"Knowingness is a cancer: if you most signal to everyone constantly that you already know everything, you must never appear to be doing the work to find out what you are supposed to know."

I found this quote particularly compelling because it fits with a lot of what people talk about in studies of wisdom and knowledge, which paradoxically only get anywhere by first adopting a true position of 'not knowing', not the phony insincere one, which is easy to slip into. But is there a typo in the first sentence? Did you mean to write 'must' instead of 'most'? Asking because the sentence is a damn good concise description and I'd like to get it right.

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". . . deciding that criticism designed to reflect on an industry rather than individuals is too personal forecloses on important conversations."

Surely that's the point.

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i def agree that "it's too personal" reveals a misapprehension of the critique, and i also understand your frustration w the particular ways this criticism often gets waived away as bitterness. i for one like yr media criticism but i'll take up the bokken here:

i see why many ppl roll their eyes at the media-as-cliques framing. if the point is that these ppl are relitigating high school (or whatever), then it matters that their critics also seem to be relitigating high school (or whatever), just from a different perspective in the cafeteria. the accusation of hypocrisy being frustrating isn't the same as the accusation of hypocrisy being wrong.

bowles does this a lot. maybe that tweet dunking on her is stupid but it's also meeting bowles on the terms that she herself often uses to discuss the political dynamics in web media: tweeting about "cool kids" in "bushwick" having miserable fun without her. that is in fact her own framing for a lot of this stuff! and that framing never sounds like a sensible outsider seeing a bunch of self-conscious "cool kids" relitigating high school. bc it instead sounds like a self-conscious "uncool kid" relitigating high school themselves. and it always sounds a bit ridiculous. only a person obsessed w their own popularity or lack thereof would talk like this, she most certainly does not strike me as "someone for whom popularity is not a goal."

and anyway she's not some cliqueless person! she just has a different clique in web media. a less influential clique? maybe. but a clique nonetheless. and i think more criticism of the dominant cliques in web media could use some self-awareness abt the ways we all seek validation from one corner or another, though i might in fact describe you, and only you, as a cliqueless person. lol

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I love your writing, but you do seem to be developing this weird tick where virtually every piece it seems like has to open with a discussion about what topic you are writing about, why you are writing about, what critics have said about your writing on similar topics in the past, and why they are wrong. Honestly, I feel like this distracts from the larger points you are making and the pieces would be stronger if you just dove directly into the topic with a bit more devil-may-care disregard, even if those thoughts are bubbling around inside your head.

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I love your media criticism pieces. Absolutely love them, whether they're fiery like your last one or more contemplative like this one. Because I really really hate Yelling Woke Twitter that much. Most people do. It wrecked my mental health like nothing else has.

Sure, I understand you can't write culture war pieces all the time, nor would I want you to. I'm more than okay with you taking a break every now and then. Writing about other things is good for the soul and helps keep you sane!

But your media criticism is some of the best stuff I've read anywhere. Keep it going.

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"We no longer enjoy the pleasure of not having to know or care about what a CNBC stock analyst thinks about circumcision." was a good laugh well done.

I'm one of the complainers about your media criticism, but we all gotta eat so whatever. I will say there's no need to take someone like Nellie Bowles seriously either. These fights are always just two sides of the same privileged media class coin, which is why I don't give a shit about them. Nellie comes from one of the richest families in California, I truly could not care less about her takes on unions. I realize that some people might respond that her background shouldn't be disqualifying, but I don't care. I just don't (and if knowing that about her falls under the umbrella of knowing too much about these people, then I don't care about that either. Pretending like we should evaluate people's opinions in a contextless vacuum is childish).

I really hate the woke union trope honestly. It's quite insidious and I think that anyone on the left that buys it wholesale is just a mark for the reactionary grift. Greenwald and his ilk (probably Nellie and Bari too!) have spent the past couple weeks sounding the cancel culture sirens that Apple fired some millionaire executive because he wrote a book about being a misogynist asshole, but it was actually Apple employees that would have had to work for the misogynist asshole that spoke up and said we don't want to work for this person. That is a good thing, and anyone that desperately tries to apply the cancel culture frame to it is not someone that cares about workers, full stop. The same people did the same thing with the NYT sensitivity readers, (as I understand) it was an informal job that already existed at NYT and the union wanted to formalize it and get people paid for it (which is what unions do, to a fault).

I know people that are in the Gizmodo slack. I've been to their parties. All of your criticisms of these people are absolutely valid. I think I get frustrated or don't care about the media criticism stuff because if opposing view that isn't getting platformed or whatever is Nellie Bowles or Greenwald then it's just different elites posturing for position. They all suck and they're boring.

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I like the excuse, “I’m not bourgie, I’ve never made more than $X in a year,” because it's actually its own disproof. You are bourgie, very very bourgie, if you think that being bourgie is about how much money you make. It isn't. It's about attitudes. The idea that how much money you make says something fundamental about you is one of the most bourgie things anyone could possibly say. The evident lack of self-awareness is very bourgie too.

