Thursday, March 19, 2009

We have always been our own editors.

Nicholas Kristof doesn't often get it wrong, but in his March 18th column he misunderstands how we have always used media. We have always been our own editor -- long before the web transformed news distribution we had other equally effective ways of staying within our tribe (physically, intellectually, emotionally). Kristoff suggests a past idyllic time when our social and personal discourse was much more diverse -- when we embraced conflicting opinion and sought out challenges to our worldviews. That's not the world I grew up in, in rural Pennsylvania (before the web). It's not the world my kids grew up in, in gentrified, liberal-intellectual-arts-oriented New York (in the early days of the web). The Christian and Age of Aquarius ideals have urged us to Love One Another. But the more realistic ideal of the secular, democratic, civil society has urged us to embrace a Respectful, maybe even Empathetic, Adjacency. I see no reason to believe that people are more likely to choose media they agree with today than they did fifty or a hundred years ago. It's just all more efficient now.