I think a similar situation happens in internet chat - and many times to it leads to bad outcomes. Last year at about this time I was amazed to find that conservative Americans who had a couple of months earlier praised the COVID vaccines, became suspicious, then derisive, then strongly anti-vax. By my rough guess, this has led to the death of at least 100,000 Americans, some of them my friends.

When the Wall Street Journal published the Facebook Files, one of the last articles in the series documented that a few thousand very motivated individuals had a huge effect on the vaccine debate. These people would post a couple of thousand posts daily on various forums, especially on Facebook, but also on government web sites. Some were long, detailed and inaccurate. Many were short, sarcastic and just wanted to sow a seed of doubt. Since most people lack the expertise to read and understand the scientific literature they default to the wisdom of the crowd. In this case, it was the madness of the crowd.

I also think the same thing is happening today in reaction to the Ukraine war. For instance, on the Bari Weiss substack there are frequent arguments from people that appear to be of the Nationalist Conservative mindset. After reading their posts and looking into their claims they are functioning like Russian trolls - either intentionally or because they have gotten into an echo chamber from which they cannot escape. These people are carrying water for Putin and appear to be using their fervor to try and de-fang American resolution to stop Putin. If America is hopelessly corrupt, what business do we have trying to stop Putin? This can also lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives. Ukrainian lives now, but in a decade it may be Polish or Lithuanian lives - and possibly American lives if we honor our treaty commitments.

Expand full comment

“I have a unique point of view.” I believe you, but if you wanna make your work matter, you need to recognize how everyone else gets it wrong—even if they start out right.

Glenn Loury once called my writing “brilliant” and was “blown away” by my site and signed up. But when I took his hero to task—he instantly abandoned the principles he preaches, as Tolstoy’s truth kicked in:

“I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.”

That’s what I’m up against—that’s what we’re all up against.

Glenn Loury was a Great Man — Until He Wasn’t: https://onevoicebecametwo.life/2022/03/22/glenn-loury-was-a-great-man-until-he-wasnt/

I’m sure it’s intoxicating to amass a following and feel like you’re making a difference. But I’m gonna weigh your impact partly as a reflection of your community: How people behave — not what they “believe.” If you can’t get that right, I don’t care how big your following gets — you’re taking this nation nowhere. Not in the right direction, anyway.

This first quote below from Bari Weiss is right on the money, but her second one wildly misses the mark. I have a unique point of view too—and I’ve been practically spit on for it (in her channel and all others). And this involves irrefutable evidence of mathematical certainty (of world-altering consequence, no less).

“We are living through an epidemic of cowardice. The antidote is courage. . . . Courage means, first off, the unqualified rejection of lies. Do not speak untruths, either about yourself or anyone else, no matter the comfort offered by the mob. And do not genially accept the lies told to you. If possible, be vocal in rejecting claims you know to be false. Courage can be contagious, and your example may serve as a means of transmission.” — Bari Weiss: Some Thoughts About Courage

8 years ago, I wrote and produced a documentary on the biggest and most costly lie in modern history. I take both parties to task for it—and then some. And almost invariably, I’m met with nothing but contempt—by people who couldn’t make a sound argument on the subject to save their lives.

I found no such courage in the commentary in her channel—nor the “commitment” and “holding fast” she speaks of below:

“But we’re all here because we share some important things in common: a commitment to reason, curiosity, independence, decency, and a hunger for honest conversation. In our upside-down world, holding fast to these ideals can sometimes feel lonely. More than ever, we crave the company of people who share our core values. — Bari Weiss: Welcome to Year Two

It’s a nice gesture to bond with her audience. Unfortunately, it’s not true—in any audience.

The commentary in these communities speaks volumes about social media & the state of society: Habitually slinging self-congratulations and high praise for purveyors of virtue: Virtues that vanish the second they’re called to put them to the test.

Following facts going in the direction you desire — doesn’t count. Anybody can do that!

The smorgasbord of sub-cultures has created another dimension of delusion in America: Hardening minds not broadening them. In and of itself, the quality of the work might be excellent. But on the whole, it amounts to fodder for a fix (even for the sincere). Ever-growing exposure to never-ending battles becomes an illusion of impact.

I don’t see a single person of prominence doing any analysis on how the problems that plague America are interrelated. They’re all blunt instruments—including the ones I agree with. They all operate under umbrellas of interests that don’t account for complexities outside of them.

I’ve got an idea—and it’s got teeth. Tools that could turn the tide are in this story below—but it takes time and effort to digest. I would expect someone like yourself to respect that. I would expect the same civility from this community — and if I don’t get it, I’m gone. Losing the subscriber fee is nothing, but I assure you—the standard I set is a helluva lot higher than all these communities across the board. That’s in your best interests, and based on our background—I suspect you know that:

Unschooled in Adjustment:


Expand full comment