Belmont Club

Bridge Out

Christoph Schmidt/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Two incidents, the advertiser boycott of Laura Ingraham’s show following her apology to anti-gun advocate David Hogg for mocking him for his college rejection and Kevin Williamson’s dismissal from the Atlantic “after suddenly [management realized] he believes the things he says” have bolstered the arguments of those who warn against any compromise with the liberal cause.

According to that point of view the Ingraham incident proved one should never apologize because it only encourages more demands while “the public humiliation of Kevin Williamson demonstrates the [inevitable choice that] … you can side with the left and hope to be allowed to exist as a domesticates lap dog like David Brooks or Bret Stephens… or you can accept this is an existential fight and join us.”

If that seems harsh it is no worse than the view which regards Williamson as moral defective who should count himself lucky to be tolerated in the first place.  As one Huffington Post article put it,  “mainstream magazines in the Donald Trump era have been scrambling to hire more right-leaning columnists to demonstrate their commitment to diversity of thought. These efforts have borne fruit, though not exactly in the manner intended. Instead of showing the value of vibrant debate, they’ve demonstrated that conservative ideas aren’t worth debating.”

Even Goldberg could not help but adopt the stance of a person whose broad minded ecumenism had been intolerably stretched by unspeakable bigotry.

We are striving here to be a big-tent journalism organization at a time of national fracturing. We will continue to build a newsroom that is, as The Atlantic’s founding manifesto states, “of no party or clique.” We are also an organization that values a spirit of generosity and collegiality. We must strive to uphold that standard as well.

It’s a case of sorry folks, we tried hiring one of them but couldn’t bear the stench of him.

If only there were one of them, but unfortunately there are many.  Enough to elect a president.  The consequences of this self-admitted failure will inevitably be felt. It seems abundantly clear that Goldberg’s attempt at “big-tent journalism organization at a time of national fracturing” has ended in disaster.  If his goal was to persuade the left that the populists were worth listening to or vice versa it flopped bigger than a 350 pound man high diving into a swimming pool.

At the minimum it will convince many of what they all too ready to believe:  that politics has now truly become a zero sum game.  That the time for dialog and debate are over and it is take no prisoners; a case of surrender or die. Nor is that point of view new.  It has long been proclaimed by hardcore activists on both sides and runs the risk of becoming general.

Insurgencies are commonly met with one of two methods: through the mailed fist or “hearts and minds”.  The populist insurgency is no different.  The tragedy of current American politics is that the”mainstream” has neither the power to execute a mailed fist strategy against the Deplorables nor the slightest aptitude for implementing “hearts and minds”.  It can neither win nor heal.

The system is already fragmented and that fact lies at the root of the Atlantic’s dilemma.  A partitioned system has the property of forcing a choice between achieving consensus only sometimes or reaching consensus all the time but at the cost of adopting an occasional false consensus in order to do it.  The Atlantic, trapped by this dynamic, chose to restore internal consensus but only at the price of repelling those it would attract.  Is it still consensus if it excludes those ‘not worth listening to’?

Another bridge burned; and more are burning than being built.


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The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. This book reveals the forces driving the reinvention of our lives and our economy. As the full impact of digital technologies is felt, we will realize immense bounty but also experience wrenching change. Professions of all kinds – from lawyers to truck drivers – will be forever upended. Companies will be forced to transform or die. Recent economic indicators reflect this shift: fewer people are working, and wages are falling even as productivity and profits soar. Drawing on years of research and up-to-the-minute trends, MIT’s Brynjolfsson and McAfee identify the best strategies for survival and a new path to prosperity.

Open Curtains: What if Privacy were Property not only a Right, by George Spix and Richard Fernandez. This book is a proposal for bringing privacy to the internet by assigning monetary value to data. The image of “open curtains” is meant to suggest a system that allows different degrees of privacy, controlled by the owner. The “curtains” may be open, shut, or open to various degrees depending on which piece of data is being dealt with. Ultimately, what is at stake is governance. We are en route to control of society by and for the few rather than by and for the many, because currently the handful of mega tech companies are siphoning up everyone’s data, for nothing, and selling it. Under the open curtains proposal, government would also pay for its surveillance in the form of tax rebates, providing at least some incentive for government to minimize its intrusions … (from a review by E. Greenwood).

Skin in the Game, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. In his new work, Taleb uses the phrase “skin in the game” to introduce a complex worldview that applies to literally all aspects of our lives. “Never trust anyone who doesn’t have skin in the game. Without it, fools and crooks will profit and their mistakes will never come back to haunt them,” he says. In his inimitable style, he pulls on everything from Antaeus the Giant to Hammurabi to Donald Trump to Seneca to the ethics of disagreement to create a jaw-dropping tapestry for understanding our world in a brand new way.

For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.

Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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