Millions of separate realities, destroying our common world

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for weeks, but haven’t had the time, because it would be so involved. But I think I’ll throw out a few thoughts about it, and see if y’all take it up, and then add to the conversation as we go.

I’m prompted to go ahead and do so by a piece Jennifer Rubin had in The Washington Post today. It’s headlined, “We must end the post-truth society.” That’s fairly self-explanatory. It deals with a problem we all know exists. And in this case, she’s dealing not only with the grossly destructive tendency of Trump supporters to believe his lies, but other aspects we see in our culture today, such as all the nonsense about the “war on Christmas.”

All fairly obvious, as I said. We now live in a time in which people utterly reject Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s dictum, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” (He wrote it in a column in 1983, although it is apparently based on something James R. Schlesinger had said previously.) When he said it, people across the political spectrum would have nodded, because it’s so obviously true.

But not now. And the word “entitled” is particularly significant here. People out there really, truly think they are entitled to their own facts. After all, they dwell in a universe in which their belief in such “facts” is fully supported and reinforced.A_separate_reality

I’ve commented on this before. Everyone has. And I was conscious of the cause of the problem. But recently, I came to realize it, to understand it, to grok it, more fully. And it was as though I hadn’t thought about these things before.

It happened first when I listened to a podcast series from several months ago, called “Rabbit Hole.” If you haven’t listened to it, I wish you would — assuming The New York Times allows you to do so. (Since I’m a subscriber, I’m never sure what is available to non-subscribers.) It’s in eight parts. The most compelling are the first few, which deal in great detail with what happened to a young man named Caleb.

Caleb is a guy who initially perceived reality in a fairly “normal” way (judged from the perspective of my own reality), even though he was having a bit of trouble finding his way in the world I know. Then he got addicted to YouTube. He started watching it most of his waking hours. After he got a job that allowed him to listen to earbuds while working, he did it (or at least listened to it) ALL of his waking hours.

Meanwhile, YouTube was growing and refining its product. They were making the artificial intelligence that underlies its operation smarter and smarter, and better at constantly showing you more of what interests you. We’re all familiar with this, and I suppose that mostly, we appreciate it. It’s nice when I go to listen, say, to the Turtles play “Happy Together,” and YouTube suggests a video I had never seen of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.” (Which it may or may not do for you in your reality.) I end up wasting time, but it’s enjoyable.

One day in late 2014, YouTube recommended  to Caleb a self-help video by Stefan Molyneux, a self-styled “anarcho-capitalist” who also had a political agenda. He liked what he heard; it seemed to speak particularly relevantly to a confused young man. So YouTube showed him similar things. And more similar things. And it got more and more out there, more and more into the terrain of, as the NYT put it, “conspiracy theories, misogyny and racism.” It essentially said to him, over and over, “Oh, you liked that? Then you’ll love this…”

It became his reality. His only reality, since he had no other sources of information about the world. (He didn’t make time for any other sources.) And he got in deeper and deeper. How this happened is charted quite precisely, because Caleb gave the Times access to his video-watching history. They could trace his descent into his own tailor-made madness clip by clip, hour by hour, day after day. For years.

It’s really something to listen to.

Of course, this was just Caleb’s reality — his, and that of others who were absorbed by the increasingly weird things that he listened to and was shaped by. Each individual, of course, would have a slightly different experience, while at the same time becoming members of new, bogus “communities” of people with similar beliefs in this or that area.

I mentioned this podcast, and recommended it, to friends, who recommended in turn that I go watch “The Great Hack” on Netflix. It examined the same phenomenon from a different angle, the Cambridge Analytica scandal, “in which the personal data of millions of Facebook users were acquired without their consent… predominantly to be used for political advertising.” Data that reflected you through your online habits, using an app called “thisisyourdigitallife.” I recommend that, too. Even if you don’t find it enlightening, at least the graphic effects are cool (such as a person walking down a crowded city street, while bits of data are shown flowing up from every smartphone he passes). Or I thought so.

