Monday, January 18, 2021

"The Revolt of the Public" by Martin Gurri

The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium
 by Martin Gurri was first published in 2014, and then the author added a rather extensive chapter entitled “Reconsiderations” in 2018. The addition didn’t revise or change anything from the 2014 book; it simply updated the information with the events of 2016 and after. And it is a very compelling, and disturbing, book to read in the first quarter of 2021. 

A former CIA analyst specializing in global politics and global media, Gurri’s thesis is relatively simple: that the age of information has seriously undercut traditional elites and hierarchies, to the point where trust and credibility by the public are gone. He delves into example after example – the Arab Spring of 2011, the presidency of Barack Obama, whose election repudiated the traditional elites in the Democratic Party (as Barnie Sanders almost did in 2016); Brexit, there the British public turned a deaf ear to the elites in government, academia, business, culture, and the media; the election of Donald Trump, which repudiated both the Democratic Party and the traditional elites of the Republican Party. 


Over and over again the public, armed with the staggering amount of information available on the internet, questions, rejects, repudiates, cancels, and ignores the traditional authorities created during the industrial age. Information networks and hubs have replaced hierarchal authority and experts. The problem is that networks can’t govern a nation state or even a region. But neither can the former authorities who longer have the consent of the governed. 


Martin Gurri

What Gurri is arguing certainly helps explain the paralysis that has characterized government in Washington, D.C. Politics increasingly exemplifies paralysis. People in political parties no longer trust anyone in the other party; they often don’t trust people in their own.  This idea of trust is critical. Resolution will only come when the public settles on new elites to govern, and that is a process that may take generations.


To be clear, Gurri is not talking about the public as the mob taking over parts of Seattle, rioting and burning in Minneapolis, or invading the U.S. Capitol. (In fact, he finds fault with a news media constantly amplifying tiny groups of people as representative of larger crowds.) No, the public is us, the people who read books, manage businesses, plow farms, drive trucks, work in hospitals, teach, sell cars, run factories, belong to and lead unions, and do a million other jobs. The age of information has taught us to mistrust authority, seek people of like minds in echo chambers, and increasingly think of opposing views as those of the enemy. 


And, he says, we may be floundering for a while. It’s really strange to be reading Gurri as he talks about the worst thing that threatened elites can do – repression – and see exactly that happening on the internet, in the news media, and leading American progressives talking about the need for re-education camps.


Gurri makes it very clear that he is anything but a supporter of Donald Trump. But he understands what gave rise to Trump and his predecessor, what created Brexit, what’s tearing at the fabric of the European Union, and what continues to create strife in the Western democracies. The Revolt of the Public is not an easy read, but it’s an important one for understanding the times we’re living in.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The powers (earthly)

After Acts 4:1-14

We speak to the people,
telling them what we know
and experienced, explaining
the news (good). We say
nothing about priests or council
or rulers or elites, but words
strip away pretense, and there’s
the man, healed, the lame man,
the man hopping and jumping,
the man everyone knows
from birth, the man who never
walked, and there he is,
a living (walking) testimony
that what we say is true. It’s
annoying, and threatening,
because they know who we are,
the ones who were with him, 
the ones called disciples of that man,
that man they crucified. 
We have become an inconvenient

Photograph by Sushil Nash via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Saturday Good Reads

You learn something new every day. It was reported when it happened six years ago, but I missed it (or forgot it). Forbes Magazine, which for decades branded itself as “Capitalist Tool,” has been majority owned by Integrated Whale Media Investments since 2014. It’s a company based in – Hong Kong. Is Forbes still a capitalist tool? (I couldn’t find the motto on its web site; I did find several pre-2014 references in stories and headlines.) 

It looks like Apple, Google, and Amazon might have been a bit hasty when they shut down Parler. From The GuardianRevealed: walkie-talkie app Zello hosted far-right groups who stormed the Capitol. In the meantime, if it comes back, it will take months for Parler to recover


The Parler action has brought the definition of Big Tech into play. Is it just a platform, a “blackboard,” on which everyone can write, a definition used to justify legal immunity from litigation? Or is it something else? If it’s just a “business decision,” as many say, to ban and de-platform people and organizations, then why does Big Tech never seem to censor foreign authoritarian regimes, asks Seth Frantzman at the Jerusalem Post. Is it just a business decision to take advantage of slave labor by Uigher Muslims in China? Back in November, Apple (along with Coca-Cola, Nike, and others) lobbied to water down a bill aimed at the forced labor situation in China, the Washington Post reported.


On a brighter note, Bugs Bunny has turned 80. James Panero at The Spectator US  takes a look at that wascally wabbit.


More Good Reads


Life and Culture


The Disastrous Implications of Historical Amnesia – Phillip Dolitsky at The Imaginative Conservative. 


The black hole of online censorship – Josephine Bartosch at The Critic Magazine.


Human Interaction: The Most Essential Business – Joey Hiles at Front Porch Republic.




Unmute – Joe Spring at Joe Spring Writes.


Night – John Freeborn at Society of Classical Poets.


One – Bruce Bond at Literary Matters.


Winter’s story – Joy Lenton at Poetry Joy.




The Mind of a Mother and Maker – Jessica Hooten Wilson at Church Life Journal.


The Importance of Physically Present, In-Person Church – Eric Davis at The Cripplegate. 


Writing and Literature


Why Do We Keep Rereading The Great Gatsby? – Wesley Morris at The Paris Review.


News Media


The Death of Political Cartooning—And Why It Matters – Jack Reilly at Quillette.


We Need a New Media System – Matt Taibbi.


American Stuff


A Beecher ventures to Corning – Derek Maxfield at Emerging Civil War.


