Transcript for Episode 020 – How to Break Free from Social Media’s Outrage Cycle – Yevgeny Simkin

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[00:00:00]: David: Welcome to Outrage Overload, a Science podcast about outrage and lowering the temperature. This is episode 20.

[00:01:00]: Trump: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted out factories, scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation. An education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge and the crime and the gangs and the drugs.

****: That have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

[00:02:00]: David: We are constantly told by news media, social media, our friends, sometimes by politicians, how terrible things are in America. We need to keep all that in perspective. Sure. We have our fair share of problems. However, it is important to remember that things are not as bad as they seem. Our institutions have mostly held, the state of rule of law is pretty healthy, and we have free and fair elections for the most part.

****: People talk about weaponization of the government corruption, even throwing around terms like fascism. Let’s take a look at what that really looks like in some parts of the

****: News Clip: world. Lukashenko reelected after an election, most observers say, was flagrantly rigged. In the months that followed, he moved to brutally squash the opposition.

****: They burst into people’s apartments, throw them in jail, and can even kill you. People are afraid even to get out of their apartments. Tens of thousands of protestors arrested. The dictator, even diverting or Ryan Air flight earlier this year, forcing it to land in Minsk, so journalist and dissenter, Roman Prote Savage could be arrested.

[00:03:00]: President Ortega began arresting his staunchest opponents, including seven presumptive presidential candidates. Six months before November’s elections, he ran and won a fourth consecutive term, virtually unopposed, but the elections were widely dismissed as a sham. Ortega has ignored widespread international appeals to release the opposition prisoners preferring it seems to make an example of those whom he accuses of trying to overthrow his government.

****: We return now to the military crackdown in Sudan today, the worst violence since the overthrow of the country’s president in April. John Yang has the latest. On the violence today targeted the center of a months long civilian movement that forced the downfall of the country’s longtime ruler Omar Al Bashir dozens were killed as protesters Dodge Live gunfire.

[00:04:00]: The main opposition group accused the military of committing a massacre. Protesters vowed to remain on the streets until the generals who replaced bahir in April hand power. To a civilian led government. We begin with what remains of independent journalism in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, where the mere mention of the word war in relation to Ukraine can land you in prison for up to 15 years where social media platforms have been squeezed or completely blocked, news outlets have been shut down.

****: Journalists have fled the country, and where citizens seeking objective coverage of the Ukraine story have been left high and

****: David: dry. So next time you hear someone say that things are terrible in America, just remember that they are not telling the whole story. Yes, we have problems, but we also have it pretty good in terms of security, free press, human rights, civil liberties, and the rule of law.

****: That’s what we’re going to talk about on this episode of the Outrage Overload Podcast. I’m your host, David Meyer, and we’re going to examine the very core of media’s incentive structures. Dissect the allure of clickbait culture, and scrutinize how these factors shape our perceptions With journalist, technologist, and mania expert, you have Guinea simpkin.

[00:05:00]: Yevgeny Simkin: And I, I certainly don’t pretend to claim any expertise on anything, but I’ve been working on a thesis about the nature of expertise and the nature of truth in the modern world. Um, which, um, I saw hints of that in, yeah, Jonathan Hyde. He had a piece in the Atlantic some months ago, which he used the term Babel, um, as the tower, and that’s precisely the.

****: Kind of the premise upon which I’m resting this thesis where it’s no longer linguistic, uh, dis, dis conformity that is driving us all mad. But this inability to, to wrangle what truth is because most people can’t po I mean, not most people, everyone can’t possibly have. The time necessary to develop expertise along the trillion verticals along which there was expertise to be had mundane things like, you know, how do you make ice cream?

****: How do you fix the plumbing? How do you make sure that the electricity works in your city? Right? Like, people have no idea. They can’t know. They, they, they only know what they know. And then even when you talk to experts, they don’t agree either, right? So then you wind up in some statistical anomaly where, well, 30% of the experts feel this way and 45% feel that way.

[00:06:00]: And then, and so, so people just feel completely. Um, like, like they’re in twi, the Twilight Zone, right? Like, ’cause if you can’t, you can’t find it. Your own expertise and you can’t rely on people’s expertise. And then just it become an expert’s expertise. So then it winds up being this mishmash of, well, everyone just, uh, retreats into their ideological camps and, and then it’s just, uh, it’s what, it’s what Freud referred to as the, um, The narcissism of small differences, uh, where, where there are not enough big problems to really worry about.

****: And so it’s people start being viciously, uh, uh, uh, at odds over reasonably insignificant things, right? Because the, the significant things have been solved. So, so, so that, that’s kind of the, the non-expert thesis that I’ve been kind of working over in my head for some, some years now. And, and most of the things I think about kind of, you know, orbit around that central idea.