I’d always been concerned about the thing that was working on Caleb. Back in the 90s, when I was first exploring the Web, I saw that a lot of sites — including newspapers, such as The Wall Street Journal — would invite you to create your own, personalized interface. “,” or whatever. I found this disturbing, especially when newspapers did it. But I confess I didn’t see how bad things would get. My objection was simply that the point of a newspaper is to provide a community, or a state or a nation with a common set of information about what’s going on — something that in a free country will inevitably lead to fierce debates about what to do in light of the facts, but at least everyone was starting from a common set of facts, a common perception of reality, which at least provided some hope of an arrival at a rational course of action. Facts collected and passed on by professionals with a quasi-religious ethic of accuracy and impartiality, let me add, and curated by editors who had over the years demonstrated skill and insight into current events. (Now watch all the self-appointed media critics go ballistic on that one. Hey, it wasn’t perfect, but man was it superior to what we have now.)

To be a fully prepared citizen, capable of contributing constructively to the public conversation, you needed to see ALL the news, not just the bits that tickled your personal fancy. You needed a sense of the fullness of what was going on.

Now, we have separate realities, millions of them, curated by algorithms to tell us what we want to hear (as opposed to editors, who tended to irritate all of us with the unwelcome information they shared). Everyone on the planet is now an editor and publisher, with power the old-school professionals couldn’t dream of: Each person is able to cast out his or her versions of reality to the entire world, instantaneously. No matter how well- or ill-considered their perceptions are. And each person is informed by sources such as these — the particular ones that each person chooses, or has chosen for him or her by the algorithms.

More than 40 years ago, I enjoyed Carlos Castaneda’s series of books about his apprenticeship under the Yaqui Indian shaman called Don Juan, including a volume titled A Separate Reality. It was fascinating to read of his adventures in that separate universe, and enjoyable (rather than threatening) because I lived in the safe, mundane reality with most people. Castaneda’s universe was shaped by not just Don Juan’s tutelage, but a variety of hallucinogenic drugs. Which I avoided, satisfied simply to read about it. It was a nice escape.

But that was amateur hour compared to what surrounds us today. There are millions of separate realities — one shaped separately for each of us. And some of them are truly wild. Worse, they have rendered any sort of consensus-forming through our system of representative democracy practically impossible.

And that’s how you get things like the mob attacking the Capitol last week. A mob of people absolutely convinced that they were “patriots” saving the republic from something that threatened it. Because that’s the way it is in their respective separate realities.

It’s the Trump brand of reality that’s currently wreaking havoc on our country, appealing to each adherent in a different, personalized way. But of course there are billions of others around the globe.

I’m sort of wary of my own, and perhaps I should be even warier. Just the other day, after the failed revolution, I was noticing how everyone seemed to agree with me about what had happened, more or less, on Twitter. (Which, if you’ve spent decades as an editor fielding reader complaints, causes you to get suspicious.) This happens because they are brought together in a reality shaped by the people and institutional sources I have chosen to follow, and those who have chosen to follow me.

But I’m simultaneously aware that, despite the shocking violence last week, which led even Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell to go ahead and certify Joe’s election (something that would have been utterly unremarkable — would in fact not even have been prominently covered — in the world in which these separate realities did not yet exist), these views are not universally shared. It’s not just the abomination of Joe Wilson and the other members who voted against confirming the election. The almost half of the country that voted for Trump seems to be spread along a vast spectrum, from your Mitt Romney types to your Ted Cruzes. And they have all sorts of verdicts on events, shaped by their distinct online interactions.

Each and every one in his own, separate universe, shaped by its own separate facts. To which he is quite certain he is entitled….

54 thoughts on “Millions of separate realities, destroying our common world

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    I expect you, if you read that, to say, “What? Don’t we all already KNOW that? What’s with this idiot acting like this is some sort of special revelation he has experienced?”

    Yeah, I knew it, too. But the last few months, I realized it more fully. The difference was dramatic enough that I wanted to share it.

    To my own embarrassment, really. A month ago as this post fermented, I was having a conversation with E.J. Dionne about the insane Texas lawsuit that our own Attorney General Alan Wilson joined in on, via Twitter DM. E.J. had said “btw I am really worked up about that Texas lawsuit and the embrace of it by so many Republicans. At least the secessionists acknowledged that Lincoln won!”

