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'Doomscrolling' breeds anxiety – how to stop the cycle (npr.org)
351 points by mrfusion on July 20, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 286 comments



I deleted my Twitter a few months ago and my life is better for it. The need to be “in the know” was powerful, but I realized that I was consuming vast amounts of shallow information that resulted in shallow, uninformed opinions. I’ve been reading a lot more long-form articles and books; I’ve finished reading three books in the last month or so. When my Twitter habit was strong I would often start a book and give up 30-50 pages in, never to return.

I believe deleting Twitter also helped my mood. I am feeling more upbeat than ever. While circumstantial, I do attribute some of this change to no longer being bombarded by the negativity and one-shot-kill Tweets that are prolific on the platform.


The problem I've been facing recently is that long form also turns out to be a waste of time after you go through the most informational/influential pieces.

Lots of the articles thread the same water, dive into totally unnecessary details, or just tell a story that, while fascinating, does not really give you any important new information, or bury it in a few casual sentences, never elaborating on them.

For books it is usually just the same story told over and over again with the character names and forms changed.

That applies even to some of the stuff recommended directly here on HN. I would not even dive into aggregators recommended here.


I find that a lot of people in the software field confuse maximizing information density with finding valuable learning materials.

Almost all books have relatively low information density. You can condense "How to Win Friends and Influence People" down to a page of chapter headings, for example, or a history book into a 2-3 page timeline. The point of all of the anecdotes and details isn't to convey more information, it's to force the reader to slow down to think about the topic and provide more memory hooks to help with recall later.

Whenever you read a book, if you think "that was obvious, I knew that already," observe if you are actually acting on that knowledge the way you want to. After reading the book, do you act on that knowledge you already knew more easily?

Even books that are outright bad can be useful if they force you to think more about a topic and re-evaluate your own opinions. For example, I try to read 1-2 general software books a year. Some of them are terrible, most of them tell me things I already learned, but the spaced repetition makes me re-evaluate my own recent choices to see if there are any areas where I have been getting lazy and cutting corners I shouldn't.


> For books it is usually just the same story told over and over again with the character names and forms changed.

actual new things are by definition rare. each thing can only be done once for all of humanity. after that, its an iterative process with the occasional leap forward.

if you're thinking about technical or even worse self-help books: yes - there are very few that actually bring anything worthwhile to the table. thats simply because it becomes common knowledge if its correct to a degree where it has a significant effect.

if you're however thinking of story-books than ... you're just reading similar things. there is a lot of written stories around - they admittedly usually have things like `conversation` in common, but how else would you write a book? by leaving everything blank?


> how else would you write a book

Maybe you don't.

https://www.multivax.com/last_question.html


But then how could you fulfill your childhood dreams? This is all very important!!

/s


I'm struggling to understand your comment about books. There are many thousands of very high-quality books written about lots of different subjects. Is it possible your book recommendations are all too similar, like only reading novels written in the past ten years or something?


Lindy effect, stuff worth reading is stuff that has been filtered by time.

Reading old books is worth it. New ones are hard to filter and many will turn out to be completely unnecessary.

Leaves you on the sides of contemporary culture but at least you're reading efficiently.


I thought we were supposed to decolonize our libraries?


These can both be true.

As a simultaneous question and example, Kipling is often given as an example of a British Empire writer with condescending attitudes to the very people he wrote about.

The names of Indian authors never reached me because my parents thought the Empire was unadulterated good, and they thought that because my grandparents were born near the peak of the Empire — one of my grandmothers was, for a period in her infancy, living in a military base in the British Raj.

They whose names I do not know could very plausibly be Kipling’s equal or better. I know from various examples that various cliques will have hidden the names of good authors from me.

That leads me to the question: can anyone here recommend a good Indian author from the same era as Kipling? (Yes I know Kipling was born in India).


> That leads me to the question: can anyone here recommend a good Indian author from the same era as Kipling? (Yes I know Kipling was born in India).

While not a direct answer to your question, I think The Location of Culture by Homi Bhabha is relevant in the sense that it addresses why your question is difficult (perhaps impossible) to answer.


Thanks, I’ll add that to my to-read list.

I suppose rather than asking for a “good” author (subjective, for example I’ve met an Oxbridge English Literature graduate who thought Shakespeare was overrated), I should have asked for a “famous” author from the same era.

The sort of author whose works a current-day Indian politician would have on their shelves, or perhaps quote from, to signal how cultured they are — in the same sort of way UK PM Johnson tried to show how cultured he was by quoting Kipling.


I think the long form is really good actually, but it needs to be done by people who wrote it out of love. HN will sometimes lead you down that path, like that story about the diver who survived for many minutes on the floor of the North Sea without oxygen after his umbilical cord was severed. Mostly though, almost everything linked to by HN didn’t really need to be written and was likely written for clicks.

HN is still valuable for me because it sometimes leads to me discovering new frameworks I can actually use that I wouldn’t hear about anywhere else because people in my part of the world use JAVA, PHP or C#. But HN is mainly a social media and all the attention seeking that comes with that.


The comment section is now and again of higher quality, many who are informed on a particular subject.


The incentives on the web are skewed, and I believe the same is true for print. Nobody will be happy to pay the same price for a 50 page book as they would for a 200 page book, even if the information is the same, so if you have a 50 page book, you have every reason in the world to add fluff and stretch it to 200 pages.

For many articles on the web I believe it's an issue because of Google. Google does punish short pieces, so if you want to write about how to do X with Y, you need to start of with a history of Y, lay out a couple of use cases of X and then explain why doing X with Y is difficult, to finally explain how to do it.


Every time I come across a piece in that style I want to smash a screen. It could be a one-paragraph solution, but I have to scroll past three images and five paragraphs of worthless blather that assumes I'm a moron.

Unix man pages are amazing. Every technical help resource should be like that.


I would say that the ability to recognize true novelty is hard to train without experiencing a fair amount of repetition.


Very true. It is still better to jump right away into dense stuff though.


> For books it is usually just the same story told over and over again with the character names and forms changed.

I assume you’re referring to fiction ... there’s actually a whole field of study around this rooted in psychology, they’re called Jungian Archetypes. There’s a really fantastic book by Joseph Campbell called The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

I’m not sure what the current state of study is, its been a few years since I personally studied the concepts. It might be a nice change from the mundanity you seem to be describing


There are lots, and lots, and lots of books. With those that have been filtered by time and decades to centuries of fans and specialists, if you can’t get something out of them usually that’s your fault—which is fine and normal, since for most people getting acquainted enough with literature from a different place or era to enjoy it takes some deliberate effort, just like learning to appreciate new genres of music, or film of a style you didn’t grow up with, or a genre of video game that’s not immediately rewarding. And that’s just fiction!

Maybe try poetry? Though, same applies. Anything that’s not popular, recent fiction aimed at a grade 8 reading level is going to take some effort and practice to learn to appreciate and fully understand. Literacy is a very wide spectrum.

[edit] incidentally, for whatever reason, I find drawing book recommendations from strangers online nearly useless. This goes double for genre fic and non-fic. For other media it works fine. Dunno why but I think part of it may be that people read more differently, and for more reasons, than they watch movies or listen to music play games. I also find it’s easier in other media to quickly spot people with tastes that are very contrary to mine, and so ignore them.

One thing that seems to help is that more people are able to say “this is trash, but it’s my kind of trash, but hey, here’s this other thing like it that’s actually good” with film than with books. Something about books seems to make people use a much broader and less-differentiated or less-well-tuned definition of “good” and then just apply that same label to everything they read and don’t hate.


This is very true to me. That’s why I believe it’s important to know when to skim or even call it quits on an article; particularly when the information on the event is limited and every platform seems to cover it with the same details and slightly different fashion. That way you don’t waste time.


I came to the same realization not so long ago. Most of the content being produced is pretty much deja vu. That lead me into questioning what creativity is but that I could not find anything interesting to read about the topic. So if anyone has any pointer please share.

It is exacerbated by the fact that there are so many ranking on the internet. I most often start by the top 10 and then the rest seems boring in comparison.

Platforms don't help either. There are hundreds of thousands of creators on Youtube and Instagram and they somehow manage to all produce the same thing...


Agreed about shallow articles. On that note, for someone seeking to browse current topics but with good, quality information sources - what news/etc sites do you enjoy?

Eg, i actually like "current events", especially news. I want to know what my political actors are doing, good or bad - but only concrete information. Especially with the current administration. Rumors / weak leaks are wasted cycles in my brain.


Try The Economist, they aren't focused on breaking news and tend to be terse and with high informational density.

They also have a companion magazine, 1843, that dives into longer-form cultural articles.


> same story told over and over again

I'm curious about how old you are. I think the problems you mention get worse, the more life experience one has?

Nowadays I think all 1st person shooters are mostly the same and get bored.


I enjoy the Axios news format; it's pretty concise, and you have the option to dig deeper into a given topic or event.


> The need to be “in the know” was powerful, but I realized that I was consuming vast amounts of shallow information that resulted in shallow, uninformed opinions.

I'd like to applaud you for admitting this to yourself. I feel like a vital part of successfully navigating the internet age is to realize this very fact.


This is a good way to look at it. I’ve given up Twitter and much shortform news for mental health, and haven’t had a good response to others saying it’s my “duty” as a citizen to stay informed.

You can stay just as informed without giving in to doombait articles. You are just as valuable in the public sphere if you don’t succumb to attaching yourself to the firehose of daily information and tweets.


Another way to view it is that being “informed” isn’t some singular state you can achieve. People who read every article churned out by a news site daily are no more “informed” than people who just read the laws as they are voted on by the government.

The latter will not seem “informed” because they won’t know about some controversial statement that set the Internet on fire, but they will certainly be more informed about the consequential actions being taken by the government.

TLDR - being “informed” has no relationship to following what currently classifies a news - at least from an “informed citizen” perspective.


Twitter has been orders of magnitude more harmful to society than any *chan and Twitter bluechecks should be thought of and treated like Twitter bluechecks think of and treat chan users. All those articles about how scary chans and the ~~~dark web~~~ are and how they corrupt people's brains -- in a sane world they would be about twitter.


I felt exactly like this back in 2016 but around 2019 I began using Twitter again.

The thing that worked for me was simple: don’t use it on mobile. It promotes doom scrolling and shallow consumption.

I also continuously curate my list and mute plenty to keep garbage out. The result is a fairly positive and inspiring feed


The feeling of reading through well-written long-form articles is very satisfying. Do any HN’ers have recommendations for websites with well-written long-form articles?


Hard as it may be to believe, https://digg.com is amazing for this kind of content these days. In particular the Long Reads section https://digg.com/longreads



The Notre Dame Review of Philosophy provides book reviews of contemporary philosophy books, in ways which are good pointers to knowing if you want to pick up a book yourself. I'd also recommend The New Left Review, though it's subscription-based for most articles (though comparatively cheap for a subscription).



With a less common perspective:

https://jacobinmag.com/


I couldn't get past two headlines before hitting the X in the forner With the first thing you see being a request to pay (buy in print!!) and the second being a headline like "feminism needs capitalism like a fish needs a bicycle", well, I can't take it too seriously or "different".


Given that most newspapers have a pay wall, the half-screen pay-fence doesn't seem so egregious to me.

Regarding the article title, I'm not sure what was the problem. The Jacobin is a leftist newspaper, so critiques of capitalism are to be expected. If you dislike the style of the title, I can appreciate that, everyone has their own tastes. But there is also a quick summary of the thesis of the article, in case the title was too unclear:

> The inclusion of more women at the top of oppressive power structures shouldn’t be confused with women’s liberation. We need a radical, socialist feminism, not a repackaged version of Sheryl Sandberg’s corporate-friendly "lean-in" brand.



Longreads.com is the site for you.


The Atlantic, American affairs journal, longreads are some.


Propublica



Harpers magazine and the New York review of Books are my go to publications.



Is it still trying to bring back phrenology and "race science"? That's the short list. Quillette had a couple of okay articles, but I didn't want to wade through all the nonsense to find more.


Please don't use lies and fud in your political discussions. That's dishonest. Thanks.


It seems to be Breitbart for people who aspire to be Kelsey Grammar.


Ah, the good old "it's not my opinion, therefore it's Nazi"-argument.

Well, if that's all you can do, thanks for the effort.


My opinion of Twitter is ambivalent. It is actually the only mainstream social platform I use. And I use it with a fake account where I change name and photo every couple of weeks.

