It sounded like a great idea!


The democratization of media: For better or worse, the so-called "democratization of media" always sounded like a good idea.

It was never entirely clear what the term actually meant. But who could possibly be opposed to an act of "democratization?" 

Also, who could be opposed to the creation of an "information superhighway?" The leading authority on that term offers this thumbnail account:

"The information superhighway" is a late-20th-century phrase that aspirationally referred to the increasingly mainstream availability of digital communication systems (and ultimately, the Internet and its World Wide Web).

There are a number of definitions of this term...[T]hen-Senator Al Gore Jr. introduced it at a 1978 meeting of computer industry folk, in homage to his father, Senator Albert Gore Sr."

The McGraw-Hill Computer Desktop Encyclopedia, published in 2001, defines the term as "a proposed high-speed communications system that was touted by the Clinton/Gore administration to enhance education in America in the 21st century. Its purpose was to help all citizens regardless of their income level. The Internet was originally cited as a model for this superhighway; however, with the explosion of the World Wide Web, the Internet became the information superhighway."

In fact, the Internet has made reams of information available to anyone who wants to seek it out. In doing so, it has revealed two foundational principles of future anthropology.

The first principle goes like this:

Human beings don't run on information. Human beings run on the rocket fuel known as Preferred Storyline.

The second principle is something of an offshoot:

Human beings were never "the rational animal" in any ultimate sense. Preferred Tribal Storyline tends to prevail over the rational capacities of most individuals.

Here in our world, the "democratization of media" has taken shape through the creation of the Internet, but also through the spread of such communication systems as talk radio and cable television. 

These media have made it increasingly easy for individuals to divide into like-minded groups and to propagandize themselves within those Preferred Tribal Groups.

(Once again, these are all basic principles of future anthropology.)

The democratization of media sounds like a good idea! In practice, it can create a wide array of problems. 

In the last few days, to cite one example, we saw the arrest of a 21-year-old man who apparently thought it made some sort of sense to post national security information online, in a way which ended up making that information available all over the world.

Beyond that, the rise of "democratized" communication systems can allow unhelpful, misleading or bogus ideas to spread within specific "communities." That brings us to the troubling suggestion advanced by Charles Blow in Thursday's New York Times.

As we noted on Thursday, the column by Blow to which we refer carried this frightening headline:

What Are Biden’s 2024 Chances? I Asked These Democratic Campaign Veterans.

The frightening headline suggested an (obvious) possibility—the possibility that President Biden could conceivably fail in a re-election bid next year. (Though he could, of course, also succeed.)

How could Biden possibly fail? At one point, Blow offered this presentation:

BLOW (4/13/23): [James Carville] raised perhaps the most interesting concern, one I wasn’t expecting: “The biggest story in my mind out of 2022 is abysmally low Black turnout.” Specifically, he said, “it’s a problem with younger Black voters.”

In the most recent midterm elections, even in places where Democrats fielded strong Black candidates against flawed Republican opponents, Carville considered Black turnout underwhelming. But he isn’t sure what’s causing this problem, or how to fix it.

I talked to Terrance Woodbury, a founding partner at the consultancy HIT Strategies, which researches Black voter sentiment. A January survey found that three-quarters of Black voters don’t believe their lives have improved since Biden became president, despite his administration’s “initiating or completing” a majority of the Black agenda, Woodbury said.

Woodbury underscored what can only be described as a glaring communications failure, particularly when it comes to young people. As he said, “It’s not that we haven’t made progress,” it’s that younger Black voters “don’t know about the progress.”

In the 2022 midterm elections, Carville considered black turnout to be underwhelming, "even in places where Democrats fielded strong Black candidates against flawed Republican opponents."

According to Blow, Carville specifically identified this as "a problem with younger Black voters.”

It would be natural, within current blue tribe circles, to denounce Carville for advancing any such notion. That said, Blow seems to endorse this as a serious point of concern, as does Terrance Woodbury. 

We'd like to see the actual data about this underwhelming turnout. But as we read that passage by Blow, we thought of a 20-year-old athlete named Angel Reese—a young athlete whose reactions and points of view went viral in recent weeks within the worldwide community.

In our experience, this country is full of young black people who are extremely well-intentioned and extremely impressive. It's also true that the blue tribe community has adopted a certain stance in the past dozen years, which has surely had a large effect among young black men and women.