    I responded at some length, for a DM:

    Yes. And one of the culprits is our own attorney general, Alan Wilson. The secessionists were pre-internet: Everyone could agree on facts. Now, with every individual consuming media that are shaped to his or her liking, Moynihan is outdated: everybody not only feels entitled to his or her own facts, but those are the only facts that reach each of them. No one who depends on new media has to adjust to an objective reality, and individuals are offended that anyone would expect it of them. We all KNOW this, but I didn’t fully realize how profoundly this is true until I listened to the NYT podcast series, “Rabbit Hole.” Several episodes focus on a young man who is radicalized by YouTube, which runs on an algorithm that says to each individual, “You liked that? You’ll love this…” Of course, all social media and many other platforms do that, too. They just focused on YouTube. Anyway, listening to it, I suddenly started to GET Trumpism for the first time…

    And then I felt embarrassed, having said such obvious things with an air of letting someone in on something. I added, apologetically, “Sorry about the length of that. And I realize it sounds trite. I’m just trying to describe how I came to truly grasp something I thought I already knew…” E.J. was tolerant of my obviousness.

    But here’s the thing, folks. I’m pretty sure you already see it. But do you see it, in the sense that Castaneda wrote about? Or, as Valentine Michael Smith would have it, do you fully grok it?

    With Castaneda’s Don Juan, doing that required hallucinogens. With me, it took a few hours of listening to “Rabbit Hole”…

  2. Dave Crockett

    What you have described is exactly why I don’t follow folks on Twitter or Facebook, even though I’ve had accounts on both services for years. Both can be rabbit holes unless one makes a strong, conscious effort to avoid it. It’s also why, though I routinely rely on CNN’s website for news and opinion, I also scan over both Fox News and Breitbart on a regular basis. CNN was smart enough a couple of years ago to abandon publishing reader comments (first on new stories only, then to opinion/commentaries) that created yet other rabbit holes. Fox and Breitbart haven’t been smart/brave enough to follow suit. I used to do the same with online newspaper editorial pages around the state, but with their overall decline in local papers (which you have properly bemoaned) and the papers’ legitimate need to erect paywalls, that’s pretty much gone by the board.

    On Jan. 6, much to my wife’s aggravation, I constantly switched the TV among CNN, Fox, OAN, CBS, NBC and ABC for nearly nine hours in an effort to get some kind of “balanced” account of what was actually going on at the Capitol. I’m not sure I acheived “balance” but it was better than parking on a single outlet.

    And let me close with a tip my hat to you and everyone else on this blog who’ve helped me try to see the validity of other opinions even when I sometimes strongly disagree with them.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, I appreciate your efforts to balance your perspective.

      I don’t watch TV news at all (except, occasionally, when David Brooks and the “liberal of the week” are doing their review of the week on PBS on Friday — although I prefer the NPR version, with E.J.).

      I’d worry about me if I were only getting input from Twitter. But that’s against the background of my subscriptions to The State, The Post and Courier, The Washington Post, The New York Times and The New Yorker.

      And I’m happy to say I’m subscribing again to The Wall Street Journal. For years — pretty much all the Trump years, which is probably a good thing, for my blood pressure — I didn’t, because it’s so incredibly expensive. But they made an offer recently that I couldn’t refuse, and I’m back on board!

      By the way, did you see their editorial the other day calling on Trump to resign? Or the one praising Biden’s choice of Merrick Garland for AG? Uh-oh. It looks like EVERYBODY’S agreeing with Brad, just like on Twitter! Which is a bit surprising. With Bret Stephens having been stolen away by the NYT, I didn’t expect to agree with all that much on the WSJ’s opinion pages.

      But then, of course, I have to remind myself: Of course conservative editors and columnists are going to say Trump must go. Unfortunately, Republican officeholders don’t take their cues from the writers and editors. They listen to the Trump base…

  3. Bob Amundson

    “Which I avoided, satisfied simply to read about it. It was a nice escape.” Try mescalito (peyote; avoid the strychnine) and humito (psilocybin). Then you’ll truly understand “A Separate Reality.” DO NOT try yerba del diablo (jimson weed; you know the Spanish). It WILL MESS YOU UP! It grows around here and every year someone tries it and ends up in the ER.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I did not want to go to there, as Liz Lemon would say. But I enjoyed reading about it.

