Martin Gurri reports from the front

I have met their kindred before, in other glittering places. They run the institutions that hold center stage in our society, but look on the world as if from a walled mountain fortress, where every loud noise from beyond is interpreted as risk and threat. They disagree about minutia, but mostly move in lockstep, like synchronized swimmers, with word and thought. They are earnest but extraordinarily narrow. In a typical complaint, one speaker blamed the public for hiding in an “information bubble” – yet it occurred to me, as I sat through the conference, that the bubble-dwellers controlled the microphones there.

The same unmodulated whine about present conditions circled around and around, without even the ambition to achieve wit, depth, or originality…

Here is the full post.


Would love to know what conference this was.

TED conference? Several remarks match the profile ;)

"The decisive endeavor of our moment – far surmounting, I believe, any specific policy call – is the re-establishment of trust in the institutions of representative democracy."

It's not clear why we should trust institutions. They've been corrupted and caught behaving in less than principled ways. I get that Gurri is a media analyst so he reflexively believes institutional trust is a must for a democracy but this looks more to be an unchecked assumption. The elites do trust institutions because they are either the donors or owners, for example in the case of media. I can't blame the average American for distrusting them and focusing on issues that matter to them. Trust is earned, not given.

I'm not clear on what the alternative is to trusting institutions. Trusting individuals like celebrity politicians, academics and business folks?

The alternative, aside from charismatic individuals like you said, is trusting in "the people", "the demos", "the citizenry", "your neighbors", "America", etc, but it's fairly clear most people, left or right, aren't willing to do that.

thank you very much, i like your articcle

The elites do trust institutions because they are either the donors or owners, for example in the case of media. I can't blame the average American for distrusting them and focusing on issues that matter to them. Trust is earned, not given.

'The same unmodulated whine about present conditions circled around and around, without even the ambition to achieve wit, depth, or originality'

So, a normal meeting in just about any organization?

Yeah, assuming you're a participant.

Well, one would assume most commenters have been participants in such meetings, but it is true that at least few commenters here seem to lack real world experience in such a setting.

Thanks for proving my point.

And thanks for playing.

Who are the "industrial elites" about whom Gurri speaks? Isn't Gurri doing the same thing as those he criticizes, laying blame for society's ills on the nameless and faceless. Well, not quite nameless and faceless, he does identify the usual suspects, baby boomers, who supposedly led us here, here being not all that different from there, or anywhere. And I suppose the "industrial elites" are to be distinguished from the "tech elites" and "cosmopolitan elites", the former just trying to perfect society in their own image, the latter the nemesis of the new conservatism, a/k/a "national conservatism", the movement dedicated to hating the folks the aggrieved hate. Gurri simultaneously glorifies the shift in power made possible by the internet to non-elites, "dynamic actors" he calls them, while questioning whether liberal democracy can survive their ascent. Gurri's delight is occasioned by the possibility that government, academia, old media, and other institutions will not survive, and his dream of a libertarian utopia will be realized. He is blind to the more likely outcome, that the end of the institutions that bind us together will be replaced not with a libertarian utopia, but chaos, chaos that can only be controlled by the most authoritarian and oppressive regime. Gurri and his friends at Cato are elites, the elites of the libertarian-authoritarian axis.

My diet consisted of hominy, strawberries, apples, dragon fruit, boiled peanuts and pots of lentils; I sprung for lemons and limes and pushed and sprayed until scent radiated, the scent of the jungle and ocean and sand and the tallest tree—the strength of Psyche! Then I ripped the pulp off, and I rejoiced upon the bath of dissent and the jewel of enamor. I stayed awake late into the night, hungry, unwilling, spiteful, arrested by a stampede of will, but on the eighth night, my steel touch blew out the fire of rage; I lost forty pounds in the first year. Oranges were different. They were desert. Peeling of the shell was a chance to escape the city. I held the cut up pieces of a fauvist painting, or a string of Picasso’s euphoric diction, or Gaugin’s thumb print, or Cezanne’s modal artifice, and when I threw them away, I recalled Bosch’s profligate Garden of Earthly Delights, Delacroix’s sphere of sovereignty and the soft reds and sharp blues of Louis XIV—the cavernous steps they took and the solitary goats they herded and the jugs they carried.

