Creating Your Own Private Internet Intellectual Elysium

The School of Athens by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino The School of Athens Wikipedia

Absolutely brilliant from Henry Farrell: If being muted by Jonathan Chait were to regularly produce such good thought, Chait should mute everybody immediately!:

Henry Farrell: WE’RE ALL GOING TO NEED SAFE SPACES: Speech doesn’t scale, and at a certain point, the scarce resource isn’t speech but attention. Even when people who want to argue with you are entirely sincere, there is a point at which you simply can’t pay attention to everyone who wants to talk at you on Twitter and still function. You need to make choices. Second, speech is increasingly being weaponized to drown out inconvenient voices... making online political conversation more or less impossible in authoritarian regimes... tendentious, irrelevant, and angry comments... a “flood of fake content, seeding doubt and paranoia, and destroying the possibility of using the Internet as a democratic space” (in passing, I used to be very strongly in favor of anonymous free speech on the Internet; I’ve had to seriously rethink that). In the standard shibboleth, the best antidote to bad speech is more speech. What Putin’s Russia and Xi’s China have discovered is that the best antidote to more speech is bad speech. And while there is a lot of paranoia about Russian bots, there was, I think, a very real attempt to use these techniques to stir things up in the US election, and in Western European countries too...

My test for my RSS and Twitter feeds is:

Is this person who has just shown up in my timeline the:

  1. smartest
  2. knowledgeable
  3. well-intentioned
  4. interesting

person who is right now writing about:

  1. an important issue
  2. that I care about
  3. at a level and in a mode I can understand


(Some people would add “kind“, but I find that people who lean over to Fargo be kind call their punches and require one to spend too much work in Aesopian readings.)

If yes, read on. If no, skip. If no and they are annoying, mute. If no and they keep showing up in my timeline, mute. If they still keep showing up in my timeline, block.

This produces a very interesting and useful individual feed. By now the combination of my RSS and Twitter feeds is truly an intellectual Elysium.

The problem is that it does nothing to produce a functioning intellectual community. And that is what we really need: we are smart when we are part of a functional anthology intelligence. We are dumb when we are off on our own. And we are very dumb when we are part of a dysfunctional combination clown circus and shit show—and there are a lot of people speaking out there who get money or status or pleasure from trying to create dysfunctional combination clown circuses and shit shows.

No, I do not have an answer...