****: I initially reached

[00:07:00]: David: out to Simkin because I found a piece in the Bulwark titled Social Media Is the Problem Published in 2020, in which he suggested that people get off social media. I’m here to make the case that all modern, social, political, and sociological ills can be traced to social media. It is single-handedly responsible for the tearing apart of our social fabric.

****: It’s not part of the problem, it is the problem. And insidious malware slowly corrupting our society in ways that are extremely difficult to quantify, but the effects of which are evident all around us. End quote. Simkin has written extensively about the detrimental effects of sensationalism, click bait, and divisive content and modern media.

****: So I spoke to him to see how his thoughts may have evolved on these topics. So stay with us as we embark on this stop provoking journey to explore solutions that inspire a media landscape that doesn’t manipulate our emotions, but enriches our understanding. Ready for a deep dive into the realm of media, society, and the power of change with Yev Guinea Simpkin.

[00:08:00]: The, so social media to me is, my, my kind of response to the whole thing is like, well, this is why we can’t have nice things, right? I mean, I, I get great value outta social media in many ways, but then as a, in a macro effect and what’s happening, you’re just like, okay, is it worth it? Right? It’s all that value worth it.

****: Yevgeny Simkin: So I think what people mean generally when they say social media is actually not entirely accurate to, to, it’s unfair to the medium, right? Because when people say social media, for the most part, they’re referring to Facebook. Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, probably. Instagram. Instagram, exactly. Those are the, the, the five, the five big ones.

****: And those are woefully, woefully damaging to our social core and network. And, and whatever, whatever adv advantages they might bring are massively, I think, offset by the, uh, by the huge damage they’re doing to our social fabric. But social media, Has many, many other factors or many other players, which I would argue are actually entirely beneficial.

[00:09:00]: Like so as an example, stack Overflow, right? Stack Overflow is a, it’s a community which with just as much anonymity as Twitter, uh, but the incentive structure is very different and the reason that people go there is very different. And subsequently, it’s entirely not toxic and it’s entirely beneficial to the users.

****: There’s like none of the, uh, argumentative and vile and hostile. Stuff that happens in like Twitter, um, or, or four chan or any of those, um, happens in, in stack. Um, so that, that’s an example of, of a social media platform that actually works quite well. Um, and services, the people that use it. Uh, similarly LinkedIn, I think, uh, I think because people bring their personal reputations to the, to, to the game.

****: They, I mean, there’s occasionally, there’s a little bit of spiteful, you know, or kind of touchy stuff, but it’s nothing compared to what’s happening on, on Facebook. And again, because there’s, there’s an element of your, your personal professional reputation is at stake, right? So, so you, you could do meaningful damage to who you are as a human being and how you’re able to make a living so that, you know, that really reigns people in it.

[00:10:00]: It just like it does in real life. So what I feel is happening is that the closer a social media platform resembles a real social. Medium with human beings interacting with other human beings and worrying about their reputations in one way or another. In Stack Overflow, your reputation is numeric.

****: You’re still anonymous if you wanna be, but you earn points by being a good citizen of the platform and for asking good questions and giving good answers. And people are deeply concerned about their reputation. They’re numeric reputation, they don’t wanna lose it. And if they start behaving like they’re gonna lose it, and so they don’t.

****: And in LinkedIn it’s your actual reputation. So there’s, it’s, you know, there’s every incentive to, to stay civil, to be as patient and kind and mindful and, and human as possible. Uh, I’m using the word human very generously. Uh, so and so that being said, I think that the, the, the social media platforms that are damaging, they could easily reformat their, their wares in a way which forces people.

[00:11:00]: To behave more humanely and more kindly, and more patiently, not by dint of, uh, admonishing them or by dint of, you know, regulating their behavior, which everyone keeps waiting for someone to do that, for either them to do it or for government, the government to do it. But the incentives are very easy to, to, you know, to flip around in such a way that people simply stop feeling the freedom.

****: You know, they, they have self, self-control. They’re, again, they’re human beings, and if they don’t have self-control, then they’re very quickly relegated to the sidelines and, and the system just stops giving them the, the megaphone to, to keep spouting gibberish. That’s easy to do. Like, i, I, it, it frustrates me deeply that, that that isn’t thing that people are yell, yelling about from, from the rooftops.

****: That like these, all these platforms need to be. Coerced by their users to modify their behavior, to modify how, how they offer their wares to curtail the bad actors. And that may hurt their income to some extent, but I don’t know that it would hurt it all that much. And once things have been normalized, it would actually, I think, make them much more appealing overall.

[00:12:00]: And they would actually make more money in the end because more people would feel comfortable And, and, um, you know, undamaged like I’ve left Twitter, I, I mean, I’m, I’m on Twitter very. Very, very intermittently just to post things about samizdat or whatnot. But I found myself every time I’d entered Twitter 15 minutes later, I was annoyed, aggravated, frustrated.

