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02-29-2008, 10:39 AM

Bloggin' Noggin
02-29-2008, 11:11 AM
Wow! Cass Sunstein! What a catch for BHtv! Can't wait for this one. I just wish it had been posted early enough for me to put it on my iPod before going to work!

Jay J
02-29-2008, 12:00 PM
Yea!!! I've heard a little of his ideas about Libertarian Paternalism. I fancy myself a bit of a Liberaltarian (Brink Lindsey's word, I think) so I'm excited to hear what he has to say about that...I need to get his book, "Nudge."

Sunstein seems like a very nimble and original thinker.

He and Martha Nussbaum, what a couple!

Nussbaum is one of my favorite philosophers.

thprop
02-29-2008, 12:16 PM
This was recorded on February 19 - before the news got out. Cass Sunstein is leaving Chicago for Harvard. (http://maroon.uchicago.edu/online_edition/article/9976)
Wall Street Journal Q&A (http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2008/02/21/a-law-blog-qa-with-harvards-latest-catch-cass-sunstein/?mod=googlenews_wsj)
Chicago Tribune (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-sunsteinfeb20,1,3296454.story)
Boston Globe (http://www.boston.com/news/education/higher/articles/2008/02/20/leading_scholar_joins_harvard_law_faculty/)
Brian Leiter's blog (http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2008/02/sunstein-harvar.html) which broke the story
Harvard announcement (http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2008/02.21/13-sunstein.html)
Humorous story in the HLS Record (http://media.www.hlrecord.org/media/storage/paper609/news/2008/02/21/Etc/The-Records.Wish.List.Other.Things.Dean.Kagan.Should.S teal.From.Chicago-3226776.shtml)

Martha Nussbaum (http://www.law.uchicago.edu/faculty/nussbaum) is staying at Chicago. Which has led to much speculation and discussion. Nussbaum and Sunstein are/were a couple.

I was surprised that Sunstein made the move. I expected him to make a move after the election - to the Obama administration. Someone in the know told me that he did not think Cass would be happy at Harvard. Chicago is small - only 590 students vs 1800 at Harvard. Chicago has 124 on its faculty, Harvard 284. Sunstein said a bigger place would be nice. But the people at Chicago are very comfortable. They really like the place and each other - no matter what their political persuasion. Harvard has fiefdoms.

Harvard's Dean, Elena Kagan, came to HLS from Chicago and has been making a lot of changes - reflective of Chicago's style, not its politics. It may be hard to do that at a larger school.

bjkeefe
02-29-2008, 03:20 PM
It's hard to say the following without sort of supporting Cass's claim about the reinforcement mechanism, but for the record:

I do believe the far right went first in drifting to the extreme. I do believe they were better organized, and importantly, better financed. I do believe some of their views and tactics are far more objectionable to the American ideal than almost anything uttered or done by the far left. I do believe that George W. Bush is a terrible president, and did not receive, and still has not received, anywhere near the appropriate amount of scrutiny, skepticism, or criticism from the mainstream media.

I believe that the recent organization by the left, in large part via the Web, has been a necessary counterweight. I believe it has been a net good for the country, no pun intended. I think it is a mistake for Cass to think that there is any significant degree of undeserved disrespect for Bush, Cheney, et al -- this has been an administration that was given 95% carte blanche to deal with events post-9/11, but insisted on grabbing the last 5%, often in the most arrogant and secretive fashion.

I would bet a large amount of money that, should Clinton or Obama win the election, there will not be any movement on the right toward the idea of "supporting the president." The Bush Administration, by contrast, enjoyed a considerable amount of support from the left, especially during its first term. They blew every chance they had, and the full extent of their crimes and other misdeeds is still very far from being exposed. I do not expect the Democrats to do much about this, and even if they did, I do not expect the far right to admit to the need for serious investigation or to respect any of the results, no matter how overwhelming the evidence.