      Here’s the great irony in this… I forget which book it was in, but in one of them, Don Juan lets Carlos in on something: He tells him it’s not really necessary (not necessary for everyone, anyway) to take hallucinogens to reach the alternate forms of perception. He had other apprentices who didn’t have to take drugs to get there.

      But apparently he considered Carlos something of a hard case, who needed the chemical help….

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          But there are some times I would LIKE to have experienced.

          For instance, I think I’d like to have been born about 30 or so years before I was born. I wouldn’t have missed WWII, when the nation was truly united in a worthwhile endeavor — defeating the very real threat of fascism. Also, it was an exciting period because it formed the time I grew up in in real life.

          I could have voted for FDR.

          Then, I’d have been an adult during the time when the best things in a long time happened on the domestic front. I’d have been about 40 at the peak of the civil rights movement, the Civil Rights Act, the adoption of Medicare, etc. Lots of exciting and constructive stuff going on in America. Maybe I’d have been able to help. Also, even though I’d have been kind of old, maybe the kids would have let me listen to the Beatles anyway…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            It’s not that I dream about it or anything; it just popped into my head just now as I was riffing about other times.

            Ancient Rome? No. Medieval Europe? No. But earlier in the 20th century? Yeah, maybe so…

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              The Wild West? Hell, no. I’d have skedaddled back East at the first chance.

              None of my ancestors went West, and I commend them on their good sense.

              But let’s take it back earlier. In all my studies of my family tree, I still have one question I’d like to ask my ancestors who came over here from the Old Country: Why? I mean, I can imagine lots of reasons, and from the perspective of MY time I think coming over here and eventually starting the United States worked out over time, but I wouldn’t have known that THEN.

              I doubt many could have articulated anything inspiring about constructing a “city on a hill” and all that, back in the 17th century. But they had to have their reasons, and I’d love to know what they were.

              Why would I have left England to come over and, for instance, live in Jamestown in the early days of the colony — as several of my peeps did?

              How bad were my ancestors’ lives back there and then that they were willing to take the suicidal voyage across the ocean to come to a place that, let’s face it, was kind of a mess and not well run? And it’s not like the Indians had invited you, so why?

              I imagine things had to really, really suck back in England, for anyone to make that calculation, and actually DO it…

              1. Bob Amundson

                “Outlander” (Books and TV Series) is fulfilling my need for fantasy and historical fiction at the same time.

      1. Bob Amundson

        The books are mostly fiction. The indigenous pharmacopoeia (including hallucinogens) of “medicine men”/shamans are not. You will not understand by just trying to observe.

  4. JesseS

    Haven’t finished Rabbit Hole since it was still going when I started, but I’ll have to get around to finishing it. The last 9 months I’ve been listening to a lot of QAnon Anonymous (they were talking to Q Shaman 6 months ago, when he was picking up girls at a bar), It’s Can Happen Here/Behind the Bastards (from anarchist journalist Bob Evans, who has been reporting on Portland since BLM) and Knowledge Fight (a debunking show about InfoWars).

    The Knowledge Fight episode covering Alex Jones on the 6th was honestly shocking. Jones was in DC, so Harrison Smith, the last of Alex’s 3 on air personalities, since he fired the rest a few weeks back, hosted the show. When the protesters turned into rioters Harrison couldn’t have been happier. He proclaimed that it was the beginning of the “Second American Revolution!” Then he started suggesting where the rioters should go within the Capitol building in order to kill Ilhan Omar. Alex called in to do damage control, telling InfoWars staff to “play the snuff film” of the “execution” and “make you watch her die in slow motion!” This was all in reference to Ashli Babbitt. InfoWars just kept playing it over and over again from various angles. Incidentally some of their footage came from someone who the other host, Owen Shroyer (the guy who did the InfoWars rally at the State House a few weeks back) had gotten drunk with the night before while burning BLM flags. This lasted until Alex got a call from Joe Rogan and then he was already bored with the “MAGA Martyr” who’d be remember “forever”.

