Dec 19, 2022Liked by James Fallows

It seems more likely than not that Congress will ban TikTok and Mr. Musk will add a TikTok-like feature to the Twitter feed, don’t you think?

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Nov 8, 2022·edited Nov 15, 2022

"When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." Jonathan Swift, quoted by John Kennedy Toole, Confederacy of Dunces.

Tom Nichols: "As I wrote here in 2020, when democracy comes apart, it won't be as dramatic as you think. States could nullify elections, and the protections of the Constitution will not extend across the nation. It will be 2024 in Connecticut, and 1950 in Texas."

"Millions of people will put this sociopath back in the White House because they think it's a way to get even with the rest of the country for their empty lives."

The Best and the Brightest: "Three Harvard scholars on the threat to democracy" news.harvard.edu

Nov 8 2022

I am listening to Fareed Zakaria on Bill Maher talking about legal immigrants and new arrivals/now citizens, complaining about undocumented immigration and vowing to vote GOP

Who worked tirelessly to get liberal visa laws, liberal immigration protections for all new immigrants and refugees who rose to the top of our schools and workforce?

Democrats worked for many years for human rights, for open and free borders, for basic protections for 14 million refugees worldwide. All those flocking to the US who now want to pull up the ladder behind them, that is a common phenomenon. If it was up to the current GOP/Maga frankenstein hybrid, there might be no immigration. Please note, new immigrants voting GOP: only Democrats are willing to stand up for your rights to citizenship. For basic human rights while carrying a green card.

Without democrats, the fondness for the maga gop for all-white states would prevent all the immigration we have seen since WWII. Immigrants sustain the countries where they live. "Unless you are speaking Navajo, you are from somewhere else." Barney Frank

Let's also recognize the gop who have crossed the aisle and gotten no recognition, like our Senator Susan Collins:

Portland Press Herald Nov 4, 2022, LTE:

"Thank Sen. Collins for her bipartisan efforts"

Portland, Maine

" I am writing to thank the Portland Press Herald for its fair and unbiased reporting about the election.

" I want to point out that Sen. Susan Collins received little attention for crossing the aisle to help important legislation, on gun control and electoral reform.

I’m a lifelong Democrat, born in Maine. We need more reporting on the many steps Sen. Collins takes to compromise and work with Democrats. Let’s be fair and thank her for being one of the only Republican members of Congress willing to do everything she can to make our government work.

" We need more of this, and less of the divisiveness threatening our republic in a troubled time. Let’s thank Sen. Collins and recognize what she has done to make our world better."

Diana Bell, 

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Nov 6, 2022·edited Nov 7, 2022

Another very fine and timely post, Jim, that brought me back to the longer comment that I had put aside for your previous dispatch; however, I will reuse its beginning here since it still makes sense (at least to me)...

My addition to this rich dialectic is to present two recent and very readable if still scholarly works that I discovered a few months ago and that have forced me to rethink some personal perspectives regarding some basic political realities… :

Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government…


… considers whether "most" citizens vote based on personal policy preferences, criticism of the policy outcomes, or due to their affiliations with groups.

The Paradox of Democracy: Free Speech, Open Media, and Perilous Persuasion…


… are presented as essential yet conflicting forces that are the lifeblood of democracy as incontrovertibly entangled avenues of discussion, deliberation, dissent, dissuasion, disinformation, and deception.

So, how does this pertain to a consideration of Twitter in the larger scheme of things?

If we take the conclusion of the first work at face value, the "folk theories" of individuals voting their conscience are consistently subordinated to group identity that can be based on any number of factors: race, ethnicity, economic class, party affiliation, etc. (including regional, municipal, or other aspects of where we live...).

The argument of the second work is more disturbing because it would seem that the way that we communicate in any historical context is primordial, and the ease of unbounded provocation is a recipe for destructive discord alongside any and all thoughtful deliberation.

So is tribalism the basic mechanism for mass participation in democratic institutions? Perhaps, but that does not mean that a group whose leaders who are intellectually dishonest and openly hypocritical is the same as one led by individuals more deliberately diverse and moderate in the aggregate whatever their inherent differences.

And how do we differentiate between a communications medium empowering free speech that enriches debate from one that is perfect for undermining any consensus between a variety of conflicting perspectives?

Twitter is an embodiment of both of these questions, of course, but so is the Fox News paradigm with the only difference being control of the megaphone versus a cultivation of the chaos that ensues when everyone has one.

