Friday, October 10, 2014

Franklin Foer: "Stop Amazon, Keep Publishing Exactly As It's Always Been!"

I promised myself I wasn’t going to blog about Franklin Foer’s New Republic piece on how Amazon is an evil monopoly and must be stopped and we’re all enslaving ourselves by shopping there blah blah blah. None of it is remotely new or original or even coherent, and at some point I get tired of pointing out the same deficiencies in these clone articles. But there was one line of bullshit so breathtaking I just had to call it out.

Look, if Foer wants to claim Amazon is a “monopoly,” that’s just routine thoughtlessness, akin to a child being irrationally afraid of the bogeyman. But then he goes on to make a claim that can only be the product of shocking ignorance or brazen deceit:

That term [monopoly] doesn’t get tossed around much these days, but it should.

Holy shit, “Amazon is a monopoly” doesn’t get tossed around much these days?! Did Foer even read the George Packer piece he cites in his own article, in which Packer repeatedly plays the “Amazon is a monopoly!” fear card? Has he ever heard of the “Authors Guild” or “Authors United,” each of which has repeatedly, explicitly, accused Amazon of being a monopoly? Has he read David Streitfeld in the New York Times, or Laura Miller in Salon? I’ve seen countless posts with titles like, Amazon: Malignant Monopoly or Just Plain Evil? I’ve seen op-eds in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, all peddling the same tired, tendentious fear-mongering line about Amazon being a monopoly. Seriously, just Google “Amazon Hachette Monopoly” and see what you come up with.

I see three general possible explanations for Foer’s remarkably inaccurate claim.

1.  Foer is embarrassingly ignorant of the subject he’s trying to cover. He doesn’t read the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal; he’s never heard of the Authors Guild or Authors United; the blogosphere exists only in some sort of inaccessible parallel dimension; he’s failed to do even the most elementary online research… he just doesn’t have a clue regarding what he’s writing about.

2.  Foer is aware of how hoary the “Amazon is a monopoly” meme has become and wants to repeat it, but doesn’t want to admit he has nothing new to say. So he pretends he’s the first person to be possessed of this refreshingly original argument.

3.  Foer is aware of how hoary the “Amazon is a monopoly” meme has become, but believes no other activist, not even the Authors Guild or Authors United or the New York Times David Streitfeld, has been sufficiently alarmist about how close The Amazon Monopoly Is To Enslaving Us All (look at the first sentence of the article: “let us kneel down before” Amazon). So when he says, more or less, “No one else is talking about this,” he really believes it, because he believes no one else is adequately conveying just how terrifying it all is.

4.  Foer knows perfectly well that “Amazon is a monopoly” is about as ubiquitous a meme today as “Obama’s birth certificate was faked and he is a Secret Marxist Muslim Socialist” was just recently. But he also knows you can lend an air of false gravitas to bogus claims and conspiracy theories by implying the mainstream media is too cowed to Speak The Truth, while you are doing something bold, daring, and even dangerous by comparison.

I try to subscribe to the notion that we should never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity. But really, is it possible to write a 3000-word article—with references to articles that themselves claim Amazon is a monopoly—and genuinely believe “the term monopoly doesn’t get tossed around much these days”? I’d like to believe that Foer is just ignorant, and that the correct explanation is #1. But… wow. That’s pretty damn ignorant.

All right, what the hell, we’ve come this far. Just a few more thoughts on the rest of the article, though I don’t know why I’m spending the time, because anyone who claims no one else is accusing Amazon of being a monopoly has already disqualified himself from being taken seriously.

Sure, Barnes and Noble and other chains have long charged fees for shelf placement, but Amazon has invented a steroidal version of that old practice.

Let me translate that: “Amazon offers more value than B&N did, so charges more for it.”

In other breaking news: Janet Evanovich charges her publisher more for her books than I charge mine because she sells more copies, and she is therefore a monopoly. Somebody, get the government to break up Janet Evanovich so I can compete!

(I’ll have more to say below about the reactionary tendency to blame Amazon for the very behavior incumbents like B&N have long behaved in and continue to behave in.)

The New York Times has reported that Amazon apparently wants to increase its cut of each e-book it sells, from 30 percent to 50…

Somehow, Foer left out “but of course, no one really knows. And even if we did know, it would be incoherent to discuss hypothetical percentages if we don’t also have information about wholesale and retail prices.”