****: And because I don’t react that way, I, I don’t call people names, I don’t call, you know, I, I don’t just wander into random arguments, but in my head, these arguments were kinda living rent free. And, and I decided I don’t want that anymore. I don’t want my cortisol spiking every time I go, uh, onto a platform to, to basically just check out what’s happening.

****: But that’s my point. I mean, that’s my, my belief is that it, it wouldn’t be that hard to modify them, and that social media writ large has much opportunity and potential to be a huge benefit to humanity. It’s just that people, we, we, we wade into it with no real rhyme or reason. No, you know, no scientific evidence, no data.

[00:13:00]: And then we have these overlords, like Mark Zuckerberg, or in this case now Elon Musk, who are, you know, they’re, they’re, they’re. Monarchs. They, they, they can’t be fired. They can’t be chastised. They can’t be. I I, I thought it was hilarious when there was a couple of months ago when Mark Zucker Zuckerberg said that he takes full responsibility for something.

****: I don’t remember what he was, he was taking full responsibility, whatever that meant. And I thought, what, what does it mean for Mark Zuckerberg take full responsibility? Like he doesn’t get a pay cut. He doesn’t get fired. He doesn’t get demoted, he doesn’t get somebody who now has to oversee what, like, there’s literally nothing that happens.

****: Right? So what like, Yeah.

****: David: Right. It doesn’t mean anything when he says it. And then, like I said, there’s no consequences. So, you know, you know, the, the, the advice that you gave in the article at the time was sort of get off social media, you know, do it, do it for 30 days or, or something. And, um, I. You know, and I’m kind of curious if you still feel that’s an effect, you know, is that really effective?

[00:14:00]: We talk sometimes, you know, it seems like it kind of pulls both ways, but you know, it used to be mostly social media was kind of echoing, um, or, um, you know, it was kind of echoing things that were happening out in other media. Now it’s almost like traditional media is picking up their stories from Twitter and, and carrying ’em.

****: So I mean, it seems like you’re still exposed to some of that same kind of thing, even if, if you’re using other more traditional media sources. I guess it depends a lot on which ones you pick.

****: Yevgeny Simkin: It’s funny that you asked that just yesterday I noticed, uh, there was some, some news in my, uh, Google newsfeed, uh, which I have turned on again.

****: Uh, just ’cause I’m curious about certain things that, and I’m, I’m, I’m curating it very carefully so that most of the stories and there are about astrophysics and, and, and AI and stuff that I’m really interested in. But there was some story, I don’t even remember what it was, but it was entirely driven by several tweets, right?

****: Like the whole story was some person on Twitter said something. Then somebody responded to them with something else. And I thought, and I was again reminded that like, this is, if there’s any legislation to be had that would make me happy, it would be that, um, that the news media may not source Twitter for anything unless the, the people saying it have like at at, at minimum.

[00:15:00]: 150,000 followers, right? Like, then, then they can quote the tweet. Otherwise, like, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what some person on Twitter said, like, that’s not newsworthy and elevating it because they have nothing else to talk about. Uh, and because it, of course, it’s salacious and it’s exciting and it’s jarring and it’s outrageous and, and that, you know, but, but finding something outrageous on Twitter takes 10 seconds.

****: Right. And if you’re gonna, you’re gonna monetize that by publishing it in some more. Established news, uh, medium, whatever it is, that that should be like, that should be embarrassing to them. Like as an organization, whoever they are, right? Whatever publication goes and sources some nonsense from Twitter, which some person with eight followers said like, that should be like, they, they should be humiliated for doing that.

[00:16:00]: ’cause that’s not journalism, right? Like that’s nonsense. So, yes, my advice to leave social media stands and I, uh, have failed entirely in convincing anyone to follow it. Uh, but, but I can say from personal experience, having left Facebook, I dunno, 10 years ago, um, and having now left Twitter more or less entirely over the last six months, um, it’s just, it makes for a much better life.

****: And, and, and you realize that you’re not missing anything. Everything you need to know, you find in other ways. Um, and you know, obviously there are even more potentially pernicious social media like, like TikTok, where we know, we have no idea how the Chinese will be using this data and what, uh, you know, what kind of curation and what kind of mind, uh, control they’re gonna gradually implement as they figure out who’s watching and where and what they need to do to coerce them.

[00:17:00]: Um, I don’t think it’s in any way unreasonable to suspect that they will be. Just gradually planting the seeds of, you know, kind of this doubt where they will be showing how autocracy in China is actually a reasonably ben benign thing. And then, you know, 10 years from now, when it comes time for us to have some meaningful conflict with them, hopefully not a hot war, but some, some real aggression enough people in the west will be, will have been swayed by, by this idea that actually, you know, look, China’s lifted.

