Fixing disinformation won’t save us – Ethan Zuckerman:

Blaming social media is too easy an explanation for the terrible situation we collectively find ourselves in as a nation. According to polling this week, 7 in 10 Republicans believe Biden was not legitimately elected. For many Republican politicians, there is little incentive to challenge this false narrative: due to gerrymandering, winning their primary is equivalent to winning re-election, and no one wants to alienate 70% of their voters. Whether we “fix” Facebook or YouTube, whether or not we deplatform more QAnon folk or drive militia members into encrypted chat spaces, two more years of elected leaders repeating disinformation is going to hurt us as a society.

In general, I have been feeling lately like political disinformation on the American right is not a supply problem, but rather a demand problem. People are looking for stuff that will support what they already believe, or make them feel better about themselves for believing it. Cut off the supply of the disinformation in one place, and some new source will pop up to meet the demand.

That said, I don’t think it should be just one or the other. The fact that the demand remains consistent does not mean we should not work to reduce the supply. That is especially true for social media companies like Facebook, whose business models depend on amping up and spreading this sort of garbage as widely as possible.

Sunday morning listening

I hadn’t listened to Meat Beat Manifesto’s Subliminal Sandwich in ages:

I bought it on CD when it first came out, but then there were quite a few years that I didn’t have a CD player, and the album was not available on any of the streaming services.

Happily, both of those problems have been remedied.

The Sun Collective by Charles Baxter has confirmed my decision to stop reading these types of novels.

I stopped reading Charles Baxter’s The Sun Collective earlier this week. I was about halfway through the book.

My rule of thumb is that I need to give a new novel at least 100 pages before I decide to stop reading it. For this book, I still had my doubts at the 100-page mark, but I kept plowing ahead. Reading the book was feeling increasingly like a chore, though, and I finally gave up and switched to the next novel in my pile. I find myself no longer dreading my evening reading hour, so it definitely feels like I made the right call.

The main character is an older white guy—he is married, but that relationship seems like an afterthought. Going about his mundane days, he finds himself getting drawn closer to a self-help guru and his cult that have taken up residence nearby. There is a secondary plot about a drug-addled young woman who finds herself hooking up with a homeless drifter type; he is part of the aforementioned cult, the “Sun Collective” of the book’s title.

A year or two ago, I decided that I was going to stop reading “literary fiction” by straight white men. I have mostly stuck to this rule and felt good about it, but The Sun Collective somehow slipped through. I think I read a review of it in the NYT book section, or maybe in one of the new books flyers my library sends out. I requested it from the library without really stopping to think about it. In addition to reaffirming my strategy of not finishing books that are not good, The Sun Collective has also reminded me why I decided to stop reading books by old white guys.

There are some exceptions, of course, but these books always seems like thinly-veiled fantasies. A middle-aged or older white man is dissatisfied with his life in some regard and then goes off on some rebellious quest to find himself. Along the way, there is usually some sexually attractive and available younger woman. I flip to the back of the book, take a look at the author’s photo on the dust jacket and think, “Yep—you’re writing about yourself, aren’t you?” These stories have been told a billion times, and they are tiresome. I feel like most of these authors would have gotten a much better return on their time and investment by just going to see a therapist than by continuing to churn out this type of book.

It will never stop amazing me how many people spend so much time complaining on Facebook about how terrible Facebook is.

I know that it is hard to leave—“I have to be there because that’s where all my friends are!”—but it you stay there and you keep contributing to it, then you are part of what enables it to keep going. You are part of the problem.

It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing thing. Keep your account if you feel you need to, but don’t post stuff. Don’t comment on posts you see. If you have the need to post your thoughts and opinions and stuff you find interesting, find another place to do it and point people there from Facebook. Is it more work? Sure. Will fewer people comment and give you likes? Probably, but if that possibility bothers you enough to keep you on Facebook, then maybe you don’t hate it all that much.

Adults talking to other adults like adults

I just watched Joe Biden’s full speech last night on his recovery plans:

I know a bunch of us are going to have our quibbles with the plan, and doing anything like this will require compromises that we don’t like, and also that it will inevitably get messy when it comes to implementation, but I’m pretty impressed with the scope and scale of what he’s proposing.

More than that, though, it’s hard to even put words to what a great feeling it is to have someone who speaks and acts like a grown-up.

We’ve been subjected to four years of a constant spew of lies and filth and hatred and nonsense, and now we finally have someone who is able to get smart people together and come up with actual plans, someone who isn’t afraid to tell us that it’s going to take a lot of work, and it’s going to take a lot of time. I feel like we’ve all had to get used to—at best—the absence of any leadership and assuming the worst. At the risk of stating the obvious, I’m pretty excited that that is about to change.

“Comments are turned off for this post” is always the right decision.
12 Words

The new Gatecreeper album is really good.

The first seven tracks blast by at about a minute each, a continuous assault that harkens back to old-school death metal.

Then you hit the 11-minute closing track “Emptiness”, and it’s like entering another dimension. It’s epic and textured, almost proggy in parts.

I’ve been in a death/black metal mood all week1, and this record really tops it off. I realize the genre isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if your tastes do swing in that direction, I highly recommend checking this one out.


  1. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the news and current events… 

Friday morning ambient

There’s more of a beat in some of the tracks than I tend to prefer, but it works well here. Some of the later tracks remind me a bit of the the old FSOL/Amorphous Androgynous stuff.

Eric Boehlert on the media’s Tuesday-night fantasy about Mitch McConnell and Congressional Republicans finally turning on Trump:

This is all part of a four-year Beltway media obsession with announcing the Republican Party is finally cutting ties with Trump- usually following an especially erratic and dangerous bout of behavior from him – and that the moment of “reckoning” has arrived. But it never does. The press has dedicated an extraordinary amount of time and resources over the years to advance the idea that Republicans leaders can’t sleep at night because they’re so troubled by Trump’s actions. This allows journalists to depict today’s GOP as mainstream and normal. If key GOP players are despairing over Trump, that means the Republican Party operates within the confines of established American politics. But they’re not, and they don’t.

The GOP stampede towards the Trump exits remains a mirage because Trump accurately reflects where the party is today: Xenophobic, vulgar, unethical, and uninterested in telling the truth.

It’s not happening, and it’s never going to happen. They have stood by Trump and enabled him this far, and they have to keep going.