Links to Consider, 11/7
Anton Cebalo on the social recession; Ted Gioia and Sam Kriss on the death of clickbait; Emily Oster becomes The Thing; Michael Greve on Federalism
Anton Cebalo collects indicators of declining social engagement.
Rather than bowling alone, Americans are instead browsing alone over 7 hours daily on average and increasing every year. As of 2021, some 31% of Americans claim to be online “almost constantly.”
…When polling exclusively American millennials, a pre-pandemic 2019 YouGov poll found 22% have “zero friends” and 30% had “no best friends.”
Pointer from Niccolo Soldo. Soldo also points to Ted Gioia, who in turn points to Sam Kriss, who writes,
In the future—not the distant future, but ten years, five—people will remember the internet as a brief dumb enthusiasm, like phrenology or the dirigible. They might still use computer networks to send an email or manage their bank accounts, but those networks will not be where culture or politics happens.
…One study found that algorithmically targeted advertising performed worse than ads selected at random. This is what sustains the entire media, provides 80% of Google’s income and 99% of Facebook’s, and it’s made of magic beans.
…Whatever wokeness was, as of 2022 it’s so utterly burned out as a cultural force that anyone still grousing about it 24/7 is a guaranteed hack. More recently, there’s been worry about the rise of the ‘new right’—a oozingly digitised political current whose effective proposition is that people should welcome a total dictatorship to prevent corporations posting rainbow flags on the internet. You can guess what I think of its prospects.
Gioia’s take is more optimistic. He argues that users are getting tired of clickbait.
became The Thing a week ago. I scheduled this post back then, and maybe by now there is a new Thing. I gather from reading The Zvi’s take on the Oster article that she is talking about forgiving on all sides. That includes people who love Fauci forgiving the rest of us, too.
Substack is taking off because audiences are hungry for something more than clickable diversion in 10-second installments.
Anyway, Eugyppius writes,
Emily Oster’s latest act of moderation is the suggestion that we forgive and forget all the disastrous policies inflicted on us by terrified wealthy urbanites, clueless technocrats and mad scientist vaccinators since 2020, because, hey, these were just honest mistakes, anybody could’ve messed up like that, it’s all good.
Eugyppius proceeds to attack her position. So does Chris Bray. The most eloquent attack comes from Emily Burns.
My vote this cycle is a vote for vengeance against the party that kept my kids masked for two years; that robbed me of my best friends, and strained every relationship I have; that caused us to move to an entirely different part of the country; that perverted a discipline that I love, and which I use to navigate my life (science); and that then lied about doing it, and called me a terrorist for being upset about it. After this cycle, my vote will always be for the party that represents the most decentralized power structure, and the greatest respect for individual rights and responsibility. For me, the new f-word is “federal”.
Oster seems to want to say, “I forgive the health bureaucrats, because they did the best that they could do.” She claims that they had positive motives, but they did not know better.
Would you trust those same people now? I haven’t ready Oster’s article, so I don’t know whether she would say yes. If she would say yes, then she and I totally disagree. I think that they could have done better and should have done better.
Hypothetically (not really, I know who my readers are) you could agree with Oster that their motives were good, but you doubt their competence. That does not matter. Years ago, I decided that when you need help, bad motives vs. incompetence is a distinction without a difference. Ultimately, they bleed into one another. If you can’t rely on someone, you can’t rely on someone, end of story.
I am not saying that you can never forgive a mistake. You need to look at the person’s thought process. Do they weigh various considerations appropriately? Do they try to learn quickly? Do they avoid becoming too attached to one point of view? And so on. Consider the Fantasy Intellectual Teams scoring categories: asks Devil’s Advocate questions; thinks in bets; articulates caveats; debates fairly; can state what it would take to change their mind; evaluates research, doesn’t just amplify results that confirm one’s priors; addresses the other side’s strongest arguments, rather than pouncing on weak points.
Do you want to look inside Fauci’s heart and decide whether he was nasty or nice? I don’t care. He was un-FIT. I would have kicked him out of the room early in the pandemic. And I would kick him out of the room now.
Michael Greve returns to an important book he wrote a decade ago.
The Founders understood that the hard constitutional task isn’t really to divide powers between branches or levels of government on mere “parchment,” in Madison’s dismissive term. The hard task is to stabilize the constitutional arrangement over time. The Founders’ strategy, to repeat, was institutionalized competition.
Try as you might, though, to lock institutions into rivalry and competition: in politics as in markets, the institutional actors’ perennial temptation is to collude against citizen-consumers. The people’s agents are repeat players, and over time, they will discover institutional technologies to extract surplus. They will agree to deploy those technologies and to divvy up the surplus amongst themselves somewhere down the road. We have names for those innovations: “the administrative state.” “Cooperative federalism.”
I’d be willing to forgive if there was some expression of repentance on the other side. I don’t think any of these people think their actions were incorrect. That’s the problem. Remorse and recognition of failure are necessary for forgiveness.
It reflects poorly on Arnold that he can link to others talking about a short (5 min read?), and not even link to The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/10/covid-response-forgiveness/671879/
I read it skeptically, looking for her reasons to "forgive" the decision makers who made bad decisions, but no such reasons were there. Certainly those not seriously harmed by other non-decision makers who disagreed should try to forgive and agree that there wasn't enough info to be so sure of their own positions.
She fails to discus those who were fired for not getting vaccinated; no data on how many lives were saved by the vaccine vs how many were lost - and how the public insistence that the vaccine death rate was 0 is shown to be false by the data. Even we who believe that millions of lives were saved by the vaccine should be able to accept that thousands of lives were adversely affected by the vaccines, with many deaths.
Most of those who criticize her also fail to note how sloppy and uninformative most public discussion of COVID remains, even after almost 3 years.
What is the death rate / what is the death rate per variant (about 100 variants & subvariants)?
How infectious is it?
What are the effective ways to reduce effectiveness?
In any pandemic, what parameters are needed to be known in order to recommend a lockdown?
To mandate a lockdown?
I'm so tired of hearing "news" and "opinion" with almost nobody addressing these key questions.
We know, now, that mistakes were made. Our civilization needs to know a lot more about what those mistakes were, and what the non-mistake (decision) would look like. All alternative decisions will have good and bad points, but the conversation avoids discussing this reality and almost assumes there was some possible "nobody gets hurt" perfect decisions available.
There weren't. We need an honest discussion of what was possible.
Our politicians also need to fire - fire/ punish - those bureaucrats who were not telling the truth. We get honesty by gov't workers, including honestly "not knowing for sure", when dishonesty results in getting fired. We won't get it without the dishonest folk getting fired.
Oster seems to want to get the honesty without firing the liars; and yes, wanting more mothers to vote Dem (like she did in 2020? disastrously) again. I'm pretty sure the Dems will lose big. Not at all sure the gov't liars will be fired - but she's wrong to want them forgiven instead.