    Molyneux might be the worst of the worst. In the den of vipers he’s the coral snake who slithers up in the sleeping bag and chews. He pulls the Scientology trick of telling you that your family are suppressive persons and you have to cut them out of your life and pay him piles of cash so he can show you the path. Insidious. All it takes is being British and sounding smart.

    About half way through Charles Portis’ Masters of Atlantis. Yes, the guy who wrote True Grit. It was something Slate recommended and it was in my wheelhouse of populism/totalitarianism/conspiracy theory/grift. Not as good or as informative as Eco’s Prague Cemetery (I’d say that it’s THE book for warning people about conspiracy theory, since it’s a page turner), but it’s been interesting.

    OK, that was a lot of rambling.

    1. Bob Amundson

      Rambling that shows some of the naive the dark with which we are dealing. “This ain’t no party; this ain’t no disco; this ain’t no foolin’ around.” While I’m on my ramble/rant, why not some “Psycho Killer, qu’est-ce que c’est; fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-far better, run, run, run, run, run, run, run away …”

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      A lot of rambling, of the sort I myself engage in…

      I wasn’t aware of Eco’s Prague Cemetery. Should I check it out? I loved The Name of the Rose, but I was disappointed by Foucault’s Pendulum, which is the only other thing I’ve read by Eco. I guess I’m just not the right market for conspiracy-theory literature. Needless to say, I have no interest in ever reading The Da Vinci Code, or any Dan Brown.

      The “Second American Revolution?” Well, he might be a dangerous right-wing nut, but he’s no Southerner. When our Southern dangerous right-wing nuts say “Second American Revolution,” they are referring to what more polite Southerners call “the Recent Unpleasantness“…

      1. JesseS

        If you are interested in the history of western conspiracy theory, Eco lays it all out and how it’s all interconnected, not because there is some grand conspiracy, but because conspiracy theorists love stealing from one another. It’s entertaining (and gruesome) and pretty cheap on Kindle. I devoured it in two sittings. Granted it’s from a European point of view (for the American point of view, just read Jefferson and Washington’s letters in response to “illuminism”). The story even has a connection to S. Carolina, specifically Charleston, but I won’t spoil that.

  5. Ken

    Yes, lone-wolf Islamist terrorists aren’t the only ones undergoing self-radicalization.

    And confirmation bias plays a big role in this, too.

    Similarly, there’s the very basic human tendency to go with your gut in deciding what is “true” and what isn’t. Like when some people go with their gut about things like the 1619 Project, for example. Making it “evidence” of some broad leftist plot to subject Americans to an ideological re-education regime. In other words, leaping to false conclusions.

    So let’s not put too much blame on the algorithms.

  6. Barry

    I’ve seen a number of screen grabs from Parler in the last week. The posts I have seen are out of a science fiction movie.

    Numerous posts of how Lin Wood has secretly won a big case at the Supreme Court to throw out all Biden electors.

    How Trump will be using the military to prevent Biden from being President.

    How world governments have secretly acknowledged Trump won and won’t recognize Biden.

    Everything is a “big secret”.

    That’s not even counting the numerous threats against public safety that are made on Parler.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      Ha! Those are some pretty crazy realities. I mean, how much would it suck to secretly win a case at the Supreme Court? I mean, if I won a case at the Supreme Court, I’d be telling everyone I met.

      That’s pretty funny. It might be my favorite conspiracy theory ever…a secret ruling by the Supreme Court. What’s the point of any court ruling if it’s secret? 🙂

      1. Barry

        This was posted on Parler by “Ron Watkins” last week. It was widely shared (tens of thousands of times) in that arena.

        “Things are moving today. Trump is at Cheyenne Mountain as we speak, looking at the evidence taken from Pelosi’s laptop real-time. My sources say Pelosi was stopped at the border last night at 11:55 and will be headed to an undisclosed location pending the tribunals and trails (my note: I guess that was supposed to be trials)

        Sidney Powell and Lin Wood are in front of military judges today. The 195k sealed indictments (I know there are higher numbers out there but not all are related to this op) and there will be sweeping arrests before the weekend is over.

        Everyone should stock up today and be prepared to hunker down for 10-12 days while the Trump Team takes action and the new Government is put in place. ”

        The responses to this post that I saw myself were rejoicing, and triumphant. Almost no one that I observed even questioned it.

