Ron Rosenbaum

Jarvis Watch (2) He Brings In Mommy and Daddy!

This has got to be a blogospheric first! No surprise, I suppose, that it’s brought to you by Jeff Jarvis, self-proclaimed pioneer of blogospheric thinking. Still when I first heard about it, I couldn’t believe it. I knew Jarvis had been avoiding defending himself from the substance of my critique of his ludicrous notion of “journalism” i.e. you learn more about an institution such as Google by refusing to talk to anyone who founded or works for Google. Seriously! That’s the method of his forthcoming Google book. Apparently Jarvis has no defense, because all his replies are complaints that someone dared criticize him.

Instead and I’m not making this up, he’s hiding behind his mommy and daddy to avoid engaging with my argument. Somebody told me about this passage which I think will become famous in the annals of Web discourse. Call it Crybabyism 2.0. It’s from Jarvis’s Buzzmachine.com blog, shortly after my Slate piece ran. I should have been paying attention but so much of his blog is devoted to self-reverential accounts of his many travels to self-congratulatory blog “summits”, and quotations from cronies telling him how smart he is, I missed it.

But, really, it tops it all, garners the gold in the Jarvis self-pity Olympics. He quotes an e-mail from his parents who read my critique of little Jeffy:

“I was more bothered than anything that I got email from my parents wondering who this Ron Rosenbaum was (and why was he attacking their son). Even bloggers have mothers.”

Awww. Pardon me while I wipe away the tears. It’s actually pretty offensive to me, when you think about it. Offensive to me, offensive to his own mother that he uses her to hide behind. He can’t defend his position on journalism from criticism on any rational grounds–basically it comes down “better to learn less than more–so he has so accuse me of causing pain to his parents.

In a way it’s been kind of satisfying watching Jeff Jarvis’s reaction to my criticism of him. After all, he’s made it a point of pride to callously dismiss the crushed hopes of whole families of journalists thrown out of work because consultants like him give management a fig leaf to downsize, fire top notch journalists in order to follow little Jeffy (as I think he must be called from now on) and turn their papers into “hyperlocal” scab sheets, hyperlocal being little Jeffy’s jargon for the Pennysavers he thinks are the future of newspapers. (what an inspired visionary!)

As one media figure said in an e mail about his constant crybabyism over my criticism–in addition his refusal to answer its gist: “you’ve clearly driven him crazy and it’s fun to watch”. That’s a little cruel, but my whole point in my original critique was that Jarvis was cruel and callous in denigrating the journalists who have been fired in the current crisis. Hardworking journalists who used years of skills and experience to do important jobs that Jarvis, with his “hyperlocal” mentality thinks can taken over by, in effect, no-skill scabs who will work for free.

Frankly it’s the people on the business side who should be fired and replaced by Jarvis’s “pro-am” types who couldn’t have done a worse job than those who failed in their calling and blamed their own incompetence on the workers they fired.

Sam Zell! The bankrupt prophet of Jarvisism. Isn’t it a little obvious now that if morons like Sam Zell hadn’t fired some of the best most experienced journalists at the Chicago Tribune we would have learned a lot more about Governor Rod and his corrupt operation before the election. Not that it would have, or should have, affected the election–so far there’s no indication Obama was involved in Rod’s corruption–but that’s what skilled journalists–the kind Zell fired with the encouragement of his court clown Lee Abrams (neither of whom had the slightest notion of what journalism is) did on their merry road to bankruptcy (using workers pensions funds to finance their folly.)

I think it’s time for Jarvis, who sadly has become the public face of a start up J-school at the once-proud City University of New York to publish a Bill Clinton-like list of his clientele so we’ll know who the Zells in his menagerie are. By the way I attempted to get the CUNY J-school dean, a man I have great respect for, to answer a simple hypothetical question: if, when, he had been editing a business magazine and a reporter assigned by him to write about, say, IBM, had come in and told him that he had no intention of speaking to anyone at IBM, but planned to do the story by “reverse engineering” it ala Jarvis–substituting his own speculations about IBM from the outside–how would the dean, as editor, have reacted. And whether he thought this “method” of “journalism” was what he wanted taught to students at CUNY. The dean just wouldn’t answer the question I asked. I don’t blame him for evidently being too embarassed to defend Jarvis’s methods, but it’s sad Jarvis has put him in that position.

I told the dean, in our exchange of e-mails, that I pitied the students there if that was what they were taught as “journalism”. But if you listen to Jarvis you know who deserves pity? Not the students, not the families of the legitimate journalists fired in the webification of journalism. But rather poor little Jeffy who’s run to mommy and daddy because he can’t take criticism. Isn’t he supposed to be an advocate of vigorous blogosheric disputation? Except when it comes to him, then time to run to mommy.