I think Cass Sunstein makes reasonable points about echo chambers in the abstract, but that he is being disingenuous, or at least, is bending over backwards in an excessive fashion to maintain an appearance of neutrality. I don't find his point of view very helpful. Perhaps his thoughts will be of some use to someone who has had little exposure to the Web, but for this audience, much of what he said sounded obvious, and some of it sounded naive.

Unrelated final thought: I would have liked to hear his opinion about how to deal with the Michigan and Florida issue. Anyone besides me think he artfully dodged that question by going on at length about the super-delegates?

thprop
02-29-2008, 03:31 PM
Brendan,

This diavlog was recorded the day that the announcement was made that Sunstein was leaving Chicago for Harvard. I am amazed that Cass went ahead with it. As you can tell from the diavlog, he is incredibly polite. I don't know if Henry knew what was going on but there were good reasons for the hard deadline to end the diavlog.

Even after the decision has been made, it still must have been incredibly difficult and emotional for Cass to tell all his colleagues. This is a part of an email he sent to them:
Everything I know, I have learned at the University of Chicago Law School. It is an amazing institution. It is a unique combination of high standards, curiosity, intellectual excitement, refusal to follow the herd, focus, generosity, personal kindness, intensity, desire to get it right, a nonsense-free zone, toughness, gentleness, amusement, and a sense of fun amidst it all -- and much more.

The University of Chicago Law School was an astoundingly good place back in 1981, when I arrived. Miraculously, it is even better now -- a stronger institution today than it has been at any time during my years here.

Bloggin' Noggin
02-29-2008, 03:32 PM
I'm with Henry. Sure, human beings tend to try to confirm their own biases, and any invention will have good and bad uses. But the hyperlink, by vastly reducing the cost of seeking out the document commented upon by the document one is reading is more likely to expose people to more points of view, to break down the walls between viewpoints. And then blogs too, by combining many posts on many different subjects have the same effect. If someone follows even an approving link to Sullivan's blog, say, he may stay to read the stuff on Sullivan's blog that he'd disagree with.
And surely part of what makes some blogs so popular is that they are quirky and unpredictable.
Links also make writers a bit more accountable -- if a writer completely misrepresents someone else on paper, he's much more likely to get away with it than if he's expected to link to the original article and that article is only a click away.
Certainly the ease of following links has made it easier for me to be open-minded.

Something I'd add (that hasn't been mentioned so far, but I'm not far in) is that the "echo chamber" effect has its uses when it comes to citizens dealing with the MSM. Once upon a time, viewers could write a letter to the editor objecting to some story, but this didn't provide much of a check on the paper. Now, citizens can use that "echo" to amplify their objections to the point where the paper pays attention and rechecks the story. The paper may present its defense and then the citizens can follow up.
Of course an individual citizen is going to have trouble investing as much time as the newspaper does. But the blogosphere doesn't just echo or amplify, it also provides the chance for individuals to assemble quickly around an issue and divide up their labor on the issue.

Perhaps Sunstein is a little to focused on the effect on the individual. His worry appears to be that the self-sorting and instant community of the internet will create echo chambers. If you focus on just one individual, it's possible that that one individual will be able to select only very conservative or very liberal instant communities, but insofar as those communities as wholes are arguing with each other or with the MSM, they probably do improve the quality of the collective debate.
I see the blogosphere as the "peer review" of journalism. Individual scientists have their hobby-horses and biases, even their crackpot ideas, and they may hang out mostly with like-minded other scientists. It's the scientific institutions, like peer review, that produce, not some individual paragon of knowledge, but a community with a better grasp of reality when taken together.

