Alain de Botton: “The News: A User’s Manual” | Talks at Google

Alain de Botton: “The News: A User’s Manual” | Talks at Google

It’s a real pleasure to be here, not least
because this book was written on Google Docs. Is anyone here– who here is
on– are you guys building it here? It is the most wonderful tool. And actually a book before
this, called “Art as Therapy,” I co-wrote with a colleague
in Tasmania on Google Docs. And we would work
simultaneously. And it would not have been
possible without your work. So really from my
heart, thank you. You guys are doing a great job. What I want to talk
about today is a book which is all about
information and how we are categorizing
it and using it. So it’s kind of a
Google topic, very much. But the kind of information
that I’m talking about is news, news information. We’re very confused
I think as a society as to the way we are using news. I think it’s one of the most
inefficient uses of our time. Of anything that
we do in the day, the way that we
access information through this thing, this massive
entity called “the news,” right, is full of redundancy. It’s full of quirks. It’s full of perversions. It’s not working as it should. There’s an enormous opportunity
to make news go better. And that’s what
my book is about. Trying to imagine how, in
a different range of areas, we could make news go better. Because I think it’s
terrible at the moment. Not terrible, I’m
being hyperbolic. But not great. Part the problem, of course,
is we are not educated in it. So when we go to
school, people will tell us a little
bit about paintings and how to look at them. And people will tell us a little
bit about drama and literature. But no one tells you
what on earth you’re supposed to do when you come
across this kind of thing, or this kind of thing. We’re not
systematically inducted into the weirdness
of the news world. One of the problems, of course,
is information overload. Way back in the
18th century, there was some promises
made about what would happen if news became
widely and freely available. The great promise
of the Enlightenment is put information out there,
people will read it, use it, and society will improve. OK, that’s the dream. It hasn’t really
worked out that way. It’s almost nowadays as
though you’ve got two options. If you want to try and
keep a population passive, supine, not really able
to understand reality, OK, the first option is
the North Korean option. You throttle the pipe of news. No news, right. Then people don’t know what’s
going on and they’re confused. But the other way to make sure
that people don’t know what’s going on and are
confused is you give them so news they don’t what
on earth is going on. I mean, you guys
unusually clever. But most people don’t
know what on earth was happening last week. We don’t know because there
is too much information. And most of it is orphaned. It’s ripped out of
context, et cetera. And therefore, the
promise of news has been seriously undermined. In many ways, news
replaces this religion. Just as in the
olden days, you used to go to religion and
religion would tell you what was right and wrong, what
the important issue of the day is. Now, we switch on the news. That will tell us
what is important, what’s right and wrong. But, of course, huge
assumptions there. And just as you can be
an agnostic, a skeptic, an atheist in
relation to religion, so all those tags can
apply also for the news. And I would probably
characterize myself on the more
skeptical/agnostic/aethist end of the business. Nevertheless, I recognize
the unbelievable importance of this stuff. If you’re planning a coup,
always drive your tanks not to the homes of the computer
programmers, the poets, the historians, the novelists. You take your tanks
to the news HQ because that is where
social, political reality is made in the consciousness
of the population. So it’s an incredibly
valuable and important area. But it’s going wrong
in lots of ways. Let me run you through
some of the areas where I think it’s going wrong. One of the things is
the very important stuff of life, all right, used to be
at the top of the headlines. It used to be at
the top of the news. The important
stuff is at the top and the kind of frothy
stuff is at the bottom. The news, what is news,
should be important. And that’s why we tune in. And that’s why news can
command our affection. However, nowadays,
if you put something like this on the front
page of your site or your news bulletin, the
greatest news story on Earth, your ratings will plummet. No one is interested
in this at all. However, if you put her on,
wow, Taylor Swift, everybody’s interested in Taylor Swift,
particularly in shorts. This is one of the perennial
favorites of all news organizations, endless
photos like this. OK, what are we going
to do about this? Well, one response of
many serious journalists is to despair. They’re prone to despair. And this fact really leads
them to take to the hills, and hunker down, and
escape civilization. I’m hopeful because I know about
the history of the Renaissance. And in the Renaissance,
the Catholic Church knew that it had an awful
lot of complex messages to get across to people, arduous
messages, difficult messages. Really about how to live
like Jesus Christ, kind of difficult, all about
the Gospels, et cetera. So when they set about
doing their altar pieces of giant advertisements
for their faith, they realized that they had
to do some particular things in order to get
the message across. So if you’ve got
something important to say and you simply put it in
the hands of the bearded guy there on the bottom right, with
a big book and the big beard, no one listens to guys
with big beards like that. You’re just not going
to sell the message. That’s why they took the
Taylor Swifts of the day, who are in the centerpiece,
and gave them very lovely clothes, and
hair, and svelte appearance in order to sell the message. So in other words,
they realized that they were in the business
of popularization, not merely the gathering
of important information, but it’s conveyance, all
the techniques of artistry. They realized they
had to work very hard, not just to gather
what Jesus said, but to make sure
the what Jesus said was going to be listened to. And that might
involve them getting Giovanni Bellini to
make an altarpiece. It’s kind weird because
most news organizations now see themselves as data
driven businesses. We bring you the data,
the important facts. And we leave it on the table and
you will read it and consume it and then you will
be overwhelmed. The Catholic Church, much wiser. If you simply put the
Gospels on the table, with the guy with the
beard, no one will listen. You need to work
a little harder. So this altarpiece is a
symbol, a metaphor if you like, for that extra work we’re
going to need to do. The other thing about
the news, of course, is there’s too much
of it, as I mentioned. But there isn’t
really too much of it. What there is is stories that
keep saying they’re brand new and they’re never happened
before in history of the world. But in fact, of course
they’ve happened before. It’s just we’re taught
by the news organizations not to recognize what we
could call archetypes. The news is full of archetypes. In my book I say that there
are 32 archetypes that keep running round and round. They’re the same stories. It just keeps running. The Kiev story,
it’s an archetype. It’s been running since 1789. Of course, the news
will never tell me that. No. For the news, it’s totally new. Something completely
unbelievable has happened. But it doesn’t want you to
understand the threads that are running constantly
through human life. This happens just with less
significant stories as well. Let me show you a story which
looks like lots of stories, but in fact only one story. So there’s this guy
and there’s this lady. And there’s these guys. Now basically, that
