Feb 7Liked by Brink Lindsey

I want to like this, but there's a lot of problems:

1) You paint the past as far better than it was, to make the pressent seem more of an abberation than it was. The Printing Press did not, arguably, make us smarter- at least not at first. It lead to centuries of religious warfare (remember, Guttenber started with the Bible, and translation of the Bible into the vernacular- aided by the printing press- was one of the many schisms between Protestant and Catholic). It took quite a while for reading and writing to become "respectable" in the way we now think of it.

As for your point about Lincoln-Douglas: those debates coincided with penny dreadfuls, full of tales of 'orrible murder and depraved crime. They were followed a few years later by the era of yellow journalism- an era that you could have cited to bolster your point about competition leading to error, but you ignore (because it goes against your point about the good old days of media and the virtues of the printed word, perhaps?)

And, on the subject of oration: I know a few people who love 8 hour YouTube documentaries that are just one person talking. Or three hour podcasts where people go back and forth. For all that some of the populations attention has diminished (and does seem, on net, to have diminished overall) I think a good argument must account for or at least try to explain away these continuities.

If one wants to use history to bolster their argument, then one needs to account for history in its totality, not the most flattering examples.

2) "you therefore may not realize that anything more satisfying than a video game even exists."

It's 2022, The Last of Us has been turned into a series that will win Emmies, and we're still on this?

Ah, yes, video games. Those childish amusements, that obviously have no artistic value (well... except for Braid. And Portal. And Chrono Trigger. And Wind Waker. And... well, I could go on for days, but I believe the point is clear). They contain no reading (well... except for visual novels. And text based games. Oh, and those RPGs sure are wordy). There is nothing deeper to engage with and analyze (because video games have not been the subject of essays... right?)

Actually, now that I've mentioned essays: how cavalier you are in dismissing deeper engagement with television, radio, and film. It's not like whole academic disciplines are devoted to "reading" these "texts" or anything. And, sure, once again, many people DON'T engage with them on a deeper level, but if anything the internet has popularized deep textual anaylsis of non-textual works.

You could have at least tried to make some kind of argument like, "People write books about Citizen Kane- do you honestly think that they will do so with Marvel movies?"

It would have at least bosltered your "everything has gotten worst" point.

3) Let's talk about "the golden age of American policy." Who was it a golden age *for*?

Well, certainly not many African Americans, who were under the segregationist policies of Jim Crow in the South and expierienced redlining- a business policy- nationwide. Women weren't doing so great either. Nor were people who were gay. Oh, and let's not forget Native Americans- the protests that happened at the end of the 60s showed the failure of those policies.

Interestingly, while the article you link does talk at length about the seriousness of the Petagon Papers (and I am awfully glad that they thought so very "seriously" about lying to the American public and sending teenagers to die in a war on false pretenses), it doesn't talk much (I actually didn't see it talk about this at all, but maybe I missed a sentence) about the civil rights movement, women's liberation, gay liberation, etc etc, and how these movements showed the failures and blindspots of the "golden age".

So, in conclusion:

I think you do have a point about competition being bad for media truth. Given a choice, many will go to the person who tells them what they want to hear.

But in making this point, you rely on ignoring inconvenient information and historical realities. You snobbishingly deingrate all but reading, without critically examining print media in its totality. You commit the same sins you find in others: telling people a flattering story over a far messier truth.

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Feb 7Liked by Brink Lindsey

"How do we put the fire out?"

I would love to see some ideas for this.

Maybe someone with a substack called The Permanent Problem already has some ideas (theirs or others) about possible solutions?

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Feb 7Liked by Brink Lindsey

Remarkable essay, Mr. Lindsey. Thank you. I was just thinking this morning about how much the entertainment industry has affected, even created, bad policing. Showing quality "peacekeeping" just doesn't hold the attention of viewers, but perhaps Hollywood should have more impulse control over profit-making before it shoves a steady diet at us of cops-as-thugs.

This media piece also puts the screws to political "entertainment." I read once that a former Fox executive admitted that the presentation of info-tainment on that network was contrived purposely to be seductive, addictive, and distractive. It prevents their audience from any type of extended focus on complex issues. The running chiron, which they adopted a la CNN, is part of that. They have even analyzed which part of the screen to place certain features on, to more easily align with brain receptivity.

I have watched as the better quality journalism outlets have succumbed to the necessity of profit-making clickbait in order to grab just a part of their former audience. Even the Guardian succumbs occasionally. The Google News algorithms are hogged by Fox, which uses clickbait headlines liberally. Some people never do climb out of their social media silos and are passively fed their "reality."

And it is disturbing to see my left wing friends prefer MSNBC. Although that venue does place more value on accurate reporting, their use of "talking heads" is often too manipulative for my taste.

You are correct in saying that "good old days" of TV news reporting were prone to manipulation, propaganda, and omission of information in service to the party line. But the one thing we had then was that the networks were forced to maintain fairly high standards of journalism, in that they self-monitored or monitored one another. Facts were facts, more often than not. There was little indulging in opinion pieces, which were designated time slots. The contemporary Wild West of the internet creates an audience which while complaining endlessly of partisan news, finds it difficult to distinguish opinion from fact -- especially when it fits one's own paradigm of belief.

And like others on this thread, I ask the question: just how do we save ourselves? We are on a relentless slide toward autocracy -- perhaps with the current oligarchy we have already arrived.

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Feb 7Liked by Brink Lindsey

That was an outstanding essay! You did, however, leave out one critical puzzle piece, education. Over time, an embarrassingly smaller and smaller segment of the population comes out of the public education system with critical thinking skills. When I was working I was generally gifted with a 2 hr/day commute. My radio was always tuned to the local NPR station. As for TV, PBS. And yes, I always responded to their respective fund raiser.