Random House joined Penguin to form a mega-house, which controls 25 percent of the book business…

A “mega-house”? That’s bad, right? Because now “the culture will suffer the inevitable consequences of monopoly—less variety of products”?

Hmm, apparently not. The New York “Big Five” cartel magically ensures variety. While the company that invented Kindle Direct Publishing, enabling all authors to publish whatever they want, is killing variety. Who knew?

This upfront money [the advance] is the economic pillar on which quality books rest, the great bulwark against dilettantism…

Indeed, every first-time novel—pretty much by definition written without an advance or even a realistic hope of legacy publication—was written by a “dilettante.” Good to know. Also good to know that authors don’t write quality books—the advances do that!

This is a classic case of one of the logical fallacies I find most interesting among people fearful of change: the tendency to conflate an important function (authors making money from their work) with the traditional means by which that function has been fulfilled (the advance). I can’t believe I’m still having to repeat this to the Foers of the world, but… the advance is one way by which authors have been compensated. It doesn’t follow, either logically or empirically, that it is the only way.

But no bank or investor in its right mind would extend that kind of credit to an author, save perhaps Stephen King.

Again, could somebody help me understand how all those first books get written? No advance, no credit, and yet…

And “no bank” would extend “that kind of credit”? Does Foer realize he’s talking about an average of $5000? No bank? Really? And “no investor”? Hmm, well, if only someone would invent a modern, web-based way of raising capital. Where someone could explain the project, solicit investors… and maybe they could name it, I don’t know, “Kickstarter,” something like that.

Or if only someone would invent a means of reaching readers that didn’t require gatekeepers and advances of credit in the unreachable average amount of $5000. Something that would enable authors to publish themselves. We could even call it… self-publishing!

Amazon might decide that it can only generate enough revenue by further transforming the e-book market—and it might try to drive sales by deflating Salman Rushdie and Jennifer Egan novels to the price of a Diet Coke.

Yep. Or it might try to drive sales by putting all its marketing muscle behind Snooki and 50 Shades of Grey.

Oh wait, someone else is already doing that. The guardians of rich literary culture, the bulwarks against dilettantism, the guarantors of a greater variety of quality books, etc.

But the tendentiousness in Foer’s argument isn’t even what’s most interesting about it. What’s implicit is even more so: that it would actually be bad if more people could afford to buy books by Salman Rushdie and Jennifer Egan. How is this view any different from the arguments that must have been made against the Vulgate Bible, or the Gutenburg printing press? “Tsk, isn’t this just going to make reading more accessible to the unwashed masses?”

If you haven’t read it already, I can’t recommend highly enough this article by Clay Shirky about the aristocratic, elitist, narcissistic worldview always inherent in the minds of people like Foer.

Or [Amazon] can continue to prod the publishing houses to change their models, until they submit.

Or even until they reform, perhaps by offering authors a more equitable digital split, and paying authors more often than twice a year, and permitting publication terms shorter than “forever,” and dropping the draconian rights lock-ups from their contracts, and by finding ways to give readers greater choice and access and lower prices, and all the other things they could do if they were interested more in competing and less in complaining.

Either way, the culture will suffer the inevitable consequences of monopoly—less variety of products and lower quality of the remaining ones.

To paraphrase David Gaughran, this would be a really interesting (and possibly even accurate) point if no one had ever invented digital books and self-publishing.

As for the notion that readers are so untermenschen that they can’t determine for themselves what constitutes a “quality” book, again, you’ve got to read that Clay Shirky article.

This is depressing enough to ponder when it comes to the fate of lawn mower blades.

Not nearly as depressing as reading the same recycled, inaccurate, thought-free memes year after year after year.

In confronting what to do about Amazon, first we have to realize our own complicity.

Well, no, we don’t. First we have to read all the good free advice people like Hugh Howey and Joe Konrath have offered publishers, and ask why it’s all been ignored in favor of collusion and non-stop whining.

We’ve all been seduced by the deep discounts, the monthly automatic diaper delivery, the free Prime movies, the gift wrapping, the free two-day shipping, the ability to buy shoes or books or pinto beans or a toilet all from the same place. But it has gone beyond seduction, really. We expect these kinds of conveniences now, as if they were birthrights.