looks like three stories. It’s about only one story
because what it’s a story of is there’s Prince William,
a high and mighty guy, wrestling with a car
seat, with a baby seat. Wow and amazing. This is Taylor Swift
again and she’s at Whole Foods buying lettuce. Amazing. A high and mighty
person buying things. And this is a high
and mighty son of God. But he’s born in
humble circumstances. He could have been in a place. It’s the same story. It’s emotional
structure is identical. But the news is
not in the business of sharpening our eyes to the
similarities between stories, reducing the number
of phenomena. I come from the
background of philosophy. It’s all about trying to reduce
phenomena down to some noumena. The news works in the
opposite direction. Everything is always new. We’ve never seen it
before, et cetera. That makes life dizzying. It makes it harder to navigate. The area that we
know as foreign news, OK, the great promise
of foreign news used to be you send
out some reporters. You give them some
fiber optic cables. You give them a satellite. They will tell you
about stuff going on in other parts of the world. And then people will care. They will agitate for change
and the world will improve. Nonsense. None of that happens. Last week, 200
people were killed in fighting in the
Democratic Republic of Congo. None of you know that. I only know that because
I’m in the business. It just washes over us. And the reason is, again,
this problem of data. People think. News organizations believe that
you can go out there and get the facts, like 200 people died. And people go, oh, my goodness,
how awful, how terrible. We must do something about it. We must write to
the congressman. You don’t do anything about
it because you don’t care. And the reason you don’t
care is why should you care about the death of 200
people whose lives you never knew existed? You didn’t know that
they were alive. So who cares if they’re dead. I mean it’s like a mirage. If I put you in a
performance of “King Lear,” you might be weeping at the
end of a performance of “King Lear” for a guy who
what, didn’t even live. So there you are. You’re weeping about
people who never lived, written 300 years ago. And meanwhile, you’re totally
indifferent about someone who did live yesterday. So what’s going on? Are we monsters? Are we crazy? No. Again, it comes back to
the fact that information needs to enter our imaginations. And it can only do that
through a technique which I will call art. Art is the discipline
that’s designed to get important
concepts powerfully into our imaginations. And the art form that is most
relevant to news gathering is photojournalism. I come from the
background of philosophy and most philosophers are
quite depressive people. But, boy, you haven’t
met a depressed category like photojournalists. They are really depressed. And the reason is no one is
paying for their work anymore. So people like Magnum are in
panic and all the rest of it because the value of
photojournalism is gone. Now, what is good
photojournalism? And why might we need it? What’s a good photograph? What’s a bad photograph? What’s a good photograph? It is something
that you could spend years of your life
trying to figure out. But I’m going to tell you
the answer in one second. I think that a
good photograph is one which advances your
understanding of a situation. It’s rich in information. OK. I don’t care about the
color balance, or the field, the thing, and
whether it’s wonky. It’s how much information,
new information does it carry? And a bad photograph is
one which many confirms, corroborates information
which you have probably gathered nonpictorially before. It’s an image of corroboration,
not an advancing of knowledge. Let me show you a
good photograph. This is a good photograph taken
by a woman Stephanie Sinclair, who spent some
time in the Yemen. She won a Pulitzer Prize
for this photo essay on child marriage in the Yemen. Now, we think you know about
child marriage in the Yemen. But we don’t really. And this photograph
tells us why. You see when you look
at that photograph, you realize that
it’s not children. It’s not girls getting
married to men. Those aren’t girls. If you look at their faces,
these are little old ladies. The trauma of what they’ve been
through has aged them 40 years. And similarly, the
men are not men. They don’t, you
know, in command. These are boys. These are lost boys. It’s far more poignant,
weird, disturbing than one might have thought. So this is a picture
rich in information. It’s bringing you
something that you didn’t know without the picture. And we need to make
a case for that, for good photographs as
bearers of information. This is true in all areas. I mean this is a bad
photograph of President Obama. It’s a dead photograph. The reason it’s dead is
you don’t learn anything about the guy. Everything you
knew about this guy is not advanced one iota
by seeing this photograph. Here’s a good photograph
of President Obama. This was taken by Pete Souza,
who is the White House press photographer. Now, we know that Obama lies all
the time, lies to get elected. We didn’t know that
Obama lies in order to please the child
of a White House staffer, who is into Spiderman. And that’s kind of charming,
and cute, and interesting. And hm, yeah, great. So there’s stuff going on here. And that’s good photography. So good photography is
a route to information, having its proper
due impact on us. But let me move on now to
kind of an awkward topic. You guys seem really nice. And on a good day,
I’m quite nice. And people out there
seem quite nice. And it’s very easy to think that
people are quite nice until you read a news article and you
go, as they say in the trade, below the line and you find
out about the comments, what people are saying, what
all the people are saying, on social media too. And then you’re in for a
shock because you realize then that actually
people aren’t nice. They’re crazy, vindictive,
bitter, angry, furious, just insane. This is some comments I found
at the bottom of a “Guardian” article on the chancellor of
the Exchequer, the money guy at the British government. He’s very much hated. People are insulting him. One guy wants to put a
pillow over his face. The other one wants to
kick him up the thing. It’s violent. It derogatory. You have this in
the States as well. This is the modern phenomena. People go celebrate
social media, how lovely it is
about social media. Then you find this
is what you’re hearing about social media. So what’s going on? Are we crazy as a species? No. No, We’re not crazy. We just writing our
journals in public. You know how it is when
you keep a journal. And you’ve got a bad day. And then you go up
to your bedroom. And you take our your journal. And you say, I’ve had enough. I’m killing myself. I hate everybody. I hate myself. I’m a loser, everybody’s thing. And your tears are
mixing with the ink. And it’s all very
poignant and emotional. I’m just being a little
autobiographical. And you put the journal away. Then you rejoin group life. And it’s very, very
important that no one knows what you wrote
in that journal. Because if they do, they can’t
look at you the same way again. It’s really bad information
to know about you. So you got to keep that private. Now, I believe the same
holds true in a way with these comments. These are just journal entries. And because we’ve got to get
out there, and trust people, and love, and do
business with people, it’s really important that
we don’t know certain things about our fellow human beings. Because if we do, it’ll make
a lot of things very hard. So I don’t know if you
guys are working on this. But I have serious doubts
about the social validity of some of these comments. We’re not quite understanding
what they do to our minds. But we’re living in communities. And this is giving
us information about communities we
