Elmo? Yes, I do mind. I learned far more from Bert.

Like plenty of people my age, I grew up watching Sesame Street. As a parent of kids born in 1998 and 2002, the dominance of Elmo was notable. We purchased a handful of videos and games, and regularly cycled through the videos and games at our library. I remember being disappointed that the other characters were getting sidelined to make room for more and more Elmo, whose stories skewed young. When…

Enjoying my “Dystopia in American Literature” class.

After a kind of prelude in which we looked at Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle” and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” as proto-dystopias, my “Dystopia in American Literature” class looked at Jack London’s post-apocalyptic “The Scarlet Plague” last week. Because it’s an online class that never meets face-to-face, I’ve been posting regular 15-20m context lectures, in order to convey the kind of background info that I would ordinarily just slip…

Why Fears of Fake News Are Overhyped

Facebook seems to have made changes that mean it is less involved in the spread of fake news. Overall, and for reasons that extend beyond whatever unknown changes Facebook may have made to its algorithm, fake news seems less prevalent now than it was in 2016. “[T]he role of Facebook in the spread of fake news appears to have changed. In 2016, the site differentially appeared in web traffic just…

Columbia Journalism Review

Journalism is now the second draft of history

The unavoidable truth is that first draft of history is no longer written in tomorrow’s newspaper. Instead, it’s tapped out on new and social media, which is thick with rumor and conspiracy. There’s little journalists can do about crap on the internet; taking aim at disinformation is like firing a machine-gun at an unruly flock of birds. What we can do is to get our own house in order. Amid…

Twitter and the “Two Minutes Hate”

Another of the many, many reflections on the big story of the weekend. In 1984, George Orwell famously described a totalitarian political order in which people were kept as docile subjects in part by a daily ritual called “Two Minutes Hate” in which the population directs all of its pent up fury at “Goldstein,” a possibly fictional enemy of the state. Thanks to Twitter, we now know that the same dynamic…