Having said that it seems to me that Twitter - opposed to FB and YT - comes with the advantage that you can quite easily specify what you want to see on your wall. I have a lot of investigative journalism outlets on my Follow list and special interest groups. So it seems to offer some value.

Then again it is indeed inviting to endlessly scroll in boredom hoping to find something that triggers some Dopamine.


This is basically why I deleted my Facebook account, which was the one social network that I was really ever on. I was checking it non stop, but there wad never anything good. It was a huge time suck.

I'd read news of how Facebook keeps people addicted or how they try out psychological experiments on its users which left me uneasy. Finally, when the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke and revealed that Facebook sells access to your personal messages, thst was the final straw. The biggest problem with deleting your account is that your contacts assume that you just deleted them and think that you're mad at them or something. It can have a real world impact. But I've been way happier texting friends and family and talking with them directly. It's been so much healthier than leaving "likes" on wall posts. I'm never returning to social media.


> The biggest problem with deleting your account is that your contacts assume that you just deleted them and think that you're mad at them or something. It can have a real world impact.

That's one reason I deleted my Facebook 5 years ago. I unfriended a casual acquaintance (who continually posted political rants), and they confronted me in person at a nightclub, demanding to know why. That just isn't healthy behaviour, and I don't need to be around people like that or on a network that encourages it.


I personally kept my facebook account. I check it maybe once a month. When I do look I find I have a very low tolerance for the crap on there (maybe 10 mins). They have a nice 'timeout' feature where you can basically shadowban people from your feed. I have been having to use this on some of my family and friends. My count on there is really low. If you are friends with me on facebook you are friends in real life. But I want to ask them why they went on a six post rant of something political and what would make them think their 700+ 'friends' are interested? Facebook is however 100% banned in js/cookies/html/webbugs using ublock and no-script. They do not get to follow me around. In exchange I sometimes look at their adverts when I am on their site.

Facebook did not make our timelines toxic. Our 'friends' did.


I had a similar realization recently. When you truly think about it, the vast majority of news you read/hear isn't even remotely actionable information for the average person.

At best, it'll be something interesting and feeds into our natural curiosity. Other than that, this idea that it's our responsibility as citizens to stay constantly informed on what's happening in the world is nonsense.

Ask yourself, what was the last time you read something in the news that contained information you could actually act on in a meaningful way? Our biggest opportunity to act on information as regular citizens generally comes with elections, at which point you can just read up on the candidates views/proposals before voting.

We really don't need to be obsessively keeping up with the news, the world will keep moving whether or not we know about it.


> Ask yourself, what was the last time you read something in the news that contained information you could actually act on in a meaningful way?

The what in question would be the news item I had read. The meaningful action was the public protest I chose to join, or the campaign donations I decided to make, or the phone calls to my elected representatives. Elections aren't the only way citizens can (or should) interact with their government.


Mastodon is like that but with far less noise per signal. You have insightful toots and most of the time, great tips and URLs. Also, it moves a far slower pace, you can just check once or twice a day and be done.


It can be sane. Just be very selective who you allow. I maybe follow a hundred people or so, but my block list is probably ten times as long. Even blocking anybody with "pronouns" in their Bio already helps a lot.


So, you've created a conservative echo chamber?


No, I've created an "echo chamber" where I only allow opinions based on reason and logic.

You seem to prefer personal attacks and ideology, so yes, I'd block you for sure.


No, blocking anybody with pronouns in their bio will eliminate a lot of progressive and most LGBTQ voices. It’s not a personal attack, it’s an observation of how you are scoping your feed.


It will mostly block a lot of the neo-left, people who are "identity" focused and as racist as people on the far right. I don't want to have anything to do with them. I don't give a f about identity, I care about merit.


As of a hundred comments, none seem to have mentioned that this is not inherent in social media but in media in general.

Remember to take breaks from the news cycles (whatever flavor of news and outlet you prefer) and try to not get emotionally engaged in what is really quite distant from your actual life.

The news, wherever they come from and regardless of what they are about are mostly just a distraction from what actually matters, your own life, family and mission.


I realize this trick won't work for everyone, but a couple years ago I figured out a nice technique to combat all these problems, while still allowing myself to read the news: I made a pact with myself to only actively consume the news in a language I don't speak fluently.

If nothing else, I'm improving my language skills, so the time spent doing it is edifying, even when the piece itself isn't. The concentration involved in deciphering the article inserts some emotional distance that helps me not to get too worked up about what I'm reading. And, since reading in a language one doesn't understand very well is tiring, the whole exercise is self-limiting. It's literally impossible to get sucked in.


I came here to something similar: I quit twitter and facebook a while back, and I have found myself spiraling wildly over the last months.

And I even agree that it's healthy to keep some emotional distance to the news.

But right now, the news will have a very real and direct impact on what I will do. I'm happy I followed them much more closely in February, which allowed me to get out of the big city just before the lockdown was announced, without too much logistic trouble.

These days it is about returning. Should I go back to renting an inner-city apartment? Depends on how this will go over the next few months. Which in turn largely depends on how people/ public discourse views mask-wearing. Should I visit my family? Well, depends on the situation here and there. Maybe I won't even be allowed to cross state lines by then? What's the contingency plan? Staying abroad for too long, even involuntarily, could reset my girlfriend's immigration status.

I think never in my life have I experienced a situation where the connection between "the news" and direct impact on my life was so immediate.


A few weeks ago I identified doomscrolling, particularly in bed, as a major source for my recent sleeping issues. As a result, I took a major step back from Twitter in general, and especially forced myself to stop reading Twitter in bed, or even in the late evenings. This produced an immediate improvement in both sleep quality and overall mood.


In my experience reading on the smartphone is an underrated cause of sleep issues. No matter what I read and no matter how dimmed and red my screen looks - it certainly helps - but it still impacts my sleep negatively. The desire to keep your mind busy even right before or actually while intending to fall asleep is also an indicator for other underlying issues. If I stop engaging in these distractions I get a chance to actually face those and deal with them.


Distractions in general hurt sleep. I'm not convinced using the phone is any different than other distractions. Of course, sleep researchers say that doing anything at all in bed other than sleep and sex is a bad idea, but distracting yourself while not in bed too isn't helpful.

Naturally, I ignore that advice and still use my phone in bed. But switching from Twitter to doing other stuff helped significantly, because I can monitor myself and put the phone down when I get calm enough and sleepy enough to sleep. Twitter was preventing me from getting calm/sleepy due to producing anxiety. I do still read Discord, which sometimes can have the Twitter problem depending on what people are talking about, but it helps me keep from feeling completely socially disconnected due to using Twitter less.


Just as a recommendation, if you're on iOS, also use the whitepoint reduction feature in the accessibility settings. That reduces the brightness of the device further, even if you are already on the lowest brightness setting.

Also, depending on the person, it heavily depends on what you are reading. With Twitter you are jumping from topic to topic. That's something completely different than reading a book.


I recommend charging your phone far from your bed. I've been doing it for a few years.


Added bonus of the alarm going off in the morning across the room helps that 2-3 seconds of initial wake up to be more "productive" in waking up - gotta stand and walk for a second before the alarm goes off. Less likely to fall back asleep after just that little interruption.


Even better is to physically turn your phone off at least one hour before bed. If you need to be available for emergency calls then in do not disturb mode with your family set to punch through Do Not Disturb.


I really realized it a few weeks back as well. I found a few things helpful. I turned on the Digital Wellbeing settings on Android. Limited Twitter to an hour a day. It makes me much more cognizant of the time I spend, and I end up not doomscrolling the comments and stuff like that. I also turned on Bed time mode, so its all black and white by the time I am in bed. I can still do it, but with limits and help me not fall into never ending holes as much. Also playing with Focus mode, so I can't really check it in the day until after dinner. Might bump it up a little earlier so I get out of bed faster too.


Deleting twitter from my phone was very much worth doing.

I'll log in at a conference, otherwise keeping it off your phone helps.

Also as others have said keep your phone away from your bed, preferably in another room.


As a rule, I don't check anything but HN before bed simply because they usually don't have those types of stories. Tonight it had an assassination attempt on a Judge working a high profile case who's 20 year old son is now dead and a husband in a hospital. In the United States.


I have started unsubscribing to any subreddit the moment I notice a post is generating a negative emotion. Nowadays my feed is mostly woodworking, cooking and photography.


I get it, I really do. Negativity is shit.

The world is a messed up place. Sure, we shouldn't be bombarded by this fact day in and day out, but I personally think it's a good thing to remind yourself now and then how fucked up the world we live in can be - to maintain a sort of tether to the "reality" of the world's current messed up situation; it puts a lot into perspective.

Any thoughts? Am I wrong for thinking this way? (P.s. I have not yet read the OP's article)


The key part of your statement is “now and then”. Reading the news once a week to stay up on current events and be a good citizen is wise. I don’t need to check in on the shittiest parts of our society every few hours throughout the day.


More important to maintain a tether to the immediate physical world around you, than to a notion of being "informed" about far-off events.


I agree with you. Actually I watch news regularly since my childhood and I've also heard the sentence "I don't want to see this (people suffering), this is terrible" Basically this would be actively looking away.

The world is indeed a pretty messed up place and it's sad we need Corona to be reminded of a lot of long-standing issues as they affect also other groups now:

- lack of universal health insurance/insufficient social support systems

- lack of pandemic plans

- precarious living conditions are more prevalent than represented by social/news media

Actually very few news outlets even attempt to give global coverage, BBC is the only one I know of that somehow gets close to this.

Still, I try to consume news more responsibly. I stopped using Google News and instead subscribed to a handful of online papers/magazines that produce quality content.


>Actually very few news outlets even attempt to give global coverage, BBC is the only one I know of that somehow gets close to this.

Far fewer still, are news outlets covering child sex trafficking. But hey, "I don't want to see this, this is terrible, let's call it a conspiracy and move on".


I think social media might just be the wrong format for it. Something non-addictive, such as a book, or a long-form news article would be a much better way to know the evils of the world.


Definitely, one does still have to be aware of how bad things can get. The way I see it, that sort of information can filter through no matter what you do. Instead of compltely shutting out however, what I've read some say in regards to this digital minimalism is to keep just one or two news sources. For some that's HN, or a custom subreddit collection, or just opening your local news site once a day/week/whatever.


I think the glaring issue these days of being constantly connected, is simply balance. I notice that many who are getting too anxious/stressed/nervous/scared are doing way too much of just reading news and doom, and doing almost absolutely no other healthy activities of healthy family meals, exercise, walking, etc. In all things, find balance.


Is the world really worse than ever?


No. But it certainly generates clicks, doesn’t it.


<rant>

The world has it's priorities completely fucking backwards, is the problem. We've got a million dead every year in Africa because of AIDS. It's a completely preventable problem. No one seems to give a shit. Over 100k dead from covid-19 in a few shorts months. But, this weekend, I was bombarded with "news" about Trader Joe's "racist packaging." What the fuck?

Maybe I'm cynical but this most of the news that I come across lately looks like standard election cycle bullshit to me.

</rant>


One great strategy is subscribing to a weekly or monthly newspaper/magazine. If it's not important enough to make it into the weekly news, it's not that important.


I did the same. Now I’ve stopped using reddit as a news source, I feel a lot more upbeat. Plus my news cycle is a lot more localised now, which is a win!

I also unsubscribed from subreddits who started allowing false, but entertaining posts (like a image with a fake caption for karma). That was a good choice.


I started doing that in general several years ago. I now regularly cull anything from my life that I identify as a source of negativity. For me it's mainly relationships with people that end up generating high levels of negativity and I suppose Reddit does count as that. It was one of the first things to go. I deleted my accounts and the app and went completely cold turkey. I have more recently reintroduced it but more carefully, sticking to a few choice subreddits.


Yeah reading hacker news since 4 hours and didn't even planned to open it. Now the world is more dangerous and don't know if people are commenting or GPT-3 bots.

Any solutions to find sleep?


Read a really charming and escapist novel. Worst case, you end up staying up too late because the book is so good, but I haven't found anything more reliable for making me disconnect from the world and its churning. Substituting a book for Twitter for the hour before bed has markedly improved the overall quality of my life.

To get yourself into the habit, don't read anything on your "to read someday list of important books." Just pick the most notorious page turner you can think of.


Recent reads that I recommend: N.K. Jemison's Broken Earth Trilogy. Alix Harrow's Ten Thousand Doors of January. Madeline Miller's Circe. Murakami's 1Q84.

