The Sunday Long Read delivers the week’s best journalism straight to your inbox, along with classic

Author : dokandokan22
Publish Date : 2021-01-12 07:27:48


The Sunday Long Read delivers the week’s best journalism straight to your inbox, along with classic

Will Leitch, senior writer at Sports On Earth, culture writer for Bloomberg Politics, contributing editor at New York magazine and founder of Deadspin, is doing his yearly fill-in for Drew Magary on today's Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo. (Here is 2011's version, and here's 2012's and here's 2013's.) Leitch has written four books. Find more of his business at his Twitter feed and his official site.

In 2012, actor Rob Schneider, famous for something or other, spoke to a California television station about AB 2109, a California bill that required parents to get a physician's approval to opt out of vaccinating their children (something no sentient physician would ever approve). I only came across this interview recently. It is amazing.


You can almost follow along with Schneider's browser history as he continues to ramble on; there's the mom message board, there's the InfoWars THINGS THEY DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW thread, there's the blog of the doctor with the degree-by-mail who is the only one willing to tell parents the truth. You can tell Schneider spent all night preparing for this interview, jotting down the words he wanted to emphasize, "efficacy," "toxicity," "Nuremberg laws," "forced sterilization." He even ends with "people have to stand up and get educated. Know all the facts."

 

In this four-minute clip, I think you can encapsulate the last two years of American culture.

 

To believe that vaccines cause autism, that doctors are involved in a massive conspiracy to attack our children to help their pharmaceutical pals play golf, that the government sees vaccinations as a step toward forced sterilization and eventual death panels, that anyone on earth should ever wear that hat ... the only way that believing these things is possible is by talking specifically, and solely, to people who already agree with you. To believe these things is to ignore every published bit of medical research, to make up theories that require an otherworldly level of conspiracy and coordination in a country that can't even figure out HTML, to shut out every possible tidbit of contradictory evidence. That you should vaccinate your child is so plainly obvious and thoroughly documented that believing otherwise requires total disengagement with anything in the world that contradicts your narrow worldview. You have to be actively trying to get it wrong.

And tons of people still think you shouldn't vaccinate your children! Twenty percent of the country, according to a University of Chicago study, believe doctors know vaccination causes autism but force the shots on children anyway. Again: This is an impossible belief to hold. Now, your response might just be "well, those people are idiots," and I suppose that's the simplest explanation.

But I think it's more than that. I think that they are convinced they're right because they are only talking to other people who are convinced they are right. They have blocked out opposing voices — because they can. If you are an anti-vaccine activist, you can read so much "information" supporting your position that, as far as you can tell, you are right. That's what Schneider's talking about up there, that "get educated" business. Schneider doesn't see these beliefs as theories, or even as "beliefs:" He sees them as stone cold facts. On something about which he is so obviously wrong.

So here's my question: If 20 percent of the country can be so wrong on something so clearly incorrect (and harmful) as child vaccination, primarily because they can choose their evidence over your evidence ... what hope do any of us have? Because the rest of the world is helluva lot more complicated and confusing than whether or not to vaccinate your damn kid.

 

Chris Rock, when he was doing his big Truth Bomb press tour to promote Top Five, said something fascinating about the difference between President Bush and President Obama. He called Bush a "cable network" President; unlike Obama, he only catered to his subscribers. Rock also, astutely, points out "whoever's the next president will do what Bush did."

I'm not exactly certain that's true — I have no idea who the subscribers to, say, the Hillary Clinton cable channel are — but in the long term, there is zero doubt that he is right. You see this in every aspect of American life, from entertainment (where the only things anyone watches communally are sports, live musicals, or zombies attempting to eat the brains of thinly drawn caricatures) to politics (where the Republicans just won back the House the same way Bush beat Kerry, by appealing only to their base and not worrying about anyone else) to media (which is so fractured and desperate that it'll pump up whatever dumb Twitter shitstorm happens to be invading their feeds that afternoon, throw it on their front page, and pray; basically, outrage has become America's Assignment Desk). We are run by niche cultures right now. We've seen it from Gamergate to Sony Pictures to you name it. We don't have to build coalitions anymore; we just have to build a bigger coalition than you. We don't have to be right; we just have to be louder than the other guys. It's like that old joke about being chased by a bear.

