Nothing Fishy Here-Collective Fingers On The Scales

Stanley Fish on being recently disinvited from speaking at Seton Hall (behind a paywall):

‘Recently I was invited, then disinvited, to speak at Seton Hall University.  Members of a faculty committee had decided by email that they didn’t want a university audience to be subjected to views like mine.  I had been writing on the emergence on campus of what I call a regime of virtue.  this was the first time I experienced it directly.’

A fairly typical pattern:  A group of student activists claim that a certain speaker’s views are so dangerous that this speaker cannot be heard.

Many ideologically aligned, sympathetic, or sometimes cowardly, faculty members encourage or endorse these student activists.

A worthwhile Stanley Fish piece, from many years ago, at the NY Times: ‘The Last Professor:

‘In previous columns and in a recent book I have argued that higher education, properly understood, is distinguished by the absence of a direct and designed relationship between its activities and measurable effects in the world.

This is a very old idea that has received periodic re-formulations. Here is a statement by the philosopher Michael Oakeshott that may stand as a representative example: “There is an important difference between learning which is concerned with the degree of understanding necessary to practice a skill, and learning which is expressly focused upon an enterprise of understanding and explaining.”

A few conservative folks have said to me:  Whether it be Kant, Mill, Locke or even Isaiah Berlin, conservatism (conserving what is) does not necessarily require a movement towards Continental and rationalist systems of thought.

It’s a trap!

There’s important truth in such a statement, of course, but I don’t think you know quite what you’re up against, here, and who my audience is.  I’m looking for anchors.

As posted:

More here.

Link sent in by a reader.

Interesting paper presented by Erika Kiss, beginning about minute 32:00 (the whole conference is likely worth your time for more knowledge on Oakeshott).

According to Kiss, Oakeshott’s non-teleological, non-purposive view of education is potentially a response to Friedrich Hayek, Martha Nussbaum, and Allan Bloom, in the sense that all of these thinkers posit some useful purpose or outcome in getting a liberal education.

Hayek’s profound epistemological attack on rationalist thought is still a system itself, and attaches learning to market-based processes which eventually drive freedom and new thinking in universities. The two are mutually dependent to some extent.

Nussbaum attaches liberal learning to ends such as making us ‘Aristotelian citizens of the world’, or better citizens in a democracy, which has struck me as incomplete at best.

Allan Bloom is profoundly influenced by Straussian neo-classicism, and wants love, classical learning, honor and duty to perhaps be those reasons why a young man or woman should read the classics. This, instead of crass commercialism, the influences of popular music, deconstructionism and logical positivism.

On this site, see: Mark Pennington Via Vimeo: ‘Democracy And The Deliberative Conceit’

A taste of her Nussbaum here. Also, see: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

Via C-SPAN-The Historical Context Of Allan Bloom

…Timothy Fuller At The New Criterion: ‘The Compensations Of Michael Oakeshott’John Gray At The Literary Review Takes A Look At A New Book On Michael Oakeshott: ‘Last Of The Idealists’

Journey To The Center Of The Navel

This Wendell Berry quote, from on “tolerance and multiculturalism,” from his essay “The Joy of Sales Resistance”, has stayed with me:

‘Quit talking bad about women, homosexuals, and preferred social minorities, and you can say anything you want about people who haven’t been to college, manual workers, country people, peasants, religious people, unmodern people, old people, and so on.’

Please do keep in mind Wendell Berry is NOT going to buy a computer.

My discount predictions (buy 2 get 1 FREE): Radical campus politics will continue to settle into newsroom malaise and an increasingly fevered search for meaning, identity and the Self in the culture-at-large.  Folks already committed to particular doctrines will continue seeking solidarity with other Selves through identity collectivism and group-belonging while making [elements of] politics, the humanities and the social sciences something like an exclusionary religion (the pathway to a better world).

