silly humans


The previous post, about the ease with which fake news spreads, reminded me of two things.

Thing one:

This thing Ben Thompson said once.

…if there is a single phrase that describes the effect of the Internet, it is the elimination of friction.

With the loss of friction, there is necessarily the loss of everything built on friction, including value, privacy, and livelihoods. And that’s only three examples! The Internet is pulling out the foundations of nearly every institution and social more that our society is built upon.

Count me with those who believe the Internet is on par with the industrial revolution, the full impact of which stretched over centuries. And it wasn’t all good. Like today, the industrial revolution included a period of time that saw many lose their jobs and a massive surge in inequality. It also lifted millions of others out of sustenance farming. Then again, it also propagated slavery, particularly in North America. The industrial revolution led to new monetary systems, and it created robber barons. Modern democracies sprouted from the industrial revolution, and so did fascism and communism. The quality of life of millions and millions was unimaginably improved, and millions and millions died in two unimaginably terrible wars.


Thing two:

The unfortunate truth about us humans, which the NYT article supports, is that we have a tendency, when our beliefs are challenged by facts, to not believe less, but, in fact, harder in those beliefs.

David McRaney, at You Are Not So Smart

For instance, one article suggested the United States found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The next said the U.S. never found them, which was the truth. Those opposed to the war or who had strong liberal leanings tended to disagree with the original article and accept the second. Those who supported the war and leaned more toward the conservative camp tended to agree with the first article and strongly disagree with the second. These reactions shouldn’t surprise you. What should give you pause though is how conservatives felt about the correction. After reading that there were no WMDs, they reported being even more certain than before there actually were WMDs and their original beliefs were correct.


So, we humans have invented the tools, and a platform, on which to spread stories at an unprecedented scale and with unprecedented ease. 

And, we have a habit, when shown that one of these stories might be false, to believe harder, and share further, the original story.

What could possibly go wrong?

how fake news spreads


 Sapna Maheshwari, writing about the spread of fake news in NYT.

Here, The New York Times deconstructs how Mr. Tucker’s now-deleted declaration on Twitter the night after the election turned into a fake-news phenomenon. It is an example of how, in an ever-connected world where speed often takes precedence over truth, an observation by a private citizen can quickly become a talking point, even as it is being proved false.


The story of how one man, with one tweet, launched a thousand thousand vessels of truthiness.


Fantastic and fantastical.

an open letter to my tennessee senators in the us congress


Dear Senator,

I was born in Mt. Juliet in 1981. My dad held down two jobs. He taught art during the week at Two Rivers and worked construction on the weekend. Sometimes, when playing baseball in the backyard, he’d toss a plum my way instead of a ball. My mom stayed at home and took care of me and my sister. Mom painted birdhouses in her spare time. Hung them in our backyard. Gave them away as Christmas presents. Cooked our dinners. Did the taxes. Raised us to believe in our hopes and dreams and God. She raised us Republican.

I grew up with Ronald Reagan. I grew up with the idea that the United States of America was a shining beacon on a hill. I grew up during Morning in America. And I believed in that story with all of my heart. I still do.

Continue reading “an open letter to my tennessee senators in the us congress”

the right way to oppose trump


John Gruber on staying focused.

Twitter is full of people talking about Mike Pence getting booed by the audience at Hamilton last night. Now Trump himself is tweeting about it, focusing news media on the incident. Booing is not meaningful opposition. But it has served to distract from a legitimate scandal: Trump settling a fraud lawsuit for $25 million yesterday. The smart opposition is focused on that today.

And the real news — what is happening this week that will have serious repercussions — is that the Trump administration is being filled with cronies, fools, and white nationalist bigots. Trump just nominated an avowed racist to head the Department of Justice and we’re talking about Mike Pence getting booed at a play? If you’re truly opposed to Trump, get serious and stay focused.

although, of course


Hello, readers.

Michael Chabon, writer of glorious essays , hilarious shenanigans , and pulpy masterpieces, has a new book out this week (at least in the US) called Moonlight.

I am literally more excited about this than anything else in the world. By which I mean that I’m not, really, but I am. Sometimes, it feels like the only thing that matters, but then, usually, I end up thinking about other things.

That’s art for you. Sometimes everything, although, of course, not.


Doree Shafrir, profiling Michael Chabon, in Buzzfeed.

The grandfather in Moonglow — who is only ever referred to as “my grandfather” — is the protagonist of the book, even though it’s told in first person through the eyes of his grandson, Mike, who is putatively Chabon. Although, of course, not.

“In a weird way, it’s a memoir of not my life, but my imaginative life, like a history of my imagination and also my experience of marriage and family, having children, even though the marriage in the book’s not like my marriage, and the parent–child relationship, that’s a stepdaughter and a stepfather,” he said. “Yet, still, I felt so much. I was reading it to submit it for the last time, and Ayelet was reading the last time, too, and we just started talking about, like, it’s weird how it feels like that grandfather’s really me in a lot of ways.”

Michiko Kakutani, reviewing Moonglow.

Mr. Chabon is one of contemporary literature’s most gifted prose stylists, and in novels like “Telegraph Avenue” and “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union,” he’s demonstrated his Jedi-like mastery, his ability to move effortlessly between the serious and the comic, the existential and merely personal. In “Moonglow,” he writes with both lovely lyricism and highly caffeinated fervor. He conjures Mike’s childhood with Proustian ardor, capturing his fond memories of his mother (who smelled of Prell shampoo, making him think of those old TV commercials showing a pearl languidly drifting through the mentholated green) and his worst boyhood fears (convinced that a gaggle of evil-looking puppets were lying in wait, plotting to kill him). He makes Oakland, Calif., in the 1970s come alive — and does the same for Baltimore in the 1950s and Florida in the late 1980s.

The book won’t arrive in the UK until January. I could, of course, buy an e-book when it comes out in the US. Although, of course, I won’t do that. Most likely, while waiting for this new book, I will return through the various wonders of Chabon’s past, tangling with my tendency towards aetataureatean delusions and flying with joy through the galactic air of his prose.

Happy reading, readers.