Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.
“If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.” —George Orwell
“As the preliterate confronts the literate in the postliterate arena, as new information patterns inundate and uproot the old, mental breakdowns of varying degrees–including the collective nervous breakdowns of whole societies unable to resolve their crises of identity–will become very common.” —Marshall McLuhan (1969)
In her 1951 work, “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” Arendt wrote of refugees: “The calamity of the rightless is not that they are deprived of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, or of equality before the law and freedom of opinion, but that they no longer belonged to any community whatsoever.” The loss of community has the consequence of expelling a people from humanity itself. Appeals to abstract human rights are meaningless unless there are effective institutions to guarantee these rights. The most fundamental right is the “right to have rights.”
“As I’ve written before, the conservative moral system is based on the metaphorical idea of a Strict Father Family. In this metaphor, the strict father figure makes the rules and enforces them. It’s the job of everyone else to do as he says. If they don’t, it’s his job to punish them painfully enough so that they will do as he says in the future. Zero tolerance! Authority is justified. Winners deserve to win; losers deserve to lose. Winners are better than losers.”
“It is also a mistake to think that it is only in countries with weak institutions and immature political systems that thieves and goons can reach the most important positions. What we are seeing today in the United States and in many European countries that have long democratic traditions simply shows that no nation is immune to the rise of a kakistocracy. Internet searches for this word, derived from ancient Greek, have seen a huge boom since Donald Trump got to the White House.
Like all good illusionists, the kleptocrats know how to distract us from looking at their misdeeds and the kakistocrats know how to distract us from their ineptitude. They do it by talking to us about ideology and attacking those of their rivals. While we watch and play our part in these ideological circuses, they steal. Or tinker with government policies they don’t really understand.”
Anti-Social Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy by Siva Vaidhyanathan – review
“Although Facebook has become a leviathan, that simply means that it can only be tamed by another leviathan, in this case, the state. Vaidhyanathan argues that the key places to start are privacy, data protection, antitrust and competition law. Facebook is now too big and should be broken up: there’s no reason why it should be allowed to own Instagram and WhatsApp, for example. Regulators should be crawling over the hidden auctions it runs for advertisers. All uses of its services for political campaigns should be inspected by regulators and it should be held editorially responsible for all the content published on its site.”
“Before Twitter, before algorithmic timelines filtered our reality for us, before surveillance capitalism, there was RSS: Really Simple Syndication … RSS was an essential part of Web 1.0 before surveillance capitalism (Web 2.0) took over.”
“We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” —Father John Culkin (1967) A Schoolman’s Guide to Marshall McLuhan, Image by @BryanMMathers