might not want to hear. So something to bear in mind. Look, here’s something
else now about the news. This is a guy and his
five-year-old son. And shortly after this
picture was taken, the man took this
boy and his sister, who is a couple of years older,
he took them into his car. And he stabbed them with a knife
and then he killed himself. And this took place in a little
lane in the south of England. And the car was found a few
days later, with the bodies, and the blood everywhere. And when this story ran in the
world’s most popular English language website, which is
called the “MailOnline,” which none of you have
ever read I hope, so when this ran in
the “MailOnline,” this was the most popular story
that they ran two years ago. OK. So what’s going on? Are we sick? Are we mad? What are we doing? Will we care, how horrible, ugh. What are we doing? OK, let’s go to Aristotle, who
has some interesting insights. Now, Aristotle, in
the 4th century BC, was very aware that his fellow
Athenians did a weird thing every year. They went out and
looked at tragedies, plays by Sophocles
and Euripides, on the foothills
of the Acropolis. They looked at
this sort of stuff. They looked at stories
of incest, and of murder, and all kinds of
disastrous events. And Aristotle made a
very fascinating point. He said look, it is horrific. It is ghastly. But properly appreciating
the dynamics within tragedy is part of the
civilizing process. An education in
horror has a role to play in symbolizing
in civilizing you, a very weird point. Now, why is Aristotle
saying this? Because he felt that in the
hands of a great tragedian, like Sophocles or Euripides, a
story can be told in such a way that rather than
calling the guy who has murdered his
family a weirdo, or a nut case, or
et cetera, you start to see something very,
very frightening indeed. Which is that all of us
are capable of anything if pushed in a certain way. That all of us are capable of
doing this to our children, for example. And I know it
sounds unreasonable. But that’s what he believed. And I think he was right. We are on the edge of a
precipice all of time. And when we don’t
do these things it’s because we’ve not
been pushed hard enough or we’ve been blessed
by a certain capacity for self-restraint. But it’s there. The fear should be there. So we should feel pity
for the tragic hero, who has ruined his or her life. And we should feel
fear for ourselves, how close we come
to the precipice. All of that is available. And as so often
happens in the news, the news takes us to
an interesting place and then doesn’t capitalize. The news is full of
undigested meals. It is full of raw
ingredients that have not been properly combined. And one of its mainstays,
which is tragic news, is on the precipice, on the edge
of something very interesting. And it doesn’t take us to
the most interesting thing. This also goes on with
this, car crashes. I mean car crashes
are hugely popular. Everybody loves
a good car crash. The news loves a good car crash. There’s been snow, a
massive pile-up, many dead. But of course as
you’ll know, nothing beats this, a really
good plane crash, preferably a wide-bodied
airliner, huge explosion, fireball, and many dead,
off the scale popular. Again, are we monsters? No. We’re searching for
the meaning of life. In looking at
these things, we’re searching for the
meaning of life. Back in the Middle Ages, it
used to be a classic piece of Interior decoration to
put a skull on your table or have a picture of
a skull on your wall. Why? Because the thought of
death, the reminder of death, is a very important
part of leading you to focus on what
is important in life. So it is not in order to
make life meaningless. But it is in order to
try and separate out the things that are
meaningful and the things that are less rich in meaning. And in a way, these are
our modern memento mores. These are our modern
skulls on a table. We don’t really
use them as such. So again, we’re not quite
using the information which is on the
edge of something very interesting in the
way that it should be used. Look. At the end of the day, what
the news is trying to do a lot of the time
is terrifying us. It’s trying to suggest that we
cannot survive and that there are bad things on the
horizon, bird flu, a snowfall. I mean my goodness, the snow. Everything that is supposed to
be bad is coming on the horizon and we are meant
to be terrified. And that’s why when we break
down on a cold, dark night and we have to go and seek
out the help of a stranger, we know that we are going to
be chopped up in small pieces and put in the trunk because
we have read the news. And we know that
everybody out there is a serial killer, a murderer,
or a pedophile, et cetera. And then we come across
a stunning realization that, of course,
people are really nice. And always go, oh, I
was stuck in a snowdrift and you know what,
people are really nice. Of course, they’re really nice. We’ve got an unbelievably
crooked sense of statistics. By its very nature,
news overrepresents the weird, dark stuff. But because it’s
on all the time, we tend to think nowadays that
the weird, dark stuff is us. It precisely isn’t us. That’s why it’s in the news. But we miss that
very basic point. The human brain is very bad at
holding on to this distinction. And it matters a
lot because the news start to influence
what we think it means to live among Americans. What are Americans like? Well, they’re on
the whole crazy. And they shoot people
in huge numbers. And, well, that’s because
we’ve read the news. So it’s very harmful. There’s very little
of our information nowadays that is gathered
through our own senses, through our own experiences. We have offloaded the task
of making up our minds in large measure to people
like the news industry, like the “New York Times.” Think of that asinine
comment, asinine strap line, “all the news that’s
fit to print.” If ever there was a
more hubristic comment. All the news, are
you sure, are you really sure you’ve got all
the news that’s fit to print? Oh, yes, yes, absolutely. We’ve gone out there and
we looked at everything. All right. So anything, anything
happening in Wall Street, a few blocks from your offices? This is 2006. And he goes anything
happening at all? Oh, it all seems fine, yeah. And Ben Bernanke told
us it’s all fine. And we’re over– OK, great. So you just walked past the most
major calamity, systemic errors in the banking crisis, all
the news that’s fit to print. It is not “the news.” It is some news,
gathered together, often by very mediocre
people, in a hurry, drinking cups of
Styrofoam coffee, and not thinking too hard. And they’ve scooped
up this stuff for you in order to make reality
seem like it has a narrative. It’s full of holes and errors. And we just have to keep
our eyes open all the time. Look, I was talking about fear. The other thing, of
course, the news sometimes does is to make us
hopeful, particularly around the area of
science and technology. You guys will know about this. That’s why you guys are
in the news so often. The news is to the best friend
of science and technology. Because it’s all
about saying that we are advancing towards
a sunlit uplands. And so soon, very, very soon,
everything will be solved, all human problems
will be solved. This is the kind of progeny
of the Enlightenment dream. And that’s why the news
is constantly telling us that if you drink more cranberry
juice or less cranberry juice, or have walnuts
before desert, or have an aspirin, or
[INAUDIBLE], you’ll delay Alzheimer’s
or kidney diseases. This is like a major thing. There’s a constant story going
round and round and round. And what the news is not telling
you is you’re going to die. Whatever happens, you will die. OK. This is this vital
piece of information that has been delayed. So death, it seems like a rumor. It comes from a airliner