I wonder whether it is possible to address the whole society without scapegoating some group or other. We seem incapable of seeking solutions without assigning blame.

Great essay. I really hate the patronizing view that lumps say, disagreement with the "urgent" need to collapse society to slow AGW by a few months with the Flat Earth loons. Fortunately no-one actually pays any real attention to the types that attends these conferences. They control a large chunk of the traditional media, but that is all.

they also control a big chunk of local, state & national government
and most of the social sciences

they hold in hand the institutional levers of change

Institutions are, by their very nature and design, meant to maintain stasis, prevent change. Change comes about through individuals whose personalities enable them to effect change, for good or ill. We don't remember or celebrate those who attempted to preserve institutions that no longer exist. The names of those who destroyed or radically changed them are the focus of history.

Interesting piece. I was a bit surprised by the below:

"The words “science” and “reason” were perpetually on their lips"

"They utter the words science and reason like incantations, claim ownership to Platonic truth, and believe, with astonishing unanimity, that they have been overthrown by a tsunami of lies. One need only restore truth to its former throne of glory, with themselves as mediating lords, they imagine, and the masses, as in the golden past, will bend the knee of trust."

This seems inconsistent with the post modernist, there's no biological basis for sub-population differences, truth-like-feelings are subjective characterization of the elite left. Gurri hints at this characterization:

"In the same breath, a speaker called for the regulation of the web and the education of children in “tolerance.” If I had pointed out the contradiction, the speaker, I’m certain, would have denied it. Tolerance, for her, meant the obliteration of opinions she disliked."

So is this characterization unfair and the elite do in fact embrace science, reason and objective truths? This would be surprising and good news.

Many people, not only those at the conference, believe that there is no space between their opinion and “science, reason, and objective truth.”

They embrace a cartoon version of science, reason and objective truths, one which confirms their prior held beliefs.

"Science", much like religion, always conveniently conforms to and validates the priest's behavior.

For younger elites, trust involves a sort of cosplay of historical conflicts. They put on elaborate rhetorical superhero costumes, and fight mock-epic battles with Nazis, fascists, “patriarchs,” slave-owners, George III, and the like. Because it’s only a game, no one gets seriously hurt – but nothing ever gets settled, either. Eventually, the young cosplayers must put away their costumes, take one last sip of Kombucha, and set off, seething with repressed virtue, to make money in the world as it really is.

File under "Good Paragraphs."

Science requires objectivity, that gets in the way so they simply ignore facts. It's "Scientism" that they practice, since they apply materialism to humans that aren't quantifiable. All Social Sciences including the subject of this blog are pseudo-sciences.

Many things about people are quantifiable, and the application of materialism isn't the problem. The problem is that people hold sacred beliefs that science casts doubt upon.

These are the type of people who claim they believe in "evidence-based policymaking", then design policy based on studies done in either socially controlled situations or in very specific spaces, implement the policy, and when it fails badly or has extremely bad side effects, continue to defend the policy because it was evidence-based policy and clearly it wasn't implemented well enough or will take a lot more time.

Before I moved to California, I woke and slept at the yoke of the pattern and dealt on its eternal being. When realized there are no objects in the wilderness, my envelope of endeavor was spent and a line of orchestral morphology shot through the pace of life.

The Green Zone. Secure from any consequence of their decisions. Confused why their brilliance engenders such hostility.

Everything I touch falls apart. It is all so fragile and poorly made.

The official People’s Daily newspaper, in a front-page commentary on Monday headlined “Central Authority Cannot Be Challenged,” called the protesters’ actions “intolerable.” (

Same mind, different expression

I'd pay good money to see a Gurri/Caplan debate on bubbles.

