Sergey Brin on Google Books, NYT Op-EdPosted: October 9, 2009
Sergey Brin has an op-ed piece in this morning’s New York Times. In it he writes about the Google books project, evangelizing on behalf of Google’s work in this arena. It’s a bland article, and I think this is the point of it. Brin’s conclusion reads:
“I hope [wholesale book] destruction never happens again, but history would suggest otherwise. More important, even if our cultural heritage stays intact in the world’s foremost libraries, it is effectively lost if no one can access it easily. Many companies, libraries and organizations will play a role in saving and making available the works of the 20th century. Together, authors, publishers and Google are taking just one step toward this goal, but it’s an important step. Let’s not miss this opportunity.”
This sounds like something I’d read in a mediocre student essay.
True, the article is intended to sway the uninitiated, and thus needs to speak generally. But as I read it, I found myself wondering if the piece’s rhetorical doldrums don’t serve another purpose: appealing to the populist streak in our (American) zeitgeist.
At the risk of generalizing egregiously, many Americans distrust eggheads. We like a hale-fellow-well-met. Elitist nerds from the coasts don’t speak to the “real America.” Is a strategy of pabulum effective in this context? Assuming Google has editors on staff as well-trained as their engineering, I suspect they’ve banked on a ‘yes’ to that question.