Warning! According to future anthropologists, it tends to be very hard for members of a Human Tribal Group to see the ways their own preferred group has engaged in propagandization. That said, is it possible that the Preferred Storylines of our Blue Tribe Community could lead to President Biden's defeat?

Experts say that blue tribe members won't be strongly inclined to believe such a thing. Possibly starting with "C.V."—possibly starting with Keith Olbermann—we'll examine the question next week.

Without presenting any statistics, Blow advanced a troubling point of concern. Assuming there's merit to Blow's concern, what could lie behind it?


  1. "Human beings don't run on information. Human beings run on the rocket fuel known as Preferred Storyline."

    What Somerby calls preferred storyline is actually just narrative, summary, generalization, overview, a tendency to sum things up with an overall conceptual understanding. It is not a bad thing, not a deficit, but reflects the ability of humans to abstract meaning from instances, form a mental representation of that meaning and apply it in new situations. If Somerby ever read a book about cognition, he would understand more about how humans think.

    Because of the limitations of human cognition, humans in Europe in the 18th century developed principles of scientific method for removing this element of human thinking and replacing it with systematic observation, manipulation of hypothetical causal variables, testing against prediction, formulation of theory based on data (evidence) and critique of each other's proposed theories (explanations). This is now how science works and its specific purpose is to avoid the mistakes that can occur in everyday life and limited experience.

    The key problem today is that a political party has declared itself in opposition to scientific approaches to knowledge and evidence-based decision-making, and has declared expertise fake. These are the Republicans. They have done this because it allows them to propose whatever they want, without accountability. It gives them power. It makes it hard to challenge their actions based on facts and information because they have declared such things suspect, false, lacking in value. This comes at a time when science will be needed to combat catastrophic climate and other events. We saw how the Republicans undermined the response to covid-19 and how many excess deaths resulted.

    Somerby's appeal to know-nothingism is wrong because it is not based on what scientists know about human rationality. He doesn't read science. So he is warning against normal human thinking on behalf of Republican power-seeking, and that is the opposite of what our country needs these days.

    Whether Somerby is misguided or venal, don't swallow today's crap.

  2. "(Once again, these are all basic principles of future anthropology.)"

    This means that Somerby pulled the ideas out of his ass. No, actually they come out of right wing writing that misuses postmodernism.


  3. "But who could possibly be opposed to an act of "democratization?" "

    Oh, but we are definitely opposed to it, dear Bob. Anything sold as "democratization" is bullshit and likely a disaster; take our word for it...

    1. Yes, fake democratization was a disaster for your country.

  4. We need our presidents to be younger than 80.

    1. 80 is the new 60 -- health not age matters

      did it help JFK to be 46?
      did it help Lincoln to be 56?
      did it help FDR to be 63?

      people can die at any age, but they can serve as long as they are healthy and competent

      Trump was incompetent at any age, so have many Republicans been a disaster despite relative youth. You get a good president by looking at what he or she can do, not how old they are.

      American fear of death perhaps causes them to have an aversion toward aging and old people that does not exist in other cultures, where elderly people are respected for their wisdom and experience and accomplishments. It is odd that a land that values equality of opportunity would be so eager to restrict what older people are permitted to do. And in business, old age starts around 40, based on studies of age discrimination.

      At his current age, Biden is much better as a president than George Bush ever was (or any number of former presidents who were younger).

      I would vote for any Democrat running against Trump, but it has surprised me what an excellent job Biden has done and I wouldn't hestitate to let him continue doing that job.

    2. It would be better if he was less in old age.

    3. Odd wording @7:31. Makes you sound like someone at a troll farm in Eastern Europe. A native speaker wouldn't write a sentence like that.

  5. Normally, we think Charles Blow blows, but here he says something that appeals to our narrative, so give credit where it’s due.

    We’d like to see the data, so Woodbury may be full of it, but James Carville, not exactly a reliable source of information, is concerned. And so am I! There are some impressive blacks out there (I don’t see color!), but we libs have adopted certain unstated, nebulous stances that have surely affected them…Trump wins! See, I told you so.