Social media is bad, and for the reasons those thoughtful and hyper-educated elites call out. To give it a pithier thumbnail, we discovered that opinions really were like ass holes. Everyone had one, and was not just willing to share it, but to shout it.

Many to many doesn't really work. There are too many, especially cranks who think they crushed an argument by repeating nonsense. And that now includes state actors who crank up nonsense for political ends.

Note that bloggers like Alex and Tyler implicitly know this. They could publish in a "flat" media space where their comments are equally placed and weighted with us all. They prefer hierarchy, as they should.
And they should probably prefer hierarchy further down in their domain.

When we emerge from this age of static it will be with better structure, and some kind of gatekeepers (probably distributed and multi-sourced) reinstalled.

In this thread...

anonymous accidentally rediscovers the difference between a Blog and a Forum.

Ignoring idiots is a skill. As is knowing when you are the idiot. Sadly, both skills are uncommon at this point.

Obviously when I write that I recognize that someone is going to read it critically, in fact I invite it.

My post comment thought was that while that 8:57 am message was pure opinion, it's not really my preference. Of the people who, in these comments, lead with links, it's pretty much me and prior, right?

If you are posting links you aren't really pontificating in the classic comments section style.

My point is that social media, and mass intercommunication in general isnt bad, whats bad is our inability to ignore dufuses.

This thread is case and point. I pride myself on my ability to ignore the ever-present troll, and yet im responding to you even knowing that it will inevitably lead to the same self aggrandizing table pounding that you always do. I rewarded you for being a dufus and so we can expect more of that.

Did you just go ad hominem?

Fail, and apparently an unconscious one.

You are the crank you're railing against, anonymous.

OMG, that had so much content, and was not just another asshole talking.

Jeff R nailed it.

Maybe its' just me, but I think the first person to go ad hominem, to rely on insult, in any thread, has lost. They've sad that's all they have, all they are.

I didn't insult anyone at 8:57 am. I included myself in with other commentators. I didn't insult anyone at 10:12 am. Perhaps in inviting "critical reading" I was setting up a choice. Either do that or just call names.

Anyone who called names, demonstrated who they are.

And I know that most of you are just mad at me because I share true things. True things you might not want to know.

Lulz. Statements like that are why you get called a crank.

If that's true, it rather indicts the group.

Too many can't let true things flow by.

Remember when anon spent 18 months declaring Trump was a Russian asset controlled by Putin?

Pepperidge Farm remembers.

My solid positios fit within the contours of the Mueller report. Your straw man extensions may not, but that's more your problem.

Trump and his campaign worked with the Russians as they ran a massive and illegal attack on our democracy. Mueller could not prove conspiracy because, though he could see cooperation, he could not prove direction or identify direct requests from the campaign to the Russians. The Russians wanted Trump elected. They broke US law to achieve it. And very soon after, Trump engaged in Pbstruction of Justice to cover it all up.

That was reviewed today in Congress.

"Trump and his campaign worked with the Russians"


Explain that lol to me, bro.

SCHIFF: “Trump and his campaign welcomed and encouraged Russian interference?”


And we still don't know what the hell happened in Helsinki.

Oh, and on those intelligence risks and ongoing investigations..

"Mueller confirms to @CongressmanRaja that "individuals can be subject to blackmail if they lie about their interactions with foreign countries"—and that the FBI is in fact currently investigating counterintelligence concerns related to Trump officials' lies."

You could always find some other blog where your ramblings might find a better reception.

" lead with links, it's pretty much me and prior"

It would be helpful if more of your links confirmed your statements. Many of them contradict them. Makes us wonder how much you are just trolling.

Can you point to any today? This week?

How about this one, does it support my ongoing position?

SCHIFF: “Trump and his campaign welcomed and encouraged Russian interference?”