How Bad Is This Moment in American History? – Thomas Kidd at The Gospel Coalition.


Praise Him – The Village Church Worship

Painting: A Man Reading, oil on canvas by Paul Seguin-Bertault (1869-1964).

Friday, January 15, 2021

The purpose of a life

After Acts 3:1-10

I see his hand, outstretched,
his voice modulated in supplication,
a voice practiced and honed
for years, and I stop and stare, and
wonder what his purpose is, why
he is here, for I have no coin
to drop into his hand, no alms
to soothe his plaintive cry. I see
his face and I know, that I am
to give alms of a different kind.

In his name, rise,
In his name, walk.
Rise and walk.

I pull him up, and the voice
is struck mute for once,
for a moment, that he can
stand, and then he walks,
and then he jumps and
leaps, testing to see if it’s
all some magic trick,
the power of suggestion,
and then he knows,
he knows it is real,
and when he knows
he clings to what
has healed him.

Photograph by Jonathan Sebastiao via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

“The Slaughterhouse Murder” by Roy Lewis

The Slaughterhouse Murder
 is the 13th entry in the Eric Ward mystery series by British author Roy Lewis, and it’s something of a surprise. There’s less, considerably less, Eric Ward in this story than the previous 12, so much so that the story moves almost into the category of police procedural rather than legal thriller. 

A farm near Newcastle-on-Tyne is staked out by police for illegal processing of animal meat. The owner has rented his barn to the processors but is having to spend considerable time with his wife and a sick relative in Ireland. The police make the raid, but one of the villains escapes after injuring an officer. The owner is eventually interviewed but not charged.


The farm in question is occupied by a tenant of Eric Ward’s now-former wife Ann. Ward looks into it, sounds out various people involved, and has his gossip-laden friend Jackie Parton look into things. What Parton, and then Ward, stumble into is something much bigger than illegally scorching sheep carcasses; there’s apparently a huge move afoot by criminal elements to upset old crime fiefdoms. Ward is even approached by a government enquiry group to be part of the investigating team, but he turns it down.


Roy Lewis

The story focuses as much, if not more, on the police teams investigating a murder, organized crime, and more as it does on Ward. The divorce from his wife means there’s little of the lawyer’s personal story, which has always been a hallmark of the previous novels. There’s also the possibility of a new love interest, but it goes no further than a first date to the ballet and dinner. The Slaughterhouse Murder is still well-written, interesting, and entertaining, but I’m missing some of the old magic. Perhaps the next two in the series, both of which are now published, will return to that.


Lewis is the author of some 60 other mysteries, novels, and short story collections. His Inspector Crow series includes A Lover Too ManyMurder in the MineThe Woods MurderError of Judgment, and Murder for Money, among others. The Eric Ward series, of which The Sedleigh Hall Murder is the first (and originally published as A Certain Blindness in 1981), includes 17 novels. The Arnold Landon series is comprised of 22 novels. Lewis lives in northern England. 




The Sedleigh Hall Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Farming Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Quayside Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Diamond Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Geordie Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Shipping Murder by Roy Lewis.


The City of London Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Apartment Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Spanish Villa Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Marriage Murder by Roy Lewis


A Cotswolds Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Wasteful Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Phantom Murder by Roy Lewis.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

“Hannah” by Chris Keniston

Hannah Farraday, of the Texas Hill Country Farradays, has moved to West Texas, home of another branch of the Farraday family. She’s in the process of setting up a horse therapy business, using horses and riding to help people recover from physical and emotional tragedies. She’s taking one of the horses for a ride when a motorcyclist startles the animal and Hannah ends up on the ground. 

Dale Johnson is the motorcyclist, and he comes to Hannah’s aid. Johnson is desperately trying to get to New Mexico using country roads; the man is on the run from some unspoken danger. He is in the area for one reason – to let his former Dallas police partner (and now town sheriff) D.J. Farraday know what’s happening. 


Johnson has recently left a hospital, and the last thing he should be doing is sitting for hours on a motorcycle. He develops blood clots, and the West Texas Farradays find themselves with an unexpected guest for a few days while he recovers. Which suits Hannah just fine. Dale needs to leave and knows he’s endangering everyone with his presence, but the clots have to dissipate, and he’s becoming interested in Hannah.


Chris Keniston

 is the eighth book in the Farraday Country series by Chris Keniston. It’s a well-written romance with an intriguing and well-developed premise, but I have two relatively small complaints. If mild profanity doesn’t fit or seems awkward to the reader, it may be that it was force-fitted on to dialogue. If it adds nothing to the story or the characters, don’t use it. Second, the resolution of the mystery at the heart of the story is a bit too convenient; some indications could have been added or alluded to earlier on.


Keniston is the author of numerous romance novels and stories. She has nine books in the Hart Land series; eleven in the Farraday Country series; nine in the Aloha Closed Door Series; six in the Surf’s Up series (episodes); nine in the original Aloha Series; six in the Family Secrets series; two in the Honeymoon Series; and one in the Main Street Romance Flirts Series. She and her family live in suburban Dallas.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Poets and Poems: Troy Cady and “Featherdusting the Moon”

Troy Cady is the founder and president of Playfull, a non-profit organization which aims “to help people and organizations play from the inside out.” What does “play” include? Storytelling, writing, leadership development, drama, preaching, personality assessments, conflict transformation, philosophy, spiritual formation, and more. Who knew play could simultaneously be so serious and so, well, playful? 

Cady did. And he will tell you that play also includes poetry. You can find poems on various subjects right on the organization’s web site. Some of those “playful” poems have found their way into his first collection of poetry, Featherdusting the Moon.


To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.