My Response to the Comment on My Post About News

Below is a response to a comment1 on a post I wrote about not reading the news2.

I think often about the debt technological advance creates for us and this exchange highlighted a few great points on that topic.

Jacob,

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. As you might have guessed, Postman’s work started my thinking on this subject years ago. I need to revisit his book—I agree that it is indeed prophetic.

“I mean to say that when news is packaged as entertainment, that is the inevitable result… Ignorance is always correctable. But what shall we do if we take ignorance to be knowledge?”

Fascinating. I’m sure you’re familiar with Marshal McLuhan’s proposition that “the medium is the message.” One of the most interesting elements of this entire conversation is how Postman’s and Lewis’ and McLuhan’s theories apply to the tools we use for communication today. The velocity of news stories traveling across Twitter, along with the limitations of the medium for robust communication, seems to be a rocket booster for the tragic outcome that Postman fears in the quote you referenced.

Your point about C.S. Lewis hit the nail on the head. Once society has deemed a certain philosophy as irrelevant, untrue, or simply distasteful, all proponents of that philosophy are thrown out with the bath water whether they have valuable things to say or not. Said more simply, opinion becomes the primary arbiter of people’s world views, which is absolutely frightening. Civil discourse has been gutted by both the popular media and the media through which its content travels.

I have a strong suspicion that you’d really enjoy reading a gentleman by the name of Michael Sacasas. As far as I can tell, he’s one of the only modern-day thinkers who’s actually thinking critically about the criticism of technology and the inevitable debt that technological progress imparts on society (and individuals). His blog is here: http://thefrailestthing.com/

Also of note is Adam Thierer. Though I’m still figuring out where I stand, I tend to lean more towards Sacasas’ standpoint. You can find Thierer here: http://techliberation.com/author/adam-thierer/

I think I will sleep better at night knowing that there is one more person who thinks about this as critically as I do.


1. You can read the comment in context here.2. You can read the full post, Two Quotes About News, here.

2 thoughts on “My Response to the Comment on My Post About News”

  1. Eric,

    I’m humbled by and grateful for your endorsement above. It’s always encouraging to find that the musings one posts to the ether are read and appreciated. Serendipitous, too, in the context of a discussion of the “news.” I’ve been thinking a bit about the “news” lately, particularly after returning from a week long trip during which I had no contact with any sources of “news.”

    You may already be familiar with Kierkegaard’s critique of “the Press,” if not, I think you’d appreciate his perspective. It’s very much in keeping with the selection from Lewis which you cited. I incorporate some of what Kierkegaard had to say in this older post: http://thefrailestthing.com/2010/10/01/gladwell-social-media-arendt/ (pardon the link to self!).

    Cheers,

    Mike

    1. Mike,

      I can’t tell you how much it means that you’d take the time to comment on my writing…I share your sentiment about posting to the ether. I have your post about unplugging queued up and can’t wait to read it.

      “Kierkegaard saw that the public sphere was destined to become a detached world in which everyone had an opinion about and commented on all public matters without needing any first-hand experience and without having or wanting any responsibility.”

      That quote is fascinating—and true, I believe. The Smith quote strikes at the heart of the issue for me:

      “It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the very point of ‘public reason’ is to keep the public discourse shallow – to keep it from drowning in the perilous depths of questions about ‘the nature of the universe,’ or ‘the end and object of life,’ or other tenets of our comprehensive doctrines.”

      Understanding and interpreting the news with any depth requires wrestling with “questions about ‘the nature of the universe’,” an exercise we avoid (I’ll return the link to self favor with an article about people not being able to sit quietly for 15 minutes: https://ericdodds.com/comfortable-in-your-own-head/).

      Thank you for thinking so hard and well about these issues—they are critically important and consume my thoughts often.

      –Eric

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