Um, okay, I guess, but couldn’t you can say the same about antibiotics and flush toilets and ice cream straight from the freezer? Why isn’t Foer up in arms that people just expect they can drive to the supermarket for fresh milk, damn it, rather than having to get up in the cold and dark at 4:00 a.m. to milk their own cow?

I could leave that as a rhetorical question, but it isn’t really. There’s an answer. Which is: people like Foer are afraid of change. If Foer had been born in a different generation, he would have written similar screeds inveighing against the horrors of the cotton gin, the automobile, the telephone, etc. Foer’s mentality is always inherent in a percentage of the population; it just expresses itself slightly differently depending on what happens to be the latest devil of progress that’s poised to End Civilization And All That Is Good.

But while that meritocratic theory might be true enough for a search engine or social media site, Amazon is different.

Oh, yes. Every new change that terrifies people inherently afraid of change is different. Every single one, throughout history. I’m serious: name a single significant social or technological change ever, anywhere, that wasn’t accompanied by Luddites and other alarmists declaring, “Yes, but this one is DIFFERENT.”

Unchallenged monopolists have little incentive to disrupt industries they already control.

True! Which is why the New York “Big Five” has long been such a boiling cauldron of innovation.

Regarding the long section on how government intervention helped IBM and Microsoft, and allowed Google to grow… actually, it was my novels that helped all these companies. The third was published in 2004, and if you’ll check the timeline, you’ll see that Google’s stock price is built on my publication dates. QED.

Still, if we don’t engage the new reality of monopoly with the spirit of argumentation and experimentation that carried Brandeis, we’ll drift toward an unsustainable future, where one company holds intolerable economic and cultural sway.

How can someone write something like that… and not be referring to the New York “Big Five”?

Another seeming rhetorical question that actually has an answer. People who are fearful of change correspondingly worship the status quo—because the status quo, by definition, doesn’t change. It doesn’t matter whether the status quo is good or bad; what matters is just that it represents the absence of change, and therefore must be supported. So even though all the bad things reactionaries like Foer fear from Amazon in the future—too much power, too little variety, too little innovation—already exist courtesy of the New York “Big Five” cartel, Foer is as happy with the present as he is fearful of the future. Because if there’s one thing the Big Five has always stood for, it’s keeping things exactly the way they are. And if you’re possessed of a sufficiently reactionary personality, there’s no better narcotic than that.


Arphaxad said...

None of it is remotely new or original or even coherent, and at some point I get tired of pointing out the same deficiencies in these clone articles.

Please don't stop. It is a typical tactic of the intellectually deficient mobs to wear down opposition by repeating the same lie over and over again, until it is the only "truth" being told and the public will then believe it without question.

We, the fact seeking public, need voices like yours to keep shouting from the roof tops, or blogs, that this kind of feces is not truth.

Unknown said...

There’s one thing the Big Five has always stood for, it’s keeping things exactly the way they are, barring the gates to new authors and if they allow entrance- stealing all their profits. The war between Hachette/Amazon only hurst new authors, not established authors like James Patterson, Doug Preston, others who have made a ton of money and are now on their way out. Brick & mortar book chains have gone the way of the dodo as everything moves online. Hachette and remaining traditional publishers need to adapt or die. Amazon no longer big kid on the block with Ali Baba who is now getting into the online publishing game. Publishing online is like trying to find a minnow in a vast ocean but at least it offers new authors, non agent represented authors a shot at publishing where traditional publishers have slammed their doors to anyone but established authors like Patterson, Preston etc.

shugyosha said...

Random House joined Penguin to form a mega-house, which controls 25 percent of the book business…

I'm calling bullshit. Author Earnings and the fact the "book business" includes... Amazon, indie shops, B&N, homepage publishers, vanity scams, PoD copiers, distribution, covers, editing...

We’ve all been seduced by the deep discounts, the monthly automatic diaper delivery, the free Prime movies, the gift wrapping, the free two-day shipping, the ability to buy shoes or books or pinto beans or a toilet all from the same place.

