- Glenn Sonnenberg
Musings from the Bunker 3/22/21
AS WE EMERGE
Andrea and I have begun to emerge from the bunker. We went to dinner a couple of times recently—outdoors and distanced. These were wonderful experiences. Being served a meal in courses, each one warm and served by cheery waitstaff was something we had nearly forgotten. Seeing our favorite staff at these restaurants, bumping into friends, were moments I will cherish.
What I have learned from living in the bunker for this last year is that we have all been humbled and forced to look inwardly; abandoning the trappings of the modern urban lifestyle. We have been forced into a simpler, slower, more contemplative, existence. We have found ourselves in closer and more consistent quarters with spouses, but also with adult children or school age children trapped learning at home. We are having to worry about relatives not physically proximate or, if physically proximate, that we cannot hug.
In a sense, the “noise” of our fast and unrelenting world was pushed into the background. It is a little quieter now and there is much great to commend that. Now, as we reach out to the “old” world, I hope we will retain some of the introspection, thoughtfulness and presence that the bunker has given us as a gift we never asked for.
TRUTH AND LIES IN SOCIAL MEDIA
There is a pervasiveness and apparent effectiveness of lies and inaccuracies on social media sites. Peter Bain notes that “The human tendency towards greater acceptance of falsity over truth is not new. As with so many other aspects of the human condition,
Mark Twain observed, ‘A lie has traveled halfway around the world before the truth has even put its pants on.’”
These are words that were true in the late 19th century and are even more important today. Lies and disinformation float out there and are retweeted, reposted, magnified and cited so that a lie gets exponential exposure to those less informed or predisposed to accept these “truths.”
I think Peter really gets to the nub of the problem when he notes that freedom of speech is distinct from a constitutional right to actively and knowingly spread lies.
There must be something done to constrain the lies. The task will be fraught with challenges. How do we control hate speech, while not unduly restricting freedom of speech? The social media companies will have to be made at least partially responsible for addressing the untruths and incendiary speech they republish on their sites. If they are made responsible to some degree, we can be assured they will take interest in tamping down the vitriol and provide guidance on truth versus falsehood on the sites they curate.
It also is an obligation of our legislators and regulators to create guard rails for the manner in which information is disseminated. There are complex issues but issues that demand action in the near future.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND MARKETS
Another friend suggests the following, in line with Peter’s concerns and concerns I’ve been sharing for a while:
Media destroyed the press and its ability to disseminate smart thoughtful news. News has become a product like shoes with fashions and trends and perceptions. To make news attractive, it has to be “breaking news.” To providers of news, facts are not as important as its marketing package. Without that marketing package, the ability for the press to make money goes away, since their social media competitors have so many advantages.
The stock market is facing the same social media impact. Robinhood, Tesla are making stocks the product of these companies; they are fashion driven, with little need for facts.
Social media has challenged democracy. This stock market fad is going to hurt the efficient economic allocation of capital.
BEST PLAYERS EVER
David Lash suggests we open up a debate on the 10 greatest basketball players of all time. Maybe we should expand it to top 10 in basketball and top 10 in baseball. But let’s stick to the last 50 years. Suggestion box is now open…
Have a great day,