Down below the radicals and up-top some high minded idealists, free-thinkers and all manner of others in-between, a bit like folks in a church, which is why there might be so much hatred and potential overlap with religious belief (to say nothing of the relentless focus on authoritarian/totalitarian impulses).

I’m pretty sure publicly taking the mildest ‘bourgeois’ stance on marriage, kids, work etc. will continue to make one an enemy, political and otherwise, to those gathered around such nodes.

The Boston Evening Transcript

The readers of the Boston Evening Transcript
Sway in the wind like a field of ripe corn.


When evening quickens faintly in the street,
Wakening the appetites of life in some
And to others bringing the Boston Evening Transcript,
I mount the steps and ring the bell, turning
Wearily, as one would turn to nod good-bye to Rochefoucauld,
If the street were time and he at the end of the street,
And I say, “Cousin Harriet, here is the Boston Evening Transcript.”

T.S. Eliot

The best kinds of clubs tend to be those whose members aren’t even sure they’re in a club.

The most interesting kinds of people can be free-thinkers, maintaining their humility, kindling a flame of quiet moral courage when called-upon.

Some of these people are quite traditional, others, not so much.

Theodore Dalrymple on Banksy:

‘The enormous interest his work arouses, disproportionate to its artistic merit, shows not that there is fashion in art, but that an adolescent sensibility is firmly entrenched in our culture. The New York Times reports that a lawyer, Ilyssa Fuchs, rushed from her desk the moment she heard about Banksy’s latest work and ran more than half a mile to see it. Would she have done so if a delicate fresco by Peiro della Francesca had been discovered in Grand Central Terminal? In the modern world, art and celebrity are one. And we are all Peter Pan now: We don’t want to grow up.’

Well, I certainly hadn’t noticed an adolescent sensibility at the NY Times. Certainly not.

An image of one of those Peiro della Francesca frescoes here.

Perhaps it’s worthwhile to view Banksy as a kind of poor man’s Damien Hirst: A ‘working-class’ British guy with some native talent but not too much in the way of formal training nor arguably lasting artistic achievement (perhaps in the ‘graffiti’ world). Instead of working as a gallery, mixed-media modern installation artist like Hirst, he’s followed the street-graffiti path leaving ‘transgressive’ messages on politics and ethics scrawled across the cityscape in anonymity. For all his irony, and the fact that he’s likely in on the joke, Banksy still finds himself subject to the larger forces at work where art, money, & fame are meeting.

As a girl in Seattle here mentioned to me at a party: ‘His work is a meta-commentary on art, commerce, greed, creativity and all that. His becoming a commodity is the ultimate irony.’

Deep, man, deep.

Yet, as to Dalrymple’s point, I could imagine an adult sneaking off to check out a Michaelangelo fresco with childlike anticipation, and maybe even a little childish or adolescent delight at being the first to arrive. Of course, I think that fresco tends to engender a much deeper and complex response than that of Banksy’s work and ‘social commentary’, but the desire for beauty, hope, and brief bursts of transcendence aren’t going anywhere. This reminds me of Richard Wilbur’s poem: ‘First Snow In Alsace.‘ which evokes the grim realities of war and suffering covered up by a beautiful snowfall.

Here are the last stanzas and line:

…You think: beyond the town a mile
Or two, this snowfall fills the eyes
Of soldiers dead a little while.

Persons and persons in disguise,
Walking the new air white and fine,
Trade glances quick with shared surprise.

At children’s windows, heaped, benign,
As always, winter shines the most,
And frost makes marvelous designs.

The night guard coming from his post,
Ten first-snows back in thought, walks slow
And warms him with a boyish boast:

He was the first to see the snow.

The worst war can bring is juxtaposed against our simple childlike wonder (and possibly childish) delight at that which is beautiful and mysterious in nature. Of course, such desires can help cause the destruction of war, too, but…hey. People love to be the first and the coolest. As Dalrymple argues above, these childish impulses are the ones that should not be so easily encouraged nor celebrated, especially by Banksy nor his reviewers at the NY Times. I pretty much agree.

