Defending your soul against deadly weapons of mass DISTRACTION
In yesterday’s post, regarding Dr. Robert Malone’s column on Substack entitled “Cognitive Warfare—Targeting your Subconscious,” we closed our initial comments with this tease: “This Substack will also be an excellent prelude to what we expect to post tomorrow. (Yep, that’s a tease…).”
As it turns out, we found another article in our files which is equally appropriate as a follow-up to Malone’s essay, so we are going to share that one with you today. We shall then share the initially planned essay with you on Monday.
This is a book review which was published in the Epoch Times almost two years ago (March 23-29, 2022). Nonetheless, the salient points are as timely today, if not even more so, than when the book came out.
This is not a book that we intend to obtain and read, but the reviewer does make some valuable observations which can help all of us to not get entangled in the addiction to our cell phones, tablets, etc.
We gave our own headline to this post, but the review by Tim O’Sullivan was headlined:
How to Defend Yourself Against Deadly Weapons of Mass Distraction
A life buzzing with social media inputs is a diminished life.
Here are some excerpts with all emphases and comments [within brackets] by us.
QUOTE: Johann Hari’s book on the attention crisis was prompted by his godson’s addiction to his screens and his inability to focus and by the author’s own struggles with attention and distraction.
Hari is a British-Swiss journalist who has written books on depression and the war on drugs and has given hugely popular TED talks on addiction and depression. He was involved around 2011 in a controversy about plagiarism and anonymous Wikipedia edits but he has acknowledged his ethical failures.
The author contends that, at an individual level, a life full of distractions is diminished—when we’re unable to pay sustained attention, we can’t achieve the things we want to achieve. At a social level, such a life diminishes our collective capacity to understand and respond to the problems of today. Finally, he argues, if we understand what’s happening in our world, we can begin to change it.
Go With the Flow
Hari reflects on the phenomenon of “flow”—when we’re deeply engrossed in something, like an artist absorbed by his painting. He sees “flow” as a deeply fulfilling experience, in contrast to the fragmentation involved in constantly checking one’s devices and phones.
There’s a chapter on the importance of sleep and the problems caused by sleep deprivation, and another on the “collapse of sustained reading.”
[In several of our Bible lectures—including the one just finished a couple weeks ago, which has not gone out to our CD Ministry yet—we have lamented this very sad situation.
We have asked our listeners to check in with a few of your friends, especially of the younger generations, and ask them to name the last book they have read that is over 150 pages. (I used to say 200 pages, but I’m showing mercy here to try to up the numbers…to no avail.)]
In practice, the new media platforms tend to work against the effort involved in reading and to favor superficiality.
[I would underline or highlight the next four paragraphs, but that might tend to become…well,… distracting! LOL— see that? Everyone knows what LOL means, but can they intelligently discuss Orwell’s Animal Farm or 1984?]
Twitter seems to imply that the world can be interpreted and confidently understood very quickly and what matters most is whether people applaud your short, simple, and speedy statements.
Facebook conveys the impression that your life exists to be displayed to other people and you should be aiming every day to show your friends edited highlights of your life.
Hari maintains that the business model of Silicon Valley, where many global social media companies are based, involves dominating the attention span of the wider society. Telling such companies not to distract people is like telling an oil company not to drill for oil.
Social media companies benefit financially when we maximize screen time. More engagement by us is good for them because it means more advertising aimed at us and more knowledge on their part of our interests and usage patterns. The more time we spend on our screens, the more money they make and the more data they gather about us.
For example, the Facebook feed draws on an algorithm or calculation based on our interests and usage and shows us posts that will keep us looking at our screens. In my own case, when I turn on Facebook, I am often presented with an article from a publication that I enjoy and am therefore likely to want to read.
As Hari notes, the Harvard academic Shoshana Zuboff coined the term “surveillance capitalism” to describe companies that monitor everything we do online and target their advertising with extraordinary accuracy.
[But you see, as we have expounded in our series on Mystery Babylon and the Stone Kingdom, for the BM, it is about much more than mere money, although they certainly want that, too. But this is about our souls, our minds, and their attempts to continually control our minds—mind control, which is witchcraft!]
The book offers many practical suggestions for fighting addiction to social media. Hari lists some of his own approaches in his conclusion, such as going off social media for six months of the year, in chunks of a few weeks at a time, and sticking to a daily walk.
Nevertheless, a key argument of the book is that our distractibility is not just a matter of personal discipline. Instead, he argues, social media sites are actively downgrading our ability to come together as a society to identify problems and resolve them. Collective solutions are therefore needed.
[I get very nervous whenever I hear some “expert” somewhere calling for “collective solutions.” It is the collectivists of all stripes (communists, fascists, nazis, socialists, “progressives,”) who are the problem, not the solution!]
Hari makes a case for new funding arrangements for social media, that is, replacing the current advertising model with a subscription-based approach or with a public service model like the BBC. Some platforms could develop into quasi-public services, although this evokes the specter of Big Brother. …[See what I mean?]
The Power of Big Tech
On the other hand, the book doesn’t offer an in-depth economic or geopolitical analysis of Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft. The author might have placed Big Tech more firmly in the context of globalization, of huge speculative investment in these companies after the financial crash of 2008, and of enormous, if declining, US economic and political power. …
Journalists like Hari tend to focus on how political conservatives like President Donald Trump or Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have exploited social media, but they ignore the progressive bias of Big Tech, as manifested in the deplatforming of some conservative voices… [One of several reasons I would not buy the book.]
This thought-provoking book might have benefited from greater openness to the wisdom of faith. There’s a brief reference to mindfulness, but nothing on how a focused and non-distracted approach to life can be nourished by prayer and adoration. END QUOTE
“adoration?” That clued me in that Tim O’Sullivan is on the Catholic side of Ireland. Thanks for sharing, Tim. Stolen Focus by Johann Hari, Bloomsbury, 2022, 340 pages
Here is the link to the archived version of the complete review.