The distance involved in the internet -- the thing that unfortunately leads to incivility and flame wars -- also permits people to take on very tough issues like race, where politeness might get in the way of having an ordinary in-person discussion
Sunstein should not use academic discourse as the baseline for internet discussions either. If you take ordinary pre-internet political discussions as the comparison, it's hard not to see the internet as having an improving effect in everything but civility.

ogieogie
02-29-2008, 03:45 PM
I think Cass Sunstein makes reasonable points about echo chambers in the abstract, but that he is being disingenuous, or at least, is bending over backwards in an excessive fashion to maintain an appearance of neutrality. I don't find his point of view very helpful. Perhaps his thoughts will be of some use to someone who has had little exposure to the Web, but for this audience, much of what he said sounded obvious, and some of it sounded naive.



It seemed ironic to me to be cautioning about self-selection on this site, where I come precisely for the diversity of views (and the civility with which they're exchanged.) Are we civil, various people self-selecting into an echo-chamber of agreeable disagreement? Huh?

I think this echo-chamber extremism concern is pretty much balderdash.

One can "choose"--to pick a verb--not to confine oneself to such groups. Are people so inclined to choose (or to choose not to choose) in danger of becoming extremists? Am I being sucked unawares into the dark cult of Blogginnogginpiscivorous?

Heh.

Moreover, people are various in themselves. I go all over the web for various things, following various interests. I contain multitudes (as does everybody else who is just like me.)

ohcomeon
02-29-2008, 04:13 PM
To me the echo chamber argument seems lightly ironic coming from tenured academia.

Bloggin' Noggin
02-29-2008, 04:55 PM
One can "choose"--to pick a verb--not to confine oneself to such groups. Are people so inclined to choose (or to choose not to choose) in danger of becoming extremists? Am I being sucked unawares into the dark cult of Blogginnogginpiscivorous?


You and your liberal "all gods are equal/all gods are one" theological mishmash! You must CHOOSE between the dark cult of piscivorous and the seemly and reasonable adoration of the one true Bloggin' Noggin!
[Thunderclap!]

ohcomeon
02-29-2008, 05:10 PM
I have chosen a different cult. Guess which one.

bjkeefe
02-29-2008, 05:23 PM
ohc:

Love the sig! Maybe we should all adopt this as an appendage to our names. Think that would defuse the wingnut effort to make a big deal out of Obama's middle name, or would it reinforce their paranoia that stealth Islamofascist brainwashing is already at work?

bjkeefe
02-29-2008, 05:28 PM
thprop:

I don't dispute Cass's politeness. He was a marvel of decorum (as was Henry), and I thoroughly enjoyed this diavlog (except for one part (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=71003#post71003), maybe).

I did not know that about his announced departure. I can accept it as an explanation for the hard deadline (and consequent lack of answer to the last question), and also as a possible explanation for some distraction on his part. Still, the main points of my criticism still stand, and I don't think it's reasonable to believe that he wasn't saying pretty much what he would have said on any other day.

bjkeefe
02-29-2008, 05:30 PM
ogieogie:

Are we civil, various people self-selecting into an echo-chamber of agreeable disagreement? Huh?

Yes! And when some newbie comes along and tries to agree in an uncivil manner, we really let him have it! Polite dispute! Both barrels!

Jay J
02-29-2008, 10:33 PM
bjkeefe,

Before I get into my reason for posting this reply, I would like to make clear that I agree that the right-wing perfected the contemporary echo-chamber assembly before the left even got started. And when you consider right-wing propaganda, it seems especially shameless, relatively speaking. To top it all off, it seems that the crazies on the right have more influence on the Republican Party than crazies on the left have on the Democratic Party. Therefore, right-wing crazies end up having more impact. I base on this on the last 25 or so years in political discourse.

Now, the reason I wrote this response is to ask: why does this matter to Cass Sunstein's argument? I don't know why he's under any obligation to say that one side is more historically at fault than another, at least in recent history. He said that there have been times in history that the left was more organized and damaging (which is an empirical statement, either it's right or wrong) but that he doesn't want to get into the history very deeply. The way he said this, it seems that he was heading off the claim that the right has been worse recently, so perhaps he would concede the point that the right got the ball rolling in contemporary times. But that seems unimportant to his argument.