****: I don’t know, hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and this and that, which, which is true, I mean, like you, you know, China’s not all bad, but, um, but if we’re gonna weigh the ways to be, uh, an autocracy that, uh, suppresses their, their citizens and their free press from expressing themselves, um, is definitely, in my view, worse than what we have here.

****: Um, what, whatever our own failings might be. And it would be, I think, a huge tragedy if, uh, enough people here had by now been swayed, because again, people are very easily swayed. Like, and I’m not denigrating humans. They, they, that’s just the way we are built. When you, you know, you, it’s very easy to tell a story that you show enough people believe and then people just go along for the ride.

[00:18:00]: Um, I think that, uh, Nazi Germany is a fa fabulous example of that. And, and, and modern Russia is a fabulous example of that. Very totally decent people. Who have been, uh, subsumed by propaganda and are led astray into acts of horrible, horrible, um, violence. And, and, yeah. So, so TikTok I think, could potentially be the worst of all, all these media, but who knows?

****: I mean, it is. I, yes. My recommendation is leave, leave fast. Go do something else. Go for a walk, go ask questions on Stack. Like that’s a great place. Like the, no, no one’s, no one’s doing anything evil on Stack Overflow.

****: David: Right. Well, and that brings up a whole bunch of things I wanna chat about a little bit, but I, that, that one thing you were saying reminded me of like, I think it was the, one of the first time, many, many years ago now, this is not that recent, that I was like sitting here watching TV with my wife and I’m like, They’re reading Twitter to me, like they’re just reading a Twitter feed, like, what is going on?

****: You know? But, you know, we talk a lot about, you know, the outrage porn, you know, you know, um, phrase, you know, and, and the porn side of that is that we, you know, we kinda know what the outrage part is. They’re just trying to get us mad or fearful or whatever. But that porn, part of that is we like it, like we want this stuff.

[00:19:00]: Um, and it kind of concerns me that. If we don’t get it from Facebook, we’ll go find it somewhere else. I don’t know. Um, but I, I, I guess it depends a lot. I, I, you know, and the people that have gotten off and said it worked, it’s sort of like, well, it’s kind of a self-selecting group ’cause you obviously didn’t want it so you wanted to get off, but, but you kind of wonder about the rest of us, you know, are, are we kind of stuck with this because we want it so bad.

****: We’ll seek it out and find it from somewhere.

****: Yevgeny Simkin: So it takes, it does, it took me a couple of weeks to wean myself off. But listen, you’re a hundred percent right. It’s, it’s totally self-selecting. I’m not, I’m in no way. So like, like Jaron Lanier and Tristan Harris, they both seem convinced that there’s some way to compel human beings to just, you know, just, just.

****: Use their own volition and just stop using these services. I think that’s naive and I love those guys. I’m not saying it to insult them, but, but I think that that is a naive proposition in the same way that climate change is not gonna change based on people abandoning meat consumption. Like that’s just, yes, some minuscule percentage will do that, but the vast majority of the people will not.

[00:20:00]: And so the solutions have to be, uh, a little bit more top down. So there are, uh, I think there is some hope that if there are some top down strictures that that create, An environment in which people aren’t as easily brought to this kind of information. And of course, the incentive structure around media has to change.

****: It does. And, and, and I think that there are some mechanisms starting to be developed to change the way that news is incentivized. I’m happy to talk more about that. Like I, I was, I was at C B SS news when the incentives actually flipped. Uh, I, I, I watched it happen, um, in real time. That’s also gonna have to change the, the, the way that news is written, the way that news is, uh, delivered.

****: The way that news is sold will have to change in order for people to stop being perpetually, um, aggravated and aggrieved. But I think that is happening like gradually. It’s not gonna happen in, in, in six months, or maybe even not in five years. But overall, I think we’re moving in that direction slowly.

[00:21:00]: David: Okay. Well I’m super encouraged to hear that because I have, um, not had too many people that have offered many structural or top-down solutions. So if you do have the time, I’d, I’d love to go down that rabbit hole a little bit. I’m very curious to hear, hear more about that. Like what are some of these, how could you ch how could, because I’m mostly just pushing for the bottom up solutions.

****: ’cause that’s like, that’s all I got. Um, so I, I’d love to hear more about some of these, you know, structural changes, incentive changes, things like that.

****: Yevgeny Simkin: Yeah, for sure. Um, so. So let’s go back 25 years and I’m at C B S News and one week we have, I’m, I’m a technologist at CCBs News, but we still, we, we, we work very closely with the journalistic team and, um, Dan rather comes down into our technology pit and gives us a very brave Braveheart esque speech on the, the, the, um, The integrity of Edward r Murrow, whose mural was there, he could actually point to it and say, we, we all live in the shadow of greatness and we are obligated to adhere to the various, I guess we’d call it, ethics and morals of, of, of this medium.

