Text Patterns: platforms and institutions

the majority will accommodate themselves to the faceless inflexibility of platforms, and will become less and less capable of seeing the virtues of institutions, on any scale. One consequence of that accommodation, I believe, will be an increasing impatience with representative democracy, and an accompanying desire to replace political institutions with platform-based decision-making: referendums and plebiscites, conducted at as high a level as possible (national, or in the case of the EU, transnational). Which will bring, among other things, the exploitation of communities and natural resources by people who will never see or know anything about what they are exploiting. The scope of local action will therefore be diminished, and will come under increasing threat of what we might call, borrowing a phrase from Einstein, spooky action at a distance.

Source: Alan Jacobs, Text Patterns: platforms and institutions

Mental dust

No longer do ideas, but interests only, form the links between men, and it would seem that human opinions were no more than a sort of mental dust open to the wind on every side and unable to come together and take shape. — Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

An Encomium to the Life of the Mind | SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

To cultivate the soul and mind by study; to sharpen all of the gifts of intellect by the observation and consideration of useful things; to increase our faculty of understanding every day; to know ancient things and, once known, to emend and amplify them; to discover new things by thought and to inquire after the causes of things; to examine the origin and progress of things; to explain the present through the past; to make obscure and intricate things easier; to separate true from false; to refute, knock down, and drag away trifling and absurd things and, in short, to see the truth – this at last is worthy of the human intellect and reason; this is the food of the mind; this, finally, is what it means to live and have the full profit of one’s soul!

Source: C.G. Cobet, An Encomium to the Life of the Mind | SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

Do We Still Want the West? – WSJ

There was a time when the West knew what it was about. It did so because it thought about itself—often in freshman Western Civ classes. It understood that its moral foundations had been laid in Jerusalem; its philosophical ones in Athens; its legal ones in Rome. It treated with reverence concepts of reason and revelation, freedom and responsibility, whose contradictions it learned to harmonize and harness over time. It believed in the excellence of its music and literature, and in the superiority of its political ideals. It was not ashamed of its prosperity. If it was arrogant and sinful, as all civilizations are, it also had a tradition of remorse and doubt to temper its edges and broaden its horizons. It cultivated the virtue of skepticism while avoiding the temptation of cynicism.

Source: Bret Stephens, Do We Still Want the West? – WSJ

A personal guide for social media

  1. Have a mission for each social media platform you use. Don’t blur the lines between the content you offer one audience and the content you offer another.
  2. Be proactive rather than reactive. Add value. Bring something new to the discussion.
  3. Don’t presume to offer what others can easily find themselves. You’re not the only one who knows how to use Google or read a newspaper.
  4. Know your audience. Understand who they are and what they expect from you. (That doesn’t mean you have to give it to them.)
  5. Don’t be hysterical. Whenever you can, cool temperatures, turn down volumes.
  6. Don’t get in fights. You won’t convince them.
  7. Don’t use reason to try to convince the unreasonable. Understand their values and conform your arguments to appeal to them.
  8. Do not allow your social media channel to become the vessel for your opponent’s propaganda, even to rebut it. Don’t perpetuate the life of a falsehood by quoting or retweeting it.
  9. In sum, be the signal, not the noise.