Yes, I know I’m supposed to be user-centered and all that, but I think the great wave of populism we’re seeing now is going to lead to bad things. Some friends say it’s a time of opportunity, that maybe the blind rage of the common man can be directed toward support of progressive policies. Perhaps, but with everyone’s attention spans diminishing and few people actually looking into details or questioning assumptions (progress to some of you out there), I tend to think that things are unraveling. And “the people” are only going to get angrier when the middle class tax increases come in a couple of years (as though there was an alternative to transferring debt to the public sector to bail out the global economy).
So as an antidote to the present populist fervor, three quotations that I hope mean something….
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).
– Mark Twain, Notebook, 1904
Most people are not liars. They can’t tolerate too much cognitive dissonance. I don’t want to deny that there are outright liars, just brazen propagandists. You can find them in journalism and in the academic professions as well. But I don’t think that’s the norm. The norm is obedience, adoption of uncritical attitudes, taking the easy path of self-deception.
– Noam Chomsky, in an interview with James Peck, found in the Chomsky Reader
History is the present. That’s why every generation writes it anew. But what most people think of as history is its end product, myth.
– E. L. Doctorow, in an interview in Writers at Work (1988)