Although with a little more thought, 1Q84 might be more upsetting now than it was last year.


I just had "Broken Earth" recommended to me from someone else as well. Guess that is going to the top of the list - thanks!


Completely agree. Reading a book before bed slows my mind and removes the days anxieties. I’m currently reading The Lost Fleet sci-fi series. Pure entertainment.


For sci-fi I really enjoyed the Three Body Problem series


Thanks! I have a couple books left in this series, then I'll check our your suggestion.


Anecdotally, I've had much better sleep when reading a book just before bed than anything else. Even just cutting of twitter/ screens before bed didn't get me the same kind of relaxed, gentle sleep as reading, say, 50 pages of sff.


I recommend Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy


Whoa, slow down there, Satan.


?? What?

Blood Meridian has dark moments in the narrative sure, but it’s a beautifully written book and very easy spaghetti western adventure to get lost in before bed. It’s not like you’re dozing off reading The Necronomicon, c’mon.


It's my favourite book but it's hardly easy-reading for many people. It's grim and would challenge a few people I bet. I could read writing like that about the desert forever, but not everyone is so inclined.

I think everyone should read it, but I can also appreciate an "easy there, Satan"-type joke about it!


Yeah, I've read most of Cormac McCarthy's books, but I've never gotten past the first 50 pages of Blood Meridian. Even compared to Child of God, it just hit me in the wrong ways whenever I read it. Still hoping to get to it someday though!


Commit to it. It's sublime.

Last one I read was Suttree while over in the US camping in the South-East.


I never thought I’d hear someone call Blood Meridian a “spaghetti western adventure”. Makes it sound like The Magnificent Seven!


I meant to say spaghetti-ish, but edited it out to fix some grammar and forgot to put it back. So it goes


In the middle of that book now. Deeply calming.


Any good book recommendations? I just finished Red Notice by Bill Browder which was fantastic.


If you're interested in Russia, Revolutionary Russia by Orlando Figes was really good. It's a (brief) history of the Soviet Union.


I don't "doomscroll" much but I definitely "FOMO scroll". I'll scroll through HN and my multi-reddit of programming subreddits to see if there's anything cool and new to learn or see what's happening in the tech world. I don't feel anxiety but it's definitely something I don't need to be doing right before bed


Put down your phone - stop staring at it at the gym, in line, on the toilet, at any time there's a lull in the activity - try just observing things around you. Read novels, especially before bed. Stop feeling like you have to be an informed and empowered member of society at all times on all issues. Develop hobbies that aren't related to tech - especially ones that force you to get outside and don't require high tech, expensive equipment. Get hobbies that force you to interact with people who aren't college educated and who aren't highly liberal tech people in a coastal bubble. Train for something hard - a marthon, a weightlifting competition, a martial arts tournament. You'd be amazed at how quickly all this shit becomes noise when you have things to do, and you get away from the bubble you're in.


> Stop feeling like you have to be an informed and empowered member of society at all times on all issues.

This probably isn’t entirely the point you were trying to make with that sentence, but I feel like reading a book about an issue instead of trying to inform yourself through doomscrolling social media will actually do more to being an informed and empowered person.


> Stop feeling like you have to be an informed and empowered member of society at all times on all issues.

I think this is an underrated comment. Nothing wrong with staying informed to an extent but when it becomes all consuming (esp through social media and 24/7 news), it is essentially taking on the world day in, day out. That's a large burden to absorb for any individual and the loss of control one feels breeds anxiety.


It’s going to be a few years before “interact with people” in real life is a reasonable thing to do.


When I can, I try to get off my computer. Go do some woodworking or read a book or go for a walk. Get some hobby, any hobby, that gets you away from screens and utilizing your own brain instead of looking things up on the internet or over analyzing stuff cuz you read too much about it online. Just get away from the damn machine. Then, when it's time for bed, I don't even think about scrolling, my mind if off in whatever I was doing, and how I'm going to do it different/better/what i'll do next. I do find myself falling into the same traps and roped back at times though. Or just clear out all your reddit subs and replace em with porn ones. Clears out the "doom scrolling" real quick anyway...


Definitely exercise, works wonders. A bike ride or run, even a few sets of pushups and crunches


Do something offline that avoids giving your brain the sense of "Something new must be happening and I need to know what it is." I like video games, which is sort of a compromise (there's still more to do, you can see the number go up, etc., but there's no realtime pressure), but reading a physical book or listening to music are both good options to (and avoid emitted light, for bonus points).


I've found that weight-lifting really puts my sleep in order. It's not only restful, it also feels good to sleep after a workout.


Exercise helps, a lot. I'd spend my days riding my bike, if I could. Helps get rid of some of the despair and worry and I definitely sleep better. And ... yeah, can't really check twitter while out on the bike!


History podcasts (Mike Duncan's Revolutions and Fall of Civilizations have been working for me). Set a 15-30 minutes timer and it works wonderfully.

No Dan Carlin, though. That man's voice is caffeine.


I listen to a Sci-fi/futurism Podcast. Dude has a very calm voice, content is interesting, but not too complicated to keep you awake. Works great.


I thought sleeping to a podcast was crazy until I found Sleep With Me, and I ended up putting it on pretty frequently, 2-3 nights/week. It's really calming. Guy incoherently recaps episodes of shows.


Could you share the name?


Isaac Arthur / SFIA


Thank you!


Got any Chamomile tea?


I try,thanks


I use the following golden advice: don't bring your phone in the bedroom.

We bought a simple digital alarm clock and suddenly we both slept way better and didn't had any trouble to fall asleep.

Reading a book also helps putting your mind in an off state.


Social media is addictive by design and it's easy to slip into these bad habits. Gloomy, sensational news/opinions is good for "engagement" metrics and that's what people inevitability find themselves drowning in if they don't create clear boundaries around usage.

At times, I've become so miserable from it that I've had to jump into a cold shower to snap out of the doom and gloom. Thankfully, the cold shower usually works and provides incentive not to fall into the habit again.


I found my way to escape doomscrolling is to never user the homepage of Twitter. Instead I have lists set up for Friend, Interests (People who tweet science / tech news), and News outlets. I then bookmark those 3 lists, and only read the first 2 unless I WANT to read the latest news. I never seen 99% of the people I'm following, trends or adverts, I just see what I want to see on the platform.


Quote: "Karen Ho, a finance reporter for Quartz, has been tweeting about doomscrolling every day over the past few months, often alongside a gentle nudge to stop and engage in healthier alternatives."

Now that right there is a finesse irony


If you want help setting limits, I made an extension called Intention that many people find helpful: https://www.getintention.com/

HN thread of its launch: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22936742


Unfollow anyone who retweets outrage tweets, or posts low-effort content, follow people who post original, high effort content, and never go to the twitter's home page -- read only the latest tweets in chronological order. This will considerably reduce tweets that target emotional triggers or simply waste time.


Maybe people should utilize social media for things they enjoy instead of solely sources of news. Of course people you follow will end up posting news anyway but it won’t be solely stream of ‘doom and gloom’.


I think news takes more of a front seat these days. Lots of history in the making.


It does and it's important and I'm not suggesting people purposely ignore it, I just don't know how you get to the point where it's saturated your social feeds so much that you get this kind of phenomenon. I get a lot of news or people posting political commentary, which I enjoy seeing, but it's also mixed in with a lot of music or design or game dev stuff or whatever.

Like another comment here mentioned, the diversity of content (and maybe slightly less political news) is why people like HN, so maybe I've just been lucky to be able to 'curate' my Twitter similarly.


Well for instance, I only use Twitter for news/activism. it's not aligned for anything else


History will always be in the making.


Yes, but with varying pace. Let's hope it doesn't get even faster.


Is it happening faster or are you consuming it quicker?


Hmm. Probably both.

On the second thought, it seems like that's a very good question, for these two processes are maybe in a positive feedback loop. This year we pay more attention to news, and this makes us both more susceptible and more exposed to things like "the moment to act is now".


I read a few years ago that there's more history happening than historians can keep up with. Scary thoughts


Sure, but sometimes the history involves a superpower teetering on the brink of fascist dictatorship, or a once-in-a-century pandemic wreaking havoc around the world. Events that will define the space of possibilities for decades to come.

At those times it’s a bit more important to stay at least partially informed than when the biggest crisis is a new highway project going over budget or a political leader’s extramarital affairs.


Agreed but as a slight tangent history is not about just recording the major events but the little ones too. Who knows what will be important in the future. Maybe that little startup that just got ignored on demo day is gonna change the world as we know it.

I agree, stay informed. But really.... How many times a day do you need to be updated on the recent developments and the current status?

In the past people would get their news once a day in the paper and then later at certain times on the radio and early TV. Is that enough to stay informed?

What has happened in the last 12 hours that I must know now instead of just catching a summary tomorrow morning?


>Sure, but sometimes the history involves a superpower teetering on the brink of fascist dictatorship

Boy, did you miss the point of the article and discussion


In a nutshell, the article says that reading a lot of scary news causes anxiety, and if you listen to your therapist and steeply limit that reading and spend your time eating ice cream and watching cat videos instead, you can reduce that anxiety.

Sometimes anxiety (fear, rage) is well justified. Sometimes large-scale threats are real.


I had to uninstall twitter as it was just too frustrating and utterly useless for conversation, but that's how I make Reddit work for me - I joined a bunch of subreddits I was interested in and dropped the rest. If I want to, I can browse /r/popular or /r/all, but otherwise I'm just looking at what I want.


This article really only touches the surface of the issue and, despite hinting at deeper problems, refuses to acknowledge them.

A potentially endless stream of seamlessly accessible information (aka continuous scrolling down) is bad, not because of the content read, but because it manages to manipulate the user into going on and on and on and on.

The article touches on that tangentially ...

> Aldao, the director of Together CBT, a clinic that specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy, has worked with her patients to cut back on doomscrolling.

... but fails to point out that the conclusion is not to control which content is being taken in, but to ban doomscrolling altogether, because it's some form of automaticity making you more perceptible to being psychologically manipulated.

That's why it's so successful and that's why it's so bad.

That's why patients are being treated with CBT, because apparently that's what it takes to get her to stop doing it instead of her simply stopping doing it. She simply can't.


I have found it useful to RTFAs on Twitter/Facebook, not just read the clickbait, anxiety inducing headlines.

Not always, but many stories have some nuance that’s missing in social media outrage and replies.

Like I said, not always, but it does help anxiety to get all the facts. Especially when I ruminate on something after seeing just the headline or the replies.


From my own personal experience: back in March, when COVID started getting out of control, I found myself desperately trying to get access to more and better information from experts in the field. I turned to twitter, to try to get more and better information on the subject. This inevitably turned into 'doomscrolling'.

I felt that there was a lot of nuanced scientific opinions that reporters were doing a poor job of communicating. I get that often deeply technical topics are complicated, but I think more than anything else COVID has helped how unprepared media has been in communicating these complex topics.

And it's not just COVID; it's been a range of subjects such as law (Trump's immigration ban) and elections (in particular the 2020 Democratic primary and all the media coverage over Bloomberg's supposed supremacy in the race). I think overall journalists are well intentioned and can be trusted in most situations, but it's clear to me that there are systemic failures in communicating complex subjects.


I love HN because there is no risk of doomscrolling.

Articles here point to the real diversity of what is happening.


I love HN too, but I'm dubious it "points to the real diversity of what is happening." It mostly just has politics turned down to 2-3 out of 10.


What diversity? HN removes any article critical of the mainstream leftist narrative. They removed this article when it was published https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/22/opinion/california-housin...


I remember someone I knew in college who read twitter a lot. It made him angry all the time and kind of unpleasant to be around. Eventually he quit and was much happier. I wish my mom would do that.


I need Twitter for support for my product, but I don't really use it that often. So a while ago I set it up to be basically write-only: I use Zapier to send me emails for @mentions and relevant search terms, and I reply to those from a TweetBot instance which only has columns for mentions and the same search terms. So I can reply if something needs replying to and send product updates, but otherwise I don't see Twitter at all. It's been a huge time saver and mental health improvement.


Doomscrolling at least is passive. The active version I think would be “Doomsaying”, which I have become addicted to I feel.

Going through my comment history, I often find it littered with comments that give a sense of hopelessness and inevitable misery. Highly cynical, sometimes toxic, wouldn’t feel out of place among the lamentations of the undying. Not sure how I got this way, but probably came after a long history of doomscrolling.


While I wish I have more will power to actually stay away from my phone, especially at bedtime, the second best solution I found useful is to set timers for addictive apps. If I use up the allotted time for an app, it will be disabled for the rest of the day. Also there is Focus mode on Android that disables distracting apps while working.


One thing I found useful was installing Sudoku on my phone. If I feel the urge for a dopamine hit from the internet I play a have of Sudoku instead. It gives me a hit but without the anxiety and I find the focused thinking it causes very helpful if I'm procrastinating.


This is the reason why I added a sentiment filter to the rss reader I built. Now I can put together a few rss feeds in a folder and filter out bad news, needs some more work but it gives good results already. (Https://aktu.io)


There are a lot of suggestions for "long form" and "books" here. Are none of you keeping up with this pandemic and what your country/state/city recommended behaviours, laws and bylaws are?


Their are some deeper news aggregations. I would argue that Twitter is just so absolutely shallow, that it offers a misrepresentation of reality.

I read the Wall Street Journal for general/business/politics news. I feel that you really have to pay for news if you want accurate reporting. Goldman Sachs has an ok podcast for market updates.

For transient issues, you really need to dig around for where the field experts are posting their analyses... ...but it's also important not to get sucked into every online controversy/story. Achieving your life goals is about FOCUS - and most news are just distractions.

For Pandemic stuff, I listen to the 10 min clinical updates on TWIV every few days, and watch the numbers on the New York Times data charts (not the articles).

The Sans internet storm for IT security, because I'm in that field.

If there's a Iran/NK conflict going on, I'll listen to the Arms Control Wonk podcast analysis. Stuff like that - there are some great experts podcasts out there.

If I'm bored, I'll read HackerNews and ZeroHedge.

I have found very little value in what my local city/state officials have to say.


You can switch on the radio once a day for half an hour and get a full update while you make breakfast or something - doesn’t need any more than that really. And no chance of commenting!


That makes sense. I'm confused by the people who are saying "I only consume long form" or "I only read books".

If they said, "I dropped facebook/twitter and now get my news in short bursts from the radio"; I would have thought them wise.


This is actually a lot of what I use Twitter for. I follow some local people in the business community and local government officials to get news about what's going on here. I follow a few journalists I trust to get info about the world. And I follow some tech ppl to get cool tech stuff.


That's pretty much my twitter feed, plus some authors like Cory Doctorow.


None of that is posted on websites with "doomscrolling". Most countries publish their laws and recommendations on their own websites.

People kept up with laws before twitter and reddit.


> None of that is posted on websites with "doomscrolling".

Officials of my city, province and country post regular COVID updates on Twitter.


Of course I'm keeping up with it. It takes about 15 minutes a week to do so.


My problem is scrolling, doom or otherwise.


I'm curious if there's any existing effort to provide media on smartphones without scrolling. Not just “non-infinite scroll”, actually no scroll. Like, you have a page of text and to get to the next you swipe to flip, or tap a region (like on ereaders).


I think that would be an excellent addition to the iOS Safari reader mode, where your intent is already to change the behaviour and look of the web page. That reader mode has saved me from a really badly formatted web page many times.


The worst part is the moment you realise Twitter wants you to feel this way, they could actually only feed you positive things but instead they see it as their moral imperative to push this anxiety on you.


I got a Nokia 8110 4g to use as a secondary phone during not-work times. Can't browse much on a phone with a tabless browser. Also, it is very 90s cool.


Yeah I hate this. I signed up for 1 email newsletter, axios, for a morning and evening update. Thats plenty of news. You just have to quit cold turkey if thats not enough. If your on facebook you can use plugins like facebook purity to filter out 90% of the junk. That's the only social media that I actually pay attention to. I'm sure there are other filter programs for twitter and similar out there.


This is something I noticed a while ago. Some people just seem to be addicted to the feeling of impending doom. It's really tiring because the most of these topics are akin to someone standing with a sign saying "the doom is right around the corner" but then it turns out that around that corner there's just an another dude with the exact same sign.


The circumference of the situational threat awareness of a deer is around 100 meters.

For the vast bulk of the human experiences, our approximate level of situational threat awareness wasn’t all that much different.

It’s unsurprising that unmediated, we expand that circumference and simultaneously experience a proportional increase in our general level of anxiety.


"Focus on what you can control" addresses the root of the problem. It's good to know what's going on in the world, but there's no point in stressing over it. I know it can be hard, but once you convince yourself these things aren't worth your energy things get a lot more pleasant.


I definitely found myself wasting more time recently scrolling through Twitter e.g. in the evening or when compiling code. I actually quite like the site but I find there's more and more irrelevant stuff on my feed so I don't really like feel like I get as much value from it, yet the addictive nature of the feed still makes you refresh it.

I was aware I was doing this but didn't do anything about it until I was prompted by this article, which I think was posted on here recently: https://craigmod.com/essays/how_i_got_my_attention_back/. For me it really hit the nail on the head about wanting to reclaim your attention a bit, but that these companies have thousands of people working on systems to try and claim your attention for themselves, so it's no wonder it's hard.

I made a few small changes as a result of this:

- I used Screen Time on my iPhone to block all apps except essential ones (clock, calendar, notes, Philips Hue) for the first hour of my day

- I logged out of Twitter on my Firefox and instead logged into it in a container tab, which takes a few extra clicks to open

- I logged out of Twitter on my iPhone, so I have to log in to access it

- I didn't install Twitter on my new iPad

I've found these changes have made a big difference - I think particularly blocking apps in the morning. It feels like if you can "control" your attention a bit more in the first part of your day, that continues somewhat throughout the day, then adding in the slight hurdles to access the site throughout the day causes you to stop and think "do I really want to do this?" when your reflex to just open a new tab and type "tw<enter>" or to scroll while you're stood in a queue or whatever kicks in.

I still do browse Twitter and other time wasting sites a little bit, which I'm fine with, but I feel like I'm doing it more conciously - sometimes after a long day I'll think "I just fancy sitting on the sofa and reading the news and looking on Twitter" and I'm fine with that, as it's something I've chosen to do.

It's only been a few weeks so I don't want to speak too soon, but I'm feeling really happy with this approach so far, without having to go atomic and delete Twitter entirely as I do get some value from it.


See "The Program Dependence Graph and Its Use in Optimization"

https://www.cs.utexas.edu/~pingali/CS395T/2009fa/papers/ferr...


> Still, you incessantly scroll though bottomless doom-and-gloom news for hours as you sink into a pool of despair. This self-destructive behavior has become so common that a new word for it has entered our lexicon: "doomscrolling."

Imagine having the guts to call a behavior "self-destructive" when you are directly complicit in that behavior, and knowingly contribute to the effect by having a doomsayer bias for better clickbait.

Look no further than the current NPR frontpage to expose the hypocrisy: "The End Of $600 Unemployment Benefits Will Hit Millions Of Households And The Economy"

They know the effect that titles such as these have on people, yet they continue. It's as if a food vendor laces their food with heroin and then claim repeat customers are being "self-destructive".


Do you have a suggestion for a "non-hypocritical" title for that article? Or are you saying NPR shouldn't be reporting on the cessation of one of the few pandemic response programs that help the average person?


That title’s editorialised.

How about just ‘$600 Unemployment Benefit Scheme to End’?


It seems like you’re using “editorialised” as a pejorative, but I don’t necessarily understand how it’s negative. Nothing about the headline is hyperbolic or an exaggeration.

The string of events from “unsafe to work” —> “cannot work” / “went to work sick” —> “no benefits” does have a direct impact on the economy, unless I’m missing some section there.


> It seems like you’re using “editorialised” as a pejorative

No it's a dispassionate statement of fact.

Sometimes when I'm choosing not to get too wound up in current events I just want to know what's going on expressed in the simplest way possible. A briefing. I'm sure their opinion here on the impact is extremely sensible, but sometimes I'm not interested in anyone's opinions, no matter how obvious or sensible.

This thread was about how to avoid getting involved in people's opinions and just learning the essential facts that you may have to do something about, like a new law to wear a mask, wasn't it?


That's not editorial, that's analysis.

Editorial would be adding ... "and that's a bad thing" or "and that's a good thing"


Yes I suppose it's analysis - but doesn't all analysis include some editorial judgement?

I mean it isn't literally a fact that it will definitely hit the economy, unless they've got a time machine, it's just their opinion. I'm sure it will prove to be a completely correct opinion! But it's still an editorial opinion. Sometimes you don't want any opinions, you just want the facts, thanks.


I built an app to limit browsing on my Mac... Been perfectly happy without reading the news.

https://focuslite.app


Interesting that the "More Stories From NPR" right below the article is a clear invitation to continue your doomscroll-workout. /s


Does anyone have suggestions for sources of more positive short to medium form reading material?


I would like to challenge the idea of "being informed".

So I went through some health issues in the last few months and I had to radically lower my stress (used to be in politics - that thing will kill you ;) ). So I "unplugged". No media, no social media. No talking politics.

It was like a MASSIVE weight was lifted of my brain. I looked around and realized ... I, at that moment, was a bright spot in a sea of darkness.

Everybody was depressed, anxious. The only thing anybody is talking about is how bad things are. Try looking for movies or TV shows to watch ... that are NOT dark/depressing/negative/cynical etc. You'll have a VERY hard time finding them today. I've gone back to watching old movies and TV shows from better times. We're living in dark times. Literally.

So, back to my challenge:

World has changed and the ROI of "staying informed" has changed. Specifically, the PERSONAL cost (effects on your mental and physical health, quality of life, quality of relationships etc.) has changed - it is now astronomically high. We all "know" that social media and media companies are spending ridiculous amounts of capital devising ever better ways to keep their "users" stressed so that they keep coming back and keep staying on their platforms.

But the "users" are US. And we're also the ones paying for it. With our health. With our quality of life. With our happiness.

So .. is it worth it?

Let's think about it. Will you knowing every daily-politics titbit really ... change anything? Has it ever in the last few decades? So why pay the PERSONAL COST of knowing what [insert crazy person from other side] said today?

What I propose will be good for your, personally, but I would argue, will also be better for democratic political systems: take a step back.

If you're not ACTIVELY FIGHTING A POLITICAL BATTLE RIGHT THIS WEEK then you don't need to know what's going on this week. You don't need more then 10 minutes every week/ every two weeks to pickup any and ALL news that's actually relevant to you. If something big happens in the meantime ... trust me, you'll know. People will tell you.

But what does ACTIVELY mean. Well first it means you IN THE FIGHT, your spending non-trivial amount of effort lobbying, organizing political groups etc. Most of you are NOT in the fight. But even if you think you are ... as was I ... there's a second parameter: can you win? Do you really have the Minimum Required Resources to even have a chance? Because you probably don't. Most modern "grass roots" groups don't. I know, I lost years to this mistake. Nothing wrong with that - it just means you should be focusing on getting the Minimum Required Resources first. But there's the catch: social media companies, with their numbers of likes, irrelevant impression numbers and the like are giving you a feeling like your changing something. But you're not, you really aren't.

So, step back. See the bullshit of the standard Divide and rule[1]/Bread and circuses[2] propaganda, that's keeping you distracted so you don't notice the big trends that ACTUALLY matter.

So step back. Stop spending your emotional energy on daily outrages. Spend a few minutes a week following the big trends so you know who to support when it comes down to it.

Now for my most radical proposition: the only thing that really matters in politics is money. Those who spend money to rule ... rule. No, taxes don't count as you're not the one spending that money.

So spend some money. First support some NGOs who are ACTUALLY fighting (with lobbyists and policy proposals) for the big picture stuff you care about. Then support a party or a candidate that listen to those NGOs. Make sure to tell them so and to switch your support when they go astray.

Then unplug for a week.. The world of politics will still be there next week.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divide_and_rule [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bread_and_circuses


Great to have a name for the problem.


I don't like the implication that mental health is just feeling good. Maybe if more people would read and understand the news, and feel bad about it, they'd be willing to do even trivial things like wear a mask.

In my opinion, good mental health should be considered to be that your feelings align with reality. If reality sucks, it's not mentally unhealthy to feel bad about it. Feeling bad should spur making changes to make it better.


The issue is that understanding the news and understanding the real world can be very, very different things. An endless stream of anecdotes about rare crimes and individual misbehavior will upset anyone, but it can't help anybody understand the real world.


Also, it doesn’t sound healthy to me to read news with the attitude that a lot of the bad stuff that happens is because you just didn’t research enough and vote hard enough. The point of democracy shouldn’t be to blame the people for bad government policies and actions. It should be the government that is accountable.


many people are explicitly and intentionally voting for the bad policies and actions though, can I blame them for that?


No. They think they're voting for the good policies and actions. We can legitimately disagree over the good/bad of policies and actions.

Is instituting/increasing minimum wage: providing a livable income for those at the bottom? or denying jobs to those at the bottom (being unable to produce >= $MINWAGE)? Good/bad of the topic seems obvious, yet differing views are widely held.


I have spoken to people who have admitted their racist ideologies and motivations for voting. And I’ve interacted with people who knowingly vote for their own economic interests at the expense of society’s interests because they fundamentally believe they should take whatever they can get.

The latter example especially takes place in local elections regarding things like zoning and local ordinances and work contracts.


>I’ve interacted with people who knowingly vote for their own economic interests at the expense of society’s interests because they fundamentally believe they should take whatever they can get.

This should hopefully be balanced out by the fact that everyone gets a vote.


It’s evidently not, especially since votes aren’t equal in the US since voters in certain states have more sway in electoral college than others. Which is how we end up with leaders that the majority did not elect.


This is the United STATES, a democratic republic - not to be confused with a popular democracy outright. We recognize that in national issues, a few blocks in a major city should not be able to out-vote (and thus overrule) entire states having very different needs/interests. Issues which are appropriate for popular vote should be decided within suitably local jurisdictions. Without this balancing of "tyranny of the majority" vs "tyranny of the minority", low-population states would not have signed onto, and would not remain in, the overall federal system.

In a country so large and with so much diversity (!), no region should be able to absolutely dominate another simply by having a larger population.


You're talking about subtle economic issues, when the original point was about people dismissing the pandemic as a hoax.

One can be understood through the lense of conflict and mistake theory. The other requires a conspiracy.


I think that's a bad example, has anyone gotten elected over the corona hoax thing?

Besides, "I would rather accept the risk of virus X than the inconvenience of wearing a mask," is a perfectly legitimate position for many viruses, and deciding which ones it applies to is the exact same kind of utility balance and value debate as any other policy choice.


We all agree that it would be wrong to poison the reservoir. We all agree it’s wrong to pool our money to hire someone to poison the reservoir.

If I vote for the mayoral candidate who promises to poison the reservoir, why should that suddenly be a completely morality-free decision on my part? Just because a lot of people made the same decision I did?


For the people that voted for the mayor it would be "morality free", because they presumably believe it's the right thing to do for some reason


I would be willing to bet that refusing to wear a mask is strongly correlated with spending a lot of time reading about news and politics online.


Wearing a mask in completely about politics in the USA. Most if not all social media posts about people wearing masks have people wearing completely useless fashion items on their faces. I'm sure it is mostly because they don't know better and partly to virtue signal.

In any case there hasn't been any studies related to efficacy of wearing a mask in public to reduce the risk of infection, so not wearing a mask is not as crazy as some people make it out to be.

This all said if I would use public transport I would be wearing a mask (just not a cloth mask or a surgical mask) or if I visited other places which were packed with people, but best solution is to just not go to places which have a lot of people in them.


It's not like the "news" is the source of truth etched in stone, is it? I imagine most people were reading and probably understanding the "news" in March. That's when Dr. Fauci, the U.S. Surgeon General, the World Health Organization, and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all made "news" by stating there was no reason people in the U.S. needed to wear a mask. Politicians making the "news" by eating in Chinese restaurants. I recall the "news" taking time to chastise the hoi polloi who chose to ignore the "news" and wore masks anyway. I think the general mantra was something on the order of "masks only help frontline professionals, blah blah blah... you uniformed morons". I'm sure it's healthy to have a healthy skepticism of the "news".


reality is what a person experiences, not what they read in the news. the nano second, global reach of news has led to a warped reality that is heavily tilted towards doom. something bad that happened half way across the planet is instantly served up on a global scale. the scope of the news is no longer human scale, thus our inability to ever find balance in our perception of reality. put more influence in the immediate reality you personally experience and the balance will return. i haven’t looked at the news in two months and now get my news by asking friends and family whats going on. if something interests me, i will actively seek out more info on the subject/event. good luck.


>Maybe if more people would read and understand the news, and feel bad about it, they'd be willing to do even trivial things like wear a mask.

The actual actionable news is like 1/1000th of the news if not less...


If you were paying close attention to the news in Feb-April, you were being told not to wear a mask.


The media have been particularly bad at explaining that our best knowledge changes with time, as we figure out any test things, and governments even more so.

Our understanding of the way the virus is transmitted changed quite a lot in 6 months. At some point we thought it was mostly spread by direct contact; then by droplets; now we believe it is airborne, to a certain extent. Governments also had the incentive to limit use of PPE to critical workers because of the short supply. It was also obvious that several governments were clueless. So yes, you were told not to wear a mask, whilst at the same time you were provided with facts that contradicted it. This was obvious if you were following the news, particularly the evolution of the then-epidemic in China, Taiwan and South Korea.

Well, for that you need to follow real news, not Fox, the Mail, or disinformation campaigns spread by social media. You also need a grip on how science works, because journalists won’t explain, and often don’t seem to understand.


Even if it were as simple as you make it sound, which I disagree with: so what? Our understanding of the world improves over time.


Not really. Almost all of the research that supports masking was done years ago. I spent March getting shouted down in various places because I read that research and concluded that people should be wearing masks. It took a machine learning researcher of all people to bring people around to what was obvious to anyone who spent a few hours reading scientific research.

The average reporter for a newspaper simply doesn't have the time to actually understand a topic. They talk to a few people, and with the current political environment, everything they hear is agenda driven.

Spend your information gathering time in a more productive way. If you really feel you need to be up to date, read the week in review section of one of the national newspapers.


I live in a country where that's still the mandate.


True, but in moderation. Looking at a homepage twice a day or reading a newsletter and responding accordingly is a very different habit than scrolling an infinite, constantly updated feed.


Half the people doomscrolling are sitting up worried about a different set of things. The point of the article is that it’s not healthy for anyone. You’re not going to cut off resurgent Marxism by refreshing Newsmax in a loop in a loop.

You’re also overlooking a very important fact of life. Overlooking other people’s suffering is an inherent human defense mechanism, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. You invoke it every time you spend a few grand on a vacation—an amount of money that could save a human life from malaria or feed a child in Bangladesh for a decade.


I will say, it must be nice to spend so much time worrying about problems that don't exist instead of all the ones that actually do. Seems like it'd be a real comfort.


If you had told me 25 years ago that in my home country (Bangladesh) people were going to be demanding removal of a statue of lady justice from in front of the Supreme Court, and that the court would oblige, and that veiling women would go from being nearly non-existent to commonplace, and that secular journalists would be getting murdered, I wouldn’t have believed you. But Islamists got control of education, and all of those things happened.

So imagine my alarm to read that 20% of social science professors self-identify as Marxist. A third of college students embrace communism. In 2017, the nation’s premier newspaper ran a sympathetic retrospective on a century of communism. Thousands of school districts are integrating material into their curriculum that claims slavery was capitalist. A bunch of people on a website associated with a startup incubator are going to read the preceding sentence and go “yeah, that makes sense.” So it feels like gaslighting for you to say it’s a “problem that doesn’t exist.” Maybe I’m being paranoid, but in my experience civilization is fragile. Better safe than sorry.

But obviously, ranting about it on HN won’t fix the problem.


> Thousands of school districts are integrating material into their curriculum that claims slavery was capitalist.

Chattel slavery of the type practiced in the early US and elsewhere was part of the dominant Western system of the mid-19th century for which critics coined the term “capitalism”; what else would it be but capitalist?


The term “capitalist” was not coined by critics of capitalism. For example, David Ricardo used the term decades before Marx. Criticizing capitalism by linking it to slavery was pioneered by Marx, and accepting that point of view is Marxist rhetoric.

It is, of course, logically invalid to claim that because slavery was practiced in countries that happened to be capitalist, that slavery is capitalist. By that logic, slavery is Christian and Islamic too—even more so. I’m not interested in debating Marx’s criticisms of capitalism: the fact that we’re even having this conversation proves my original concern—the resurgence of Marxism in America. I will point out that, in contemporary usage “capitalism” assumes a free market, which is incompatible with slavery both in theory and in practice. (America got richer after it abandoned slavery, which is what free market theories of economics would predict.) Trying to link what people understand capitalism to be today, to the proto-capitalism practiced in the American south, is layering specious argument upon specious argument.


> The term “capitalist” was not coined by critics of capitalism

The term “capitalist” for people who control capital was not, the term “capitalism” for a politicoeconomic system (from which comes “capitalist” in its other sense of an advocate/defender of that system, or, as an adjective, pertaining to that systemas, opposed to labelling a particular economic class) was.

> It is, of course, logically invalid to claim that because slavery was practiced in countries that happened to be capitalist, that slavery is capitalist.

It would.be, but that's not the argument. Early modern chattel slavery evolved alongside capitalism, was imposed exclusively by capitalist powers, and reflects the apotheosis of the capitalist commodification of labor from the mutualism of feudal relations, even beyond wage-labor, and the evolution beyond capitalism in the direction, if not by the means, advocated by critics like Marx that led to the modern mixed economy displacing the system for which “capitalism” was coined began with abolition of slavery.

Early modern chattel slavery (not slavery more generally, such as feudal or ancient patriarchal slavery, including serfdom) was a distinctly and exclusively capitalist institution.


It may be "capitalist" in the sense that things are being bought/sold/owned sure. But it's being portrayed as a concept/occurrence that is mostly if not entirely a product of capitalism. Which is plain wrong because we've had slavery and various forms of it in a multitude of situations and political systems throughout history, a lot of which were in no way capitalist. It's white-washing a lot of our collective history and suffering just as like claiming that slavery was purely done by "western", "white" or "imperialist" nations.

The debate is very muddled because we're breaking standard definitions and using them each in our own way. I struggled to phrase the above properly, and no doubt I'm probably misusing some of the terms on some level.


It doesn't matter if there's a historical precedent. Each system is defined by the incentives it sets up. The incentives set up by capitalism are clearly instrumental to the vast expansion of slavery.


A massive and obvious flaw in the "capitalism is slavery" argument is the fact that American agriculture became MORE profitable after slavery was abolished.

After the Civil War ended, as soon as the labor costs had to be factored in, it became increasingly clear that cotton is a dumb crop to plant at the scale it was being planted. Planters moved to other crops that could be profitable. Slavery essentially held capitalism (the efficient allocation of capital) back. This is why the Great Plains are the most productive agricultural land today, not the South. Syria or Libya, with actual, present day slaves are noticeably unable to produce much agriculture

The abolition of slavery exposed the essential government subsidization of a misallocation of capital, which is inherently un-capitalistic.


> A massive and obvious flaw in the "capitalism is slavery" argument is the fact that American agriculture became MORE profitable after slavery was abolished.

“Capitalism” and “maximizing systemic, aggregate profitability” aren't even related concepts, much less so intimately linked that not doing the latter proves that something is not an element of the former.


And "slavery" and "private ownership of the means of production" are similarly orthogonal.

If the means of production were owned by the government, and the government forced its citizens to work uncompensated against their will, with no option to leave, could one then contend that socialism/communism is inextricably linked to slavery? No, that's absurd. Involuntary servitude can exist in any economic system, whether the means of production are owned by the people or by the government.

Slavery can only exist if the government actively enforces the ability for one to own another human being against their will. While it's absolutely correct that capitalism is rooted in private ownership of property, it by no means presupposes that humans MUST be considered property. On the other hand, capitalism can only really function in a world where all transactions are bilaterally voluntary, which is anathema to slavery.


> On the other hand, capitalism can only really function in a world where all transactions are bilaterally voluntary

That depends on whether by “capitalism” you mean “the real-world economic system which emerged through the relentless pursuit of class advantage by the mercantile class as they displaced the feudal aristocracy as the ruling class and which was named ‘capitalism’ by it's critics” or “the aspirational ideal that defenders of that real world system rationalized it as striving imperfectly toward to distract from the characteristics of the real world system itself in a perpetual game of ‘No True Scotsman’”.

For the former, no, it relies almost entirely on economic coercion by denying practical freedom of choice for most of the population to serve the ends for which it was pursued by the class that relentlessly advanced it, and the form of commodified chattel slavery which with it replaced the patriarchal slavery of the feudal era fits well within that.

For the latter, sure, slavery is incompatible with that rationalization. But so is literally everything because the ideal is incoherent.


> For the former, no, it relies almost entirely on economic coercion by denying practical freedom of choice for most of the population to serve the ends for which it was pursued by the class that relentlessly advanced it, and the form of commodified chattel slavery which with it replaced the patriarchal slavery of the feudal era fits well within that.

Nearly every single modern first world country, from Canada to Singapore to New Zealand to Switzerland to Sweden...all operate on capitalist systems where the majority of industries are privately owned, and operate for profit. They also happen to have robust safety nets where the exact sort of economic coercion is difficult to carry out. To argue that slavery is somehow inextricably linked to the dominant economic system of these countries is plainly absurd, in the same way that it's plainly absurd to claim that slavery is inextricably linked to communism/Marxism just by virtue of the practical manifestation of it we've seen in the 20th century, and not the theoretical ideal as posed by Marx. The whole point here is that slavery is orthogonal to the economic system, not an underlying prerequisite for it.

> in a perpetual game of "No True Scotsman"

> For the latter, sure, slavery is incompatible with that rationalization. But so is literally everything because the ideal is incoherent.

You either need to compare the platonic ideal of communism to the platonic ideal of capitalism, or stick with comparing the empirical outcomes of capitalism as it has been tried all over the developed world today with communism as it has been tried in the real world. You appear to be trying to compare the platonic ideal of communism with the empirical manifestation of capitalism, and then balk when I counter with my own platonic ideal. Compare apples to apples.


> On the other hand, capitalism can only really function in a world where all transactions are bilaterally voluntary

That condition has not been true at any time in the history of Capitalism. Since that's only possible if the two parties are perfectly equal, which obviously is almost never the case, and certainly not a state of affairs that the proponents of Capitalism wants or have ever wanted.

In reality, unless born into property/wealth, one is not a voluntary party of such a transaction, and its voluntariness decreases in proportion to the socioeconomical situation of the party at that time.


Of course, nobody is credibly arguing that we are anywhere close to the platonic ideal of a capitalist system — in the same way that at no point in the history of humanity have we had a truly communist or socialist system.

If your argument is that the inverse relationship between "voluntariness" and socioeconomic status is anathema to capitalism, that reinforces the idea that literal slavery is even further from that platonic ideal.

As an aside, capitalists love UBI for this reason: it gets us that much closer to truly universal voluntary transactions, because when one is no longer worried about starving to death, they can rationally participate in all economic transactions in a free society.

But the point remains the same: slavery (or more abstractly, involuntary servitude) is orthogonal to the underlying economic system. It can exist in any economic system. Most of the developed world today is largely capitalist, and without slavery. Conversely, some of history's most well known efforts in installing Marxist communism also notably featured forced labor camps where people were compelled to work involuntarily.


As I've said in another comment in this thread; each system is defined by the incentive structure it sets up.

The Stalinist structure is set up to be ripe for corruption, abuse of power, etc. That is what it will be rightly remembered for.

The Capitalist structure is set up to be ripe for exploiting whatever there is to be exploited at that particular time to accumulate capital. That both slavery and Colonialism flourished under such an incentive structure should not be a surprise. We can see the same pattern today; exploiting whatever is possible until the moral outrage hurts profits too much or may land the execs behind bars.

> As an aside, capitalists love UBI for this reason

It's a very big assumption that a capitalist UBI would be little else than removing social security and then go on devaluing the UBI year by year. Once again, the incentives suggest exactly that. You're somehow imagining an altruistic capitalism that primarily looks for true voluntary transactions while still concentrating power and privilege in the hands of the few.


> That both slavery and Colonialism flourished under such an incentive structure should not be a surprise.

But that's factually untrue, slavery held back the accumulation of capital. American agriculture became MORE profitable after slavery was abolished. Once the actual cost of manufacturing had to be factored in, planters were forced to find more productive crops to grow. That process led to:

1. the decimation of the economy of the South, where slavery was rampant. The South had to quickly learn to industrialize to keep up

2. the steep increase in market capitalization of agricultural businesses once capital was forced to be more efficiently allocated, resulting in the agrarian revolution of the Great Plains, which remains one of America's dominant agriculture centers

Slavery quite literally does not allow the incentive structure, by your own words, to flourish.


That's outrageously ahistorical. The former slaves weren't suddenly "free" and unexploited in the US after the civil war. In many aspects they were still enslaved through various direct and indirect means.

If you're interested in not just regurgitating propaganda you can read this book: "Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II".

Furthermore your entire premise is false, even if we accept what you suggest is true, which is highly controversial, the result is not what we're talking about, but the incentive structure and what outcomes that will produce. Of course people searching to accumulate capital will endorse and proliferate low labour costs if it's possible and currently acceptable.

You do realize that both slavery and wage slavery have a cost of manufacturing right? Both needed to compete with that on the world market. What's the reason to exclude that even a slave-owning South wouldn't have switched to a more profitable produce?


His point is well established and and not controversial, except in Marxist and “new history of capitalism” circles: https://www.econlib.org/archives/2014/09/ending_slavery.html

The supposed “wealth” of the anti-bellum South is based on a rhetorical fallacy: that by categorizing human beings as “property” you could treat their long term earning power as an asset. But that’s now how economies work. We can label things whatever we want, but they are what they are. (For example, the entity that ultimately bears the economic burden of a tax in practice doesn’t depend on who the law nominally assigns to pay the tax.) Put differently, if you draw a box around the economy, you can’t increase the productive output of that box by imposing slavery. It might change the distribution of wealth within the box, it not for the economy as a whole. Economic theory says the productive capacity of the box will be maximized when labor is not coerced.

Almost all of the “slavery was economically efficient” notions come from a handful of scholars, who are historians and not economists: https://economicsdetective.com/2019/09/cotton-slavery-and-th...

The work is not only methodologically flawed, but depends on shifting definitions of “capitalism”: https://poseidon01.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=3191210060650810...

A leading NHC scholar has refused to define what he means by “capitalism” preferring to let the term “float as a placeholder.”


I have zero idea what the point of your post is except calling my reply "Marxist" then linking to right-wing blog posts to prove something?

It's still controversial even if you label the other side as Marxist.


> That's outrageously ahistorical

First of all, there's nothing "ahistorical" about the simple fact that the South's economy was decimated after the abolition of slavery, and to this day the industry that utilized slavery the most continues to be weaker than elsewhere in the Union. That is your original allegation here: that slavery necessarily flourishes under a capitalist incentive structure. That's plainly untrue, because at the same time you had no slavery in the North, and its industrial economy outpaced that of the South (read: accumulation of capital, in your words).

You see this happening today as well: in countries where slavery is unfortunately still legal (Syria & Libya), they don't have any greater accumulation of capital or output than capitalist nations that do not have slavery (nearly every first world industrialized nation). On the other hand, nearly every single modern first world country, from Canada to Singapore to New Zealand to Switzerland to Sweden...all operate on capitalist systems where the majority of industries are privately owned, and operate for profit. They are also notably devoid of indentured/involuntary servitude while also enjoying some of the greatest accumulation of wealth and capital in recorded human history.

> The former slaves weren't suddenly "free" and unexploited in the US after the civil war. In many aspects they were still enslaved through various direct and indirect means.

Sure, nobody is arguing that people in the South were suddenly "free" after the abolition of slavery. You're absolutely correct that sharecropping and other practices essentially continued to ensnare black people in the South. The point is that this DID NOT translate to greater rewards in the capitalist incentive system. During Reconstruction, planters that exploited former "free" slaves LOST the agriculture race to the Great Plains, and the industrial race to the North.

> Furthermore your entire premise is false, even if we accept what you suggest is true, which is highly controversial, the result is not what we're talking about, but the incentive structure and what outcomes that will produce. Of course people searching to accumulate capital will endorse and proliferate low labour costs if it's possible and currently acceptable.

There is nothing unacceptable about "low labor costs" in a society with robust social safety nets. Countries like Switzerland that have close to 0 poverty, the highest median wealth, and among the highest standards of living in the world also see variation in labor costs between a janitor and a doctor, or a fast food cashier and a civil engineer. Not all labor is equal in value, and the capitalist incentive structure prices labor as a function of the value that it creates for others. If your argument is that this is somehow tantamount to chattel slavery, then it's you who is regurgitating propaganda.


What I called ahistorical was the massive omission of how little changed in practice for the former slaves. In fact, it's important to establish how much the cost of labour even went up after all the manipulative methods to ensnare former slaves into a new servitude were applied?

Your entire reply are still ignoring that I'm not talking about what the best and most profitable "production method" turned out to be. You're applying the benefit of hindsight to prove that the former method was in-fact outside of the incentive structure of capitalism. That makes no sense. They are obviously not mutually-exclusive.

There's a lot of "correlation is not necessarily causation" points to explain in your argument too, but I don't want to be further ensnared in a "what was the most profitable" discussion since it's beyond the point. You can't cherry-pick the best outcome and dismiss all the other ones.


> What I called ahistorical was the massive omission of how little changed in practice for the former slaves

Yes, and what I am saying is that it has nothing to do with the central argument: that "slavery is capitalism" or "capitalism encourages slavery" or "slavery flourishes under a capitalist incentive structure" (there are N iterations of your argument, pick one and commit to it).

The fact that, after the abolition of slavery, the former slaves still continued to be exploited doesn't tell us much about the presence of a causal relationship between capitalism and slavery, because of course if the state sanctions slavery, you can't expect things to go back to normal by themselves without some state intervention in the opposite direction.

Further, your argument loses teeth for the following reasons:

1. We have the counterfactual in the North (successful wealth/capital accumulation + no slavery) that refute your central argument that you are yet to address. The North's capitalist economy grew more than the South even while having abolished slavery.

2. The fact that in the modern world, among the top 30 most capitalist countries in the world (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_economic_...), only one has some form of slavery, the UAE. This refutes your central argument, and you are yet to address it.

3. The fact that in the modern world, the bottom 3 least capitalist countries in the world (same list), there are forced labor camps (North Korea) or decrees (Venezuela, Cuba). This doesn't directly refute your central argument, rather it shows that capitalism isn't a strict prerequisite for slavery. You are yet to address this.

4. The fact that agriculture became more profitable after the abolition of slavery is a direct refutation to your central argument that you are yet to address.

> Your entire reply are still ignoring that I'm not talking about what the best and most profitable "production method" turned out to be. You're applying the benefit of hindsight to prove that the former method was in-fact outside of the incentive structure of capitalism. That makes no sense. They are obviously not mutually-exclusive.

This is borderline word salad, but we are applying the benefit of hindsight to prove that slavery and capitalism are two orthogonal systems that are unrelated. Slavery has existed in socialist systems (gulags, labor camps) as well as capitalist systems (international slave trade). If using historical facts to make a point is considered "using the benefit of hindsight", then using the benefit of hindsight is a valid strategy...

> There's a lot of "correlation is not necessarily causation" points to explain in your argument too, but I don't want to be further ensnared in a "what was the most profitable" discussion since it's beyond the point. You can't cherry-pick the best outcome and dismiss all the other ones.

You need to specify where the cherry picking is happening, because by and large the trend is universal. You also can't just hand-wave a correlation/causation argument just because you're unable to refute it.


Capitalism is the private ownership of the means of production. The means of production is usually defined as tools, machinery or technology, not people.


Chattel slavery adds certain people, namely those owned as slaves, to the "means of production" column. It's not incompatible in any way with capitalism.


It's literally incompatible with the standard definition of the word capitalism.

The fact that slaves are not free means that exchanges couldn't possibly be voluntary.


Why would that be an impediment? As far as I understand it, the principle of voluntary exchange relates to buyers and sellers in a market, not to the commodity in which the market is made. The moral enormity inherent in chattel slavery, namely that it reduces human beings to a commodity in which a market is then made, has nothing that I can see to do with whether such a market can operate in an economy run on capitalistic principles.


After reconsidering my statement, I think you may be correct. Slavery can be capitalistic if you only include the buyers and sellers as members of the market.

"Slavery is capitalism" is most certainly wrong though.

"Capitalism encourages slavery in plantation economies" would be a better argument, but might also be refuted given the gradual abolishing of slavery despite the continuance of capitalism.


> Capitalism is the private ownership of the means of production.

No, capitalism is a particular real-world economic system that existed in a particular time and place; it is true that private ownership of the means of production is a central element of that system, but it's not it's only feature. Slavery was, in fact, an element of that system identified by the people who identified the system and coined the term capitalism for it, critics like Marx, whom wrote in Capital: “Whilst the cotton industry introduced child-slavery in England, it gave in the United States a stimulus to the transformation of the earlier, more or less patriarchal slavery, into a system of commercial exploitation. In fact, the veiled slavery of the wage-earners in Europe needed, for its pedestal, slavery pure and simple in the New World.”

Capitalism, and it's evolution from feudalism, includes the development of commercial, rather than patriarchal, slavery, wherein slaves are chattels rather than, while subordinate, bound up in a system that, at least in tradition and theory, involves mutual-though-asymmetric obligations and responsibilities.


People are gaslighting me by telling me resurgent Marxism isn’t a real thing, and yet here I am having people quote Marx at me to define capitalism.


No one is gaslighting [1] you. People are arguing that your interpretation of current events is in error. By calling that "gaslighting", you implicitly claim that disagreement with you is in itself an abusive act.

Calling anyone who disagrees with you abusive seems like a pretty wild flex.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting


Well I guess it depends on what you mean that my stated concern is a “problem that doesn’t exist?”

Do you mean that Marxist ideas aren’t finding renewed currency? Nobody seems to deny that efforts to equate slavery with capitalism are critiques pioneered by Marx. Instead they seem to be arguing that Marx was correct. So the ideas do seem to be having renewed currency, in which case denying that fact is gaslighting.

If you’re arguing that it’s not a problem that Marxist ideas are being incorporated into schoolbooks, then in that case we just disagree.


What I mean is, where you seem to see Marxist ideas re-entering the sphere of public debate in the United States circa 2020 as evidence of some sort of vast generational conspiracy to subvert the US and replace its current government with some kind of Stalinist totalitarianism, I see Marxist ideas re-entering the sphere of public debate in the United States circa 2020 as a totally unsurprising and if anything long delayed response to the mounting evidence that four straight decades of untrammeled capitalism on the Reaganite model has had catastrophic results for almost everyone in the United States, to say nothing of the rest of the world.

What I don't see is any need to assume that, because Marx's critique of capital is serving as a source for those developing a modern critique of capital, Stalinism must necessarily follow. I think that's really where we disagree, and I'll admit, I feel no nearer understanding the wellspring of your fear now than I did when I started this conversation.

Your experience is of course what it is, and I can see how it would influence anyone's perspective. What I don't see is what makes events in Bangladesh 25 years ago a reliable predictor of events in the United States today.

Or, for that matter, what makes Newsmax's claims of BLM being some kind of secret Gramscian Stalinist underground a reliable predictor of anything. Conservatives in this country have been slandering their opponents with that kind of stuff for going on a century at this point, and - pace Tailgunner Joe, of whose claims I disposed in an earlier comment - it has never yet proven true. That stuff's pretty toothless at this point, even with somebody like me who's old enough to remember when the Soviet Union, and state communism in general, was still a going concern on a meaningful scale. The kids just aren't listening any more, and I see no reason why they should be.


> What I mean is, where you seem to see Marxist ideas re-entering the sphere of public debate in the United States circa 2020 as evidence of some sort of vast generational conspiracy to subvert the US and replace its current government with some kind of Stalinist totalitarianism, I see Marxist ideas re-entering the sphere of public debate in the United States circa 2020 as a totally unsurprising and if anything long delayed response to the mounting evidence that four straight decades of untrammeled capitalism on the Reaganite model has had catastrophic results for almost everyone in the United States, to say nothing of the rest of the world.

I didn't say I was worried about Marxism as a pre-text to Stalinist totalitarianism. Marxist notions are dangerous enough standing alone. In the 20 years between independence and when my family left the country, Bangladesh's GDP per capita barely doubled. In that same time period, Singapore's and Hong Kong's increased by more than a factor of 10. That was the legacy of putting Marxist ideas into practice. Capitalism, by contrast, particularly the Anglo-American variety, has been responsible for turning at least three poor countries into rich ones in the 20th century, and is on pace to turn a dozen more into at least middle income countries. These ideas have been the most powerful engine of enabling prosperity in the 20th century. Having seen the suffering socialist ideas caused in my home country, and seeing how much life has improved after we abandoned those ideas, I regard their re-introduction as an alternative to the basic Anglo-American economic system to be extremely alarming. (Note, I'm not talking about, and you don't appear to be talking about, the notion that everyone should pay "a little bit more" in taxes to fund more social services. My understanding is that we are talking about something more invasive than that.)

> Your experience is of course what it is, and I can see how it would influence anyone's perspective. What I don't see is what makes events in Bangladesh 25 years ago a reliable predictor of events in the United States today.

The story of the 20th century is that academics with ideas are often very dangerous people. (We don't think of fundamentalist Islam as academic, but in many respects that's what it is. It's a set of ideas borne out of theory, in that context theological theory, rather than learned experience, and transmitted by teaching it in schools and radicalizing young people who lack the life experience to know better.) In Bangladesh, people who had grand visions of a better world used schools to replace our practical, moderate version of Islam with a radical one. That makes me tremendously skeptical of people who want to tinker with the basic structure of society, and in doing so invoke theories that exist in books rather than the learned experience of successful societies.

> Or, for that matter, what makes Newsmax's claims of BLM being some kind of secret Gramscian Stalinist underground a reliable predictor of anything. Conservatives in this country have been slandering their opponents with that kind of stuff for going on a century at this point, and - pace Tailgunner Joe, of whose claims I disposed in an earlier comment - it has never yet proven true. That stuff's pretty toothless at this point, even with somebody like me who's old enough to remember when the Soviet Union, and state communism in general, was still a going concern on a meaningful scale

I think you fundamentally misperceive the conservative viewpoint. We point to Stalinism, Maoism, etc., as the logical outgrowth of Marxism in practice. But our concern isn't merely the Stalinist outcome. We think that Marxism is dangerous in and of itself. Western Europe's lost decades of stagnation under socialist ideas, or India or Bangladesh's lost decades, wouldn't be as bad as Stalinism, obviously. But they'd be bad, and insofar as Marxists want to tinker with the basic structure of our economy, we perceive them as a threat to our prosperity. We view their attempts to submarine Marxist ideas into schools as a bid to make our children ignorant about what created the prosperity they see around them. Most importantly, we by nature view civilization as fragile. We are grateful that we stumbled across a formula that basically seems to work—because there are few ideas that work and many more that don’t—and view attempts to rethink that formula from first principles with deep skepticism. I agree that conservatives can go too far with this (calling Obama a socialist, etc.) And they can fail to perceive important distinctions, such as the difference between BLM as a corporate entity, versus what most people who are completely unaware of the Marxist connection believe they are supporting: https://fee.org/articles/is-black-lives-matter-marxist-no-an.... But the Reagan/Thatcher-ite opposition to Marxism was basically a good thing, and destroyed it as a going concern for a good 25 years between 1990-2015. And now, as I think you even agree, it's back.


I suppose I don't understand what you're saying about the situation you saw in Bangladesh. Were the fundamentalist Islamists you described having taken over the country, via the educational system, also ideological Marxists? Is there a history of some sort that I can read, to understand better what you're describing? Just based on what you've said today, it sounds like you're adjusting the goalposts to suit the argument of the moment, but I'm sure that can't be the case. So I'd definitely appreciate the ability to develop a better understanding of the events that seem to form the basis of your argument.

With regard to the whole Marxism-and-BLM thing - I have to say, at this point, I honestly don't know. On reflection, I decided it might be better, instead of just taking your word (and Newsmax's, and it turned out also Breitbart's!) for what's in that video, if I saw and heard for myself what it contained. So I did that [1], and found that your representation of what it contains (and Newsmax's, and Breitbart's) is, and I say this with all possible charity, extremely tendentious in a way that leads me to suspect it's been deliberately stripped of context in order to sound maximally frightening to people already predisposed to be suspicious of BLM activists' motives.

In particular, when I investigated the quote of which you (and Newsmax, and Breitbart) make so much, I found that it was said in the context of answering a question raised by among others Jalil Muntaqim (born Anthony Bottom) [2], a former Black Panther imprisoned since 1974 for the murder of two police officers, over whether the Black Lives Matter movement has a coherent enough ideological direction to avoid simply "fizzling out" as Occupy Wall Street did.

Cullors' answer is, as you (and Newsmax, and Breitbart) imagine, a political one. But it's not political in the way that you think it is. Here's a transcription I made just now from the video, covering the entirety of Patrisse Cullors' answer, rather than just the part that has been so frequently taken out of context with what appears to me very strongly to be deliberately deceptive intent.

"I think that the criticism is helpful; I think a lot of things. The first thing I think is that we actually do have an ideological frame; myself and Alicia in particular are trained organizers, we are trained Marxists, we are super versed on sort of ideological theories, and I think that what we really try to do is build a movement that could be utilized by many, many Black folk. We don't necessarily want to be the vanguard of this movement; I think we've tried to put out a political frame that's about centering who we think are the most vulnerable amongst the Black community, to really fight for all of our lives, and I do think that we have some clear direction around where we want to take this movement. I don't believe it's going to fizzle out; it just gets stronger, and we see it, right? We've seen that after Sandra Bland, we're seeing it now with the interruption of the Netroots Nation Presidential Forum. What I do think, though, is [that] folks, especially folks who've been trained in a particular way, want to hear certain things from us, [and] we're not framing it in the ways that maybe another generation has. But I think it's important that people know the Black Lives Matter movement doesn't just live online, although there's many people who utilize it online. We're in a different set of circumstances, a different generation, [and while] social media may feel like it's diluting the larger ideological frame, I argue that it's not."

The reason I say that that's a political answer is, again, in the context of it being a response to critique by someone who is widely regarded as a political prisoner and, as the show host notes, an "elder of the struggle". It really comes across as kind of a "gotcha" question, and Cullors' answer is consequently phrased with care. She opens by declaring credentials of a sort that should resonate with "elders of the struggle", as it's put, and afterward quickly redirects into what she wants to talk about, which essentially is to say that, yes, Black Lives Matter is a coherent movement with a specific purpose, and as such is not liable to the same problems that hampered and eventually undermined the Occupy movement.

It's an answer in which Cullors has to triangulate between the outdated perspective of a past generation who, while still meriting respect for their own efforts toward a more equitable US society for black people, no longer have a firm grasp on the issues of the present moment, and the need to demonstrate that her own work very much is rooted in the issues of the present moment. It's political, yes, but in the office-politics sense rather than that of some sort of conspiratorial Marxism that you (and Newsmax, and Breitbart) apparently choose to see here.

And it's an answer I can respect, both because I agree that black people in the United States have literally never had a fair shot and they deserve better, and because I'm not too proud to admit that she's a hell of a lot better at that kind of interpersonal and intergenerational politics than I've ever managed to be, a lack I've often regarded with a measure of regret. I mean, I usually just say "ok, boomer". Cullors is positively gentle about it, and maybe I should learn something from that.

I have to say, I really appreciate you taking the time to engage on this subject today. Absent that, I don't know that I'd ever have had the motivation to go and find original statements of this sort from BLM organizers. I have to say, my respect for that movement, and the work that's gone and continues to go into making it a force for good in American politics, has really increased as a result of this conversation.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCghDx5qN4s

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Bottom


> Marxist notions are dangerous enough standing alone.

Marxist notions have been one of the key driving forces in the transition between late 19th Century capitalism and modem mixed economies in the developed world (though never without compromise), and haven't been even attempted to be applied anywhere outside of advanced capitalist democracies directly, only through the lens of Leninist (and later, derived from that, Stalinist and Maoist) totalitarianism, since robust capitalism with developed working class consciousness is a prequisite for the post-capitalist development in Marx’s theory, a pre-requisite abandoned and replaced with the vanguardism in Lenin’s work and it's derivatives.

> In the 20 years between independence and when my family left the country, Bangladesh's GDP per capita barely doubled.

Not sure what that has to do with Marxism, since Marxists (even in the sense of Leninists, etc.) weren't in charge most of that time, and were violently targeted by right-wing military dictatorships for substantial stretches of it.

I mean, unless you mean that Marxist notions are dangerous because holding them might get you murdered by right-wing dictatorships, which I'll grant is valid point, though not the one you seemed to be arguing for.


> People are gaslighting me by telling me resurgent Marxism isn’t a real thing

Resurgent Marxism in the developed world is a real thing, largely due to the geberal collapse of state-backed Leninism.


> A third of college students embrace communism

This sounds a lot scarier when you don't realize that, among the same set, there is all but ubiquitous contempt for "tankies", i.e. the very same Stalinist-style sort of thing you're worried about. Newsmax won't tell you that, because why would they? Keeping you frightened keeps you doomscrolling their ads.

I know about the tankie hate because I know a bunch of the people you're scared of. They're not going to burn your house down or kill you. But they do understand that they're getting a raw deal, and they have a pretty good idea of why and from whom, and they're not willing to take it lying down. Good for them, in my opinion, and seeing as they are getting a raw deal - worse than my own generation did, which is saying a lot - it's with them that my sympathies lie.

Especially in a time when the US federal government is violating its own laws at will, up to and including illegal arrests carried out Gestapo-style with no probable cause and no due process - if you can't tell the difference between a generation of young people defending their interests and the potential collapse of civilization, you really do need to read less Newsmax, because it's making you paranoid.

Mostly the kids are just looking to roll back as much as they can of Reaganism, and they're quite right to want to do so. This forty-year experiment with totally unchecked capitalism has gone on too long. It's past time to curtail and start repairing the damage.

> slavery was capitalist

Well, what else would you call it? Considered in purely economic and thus amoral terms, a chattel slave literally is capital, in the same sense that a mule or, later, a tractor, would be. That's quite literally what I was taught as a child in public grade school, growing up in Mississippi thirty years ago, and if you want to argue that the rural Mississippi school boards of the 1980s had been subverted by communists, that's fine, but you need to know up front that if you do I'm going to start calling you Joe McCarthy and I'm just never going to stop.

In any case, I have a very hard time conceiving of a world in which "slavery is capitalist" is in any way a controversial thought. Are you perhaps confusing it with "capitalism is slavery"? Because you're citing the former, but it's the latter you seem to be arguing against, in the sense that you can be said to be making any argument here at all.

You're right that ranting, on HN and elsewhere, rarely fixes anything. Have you thought about why you're impelled to do so anyway, and whether the impetus is a wholly rational one?


I appear to arguing on HN with people who are repeating Marxist critiques of capitalism back at me, so I don’t think my fears are at all irrational.

Also, see: https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1996/04/14/w...

> McCarthy, as his subsequent history would show, knew little about communism, on this side of the ocean or the other. This loutish, duplicitous bully, who carried, not the names of Reds but bottles of hootch in his briefcase died in disgrace and of alcoholism. Yet, in a global sense McCarthy was on to something. McCarthy may have exaggerated the scope of the problem but not by much. The government was the workplace of perhaps 100 communist agents in 1943-45. He just didn't know their names.

(Note that this was written by a prominent left leaning journalist based on declassified intelligence information.)


It's hardly Marxist to note that slavery and capitalism are compatible, although he may have been the first to explicitly do so. Capitalism isn't special in that regard; slavery can exist, and in various forms has existed, under every economic system known to man. Chattel slavery appears to work especially well with capitalism, as indeed has been amply demonstrated in US history, so that was what I talked about.

Granted, any such discussion omits the moral enormity inherent in any form of slavery. Economic discussions are like that. I'll grant you that the moral and economic dimensions of the slavery-and-capitalism question tend not to be too clearly separated in the public discourse of the moment, but that neither surprises nor concerns me. As I mentioned earlier, what you misidentify as "resurgent Marxism" is in fact a reaction to the totally untrammeled capitalism I called by the name "Reaganism". Considering the myriad and grievous harms that system has produced in four short decades, and considering also that that system's own proponents happily describe it just as "capitalism" without the courtesy of such qualifiers as I use, whatever misidentification or misblame it may receive seems to me well earned. Besides, it's not as if counting slavery among the crimes of Reaganism is in any way erroneous. Have you seen the US prison system?

To the rest, it should be hardly a surprise to anyone that there were Soviet agents in the US government at any point from about the early 1930s through the late 80s. Just like there were US agents in the Soviet government. And Chinese agents in both, and vice versa, and so on. The existence of espionage, and the existence of a vast Red conspiracy of subversion on a national and generational scale, are in no way the same thing, and to argue from one to the other requires a good deal more substantiation than either you or Tailgunner Joe appear inclined or indeed able to provide.

Granted, one can sometimes use the former to frighten uninformed people into believing in the latter, despite a total inability to demonstrate that the latter actually exists. You seem to want to talk about gaslighting. Has it occurred to you that, unlike merely having people argue that you're wrong about something, this sort of specious, fear-based deception may in fact qualify as such?

Btw, I just spent a little while poking around Newsmax, something I hadn't previously done since the Bush administration. I don't know whether you really do read a lot of that stuff, but if you do, maybe seriously consider cutting back, and replacing at least some of it with something from outside the filter bubble it appears strongly designed to create and enforce. Or, I don't know, use an ad blocker at least? If you're going to let that stuff monopolize your brain and your political philosophy, I'd at least like to think you're doing it for its own sake, rather than so that somebody can make money off of you.


Multiple time you omitted or avoided to respond to the obvious fact that what you call "Marxist" (which you use to evoke a negative red-scare emotion) is in fact Democratic Socialism - the attempt to extend democracy - not a Stalinist dictatorship.

The issue is that extended democracy implies an extension to the economic sphere, and thus an overhaul of private property relations. This is the actual threat that is attacked by capitalists, and the Stalinist regime is used to paint all threats to these undemocratic institutions in a totalitarian light.


I'm using Marxism in exactly the same sense you are: people advocating for "an overhaul of private property relations." That is, as a I understand it, what "democratic socialism" really means. I don't use the term "democratic socialism" because its proponents in America have co-opted that term to mean Nordic-style "capitalism with a robust welfare state" (which I think would be fine). As far as I can tell, though, those economies do not embody the "overhaul of private property relations" you're talking about. After all, Article 73 of the Danish Constitution declares: "The right of property shall be inviolable." (Heritage Foundation ranks Denmark one of the 10 freest economies in the world, ahead of the U.S.) The concept is likewise enshrined in Article 17 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The "overhaul" you're talking about is in and of itself a totalitarian violation of human rights.


I think your reply proves my point that it's not really about democracy at all. It's just about a fervent defense of the current undemocratic and unjust private property relations.

What do you expect to find in constitutions written by free market economies?

> The concept is likewise enshrined in Article 17 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights

False, it was left intentionally vague to not explicitly endorse private property in the capitalist sense.

> The "overhaul" you're talking about is in and of itself a totalitarian violation of human rights.

That's also on point for Propertarianism. Where private property has been sacralized and to argue against it is against the law of nature, even if it's wrong and unjust. "The King declared that absolute monarchy is a divine right and any resistance is thus blasphemy and shall be dealt with accordingly".


> I think your reply proves my point that it's not really about democracy at all.

I never said it was about democracy!

> It's just about a fervent defense of the current undemocratic and unjust private property relations.

I would characterize it as a fervent defense of British constitutionalism, tracing back to the Magna Carta, but yes, the current system of property relations is a part of that.

But it seems like we're not in any disagreement about my original post: I expressed worry that Marxist ideas were resurgent. We seem to be on the same page about what I mean by "Marxism." And you don't appear to disagree that those ideas are resurgent--and therefore my originally stated worry was not baseless after all.


Well, I certainly hope they are, but I doubt that they are as institutionalized as you seem to suggest.

I also think that using "Marxism" for a democratic movement and ideas is done to intentionally associate them with the authoritarian regimes of the 20th century.


> Thousands of school districts are integrating material into their curriculum that claims slavery was capitalist.

It was, though, at least if you're talking about early modern slavery. Slavery in the ancient world was a substantially different model, but the early modern African slave trade was fundamentally driven by rich, increasingly centralized farm owners with a business model dependent on unpaid workers.


As a trans woman, I wish more people thought like you do.

I see so many trans men or women that don't pass (as their gender identity) because parents or healthcare doctors kept them from transitioning; before puberty disfigured their body and prevented any chance of them passing as their gender identity.

The foregoing situation happened more in the past. Especially depending on where they lived and how the healthcare laws allow doctors to deny patients treatment because of religious reasons. I think nowadays that's going away with self consent treatment.

Anyway my point is these people are suicidal because they don't pass with constant social reminders everyday while trying to function through normal everyday tasks that require interacting with strangers. They likely will never pass to strangers and unless they get the finances to attempt aesthetic surgeries.

Well in the meantime people just tell them "do therapy" and while most have already tried but that's just not changing whats required for reality to be better. Nevertheless they're continuously told "just keep trying" and oh try another therapist that works for you!

Makes me think that the mental healthcare is mostly for public image. Since sure some people benefit but for the ones that don't nothing improves and the professionals are fine with that reality.


Therapy can help some trans folks, but what they really need is a community that supports them regardless of how well they pass.

Trans passing messageboards are absolutely brutal. Brutal honesty is necessary for some, for whom passing is a matter of physical safety. But for a lot more, it can amount to self-harming. Any deviation from sometimes pseudoscientific models of "man" and "woman" is seen as a tell, an imperfection. This is made worse by the fact that gender-affirming surgery is utterly unaffordable for most people, let alone most people struggling with dysphoria and depression.

In addition, passing politics by nature excludes many nonbinary people, for whom it is by definition impossible to pass. Not long after I came out I kept trying to find references for how to be myself. It shouldn't be that way.

Where might we be if trans bodies were seen as natural variation instead of deviance?


> Therapy can help some trans folks, but what they really need is a community that supports them regardless of how well they pass.

I don't know if I necessarily agree with that part.

Therapy can help people starting out with blockers. Basically, young trans people that will pass but going through the social process is still difficult. Therapy isn't a universal solution and there is no proof that it works for everyone. The older population of trans people won't find therapy helpful depending on the following factors of did they get on on blockers at all, was HRT & good genetics in early 20s an option, and is it possible for them to pay for surgeries needing to eventually pass. Finding the "perfect community" for trans people is a flattering way of expressing segregation. They should be able to feel safe anywhere is what the solution should be. Otherwise they won't ever feel normal and possibly be assaulted or killed in society.

I'm unsure why nonbinary people are relevant in a discussion about trans people and since they don't have a concept of passing to other people as a certain sex. Sure, they prefer to be nonbinary in regard to how they look or be received.

Trans bodies aren't natural. Every trans person will express how they wish they could have started before puberty in an ideal life. The perfect life would have been just born cis as the sex they identify as or not have gender dysphoria.

It's better to be honest than to hugbox someone into a dangerous situation. I've seen some trans people just want assistance in dying because passing is everything for quality of life to not be poor for them. I think they should be able to get it but only if passing is not going to be an option with HRT and surgeries are not going to fix anything. I remember reading a trans person has received assistance in dying somewhere in Europe for Gender Dysphoria. It's sad but that's how it is for some people in life.


Nonbinary people are trans. Failure to assimilate != segregation.

I get the sense that you're a generation or so older than me and have consequently had to put up with a lot more medical gatekeeping than I did. If I'm right, I salute you. But I see nothing good in letting myself being defined by my dysphoria or in turning myself into what feels to me like a cardboard cutout of a woman just so I can feel like not a guy. Down that way all I see is more of what I had before I realized I was trans. No thank you.

Be well.


What you were writing in your previous post is segregation.

How old are you when you were able to start HRT and did you get to go on blockers?

Your viewpoint of not letting yourself be defined by dysphoria is typically expressed by anyone able to start in early 20s or younger. I find your opinion perfectly fine for people in that foregoing situation. Starting that young has little in comparison with the previous generations' experiences and realities.

It shouldn't be a situation of forcing a universal ideology upon everyone. People gravitate to whatever solution works for them and it can be pleasant or unpleasant for others.

What I consider a cardboard cutout of a woman might just be a woman to you. In any case it doesn't matter because neither of us own anything that's just non-physical/judgement(s)/opinion(s).

People just get assigned a life and observe whatever story they get. No free will exists and obviously some people are in Heaven while others are in Hell. Life is predestined for whatever outcome. I think majority of trans people will have better outcomes after our generations die out.

edit: if you want to chat on discord whenever. I always enjoy chatting with trans people I meet online and learning their views compared to redefining my own. Alizée#4723


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