    —Bob Somerby paraphrased

    1. And again, this is a lightweight,
      Filler op Ed. No one can seriously
      know what will play out in the next
      year and a half. But as Bob ignore
      the attempts to hold Trump accountable
      for his deeply ugly life; he will grasp
      hard at these straws.

  6. The question is never "is it possible that..." but "is it likely that..." Somerby always says that anything is possible. That moots the question of whether this particular outcome (Biden losing, Trump winning) is possible, because those two outcomes are encompassed by the word "anything." But is it likely that Biden would lose to Trump. Not likely at all. First, Trump is deteriorating and may even be in jail by election time. Second, Biden has not yet started campaigning in earnest, so today's polling may change. Third, with the economy continuing to improve, it seems unlikely that Biden's current supporters will desert him. Put this together and why shouldn't Biden beat Trump again, since he did it before under less favorable conditions?

    It is also possible that Trump may die before election time, or Biden might die. And there are other possibilities. Russia might attack the US, which would give Biden the win, since people do not switch presidents during wartime. Kamala Harris might be replaced by Gavin Newsom. Justice Thomas might be indicted, or Trump might be indicted for Treason, weakening Republican prospects. Proof of Russian collusion in the 2016 election might be found. Anything is possible. That makes this sort of speculation kind of a circle jerk.

    Taking Somerby's complaint less seriously, why would he want Democrats to worry? It isn't as if he is suggesting constructive action in the meantime, such as encouraging young people to vote. Instead, he calls the left propagandists and blames us for not being sufficiently open to right wing points of view (because that is what black young people are thinking about -- of course not). He doesn't suggest that the left emphasize CRT and BLM and social justice issues more strongly, because that is what will attract young black voters. He suggests the exact things that will alienate young voters on the left.

    So why is Somerby trying to undermine left wing politics at a time when it is crucial that Trump NOT be reelected? Ask him. The only thing that makes sense to me is that Somerby doesn't actually want to see the left win in 2024, because Biden is too attached to his family (or some such nonsense).

  7. "That said, is it possible that the Preferred Storylines of our Blue Tribe Community could lead to President Biden's defeat?"

    No, because if the problem is that not enough young black people are voting for Democrats, then encouraging them to vote for us by repeating our preferred storylines is the best approach, because the storylines on the left appeal to young people and black people far more than those on the right do. It is possible that the right will tell more huge whoppers of lies and confuse a few black people into voting for them, but it isn't likely that most young black people will fall for that. All young black people are not like Kanye and not all can be bought like Clarence Thomas or Candance Owens or Amarosa (before she found out what Trump was really like).

    I doubt there is anyone in the Democratic party who doesn't know that it will be important to get out the vote in 2024, especially among young people and the traditional Democratic base.

    Somerby doesn't understand that Democrats spout their "storyline" because we believe in it, these are our sincerely held beliefs and attitudes and values. We don't switch them because someone like Carville (or Somerby) tells us we will win better if we sound more like Republicans. That would be dishonest, lacking in integrity, the very thing that puts off young voters who seek authenticity in politicians. That would be the worst thing we could do.

  8. Odd post today.
    The first question SEEMS to be “does
    our new world of the internet equip
    of us better to receive more information
    and thus make better choices?
    Then he points to one op ed he
    likes (classic filler, what will happen in
    a national election a year and a half
    away?) and complains he needs more
    Information to back up one of the
    pieces speculations he finds pleasing.
    Safe prediction: Bob will be like a dog
    with a bone with this one for awhile.
    At least it’s based on SOMETHING.
    If Bob was actually scared of Biden
    not being re-elected, is this how he
    would behave? Would the entire question
    of Trump’s criminality bore him?
    Would he asked Ruby Freeman to
    move to the back of the bus where
    people don’t get mentioned? (Not
    enough Republicans on the jury/
    Over the years Bob always concludes
    it’s wise to take the most benign approach
    to whatever the right is selling (this leads to some odd counter tantrums about the left being responsible for Carlson, etc.)THIS is actually the way of the corporate news media Bob mimicks completely. In any event, when the results don’t bare out Bob’s strategy, he is quick to totally ignore said results.

  9. “the blue tribe community has adopted a certain stance in the past dozen years, which has surely had a large effect among young black men and women.”