      2. Barry

        This was posted on Parler by “JuarexTX” – terrible punctuation included

        “Wayne, what needs to happen is leftist commie democrat traitor politicians kids and grandkids need to be burned alive or thrown into wood chippers in front of them. When democrats see Americans murdering their wives kids parents grandparents etc only then will they realize this is no longer a game. There’s 50 million fighting aged male Trump MAGA supporters millions are military veterans. They will do what is needed to save America from marxist commie filth and Judas RINOs. “

        1. Barry


          “We are waiting on the SCOTUS to do the right thing- and if it doesn’t then the civil war is on! We won’t stand for this democrat fraud and ejection stealing in the middle of the night”

          (he wrote ejection instead of election)

            1. Barry

              He also called for protestors in Washington to bring AR 15 rifles with them.

              He also called for “violent retribution” against Democrats.

              (Note- I’ve refrained from posting some of his most inflammatory, and racist posts).

              1. Barry

                An account named “WH Office of Pardon Attorney” posted

                “We do not have a lot of time to act. POTUS is strongly considering PARDONING all of the patriots who #stormthecapitol

                BUT we need to get him the right information so he can do it in the next week and a half.

                If you would like a Pardon, please respond below with the following information

                Your name
                Your city
                What crimes do you think you need to be pardoned for (trespassing, theft, stole art from the capitol, assault, etc, etc)”

                Of course quite a few responses to the post were by people asking for a Pardon.

  7. Brad Warthen Post author

    Just realized I left an important point out of that post, although I suppose it was implied.

    For more than four years, I’ve very much wanted to know how in the world ANYONE could support Donald Trump. I’ve read all the reasons, and can set them out if you like — but they’re all grossly inadequate. They can’t possibly lead to supporting such a creature. It hasn’t added up.

    Well, the central insight I’m trying to impart in this post is that I finally was able to say, “Oh, now I get it.”

    If you live in an information bubble, and have managed to convince yourself (or be convinced) that ALL reliable sources of information — the ones that would immediately set you straight, by relaying actual facts — are untrustworthy and to be avoided, THEN if becomes possible to arrive at such a strange and insupportable conclusion. This is assuming, of course, that you’ve simultaneously decided to believe everything you’re told by the liars.

    And what “Rabbit Hole” did was explain the process. The case of Caleb was, of course, extreme. He was the perfect test case — seduced into swallowing paranoid explanations of reality, while having NO reliable sources of information. Other avenues to this insanity are less perfect, but still — it’s evident that through Facebook or whatever, you can achieve similar results, if you’ve been convinced that all the sources of truth are “fake news.”

    It’s something that in the past could only be achieved, theoretically, by locking someone in a dungeon, closing them off from the world, and engaging in overt brainwashing techniques. Now, it’s so much easier, and people willingly do it to themselves — or at least, submit to it gladly.

    So finally, I’m able to get it….

    1. Bob Amundson

      Traditional brainwashing techniques are being used, but social media has enhanced the scope.

    2. Barry

      I understand people sick of Washington wanting someone different. I understand some people supporting some of his policies.

      I don’t understand supporting him over – and this is the 2015 view- supporting him over say – Marco Rubio- someone that would have pushed for the same tax reform (and maybe even more), and some of the same foreign policies (Rubio HATED the Iran Deal)- over someone like Trump- especially for people that I knew that called themselves conservative Christians who hated Donald Trump’s personal conduct.

      and I really don’t understand why so many of them supported and accepted his nutty, crazy conspiracy theory promoting statements and tweets- and retweeting white supremacists/Qanon supporters.

      I don’t understand supporting someone who has constantly complained about people not giving him a chance when he himself repeatedly spread a lie about the former President not being a citizen – and therefore an illegal president- without any evidence.

      I really wanted James Smith to win the governorship. I hoped upon hope he’d win. I knew it was unlikely but I sure did try my part for him to win. But if he had retweeted even 3 crazy conspiracy theories, I wouldn’t have voted for him. I wouldn’t have supported him. I wouldn’t have even mentioned his name to others for their consideration.

