays. Former prodigy appeared last week to remind us of the other side of being promising.
Poor guy. Maybe NOW he understands how my friend, who worked for the same company for twenty-three years under the illusion that their contracts and their promises were actually worth something, only to watch his pension go into the executives’ pockets and his job to a poor $10 a day guy in India.
Nah. There’s no empathy there. There’s no there, there.
Cuneiform or go home, you young whippersnapper with your big 70’s mustache and electromechanical typewriter. Flattened, masticated wood pulp is for the weak, leave the clay tablets for the strong!
True story – I broke my English professor father’s heart at Christmas 1986 when he gifted me a (cheap) typewriter and I didn’t take it back with me to college. My university had just that summer wired the entire campus and had numerous computer labs available for our use. I didn’t even need to blow $1500 on a green or amber screen Zenith (Lehigh’s vendor du jour back in the day).
However, I wish I had gotten on the bandwagon of the internet back in the day. Maybe I could be some idiot billionaire blowing millions on a dieing industry chock full of relics.
Villago Delenda Est
Contracts mean nothing, unless of course they’re the contracts of bank executives. Then they’re sacrosanct.
Alas, he’s retirement age. I was hoping for mid-50’s.
Mike in NC
What do Bob Samuelson, George Will, and Peggy Noonan talk about when they hang out together at those Georgetown cocktail parties? Besides the Gipper, of course.
The horror of blue jeans? When typewriters will make a comeback? Vodka recipes?
Old, opinionated grumps are such charming curmudgeons when they have money.
funny thing is that the newspaper was killed by craigslist. It still hasn’t fully played out, but they are all dead
@Mike in NC: Ha ha. One potato, two potato…
Isn’t Samuelson also a fan of austerity?
@BillinGlendaleCA: I was remembering just a couple of weeks ago what cameras were like in the days even before film cartridges. When the roll of film ran out, you had to find a nice dark closet and — purely by feel — advance the film all the way into the canister, and then — again, purely using your sense of touch — remove the new film roll from the metal canister and thread it through the camera, making sure the sprockets and holes aligned properly. Then roll it into place. Then clickclickclick advance the film until you were ready to take Exposure #1. Lord help you if you failed to advance the film after each snap, else you had the dreaded Double Exposure and your pictures were Ruined.
Robert Samuelson may yearn for those days. I do not.
@Zifnab: If cyberwar becomes a reality, I would expect a lot of death and destruction. Most of it would happen to civilians. Shutting down financial systems and destroying records of stored wealth would have an enormous impact on simple things like getting groceries. Shutting down power grids and generation plants would have enormous impact, particularly during cold or heat waves. Shutting down sewer and water systems would be disastrous.
We know that many of these systems are vulnerable. Of course you don’t necessarily need an Internet to launch a cyber attack. The attack on Iran’s nuclear refinery was apparently done by unsuspecting vectors carrying usb drives. It’s not like the Internet is the only threat, or even the most likely one.
Jim, Foolish Literalist
I don’t know about Samuelson, but Nooners and GWill could talk about juggling multiple extra-curricular affairs and subsequent divorce settlements. And family values.
Samuelson starts off by making a good point that gathering and distributing news isn’t free. The point he seems to miss is how much money the Washington Post could save by firing useless shits like himself and Richard Cohen so that it could concentrate on actual news gathering. Blogs should have put pundits out of business years ago. Free market, baby!
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@Villago Delenda Est: and is the number one cause of homosexuality. We all know homosexuality is bad because gay generals won’t nuke Hiroshima. We need to more NOT gay real men to lead our nation like Alexander the Great and Richard the Lionhearted.
Harmph I say, Harmph.
@The Pale Scot: Good call. I stayed in the newspaper dodge until I was defenestrated a year ago, and now I’m studying nursing at an advanced age. And Samuelson could do the same thing, but he lacks the character to do so. So fuck him.
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@Seanly: Cuneiform or go home, you young whippersnapper with your big 70′s mustache and electromechanical typewriter. Flattened, masticated wood pulp is for the weak, leave the clay tablets for the strong!
Oh now we carry our wisdom in around in a totebag like some hippie on his way to a state paid for flower arranging class? The Bronze Age called and it wants it’s kilts back Seanly. REAL men lay down their thoughts on a CAVE WALL, and none of this alphabet nonsense,images ONLY!
Well, sure, for “those people” (meaning: us). With enough austerity-bombing, us 99%ers will have to give up our newfangled tech toys and go back to reading the words of Our Betters, on cheap wood pulp, like God intended!
What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us?
The problem with the internet is it allows people to point out publicly how wrong he’s been about everything since forever. We should all just stop fact checking the real journalists and swallow their bullshit as fact. Like we used to do in the good old days.
like everything else, the good stuff costs.
i want one of the original IBM PC keyboards. a good feel with tactile feedback and heavy enough to be used as a weapon.
Another Holocene Human
@tybee: You can get reproduction IBM M keyboards for $100.
Here’s one company: http://pckeyboard.com/page/category/IBMKBD
They used to be the only one but it looks like at least one other has come into the market.
@efgoldman: Oh, FFS. If you work at a keyboard for your job, you’ll probably spend 1000 hours a year at that keyboard. That’s $.10 an hour. That’s nothing. And that keyboard will likely last you a decade. $.01 an hour.
Can we collectively stop acting like everything should cost nothing?
Well He’ll, that’s exactly how I feel about, well, all y’ all’s.
Don’t mind though.
Don’t know no better.
That would be ‘Hell’ but no matter, looks like I’ve continued my tradition of being the last to leave the thread/party.
Hey, where’d everyone go?
Did I say something wrong [shuffles feet, grins nervously as all the truckers at the cafe look at him like they just saw a ghost. W appreciation to Tom Waits]
Rob in Buffalo
How is this possible, given that he has had exactly zero interesting takes in all those many years???
Now I know why Robert J. Samuelson has a column on the WaPo op-ed page.
For years, that’s been inexplicable to me because, gawd, is he dumb.
Now I understand.
All we need now is for a new owner of the NYT to replace Tom Friedman with his Globalization 3.0 upgrade, available at http://thomasfriedmanopedgenerator.com/