On that note, Dear Reader, I’d like to leave you these words from Slate’s review of that hot new motion picture-film, Joker:

‘The opening scene, in which Arthur, who’s peacefully but unhappily twirling a sign for a discount store, is taunted and then beaten by a gang of Latino-coded thugs, draws directly on the narrative of white persecution so effectively weaponized by Donald Trump.’

Glorious!

Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘The Slow, Painful Death Of The Media’s Cash Cow’

McArdle:

‘Most of the newspapers currently in operation will ultimately die, because the internet rewards scale rather than deep local knowledge. They will die whether they stick to their knitting or go all-in on “digital first.”

More here: ‘Driving Into The Sunset Of Public Service

‘In the past decade or so, the business model has essentially collapsed in the advent of the Internet. Why should anyone pay for something they can get for free?’

-‘Extra, Extra, read all about it…on your mobile device, at least on your mobile device as of a few years ago. (Future readers, this is before the implants).

-(addition) Via a reader:  Eugene Volokh argues freedom of the press ain’t about saving the buggy whip industry:

‘I’ve often argued that the freedom of the press was seen near the time of the Framing (and near the time of the ratification of the 14th Amendment, as well as in between and largely since) as protecting the right to use the press as technology — everyone’s right to use the printing press and its modern technological heirs. It was not seen as protecting a right of the press as industry, which would have been a right limited to people who printed or wrote for newspapers, magazines and the like .

Related On This Site: Here in Seattle, Bill Virgin says newspapers built up their value, and slowly let it die: From The Seattle Post-Intelligencer Via Sound Politics: Why Did The PI Die? From Slate: Jack Shafer On The Pulitzer Prize-Who Cares?  Who Reads The Newspapers?

Why not build another museum on the mall?

The Newseum Opens On The Mall: More From The Weekly Standard

batboy.gif

No!

 

Who Wants To Blog Forever?

Ira Stoll, on blogging, after the Andrew Sullivan announcement:

‘I’ve seen the advantages and disadvantages of the old media world, and of the blog world, too. Blogging runs the risk of solipsism. The reporting resources and reputations of institutions are useful in getting phone calls returned, landing interviews, gaining access, and attention. But the issue isn’t whether, given a choice, we might return to the pre-blog world, or inhabit or invent, as Ben Smith imagines, a “post-blog” world. There is no turning back. Like it or not, we live in a blog media world.

There’s a pretty low barrier to entry and much lower cost to communication since blogs like this one have become so easily available. Since then, personal-style, individual voice and personality can trump institutional authority, and have clearly affected how the media does business (Sullivan ran his blog pretty much like a business).

I’ve found there’s only so much room for depth on a blog, and I think it’s best used as a window on the world, a way to stay current, and to share one’s interests, talents, and knowledge with others, while experiencing the interests, talents and knowledge of others.

Worth keeping in mind: What you write about, how, and why, can often reveal as much about you as it does the subject you’re writing about. So, best to know something about the subject at hand, have some humility and curiosity, and expect some feedback and criticism.

Who you imagine your audience to be, and why you’re writing in the first place still matters a great deal, as it always has whether for knowledge, understanding, money, influence, praise, communication, friendship, attention, problem solving, creative expression…too many to name.

You know some of your reasons.

See you out there.

Michael Kinsley At The New Republic Via Althouse: ‘A Q & A With Jill Abramson’

Full interview here.

Abramson is the lead editor at the NY Times:

‘Um, I think that they would recognize a sort of cosmopolitan outlook that reflects that, even as we become international, we’re a New York–based news institution. I can see how the intensity of coverage on certain issues may to some people seem to reflect a liberal point of view. But I actually don’t think it does. And I’ve been a very close New York Times reader going back to when I began to read, and I don’t see it as profoundly different now.’

