From an article recently on the BBC Russian Service: Блокировка уходящего президента США в “Твиттере” и “Фейсбуке” привела к необычной ситуации: теоретически Трамп еще может начать ядерную войну, но не может написать твит. “Blocking the outgoing U.S. President from Twitter and Facebook has led to an unusual situation: theoretically Trump can still start a nuclear war, but cannot write a Tweet." In only a week, he won’t be able to do either.
That “reality bubbles” contribute heavily to increasing political polarization is well-known. Customized media diets at scale and social media feeds that are tailored to individual proclivities progressively narrow our understanding of perspectives other than our own. Yet, the cures are difficult and uncertain. Often, though, we’re advised to consume media from the other side of the political divide. A sentence from a recent piece in The Atlantic encapsulates why I think this is such a fraught idea:
Meritocracy has been on everyone’s minds lately, it seems. Reading Daniel Markovits’ “The Meritocracy Trap,” I was fully ready to condemn the concept completely. I may be still; but I need to take a moment to think about it more fully. Here’s the problem with condemning meritocracy outright: if we look at ability on a case-by-case basis, would you rather a well-trained, accomplished pilot or a mediocre one? Would you rather go to a concert performed by a scratchy third-rate violinist or someone whose pedigree includes Juilliard, Curtis, or the like?
He tells them every single day not to trust anyone, not to believe in the healing power of love and redemption and peace.
I really tried. Sorry, Jordan Peterson, it’s not me, it’s you.
Opposite day Trump lawyer and all-around whackadoodle Rudy Guiliani claims he’s the most ethical person ever. Of course, his association with one of the least ethical people ever suggests otherwise. Thus, it prompts me to articulate “Duncan’s Law.” Succinctly stated, if someone claims absolute superiority in some particular characteristic, his actual performance in that characteristic is actually somewhere between average and the least performant.
Trumphannity Yes. Yes, they’ve done a fine job for “you”. But what about the rest of us? Moreover, what about the “us” in perpetuity, those who will have to deal with the erosion of civic norms? I’m an atheist, but I’m familiar enough with the Christian canon that this photograph of “President” Trump with “journalist” Sean Hannity reminded me of a verse from the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 16, verse 26):
Politico has a piece today about Trump’s outrageous claims in the face of weather disasters. In almost every context, he reveals himself to be an abject fool; but lurking beneath that idiocy is another layer of loathsomeness - the complete lacking in understanding of science. I want a reporter to ask him any of the following questions about hurricanes: “Mr. Trump, can you describe for us your understanding of how hurricanes form?
A recent piece in The Atlantic by Peter Beinart filled in a cognitive gap in understanding how a large minority of U.S. citizens continue to support an abjectly incompetent, almost certainly criminal, willfully ignorant, and generally hateful man as president. The article Why Trump supporters believe he is not corrupt makes the argument that when Trump defenders concern themselves with the idea of corruption they are not thinking of political corruption so much as corruption of the purity.
This is an interesting essay in The Guardian on the idea of quarantining extremist ideas. A non-trivial proportion of the population regards the media as having a responsibility to represent all idea with equal validity. So the appearance of extremist ideas in the press, even if they are treated negatively, results in more legitimacy than they are due. The authors in this essay make a case for quarantining these extreme ideas, refusing to cover them.