My inner cynic was pleased to discover that the back cover of Evgeny Morozov’s latest book, To Save Everything, Click Here, included a blurb from noted war journalist and scholar David Rieff. The curmudgeonly critic was a professor of mine at Sciences Po in Paris two years ago, and his class was a weekly tour de force of disillusionment with the modern human rights-industrial complex.
In praise of Morozov’s latest effort, Rieff wrote, “Against the reigning consensus — that there is a digital fix for every social and political problem, and that thanks to the technologies that we group together for convenience’s sake as the Internet, the brave new world of the future will be one of endless, limitless improvement in every realm of life — Morozov offers a sophisticated, eloquent, and definitive rebuttal.” This was the Rieff I remembered from my time in grad school, as I heard him wearily repudiate the moralist cri de coeur of peers like Michael Ignatieff and even Bernard Kouchner. It’s the same Rieff I read with great interest in the virtual pages of Foreign Policy, where he took a moment between excoriations of “Kony 2012” and the Singularity movement to dub Morozov “cyber-utopianism’s severest and most eloquent critic.”
That may not be inaccurate. But it is hardly the whole story. A mid-sized hamlet’s worth of straw men make brief cameos in To Save Everything, Click Here, only to be set ablaze by Morozov’s rapid-fire denunciations. Intellectual broadsides are not innately problematic, of course. But like fellow fire-breather Glenn Greenwald — whom Morozov, in his book, dubs “a terrific polemicist…[with] a tendency to overstate his case” — the Belarusian-born author often employs scorched-earth rhetoric against stunning illogic. Continue reading To Blame Everything, Read Here: The Folly of Technological Defeatism