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Thanks for the "Lion link" - I may have to consider a post-retirement effort at becoming a minor, amateur journalist. I like the idea behind "Lion" - it sounds like it would be very much like the startups of local newspapers all over the growing nation, but with bytes instead of printer's ink. After all the point is the message, not the method.

As for the new Twit-in-Chief, the one reason I started spending time reading tweets a few years ago was the "straight-from-the-horse's-mouth" effect; I like the idea of unfiltered, brief commentary from certain people. A few minutes on the platform gets me up to speed on all the things I may have missed in my morning perusal of the headlines the NYT decides to add to their daily briefing, and of course offer up a laugh or two on a regular basis. (Back in the Jon Stewart era The Daily Show used to fulfill the same purpose.) For someone like me who adamantly refuses to subject himself to the withering assaults of network TV advertising and the showbiz atmosphere of the mainstream TV news media - but who insists on maintaining some grasp of What's Happening Today - Twitter has become a helpful addition to my routine.

The good news for me is I can take it or leave it. Leaving it and instead devoting my time to following a few more of the excellent writers here on Substack doesn't seem like such a bad thing. Or, maybe as I look more & more into Lion I will weave that into my daily routine of maintaining some awareness of the world around me. But until and unless EM (or some other entity) succeeds in convincing me to abandon the platform, I see no reason to do so.

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Nov 6, 2022·edited Nov 6, 2022Liked by James Fallows

On Iowa:

For Jimmy and me, Iowa holds a special place in our hearts. During his presidential campaign I spent over 100 days in Iowa. I visited 105 communities and knocked on more doors and met more Iowans than anyone thought possible. Rosalynn Carter

I am proud to have been born in Iowa. Through the eyes of a ten-year-old boy, it was a place of adventure and daily discoveries - the wonder of the growing crops, the excitements of the harvest, the journeys to the woods for nuts and hunting, the joys of snowy winters, the comfort of the family fireside, of good food and tender care.

Herbert Hoover

I'm from Iowa, we don't know what cool is! Ashton Kutcher

In China, I lived in a dormitory, and the government paid for everything - food, buses. In Iowa, I had to run after the bus, and cook for myself. The first weeks in the U.S., I was asking, 'Where is my food?' Liang Chow

“I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to.”

― Bill Bryson, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

goodreads and brainyquotes

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Nov 6, 2022·edited Nov 6, 2022

"Like" all comments, the comments section is always really interesting!

Great article as we stand at the precipice.

The careless, cruel superrich are created by favorable tax laws. Set an income limit of 5 million worldwide, this is plenty for anyone to live on. Tax reform needed.

Also, let's remember the words of the current Pope: it is a crime against humanity to conduct wars and to continue to oppress others while we have a worldwide emergency, the pandemic. Not to mention the human rights crisis worldwide and the need for food, medicine and basic rights for all.

We have enough resources to care for and feed everyone on the planet. It is just that some of us want to hoard money. To smash things up, mostly from being bored or humiliated.

Not a coincidence that the super-wealthy get diminishing returns on their wealth, in terms of happiness. In fact, most studies show that the superrich are deeply unhappy and deeply troubled.

Does old elon think he can take it with him ? What is the point of accumulating that much wealth if you don't know how to be a decent human being?

"The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of all kinds." Dalai Lama

please more articles like this, thanks JF!

about the alternatives: are the techies banned from creating a new, similar platform as a nonprofit like PBS, where everyone can escape to. We have commercial tv and then we have this wonderful nonprofit thing called public tv or radio. Can the tech folks create a similar platform. PBS is not considered to be a "threat" to commercial tv, it is just another type of media that is not for profit.

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A few disparate points:

1) I originally joined Twitter primarily to keep up with the publishing output of sites and people who I wished to follow. At the time support for RSS readers supported across the mobile and computer world as not good and showed no signs of improving; so following folks and publishers on Twitter seemed to be a better way to keep up. Along the way, I found it interesting to also read and very sparingly engage in discussions with some of the folks I follow. As these folks disengage from Twitter, it looks like, I'll finally need to learn about playing with RSS.

2) I would never have gotten involved with Twitter if I needed to us the website and native application for anything other than the most rudimentary tasks. I found a third party app (Twitterrific) allowed to get get a clean timeline of tweets from folks I followed and provided useful tools to navigate the Twitter world. As a side benefit, it is ad-free. When Twitter opened its API to apps like this, I'm surprised that they never forced them to also allow ads to appear at some frequency. Since Musk seems hellbent on monetizing Twitter users, I shudder to think what will happen to third-party apps when he discovers them.