Despite the fact that I likely don’t share in the current ideological and political beliefs of many living on the the Upper West Side, nor in the newsroom at the NY Times, it’s interesting to see a paper using its resources to try and leverage itself by getting at ‘the story behind the story.’

No ideology here, just real journalism.

Real journalism requires time and money and it’s what’s suffered most during this period of technological turmoil. Real journalism requires sending reporters out for longer periods of time to get the scoop, digging around for months to make and break the news. Expense accounts, seasoned veterans with thick rolodexes, intrepid insiders still speaking truth to power are the types to be found at the Times.

Real journalists are following events more closely than the blogs and sites like Politico ever could.  This is the competitive advantage the Times has and the value-added to customers, and this the reason they should still exist over at the Times while other papers operating on defunct business-models have folded.

Thus, Abramson acts like a good CEO during the interview, trying to build-up brand loyalty, trust, and the cultural authority that may keep the paper relevant and grow the business around this competitive advantage.

Thus, Abramson also reasonably reinforces the ideological and political beliefs of her core audience which she needs to grow the business, by catering to their belief that they have no specific core ideological and political beliefs.

Are you buying that?

Addition:  It’s been pointed out that the post below this one shows some reliance on the Times.  Sure, when it puts together a piece as well done as the Goya piece.  I might even pay for that.  Soon though, I’d read the comments over there, the op-eds, the breathless tone…and I’d probably cut ties altogether.

Addition:  See Jack Shafer’s ‘News never Made Money, And Is Unlikely To’ for more.

Classic Yellow Journalism by malik2moon

Remember The Maine! The good old days…by malik2moon

Related On This SiteFrom Slate: “Newsweek Has Fallen And Can’t Get Up”

Big Data And Filthy Lucre: Neil Irwin At WonkBlog-’Here’s What The Bloomberg Data Scandal Reveals About How The Media Really Makes Money’

Jeff Bezos, Founder Of Amazon, Acquires The Washington Post

A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama…Hate Is A Strong Word-Some Links On The BBC, The CBC, & NPR

Ken Burns makes a good documentary, but he’s also arguing he absolutely needs your tax dollars in service of what he assumes to be a shared definition of the “common good” as he pursues that art.  The market just can’t support it otherwise. Repost-From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?…

Jack Shafer At Slate: ‘Nonprofit Journalism Comes At A Cost’..

From The Seattle Post-Intelligencer Via Sound Politics: Why Did The PI Die? From Slate: Jack Shafer On The Pulitzer Prize-Who Cares?  Who Reads The Newspapers?

The Newseum Opens On The Mall: More From The Weekly Standard

A Few Thoughts On Blogging-Chris Anderson At Wired: ‘The Long Tail’

Full piece here.

Does the 80/20 rule or Pareto principle apply when it comes to online media, which would hold that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes, or some similar distribution?

Anderson was employed by Conde Nast, and as he saw it, the 20%, but he also argued that the mainstream media is now competing with the long tail, or the 80% of bloggers who work for free, and focus on the needs of their very specific audiences.

According to Anderson’s argument, with the advent of cheap storage and technology, the Pareto long-tail has been allowed to find equilibrium, and you can keep blogging into perpetuity and reach some audience, however small (on a blog that previously didn’t exist). This gives a lot of little guys out there hope, and started a marketing movement a while back:

————————–

According to Anderson, the internet is also fundamentally changing the way business is done, and there’s incentive for businesses to cater to the fully extended long-tail, instead of the old distribution channels which truncated that tail because of Pareto (record companies, movie studios, T.V. producers etc.):

‘Long Tail business can treat consumers as individuals, offering mass customization as an alternative to mass-market fare.’

Instead of 80/20 distributions, it’s more like 99% on this thinking (hopefully no relation to the 99%).   There are, or would appear to be, an almost endless row of online shelves, and the more thriving economic models are those that cater to the entire long-tail and curate all those shelves.