or a car crash, et cetera. It’s not telling you
that– and the thing that the news
replaced, these guys, all right, for
all their faults– I’m speaking to you
as a Jewish atheist– these guys at least
knew that it was coming. And they reconciled it to
you in a sober context. It was not going
to be by surprise. The news does not induct
us into the steady state of the human condition,
which is death is inevitable,
around 80 years old. OK. There’s going to be no
discoveries unless Google has something we don’t know. But, you know. OK. The other area is celebrity. Now, celebrity news
upsets a lot of people. Because when we think
about celebrity news– when serious people gather
together late at night and worry about the condition
of the human soul, they think, oh, yes, we live in a culture
where the kids are only interested in celebrity news. And this kind of lady here
doesn’t add to the argument. I mean it’s true. Yeah. There’s a lot of
this stuff around. So what are we going
to do about it? Well, the thing to do is to
get rid of celebrity news and just live quietly. Now, my view is we can’t. Celebrity is really important. We need celebrities. We need to admire. We need role models. Every functioning society,
every functioning civilization has had role models. You can’t do away with them. We don’t know how to be
without looking at others and modelling our
behavior on theirs. It’s very normal. We need to adjust to it. So the thing to do is not
to get rid of celebrities, but to find our way to the
right sort of celebrities. How are we going to do that? Well, you can see
sort of hints of this. The other day, Natalie Portman
took her son to the park. OK. And it’s really boring going
to the park with your child. I don’t know if you’ve got kids. It’s cold. And then it’s so boring. And it’s quite nice to think,
well, I took my kid to the park and so did Natalie Portman. That’s pretty nice. Yeah. So the light of glamor
shines for a few moments on an ordinary activity. And that’s very good. So for a small moment, Natalie
has become Saint Natalie of taking your
child to the park. And, of course, these
guys who came before knew that the role of saints
is to bolster behavior in areas where it
needs bolstering. So we need celebrities. We just need the right sort. And the problem is that
the high-minded types who run the more high-minded
news organizations are not interested in celebrity. They think it’s bad. And so what do we end up with? We end up with celebrities,
but celebrities that were made– and
celebrities are always made– by news
organizations of the lowest common denominator sought. So let’s brain up celebrity. We should have some celebrities
of a more ambitious nature. Now, here’s something
else that the news does to us all the time. And we should be ready for it. You’ll know this guy, won’t
you, working in the industry? You know who he is? Yeah. OK. So here’s this man, Elon Musk. And he’s very, very successful. Here’s his wife. And he’s got now five children. And he’s just doing
amazing things. And he’s just great. And often you get a Sunday
supplement or a Saturday– you know weekend magazine. And there will be
a story about Elon at home with his
kids, a nice piece. Or maybe Elon’s– I don’t know–
discovered how to cook pasta or something. And we’re supposed to be
interested and charmed and then put the newspaper
down and get on with our lives. How on Earth are we
going to do that? It used to be the
case in the news when there was kind of
strobe lighting or something, there would be a
warning coming up going, strobe lighting coming,
or look away, et cetera. There should be a major warning,
envy, envy warning, right? Many stories in the news
drive us insane with envy because we live in
meritocratic, mobile societies, where, if you’ve
got a good idea, or you could be the
next Larry, et cetera. So it’s constantly tantalizing
us, the sense of possibility. And it’s the news that
brings us this information. The thing is that
we still live under a Judeo-Christian heritage
which thinks very badly of envy. You’re not supposed to think
about envy, a very bad person. The thing is about envy,
envy is really important. It’s really important to be
envious quite a lot of the time because envy is a
confused, but in some ways telling story about
who you want to be. And the thing to do with envy
is rather than squashing it and pretending everything’s
fine and it doesn’t exist, you need to analyze
your envy to sort out the wheat from the
chaff and to get to the root of what the
envy might be telling you. I recommend that we
keep an envy diary where we see the patterns
of all the people who have made us envious
over the last day. And we gather this up. And we’ll see patterns emerging. When I start to analyze
my envy for Elon Musk, I realize I don’t really what
I found Paypal or be there when e-Bay was starting. That’s not really me. And his wife is very
nice, but so is mine. So it’s not really that. But why I really admire this
guy is that he’s courageous. He’s unbelievable. Time and time again,
he’s got an idea. Everybody thinks he’s crazy. And he goes for it
and he bets big time. That’s the honorable thing. That’s what I want
to learn from that. The news is not in the
business of doing that. It’s just telling us how he’s
cooking pasta or his latest project on Mars. The information
is presented to us without any
understanding of what it’s doing to us, making
us crazy with envy, or how we might
transcend that envy and take it
somewhere productive. So again, what you’ll
notice through everything I’ve been saying
is the news isn’t totally on the wrong thing. It’s just constantly not doing
some key moves that it should be doing to render the
information that it presents to us effective. It’s stalled at the
last minute before doing something interesting. Now, look, here’s
something else. I want to talk about
bias now in news. Now, bias in news has got
a really bad reputation. And when we think of a
bad news organization, we’ll think of like Fox
News or the “MailOnline” very biased sources
of information. And when we think of
good news sources, we’ll think high-minded
people, and those guys at NPR, very balanced sort of people,
or maybe the guys on the BBC. I mean the BBC, it’s for my
country, but it’s everywhere. They’re the most
high-minded organization. And they do not present
bias because what they do when they present
the news is they just like to say that they’re
giving you the information, and then they’re giving
you opposing viewpoints, and they’re leaving it to
you to make up your mind. So if they’re doing a feature
on genital mutilation, they’ll get someone who’s very
against genital mutilation. And in the interest
of balance, they’ll get someone who’s
pro-genital mutilation. If they’re doing a
story on genocide, well, someone who’s
very pro-genocide, anti-genocide, just to get
both sides of the story. The only time they ever came off
the fence was over apartheid. After much soul searching,
they thought about it and then they realized
apartheid was a bad thing. And they were going to say that. But until then, they’re just
leaving it to us viewers to look. And that’s a characteristic of
high-minded news organizations around the world. It’s disastrous. We do not need a lack of bias. We need good bias. What is bias? Bias is simply a way
of evaluating data. Trying to work out what
does it mean, what should a reasonable person think,
where’s it going, et cetera. If I told you that President
Obama is weighing up whether to build that pipeline
between the tar sands of Canada and the Gulf of Mexico
and then I said, well, look, I’m just
giving you the facts. You make up your own mind. You want to go no, come on,
you’ve been thinking about it. You’re the BBC. Just tell me what
should I think? The BBC’s line is
very patronizing. It sort of assumes that the
audience is incredibly easily influenced. And whatever is said to them,