This increased niche culture is a trademark of the web, and we used to think of it as a positive one; 20 years ago, if you didn't know any Quentin Tarantino or Woody Allen obsessives near you, you could go online and find them. (Theoretically.) The internet opened up a world that was truly revolutionary. But now, now that we're all online, and any novelty to this fact has worn off, the internet has closed that world. We now only have to interact with people who agree with us; if I use Twitter as my primary news source, as so many people do, I can carefully curate my feed to exclude anyone who disagrees with me about anything. (And if someone who slips in there who does, I can call them a horrible person.) Pauline Kael, the late film critic for the New Yorker, was once lambasted (unfairly, and inaccurately) for saying she couldn't believe Nixon was elected because she only personally knew one person who voted for him. But this is now accepted public policy. You don't have to find anyone to contradict you, if you don't want to.

This isn't just common practice now: This is how you win. The entire strategy for succeeding at anything, whether it's winning elections, selling a product or attracting visitors for your Website, revolves around pitching yourself as loudly as you can to those people on your side and turning those who disagree with you into the worst version of themselves, demonizing them into something subhuman and venal. Nuance is tossed out, even if you know a situation is desperately nuanced, in favor of quick points and splash; we've all become the New York Post.

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This is simply how communication is done now. The idea of unifying anyone on anything is passé, old thinking, a waste of time. A horrible tragedy happens, and your first reaction, rather than taking a moment to mourn or quietly search for some grace and peace, is instead to start screaming and claiming that those with whom you disagree have blood on their hands. You are rewarded with this by the top slot on the news, a video that goes viral, and everyone on your side applauding you. And when you accept that's all you want to do—to turn away from the fundamental complexity at the heart of the human experience—you find you have no reason to return: After all, every time you say something loudly and strongly enough, the people who agree with you tell you how great you are. Those who disagree? Fuck the haters. Sic 'em, guys.

It can be so demoralizing, so exhausting, to watch this day after day after day. We have begun to shout at those with whom we disagree as if they are terrible drivers and we're within the safety of our own cars; they're the anonymous, faceless monsters we shower with the worst possible motives, just because they happen to be in our way when we're in a hurry. Except they can hear us. And so can everyone else.

So one tries to find hope.

I tend to find it outside, where people, you know, are. Because we drop this act during those strange, disorienting times when we find ourselves in mixed company, lo, real life. The things we do online, or when we think someone is watching, we don't do these things in the real world. In regular, everyday life, we accept all the time that those who disagree with us exist; sometimes we even like them.

They're our families, they're our friends, they're our neighbors, they're the people we open the door for at the supermarket. They're human beings, idiot, scared, just-trying-to-hang-on human beings like every single one of the rest of us. The world is uncertain and terrifying; life is hard and bewildering and unpredictable. We allow for this in our daily interactions in a way we do not in our virtual conversations. We accept human frailty, that we do not share a cerebral cortex with every other person on the planet and therefore will not always see eye-to-eye on all matters. The world is a massive place. There are currently 7.28 billion people on the planet and every single one of them is different. This is a good thing: This is humbling. This is an acceptance that we're all stupid, that we're all overwhelmed, that we're all trying, dammit.

We all have friends and family who believe things we personally find abhorrent. They do things that drive us crazy. Their faults flash brightly above their heads every day. And none of these things matter. We still find a way to love them anyway. Not everybody is just like everybody else. This is a good thing. This might be the only thing.

The Games
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.

Illustration for article titled A Nation Of Echo Chambers: How The Internet Closed Off The World
Five Throwgasms

 

Lions at Packers. Whew. I swear to God, I write about four different pieces a day, every day, all year, and no single piece stre



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