What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.

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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

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May 2021 Archives

May 10, 2021

La nouvelle radio

As readers are no doubt well aware, the last five or so years have seen an explosion in podcasting. Statistics on these matters (often self-reported), while lacking reliable precision, nonetheless supply valuable information as trends. So while less than a quarter of Americans in 2015 had listened to a podcast, today well over half have done so; approaching four in ten do so every month; and almost one quarter do so weekly.

An astonishing statistic, which this writer regards with particular skepticism, suggests that around 90% of listeners complete the entire episodes of the podcasts they listen to; given that many prominent ones exceed two hours in length, even adjusting for exaggeration by surveyed listeners, this suggests a remarkable follow-through rate.

Though some podcasters, like my friend Erick Erickson, structure theirs as an adjunct to a traditional radio show, most are standalone features, recorded, produced, and released for consumption some time later. So what we’re talking about here is the rise of what amounts to a new medium of communication. And the market for that medium consists of people who tend to be younger, wealthier, better-educated and more gainfully employed than Americans on average.

In fine, la nouvelle radio, while perhaps not killing the video star, is surely causing him some distress.

The chief merit of the podcast medium: multitasking. To listen to a sprawling conversation of three hours in length sure sounds daunting -- unless you’re a long-haul trucker or a man training for a half-marathon, alone with your higher mental processes while your lower ones are dominated by physically taxing activity. The demerits are real but minor: repetitiveness, reduced memory retention, the difficulty of moving around in the “text” for clarity, recollection, and cross-reference. A podcast cannot replace a book. On the other hand, I have yet to discover an effective method for reading a book while also washing dishes or mowing the lawn.

The fact that even the most fluid podcasters speak at a pace well below average reading pace seems like a wash compared to the emotional vitality of natural human conversation. The loss of rapidity in absorbing information is offset by the gain of dramatic power. After all, I can read the St. Crispin’s Day speech faster than Kenneth Branagh can deliver it.

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May 16, 2021

The Small Vine: Life Over Death

Many-a year ago, I went on a sci-fi reading binge in my spare time. It was mostly a flop. Turns out I'm not really into reading sci-fi. One of the authors I tried unsuccessfully to enjoy was Fred Saberhagen. I read quite a number of short stories set in his Berserker universe. The Berserkers are demoniacally clever, life-destroying robots. They specialize in torture as a mode of forcing humans to do their will (they have no emotions) as they try to eradicate life from the galaxy. I'm a sensitive soul. This series wasn't for me. Plus, like so many sci-fi authors, Saberhagen just didn't seem to me to have the gift of making you see landscape or get really involved with characters. Everything was just plot sketches on board spaceships.

There was one short story, the title of which I don't remember. I'll just let some enterprising reader do the googling to try to find its title and perhaps correct my memory of its plot. But the plot, and the ending (spoilers coming) have always stuck with me for conceptual reasons, even though I can scarcely remember if the protagonist was male or female, let alone his name. I'm pretty sure it was a man. The Berserkers had taken over the spaceship. The main character was being left alive for a while because they had some nefarious use for him. The Berserkers would sometimes force humans to act as spies or lures for other humans. I remember that from other stories. So maybe that was it. Anyway, they were going to make some bad use of the spaceship as well. Meanwhile, they had to let the few humans they were keeping continue to grow food, so there was a garden on the ship.

The climax (and ending) of the story came when the protagonist realized that one of the melons or gourds in the garden had sent its vines (roots?) down into the side of the ship and pried apart a seam of some kind. This meant that he was going to die pretty soon. It would also destroy the ship. Normally a disaster. But now that the ship was taken over by the Berserkers, he perceived it as a triumph. The story ends with him ready to die happy when the ship is depressurized, realizing that now it can't be used by the Berserkers to destroy more life.

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May 21, 2021

Social media censorship, social control, and penalizing success

As we think about things like Facebook censorship of particular views, done deliberately because of the content of those views, we should think in terms of the large social effects of such censorship. During the past ten years, social ostracism of people who utter certain views, and the idea that those views are just unacceptable and taboo, has increased greatly. An example would be the view that homosexual acts are both unnatural and seriously immoral. Some even of my friends who agree with that view may feel uncomfortable with my saying it. Some may openly think that I am somehow unkind for saying it or that it is the kind of thing one shouldn't say in public where others can hear you (in the broader sense of "hear"). Indeed, it is a paradox of social media that the platforms positively invite and encourage people to build up a following so as to communicate a message effectively to as wide an audience as possible, then selectively penalize those who do this with views that they oppose, especially those that I consider importantly true.

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