[00:22:00]: Um, and we’re a lost leader. And C B SS will continue to sell. Its David Letterman’s and its, uh, CSIS and et cetera in order to fund our operation and. Uh, and so far and, and, and that sounded great. Um, and then within weeks of that, uh, we had, uh, our mandate entirely altered, uh, by, uh, Les Vez and Mel Caran.

****: Um, I don’t remember exactly who, who was in charge of what, but those two guys were, and I’m in no way throwing them under the bus because they were doing exactly what everyone else in the industry was doing at that moment, which was. Recalibrating the entire infrastructure of news and, and realizing that they don’t have to be a loss leader anymore.

[00:23:00]: They can in fact be a profit center. Um, and it’s just a matter of compelling advertisers to, to pay them a lot of money to flash their stuff on the screen. And so I got the mandate to, uh, they had just signed a deal with, I believe Honda, and the mandate was to make Hondas fly across the news. Right? So not even like flicker on the sides somewhere, but like said they wanted a Honda to fly across the actual text as you’re reading it.

****: To get your attention. At the time I thought this was egregious and, and, and despicable. Um, and today I still think it was egregious and despicable. But that was the beginning of that, of this, of this era of, of news production where the incentives are to make money at any, at any cost. And, uh, and the, the easiest way to make money exactly in the way that Facebook makes money is to produce content that is.

****: Aggravating and infuriating and upsetting and terrifying and, um, all the things that people have no choice but to click on. Right? So there’s this clickbait phenomenon, uh, which depending on who, which media you’re reading it, it, it goes from being mostly benign, but sometimes leaning into this, you know, like, like culture of, of terror into just.

[00:24:00]: Just overtly egregious where you know you’re gonna die, click here to find out when. Right, right. So the problem is clear, right? The problem is that’s how they make money. And the question is, okay, well can we find them another way to make money? Can we find them a way to make money that does not require people to click on their content in order for them to monetize the the visit to the page?

****: ’cause that’s what they’re doing, right? Like they have, there’s a C P M that M stands for. Thousand, I believe. Um, and, and they get a certain amount of dollars for people coming to the page and seeing some advertisement. So like, once we identify that, that’s the problem, then fixing it is just a question of figuring out, okay, well how, how much money do they need and how can we offset this, this specific incentive in such a way that it.

****: It, it makes it unnecessary for them to write that kind of stuff. It makes it that, that stuff doesn’t, I’m sure that the writers don’t wanna write this kind of stuff. I’ve spoken to many, many journalists. They all find it humiliating and infuriating that they have to con continuously gin up the, the temperature for no reason.

[00:25:00]: Like nothing is actually happening. But that’s, that’s how people are gonna click. So, so what’s the solution? Well, the solution is to start finding. Monetization schemes that do not require people to click like the, so that they can write whatever. And if five people click, they make some money. And if 50,000 people click, they make more or less the same amount of money.

****: So it’s not critical for people to be clicking. And so, I mean, do I have the exact solution to that? I have ideas. I promise that there is a payment scheme. That does not require random clicking that it, it, it incentivizes people to find content that is actually compelling and interesting and rewards that content for being compelling and interesting rather than just egregious and, and, and, um, provocative.

[00:26:00]: And then that helps them to monetize the compelling and interesting stuff over the provocative and obnoxious stuff. And so if that’s the incentive, right? If the incentive is to produce content that’s actually useful and, and people who read it say, oh, well, I, I, I, I learned something and I’m not. Sitting here being annoyed and frustrated and, and, and maybe there, there’s even some, some information that I can use in my life.

****: ’cause most of the information that the news delivers these days is, is not useful. Right. It, it’s just obnoxious or it’s just provocative and, and it gives people all sorts of really, I. It, it deprives them of hope. Like ’cause because every story is, that’s it, it’s over. Like, you know, oh, you, you drink a glass of wine, you’re dead.

****: You, you let your child outside for a minute, they’re dead. Uh, you know, like the, the, the and the trans community, forget about it. They’re, they’re taking over. Everyone’s gonna be forced to be trans next week. And, and, uh, just, it, it’s, it’s, it’s nonsense after nonsense after nonsense. Because it requires it, because, ’cause they need the clicks.

****: I mean, that’s their incentives. Money is always the incentive, right? Like that, that’s, that’s the easy part. It’s, it’s all, it’s always the peanuts for the elephants. So it’s just the question of where are those peanuts coming from, um, and how can we source them in a way that, that, uh, the elephants, uh, don’t just trample over everything.

****: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

[00:27:00]: David: I mean it’s definitely, I mean, these kind of, these are the kinds of things that maybe can change things. I mean, ’cause, you know, because something you mentioned there, you know, with this whole idea that you sort of get overwhelmed and that it is not useful. Is this also this. Problem that kind of heads towards this sort of fatalism, like, I’m, I’m not gonna vote, or I’m not gonna care anymore because I can’t really do anything about all these terrible things, which is, you know, another way that you end up with sort of autocracies.

