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The only way to lessen speed bias is to give journalists more time to do their work. That would mean slower delivery of news and less output overall. Unfortunately, the message that news consumers have sent for decades is not “slower, less, and better” but “faster and more, even if it’s worse.” In the aftermath of the 2016 election, Taibbi notes, polling showed confidence in the press dropped—but ratings rose: “People believed us less, but watched us more.” This is an incredibly perverse market signal, telling media companies to double down on the very choices that erode public trust.

— Bonnie Kristian, Untrustworthy

“Announcement” by Luci Shaw

Yes, we have seen the studies, sepia strokes
across yellowed parchment, the fine detail
of hand and breast and the fall of cloth-
Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Titian, El Greco,
Rouault-each complex madonna positioned,
sketched, enlarged, each likeness plotted at last
on canvas, layered with pigment, like the final
draft of a poem after thirty-nine roughs.

But Mary, virgin, had not sittings, no chance
to pose her piety, no novitiate for body or
for heart. The moment was on her unaware:
the Angel in the room, the impossible demand,
the response without reflection. Only one
word of curiosity, echoing Zechariah’s How?
yet innocently voiced, without request for proof.
The teen head tilted in light, the hand
trembling a little at the throat, the candid
eyes, wide with acquiescence to shame and glory–
“Be it unto me as you have said.”

Prisoner’s Dilemmas are common tragedies. A divorcing husband and wife hire legal barracudas, each fearing the other will take them to the cleaners, while the billable hours drain the marital assets. Enemy nations bust their budgets in an arms race, leaving them both poorer but no safer. Bicycle racers dope their blood and corrupt the sport because otherwise they would be left in the dust by rivals who doped theirs. Everyone crowds a luggage carousel, or stands up at a rock concert, craning for a better view, and no one ends up with a better view.

Many of the dramas of political and economic life may be explained as Prisoner’s Dilemmas with more than two players, where they are called Public Goods games. Everyone in a community benefits from a public good such as a lighthouse, roads, sewers, police, and schools. But they benefit even more if everyone else pays for them and they are free riders—once a lighthouse is built, anyone can see it. In a poignant environmental version called the Tragedy of the Commons, every shepherd has an incentive to add one more sheep to his flock and graze it on the town commons, but when everyone fattens their flock, the grass is grazed faster than it can regrow, and all the sheep starve. Traffic and pollution work the same way: my decision to drive won’t clog the roads or foul the air, just as my decision to take the bus won’t spare them, but when everyone chooses to drive, everyone ends up bumper to bumper on a smoggy freeway. Evading taxes, stinting when the hat is passed, milking a resource to depletion, and resisting public health measures like social distancing and mask-wearing during a pandemic, are other examples of defecting in a Public Goods game: they offer a temptation to those who indulge, a sucker’s payoff to those who contribute and conserve, and a common punishment when everyone defects.

Outside the lab, a commons in a community where everyone knows everyone else can be protected by a multiplayer version of Tit for Tat: any exploiter of a resource becomes a target of gossip, shaming, veiled threats, and discreet vandalism. In larger and more anonymous communities, changes to the payoffs must be made by enforceable contracts and regulations. And so we pay taxes for roads, schools, and a court system, with evaders sent to jail. Ranchers buy grazing permits, and fishers respect limits on their catch, as long as they know they’re being enforced on the other guy, too. Hockey players welcome mandatory helmet rules, which protect their brains without ceding an advantage of comfort and eyesight to their opponents. And economists recommend a carbon tax and investments in clean energy, which reduce the private benefit of emissions and lower the cost of conservation, steering everyone toward the common reward of mutual conservation.

The logic of Prisoner’s Dilemmas and Public Goods undermines anarchism and radical libertarianism, despite the eternal appeal of unfettered freedom. The logic makes it rational to say, “There ought to be a law against what I’m doing.” As Thomas Hobbes put it, the fundamental principle of society is “that a man be willing, when others are so too . . . to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself.” This social contract does not just embody the moral logic of impartiality. It also removes wicked temptations, sucker’s payoffs, and tragedies of mutual defection.