Here’s a review of Anderson’s book from David Jennings back in 2006 (this blog is only seven to nine years behind the times):

‘Nevertheless my concerns about Anderson’s loose use of concepts and terminology are consistent with Orlowski’s suggestion that the Long Tail has been sexed up a bit to maximise its buzzword profile. If the Long Tail plays on being a faddish term, then its shelf-life may be limited. As cited in Wikipedia, fashionable management terms (like Quality Circles, Total Quality Management and Business Process Re-engineering) tend to follow a life-cycle in the form of a bell curve. And a bell curve, unlike a power law, has quite a short tail’

A response to Anderson which confirms Pareto.

Andrew Orlowski’s critical piece here, suggesting such advice could be very bad for business.

**Richard Epstein, of the Chicago School, uses the Pareto principle in defense of private property.

———————————-

It’s still unclear what lies ahead for bloggers, writers, and journalists.

Here’s a comment previously made on this blog:

‘Opinion and news are now a commodity in this age, hard to extract money for that with the internet’

Most people aren’t willing to pay for opinion.  It was an activity funded by the old revenue models and distribution channels at newspapers and magazines, and those same models and channels funded long-form and investigative journalism as well, which arguably can be in the public good.  Those models aren’t working like they used to.  Most newspapers and networks are still losing money, and few have made it up yet.

Until the last fifteen years or so, it was usually only a few journalists, writers and cultural critics who worked their way into the public mind, making a kind of brand for themselves at major newspapers, magazines, and by freelancing and writing op-eds.  It’s generally a coveted spot.  E-publishing and free blog platforms are very cheaply available, now, and while there’s limited room in the public mind for opinionators and pundits, there’s arguably a more open field.

To be fair to good journalists, there are clearly professional aspects of what they do, and higher standards to be met in many cases.  Trust and loyalty are key components of any successful business, providing accurate information and/or public opinions included.

As for political magazines, they never really made much money anyways.  See Matt Welch’s piece on the New Republic:

‘Opinion magazines tend to be slim, light on advertisements, heavy on text, and dependent on the largesse of either millionaire owners (as with The New Republic) or nonprofit donors (like reason).’

Writers for political magazines also have to stay on message with that magazine’s core audience and mission statement, and still depend on other social structures for their online presence.  For non-professional writers and bloggers, it’s usually a labor of love, a hobby, as they like to follow their interests, attracting passers-by or maybe working to develop a loyal following.

Perhaps you could apply long tail to that master of the live feed and aggregation,  Matt Drudge, as well.

Perhaps, what we can say is that the old models aren’t working like they used to.

***As for some journalists, I like to keep Kent Brockman in mind.

Addition:  Welch also thinks that cities don’t make newspapers liberal, as many journalists got there first.

Related On This SiteFrom The Economist: ‘No News Isn’t Good News’Jack Shafer At Slate: ‘Nonprofit Journalism Comes At A Cost’..

From The Seattle Post-Intelligencer Via Sound Politics: Why Did The PI Die? From Slate: Jack Shafer On The Pulitzer Prize-Who Cares?  Who Reads The Newspapers?

The Newseum Opens On The Mall: More From The Weekly Standard

A Free Lunch?-Megan McArdle At The Daily Beast: ‘How To Get Ahead On Facebook Without Really Trying’

Malcolm Gladwell argues here that apart from the information/journalism divide, the technology still ultimately costs something as well…”Free” is a utopian vision, and I suspect Gladwell knows this pretty well:  From The New Yorker: Malcolm Gladwell’s “Priced To Sell”

From Reason.com: ‘The 4 Best Legal Arguments Against ObamaCare’

Full piece here.

Click through for the arguments against the Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act, the Individual Mandate, and legal arguments against Obamacare (libertarians are leading the charge).