SCHIFF: “And then Trump and his campaign lied about it to cover it up?”


Yeah. The dude said “Russia please find and release the 30,000 deleted emails.”

At a press conference. With cameras rolling. Ezra Klein made this point, of all people. Of course he was arguing that even if it’s public it’s still conspiracy etc etc. Which is absurd.

We didn’t need Bob Mueller for that info. And that’s not what you have claimed, repeatedly, in the past (past as in literally a few comments prior). You’re mixing claims and conflating here.

And again, you shift back and forth.


“Trump and his campaign worked with the Russians as they ran a massive and illegal attack on our democracy.”

Your words. Fever pitch, salivating, mentally unbalanced.


“Trump called, in a press conference, for Russia to hack and release emails. Which they didn’t. They had other emails though, which they delivered to Wikileaks. Also Trumps kid met with a lawyer from Russia, and received nothing. They then lied about the lawyer, since it looked bad.”

Which is what actually happened vis-à-vis the actual Trump family. Trump is still a dirtbag, but when you go full partisan insanity you lose all credibility.

It is pretty transparent what you tried to do there.

All I really care about is the truth, and I accept the Mueller report as what can be proven today. You want to hand wave and distract from the Mueller report, inserting imaginary strawmen for what I believe.

Where does that "Trump's kid" quote come from anyway? It sure wasn't me.

Searching Google for the quoted string gives "no results found."

But Mueller's words:

Mueller also amplified the significance of Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections. “Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy," Mueller said. "The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious. As I said on May 29, this deserves the attention of every American."

I believe May 29 refers to this:

I too support the Mueller Report. And I absolutely don’t want to hand wave away the findings.

Trump called for hacking deleted emails in violation of a Federal subpoena, in a press conference. The American people voted him into power regardless. I note you don’t care that evidence was deleted in violation of federal law.

If you cared about the truth at all, you would demand transparency for the Democrat primary system.

The entirety of damaging emails were detailing the Democrat Party attempting to sideline any challenger to Clinton, and about how to either feed the nominee questions prior to debates, or how to eliminate Bernie Sanders from important primary events.

Selective outrage is a staple among ideological nut jobs.

That struck me as a super minor component of the report, but maybe that's just me.

'Asked if Trump’s comments praising Wikileaks during the campaign are disturbing, Mueller says “problematic is an understatement” and adds they could offer “some boost to what is and should be illegal activity."'

And sure, if you can find as strong a case for indictment for anyone else, of any party, charge them too.

There are signs of a world and culture-wide re-instatement of borders, boundaries and hierarchies.

Once in a while SNL gets it right -

Ha! That's great. Here's another time they got something right:
Black Jeopardy -

As we speed into the future, boomers are starting to look better and better to me.

The problem is the ideology that gripped some of them, that has had no serious challenge.

"To some extent, this is a family drama: the last gasp of the Baby Boomers before their children snatch the world away from their palsied hands."

This is the best sentence, and encapsulates the crux of a ton of present-day problems.

What of gen x?

We're quietly plotting to kill their children and take the throne for ourselves.

We're outnumbered, so we have to use treachery. Fortunately we are the cynical generation sandwiched between the earnest ones.

Its not just elites that think they know best and need to control everything. I observe the same behaviors and attitudes of these "elites" from Atlanta locals decrying Bird scooters and advocating for a ban or regulation of who can ride where how fast with what protection at what times and how many there can be. These folks think they know best how people should behave and what should be allowed about the literally the most trivial thing. There seems to me to be an epidemic of totally un-self aware paternalism among a large portion of our population.

That paternalism has always been with us (church ladies, etc.). What's new that makes it look like an epidemic is social media.

The decisive endeavor of our moment – far surmounting, I believe, any specific policy call – is the re-establishment of trust in the institutions of representative democracy.

Best wishes, but I don't think representative democracy is the future. It will be replaced by ownership--actual skin in the game.

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