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    Everyone's Podcasting! But Who Is Still Reading?

    Note: I am back here after a very long time. I saw that my last posts had nearly 3000 views. That should be encouraging but I started working full time (as in 7 days a week). I hope my thoughts provide some clicks. Have a great weekend, all.

    In Berkeley, there are many copies on display of Slavoj Zizek's "In Defense of Lost Causes." After his debate with Jordan Peterson, it was the book put up in Berkeley to promote him. The book is fantastic and Zizek's analysis is incredible - his writing on Mao, on artificial intelligence, even on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein novel, is all stellar. All of it was clearly written in the 2000s, however, as there are a bunch of references to George W. Bush or Hugo Chavez.

    Since then, he has mostly become known online in videos on YouTube. His persona is being built through various interviews on Russia Today, at college seminars, Vice documentaries, etc. Unlike a lot of people today, he doesn't seem to produce the videos himself, which I guess makes him kind of an outlier.

    Back in the early 2000s, a lot of people were worried about the future of music due to the internet. Napster was terrifying musicians. You were able to run a program, which eventually went defunct and attempted to go legal in a bunch of formats, that allowed you to download whatever song you could think of to your computer!! Scandalous!

    It seems like music got figured out on the internet, however. Through legal and profitable means, you are now able to stream an epic library of music without taking up space on your computer through Spotify. Getting started on services like Audible and iTunes, the format of the podcast grew to a format that everyone has wanted to jump on to.

    Barack and Michelle Obama have signed a deal to produce several for Spotify (former presidents now sign deals to start podcasts), and columnists Ross Douthat and Jonah Goldberg are now podcast personalities more than columnists. An actual book by former president Obama has yet to be released. David Pakman, Joe Rogan, the Young Turks, Dave Rubin and a host of others of left, right, and other varieties have all jumped on to YouTube and podcasts to produce content. Presidential candidate Andrew Yang showed podcasts a level of validity they certainly did not have in the 2000s by going on several as a guest.

    These hosts are hardly producing a new concept with their content. Pakman seems like a Nation columnist of old, with a show that would have been aired on college radio or NPR before the internet. Joe Rogan might be the one doing something the most inventive, with his 3 hour plus marathon interviews of an extremely diverse range of guests.

    Is print over? Many podcast hosts, like Daniele Bolelli of "History on Fire" fame, produce books but the books seem like tie-ins for their podcast, the way that movies used to produce novel tie-ins. It is a secondary effort and not a first as books once were. One article memorializing Christopher Hitchens in the American Conservative wondered aloud if "America even still has the infrastructure for a public intellectual." That magazine has fantastic articles but hardly any of the writers are superstars the way that Hitchens was.

    It may be a somewhat pessimistic observation but it's possible that journalism became a casualty (or at least severely wounded) because the medium wasn't quite that valued. Newspapers may largely have been purchased so that people could read gossip news, sports, or get coupons and movie times. Scholarly journals were written for fellow scholars. News magazines were sold to keep people going at the airport.


    People are reading, though.  They’re reading online and they’re even reading books (but they’re not carrying books, they’re reading on phones). Podcasts are great, but they’re not like music you can play in the background.  To listen to a podcast, you have to listen.  Hard to do it while multitasking.  I can switch easily between reading for work and an article on Dag or Slate.

    Hitchens is an interesting guy to bring up.  I’ve always been a fan.  But remember that he became a superstar as a liberal and part of his later stardom is that he supposedly switched sides and became the latest stage and smartest neocon.  He was out there saying Henry Kissinger was a war criminal.  He’s still right about that.  Everyone says he converted after 9/11 and that’s somewhat right, because he was reacting to fascist elements emanating from the Middle East. While you can say he took it too far, the leader of Saudi Arabia assassinated a journalist outside of his own borders and it seems there will be no comeuppance.

    But I don’t think 9/11 was really the source of the Hitch switch.  I first started reading him in the 90s, when he was protesting the “Oil for Food” program after the first Gulf War, that was supposed to allow Iraq to sell oil to meet the needs of its people without being able to fund its military.  It was a terrible program, corrupted by Hussein, by international oil traders and by the UN itself.  Hussein starved Iraq and blamed the sanctions.  Hitchens new it was a sham and spoke out about it. Hussein was one of the Oil for Food culprits and whe. it came to Hitch supporting Iraq War II, I think this had more to do with his reasoning than 9/11 did, especially given that Hitch well knew that Hussein had nothing to do with Iraq.

    Nice to see you stop by!






    Hey Michael,

    I have a lot of thoughts I want to get down. Dag allows a level of anonymity and since this is a hobby, it's as good a place as any to get them down. As for Hitchens, a lot of the policies he advocated were a miserable failure and a good amount of his political writing logically made no sense, i.e. despising the Clinton's but championing their doctrines. However I think his writing is historically an excellent documentation of the Post Cold War western mindset, which honestly didn't make a lot of sense.

    I think Hitchens saw the question of support for the Iraq invasion as a close call. When he decided to support it he went full tilt and used his skills to try to convince everybody to do the same and went further than the evidence would support in his rhetoric. Part of his method was his skill at putting down those on the other side of an issue.  He was fun to listen to. 

    Fundamentalist Islam is the most extreme form of everything he hated. Illiberal, misogynistic, repressive, irrational ect. and most of all, a religion. He was willing to do anything, support anything, no matter how stupid and counter productive to try and combat it.

    He was so opposed to fundamentalist Islam that he was willing to support policies that inadvertently opened the door for fundamentalist Islam! The big flaw in his thinking was not understanding the Arab world as a place with a history that was not necessarily his history. A stranger can break a vase, but only the artisan can repair and build a new one.

    Given all that, still among, if not the most impactful intellectual of his era.

    Music didn't get figured out on the internet. In the face of wide spread theft of creators work there are a few sites that make trivial payments to artists that barely stems the tide. Here's one more recent article out of dozens of articles explaining the situation.

    Not OK, computer: how it feels to have your music leaked

    People are reading, it is just easier to do via iPad or Kindle. You can preorder books and have them show up on the day of release. Books allow you to delve in to a topic. I love podcasts, but they require a lot of time to go through, thus many audio and video podcast go untouched. 

    Just found out that right wingers are still reading, or their family buys them the books of their favorite screamers and conspiracists on Father's Day or something, see


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