The only thing above I have is "deep discounts in books". Among other things because books are, by and large, way cheaper in the US. And yet, and even though packaging isn't as good as it was, nor is delivery... I buy amazon. Why? Because when Andromeda books had the snail mail catalog it had, delivered the way it did... amazon was already a click away. And Andromeda was good, relatively. [*]

Gimme something equivalent, and I'll go for it. was... for a while. Bookdepo... became amazon. Why wasn't it bought by WHSmith (it was British, after all). Or those SOBs at Penguin.[+] Or MS, Target...

How can someone write something like that… and not be referring to the New York “Big Five”?

He lives in DC. QED.

Take care.

[*] UK SF bookstore.
[+] The guys who published 'No easy day' can't call the moral card on me. No way, no how. And I could go on on other things, but that's a pretty known item.

Unknown said...

To echo an above comment, is it entirely necessary to continue pointing out these fallacies? Probably not. Do I want you to stop? NEVER!

But, I do find myself continually wondering about something. I wrote a piece on Amazon as a monopoly 18 months ago, where I asked a question I'm still very much confused by today:

How can all of these people completely misunderstand what a monopoly actually is and how one operates? You frame it as one of ignorance and/or malice, but there is still a large pool of people that should/could be considered thoughtful who seem entirely unable to grasp the actual idea of a monopoly. Or the difference between a monopoly and a monopsony.

Pre-internet, if a TV studio didn't like a contract with Time Warner, there were no other options available to get that content to consumers. Likewise, cable companies colluded on territory rights, and in many areas, consumers only had one option for cable TV. Because of the fact that they controlled both sides, and because they provided constantly diminishing service quality in exchange for increased prices, cable companies were rightfully (or should have been) dubbed monopolies.

Publishers control the content and there's literally NOTHING forcing them to distribute through Amazon. There's also nothing forcing consumers to purchase through Amazon.

Plus, regardless of the fact that Amazon is in no way a monopoly, even if they were, these same people never comment on the fact that being a monopoly is not inherently bad for a free-market (as long as they don't lower quality and raise prices). In many cases, it can be an excellent driver of both standards and innovation.

So do you really think this is entirely ignorance or malice? Is everyone who screams this crap either completely uninformed or simply spewing self-interested propaganda? Fear obviously plays a large part too, but I can't wrap my head around why this is a continuing topic. Factually speaking, it's absurd.

John Ellsworth said...

The monopolization of Amazon by wannabe journalists is like crabgrass.

As a retired (thank the heavens!!) lawyer, it is inconceivable to me that the press has yet to figure out that a monopoly, in and of itself, is not illegal. Nor are monopolies necessarily controlled by Sherman.

The Sherman Antitrust makes some (BUT NOT ALL) monopoly behavior illegal. Under the Sherman Act monopoly power is considered the ability of a business to control a product price or to exclude a competitor from doing business within its product market or geographic market.

Next case.

John Gorman said...

My wife wrote a book that came out in 2009. We know several authors who had "been published" in the traditional sense. The upside to working with a publisher just didn't exist.

Since we believed in her book, we invested in it by hiring an editor, a book designer, doing a significant print run, securing the ISBN stuff, and essentially setting ourselves up as publishers.

Instead of receiving an advance, we put out quite a bit of money to control future revenues and (hopefully) profits.

Amazon has been great. Sara's book is a steady seller, and she is paid by Amazon every month. She now sells more copies on Kindle than in paperback, but 70% of $9.99 is far better than what a publisher would cut her in on.

Add in Nook Press, Google Play, and iBooks, and her book has reached more people in more worldwide locations that could have been possible before Amazon shook things up.

And the best thing? She made back her investment in about a year. Since then, the mailbox money has been gravy.

Deb said...

I prefer "Just Plain Evil." It allows for so much more scope.

The folks who write these articles must have a "master list" of terrify-words to work from. Monopoly, culture, the novel...there is probably a Central Office somewhere who checks their content for the proper use of the proper buzzwords.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

It's a campaign, Barry. And like any campaign, the people helping you wage your war continue to spew the same lies until they're accepted as truth.

Fortunately, it seems that most readers are either unaware of any of this or just don't give a damn.

Matt Iden said...

Foer has two books out. One is published by Hachette, the other by Harper Collins.

When a "journalist" WITHOUT a personal stake in this steps forward, wake me up.

Unknown said...

Variety? Really? I mean, this debate has already wandered way beyond the bounds of reason, but claiming that traditional publishing will provide more variety than indy is just... insane.
That's like saying Saks Fifth Avenue is better than Wal-Mart because Saks is cheaper.