Professor Sunstein conceded many of Henry Farrell's points, which seem similar to many of the points being made in the comment section. Since Sunstein conceded many of the points, and how the netroots and the like may have many positive benefits, it seems like Sunstein wants his concerns to have a seat at the table, rather than to rebuke any particular movement.

Simon Willard
02-29-2008, 10:55 PM
I would have liked to hear his opinion about how to deal with the Michigan and Florida issue. Anyone besides me think he artfully dodged that question by going on at length about the super-delegates?

Yes. If Clinton manages to pull back into contention, this will become an explosive issue that damages the Democratic party. Explosive because there's no fair way to resolve it. I think most Democrats are holding their breath and hoping this situation does not develop.

Going even further, I think he dodged the super-delegate issue. Surely the purpose of the super delegates is not to parrot the primary election results. Why have them at all? They are there to provide their best adult judgment, and in a situation where there is not an obvious winner, they certainly should be expected to throw the election one way or another. If the race is tight, this could make the Democratic party uncomfortable. Regardless of whether the super-delegates reinforce or repudiate the voters, there's something vaguely un-democratic about it.

Finally, I have a minor objection to Henry's complaining about these "American" idiosyncrasies when they are really Party issues.

Simon Willard
02-29-2008, 11:06 PM
crazies on the right have more influence on the Republican Party
I assume you accept that McCain's nomination does not advance this statement.

Jay J
02-29-2008, 11:11 PM
I agree that McCain's nomination does not advance the statement, but McCain's nomination is not necessarily inconsistent with the statement either, so where does that leave us?

Simon Willard
02-29-2008, 11:15 PM
Noggin, this time you got it completely right. (http://www.bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=71007#poststop)

Simon Willard
02-29-2008, 11:19 PM
I leaves us wondering what was your point about the extremes. I think people wring their hands about the extremes, but their influence is overrated, both on the left and right.

Jay J
02-29-2008, 11:21 PM
I would wonder about my point about extremes if you had said something that contradicted it.

Since you didn't, I don't wonder what my point is.

If you're still wondering, just consult my original post.

bjkeefe
02-29-2008, 11:23 PM
Jay J:

First, thanks for your preliminary remarks (which I have not reproduced here, out of some twisted sense of conserving electrons).

Now, the reason I wrote this response is to ask: why does this [right vs. left aspect] matter to Cass Sunstein's argument?

It mattered to me because Cass seemed to be making an argument of equivalence between the right- and left-wing "echo chambers."

I don't know why he's under any obligation to say that one side is more historically at fault than another, at least in recent history.

I agree; he is under no obligation, and in any case, it's probably not a question of "fault." My main point was that I thought he was mistaken to ignore the reality that is, and has long been, the Vast Right-Wing Noise Machine.

Professor Sunstein conceded many of Henry Farrell's points, which seem similar to many of the points being made in the comment section. Since Sunstein conceded many of the points, and how the netroots and the like may have many positive benefits, it seems like Sunstein wants his concerns to have a seat at the table, rather than to rebuke any particular movement.

I did not hear the concession as clearly as you did. I heard polite academic-speak: "You may have a point there."

I'm not saying that Cass was completely one-sided, if arguing for the middle of the road can be said to be one-sided. I'm just saying that I think his thesis, that everyone is suffering from the same Web-based reinforcement problem equally, is both mostly wrong, and to the extent that it's true, is hardly an breakthrough realization.

bjkeefe
02-29-2008, 11:39 PM
Simon:

Regarding your thoughts on super-delegates: Except for the part of me that is ready to burn down any obstacle that prevents Obama from being nominated, I can see the point of the super-delegates, at least in the abstract. As we learned in Civics 101, the Senate was designed to be a body less subject to momentary whims. I can see the super-delegates cast in the same light: to be the wise old folks who apply some brakes to a temporarily crazed populace.