    Yes, Somerby is insinuating that the younger “blacks” (who routinely vote Democratic overwhelmingly and thus are by and large members of the “blue tribe”) have no agency, but are somehow mysteriously influenced by unstated liberal “stances.”

    What is this affect? Uppitiness? Anger? Desiring a larger voice in politics? Fair treatment by the police and judicial system?

    It sounds vaguely bigoted, but certainly condescending, whatever Somerby is suggesting.

    1. I went back to see what the hell Bob might have been talking about here. He’s jumping around at the end, he admonishes us for not getting whatever
      the hell he’s saying.

    2. Any Bob fans want to help us stupid Bob detractors out? What is this “certain stance?”

    3. 8:17 The conditions that bring one to be right wing like Somerby is, are the same conditions that bring one to dismiss notions like ideology and integrity and coherence.

    4. It may be the McCarthyism that has played such a major part of Dem politics for the last 8 years. "If you disagree with us, you are racist", etc,

    5. 8:42,
      Plenty of people disagree with the Democratic Party, who aren't called racists. Is this maybe a problem you have? What did you disagree with Democrats about? Was it their stance that black people shouldn't have their votes suppressed?

    6. This original comment here fits the mold. Democrats are criticized by blogger, blogger is accused of sounding bigoted. It's so much a part of Democrat's DNA, its advocates can't even see it. Young blacks can see how false and performative it is.

    7. 9:25,
      Democrats have been doing this for years. Remember, they called the meme of Obama with a bone through his nose "racist".
      They're coming for the Right's long-held belief that black people shouldn't have political representation next, using the same insidious strategy.
      Bet on it.

    8. It feels bad to have your political party criticized.

    9. @9:25 — Look at what the bogger “criticized” Democrats for. How is that not racist?

    10. 8:42, thanks for giving it a shot. But if that’s what he thinks, why doesn’t he just say it? It seems people who believe dubious notions like this have developed a kind of code.

    11. What does McCarthyism mean in today's politics? I know who McCarthy was and what his committee did, but the use of the word to apply to today's Democrats makes no sense to me. Are you arguing that if someone wants to use the n-word, objecting is wrong? And why isn't that racist, if you are? Are you just focusing on the restrictions to speech and not on the harm to people who are being treated badly when the n-word is applied to them?

      Calling Democrats McCarthyites is name-calling without any explanation at all. Is this now a right wing buzzword, where right wingers all know what is meant but those being labeled do not?

    12. McCarthyism like smearing people to whom you feel are a threat with accusations of identity related animus and associations. Like people are bigots, or Putin lovers or anti-trans. Using cultural identity issues as a weapons against those with whom you disagree or by whom you feel threatened.

      McCarthyism may not be the right word. The same with woke. The "certain stance" is hard to define. It's just that way of name calling one's opponents falsely and with a broad brush and just overall being dicks.

    13. It's a weird psychological thing.

    14. 12:01: since you seem to know Somerby’s mind, tell us how he thinks this hard-to-define stance has affected young blacks, keeping in mind the outside possibility that young blacks have ideas of their own and don’t need prompting from (white?) libs, and the possibility that certain “stances” may have flowed in the other direction, from young “blacks” to wider liberal thought.

    15. mh your logic doesn't make sense. You misread the blog post.

    16. "McCarthyism like smearing people to whom you feel are a threat with accusations of identity related animus and associations."

      So, being called a McCarthyite is backlash for being called racist? But if you smear a black person who you fear might be a threat by calling them the n-word, aren't you making an accusation based on identity-related animus and associations, simply because of skin color?

      My understanding is that McCarthy went further than just name-calling, to actually black-listing people (so they couldn't be hired) and requiring loyalty oaths at universities, and other authoritarian tactics justified by the possibility that people were communists. I see that stuff happening on the right, not on the left these days. Especially the book banning and attempts to censor curriculum in schools.

      Under McCarthy, people were targeted for political reasons, and to enhance McCarthy's own power over other people's lives. Some actual communists were targeted but many people who were not were also persecuted. Meanwhile, being a communist was not illegal and those who were communist had rights to their beliefs under our Constitution, and yet their lives were ruined.

      Racial discrimination works similarly, on both a social and economic level, by barring people from jobs for which they are qualified, shunning and banning them from equal opportunity and participation based on skin color. But the persecution is of the black people who are being discriminated against, not of white people who are doing the racist stuff. There is no right to be a racist in our constitution and someone who behaves in racist ways can go to jail for infringing on the rights of others.