they’ll kind of bowled over And could go jump off a
cliff if told to by somebody. So the very
important thing to do is not to tell them anything. But, of course, most of us, ever
since we’ve been sort 3 or 4 are so good at filtering
out bias that we don’t like. When your parents told you
it’s fish fingers time. Come and sit down at the table. No, it’s not. We are very good at blocking out
any lesson that we don’t want. This is just second
nature, right? We are very good at recognition
and also blocking it. We need a take on
the big questions. We need the media not
just to present us with a narrow range
of information. All this comes to the fore with
the financial crisis, which is just the key because it
happened in living memory. It’s a key moment when
information gathering failed on a spectacular scale, an
information interpretation. Despite the unbelievable
plethora of news outlets, the story didn’t get through. The story that there was a
systemic problem in the banks didn’t get through. Part of the reason for that
is the agenda was very narrow. If you talk to news
journalists now, they’ll go, well,
everything’s fine in our world because anyone, anyone
can publish a newspaper. Anyone can set up
a Twitter account. And you want to go,
yeah, of course they can. But only very, very few
people ever get listened to. So this argument
about like, well, everybody’s got a Twitter
account, yeah, sure. Everybody’s got 50 followers. Only a very few people have
got 49 million followers. So this is really
the difference. And the problem with
the financial world and the financial crisis is that
it wasn’t properly analyzed. We do not have a
media in this country, or in many countries,
that properly analyzes the way
the economy works. And it sound striking because
how could that be possible? Well, it’s possible
because you’ve got the proof of the pudding. You hear outrage
out in the street. Think of the Occupy
Movement, OK. The Occupy Movement
is the progeny of our news organizations. In other words, it generates
outrage and total confusion. These guys are outraged. They want to do something. They’re very nice. They’re very lovely people. And in a few weeks, the police
will come along and hose them down. And nothing will
happen because in order to change the world, as you
guys know, you need ideas. Passion is not enough. You need passion plus ideas. It is to some extent the
responsibility of the news to give us those ideas. It didn’t. These guys were
starved of ideas. Part of the problem
is that the news keeps thinking that the
problems of the world can neatly be identified
with a few bad apples. If you open the hearts
of most journalists, you will find inscribed on their
heart the word “Watergate.” Watergate remains the
most mesmeric occasion for journalists. Because it involves things that
they love, right, a secret. A chance for the journalists
to behave like a spy and go in and find
the secret, and then the humiliation of the powerful. They just live for this stuff. The problem is very nice. The problem is most
of the problems in the world do not
fit that paradigm. You’re not going to
catch the problems if you think it’s a secret. The real problem is that
many of the things that are most wrong with the
world are not secrets. All this stuff about Edward
Snowden, et cetera, nonsense. The really important
information is in public hands. You know it already. The thing is it’s
not pulled together. It’s not analyzed properly. So it’s about
getting the nasty guy and putting the handcuffs on. It’s about analyzing the
systemic faults in our society. And this, the news
is very bad at doing. Look, I’m just going to
pull it together now. But the fundamental
assumption of news is the most important
things in the world have happened very recently. I mean I’m just being
childishly simple. But that is the basis, right. The most important things have
happened relatively recently, possibly since the last
bulletin or since the last time you checked Twitter. Now, that is sometimes
very true, sometimes very, very true, but almost never. It’s very rarely true that the
most important things in life happened very recently. Mankind has a very,
very long history. And there are lots and
lots of truth way back. Those truths are news because
news is really important stuff that no one’s thinking about. So “Plato’s Republic,” which no
one is thinking about, is news. It’s in a way as
much news as what’s going on in Kiev
because it’s important and no one is thinking about it. And it needs to be
brought to our attention. But the news doesn’t
recognize that. I mean, boy, if you advance that
argument with the average news editor, they’ll– well,
they’ll have you marched out of the building. So we need to bear that in mind. We need to bear that it’s called
the news, but it’s some news. At the end of the day,
we have to make sure that Wi-Fi never
arrives on airplanes. Because we need time, all
of us, to try and find out the news from other
sources, other than these
mass-produced machines called newspapers,
websites, et cetera. We need to find out the news
from ourselves, from inside. I mean part of the problem of
news is it’s so respectable. It’s so prestigious. If you’re sitting down at
home on a Sunday morning and somebody says, so
what are you doing? You go, I’m reading the news. All right. Oh, carry on reading the news. And if you go a bit of you
know– rerun that scenario, so what are you doing? Well, I’m just sitting out of
the window and kind of– I’m remembering something. When I was 12 and I had a kind
of insight when a breeze was– Come on, get and
do the washing up. It’s simply not respectable to
daydream, to free associate. And yet, of course,
as we know, that’s where often the
insights are made. That’s when they come. Without noticing, there
are lots of things that don’t make it
in the news this guy. He makes it in the news. But he’s out there. He’s a metaphor for a lot of
the stuff that we keep missing. Here’s a little
autobiographical endpoint. I’m a philosopher by training. And philosophers really
think they’re right, right? They’re an embattled minority. But they really think
they have the truth. And they’re going to go
to their deaths with it. The problem is no one
cares and no one listens. The average work of academic
philosophy in the United States sells under 300 copies,
under the 300 copies, important information,
300 copies. And I mentioned
the “MailOnline,” the English language’s most
popular global website, the “MailOnline,” 40
million hits a day. So 40 million hits
a day and 300. That’s the world
we’re living in. That’s the kind of challenge. Anyway, I was
having a late night chat with some
philosopher friends and we were tossing
these ideas around. And then one insomniac night,
I was thinking about this. And I thought, OK,
look, why don’t we get some philosophers to
rewrite the “MailOnline?” We’ll use all the same stories,
all the dramas, the disasters, et cetera, except we won’t
have their slant towards kind of racism, and
bigotry, and melodrama. We’ll look at truth, and
complexity, and subtlety, and justice, et cetera. And we’ll start a
new news outlet. So we did that. And it’s called “The
Philosophers’ Mail.” And you can see it at And it’s in many ways
a practical application of many of the ideas that
are worked out theoretically in my book. I recommend it to you. Now on that note,
some questions. Thank you so much for listening. But come back with
your questions. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] AUDIENCE: I think you may be a
little optimistic about bias. I mean areas where
I know the story, I find that you either
get Democrat news or you get Republican news. You don’t get honest news. Yeah. I can pick lots of areas I know. But one area I’ll pick is why
is it in the United States that we only get only
part of what’s going on, even in Israel? I mean you can’t
