502 Comments
Mar 2Liked by Benjamin Carlson, Bari Weiss

I lost count of how many times my jaw dropped reading this. Particularly his description of the "global village." And that "man is not designed to live at the speed of light." This man understood humanity and human nature better than most. Absolutely fascinating.

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Mar 2Liked by Benjamin Carlson

Enjoying this read but I had to stop to share how funny I find this phrase: “…a proctologist and amateur ventriloquist...”

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Mar 2Liked by Benjamin Carlson, Bari Weiss

This is why I subscribe to FP. Where else do you find the reach, the substance and the reality of their writing and reporting. Excellent just excellent

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Mar 2Liked by Benjamin Carlson

I’m old, and the common thread I find in my age group is that we no longer recognize this world. My greatest comfort is watching old movies, browsing antique stores, and relishing beautiful lovingly made real wood furniture, made in the USA. I take comfort in nostalgia, when my world made sense. The other day I visited my library, and peeked into a room set aside for small children. They were busy creating things at small tables, far from phones, and other electronic devices. I thought to myself if only this would last, but I’m a realist and I too see a future where electronics more and more will rule and take over our lives. I say once again that I’m glad that I’m old, and will not live to see this future.

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Mar 2Liked by Benjamin Carlson, Bari Weiss

This article was a fascinating read. What jumped out to me was his point that everything is an image, not a real person. In his day, it was a voice on the radio, a person on TV, or an author in print. Today, we have our phones, but the algorithms that feed us what we want. This, blended with the most potent natural human drug, the feeling of being right, the digital world, has created so many online narcissists.

The thought of how brave a person can be behind a keyboard rather than talking to a real person made me think of my youth; if you said the wrong thing, to put things plainly, you would get your ass beat. There is no fear of that today, as you can be a keyboard hashtag warrior. The other consequence is when these people get together, think of the mobs we read about earlier in the week on college campuses.

I love Steven Covey's insight of first seeking to understand. Marshall McLuhan presciently gives us the fundamentals of human nature to interpret what is happening around us. What to do about that is a topic for another day. Thanks for creating this fantastic idea. Pop culture is okay, but like donuts, it's not good if eaten regularly, but stimulating the brain always is. Great work, Benjamin.

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I read "The Medium is the Massage" many years ago, and can't say I understood it. With McCluhan I at least often has the sense that he seemed to be saying something very percipient, but I could not quite tease out what it was.

What I will suggest this morning--and I had a hard week and my brain is not operating too well, nor will I ask it to today, since I actually like Saturday as a Day of Rest--is that all understandings have a visceral, corporeal component. We think with our bodies. But we think differently speaking directly to people, by the phone, and by text and even letter. The very physical acts of writing with a pen and typing on a keyboard interact differently with the physical components of our body, with our brains, and brain regions, in differing ways.

I think the two dimensionality of screens reduces the gut element of our conscious perception, our intuitive knowings, and that makes us collectively dumber. And dumb begets dumb. It's a feedback loop that is hard to disrupt.

I see all around me glib superficiality. I see people who, even when physically present with other people, tend to see them with much the same spirit with which they interact with the images on screens that actually occupy most of their time. And of course it's not uncommon to see couples and groups of people all sitting together, all on their phones. The phones come to seem more real than the people they are with.

Socrates, famously, refused to write anything. Plato made Socrates his primary character in his dialogues, but we have no way of knowing if anything in any of those dialogues was said by Socrates. Socrates himself viewed every dialogue in effect as a unique work of performance art that could never be repeated, and which would become sick and die if recorded then reenacted by others, in other than that moment.

And of course he died saying that the only thing he was sure of was that he could be sure of nothing. He knew nothing. This is actually a benign spirit, and one which, if it were carried out sincerely in our own time, would do much to mediate and eliminate the conflicts we see. So many people learn easily and early to see what simply isn't there.

