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The Rants of a Sony Executive

Sony Pix No Like Interwebs

Original Quote.

Slashdot responses.
TechDirt responses.

Defense Essay.

Slashdot responses.
Techdirt responses.
Ars Technica response.

"Internet No Good"

On 14 May 2009, at a corporate-sponsored breakfast on the future of filmmaking, the chief executive of Sony Pictures, a guy named Lynton, made this comment: I'm a guy who doesn't see anything good having come from the Internet. Period.

This quote made its way to Slashdot and other Internet blogs. During the next ten days notional tomatoes were flying in Lynton's direction. After a time he was forced to defend himself in an essay that was published in the Huffington Post, a notorious Internet news and opinion site.

Firstly, The Huffington Post is a rightist rag that netizens tend to treat at a joke, to regard as the electronic equivalent of the New Frontiersman in the Watchmen graphic novel.

Lynton's remark freedom without restraint is chaos implies that, unlike other such media as television, the Internet has no gatekeepers. I assume that by gatekeepers Lynton means I and my kind of people who control what goes into a medium. It also implies that his kind of people are competent enough to determine what we should read, watch and hear. Given the incompetence displayed by Sony over the years, it is just as well that are no such creatures.

[T]he quantity, quality and availability of the kinds of entertainment, literature, art and scholarship we need to have a healthy, vibrant culture will suffer. That has to be the most ridiculous statement that I have ever read. Our culture is not healthy. Our culture is not vibrant. Our culture is putrid, tawdry, and corrosive, the high-fructose corn syrup of society. Our culture is that way as an end result of decades of dominance by television. This is the disease that infects the Internet, infected by the general public as the vector of transmission, the electronic equivalent of syphilis.

And with that healthy, vibrant quip, Lynton has forfeited the right to be heard any further.

An Attempt At A Defense

In fact, while I have only scanned Lynton's essay, others have read it in full, and have gotten headaches from the crappiness that would not pass editorial muster in print media — which I suppose why it wound up on the Huffington Post.

Lynton apparently wrote his editorial with the intention of showing that he does "get" the Internet. But, by producing an essay that's a mix of generalities and awkward metaphors, and by not offering any concrete solutions, he really has come across as someone who doesn't. Even for someone inclined to support the ability of content creators to be paid for their efforts, editorials like this tend to come across as an attempt to shift blame that should be widely shared.

Nonetheless, the essay and the comment it defends bode ominous tidings for the Internet. Lynton is a high-level executive officer in a multinational corporation. Such people can use their power and status to do a great deal of damage to the Internet and to threaten the original culture that allowed the Internet to thrive. (I don't give a s◊◊◊ about the Internet's current culture; the general public can flush itself down the celestrial bog for all I care.) I am sure that the big media executives will thrash and weep and gnash their teeth until they are flushed away by their boards or by bankruptcy. But the Internet may well be damaged beyond repair in the meantime.

Big Media As Its Own Worst Enemy

To close this essay off, I present another exhibit of big-media incompetence with a quote from the TechDirt site:

It's no secret that some entertainment companies have had trouble recognizing that fan sites help promote a show and add value to the show for free. In spite of these benefits, they still seem to have trouble with fan sites, sometimes threatening them over intellectual property violations or simply trying to shut them down.

This refers to another attempt at science fiction by Joss Whedon and the Fox network, that has not been doing very well despite the presence of a more popular member of Whedon's stable of acting talent. It is likely to fail because Whedon's best efforts cannot stop Fox from tripping him up by antagonizing his fan base with these exercises in control.

Written by Andy West on 27 May 2009. Updated 6 April 2010.