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This is a great essay, as all of them from this Substack have been. I'd go so far as to say the first many were among the most illuminating essays I've ever read on our contemporary political situation.

Two quibbles with this one, neither of which undermine your main argument but both of which seem important to historical accuracy:

1. You misattribute a quote to Les Moonves. He said that “it may not be good for America" not that "it may be bad for America."

2. You write that "[The mainstream media] assuming [the] role [of being an Anti-Fox News] while still claiming the mantle of old-style objective journalism couldn’t possibly work, and so it didn’t. The mainstream media’s authority as a reliable source of facts for both sides was wrecked." The Gallup data appear to me more ambiguous than your claim.

First, public trust of media has been on a very steady decline since 1976, almost a straight line. Second, there was already a large disparity between D's and R's trust in news media before Trump. Third, yes, Dems' trust in media shot up during the Trump years while R's trust cratered (while I's continued steadily downward), but even this last development leaves ample room for alternate explanations: for example, perhaps Trump's critical rhetoric about MSM was the larger cause. (Personally, I do tentatively agree that MSM reaction to Trump squandered their credibility with his supporters.)

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Feb 7Liked by Brink Lindsey

Great post. Disappointed you don’t have a plan to save democracy. I read Amusing Ourselves to Death last year as well and came to the same conclusion: 1) what a bore 2) his main thesis is correct

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Feb 7Liked by Brink Lindsey

Thank you for connecting all these dots. Changes will be required on many fronts. I am interested in understanding how we think. since It seems inadequate for the new information environment. One way to approach this is the new science of cognitive immunity, I think it shows a great deal of promise. https://cognitiveimmunology.net/.

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The link below is a case study (documentary) chronicling the 2016 media coverage of the early days of the presidential election to demonstrate your points. As one talking head said back then, "to understand the origins of 'fake media', you have to look at the practices of the real media." As the producer/narrator I concluded that "the media (system) is incapable of thoughtfully covering a national election". https://youtu.be/ATktPy8vOgo

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I love Star Trek, but it can be contrived.

Imagine someone saying "there is no difference between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, why are we fighting?"

But of course from everything we know in Star Trek there was a vast difference. Just as there was a vast difference between their Original Series stand ins: the USA and Soviet Union. One was an evil empire, and it's a good thing it was fought in any realistic scenario not involving contrived alien powers.

It's worth noting that the "reality based community" got the Soviet Union and communism wrong for a very long time.

Looking at our own situation, there is a class of people who want to believe politics doesn't matter. Until 2020 I was more or less on board with this view, at least I thought my impact on things was small enough that it wasn't worth my time and I often didn't even vote.

Then they locked my in my home, closed my schools, made me and my family wear a useless mask everywhere, promoted vast rioting based on genocidal racial rhetoric that they have written into policy, and passed such a degree of wasteful spending on a party line vote it destroyed the currency.

No, politics matters. And one side is WAY more correct than the other.

Imagine living in Florida these last few years instead of California. The difference in quality of life was vast. Hundreds of thousands of people have voted with their feet on this one.

I once added up everything one could save between the two states based on cost of living, taxes, and school vouchers (Florida is about to give people universal school vouchers via HB1). For a professional couple with kids, it's like winning the lottery. And they don't even teach weird queer shit to kids in elementary school.

You know what people are going to write about Trump in fifty years.

1) His time as president was prosperous. He passed a common sense tax reform and the economy did well.

2) He started no wars, pretty good for a US president.

3) While erratic, on the whole he mostly supported open schools and greater freedom during COVID, which we can all agree was the correct position.

This is the great demon?

The NYTimes did a glowing review of Fauci in their paper recently. Poster child #1 for the "reality based community". Is there any man who did more to make the pandemic worse than him?

I think implicit in this entire post is the idea that there is some community of individuals that has all the right answers and would implement them if only the carnival barkers would get out of the way.

That's nonsense. I've seen those people, they don't have the answers.

Maybe if our reality based community was more like Lee Kuan Yew (actually correct rather than thinking they are correct) some kind of moderate censorship laws would make sense. As it stands I'd be very afraid of letting our existing "reality based community" control the discource.

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

This is not one of your best. The country is divided because, well, because the country is divided. The dramatic slowdown in productivity growth, the dramatic transformation of the Great Lakes region from greater than average to less than average prosperity, the emergence of environmentalism as a major issue, putting "quality of life" ahead of economic development, the drive for racial and sexual equality, and the lack of a unifying enemy (i.e., communism) have created a society divided between blue state winners and red state losers that is very different from the "good old days", which at age 77 I remember quite well, though in fact, if you're financially comfortable, life is much better now than it used to be. In the good old days everyone except open segregationists and a few cranky businessmen benefited from New Deal liberalism. That is no longer the case. Fox News exists not because of some sort of plot, but because liberalism has not solved the problem of America's racist heritage, and the new attempts--demonizing standardized testing, for example--are both ludicrous and disastrous. The sexual revolution is also "controversial". It is not an accident that Catholics and evangelicals reject leadership roles for women in their religious establishments. Thinking that if everyone would believe everything they read in the New York Times everything would be fine is not a good idea.

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Late to the party but heard your interview today on the Enemies List and thought I would respond; I definitely want to replay that episode again!

I would love to get your take on something I've wondered about for several years: How we absorb, process information.

Now I (heart) my Kindle and iPhone and admittedly do a lot of reading of longer form articles (you know, the kind with verbs) on them. But I wonder if you did a controlled study; giving two groups of people the same ten books/magazines but one group could only read them electronically and the other group could only read hard copies . . . which group at the end of a month would score better on a quiz of material taken from these sources, and could write more detailed, intricate arguments about the stories they have read?

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