Move Fast and Break-Things:
How Facebook, Google and Amazon
Corned Culture and Undermined Democracy
I first met Jonathan Taplin in 2012 at the Tech Policy Summit in Napa Valley, where he debated TechDirt’s Mike Masnick over copyright and digital entertainment. He is continuing this fight with his new book “Move Fast and Break-Things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy”. A stinging polemic that traces the destructive monopolization of the internet by Google, Facebook and Amazon, and that proposes a new future for musicians, journalists, authors and filmmakers in the digital age.
My former carpool mate, CNN legal analyst Jeff Toobin, praises the book
Jonathan Taplin’s Move Fast and Break Things, a rock and roll memoir cum internet history cum artists’ manifesto, provides a bracing antidote to corporate triumphalism—and a reminder that writers and musicians need a place at the tech table and, more to the point, a way to make a decent living.
Air Date: TBA
Move Fast and Break-Things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy
Move Fast and Break Things tells the story of how a small group of libertarian entrepreneurs began in the 1990s to hijack the original decentralized vision of the Internet, in the process creating a set of monopoly firms—Facebook, Amazon and Google—that now determine the future of the music, film, television, publishing and news industries.
Taplin offers a succinct and powerful history of how we got to this point. He begins with a small group of libertarian entrepreneurs, Peter Thiel and Larry Page among them, who in the 1990s began to hijack the original decentralized version of the Internet. Taplin show how these firms and individuals began to shape online life in their own image: tolerating piracy of books, music and film while at the same time promoting opaque business practices and subordinating privacy of individual users to create the surveillance marketing monoculture in which we now live.
The enormous profits that have come with this concentration of power tell their own story. Since 2001, newspaper and music revenues have fallen by 70%, book publishing, film and television profits have also fallen dramatically. Revenues at Google in this same period grew from $400 million to $74.5 Billion. Google’s YouTube today controls 60% of the streaming audio business and pays only 11% of the streaming audio revenues. More creative content is being consumed that ever before, but less revenue is actually flowing to creators and owners of the content.
If you think this is a problem only for musicians, or journalists, you are wrong. With the reallocation of money to monopoly platforms comes a shift in power. Google, Facebook and Amazon now enjoy political power on par with Big Oil and Big Pharma, which makes finding solutions to this problem even more difficult.
But Taplin has answers. Move Fast and Break Things offers a vital, forward-thinking way for how artists everywhere can reclaim their audiences with knowledge of the past and determination to work together. Using his own half century career as a music and film producer and early pioneer of streaming video online, Taplin offers solutions that would allow us all to reimagine the design of the World Wide Web and specifically our interaction with the firms that dominate it.
“[A] darker counterpoint to some of the celebratory writing about Silicon Valley.”
—New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice selection
“It is also useful to read a darker counterpoint, which argues that the radical libertarian ideology and monopolistic greed of many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs helped to decimate the livelihood of musicians and is now undermining the communal idealism of the early internet.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Taplin is uniquely poised to deliver us ‘Move Fast and Break Things,’ a relentless critique that seeks to answer the above question of why the internet has hindered, rather than helped, those trying to make a living in the arts.”
—New York Daily News
“A stinging polemic that traces the destructive monopolisation of the internet by Google and Facebook.”
“A scathing indictment of these tech companies’ greed and arrogance.”
“A necessary book that shows how the Internet revolution has damaged the way we interact as human beings, along with democracy itself.”
“An excellent new book… Taplin makes a forceful and persuasive case that companies like Google and Facebook could employ their powerful artificial intelligence programs to prevent the infringement of existing copyright laws.”
—The Chicago Tribune
“Taplin outlines in devastating detail how the digital economy has hurt creative types… a punch to the gut of Silicon Valley’s self-righteous posture.”
“Required reading… a nuanced look at the downside of what is glibly tossed around as ‘disruption’ by various cyber-messianic blowhards.”
—Charles Pierce, Esquire.com
“Insightful analysis… Taplin proves a keen, thorough look at the present and future of Americans’ lives as influenced and manipulated by the technology behemoths on which they’ve come to depend. His work is certainly food for thought…”
“Jonathan Taplin’s brave new book unmasks a grid of high tech corporate domination that didn’t have to be but that now threatens democracy itself. Like the great muckrakers of a century ago. Taplin explains clearly how that domination works and challenges us to do something about it. Our future may well depend on whether we heed him.”