3) I see Mastadon being mentioned by several folks I follow. If a viable community of these folks forms there, I'll probably join.

Note to Jim: Footnotes seem to be broken in the Substack iPad app. The links were not recognized in the article , and of course, the refer back didn't work at the footnote. I needed to switch to the web in order to fully read your article.

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I would like to think that no one should rely on any particular medium, be it Twitter or another form of social media, The New York Times or The New York Post, the once-reputable CBS News or Fux Noise. We should look at the media as an international buffet and sample as diverse a menu as possible. The problem is that instead, we have siloed ourselves into a situation where Musk himself may not actually dwell in reality--although advertisers appear to be jolting him back into it.

Apropos of that, when I criticize, as I call it, Fux Noise, and someone defends them, I ask if they watch the networks they criticize. I do put on Fux Noise, and I check out right-wing material (our local newspaper's editorial page might be called the Herschel Walker of commentary). Years back, someone interviewed my graduate adviser, Eric Foner, and asked what people would find surprising about him, and he answered that he listened now and then to Rush Limbaugh to see what those who disagreed with him were saying--and it isn't as if Foner needed to worry much about that sort of thing.

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Where to begin? Where to end? Stream of consciousness will have to do.

* Brilliant simile: "It’s like a rich football fan buying an NFL team and imagining that he can name draft-picks and call plays."

* ICYMI: https://www.npr.org/2022/11/03/1133790735/rising-crime-statistics-are-not-all-that-they-seem = 7-minute segment on Morning Edition this week. Penetrating analysis leading to insightful reporting on baffling confusion in the media about "crime" -- a word that gets thrown around as if we are all using it to mean one and the same thing and how the inevitable result of that sloppiness has left the door open to political mischief that causes damage in people's lives and destroys the effectiveness of our institutions that we suppose are addressing this problem.

* Yes, but: "But for the media, the challenge is beginning the slow, hard work of creating something different and new." Yes, not only finding new business models for organizations that can meet our needs for information and analysis but also addressing global issues together with other people around the world will entail "beginning the slow, hard work of creating something different and new," but you left out exciting and enlivening.

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While this is a very good summary. I am a contrarian and remain unconvinced about the need for Twitter. I'm also absent on any other form of social media other than LinkedIn (I picked up several consulting jobs from LinkedIn during the almost 10 years of working after I took early retirement!!). I reluctantly joined Twitter in January for two main reasons. The first was to read the posts from The Swiss Ramble who writes about the financial aspects of Euro soccer clubs. He moved on from blogging for Twitter for his own convenience and as I had been following him for a number of years, this was the only way to read his musings. The second was to be able to contact my ISP in case of an outage as they monitor Twitter. Fortunately, there has only been one outage since we moved and are now on RCN.

I do not see much of a use case for people such as myself who prefer long form journalism and have several Substack subs, read both the WaPo and NY Times and have several magazine subscriptions including Jim's old home, 'The Atlantic.' As one who is pretty much of an observer, Twitter appears to be mostly a vehicle to spread memes and a way for reporters to talk to one another (pace Jim Fallows). If there is something important going on, the major newspapers are on top of it. I did admire David Farenthold's use of Twitter to collect information on Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago several years ago; but that was pretty much a one off as far as I can see.

The other key problem with social media is the absolute reliance on advertising revenues to keep the lights on and the servers running. There is no way under the present model that Twitter will generate enough revenue to service the large amount of debt that Musk has incurred. There was another significant Internet company that was in the news this week, Stripe, who laid off 14% of their workforce (and Stripe, who facilitate payments over the Internet have an actual money making product!!). This was a result of economic conditions and CEO Patrick Collinson acknowledged they had expanded to quickly. In his candid e-mail, he outlined everything the company was doing to help the laid off employees. I've not seen anything about the Twitter employees who lost their jobs. If Twitter loses advertisers, they are toast.

Personally, I do not click on any advertising links I see on any of the sites I visit. Maybe it's a fools errand similar to the time back in college when I boycotted table grapes in solidarity with Cesar Chavez (yup, that long ago). Enough already, I don't begrudge journalists for using Twitter, I just think they are over estimating its importance.

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Excellent summary of what is gobsmacking great boogley woolley. I'm making up words for what we've watched in real time. The only other thought I can tentatively attach here: AOL and MySpace were a really big deal... and suddenly not. Twitter can implode as well and maybe the Facebook analog is worse?, or maybe the Googlish replacement is greater than we can imagine.

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