Tuesday 26 January, 2021

Quote of the Day

There are living systems; there is no “living matter”.

  • Jaques Monod, lecture to the College de France, 1967

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Max Richter’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concert


I love this but ‘Who He?’ I hear you say. (I said it too.) Explanation here.

Long Read of the Day

 The enduring allure of conspiracies

Longish essay from the Nieman Lab about conspiracy theories.

If conspiracy theories are as old as politics, they’re also — in the era of Donald Trump and QAnon — as current as the latest headlines. Earlier this month, the American democracy born of an eighteenth century conspiracy theory faced its most severe threat yet — from another conspiracy theory, that (all evidence to the contrary) the 2020 presidential election was rigged. Are conspiracy theories truly more prevalent and influential today, or does it just seem that way?

Actually it looks as though they’re evolving, in the sense that much of the recent manifestations of conspiracist thinking have jettisoned theory and concentrated merely on repetition and the amplification provided by social media. At least that’s what Russell Muirhead and Nancy Rosenblum argue in an intriguing book that’s quoted in the essay. The danger now comes from conspiracy without — a new kind of conspiracism that moved from the lunatic fringe to the heart of government with the election of Donald Trump. This is very different from classic conspiracy theory, which typically didn’t do much to undermine democracy (and perhaps even kept nutters off the streets). The new manifestations — like QAnon and its like — do seem to pose a danger to democracy, as the events of January 6 suggest.

Oh, and btw, there’s a very interesting post  on Reddit by a former (and recovered) QAnon believer on how to help others who have fallen down this particular rabbit-hole.

Also interesting: After January 6 Twitter deleted 70,000 Qanon accounts. That’s 7 followed by four zeroes.

Hinges of history

Chris Bertram poses an interesting question on Crooked Timber:

Thinking back over the past two decades, which of the following events that took place since the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) are the important moments when something different could have been done that might have saved us from being in the situation we are in? How might history have unfolded differently? Are there key events to notice in Asia, Africa and Latin American that ought to be on the list? What is cause and what is merely symptom?

* The decision of the US Supreme Court to award the Presidency to George W. Bush instead of Al Gore (2000)
* The attacks on the Twin Towers (2001)
* The decision by Bush, supported by Blair, to invade Iraq (2003)
* The failure of policy-makers to anticipate and avert the financial crisis (2008)
* The failure of European leaders to manage the Eurozone crisis so as to avert mass unemployment etc (2009- )
* The Arab spring (2010- )
* The “migrant crisis” in Europe (2015-)
* The Brexit vote (2016)
* The election of Donald Trump (2016)

Other, hopefully interesting, links

  • 23-bed detached house for sale near Portsmouth Only one snag. Link. (HT to Ben Evans)
  • Why hardware is hard. Don’t tell me. Quentin and I once had a start-up which produced both excellent hardware and innovative software. But we ran out of runway because it takes longer and costs more to get hardware earning its keep. Link

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