September 04, 2006
Continuing the discussion of polarization: One of Cass's papers on the topic discusses the development of academic "schools" (law and economics or critical legal studies, for example) as such examples of group polarization and cascades. I read the paper, maybe against Cass's intention, as offering some good reason for homogeneity at one, early, intellectual stage of development. People are more likely to see an idea through to its conclusions and to test its limits if they are receiving informational and reputational signals from those around them that the idea is a promising one.
Foreign V. Domestic
September 03, 2006
by Alan WolfeI've recently returned from the American Political Science Association meeting. While there I attended two plenary sessions. One, on the future of American democracy, featured Bob Kuttner, Walter Membane, Paul Pierson, and Jacob Hacker. The other, on the clash of civilizations, presented Frank Fukuyama, Steve Walt, Ben Barber, and James Kurth. (An announced Sam Huntington was, alas, unable to attend.) So which topic and cast of characters drew the larger crowd? It was not even close.
Thoughts About Fascism
September 01, 2006
September 1--the day Nazi stormstroopers overran Poland in 1939, igniting World War II--seems an appropriate day to meditate on fascism, the word President Bush used yesterday in a major speech to explain to Americans whom we are fighting against. The word was given a place of honor in a sentence summoning up the worst hobgoblins of the past century: "As veterans, you have seen this kind of enemy before.
Bridging The Divide?
August 31, 2006
I want to follow up on Cass Sunstein's post about ideological amplification. It reminds me of a study I read about a few years ago by Valdis Krebs, a network theorist, on the polarized political reading habits of Americans. (I see he's updated the study for 2006). Using the Amazon "Customers who bought this item also bought..." feature, he found that people who read Ann Coulter weren't reading much of Michael Moore, and vice versa.
July 11, 2006
If Democrats win back the House in the midterms today, they'll owe an enormous debt to organized labor, which has spent more than $40 million--and sent millions of voters to the polls--to help the party take control of Congress. The AFL-CIO alone has targeted more than 200 contests in 21 states this cycle, and unions, despite their declining power, are still acting as difference-makers in many races.
June 26, 2006
Imagine you were choosing whether to buy a book from Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble's website, and you knew that Amazon's site would load much faster, allowing you to scan books and sample their content much more easily. Or imagine that Fox.com's streaming video came up instantly and CNN.com's balked. Or that whitehouse.gov loaded quickly while the site of a contentious political magazine was plagued by delays.
Thank You For Sharing
June 05, 2006
Now celebrating her twentieth year as the host of the world's most influential talk show, Oprah Winfrey is to television what Bach is to music, Giotto to painting, Joyce to literature. Time magazine hit the nail on the head when it recently voted her one of the world's handful of "leaders and revolutionaries." (Condoleezza Rice wrote Oprah's citation: "She has struggled with many of the challenges that we all face, and she has transformed her life. Her message is empowering: I did it, and so can you.") Like all seminal creative figures, her essential gift lies in her synthesizing power.
April 10, 2006
What does Jerry Falwell have in common with Paul Wolfowitz and Howard Dean? What links columnist George Will with The New Republic? All, according to a recently issued "working paper," a shortened version of which appeared in the London Review of Books, are agents of an amorphous but incalculably powerful "Israel Lobby." That same inscrutable organization, the paper alleges, has dictated the decisions of politicians from George W. Bush to Jimmy Carter and determined the content of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. The goal of the lobby?
The Porn Identity
February 06, 2006
IN THE MIDDLE OF MY SOPHOMORE year of college, my mother called and said she wanted to visit me — just to have lunch. My university was a six-hour drive from my parents’ house, so I knew something was wrong. We ate at a fancy Italian restaurant; over risotto, we chatted awkwardly about classes. I dreaded the moment when our plates would be taken away. And, sure enough, after the table was cleared, my mother began to explain to me that certain lifestyles were dangerous. “What are you trying to say?” I asked. There was a silence, and then she said, “I know about the porn.” THAT CONVERSATION CAM
January 25, 2006
You hear a lot of complaining, and rightly so, about Hollywood's tendency to churn out safe, unimaginative pabulum--the remakes, the sequels, the blow-everything-up movies. Less remarked upon is the opposite problem: The studios' inability (or unwillingness) to make B+ movies, competent, mid-sized genre films that are formulaic in the good sense. There was a time when Hollywood excelled at producing such solid but unexceptional fare--Westerns are the classic example--but no longer.