      So I can’t relate to people that ripped Obama to pieces for “not being presidential” for using a selfie stick in the Oval office but ignore or dismiss a President who repeatedly has retweeted Qanon conspiracy promoters.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Marco had worked with Lindsey to try to post a more-or-less rational immigration plan. So he was out. Also, I don’t think he ever invoked the Nazi sympathizers of our past by saying things like “America First.”

        When you say this:

        and I really don’t understand why so many of them supported and accepted his nutty, crazy conspiracy theory promoting statements and tweets- and retweeting white supremacists/Qanon supporters.

        … You’re missing a big part of the appeal.

        For some many of his supporters, these are the best things about Trump. To them, it was the answer to dreams: A president of the United States who buys into the “truth” of the conspiracies. What could be better, for a believer. Also, remember, this is the guy who let them know it was OK to be racist, for the first time in their lives. They love him for it… They never thought anything that “wonderful” would ever happen. Neither did I, of course…

  8. Norm Ivey

    There’s only one reality. We have a million separate delusions. For most of us, our delusions are harmless, easily dispelled or written off as eccentricities. The deluded who stormed the Capitol last week are so far removed from reality they believed they could overthrow the US government with zip ties and pepper spray. It lasted what–6 hours? Their grasp on reality is so tenuous that people died and they thought they would be free to go on about their business. I experience schadenfreude every time I hear of another one being arrested or fired. “My little boy can only eat organic.” Gimme a break, Mommy.

    And these tedious hordes are talking about coming back next week. What do they think is going to happen? They’re going to march up and force a Supreme Court justice to swear in Trump for a second term? I fear bloodshed–the kind that happens when wannabe tin soldiers go up against honest-to-God trained fighters. Let me know how that works out for you.

    You’ve commented on the proliferation of outlets for music as a loss of shared musical experiences. The same thing has happened with news. As you describe, we can each now have our own customized news stream. Echo chambers built for one. How out of touch do you have to be to believe that the 2016 election was fair and square and 4 years later is so fraught with fraud that the election was stolen from you? I’ve been diplomatic with some people, but I will not suffer these fools any longer.

    What can you do when 20% or more of your population is little more than a bunch of deluded, whiny sore losers? Maybe those participation trophies weren’t such a good idea after all

    1. Bob Amundson

      Fine with your post EXCEPT quantum theory includes multiple realities. I would replace delusions with biases. 🙂

      This would be a good “beer” discussion post-Covid. I like high ABVs with citrus notes.

      1. Norm Ivey

        Multiple realities perhaps but we can only experience our own, right?

        It’s a bias if you’re disappointed your candidate lost. It’s a delusion if you deny your candidate lost.

        I like high ABVs with citrus notes. I like malty. I like low ABV. I pretty much like everything.

        1. Bob Amundson

          “Multiple realities perhaps but we can only experience our own, right?” Yes, but our perception doesn’t always match up with reality (hence, a separate reality). The plane crash in Rosewood was about a quarter mile from our house, and the person living in the house is a long time friend.

          I say this only to explain that my perceptions are going back to a time when I was an aviator. I understand what MAY have happened, so as a community leader, I am posting what I know to comfort people and to help my friend (she is physically fine).

          I am sharing this only to help make my point – one possible explanation for the crash is that the pilot experienced vertigo. During my training, we spent time experiencing vertigo. You have to overcome your external visual input and focus on your internal visual input (head in the cockpit, on the instruments). I think most everyone has experienced vertigo, the sensation of moving or of surrounding objects moving when they are not.

          This is definitely a few beers discussion, not so much a blog discussion. When it’s safe, we should help Brad organize an “are these people real” physical get together, WITH BEER!

  9. Ken

    There has never been a “common world.”
    Trying to get back to what never existed is foolish and potentially dangerous.
    The Internet merely feeds our impulses. So the real problem lies in being ever vigilant in defending against our own worst impulses.

    1. Bob Amundson

      I agree totally. Redundant, but relevant – “I suggest everyone watch “Social Dilemma” on Netflix. Social media provides (note active tense) a technical platform “bullhorn” that enhances the worst in us. The spread of disinformation seems to correlate with Moore’s Law.”

      Got to correct the typo!

