Regarding conspiracism and echo chambers, here’s an interesting item at the New York Times’ On Tech newsletter about how YouTube’s features “can lead people unwittingly to scary places.”
In the very week we’re reading Nichols’ Death of Expertise, the protests against social distancing and stay at home orders are surely the most worrisome challenge to the authority of relevant experts just now. I assumed such protests would peter out quickly, as participants came to recognize how unwise they looked on TV and in the eyes of even otherwise similarly anti-intellectual Americans, but it seems such protests are multiplying. It’s starting to feel like a Kurt Vonnegut novel around here. See this story at ABC: “Protests against Coronavirus ‘Stay-at-Home’ Orders Spread Across the Country.”
Here’s an interesting article at Politico in which a bunch of opinion leaders offer their guesses about how the current trouble may lead to numerous (mostly positive) changes in society. Note the prominence of ideas and authors from our syllabus! “Coronavirus Will Change the World Permanently. Here’s How.”
This article in the socialist quarterly Jacobin relates to some of our recent discussions. The author describes how these days the the upper middle class uses a moralizing sort of self-improvement to assert its superiority, just as did the Victorian bourgeoisie that presumed to challenge the old aristocracy for the mantle of cultural centrality. And the whole dynamic reminds me of the aspirations of mid-century American middlebrow culture that Jacoby traces in her chapter five.
We’ve read a bit about mid-century parents buying encyclopedia sets for their kids. In the short piece “Epiphany, with Encyclopedias,” author Eugene Linden describes the techniques he used to sell encyclopedias to aspiring middlebrow parents.
This NPR story relates to the Haidt and Rose-Stockwell article we’re reading next: “How Outrage Is Hijacking Our Culture And Our Minds.”
We’re heading in to a discussion of the highly polarized nature of American political discourse lately. There is some research suggesting that liberals and conservatives may differ in fundamental ways having to do with personality or even biology. A story in the L.A. Times reports on research showing conservatives are more fearful in general: “Why Conservatives are More Likely than Liberals to Believe False Information about Threats.” Other research suggests liberals and conservative actually have different brain structures, although one wonders whether those observed differences are cause or effect of political orientation.