One last point. My best friend in high school went on to lead, or co-lead, the team at Apple that developed the iPhone. He was quoted in one interview that the iPhone represented the next stage in human evolution. On one hand you can see his point: we became cyborgs when we attached our phones permanently to our bodies, and as cyborgs we had instantaneous access to, in principle, the sum total of human knowledge, literally at our fingertips.

But in counter-point, we entered a world of hyperreality, in which a fake world became more real for many of us than the trees, dogs, rain and clouds of our own.

Our bodies have knowledge that is real. Most of us fail to listen to our bodies enough. We have become purely visual and auditory creatures, and that is an enormous loss, because there is no intuition in sight and sound. It's in the gut, and the gut is in the body.

That will do for today. After a day I'm sure I would have something more and different to say, but I wasn't going to respond at all.

I would like a piece on Jacques Ellul. He should be better known.

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The Prophets series promises to be a fun read. Thanks! Here are a few suggestions to consider.

C.S. Lewis, specifically his frightening prescience in The Abolition of Man. (Consult Michael Ward at Hillsdale College.)

Ray Bradbury, specifically Fahrenheit 451.

Ayn Rand. I reject her prescriptions, and her writing is long and overwrought, but she certainly nailed the modern economy.

Shakespeare, hardly modern, but he understood the human psyche better than any mere mortal.

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Mar 2Liked by Benjamin Carlson

Wow! What a perfect insert between TGIF and Douglas Murray on Sundays. I had never heard of Marshall McLuhan but I am glad I now have. I don't think I know of anyone who was more prescient regarding the digital age, and from an Elizabethan scholar to boot! FP, you've outdone yourself again!

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Mar 2Liked by Benjamin Carlson

"When you don’t have a physical body you’re a discarnate being. "

As a Christian, this hit me right between the eyes. We've forgotten that Creation is good, and that bodies matter. It explains a great deal of the current transhumanism.

Thanks for this. Great article, and I look forward to the series. Suggestions for future prophets - C.S. Lewis & The Abolition of Man (fictionalized in That Hideous Strength) and Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death.

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“The medium is the message” is proven by the Nixon/Kennedy debate. Most of those who saw it on TV insisted that Kennedy won the debate. Most of those who listened to it on the radio said that Nixon won the debate. Probably because people were highly influenced by the handsome Kennedy so much so that his looks overrode the content of his statements. A classic case of appearances trumping the message.

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Mar 2Liked by Benjamin Carlson, Bari Weiss

At Wired, we made Marshall McLuhan our patron saint from the day we launched in 1993. Every issue had one of his typically disruptive quotes on the masthead. And then in 1996, we published an "interview" with Marshall commenting on developments that happened after his death (https://www.wired.com/1996/01/channeling/). Still pretty amusing, even insightful. And if you think Marshall was prescient, you should check out the guy who influenced him, the renegade Jesuit priest Teilhard de Chardin, whose mimeographed work Marshall read as a young professor, and inspired his Gutenberg Galaxy. Wired wrote about him too. (https://www.wired.com/1995/06/teilhard/)

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Mar 2Liked by Benjamin Carlson

Marvelous piece, sir, and marvelous series, to which I look forward with great anticipation and enthusiasm!

May reading about McLuhan help us to recognize the prescient living among us, no matter where we may encounter them!

Thank you for reminding me why I pay for The Free Press!!!

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Mar 2Liked by Benjamin Carlson

High praise to you, a fine article. So good in fact my coffee got cold as I could not stop reading and reflecting upon my own “ McLuhan moments”. He brought much clarity to a young man’s mind.

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This is an excellent idea for a column! Please do Thomas Sowell or Pope Pius X next!

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I hope you write one article about Douglas Murray. Who is proving to be rather prophetic.

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Mar 2Liked by Benjamin Carlson, Bari Weiss

Best article yet in The Free Press (and not one mention of political sides!!!!). Fascinating piece and I'm super excited to dig into this man's books and info.

Reminds me of two other excellent books:

Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

The Shallows by Nicholas Carr

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