      So, I think you are confused about who the McCarthyites are in our modern time. And being called a racist is based on behavior and actions, not someone's identity (not all white people are racists).

    17. mh is not misreading the blog post. I am curious about how you would answer mh's questions.

    18. Then you are misreading it too. You're a boring loser.

    19. Here is what Somerby said:

      "In our experience, this country is full of young black people who are extremely well-intentioned and extremely impressive. It's also true that the blue tribe community has adopted a certain stance in the past dozen years, which has surely had a large effect among young black men and women."

      What is that certain stance? What is the large effect on women? What is Somerby accusing the blue tribe of doing or saying?

      Does Somerby think that the reaction against the Hobbs decision by women wouldn't have happened without some blue tribe "stance"? Do women have no personal thoughts and feelings about abortion independent of the blue tribe's dictates? Does he think that BLM and the reaction against police killings of unarmed black men and women wouldn't have happened with a blue tribe "stance" either?

      What do Somerby's words mean to you? What exactly is being misunderstood about what Somerby said?

    20. I don't know for sure what he means by certain stance. It may be just in general the way liberals became McCarthyite dicks, using identity as a weapon. Maybe the stance of reacting against police killings of unarmed black men and women while ignoring black men killings of unarmed black men and women, etc. Maybe the stance of bailing out banks or giving zillions of unaccountable dollars to the military industrial complex. Not sure what he means though. There's a lot of possibilities. Too many to count.

    21. It sounds to me like you not only don't know what Somerby means by stance, but you also don't know what the Democratic platform on crime is.

      I dare you to google gangs stealing refrigerators from department stores and see for yourself that Trump made up what he said about crime in his NRA speech. That red tribe stance is clearly wrong, made up, a lie told by Trump to gun owners who want to justify buying more guns. He said the cops watched with tears in their eyes because they were forbidden to intervene and do their jobs.

      But Somerby thinks the blue tribe has some stance that is problematic, although he won't say why or what, and his connection of that to young black voters and women does sound bigoted.

      I recommend some remedial reading and thinking about who and what you should believe on the interwebs.

    22. Thanks for the advice.

    23. 1:57 Oppression is fundamental to the Republican Party, it is their raison d'ĂȘtre; opposing that oppression is not McCarthyism, that’s just a silly nonsense claim, and notably, no evidence is offered to support that claim.

      Whites murder Whites at nearly the same rate as Blacks murder Blacks (and controlling for the oppression Blacks live under, the Whites rate is going to be way higher); however, all that is dwarfed by the number of Whites that commit suicide. None of that is ignored by the blue tribe.

      Cops killing anybody is an issue, they kill over 1k people each year, and (this does get ignored) cops send 50k people to the hospital every year. The police force as an institution has largely been a colossal failure, even so, a cops job is to protect and serve the public, they are funded by the public, they are supposed to be subject to oversight; conflating cop criminality with that of our societies’ lost souls is frankly moronic and infantile. Why do we have criminal behavior? No doubt pollutants (lead) play a role, but likely a larger role is the knife’s edge existence of our decidedly non egalitarian society, with so many obsessed with hierarchy and dominance.

      Cops kill Blacks at over twice the rate of Whites, and that is dwarfed by the rate cops harass and arrest Blacks over Whites, even though Whites engage in many criminal activities at similar rates. (So called white collar crime is not only more devastating to our society but is exclusively committed by Whites, and completely ignored by Repubs.)

      It’s Republicans that support bailing out banks and never ending funding of the military (deficits don’t matter, they famously say, unless Dems are in power). There are some neoliberals in the blue tribe as well, but the recent trend has been that progressives are slowly replacing the neoliberals, as the blue tribe has moved away from the strategies Somerby endorses, and uses materialism and activism against oppression instead. Biden has been an interesting president, a corporate Dem to be sure but has governed less as a neoliberal than Clinton and Obama; he is disappointing in many ways, yet one of the better modern presidents. We would have better politicians without right wing interference - weaponizing culture, suppressing voters.