see the stories that show up in “Haaretz,” in the US. I mean you’d have
people accusing you of all sorts of stuff. Nobody in the US
Congress have the courage to say what’s
happens in “Haaretz.” Why is that? ALAIN DE BOTTON: Yeah. Look, I think part
of the problem is that– you said it’s
left wing, right wing bias. I mean it’s crazy that at
this stage in civilization, we’re still dominated by this
idea of left wing, right wing bias. Can we just have
a bit more bias? I mean let’s imagine we
had a Buddhist bias, OK. So what’s Buddhist bias? So the Buddha, the
five-fold truths, et cetera, there’s a take on the world. Imagine reading the news
through a Buddhist lens. You could do that. And it would pick out
all sorts of things. Imagine reading the news
through a psychoanalytic lens. Imagine reading the
news through a lens where the sensibility
of Walt Whitman would be programmed
into the machine. And you would start to
see the sort of things that Walt Whitman might picked
up and been– in other words, we’re at the dawn of bias. So I agree with you. We’re getting such a limited
set of biases around Israel. But I don’t think
the answer is, well, we’re getting the
right wing bias and I wish we could
have left wing bias. I mean let’s open it up. There’s a lot of other kind
of perspectives we could have. AUDIENCE: I love all your
works, especially the ones that you did earlier. I’m wondering how you did– [LAUGHTER] ALAIN DE BOTTON: I’ll
remain stoic on that. That’s OK. [LAUGHTER] Anyone likes to hear that. It’s like someone saying
to you, you look great. But you looked better younger. But you look great. Yeah. Great. Yeah. AUDIENCE: Nice. AUDIENCE: Specifically referring
to “Consolations of Philosophy” and Proust’s book. But how do you
determine your topic? Because you covered a
range of topics, travel, I guess work, love,
different direct statement on philosophies. And my second
question is are there any works that you’re
particularly proud of or particularly sort
of not proud of? ALAIN DE BOTTON: Good. So, look, I think
what really motivates me is what I could broadly
called emotional intelligence. There’s all kinds of
visions of intelligence. I’m interested in the
emotional intelligence part. And that’s broadly
speaking, wisdom, a very [INAUDIBLE] time. What is wisdom? Wisdom is the part of knowledge
that is not merely true, but is also useful and helpful. And I’m very interested
in that tradition, which is a neglected tradition. And I’m from the
humanities background. And my interest is in reading
the history of culture, the history of the humanities,
with an eye to wisdom and pulling that stuff out. And I’m interested
in how to get it to have an impact in the world. And when I’m in despair
in the middle of night, I sometimes think, ah,
do books do anything? What should I be doing? So a few years ago
I founded a school, called the School of Life. It’s going really well. We’re opening branches
all over the world now. And that’s a school where
people go and they take lessons in how to break up with someone,
and how to negotiate things with their parents,
and how to die. And there are
moments of community. So I’m very proud of having
started up the School of Life and how well it’s going. And now I’m
interested in online. And I’m thinking–
I did an app– I did a book called
“Art as Therapy.” And when we did
it, we did an app to go with it, which paralleled
pictures with some text that brought out the redemptive
moral of the picture. And that had 2 million hits. And I thought, wow, that’s
great because the book only sold 50,000 copies. And you think, whoa,
that’s kind of interesting. So I’m about wisdom. And then I’m about
looking for channels down which to get
that information. That’s what keeps
me up at night. That’s what I’m interested in. AUDIENCE: Thank you. ALAIN DE BOTTON: Thanks. AUDIENCE: So allow me to
play devil’s advocate here. ALAIN DE BOTTON: Yeah. AUDIENCE: So presume
have this vision of bias– sorry to
keep returning to this. But suppose we have this
vision of Buddhist bias, and poet bias, and all that. It would be good given the
sheer volume of this stuff to have some kind of
central organizing force to pull all these biases
together, sort of give them to you as an
aggregational function. So if you allow that that
is a natural conclusion from the construction
inside your system, that’s seems awfully familiar
to you have your left leaning expert, you have
your right leaning expert, you have your Langston
Hughes leaning expert. And the role of the news
agencies in this situation would be to take all these
smaller, very undistributed sources of bias and
aggregate them together. And I would like to
hear your response did the proposition that the
system of decentralized bias will inevitably, given the small
bandwidth of the distribution of ideas, tend towards some
kind of aggregating force, which will return to the
status that we’re in now? ALAIN DE BOTTON: Look, I think
we’ve got more bandwidth maybe than you suggest. I think that the bandwidth
is currently clogged up with what you might call
orphaned pieces of information. Because we’re talking
here at Google, I’m just trying to
frame it in language that would seem natural to you. You guys are all about
ordering information. Now, the news is also
about ordering information. The thing is I guess I’m
interested in the more psychological, philosophical
level of ordering. If I tell you $100 million
has gone missing from the bank account of the
president of Uganda, OK, that’s a piece
of information. That is a piece of news. $100 million has gone. That information
is at this moment not properly contextualized. In other words, I
think about that and I think, oh,
that sounds bad. But I don’t know
what to do with it. If you say to
people– in Africa, they have– in that
part of the world, they’ve got a vision
of the clan, which means that the president did
not think he was stealing. He was giving to his family. He was being an honorable man. In other words, that’s very
different from stealing. So you guys are applying
a stealing narrative on that story and I want
to apply an African clan narrative. And it becomes
completely different. OK. Now, we do this with
any number of stories. Now, suddenly that story about
the $100 million going missing becomes a lot more interesting. It’s starting to get lively. It’s starting to be more than
just another boring, orphaned fact. And I think what we need
to do with the news is get a lot better at reconnecting
orphaned pieces of information with the question, the context,
the theme, which will properly bring out its interest. I think that the news,
the way we consume news is a little bit like having
about 40 novels constantly presented to us where we’re
allowed to read one sentence and then the novel is removed. Then another novel is given
us, and another one, another. We can’t follow. We can’t hold onto it. It’s very disorganized. And I’m not sure that quite
answered your question. But I think I’m circling
the dilemma perhaps you’re circling. AUDIENCE: OK. [LAUGHTER] ALAIN DE BOTTON: Perhaps we
can chat later or something. AUDIENCE: I’ll get out
of the way, just to– AUDIENCE: So you’ve painted
quite a troubling picture I think. You’ve explained
that fundamentally the aim of news agencies is
to astound and terrify us with recent news
and that everyone has 50 Twitter followers. So it’s very hard for
anyone to change that. So how do we fix it? ALAIN DE BOTTON:
How do we fix it? OK. Well, I think
there’s two things. Ideas, we got to get
the ideas straight. And then we’ve got to
go and get some money to do something about it. That could sound sort
of terribly idealistic. I’ve met quite a lot of
people, with lots of money, in positions of power. And my number one conclusion
is they’re not necessarily that sure what they’re doing
or what they could do. Sometimes you think,