****: Right. Um, it seems like, well, I’m just gonna let that person take care of all these hard problems for me and that feels safer.

****: Yevgeny Simkin: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Um, and this so, so because my, um, because some is that online now brings me, uh, in very close contact with all sorts of media that aren’t. Western, right? Because, um, what we are doing is we’re unblocking all of the content that is being blocked in Russia and Belarus and in Iran, um, at the moment.

[00:28:00]: So I, I get to see a lot of the content there and I’m in direct communication with a lot of the people who are actually producing this content. The, um, dissidents who are fighting those various regimes and their outlook is much Bleecker weirdly, because they’re engaged in it every day and they have been for years.

****: Um, in spite of the fact that they persevere every day, they, when, when you, you know, when you, when you get them into a room, they have more or less lost all hope. Like they, especially the, the, the folks in the, in the Russian side of things, they believe that the Russian diaspora is completely beyond reach.

****: The ones that, the ones that are subsumed by, um, Putin’s propaganda. They have no hope for the idea that these people might be brought back around and could be shown. What reality is it? It’s whatever it is in the West Times a hundred. It is just, uh, because I think because the people in the west, in spite of the fact that they live in their various ideological bubbles and they’re very difficult to, uh, communicate with, especially online when you meet them in person.

[00:29:00]: And I meet people in person all the time. I do a ton of traveling and I’m, I love engaging with people and I have absolutely no problem engaging with people who I fundamentally disagree with about things. Um, I find it enjoyable and in the West, people are much more easygoing. And, and I think, so the, the, the most pernicious narrative that we’re told all over the place is that we’re horribly divided as as a society.

****: Because this is absolutely not true. Like this is like fundamentally and categorically not true. But we’re, we are divided in the sense that, again, we get back to Freud’s narcissism of small differences when, when, because we’ve completely agreed on all of the big picture things. Like there’s no, like the big item things are, we’re in agreement on with everybody.

****: I mean, obviously you’ll find the occasional Nazi in America, but for the most part, Americans and Canadians, uh, and everybody in Europe, Are basically on the same page for everything. That’s, that that’s relevant, right? Like, we want our children to be healthy and happy. We, we are generally fine with people living their lives and leaving them alone and not telling anybody else how to live.

[00:30:00]: And so long as it doesn’t affect you too much. Like these, like the, the really big picture items that we’ve, we, we’ve been killing each other over for thousands of years. They’ve been settled. So now we’re deeply in disagreement over like mi irrelevant minutia. But you know, obviously when you zoom in on any graph you can find giant.

****: Peaks and troughs just ’cause you’ve zoomed in so far. So now that looks like huge disagreement, but that’s, I mean, if, if that’s what you’re gonna gauge is huge disagreement, then basically we’re always gonna have huge disagreement. ’cause no matter what you iron out, you could just keep zooming in until you find giant peaks and troughs.

****: But the fact is that like I have huge disagreement, quote unquote, with my wife. I am very happily married and we, you know, we, we occasionally have huge disagreement over some item or issue. Um, you know, I can bring up examples, but I won’t. But the point is that, that, that, like, we’re, we’re very, very tightly knit community.

[00:31:00]: And what we’re really lacking right now is some huge, um, you know, I’m gonna call it enemy to, to unite, uh, against life is so, uh, inconsequential for most people. That we have all sorts of minor differences that we then elevate to giant disagreement. And the media loves playing it up as giant disagreement.

****: ’cause again, that’s frustrating and annoying. And, and, and. People tune in to hear all about our massive disagreement and how Civil war is right around the corner. Uh, but if Civil War is around the corner, I believe that it would be a completely self-fulfilling prophecy. Like there’s absolutely, like in, in my experience, I just, I, it, it’s something that we can certainly, we can aggravate ourselves into if we really want to, but it’s not, it’s not gonna be in any way substantial.

****: And people will look back on it 50 years later and say, what the hell were those people doing? Like, they had everything totally ironed out and absolutely nothing to be worried about. And yet they, they couldn’t. Just relax and take a deep breath and, and, and give each other a hug, which is really what we need.

****: Like, there has to be school courses on hugging, right. Uh, starting in elementary school and, and every, every, every year or thereafter.

[00:32:00]: David: Well, and this is where some of these things seem kind of cliche, but you know, there’s actual neuroscience to show that, that those things do matter and do work. It’s not, it’s not just, you know, I mean, yeah, I guess you could say, you know, some of the Eastern philosophies had this figured out, you know, centuries ago.

****: Yevgeny Simkin: Yeah, no, no, absolutely. The, like, there’s the, I’m not, I’m not pretending to be saying anything even vaguely profound. I, I’m, I’m, what I, what I’m saying should be like the most banal thing ever, right? Like, yeah, look, look around, talk to your neighbors. Just have a, just a vague conversation about like, where do you people disagree?

