The Columbia Journalism Review has a good profile of Evgeny Morozov. I had no idea that he was so young, or that he’d undergone a conversion a few years back:
He began writing about the political situation in Belarus for Transitions, a Prague-based NGO that encouraged the adoption of new media by independent journalists in the former Soviet bloc. In 2006, Transitions hired Morozov as its first director of new media, a job that had him traveling widely—at age 22—to train journalists and bloggers throughout Eastern Europe.
“Thinking that you are living through a revolution and hold the key to how it will unfold is, I confess, rather intoxicating,” Morozov would later write. Much of his work from this period is preserved, and it’s fascinating to watch a YouTube video from 2007 that shows a chubby kid holding forth in a thick accent about how digital media might transform the sclerotic and indecent politics of his region. Asked by a peppy interviewer what he sees as the “most innovative” development of recent years, the young Evgeny rattles off a list of possibilities that makes him sound a lot like the “cyber-utopians” he would soon make a career out of skewering. “Definitely crowdsourcing,” he says. “Definitely applying the logic of the open-source software movement to broader ideas, to broader processes.” Another video from the same conference shows him giving a buzzword-filled presentation called “Putting Community at the Core of Innovation in New Media.”
Here’s Morozov today, talking about the guy in that video: “I was 23 and in a room with people in their 40s and 50s, all of them editors and journalists, and I was talking some nonsense and they were all buying it. The degree to which both sides were unaware of just how stupid the entire setup was just makes you very scared.”
I find Morozov really difficult for reasons I can’t quite explain. I think the big issue is that he’s so hyperbolic. It’s not enough to pick apart someone’s ideas, they need to be potrayed as not just wrong but as a dangerously stupid and/or fraudelent. But I think Morozov does this because, generally, the people and ideas he criticizes receive hyperbolic praise. He’s trying to counteract some of that. Still, the fire and brimstone routine doesn’t come off well in my opinion — especially given how moderate his opinions actually are as he reveals in his more sober moments.