— Steven Pinker, Rationality

There was just something missing. And it was hard to put my finger on it. Everything looked so good in the computer, and yet what Father had gotten was not Medicine but Healthcare—Medicine without a soul.

What do I mean by “soul”?

I mean what Father did not get.

Presence. Attention. Judgment. Kindness.

Above all, responsibility. No one took responsibility for the story. The essence of Medicine is story-finding the right story, understanding the true story, being unsatisfied with a story that does not make sense. Healthcare, on the other hand, deconstructs story into thousands of tiny pieces-pages of boxes and check marks for which no one is responsible.

A robot doctor could have cared for my father just as well.

— Victoria Sweet, Slow Medicine

If change is possible, carrying it out will be difficult, because we have adapted our lives to conform to social media’s pleasures and torments. It’s seemingly as hard to give up on social media as it was to give up smoking en masse, like Americans did in the 20th century. Quitting that habit took decades of regulatory intervention, public-relations campaigning, social shaming, and aesthetic shifts. At a cultural level, we didn’t stop smoking just because the habit was unpleasant or uncool or even because it might kill us. We did so slowly and over time, by forcing social life to suffocate the practice. That process must now begin in earnest for social media.

Ian Bogost

And never a less

The absolute is available to everyone in every age. There never was a more holy age than ours, and never a less.

— Annie Dillard, For the Time Being

Sometimes we may reflect upon the nature of sacrifice. How often no lasting good is achieved without considerable cost to someone. We think of the lives of truly great men and women and how their great deeds have not influenced the lives of others without sacrifice. There is no need to be morbid, for often the sacrifices were cheerfully made. But it seems to be a principle of life that the lower must be denied to gain the higher, that no situation or person is redeemed without cost. Naturally we think of the One Great Sacrifice, now represented for us in poignant symbols in the broken bread and poured-out wine. We are to receive these things, this very Person, not only for our comfort and inspiration, but that we too may share, in a minor way no doubt, in the whole vast work of costly redemption. In our receiving of the sacrificial food there lies not only a deliberate allying of ourselves with the work of Christ, but an acceptance of the strength and joy to make whatever sacrifices come our way with courage and good humour.

— J.B. Phillips, Appointment with God

So the devil enjoys himself

In a remarkably modern-sounding passage, Luther writes: “If in the Old Testament God himself ordered lepers to be banished from the community and compelled to live outside the city to prevent contamination [Leviticus 13-14], we must do the same with this dangerous pestilence so that anyone who becomes infected will stay away from other persons, or allow himself to be taken away and given speedy help with medicine. Under such circumstances it is our duty to assist such a person and not forsake him in his plight, as I have repeatedly pointed out before. Then the poison is stopped in time, which benefits not only the individual but also the whole community, which might be contaminated if one person is permitted to infect others. Our plague here in Wittenberg has been caused by nothing but filth. The air, thank God, is still clean and pure, but some few have been contaminated because of the laziness or recklessness of some. So the devil enjoys himself at the terror and flight which he causes among us. May God thwart him! Amen.”

— Timothy Keller, Hope In Times of Fear

Actual mental illness is grubby, sad, gross, dispiriting, destabilizing, undermining, exhausting, unpalatable, ugly, and definitely not politically correct. But people like Serrano have marinated for so long in an online culture about mental illness that treats it as a positive set of charming personality quirks that they’re completely incapable of looking actual madness in the face. I so desperately wish people like that could spend some time in a psychiatric facility. Not some boutique upscale hotel for the Ivy-league grads with self-diagnosed depression and anxiety, but the kind of places where the involuntarily committed are sent after being taken off of the streets. The kind of people who left to their own devices would smear shit on the walls, who believe that the Jews are tracking them through the fillings in their teeth, who want to strike first before some shadowy threat strikes them. It doesn’t look like Tumblr.

Here’s what I can tell you for sure: so many self-styled supporters of the mentally ill support the mentally ill only when it’s convenient, only when it’s easy. What a convenient way to imagine mental illness, that it never makes you sympathize with the unsympathetic! What a beautiful mental construct you’ve created, where you’re never forced into the uncomfortable position of feeling for someone you don’t want to feel for.

— Freddie deBoer, “The Incoherence and Cruelty of Mental Illness as Meme”