****: Like at what point do you start disagreeing? And, and then you’ll realize that those disagreements, they’re very surface disagreements and they don’t really matter. I mean, it’s. Of course, anything could matter, right? Like it again, if you like, every problem is a real problem for somebody. And every time I stub my toe it in that moment, it feels like the worst pain anybody’s ever experienced.

[00:33:00]: But, but in reality, it’s actually a, an a real irrelevant momentary frustration that, that if I give it a few seconds, it’ll pass. And that’ll be that. And, uh, we’re, we’re. We are not exposed at all. But like the, the whole world of podcasting now is starting to show people like, well, this is what it looks like when people have conversations, even on subjects where they might disagree.

****: And this is what cordial disagreement looks like. But for two decades now, uh, you know, I mean, I’m, I’m gonna lay this at the feet of cnn, but they’re obviously not the, the only enterprise that is guilty of this by, by a long stretch. But the idea that people need to engage in this really ruckus and, and, and, um, um, Fi fist smashing conflict, um, where nobody ever gives ground.

****: Most of the arguments are bad faith. It, it’s, uh, all you do is stru man, the other person’s position, and then, you know, run away victorious. There’s no notion that the whole point to how a conversation is to potentially, you know, learn something and maybe change your mind on some position or, or, or convince the other person that maybe they’re not seeing it entirely correctly.

[00:34:00]: And for both interlocutors to be engaged in something that is. Uh, that is good faith and, and, and potentially useful, um, that, that doesn’t exist in the world of media, right? Like the, all, all of the talk shows, all of the, the, the argument, the debate shows two people come. They have their points of view.

****: They’re not there to change the other person’s mind. They’re there to make noise and to aggravate the watcher, the, the, the, the person watching. And they,

****: David: sorry, they’re not really speaking to the person there, they’re sort of speaking to someone out there that’s already on their side. You know, that it’s more, more like that.

****: Yevgeny Simkin: Right. And potentially ar arming them with, with, uh, the, the correct n next wave of arguments. Um,

****: David: right, right. Yeah. What are we, what are we, what are we mad about now? And how are we talking about it? Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, and I’m gonna push back. I mean, maybe, maybe it’s not a pushback, but, uh, you know, social psychologists have talked forever about this idea that if we had this, you know, external threat, you know, that we’d all bind together.

[00:35:00]: And many years, you know, they talked about how this, you know, maybe something like a pandemic would be that. Kind of a threat. Whereas with Covid, it kind of ended up having the, I mean, it was that way for a little while with Covid in the first few months, but pretty quickly it kind of started to go the other way, where now it became something we could fight over.

****: And so you kind of wonder now, would we, can we handle, is there that external event that would bind us together? I mean, we had nine. Nine, 11 years ago that that did to a, to a degree it didn’t stick, but it was there for a while. But you, I kinda, I’m, I’m kind of wondering about that. You know, it seemed like the Covid, you know, COVID example should have been one that could’ve done that, and it kind of had the opposite effect.

****: Yevgeny Simkin: Well, so I, I, I, I take your point, but I’m gonna push back and say that Covid was, unfortunately, it was nowhere near the calamity it needed to be in order to really bring people together and. It was covered in a wildly incompetent way by the media where they immediately took an ideological side and they, they, uh, most media, I mean, it was, it was just immediately two camps, right?

[00:36:00]: There’s the, there’s the camp that was conscientious about the fact that a million people dying is, is, is a huge catastrophe. But, but there was the other side which said actually a million people dying is largely irrelevant. Both of these sides have a point, and they were never going to grant each other.

****: The fact that both of these sides have a point because a million people dying in the aggregate over the course of many months in just talking about America and a nation that has 330 million people is, you know, it, I, I believe that that’s a tragedy, but it’s not, it’s not crazy to say, well, you know what, it’s just.

****: It’s, it’s, it’s an unfortunate thing, but we can just move on, right? We, we, and, you know, who’s dying? Old people and who cares about old people? Nobody, right? I mean, like the, so, so what what Covid did was it pulled this in terms of why it didn’t have the effect that people were hoping it would have is that first of all, it wasn’t killing children.

[00:37:00]: And secondly, it wasn’t killing children in numbers that were substantially more grave, right? So, so if it had a, a five or 10% mortality rate, and most of the people dying were under the age of 15. I believe you would’ve seen a nation that was complete. Like people, anybody who dared say that this doesn’t matter, or, oh, nevermind, oh, the vaccine who’s untested, whatever.

****: They would, they would literally be thrown under a bus by the mob, and, and that would be that, like, there, there they wouldn’t, there would be no, no room for them to make those kinds of noises. Because it was, it was a, a, not a huge number Grant in the grand scheme of things of old people dying. That, that just, that wasn’t, that wasn’t the meteor, right?