What are we to make of this, something as far as I know absolutely unheard of in polemical arguments, print or blog: instead of defending your positions you run to mama and dada. I think it can be seen as the equivalent of Jarvis declaring (intellectual) bankruptcy. He can’t defend his shoddy fire-the-workers ideas so he has to revert to “telling” on his opponent to his parents. It reminds me of one of those little kids in grade school who informed on pranksters to teacher.

Amazing, this is his idea of argumentation? Someone who accused me of “third grade” tactics, has regressed under attack to the old kindergarten strategy: WAAAH!

When I told a friend about this and how, of course I felt bad that Jarvis would need to drag his poor innocent and no doubt worthy parents into the fray, presumably because he lacked the means to defend himself without an appeal to pity, my friend advised me not to feel bad for Jarvis’s self-pity attack. “You should just respond by telling Jeff’s parents that you’re sure they’re not responsible for their son’s behavior, you have no doubt they raised him with all the care and wise guidance that any child could hope for. That it wasn’t their fault that he turned out to be so heartless. Sometimes it happens, people with the very best upbringing and the most sterling parents just behave in a callous way you could not predict from their childhood upbringing. It shouldn’t reflect on his parents, despite poor Jeff trying to make them front for him.” (Nor should his idea of”journalism” reflect on the dean and students of the j-school he’s attached himself to). Perhaps he will think back and re learn the lessons of empathy and human kindess his parents undoubtedly taught him long long ago.

Now for Jarvis’s other supporters. One thing I notice in common about the commenters–the ones I’ve had time to read–who support Jeff Jarvis is how ignorant, abusive and barely literate most of them are. Kinda contradicts Jarvis’s claims about “the wisdom of the crowd” Not much wisdom in his crowd

First – can we dispose of this meme that I’m somehow “jealous” of Jarvis’ work, or that I’m just a envious unemployed journalist?

Sigh. I will put this on the record just so I won’t have to deal with the people who can’t get a clue from the blog, the books on it, and its contents: I’ve published seven books, one a NY Times bestseller, the others widely praised. Jarvis: well, he has one on the way, the “reverse engineering of Google” book. I have four volumes of my journalism and essays collected in books. Jarvis who brags about his “clips” has no such books I know of, no one is interested in collecting his journalism. Because no one paid any attention to him as a writer, no one paid much attention to him at all, before he started to pose as a theoretician and j-school eductator and saw how profitable it could be attacking real journalists. (I have, by the way, taught writing at Columbia and NYU j-schools as well as the University of Chicago. Jarvis teaches at a start-up j-school, most of whose faculty must be horrified by his anti-journalism journalism and the way the Jarvis tail, so to speak is allowed to wag the j-school dog.

Nor am I without current work: I have contracts for two new books, a well-read online column and a blog. Nothing special about any of this but jealousy of JJ? I think not.

I consider myself fortunate and when one is fortunate it’s almost a duty to reprove others who are using their good fortune to deride and degrade their betters at journalism (or anything) who’ve fallen on hard times. Instead Jarvis, our contemporary Mr. Gradgrind (have you read Dickens’ Hard Times Jeff—do you read anything by anyone but your fellow “futurists”?) sneers like Gradgrind or Scrooge at the plight of reorters and families hurt at Christmastime by layoffs. It’s their own fault, our Mr. Gradgrind tells them. And then runs to mommy when he gets criticized for heartlessness

But I can see now how he’s shewdly exploited his link with Limbaugh-like, right-wing dissatisfaction with the media to bash all journalists regardless of their merits or ideology. Well, Jeff, you’re known by the company you keep. Thankfully as one new media head told me, my critique of Jarvis seems to have been a tipping point, making people take a closer look and recognize how empty his “new ideas” are.

Yes there are problems with the media, with media responsiblity, media bias, with media economic models, but Jarvis is too busy sucking up to the corporate side—whose inefficiences and ineptness are most responsible for the problems–to offer any real solutions aside from turning into once-valuable newspapers into “hyperlocal” pennysavers. Instead he takes the consultant fee paychecks that, in effect, out of the mouths of the families his denigration of workers his kind of advice gets fired and sneers at those whose work has more honor than his ever will amount to in a million years of Dubai “summits”.

The abusiveness of Jarvis’s supporters makes sense though, because I’ve gotten report after report about how arrogant and abusive Jarvis himself is when he makes comments on others’ blogs in response to the mildest criticism. He’s the type who can give it out, but can’t take it. Instead he hides behind mommy and daddy so he can boo-hoo and avoid an adult response.

We need futurists, but all you corporations who are looking to JJ to tell them the future: really you can do better with a grown up who actually knows what journalism is.