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Too Much of Nothing

(write a post in the style of Bob Dylan)

The backchannel Telegram feed bedevils me, as a microcosm of the free speech “debate.” Members of the Gang hold admin privileges, which allow them to post citations of their trending itches. The idea was to create a mulch of different perspectives as a formative melting pot for what we talk around on the show recording session. As the Gang, like everything else, becomes more polarized, the feed becomes more extreme than I am comfortable with, mostly to the left of my already leftward bent. Meanwhile, I am moving slowly but certainly to the center. Some of us like the tension, conflict, power of partisan debate. Witness the volume of stories in mainstream and social publishing about Elon Musk. I may not like the views espoused by him or his conservative voices, but Musk’s restoring of suspended accounts is an idea with some merit. I joke on the show about restoring Trump’s Twitter identity because “he’s his own worst enemy.” But as a listener or follower, I have my own responsibility to follow and listen to whom I want to. On the show, my responsibility is to say what I think and listen to the others. Whatever emerges from that gathering has the subtle resonance of what we all said, what we didn’t say, and the crucial essence of what I hope for, the move to a nonpartisan middle. On the Telegram feed, the silent voices, that essence, is often drowned out by the need to win an argument.

The push and pull can be interesting, informative, and intuitive. Journalism is a noble profession, but just as the lack of credentials makes Twitter threads less rewarding, so too do mainstream reporting and opinion work hard to paper over the conflicts of interest inherent in click-fueled editorial. We long for the loss of the Walter Cronkite effect (the most trusted man in America) but we replace it with the tyranny of loud, confident, and wrong. Hello, ChatGPT. Fascinating, feeding the future, the way out of the economic doldrums, cheaper (?) by the dozen, BladeRunner 1492. What, me worry? Not so sure.

In the recent mid-terms, we again witness this unmistakeable DNA of the voters pulling back at the last second from careening over the cliff. Democracy continues to be at stake, what with a Republican party refusing to overturn the notion of capsizing the legitimacy of elections. But somehow the voters continue to hold with a small but sufficient show of strength, the left and right in a balance known as divided government. It’s uncanny, too close to call, too flimsy to trust, too much of nothing makes a man feel ill at ease say the Basement Tapes. The fabric of civilization counted on to keep the walls from tumbling down. It may not be politically correct, but when push comes to shove, we squeak through.

We will survive ChatGPT and its pivots. We will survive the Fall of Trump and the Winter of our discontent. Are you sure? No, just 50.001 percent barely.

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Steve Gillmor