I agree: it is not very democratic. On the other hand, neither is much of anything about our electoral system. It is a republic -- we elect our electors, loosely speaking, and they are supposed to provide a buffer against the herd mentality. I have sympathies for both points of view, again, mostly in the abstract.

Finally, I have a minor objection to Henry's complaining about these "American" idiosyncrasies when they are really Party issues.

Well, yes. But on the other hand, they are American party issues. I don't blame Henry for feeling as though he's landed on another planet. The state-by-state variations on the rules have left me feeling like a stranger in a strange land, too. And that's really another aspect to the super-delegates issue, too -- nowhere does it say that the people should choose their nominees. That is the responsibility of the parties. (To be honest, I'm not even sure where it says that.)

Backing up a step, I do think that after this election is done, it would be a Very Good Thing for the parties to reevaluate the way they pick candidates. I have a litany, maybe even a myriad, of suggestions. Starting with Iowa. Want to form a quasi-constitutional convention?

bjkeefe
02-29-2008, 11:57 PM
Simon:

I assume you accept that McCain's nomination does not advance this statement [that, as Jay said, "crazies on the right have more influence on the Republican Party."]

I think it's reasonable to explain the eventual ascension of McCain as the result of a least-objectionable-to-all choice bubbling to the top because the crazies canceled each other out by appealing to different kinds of crazies (Huckabee: religious crazies, Giuliani: war & terror crazies, Tancredo: xenophobic crazies, Romney: swayable by Plast-O-Sheen propaganda crazies, Paul: Just Fucking Crazy Crazies). I think it's also reasonable to explain McCain by saying there weren't any crazies sufficiently crazy enough to appeal to the crazies (huckabee: too much care about the poor, Giuliani: too liberal and too morally bankrupt, Tancredo: too monotonic, Romney: not credibly crazy, Paul: well, I got nothing here).

Both are over-simplifications, but I gotta go along with Jay here: the fact that McCain won this one doesn't disprove a whole lot about the extremists in the Republican Party.

I suppose it's fair to speculate that his win speaks to the decline in power of the crazies, whether due to infighting or self-destruction or seven years of failure by the Crazy-in-Chief, I can't say. But I, for one, am not about to bet one red cent on the idea that they might be gone for good. It's going to be like every horror movie -- just when you think you've finally killed the monster, he grabs your leg. Or, ushered back to life by some hand-waving which nobody buys, but nobody cares too examine too closely, he reappears in a sequel.

Nominate HRC. And then witness The Son of the Return of the Revenge of the Crazies. That, I'd bet on.

bjkeefe
03-01-2008, 12:06 AM
I meant to bow down earlier, but I was frozen in awe before the majesty that is, and has always been, and will always be, the reigning Philosopher Queen.

Bloggin' Noggin
03-01-2008, 12:28 AM
Thanks, Simon!
It occurs to me that I neglected to draw attention (as I'd meant to) to the fact that, though he invokes Jane Jacobs's essentially democratic view of cities as places where people are thrown together to learn from each other, his model of the newspaper is much more unidirectional: an elite of reporters and editors puts something together for the consumer.
I think I'd like the "elite" to be better able to learn from us ordinary citizens -- and for that matter I'd rather learn things directly from those who really know things, not just what some reporter decides most people would like to know.
Jane Jacobs's idea was that cities are NOT engineered as wholes, and that its a good thing they're not. Architects and city planners are not really in a position to know how to provide the goods that arise naturally from the interplay of social forces, including supply and demand. Papers ARE more or less engineered. When Sunstein laments the lack of an editor for the internet or the blogosphere, isn't that the equivalent of lamenting the absence of the overbearing arhitects and city planners that Jacobs so despised? I'm afraid I hear in Sunstein's fear of the blogosphere a worry, not that people won't learn from each other, but that they won't any longer learn from the right people, the people who know what's best.

