Harper's Publisher Rages at Google for Not Understanding What He Means, Yells at Internet: "Hey! This Ain't a Library!"


John MacArthur, the publisher of the venerable Harper's magazine, which still resists free online content, is peeved at Google. And for good reason!

I had to cheer when I read the news the other week about a French company that's selling an ad-blocking service on the Internet. Xavier Niel, the entrepreneurial owner of the web-service provider Free, is threatening to smash the advertiser-supported "free-content" model. That model has transformed Google's Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt into media barons who make William Randolph Hearst look like a small-time operator. Niel, it seems, would also like to make the Internet "free," but in a way that horrifies the so-called content providers — that is free of paid advertising.

….I've long objected to Google's systematic campaign to steal everything that isn't welded to the floor by copyright….

This for-profit theft is committed in the pious guise of universal access to "free information," as if Google were just a bigger version of your neighborhood public library…

This is nonsense, of course. Google's bias for search results that list its own products above those of its competitors is now well-known, but equally damaging, and less remarked, is the bias that elevates websites with free content over ones that ask readers to pay at least something for the difficult labor of writing, editing, photographing, drawing, and painting and thinking coherently. Try finding Harper's Magazine when you Google "magazines that publish essays" or "magazines that publish short stories" — it isn't easy.

A couple of years back, in the context of MacArthur's very progressive attempt to keep his staff from unionizing, I noted:

People whose intellectual lives began this century might know this venerable publication Harper's, available to most only on "paper," as but a dim memory. But trust me, as someone who has felt its intensely frightening weight in my very hands this very month, it's out there. And someday, you might find that out for yourself. (The New York article effectively mocks MacArthur's fear and hatred of using the Web as a way to communicate with readers, make money, or allow the world to know the mag still exists.)

I took on Harper's peculiar anti-market snobbery in the previous century.