BFuniv said...

The guardians of rich literary culture . . . putting marketing muscle behind Snooki and 50 Shades of Grey

He is casting stones from inside a glass tower.

Unknown said...

I'm just laughing about him calling Amazon a monopoly and later, saying:

"Random House joined Penguin to form a mega-house, which controls 25 percent of the book business…"

He wants it both ways, it seems.

Unknown said...

Foer fails to mention that he has a book published by Hachette recently, and the entire situation there that would suggest he has a bias.

Barry, don't get too stressed. It's like reading Streitfeld. You can't respond exhaustively to every article, because you'd be spending hours a day doing it. I think you did a pretty good job discrediting Foer right off the bat.

Ken Prescott said...

"As a retired (thank the heavens!!) lawyer, it is inconceivable"

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

antares said...

This is depressing enough to ponder when it comes to the fate of lawn mower blades.

What the hell does this mean? Can somebody please explain this to me.

jens said...

Hmm. Can we zoom out for a minute?

Digital disruption has a proven history of creating siloed monopolies. Who's number two after Google? Who's number two after AirBnB? Who's number two after Uber?

You are right that Amazon is not a monolopy.


But that does not mean we should not be concerned about how the power Amazon wields could one day corrupt. Because just as New York publishers have abused their power for decades, Amazon, with the same power, would in the end be no different.


J.M. Porup

Anonymous said...

The problem with their collective use of the word “monopoly” is, that’s all they’re doing, throwing the word around.

Throwing it around without the slightest understanding or care in its meaning.

Not that they’d want to consult a real lawyer about it first.

David T List said...

First of all, @jens (above), "Because just as New York publishers have abused their power for decades, Amazon, with the same power, would in the end be no different."

That is one hell of an assumption. But perhaps you're just trolling, typing words to get clicks to your site, which you kindly posted for all to see. I pass.

Secondly, and more importantly,

Barry, I was hoping one of you fellas would take apart this stream of drivel (although the comments on the actual article are pretty enlightened ... well, some are).
I never know who all listens to or actually believes bullshit like this. But when a person comes to me quoting it, I'm glad I have a couple of actual knowledge sources to point them toward.

I love that you point out the avg advance of $5k then mention Kickstarter. I raised $5k on Kickstarter last December and used it to professionally edit and illustrate and published my debut novel. Dilettantism averted?

Thanks Barry.

Unknown said...

I enjoyed his glowing section about Resale Price Maintenance agreements. I don't understand these people. I've seen folks throwing around terms like "restraint of trade" with respect to what Amazon's doing (or not) with Hachette published books. But agency type agreements are inherently a restraint of trade in an actual legal sense. The Supreme Court has said so. If he wants to quote early 20th century SCOTUS members, how about Justice Charles Evans Hughes from the majority decision in a 1911 case that ruled against one of those deals:

"The agreements are designed to maintain prices after the complainant has parted with the title to the articles, and to prevent competition among those who trade in them."

And my favorite (no obscure legalese here):

"That these agreements restrain trade is obvious."

If you're going to come at me with arguments that something must be done in an anti-trust enforcement sense, don't do it championing a strategy that's equally if not even more questionable that what you're alleging needs to be stopped.

This whole notion that manufacturers should get to dictate the price customers will pay to retailers with no recourse to change them is extraordinarily dangerous and stupid. I don't think these people have thought the implications of that through at all. It's far more terrifying than anything Amazon could realistically do. Do they think something like that, codified by government, would stay confined to the book industry? It flattens retail competition, effectively eliminating retailers over time. Service is great and all but when everybody has the same price, the path of least resistance wins out in the end. A huge part of our economy is retail. This would end up costing a ton of jobs and jack up prices on everything at the same time. These folks need to take their damn blinders off and realize there's an entire world out there that doesn't care about their problems. And we're not in a hurry to screw ourselves so Hachette can sell ebooks for a few dollars more.

Unknown said...


"Digital disruption has a proven history of creating siloed monopolies. Who's number two after Google? Who's number two after AirBnB? Who's number two after Uber?"

No research needed; the answers are MSN/Bing, HomeAway/VRBO, and Lyft.

