THE BLOG
04/14/2007 02:10 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Brian Williams of NBC, Information Oligarch

Brian Williams has a problem: he calls it Vinny.

Vinny, with nothing more than a blog and a keyboard is able to command as much, if not more, influence upon the information Americans consume as Williams in his Armani suit and his credentials sitting in mid-town Manhattan.

In reality, Brian Williams has bigger problems than a mythical man in Queens.

Putting aside the blatant classism of Williams' remark - apparently people who can only afford efficiency apartments are incapable of producing anything original of value - we have to be concerned with the fact that one of our leading anchormen (with two real degrees and five honorary ones) is so out of touch with the nature of our "post-consumerist" world.

A post-consumerist world is one in which we create more than we purchase. This usually occurs because there is democratization in the methods of production. When it comes to "news" we are smack dab in the middle of a post- consumerist world. Since being "published" (whether in print or video) is no longer sacred - or difficult - everything can qualify as "news" because news is merely what one person communicates to another person. Therein lies Williams' ignorance.

All of Williams credentials have not revealed to him that "publication" is dead. This is the era of "communication." Today, news is not whatever comes out of an anchorman's mouth, but whatever it is that people are talking about. Our cultural turn towards this kind of information is both good and bad. It is bad when all we do is talk about the paternity of third rate center-folds' kids. It is good when we challenge the executive or speak out against terror. Williams want that we wait for him to lead our communicative charge across the hinterlands of information. Not necessary. We can do it in our bathrobes.

We should not just dismiss Williams. We should engage and teach him. Previous civilizations have actually been destroyed by those who insisted that the democratization of information is bad. Any time information has been made "sacred" it has led to the collapse of public discourse, and as such, the collapse of people. Take the case of the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century. TJ Winter, an Islamic historian writes about the Ottomans:

"Until the eighteenth century a majority of ulema [religious scholars] believed that printing was [forbidden]. A text, particularly one dealing with religion, was something numinous and holy, to be created slowly and lovingly through the traditional calligraphic and bookbinding crafts. A ready availability of identical books, the scholars thought, would cheapen Islamic learning, and also make students lazy about committing ideas and texts to memory. Further, it was thought that the process of stamping and pressing pages was disrespectful to texts which might contain the name of the Source of all being."

By the nineteenth century the Ottomans were called the "sick man of Europe." Coincidence? Not at all. Most historians concur that the reason for the Ottoman failure to deal effectively with the industrial age had everything to do with the fact that its elites had an oligarchy over communication.

Brian Williams thinks that the news is "numinous" and "holy", to be "created "slowly and lovingly" and that it must be stamped with the Logo of the "source of all being"; namely, NBC.

Brian Williams is wrong and his views enable the stagnation of the American republic. There, I just made some news. It took me only ten minutes and I, unlike Vinny, don't bother with bathrobes.