Simon Willard
03-01-2008, 12:29 AM
I concede your central point about Cass's argument (paragraph 2) is a good one. I was just questioning your first paragraph preamble about the far right having undue influence. That's very hard to prove, and may even be meaningless.

I deny the existence of an absolute metric for left or right. If crazies are organized and effective at persuasion, how do you prove they are really the crazy ones? The best one can do is survey the general population, identify the center, and call it "The Center". Anything else is, well, undemocratic.

Bloggin' Noggin
03-01-2008, 12:29 AM
I meant to bow down earlier, but I was frozen in awe before the majesty that is, and has always been, and will always be, the reigning Philosopher Queen.

Very appropriate -- I am truly awful!

Simon Willard
03-01-2008, 12:42 AM
I can see the point of the super-delegates
Sure, I'm not opposed to representative democracy. I just can't understand the people who think they know an algorithm that the super-delegates should follow.

I don't blame Henry for feeling as though he's landed on another planet.
You mean he's not from Venus?

bjkeefe
03-01-2008, 12:51 AM
Yeah. Please replace "reigning" with "raging."

;^)

bjkeefe
03-01-2008, 12:55 AM
Sure, I'm not opposed to representative democracy. I just can't understand the people who think they know an algorithm that the super-delegates should follow.

I don't think there is one, nor do I think there ever was meant to be one. This is one of those "use best judgment" things that is both the bane and beauty of uncodifiable humanity.


You mean he's not from Venus?

Do not speak ill of Henry. My suppressed Irish heritage will be vengeful.

bjkeefe
03-01-2008, 01:05 AM
BN:

I buy the part about cities, but I do have to say, one element of Cass's argument that I really agreed with was his newspaper-related thinking (although, again, hardly an original thought). I think there is a real serendipity available from reading a print newspaper, even as I grant the existence of another kind of serendipity available from link-hopping online.

I also assign a lot of worth to the notion of a trained and experienced group of people picking the stories that comprise "the news." Do they have biases, suffer from groupthink, and screw up regularly? Sure. But I do note that one of the ongoing efforts online is to create aggregation and recommendation services -- people do value other people making recommendations for them. There's something to be said for the wisdom of the crowd; there's also something to be said for professionalism. I don't want to read only what I get if I have to design all my own filters, and I'd be lost if I tried to focus on areas that I only know just enough about to think that I might be interested in.

It doesn't have to be an either/or, fortunately. I'm delighted to have both the MSM and the blogosphere. Both have their warts, and both have their beauty marks.

Jay J
03-01-2008, 02:36 AM
Simon Willard,

I think there may not be enough space to argue this point if we don't already agree on it.

I mean, I think it's clear that Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, etc, have more influence than the netroots and Air America. But again, if that's not already something we agree on, then we probably start from places too different to reconcile here.

In any case, I'm probably the one most sympathetic (as far as quasi-leftists who see a vast "right-wing noise machine," as bjkeefe called it) to the idea that the left has a similar echo chamber, and I've had a few run ins with them actually, to the extent that I may as well have been John Birch, for all they cared.

As for them being "crazies" and influential, I don't see a contradiction there. Crazy doesn't necessarily refer to their organizational competence or even their views, but rather their tactics and approach.

As for John McCain, I didn't say the right-wing echo chamber sets policy, or that the GOP takes its marching orders from their echo chamber. If I had, then the fact that John McCain will be the nominee would contradict that.

But since I simply said that the right-wing echo chamber is more influential than the left-wing echo chamber, it's not that damaging to my argument if the Right's noise machine doesn't get what they want sometimes.

I agree that I can't prove which is worse, but we believe all kinds of things that fall short of being amenable to proof. No matter how you want to define influence, (it seems like influence can be direct, but in politics is often indirect, through reaching millions of constituents), I see Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, etc, as having perfected the art, before Air America and the Netroots were even conceived, and that the impact of Air America and the like pales in comparison to what the right has offered in contemporary times.

