Our Limited Bandwidth for Alarmism
Plus: Progressives behaving badly
I don’t usually write about my podcast discussions, but I’m going to make an exception here.
Yesterday, former Buzzfeed/NYT writer Charlie Warzel and I took a deep-dive into the problem of coping with alarmism. And I find myself continuing to think about that conversation.
I’ve followed Warzel’s work for years, watching as he immersed himself in the world of right-wing on-line chatter, and I asked him: Did spending so much time in Crazytown ever fry your brain? Of course it did, he said, just as coping with the complexity of the issues we face and the dark energy of our politics has scrambled the brains of journalists who have tried to make sense of it all.
Here’s the background to our conversation: A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece that asked “How Alarmed Should We Be?” Warzel tagged a tweet about the article and linked to something he had written in July titled, “We Are Not Ready.”
In that piece, he recalled how in October 2020, he was “seized with a deep persistent dread” that all of the signals of civil conflict he was seeing online were leading to something bigger and more dangerous.
This is what he wrote: