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The pandemic revealed our society’s failings. We’re running out of time to fix them.

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Photo: Markus Spiske/Unsplash

Earlier in 2020, as the lockdowns arrived, time started to feel warped. We began to ask ourselves whether we were living in the past or the present or whether we were caught somewhere in between. This feeling of inertia was a function of recognizing a time lag between when the virus arrived and when we realized it was here.

The coronavirus case counts we saw updated every morning were already history — reality as it was two weeks prior. What was happening had already happened but also had not happened yet. …

Why shutting down Twitter accounts or limiting Facebook groups won’t solve our problem

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Photo: ETA+/Unsplash

In February, after the United States Senate voted to acquit President Donald Trump of impeachment charges, Sean Illing at Vox described why nobody seemed to care. “Despite all the incontrovertible facts at the center of this story,” Illing wrote, “it was always inevitable that this process would change very few minds.”

At the heart of this obvious problem, Illing argued, was “a media ecosystem that overwhelms people with information” and is frequently and deliberately manipulated to the point where it’s impossible to tell what’s accurate and what’s fabricated. Illing pointed to Steve Bannon, a purveyor of information chaos, to describe what happens: To counteract the narrative of reality, Bannon reportedly said in 2018, is to “flood the zone with shit.” …

A study of men in Hitler’s Germany shows how people allow tyranny to spread

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German soldiers entering Saaz, 1938. Image: Wikimedia Commons/German Federal Archive

Shortly after the Second World War ended, American journalist Milton Mayer set out to investigate how Germany had become a totalitarian state. Mayer wanted to know why, as Adolf Hitler’s Nationalist Socialist Party slowly amassed power and drove the country to war, Germans didn’t stand up for their rights. He’d long earlier realized that the answer to this question would be better found by speaking frankly to Germans, rather than examining or interviewing former Nazi officials. So Mayer decided to focus on Germany’s “little men.”

These “little men,” Mayer wrote, weren’t only “the men for whom the mass media and the campaign speeches are everywhere designed but, specifically in sharply stratified societies like Germany, the men who think of themselves in that way.” Mayer found 10 of them in the town of Marburg (which Mayer called “Kronenberg”), near Frankfurt. He became friendly with them. He interviewed them many times over several months. …

About

Colin Horgan

writer.

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