If we can't agree on that, then we probably have simply reached a dead end.

Bloggin' Noggin
03-01-2008, 12:47 PM
Brendan,
You seem to assume Sunstein is using the two different metaphors in opposition to each other. I hear him as sliding from one to the other without making a distinction. I was noting that the effect of this slide is to assume that the only (or best) way to achieve serendipity is through central planning and that people learning from each other really amounts to the great unwashed masses learning from the elite.
I would like the "elite" to learn a bit from the unwashed masses (including those "masses" who happen to be experts in something other than journalism). THAT is what we had too little of before and what the internet/blogosphere adds to what existed before. I never said that the increased ability to talk back and turn what had been a lecture into a conversation meant that the masses could start lecturing instead and tell the journalists to just shut up.
If Sunstein is NOT really slipping between these two models in the way I thought, but is perhaps opposing the two, then my objection is not relevant.

bjkeefe
03-01-2008, 02:03 PM
BN:

You seem to assume Sunstein is using the two different metaphors in opposition to each other. I hear him as sliding from one to the other without making a distinction.

Fair enough, and I think there's a lot of accuracy to your perception. On the other hand, he did go on for some time in such a way as to make it sound to me like he was preferring print newspapers to e-papers, and seemed to be using this as a metaphor as well. I agree that he wasn't being at all absolutist about any of this; I merely picked up on the newspaper thing because I did agree with him that there are different kinds of serendipitous experiences available from the different formats. I continue to believe that there will continue to be value in people who have a particular interest or specialty aggregating information for others. I don't, of course, believe this is the only way to go.

I was noting that the effect of this slide is to assume that the only (or best) way to achieve serendipity is through central planning and that people learning from each other really amounts to the great unwashed masses learning from the elite.

I certainly don't believe the only or the best way to achieve, or offer, serendipity is through central planning. Again, I just see it as one kind that has value and is likely to persist in being valuable. And, as I suggested in my previous post, there's no reason at all to believe that the aggregation function can only be fulfilled by newspapers.

Nor do I think that people learning from each other means only that they're ultimately learning from the elite. I do, however, think most of what people pick up and share that is of any use does ultimately come from someone who knows more about the subject than any of those who then pass along the story. Doesn't have to be a formal journalist who is the first source, of course. Could well be, and increasingly often is, a blogger, for example.

I would like the "elite" to learn a bit from the unwashed masses (including those "masses" who happen to be experts in something other than journalism). THAT is what we had too little of before and what the internet/blogosphere adds to what existed before.

Yes, I agree. There's a lot to be said for full duplex communication and the tearing down of boundaries. I think there are already plenty of journalists who appreciate, or are coming to appreciate, the value of the easier reader/viewer feedback mechanisms. Some will never much care for or about it (e.g., John McWhorter). I don't think that makes them bad people, since the reality is that in most cases, the feedback channel is a very noisy one, and it takes a fair amount of time and sifting to get at the nuggets.

One quibble: I don't accept a hard and fast distinction between "the elite" and "the masses." Many people are in one group or the other, depending on context, and the context can be at least as fine-grained as moving to different stories in a newspaper. I know you don't believe the distinction is that rigid, either, but I just wanted to amplify the point.

I never said that the increased ability to talk back and turn what had been a lecture into a conversation meant that the masses could start lecturing instead and tell the journalists to just shut up.

Didn't think you did. Sorry if I gave the impression that I had.

If Sunstein is NOT really slipping between these two models in the way I thought, but is perhaps opposing the two, then my objection is not relevant.

Hard to say for sure, especially without listening again, and especially now that my brain is crammed with thoughts provoked by the more recent Science Saturday diavlog. I might go back and review the Cass and Henry show, but in the meantime, I'm more interested in your thoughts, than in your thoughts about what Cass might have been thinking.