—Professor Sean Wilentz, Author of The Rise of American Democracy
“Jonathan Taplin, more than anyone I know, can articulate the paralyzing complexities that have arisen from the intertwining of the tech and music industries. He counters the catastrophic implications for musicians with solutions and inspiration for a renaissance. He shows the way for artists to reclaim and reinvent that subversion, rather than be in servitude to Big Tech. Every musician and every creator should read this book.”
—Rosanne Cash, Grammy Award–winning singer and songwriter
“This is an essential book and singular hybrid—lucid alternate history of our digital transformation, juicy memoir of a pioneering culture-industry player, and bracing polemic on how our culture was hijacked and might still be redeemed. And my reaction to Move Fast and Break Things was a three-part hybrid too—provoked, enlightened, and inspired. Thanks, Jon Taplin.”
—Kurt Andersen, host of NPR’s Studio 360
Jonathan Taplin is Director Emeritus of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California. He was a Professor at the USC Annenberg School from 2003-2016. Taplin’s areas of specialization are in international communication management and the field of digital media entertainment. Taplin began his entertainment career in 1969 as Tour Manager for Bob Dylan and The Band. In 1973 he produced Martin Scorsese’s first feature film, Mean Streets, which was selected for the Cannes Film Festival. Between 1974 and 1996, Taplin produced 26 hours of television documentaries (including The Prize and Cadillac Desert for PBS) and 12 feature films including The Last Waltz, Until The End of the World, Under Fire and To Die For. His films were nominated for Oscar and Golden Globe awards and chosen for The Cannes Film Festival five times.
In 1984 Taplin acted as the investment advisor to the Bass Brothers in their successful attempt to save Walt Disney Studios from a corporate raid. This experience brought him to Merrill Lynch, where he served as vice president of media mergers and acquisitions. In this role, he helped re-engineer the media landscape on transactions such as the leveraged buyout of Viacom. Taplin was a founder of Intertainer and has served as its Chairman and CEO since June 1996. Intertainer was the pioneer video-on-demand company for both cable and broadband Internet markets. Taplin holds two patents for video on demand technologies. Professor Taplin has provided consulting services on Broadband technology to the President of Portugal and the Parliament of the Spanish state of Catalonia and the Government of Singapore.
Mr. Taplin graduated from Princeton University. He is a member of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and sits on the International Advisory Board of the Singapore Media Authority and is a fellow at the Center for Public Diplomacy. Mr. Taplin was appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to the California Broadband Task Force in January of 2007. He was named one of the 50 most social media savvy professors in America by Online College and one of the 100 American Digerati by Deloitte’s Edge Institute.
More Information: Antitrust Then and Now
Robert Bork has a unique place in American history.
- Saturday Night Massacre
On October 20, 1973, President Nixon instructed Attorney General Elliott Richardson to fire the Special Watergate Prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson refused and resigned instead. Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. Ruckelshaus also refused and resigned. Bork, as Solicitor General, was next in command and fired Cox upon Nixon’s request.
- The Antitrust Paradox and Antitrust Jurisprudence
In 1978, Bork wrote “The Antitrust Paradox,” asserting that antitrust law should be less concerned with protecting competitors and more concerned with protecting consumers. In 1982, President Reagan appointed Bork to the influential D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, where he took an activist role in trying to reshape antitrust law. Bork sought to push antitrust law away from per se rules in which certain conduct was always prohibited, to a rule of reason analysis which evaluated competitive benefits and harms and other judges have adopted this view.
- Supreme Court Nominee
In 1987, President Reagan nominated Bork to fill the seat of retiring Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell. Bork’s past writings and judicial activism were now used against him, as Senator Ted Kennedy took to the floor minutes after his nomination with a stinging rebuke of “Robert Bork’s America.” His nomination was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but Reagan and Bork pushed for a floor vote nonetheless. The Senate rejected the nomination 58-42, with six Republicans voting against Bork.During the nomination fight, a Washington weekly paper obtained Bork’s movie video rental history and attempted to paint a psychological profile of the judge. This action led to Congress enacting the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act.
Matt Stoller / @matthewstoller
Matt Stoller was fellow at the Open Markets Institute, where he researched the history of the relationship between concentrated financial power and the Democratic party in the 20th century. Prior to joining the Open Markets program, he spent six years on Capitol Hill, most recently as a senior policy advisor to the Senate Budget Committee where he focused on trade, competition policy, and financial services. He has helped author legislation on Federal Reserve reform, the concentration of power among banks, and the restructuring of our trading arrangements. In addition to his work on the Hill, he has produced for MSNBC and starred in an FX political comedy show with Russell Brand. His writing has appeared in the Atlantic, the New York Times, Vice, Salon, The New Republic, and The Nation.