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I hate these people and love to see you name them

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"For a long time I have said that, were I trying to rise up the ranks in media, I would much rather be popular than good at my job. Again, I concede that there is an element of this in every profession. But there is a certain inherent subjectivity to media that doesn’t exist in, say, plumbing. A plumber can fix a squeaky faucet or he can’t. In media the quality of your work will always be fundamentally subjective." I just started Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, and this echoes his concern about politicians in the 20th century compared to previous generations. We're more concerned about whether "we'd drink a beer with them" or their overall likability and aesthetics, compared to, well, you know, how well they do their damn job.

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One offshoot to the scorning of viewpoint diversity is the amount of time that gets spent on Twitter or in the comments of Gawkerish websites debating questions like "is a taco a sandwich?" or "what's the best fast food?" with faux-seriousness. Because only the Good People are worth seriously engaging with (as opposed to dunking on), and the Good People all agree on serious matters (or else they wouldn't beGood), the only time people who embrace knowingness get to flex their intellectual muscles is on frivolities.

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Lot to unpack in this post.

Not in the media industry but like most a media consumer, so I guess that makes me an expert.

It seems obvious that media is personality-driven, after all writers put their name on their work (most workers don't).

I disagree that there are no principles in media, certainly opportunism is always in play. With the ongoing collapse/consolidation in the media industry, not surprising that opportunism has grown to such an obvious degree.

The Substack phenomena is a kind of revolt against media bundling. I subscribe to Comcast, and I get close to unlimited channels, of which I watch about 10. I cannot unbundle this (Congress tried a few years ago to stop the practice, but of course it went nowhere). The NY Times is another bundle, of which I read 0, so I do not subscribe. Does not mean there aren’t good articles occasionally, but there is too much shit to wade through and overall quality is going down fast.

BTW, it is difficult (if not impossible) to bundle high quality content, instead the approach is to take a lot of crap, add a few gems. Monopoly doesn't hurt either. Result is quantity over quality. Not bad if the consumer has excess time on their hands, but most of us no longer have the luxury.

What Substack represents is an anti-bundle - you pay for what you want, and don't pay for what you don't. What a concept. My guess (complete speculation) is that the media companies (NY Times included) are looking at this as a way to capture high value seeking consumers. I would not be surprised to see the Times try some kind of Substack clone business model. This is what I think scares the crap out of the Times staff (most of whom are mediocre thinkers and writers).

Keep on criticizing the media. They deserve it and it pisses them off. As far as being popular, the rules are changing, and you've made some good choices.

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I have loved your writing for a long time. I'm not surprised journalists have strong reactions to your pieces of media criticism, but for what it's worth it has never struck me as a fundamentally interesting topic. It's all a bit inside baseball, and if you don't care about baseball it's not especially compelling. I hope you feel free to write about whatever interests you.

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" socializing and maintaining cordial relationships with those you don’t like very much are bedrock values. You eat the kind of shit that we all eat as we make our way up in any industry; ... These are the negotiations with our integrity that capitalism forces on absolutely all of us." Yes, but if you think of life in any nominally socialist country or more or less socialist institutions here, that's one capitalist problem for which we have no hint of a solution. Was it different in hunter-gatherer bands? Doesn't seem like it.

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Would love to add “This you?” to the list of unfunny tribal signifiers

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"The problem is an unusual set of economic, technological, and cultural conditions that have congealed in a way that has created social conformity in an industry where that conformity is uniquely dangerous to the basic mission."

I suspect it's more than a simple convergence of conditions, in that there is active manipulation, but recognizing both the "unique danger" and "the basic mission" is why Freddie's media critique is so popular, and why he's drawn a subscriber base broader than his political home.

I don't begrudge media outlets with a particular ideological mission. There is a place for those, and they don't deny their biases/ideologies. But it's absolute poison for the mainstream, forever resting on its Paper of Record laurels, or concocting creepy Democracy Dying In Darkness, Hence our Beacon Lighting the Singular Truth mottos, to pretend that it speaks universal truths and doesn't go out of its way to perpetuate conformity. It's depressing to watch media outlets become the opposite of what they're supposed to be. They pollute our national discourse when they run everything through the same tired and predictable narrative filter.

I've never understood those who wince at the "diversity of ideas" ideal. The criticism is always some infantile Reductio ad Hitlerum brush off, or some popular meme of a sickly looking stick figure speechifying about the collective "we" having determined who needs to be shown the door and instructed to quit talking. This shitty meme is premised on the fallacy that the "we" is the voice of absolute unanimity, and not some self-appointed censor deciding what people must or may not be exposed to. By all means, enjoy your strictly enforced ideological inbreeding, but don't act surprised that your institutions' appeal, vitality and longevity are in decline.

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A bit of media criticism I'd like to see: how should we, as consumers, find media that's better at telling us actual truth rather than the socially-enforced beliefs within some ideological bubble? As an example, I'm a longtime listener/supporter of NPR, and it has seemed to me that over the last couple years, the quality of their news has gone down significantly, largely because of the need to stay on-message.

It's clear enough that using Twitter and Facebook as sources for an understanding of the world is a disaster--it's like an all-you-can-eat buffet of junk food. 24 hour TV news was always about the same. But what do I do when I would actually like an honest take on some aspect of the world, without having facts omitted or shaded to avoid getting on the wrong side of Twitter or activist coworkers or whatever?

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