What I'm Reading (Mar. 7)

Negativity's grip on the news scene
Death by paperwork
JFK's tale through a surgeon's call
In social media's grip

“But there are more fundamental reasons why almost all news outlets display a negativity bias. To understand why news is almost invariably depressing—and why Rolf Dobelli is right that you probably shouldn’t read it—I’ve drawn up a list of Seven Laws of Pessimism. ….


7. The Law of Disinfecting Sunlight: The freer a society, the more ugly things will surface.”

It is more than if it bleeds, it leads. From Quilette, The Seven Laws of Pessimism


Here is something we might all agree upon.

“In every organization I’ve interacted with, the administrators genuinely want to serve the mission of the organization, but the nature of their jobs is to enforce compliance with this or that rule.

Their power is similar to what Annie Lowrey of The Atlantic has called the “time tax.” If you’ve ever fought a health care, corporate or university bureaucracy, you quickly realize you don’t have the time for it, so you give up. I don’t know about you, but my health insurer sometimes denies my family coverage for things that seem like obvious necessities, but I let it go unless it’s a major expense. I calculate that my time is more valuable.”

When I was in practice, we called that rationing by hassle. But the burgeoning growth of administrators and the enforcement of rules with a CYA mentality are impacting us all. From David Brooks of the NY Times, Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts


I was honored to meet Malcolm Perry, a great surgeon and historical figure. Jimmy Breslin used him as a pivotal figure in his description of the death of JFK.

“The call bothered Malcolm Perry. “Dr. Tom Shires, STAT,” the girl’s voice said over the page in the doctor’s cafeteria at Parkland Memorial Hospital. The “STAT” meant emergency. Nobody ever called Tom Shires, the hospital’s chief resident in surgery, for an emergency. And Shires, Perry’s superior, was out of town for the day. Malcolm Perry looked at the salmon croquettes on the plate in front of him. Then he put down his fork and went over to a telephone.”

Jimmy Breslin writes achingly well. The Daily Beast reprinted two of his columns, Jimmy Breslin on JFK’s Assassination: Two Classic Columns. They are more than classics; they deliver a lesson in reporting that we have lost to the digits.


There is a lot of talk about moderating social media. There are at least two articles currently on the website considering the topic. Would it be okay to suggest that another view is warranted, first expressed by the OG of communication commentary, Marshall McLuhan?

“I repeatedly encounter some version of the criticism that social media is not intrinsically harmful to children because “it all depends on how kids are using it.” Many of these critics believe that we should not enforce even the current low and unenforced age limit of 13. Rather, we should help our 10-year-olds to manage Instagram, TikTok, and Snap in a better way, reading and posting healthier stuff. No! I mean, ok, that would be better than the current situation, but our kids would still have phone-based childhoods, the mental health crisis would continue to rage, and they’d still have difficulties making the transition to adulthood. The medium is the problem. [emphasis added]

From Jon Haidt, Marshall McLuhan on Why Content Moderation is a Red Herrin