****: Like, that wasn’t the, the, the alien invasion. It was just a, a, a, it was just a sad and mildly inconvenient like, I’m, I’m using again, I don’t want you to think that I’m being. I’m, I’m take, I’m being flippant about, about what happened. I, I, I took Covid very seriously, but I totally understand people that don’t, and so I, I don’t, so I, I don’t take this as an example of how we won’t unite over, you know, a comparable but much, much more difficult situation.

[00:38:00]: I think that, uh, that has yet to appear. And, you know, I mean, I guess I could be wrong. I hope I’m not right, but when, when the next pandemic starts to. Kill children in huge numbers. I believe that the people will, will totally unite and everyone will do whatever they have to do to, to, to, um, curtail it again.

****: Americans, Canadians, the Europeans, they, they definitely take their lives for granted. And, and they find, uh, ways to bitch and moan about things where. Sure. I mean, there are real problems, but the level of consternation that is brought to them is just entirely un unreasonable. And, and, and, and solving them would be much more effective and, and rapid if people turn the temperature down and just, you know, had a good faith conversations about, well, how do we help this?

****: Or how do we augment that instead of, uh, constantly being in, in, in a state of hysterical, uh, outrage and, and, um, and rage. Yeah.

[00:39:00]: David: Yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s very, yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s so obvious in some ways, but then it’s also continues to just be there and so hard to get out of. It’s, yeah, so many. So it seems like there’s so many reasons for it, but, you know, I, and I do feel though that like all the conditions for this going away, maybe we’ll, we’ll just align at some point and we’ll start to unravel it in ways we didn’t think it could happen.

****: So I, I have some hope along those lines that at some point we’ll kind of just, this will, that’ll happen and we’ll suddenly just see all this with a little bit different view. And maybe some of this will unravel, but,

****: Yevgeny Simkin: I hope so. I hope so. I mean, our media definitely plays a major part in, in undermining all of those.

****: Like when, when the, the ethos, the, the Braveheart ethos, right, is that everything can be solved with enough outrage and murder. Like you, if you just get angry enough and self-righteous, right? You climb up on your high horse and then you barrel down into the enemy and just, and, and wipe them all out. And I, I’ve long since thought that like, it would be great if, if at least some.

[00:40:00]: Of, of this modern mythology was based around compassion and kindness and tolerance. And if, and if the big speech that Braveheart gave was all about how the enemy, they’re just more dudes like you with their own homes and their own families, and like, let’s just run down there with like chail tea and, and, and, and some, maybe some rose and some teas and give ’em all hugs then and, and work it out.

****: Like what are we, what are we here for? Like, it was just a big muddy field. You’re all about to lose your limbs. Most of you will die of gangrene. Like for what? Like, you know, just, and you have nothing against these people. They have nothing against you like that. That would be a great film to see. Right.

****: Instead of like,

****: David: yeah, that’s, that’s the film we have to see. Yeah. That’s the film to make. Yeah. And then the Braveheart thing, once when all the fighting’s over in a few months, we’re gonna be right back in the same situation no matter what anyway, like nothing really changes after this fight.

****: Yevgeny Simkin: Correct.

****: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly. Exactly. Except many more families will be left without, without, uh, providers and, and, and men to, to to be men.

****: David: Yeah. And it’s like all this talk of civil war, it’s sort of the same thing. Civil war, then what

****: Yevgeny Simkin: Exactly. Yeah, yeah, exactly. It’s, it is hard, hard to imagine, but nobody’s thinking that through.

[00:41:00]: People are just, people are just, um, ginned up and, and ready to, ready to rumble. Yeah. All

****: David: right. Well, again, I, I like, I really, you know, you too much of your time, but I really appreciate the

****: Yevgeny Simkin: talk. David, this has been wonderful. Thank you so much for inviting me and I, uh, look forward to the next time. All right, talk to

****: David: you soon.

****: Take care. Bye.

****: You heard Yevgeni mentioned samizdat online. Don’t miss the accompanying bonus episode where we talk about this groundbreaking anti-censorship platform that’s defying, autocratic regimes and giving voice to the silence. If you’re passionate about human rights technology and the power of a free press, you won’t want to miss this eye-opening conversation.

****: Check it out only on outrage overload.

[00:42:00]: That is it for this episode of the Outrage Overload Podcast. For everything we talked about on this episode, visit outrage Before we go, I have a quick. Favor to ask. You know, reviews mean the world to us podcasters. They help us reach more listeners and continue bringing you thought provoking content.

****: So if you have a moment, I’d be thrilled if you could head over to pod and leave a review. I’ve made it super easy for you. Just visit pod overload, and let me know what you think of the show. There’s also a link in the show notes. I read every review and your feedback truly matters.

****: Until next time, stay curious.

****: Stay kind.

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