Rupert Murdoch, he knows exactly
what he’s doing. He’s got his–
scheew, he’s doing it because he’s committed. And he’s kind of sticking
around and someone brings him this idea, someone
brings him that idea. There’s a little more fluidity. So I’m kind of optimistic about
the way the world is in a way because what you need
to do is to think through the
anomalies of the news and then start a proper
news organization that will put it to right. And that will cost
about a billion dollars, which is not that much and
Google should give it to me. [LAUGHTER] And I will spend it wisely. You do need, unfortunately–
you know my real problem as an author is that I’ve
realized that for years, I’ve been writing books going the
world should be like this, and you should do that, and
you should do this, et cetera. And no one cares because
the position of the author is a romantic figure,
from the 19th century. It’s this idea of
like a genius guy like comes in and has
a great idea and then the world changes. Nonsense. It doesn’t change. The only way the world changes
is through institutions, agglomerations of people
working in discipline for a common goal. It’s the only way to do it. In other words,
what I presented to you here is some of the thought. And now it requires an
institution and money to get these things going. There are examples,
Glenn Greenwald going to Pierre Omidyar
and getting lots of money. My problem with Glenn
Greenwald’s journalism is it’s missing out on an
awful lot of stages here. It’s based on the idea– that’s
what it’s completely based on, the Watergate paradigm. It’s also based on the idea
that information in itself is enough. And the darker and
more shocking it is, the more people
will be impressed by it and the more action will be
taken, which I don’t think is true. So, as well, I think
intellectual quirks there. But I think that’s
the kind of model. That’s the way it should go. AUDIENCE: You were saying
that the plane crashes and car crashes are the
reminders of death that the news presents to us. But then in the next
section on science, you said that the news
is trying to avoid the fact that
we’re going to die. So can you [INAUDIBLE] that– ALAIN DE BOTTON: Yes. AUDIENCE: –contradiction? ALAIN DE BOTTON: I
think what the news does is to make death a bizarre,
catastrophic spectacle that happens occasionally,
rather than, as we know, a daily event. So by making it so
spectacular, by focusing death on the spectacular
moments, very rarely do you a story about
octogenarian’s heart gives out peacefully
after a short illness. That is not news. So in a way, death
becomes this kind of massive pornographic event
that happens very occasionally off the screen, rather than
a daily, steady reality. And the daily, steady
reality is hang on guys, science is getting there. The guys at MIT has the
next wave of whatever and perhaps miniature
robots, et cetera. Rather than going,
it’s going to be too late for anyone
reading this. Anyone reading this
is going to die. the eternal life is at
least 600 years away. It will probably come. It will come, but
600 years away. AUDIENCE: We only have time
for two more questions. ALAIN DE BOTTON: OK. AUDIENCE: Great. So you mentioned
kind of the dichotomy between the 40 million hits on
a website versus 300 books being sold. And I think it’s an
interesting idea. As someone who has come from
academia and [INAUDIBLE] and was kind of disillusioned
by it, or putting in hours and hours of
research into something that nobody is really
reading, and it really doesn’t become
actionable or practical in most people’s lives. On the other hand, you have
information that’s really– everybody’s reading, but
there’s nothing there. Do you see any news
outlets or any sort of form of communication
that’s bridging the gap? Because I kind of
see the ivory tower. And most of the
professors at least that I worked with, they
thought writing anything that could be understood
by the general public was beneath them– ALAIN DE BOTTON: Yeah. AUDIENCE: –which
is problematic. So do you see a space
there that [INAUDIBLE]? ALAIN DE BOTTON: Look,
there is totally a space. There is totally a space. This is where our era is. I mean we are
living in that era. Because the architecture of
news and of the authority around news has broken down. It used to be the case the
“New York Times” would tell us something, oh,
everybody listens. Now, “Upworthy” could tell you
something or “The Huffington Post,” et cetera. It’s kind of a chaos of
the marketplace, which means that if you’ve got
serious things to say, you can very easily get lost. And I think the only
solution in a market system is the most serious people get
into bed with the people who can sell stuff, and
who are the artists. And look, I mean I don’t
want to be idealistic, but let’s think of
Shakespeare, right? Shakespeare, the great
thing about Shakespeare, is that he was a popular writer. He was saying the most
interesting things. But he was a business person
who wanted to fill the theater. And so he wanted like the
local guys from the fish market to come in. And so he got a
little bit of blood and guts some guns and things
just to keep them happy. And then he also wanted to
explore the deeper stuff. And this is where we are. This is the kind
of age we’re in. So we’re needing to
be nimble in a way that perhaps serious people
didn’t need to be 20 years ago. Yeah. AUDIENCE: So you may have
alluded to this slightly. But the problem I
see is that we have news concentrated in
the hands of a few. And the few may have
realized that this is a tool that can be used
for mass psychology and mass propaganda. And I think we’re seeing
some of that happening now. And one way to spot it is
by looking at any big story, let’s say Syria. And you look at what the major
US outlets put out on Syria and it’s all aligned
along the same view. Now, something as
complex as that is going to have
two, three, maybe a dozen very
different viewpoints. But they’re never heard. So there’s some collusion
going on in my view within the major news. And I want to get your comment. ALAIN DE BOTTON:
Look, I think it’s even worse than a collusion. I mean this is the
kind of Chomsky line. The Chomsky line says there
are elderly white males sitting somewhere, controlling
the media, sort of pulling the
strings, trying to get us to think in certain ways,
in the interests of war and the military machine. I think it’s even
worse than that. Because if there
really were these guys, we can go out
there and get them. We could do a scoop on them. The problem is it’s
largely unconscious. It’s unconscious bias
of the worse sort. People just– in
any area you look at, education, Syria, housing,
interest rates, economic income distribution, et cetera,
there’s the questions you’re allowed to
ask and the questions that sound a bit weird. And I’ve been on
news programs where I’ve raised a weird question and
boy do they get you out fast. It’s like, oh, what’s this
question you’re asking? We thought you were coming to
talk about classroom sizes. And now you’re starting to talk
about what education is for and what learning is about. Off the stage. There’s censorship of
this kind of thing. I think we need to keep asking
those really uncomfortable questions, yeah, and be aware
of it, Look, I don’t know. This is where I am. This is the battle really. Let’s keep fighting
against that blindness. We have surrendered an
awfully big part of our brains to organizations. And it used to be the case
that you knew– you know, a friend of mine who used
to live under communism, would say, under
communism, the great thing was we knew it was all
wrong in the media. So we thought quite hard. The problem is nowadays
people think it’s right. And so they’ve stopped thinking. That’s the problem. Thank you very much. AUDIENCE: Great. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] ALAIN DE BOTTON: Thanks.