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I started watching that last night. Hope to finish tonight…

        Of course, I’m always listening for the bits that talk about the separate realities. And there are such bits in the film so far.

        I could do without the dramatized parts…

        1. Bob Amundson

          The weakest part of the show is the attempt at dramatizing AI and algorithms. It was annoying; all I could say to my wife was “that’s the dude from MAD MEN.”

  10. bud

    What is a fact can be colored by ones experience depending on an individuals religious is doing indoctrination. An atheist finds a Christian’s unquestioned acceptance of Christian orthodoxy an unsupported bunch of nonsense. Yet a true believer has unwavering acceptance that the biblical description is absolute truth. So who is to be the arbiter of what is fact? An atheist would argue that a religious person is so biased by religious indoctrination that they should be rejected for that roll. A religious person would likewise reject the atheist. Perhaps Moynihan got it wrong. Maybe everyone really IS entitled to their own facts.

  11. Bill

    There’s a good book about evil;’Lancelot-Walker Percy’,from 1977-

    It all seems quaint,now…

    “As if deeply disappointed that America didn’t right itself after seeing its doom in the comic forecasts of Love in the Ruins, Percy/Jeremiah returns with less funny stuff, fewer pages, zero fantasy, and much more resolve—none of which keeps Lancelot from being precious goods. “I will not tolerate this age,” insists Lancelot Lamar, nuthoused after incinerating his Louisiana homestead while his unfaithful wife and her movie-star buddies slept within. A visitor has arrived—a priest, a psychiatrist, an old friend—and Lancelot explains himself in alternate bursts of confession and sermonizing. Pieces of the true-crime, true-love story pull irresistibly taut: discovering wife Margot’s past adultery (a daughter’s impossible blood type), logging her current dalliances (cameras rolling in every bedroom), shooing away the innocents and gathering the sinners together before pumping in the methane. If the preoccupation with fidelity seems dated Lancelot’s lamentations over “the great whorehouse and fagdom of America” let us know that the anachronism is intended. With a vengeance. This “Knight of the Unholy Grail” seeks one real sin in a Manson world where murderers are sick, not bad, where women have stumbled on the crude reality of sex (“ah, sweet mystery of life indeed”), where Lancelot’s teen-aged daughter triples up with bisexual film folk. Solution? “The future must be absolutely new”; Lancelot plans a log-cabin existence with the mute gang-rape victim in the next cell. Does this particular last gentleman speak for Percy? Probably not, since the priest who listens throughout is called Percival and is about to talk for the first time as the novel ends. But Lancelot’s tirades will have readers pausing for breath and for thought, caught by surprise and kept from sleep by a great novelist working in the public interest. “Which is worse, to die with T. J. Jackson at Chancellorsville or live with Johnny Carson in Burbank?” You decide.”

    Lancelot/Percy is obsessed with evil but unprepared for the 2021 reader..

    1. Ken

      Walker Percy was in many ways a (Catholic) cultural conservative. And so Lancelot’s description of modern social ills express Percy’s own views of the same (as he showed in The Thanatos Syndrome and various interviews). This agreement is expressed in the final colloquy between Lancelot and Perceval:

      Lancelot: “All we can agree on is that it will not be their way. Out there.”

      Perceval: “Yes.”

      But while Perceval/Percy may concur with Lancelot’s/Percy’s description of those ills, they do not agree on the solution. Lancelot’s is to embrace violent cleansing and/or separatism. Perceval’s is to start a new church.

        1. Ken

          Yep. Even though I didn’t often agree with Buckley, at least it was a conservatism with a mind. Unlike now.

          1. Bob Amundson

            The good old days; I guess some good, AND some bad. But dang, never this bad. It’s all relative …

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Y’all remember Percy better than I do.

      Twenty or 25 years ago I read a couple of his books — thinking it my duty as a Southern reader, like reading Carson McCullers or Flannery O’Connor — and they were OK, but I didn’t read any more.

      I read Lancelot and the Moviegoer — choosing them by title, as a fan of Arthurian legend and movies. I liked one more than the other — probably the Moviegoer, since the main thing I recall about Lancelot was that it was depressing.

      I’m very poorly read among Southern writers. Worst of all, I’ve never finished anything by Faulkner….

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