      Somerby and those of his ilk want to con you into thinking that “tribalism” is bad, this is a warped misunderstanding of anthropology and psychology; the reality is that what Somerby suggests is just a way for maintaining hierarchies and dominance.

      Maybe you are confused, maybe you are operating in bad faith; either way, your goofy notions will gain no purchase here, and while those notions are easily debunked and dismissed as garbage, you will stick to your guns and stand your ground. Science and research suggests this circumstance is due in part to unresolved childhood trauma and the effects that has on brain development (smaller frontal cortex, enlarged amygdala).

      Polling and demographics indicate that eventually the Republican Party will wilt away into insignificance. In the meantime, the blue tribe will falter if it adopts Somerby’s notion of compromising with fascists.

  10. There are preferred storylines that will appeal to young black voters but if we use them Biden won’t win? This does sound racist. The flaw in Somerby’s thinkng is that supporting civil rights appeals to white voters on the left, not just black ones, so stressing social justice will not push white Democrats into the arms of Trump. Somerby perhaps thinks that because it worked that way for him, other Democrats are similarly bigoted. Anyone put off by civil rights has already embraced Trump.

  11. For whatever reason, young people (black and white) have traditionally registered and voted less than older people. The elderly vote the most. Everyone knows this, so why are Blow, Carville, and Somerby treating this as something unusual?

  12. What holds blacks back the most?
    1. Racism
    2. Being 3 to 4 years behind whites academically, and 4 to 5 years behind Asians.
    3. Living in high crime neighborhoods, where they must cope with much more crime than whites or Asians, on average.

    I would rank these 2-3-1 in importance.
    Racism certainly exists, but it has less impact on blacks today because of civil rights laws.

    The Democrats are great at fighting racism. However, they're awful at improving education and counterproductive at protecting black crime victims. IMO more and more black are figuring this out. That's why they're giving less support to Democrats.

    1. David,
      If true, Republicans have a HUGE opportunity to get those black voters, but they are blowing it with their voter suppression tactics.
      OTOH, as Republicans boycott Anheuser-Busch, Democrats have a HUGE opportunity to suck -up some of that electioneering dough A-B had been traditionally larding the GOP's coffers with. Let's hope they don't blow it.

    2. David,
      I get your point that Democrats have been loathe to arm young black men to fight the tyranny of the government (i.e. shoot police officers), but I think that's because of how Fox News would twist that to make it look like Democrats are anti-cop. Could you imagine how Tucker Carlson, for instance, would treat Democrats for helping blacks? He'd make it look like the Ds stopped helping whites.

    3. David,
      I'm afraid you've fallen for the lie that there are more than a couple of "good guys with guns" in the USA. I haven't seen one since Micah X. Johnson, and that was 7 years ago.

    4. But we, dear David, have heard people (including, apparently, Demigod Barry Himself) suggesting that racism -- more precisely: the refusal to "act white" -- might be responsible for many a failure of unfortunate holders of the abovementioned racist attitude...

    5. Racism causes 2 & 3.

    6. David sees life as a race with a finish line and runners trying to “get ahead” of each other, by reading earlier and better and living in nicer neighborhoods than others. There are many other ways to view life than as a race with winners and losers, but this is clearly how Trump views it and his appeal is that there will be so much winning.

    7. It would be interesting to know when
      David developed the notion that America’s problem with race is the mistreatment of whites. Maybe he always believed this. We now know that which we could have guessed: Clarence Thomas is a crook of the first order. But if a younger person even knows that the ugly moral failure of his presence of the Court was a travesty of George Bush, they may not know the background of this disaster. By the seventies Republican Politics was based on a thirst to repeal the sixties, including
      gains in civil rights. Programs that had failed were harped on by people like David, those which had succeeded were ignored. That’s the lab Uncle Tomas came out of. Bush could have found a legitimate Black Justice more conservative than Marshall, but he instead choose a lunatic who only understood his own desire for wrath. With his hate crazed lunatic wife, they have damaged the Country beyond belief.

    8. David is all about school choice. Black unemployment is so yesterday, eh Daviid?

    9. Show some respect for the office.
      It's "Supreme Court Justice and noted sexual predator, Clarence Thomas" to us heartland Americans.

  13. David is right. The GOP has a wonderful opportunity. It should support statehood for both DC and PR.

  14. The second amendment is evil.