PoMoCon Four: Elites vs. Digital


James Poulos, recently named Executive Editor of American Mind, a worthy publication of the Claremont Institute, joins me for a conversation on the changes digital technology has created and revealed in this time of elite crisis in America and around the world. We also talk up a triad of cultural criticism whose moment has come: Philip Rieff, Christopher Lasch, and Marshall McLuhan. I’ll go so far as to boast that our conversation is a good example of what this triad has to offer by way of analysis of elites.


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  1. Mr Nick Member
    Mr Nick

    Fascinating discussion, thanks for the tip on the other thread.

    On your theory about history restarting and that new technologies give only the illusion of new creativity, I’ll give you a contrary point:

    ‘Dumb-ing down’ was a big thing back in the 1990s, at least here in the UK, and continued well into the 2000s but with less comment on the phenomenon (perhaps they didn’t know what they didn’t know…). Elites thought that was what peopled wanted, smaller packages and simpler messages. Signs of the times were The Guardian and then The Times itself moving from broadsheet to tabloid format. The BBC, with its huge share of the UK’s media market, pretty much led the charge, it is unimaginable that they would make so faithful a dramatisation of this C.S. Lewis classic nowadays.

    An observable corollary in Hollywood can be seen in older Disney films being reissued. When my younger sisters watched the old VHS release of Sleeping Beauty, the music was from Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty. By the time my niece watched the re-release of the same film recently, Tchaikovsky was gone and had been replaced by some bubblegum pop from the Disney Factory. This is different from the incessant tinkering of George Lucas with the original Star Wars trilogy, but imagine the uproar when Disney replace John Williams’ original score for the fiftieth anniversary release in 2027…

    Yet for all the problems you described with the proliferation of new technologies there are signs of hope. When Joe Rogan’s podcasts are topping the download charts and get millions of YouTube views, lasting 2-3 hours and often covering serious issues in science, education and culture, it makes fools of the dumb-ing down crew. Good article on this at Quillette recently.

    I agree on the modern problem with ‘stars’, funnily enough I’d been vaguely thinking about the interchangeable Chris crisis but had never heard it reasoned out. Perhaps it will force them to swim against the tide and innovate, how can you be cool if you’re essentially the voice of the establishment?




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  2. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Cool is dead, for better & for worse.

    We’ll see what the entertainment establishment–Disney–can do to survive; for now, it’s doing better than anyone else. Sad in a way, but there it is…

    I’m with you both on dumbing down & on the new opportunities for dumb to get smart, which is what Rogan, in his low-key way, is offering!

    The press as hitherto understood is certainly dead. Advertising has plummeted. Google gets all that money now, but it’s moving away to other models. Facebook is replacing the press in getting the ad money, but it, too, is moving away from advertising. Soon, we’l all be cut off from the young people who don’t even understands what was once meant by a press, or by TV. What then!

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