May 15, 2002


Tyranny of the Twit : A Few Rules to Help You Survive the Internet Era (Michael S. Malone, 5/14/02,
The Samuel Johnson Law of Web Criticism. It was the great Johnson, of course, who said that only a blockhead ever wrote for anything except money. He also said that the imminent prospect of hanging wonderfully focuses a man's mind.

That's the problem with the criticism you read on the Web, especially at sites like Amazon, and especially by those goobers who write tome-like reviews or list their 25 favorite books on existentialism. One of the great appeals of the Internet is that actions in cyberspace appear to have no consequences. You can be who you want and spout any gibberish you think and it doesn't matter!

On the Web it is fiendishly easy to write your considered opinion about any book or record or movie. But, except for a handful of sites, like Salon or Slate, nobody's paying you for it. By the same token, your job - i.e. your mortgage, your kid's braces, your next meal - doesn't depend upon what you say.

At first glance that may seem like good news: Such criticism, by definition, must be pure, unadulterated by the demands of commerce, undistorted by the pressures of bosses and customers. Yeah, well that's what they used to say about communism.

Take it from somebody who freelanced for seventeen years: Writing for money has a refreshing way of forcing you to write better, smarter and more responsibly. By comparison, if you want to see what writing for free looks like, just go down to Starbucks and look at all the self-righteous people penning bad poetry ... or visit

(via Kevin Holtsberry, who, in pointing this essay out, has just ruined my life)

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 15, 2002 11:35 AM
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