In the discussions I’ve had, if someone believes the idea that health-care is a right and not a commodity (some people argue that it is privilege, morally, but I’ll stick to a commodity, as with a commodity you get what you pay for in a world of limited resources), then they are usually supportive of the Law.

If upheld, I believe we would be inviting the government into our lives in a way we haven’t before, granting it the power to tax and penalize us for our very health itself (few things are more important).  Because few things are more important, and because so many people do not have access to health care, or do have access but we are providing it to them inefficiently, or because some people abuse the care provided and do not have the ability to manage their lives accordingly, or because health-insurance companies are making end-of-life decisions sometimes based on the bottom line and the profit motive (which is what would happen under the new Law), because we’ve tied health-care to employment, or because costs are rising rapidly for all due in part to technology, longevity, and prescription drugs (all of which would become less available long-term under the law)…the supporters of this Law are willing to overlook the power granted to one group of people (their favored political and ideological interests) over other interests left to pick up the costs.

For many of them, the concept of a right is universal enough to enshrine their thinking into law, and the Affordable Care Act, passed as it is, will do.  In digging, I sometimes find much ire against their political and ideological enemies rather than Nature herself, sickness and disease, the natural inequality of human gifts and abilities, and the unequal outcomes we allow in our society.   They want the social contract to mean something quite different.

Of course, the idea that the Act won’t lead to greater fiscal insolvency and massive deficits, at a time when two other entitlement programs are increasingly insolvent, is a non-starter.  It won’t.

The American Interest has a breakdown of the Supreme Court’s schedule here.

Addition: Richard Epstein has more here. More good coverage here. Price controls will drive insurers to compete to provide worst care for the sick, and destabilize health insurance markets by taking away the means insurance companies use to stay afloat.

Another Addition:  The limiting principle.

Related On This Site:  From The New England Journal Of Medicine Via CATO: ‘The Constitutionality of the Individual Mandate’From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?… From The New Yorker: Atul Gawande On Health Care-”The Cost Conundrum”Sally Pipes At Forbes: ‘A Plan That Leads Health Care To Nowhere’Peter Suderman At The WSJ: ‘Obamacare And The Medicaid Mess’From AEI: ‘Study: ‘Obama Healthcare Reform Raising Costs, Forcing Workers Out Of Existing Plans’

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A Few Thoughts On The Health-Care Debate: Ram It Through?

I have enough faith in the people who day in and day out deal with health-care to move forward.  They include doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, insurance employees, pharmaceutical companies (even the sales reps), and ultimately, you and me.

Yet I also observe that man is a political animal, and can see how the subtlety and complextity of this issue (or any issue) is so often rendered into political sausage and earmarked pork.  Politicians do what they do best;  seeking political advantage, crafting their message to fit the times and their constituencies, and hopefully representing you and me if we vote and hold them accountable.  Beyond that, I’m skeptical.

If you are a true liberal or progressive…don’t you value individual freedom enough to recognize that the kind of political idealism you display (America is ungovernable!) can also lead to political stagnation, over-reach, and potentially a loss of individual freedom?

To some conservatives I know:  doesn’t Obama’s political sacrifice involve the address of a cost problem. Aren’t we wasting money with our emergency room triage centers?  What do we do about this in our own lives?  Perhaps there are options beyond tea-party populism…and opportunities to use this moment, at the very least, to wiser political advantage.

Politics plays a part, but how big a part should still be up for debate in my opinion…

Also On This Site: Atul Gawande suggests some ideas for how big a part: Atul Gawande At The New Yorker: ‘Testing, Testing’From The New Yorker: Atul Gawande On Health Care-”The Cost Conundrum”

Addition: A friend points out that one barrier to free trade (and a talking point even on the left) is protectionism in our farm markets…so if you nationalize, be prepared to deal with unforeseen consequences down the road?

Health Care is a right?: From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?

Clive Crook At The Financial Times: ‘Congress Misses The Point Of Reform’

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