38 Replies to “Alain de Botton: “The News: A User’s Manual” | Talks at Google

  1. His "weird" question at the end, about what education is for, is really a very good one. I would say the true purpose of education is to free each individual so they can find and express their unique purpose and contribution. If this type of education sounds appealing check out "Steps to Knowledge", you can find it as a free pdf.

  2. In response to the question at 48:30, I'm very sure that what @Alain de Botton is saying is not the Chomsky line is actually the Chomsky line.

  3. Around 27:40 he says we need bias, someone that tells us what to Think, but the absolute end he says that not thinking is the entire problem. So maybe we should ask how media that makes us Think looks like.

  4. What we need is something like an RSS feed reader that presents ONLY ONE  topic per page and:
    – Links to original sources ( or reliable sources ) or give only objective facts.
    – Links to other takes on the news (biased) and sorted by popularity or by something like 'reddit karma'.
    – This way the effort is spent just gathering facts and the other effort can be offloaded to other people / organizations that want to present their view on the topic (it's a bit like how people remix original music).

  5. There are so many key ideas in this talk I've made a ton of notes with a dozen key points. Top of the lis is to keep thinking.  I forgot to add, De Botton wrote the last of his books using Google Docs, as he said, I cannot thank Google enough. And one of those titles was in realtime docs with a colleague in Tasmania ..

  6. it's being suggested here that there are individuals who run the news who decide how the news is presented, as if they're saying "we run the news, we want the story in ukraine to be portrayed to confuse and scare the population". Who are these people?

  7. Very good talk but why did he made his head shine like that? It distracts me a lot. So i just minimize the talk.

  8. As a reply to the question at 46:54, Alain should have mentioned contemporary television dramas like The Sopranos, Mad Men, House of Cards and Game of Thrones. At their best, these shows do an excellent job of combining popularism with the kind of high-brow seriousness that's often regarded as "unmarketable".

  9. Not like none of you have ever said something when you meant somethings else. It's a simply mistake and he shouldn't be attacked for it. Chomsky line or not.

    I really think that the media is biased in a way to programme us. How do we deal with this? We discontinue watching and reading the traditional news outlets.

  10. e fucking advertisment criminals are starting in on destroying youtube again kill these cunts kill them all adds fucking adds fraud adds rights to be protected from fraud adds sue them kill them destroy fraud adds kill there fucking piles of shit that make adds death to humany i have no respect for humans all need to die the sick wealthy piles of adds shit adds have all the rights adds wile the rest adds are subject adds kill the adds fucking adds cunts adds

  11. The most spectacular failure of AdB's talk was his omission of ”old school news” – which in very few instances is still surviving even today. A respectable ”old school” print media outlet – such as The New York Times – would provide virtually everything he complains it lacks: the basic information, all sorts of context, op-eds presenting multifaceted analysis, editorials/opinions, photojournalism (where applicable). Even special editions.
    This is still doable – and done – in both print and online (UK's The Guardian also produces some terrific pieces of journalism).
    The main culprit for the current status of ”The News” ain't ”The News”, for once – it's the public. Who rushed towards a ”fast news” menu, with all of its shortcomings. All that most of ”The News” has done was to respond to the demand of its audience, oftentimes at its own peril. But constantly refusing to update its economic model was a fatal move.
    The vast majority of good journalists, those who think with their heads and don't bow to their bosses, have left the industry for good. They were replaced by drones subservient to their employers. The funny thing is that these drones are better suited to cater the needs of large swathes of the ”new public”, which has the attention span of a fruit fly.
    I'm not saying we should go backwards and his isn't a rant; I found the presentation to be most entertaining. And wrong on oh-so-many other levels I won't get into. 🙂

  12. Great talk that puts into words the anxious feeling I always get when I watch the news: a sense of confused meaningless in a mass of information that should (in most cases) have real importance in our lives. 
    I love the idea that information should be contextualised and analysed thematically, with the implications/ lessons in our own lives explored, and with suggestions for possible action. But I feel that having more bias in the news would add to the confusion and lack of orientation that we experience already. 

    I think news should be told in the words of those involved, or in photography/ film. Then, the biases are of those involved in the situations, the information can be contextualised better, and there'll be at least some extent of representation.
    Aljazeera's 'Witness' and VICE documentaries are quite good in this respect, although not perfect of course. But they instil curiosity and a sense of importance about the subject matter. Point is, I think social media will help the voices of those involved in events be heard better, to enable us to understand the reality, rather than the intrigues and technicalities that take up air time.
     Palestine is a key example. A lot more people have become attuned to the reality of the apartheid there because more voices from those involved are coming through in social media. But of course, these voices can be flooded with mindless droll. 

    I need to go to bed. 

  13. I found it interesting how he talked about envy. I never looked at envy in such that we could use it to find what we want to be. So in a way, we can use our envy to find our ambition. That's totally cool.

  14. To my ears he could reach more souls talking slower, or pausing once in a while, and possibly ending up with a shorter, clearer message – don't hate me for saying 🙂

  15. for unconscious bias look at george galloway's interview with fox news and noam chomsky's interview with israeli television.

  16. Are there too many intellectuals, pseudo-intellectuals, theory hucksters gabbling in blogs, websites, think-tanks, you-tube videos, broadcast seminars, discussion panels, and  promoting latest books, papers, monographs etc ..? Hundreds and hundreds of them, of all hues and cries, sects and sanctions, theories and hypotheses. They are positively randy for perpetual forensic assessment and anthropological exegesis. There they all are in that endlessly refreshed column over there on the right of the screen >>>>>, They're after your 25 cents worth (intellectually, if not monetarily) .. endlessly picking apart notions of 'culture', and psychological behaviourism, like a gang of urchins cutting up worms with penknives.  No wonder there are armies of the confused and/or obsessed, all ranting at each other in comments sections from across the earth.. Like a man with his ear to the grandfather clock trying to find out how time works.    Whoops.. you see how easy it is to fall into it!

  17. Not terribly fair to Chomsky. I think he just recognizes collusion as a frequent often proven thing in powerful institutions like major corporations and the government. I think the unconscious biases frequently fed by so inclined institutions he would recognize as even more insidious. However when someone like Snowden nails corrupt institutions in such a public way we're closer to being able to bring such corrupting people behind the scenes to justice put a stop to their plotting or at least dull its impact.

  18. Alain is brilliant ideator, adaptor and ideology-free thinker. His books and talks are eminently accessible. He has a flaw that vitiates his talks. Consequently his words begin to pall on the listeners. He speaks at breakneck speed, straining the salivary glands. And his voice is placed at a relatively high pitch, climbing higher to make a point rather than dipping lower. He is an enviably free spirit. He must free his voice so that it touches the heart and not pierce the eardrum alone.

  19. It's not boating to spend time to a child ! It's a fine way of learning to be really alive again, I did not expect you to think this way about this matter!!!!!

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