And, again, please enlighten us as to how a "siloed" monopoly like Google or AirBnB is somehow bad for consumers? There seems to be tremendous confusion between "monopoly" and innovator of disruptive market.

jens said...


May I suggest you attack the argument, and not the person? You'll find it keeps the conversation a good deal more civil.

And here's the argument: Power corrupts. Always. Everyone. Everywhere. Amazon / America / the Catholic Church / Standard Oil are not angels who are somehow exempt from this law of human nature.

If Amazon had the same power as New York publishers, you can bet they would act in just a predatory a manner.

The current tension between Amazon and New York is a good thing; but when Amazon flattens the Big Five, well...something wicked this way comes.


The existence of competitors does not signify competition. Any vertical without competition is bad for both consumers and providers. (Do a quick bing--I mean, a quick google--for how Uber treats its drivers.)


J.M. Porup

Angry_Games said...

"If Amazon had the same power as New York publishers, you can bet they would act in just a predatory a manner."

It's hard to keep from attacking the person instead of the argument when the person makes such an ignorant blanket statement.

I'm glad that you believe that your view of Amazon is the correct one and that everyone else is wrong. I'm also glad that you are so convinced that you are correct that you aren't afraid to run around the internet writing it to anyone and everyone who might read it.

However, as you probably know, but refuse to admit (or maybe you've fooled yourself, I don't know, I'm guessing, based on your comment(s)), blanket statements are ignorant, foolish, and rarely (if ever) have any quantifiable proof within them.

"All pit bull dogs are vicious and like to bite little kids"

"All Africa-Americans are lazy/drug dealers/criminals/welfare queens"

"All persons from the south are inbred/hillbillies/bible-thumpers"

"All Mexicans work in landscaping/housekeeping"

I mean, I could go on, but I'm pretty sure that if you have an ounce of honesty within you, you'll admit that your statement was more than likely borne out of a snap emotional moment instead of something you truly believe to be factually and conclusively true.

(please tell me you don't truly believe what you wrote about Amazon, and if you do, please re-read what I've written to understand how foolishly ignorant blanket statements are)

Now, if you want people to attack the argument, come to the table with a real argument. "Amazon would be evil too!" is not an argument. It's what sheep repeatedly bleat to each other on the internet because they don't have a real argument (see Barry's post that we're commenting on to see a perfect example).

Angry_Games said...

Second, "The existence of competitors does not signify competition. Any vertical without competition is bad for both consumers and providers. (Do a quick bing--I mean, a quick google--for how Uber treats its drivers.)" is ridiculously ridiculous (yes, I just said that).

I'm not sure how you can believe that Amazon has competitors but doesn't have actual competition. Please explain this without using Uber or any other example beyond Amazon and Amazon's competition.

But I'll make it easy for you:
1. If I don't want to buy a product on Amazon, I can buy it at at least 10 other online stores, and unless it is a specialized item, I can buy it locally from at least 2-5 other stores.

2. See #1

3. See #2 then #1

4. Seriously. See #3, then #2, then #1.

5. Learn what a monopoly (and a monosopy) is before you make statements that paint Amazon as a monopoly.

6. Quick monopoly lesson: If Amazon shut all of its doors, all over the world, one hour from now, and no one on the planet could order a single item from them, would that mean the only retailer/distributor has closed up and the product(s) you are seeking cannot be purchased anywhere else in the world (or in your country/locality)?

Answer: If Amazon was to disappear into the nether one hour from now, you would still be able to buy everything you could have purchased prior to this event, EXCEPT Amazon-branded items.

So, NO, Amazon is not a monopoly, and no, Amazon is not a company that has no competition. Amazon has a ton of competition. You need to learn the difference between competition, and competitive edge

(Meaning: when a company competes and competes terribly, or doesn't understand its market, or doesn't invest profits to evolve the company to keep up with the evolution of the market, it does not make the "better" or "bigger" company a monopoly.

It also means people on the internet need to learn the definitions of the words they use to make foolish blanket statements in an attempt to argue a point.)

ryan field said...

Your post, Barry, was so articulate and spot on I'm not even going to elaborate. I'm just commenting in support.

Unknown said...

I laughed indecently loud while reading this whole post - especially the part where we deserve not to have to get up at four am to milk the cow.

Oh my god, Barry, you are witty and brilliant, and Foer needs to update his rhetoric.