James Madison’s Nightmare

I think this might be my favorite article on the topic I’ve read, ever. My excerpts:

Exacerbating all this political antagonism is the development that might distress Madison the most: media polarization, which has allowed geographically dispersed citizens to isolate themselves into virtual factions, communicating only with like-minded individuals and reinforcing shared beliefs. Far from being a conduit for considered opinions by an educated elite, social-media platforms spread misinformation and inflame partisan differences. Indeed, people on Facebook and Twitter are more likely to share inflammatory posts that appeal to emotion than intricate arguments based on reason. The passions, hyper-partisanship, and split-second decision making that Madison feared from large, concentrated groups meeting face-to-face have proved to be even more dangerous from exponentially larger, dispersed groups that meet online.

“The democratic character of the internet is itself posing a threat to democracy, and there’s no clear solution to the problem,” Persily told me. “Censorship, delay, demotion of information online, deterrence, and dilution of bad content—all pose classic free-speech problems, and everyone should be concerned at every step of the government regulatory parade.”

The best way of promoting a return to Madisonian principles, however, may be one Madison himself identified: constitutional education. In recent years, calls for more civic education have become something of a national refrain. But the Framers themselves believed that the fate of the republic depended on an educated citizenry.

These are dangerous times: The percentage of people who say it is “essential” to live in a liberal democracy is plummeting, everywhere from the United States to the Netherlands. Support for autocratic alternatives to democracy is especially high among young people. In 1788, Madison wrote that the best argument for adopting a Bill of Rights would be its influence on public opinion. As “the political truths” declared in the Bill of Rights “become incorporated with the national sentiment,” he concluded, they would “counteract the impulses of interest and passion.” Today, passion has gotten the better of us.

Read the whole thing: America Is Living James Madison’s Nightmare

Side note: I’ve been enjoying Laws and Sausages, which is a great, if nascent attempt at fun constitutional education.

The Slow Winter by James Mickens

The reads to me like hardware engineering meets Charlie from It’s Always Sunny:

As the transistors became increasingly unpredictable, the foundations of John’s world began to crumble. So, John did what any reasonable person would do: he cloaked himself in a wall of denial and acted like nothing had happened. “Making processors faster is increasingly difficult,” John thought, “but maybe people won’t notice if I give them more processors.” This, of course, was a variant of the notorious Zubotov Gambit, named after the Soviet-era car manufacturer who abandoned its attempts to make its cars not explode, and instead offered customers two Zubotovs for the price of one, under the assump- tion that having two occasionally combustible items will distract you from the fact that both items are still occasionally combustible. John quietly began to harness a similar strategy, telling his marketing team to deemphasize their processors’ speed, and emphasize their level of parallelism.

Read the whole thing

Original John Lennon “Imagine” demo


From Kottke:

While sifting through boxes upon boxes of the original tapes for Yoko Ono, engineer Rob Stevens discovered something truly remarkable that had gone unnoticed all these years. “Early 2016, during the gestation period of this project, I’m in the Lennon archives with my people going through tape boxes that have labeling that’s unclear, misleading, or missing entirely”, says Stevens. “There’s a one-inch eight-track that says nothing more on the ‘Ascot Sound’ label than John Lennon, the date, and the engineer (Phil McDonald), with DEMO on the spine. No indication of what material was on the tape. One delicate transfer to digital later, the “Imagine” demo, subsequently enhanced superbly by Paul Hicks, appears within this comprehensive set. It was true serendipity.