Against Democratization

It’s become common to complain that social media have created “bubbles” and aided political polarization. It has also become common to object that the Internet has fallen short of serving as a public sphere, largely because of the ways commercial interests have shaped it. In this context, various technologies—from apps and online petitions to organizational […]

The Dialectics of Authenticity

Sometimes being a historian for a long time prevents one from recognizing change: “Nothing to see here. It’s all been done before.” Greenberg is casually dismissive of possibilities that he has not even paused to consider. And he’s rather shockingly oblivious to aspects of the media ecology and political economy, given his own background. Not […]

Neoliberalism Redux

In a moment of madness, I decided to read Philip Mirowski’s postface to his sprawling volume, The Road from Mont Pèlerin, purporting to “define” neoliberalism. Quite apart from its almost laughable incoherence (e.g.: the exemplar par excellence of neoliberalism is—wait for it—Wikipedia!), it flatly contradicts Monbiot, Harvey (explicitly, in fact), Wendy Brown, and just about […]

The Trouble with the “Liberal” Media

Donald Trump’s breathtaking attack on Ghazala Khan sparked predictable outrage, followed by an equally predictable flurry of charges, defenses and counter-charges. Virtually all the coverage of and elite replies to this latest in an impossibly long string of Trump’s controversial pronouncements have included dutiful reminders that the Khans are exemplary citizens; that “Mr. Khan’s speech at the convention in Philadelphia […]

Swamping the Drain

Michael Walzer’s admiration for American pluralism, always more than a bit romantic, turns out to have a dark side different from the one usually noted. The latter stresses the wages of abstract universalism: marginal groups are compelled to assimilate or face overt or tacit oppression. But there is a risk stemming directly from pluralism itself: […]

Real News Won’t Save Us

All the handwringing about waning trust in journalism obscures a crucial fact. Sure, the profit motive, the changing political economy of media, and lots of other factors are in play. But suppose journalism could live up to its ideal. What would this mean? The normative benchmark in the profession is investigative reporting. Think “Spotlight.” This […]