One emotion I felt most often during the election was pity. That someone relatively intelligent, educated, would have to wake up one morning and write a piece like this.
Talk about a reach for your revolver moment. It just seems like it would be the worst thing ever. He might be a columnist, but he was compelled, unlike everyone else, to squeeze out a rationalization for what was objectively an embarrassing failure.
I feel the same way about most of the internet. We’ve sort of bought into this myth lately that there is this coterie of bloggers who hit the lotto. They have the life. They wake up, work from home and write whatever they want. But the thing is, if they were really in control, why do they all write about the same story within minutes of each other? They’re really in chains. Chasing controversy that turns out to be fabricated, pontificating on topics they couldn’t care less about. They’ll admit it sometimes, unintentionally, when you question them about why that had to be written. We know what they’re really trying to do but we still need to go on the record about it.
Seneca would call these nice people slaves. He’d say, each time you see their byline next to a story try sadness, not envy. They won it at the cost of life.
I saw a link to some article about Apple banning Google Voice from the App store earlier this week. All I could think was I’m so glad I have no idea what they’re talking about. Plug in any scandal, hot topic, a famous person’s life story. The same.
Not caring – being without the burden – is a kind of real peace; it means having the chatter at just the right volume that you can’t make out the individual words.
While I agree with your point about bloggers, the Apple-Google thing is something that does genuinely suck…for programmers. That’s the problem, the demographic online is totally skewed towards the tech crowd. I developed an iPhone app for a startup that has yet to see the light of day because the app store continuously rejected it on ridiculous claims. Eventually, the startup just gave up on their iPhone development and focused on the Android market. It’s pretty devastating for fledgling businesses to put a lot of development time into an iPhone application only to have it rejected based off of nebulous terms of service. That being said, the supposed online “scandal” has not deterred anybody but programmers from purchasing Apple products, and it probably never will.
Assuming you were a programmer, how else would you approach the issue developers face with Apple?
One book to recommend about this: Nassim Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness. He talks at length about thinking and reasoning errors caused by maintaining the wrong signal-to-noise ratio in the information you pay attention to. His focus is on financial “news” and just how completely misleading and wrong it is — particularly when it comes to making predictions — and what the implications of that are for financial decision-makers, but the idea applies to everything. Anybody who’s on the inside of an event knows just how wrong and misleading outsider’s perceptions almost always are — particularly media observers whose agenda involves creating narrative as a way of engaging an audience (which drives ad revenue).
By the way, part of Krauthammer’s strategy here is to become a part of the story he’s telling — that’s a smart business move. Glen Beck, just to give one of a billion examples, is going down the same path with his “Obama is a racist” remark. There’s real money in this.
I don’t know, I’ll bet it’s actually pretty awesome to get up in the morning and have to read twenty new articles about how Twitter is Changing.The.Game., and then have to go write one yourself. 140 characters! So Amazing! You could never run out of things to say about it!
Reach for your revolver indeed.
“I saw a link to some article about Apple banning Google Voice from the App store earlier this week. All I could think was I’m so glad I have no idea what they’re talking about.”
So true… it’s tempting (especially with the help of web aggregation) to try be on top of every story but in the end you have to ask yourself what you really gained from spending your time that way. Sure,it is still ‘news’ and it might have some practical use, but I think more times than not it’s really just entertainment. Unless you’re directly involved in the business, how is Google Voice being banned as an app going to meaningfully affect your every day life?
Frisco I guess my point is that I’m happying I don’t care about App or iPhones period and don’t have the slightest inclination to. Maybe I’m the weirdo but I don’t why people are so driven to pack games and nifty computer programs into every facet of their life. Who has time for apps?
If the internet is Plato’s cavern, then a blogger is the person chained inside, facing a blank wall.
Screaming for attention..
Ryan, you’re an excellent writer and an intelligent individual.
However, I can’t help but wonder how much more credibility your writing might have if you didn’t bash the right with every politically related anecdote you share in your posts.
It’s funny you’d say that. I think if I had to identify with a wing, it probably wouldn’t be the left one.
I’m looking at Charles comment non-politically. I can only feel pity for someone who had to write 1,00 word defending what was one of the most stunning displays of ignorance ever on television.
I have to ask how your first example doesn’t demonstrate that you suffer the same fate of the very thing you are opining about.. and on your blog no less.
Listen, I know cringe and stew on anything related to Palin, but Krauthammer was the first to use the term “Reagan Doctrine” back in the 80’s that was ultimately the basis for Gibson’s question. He’s a Harvard-Med educated, Pulitzer Prize winning physiologist who can write about anything he wants to, anywhere, and because of your own bias you decide to lump him in with a few thousand bloggers typing in their bathrobes?
Just because you assume this wasn’t worth following doesn’t make it so.
So it is your contention that Sarah Palin evaded answering a question about the Bush doctrine because she was so well versed in all the different interpretations that she couldn’t decide between them?
If I were asked: “Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?”. I would have answered: I can’t because there is no such thing as a Bush doctrine. Bush was not a visionary, he was only a manager.
Great post. You and Ferriss have gotten me into Seneca, and I’m very appreciative of that fact.
Seneca has atrophied Ryan’s mind.
Commenter hegemonicon is right: it’s all really just entertainment. Political talk is no different than sports talk: you have teams and players and there is an incessant argument about which is better, and, right or wrong, you have to defend your team.
I heard news defined once as information that is actionable. If it’s not actionable, then the information amounts to nothing more than entertainment. There is so much information noise out there anymore that it’s difficult to find real news – information that is actionable.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the bullshit, this post was a nice reminder for me to stay on track. Thanks, Man.
Reading Walter Lippmann’s “Public Opinion” should disabuse anyone of the notion that the chatter of the masses is somehow a significant indicator of reality.
I totally agree with the point of your post, which is very much in line with your subsequent 8/11 and 8/19 posts. People know, consciously or subconsciously, that their lives lack real meaning and they try to disguise it one way or another. An easy way to do so is to appear busy by producing “content.”
So many bloggers desperately want to appear active, scholarly and involved that they will write and write, only to look like a line of hamsters in wheels responding to the same stimulus. The contribution is essentially worthless (“I agree;” “Look at this, makes you think!” etc.) and it is clearly self-serving: I have weighed in. Maybe someday I will be relevant enough that my opinion is all that matters, rather than an actual contribution.
However, I had a different reaction to your lead-in example. Obviously there is very good content on the web that is available now that would never have been before the spread of the medium, but there is also a plethora of worthless dribble that can be difficult to sift through. Considering how much crap is out there (and how the rush to break news has led to even more error prone reporting), I have a great deal of respect for actual quality journalism.
When I read the Krauthammer article, I cheered inside, not because it defended Palin, but because it ripped Gibson. Considering how much potential competition is out there, the major media outlets deserve to be held to a higher standard in their reporting and it is disturbing how many Gibsons (and I don’t mean to focus too much on him) are out there who try so hard to appear smarter than they really are, but ultimately deliver an incomplete product: not all questions are asked, the handling of the material and issues at hand is insufficient, and the public discourse is constrained.