Hot Air: Huxley’s World

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture.

— Neil Postman



I wonder if Bloomington will soon have its first African-American City Council member since seemingly forever when the local Democratic Party meets next month to select a replacement for the outgoing Tim Mayer.

One of the talked-about possibilities is a fellow named Jim Sims. He’s an area manager for Indiana University’s Residential and Environmental Service operation. He’s also the newly-installed president of the Monroe County NAACP. His wife Doris Sims is a big shot at City Hall, serving as director of Bloomington’s Housing and Neighborhood Development dept.

It’d be a nice gesture on the part of party sachems who are charged with replaced the retiring Mayer. Acc’d’g to state law, when an elected municipal official quits or dies — or gets thrown in jail, I suppose, as well — in the middle of her or his term, that person’s party meets in caucus to select a replacement. That’s going to happen next month, the day of the total solar eclipse, so a lot of folks who must participate in the caucus will miss the once-in-a-lifetime event.

[Sims Image: Rodney Margison/Bloom Magazine]

Hint to county party boss Mark Fraley — switch the date. That’d be a nice gesture, too.

[Odd Piece of Trivia: Bloomington’s guy isn’t the first James Sims to be president of a city’s NAACP. Another James Sims, of Spokane, Washington, headed that town’s civil rights outfit beginning in 1956. Spokane’s Sims got heavily involved in the civil rights fight after he applied for a state job and scored well on the civil service test but was passed over largely because his skin was the wrong color. Even though it often seems our holy land’s progress on race relations moves glacially — and it usually does — it’s good to keep in mind it ain’t 1956 anymore.]

Greatest Hits

I pulled a fast one — or so I thought when I came up with the idea — on yesterday’s Big Talk. I’d figured I would save myself some time and effort during these dog days by putting together a best-of show. And, considering this week’s episode would be the last under outgoing WFHB news director Joe Crawford, I could dedicate it to him.

Perfect, right?

Only it took me twice as long — at the very least! — to produce this week’s show as opposed to my normal one-guest offering. I was thinking I’d simply scan some old audio files, pick out the best clips, and mash them up into one full program. Easy.

Not so. I worked my poor fingers to the bone searching, placing, editing, smoothing, and sound engineering a half dozen clips from some of my fave guests. Don’t get me wrong, I loved doing the task. But in terms of my sked, I shot myself in the foot.

Ah, well, such is the life of a local radio superstar.

So, hey, here are a couple of links to yesterday’s Big Talk. Clip voices include:

  • Nate Powell
  • Charlotte Zietlow
  • Jeff Isaac
  • Nancy Hiller
  • Doug Wissing
  • Sue Rall

Enjoy. And tune in next week, ‘kay?


All my adult life I’ve tried to run away from the crowd. I’ve hewed to this impulse, some might say, to a fault. Why do I do it? Because crowds scare me. They’re too big and powerful. They can swallow a single human — me — up.


If the majority thinks something, I’m almost automatically suspicious of it. I’d rather be wrong for it than for following the pack and watching it steamroll over some truth.

Anyway, Shankar Vedantem, the Hidden Brain guy from NPR’s Morning Edition, gave me a sort of imprimatur the other day.

Here’s a pile of quotes from his report:

Very simply, being around other people seems to increase our propensity to believe in fake news.

Groups trigger a certain attitude in us when it comes to evaluating information.

[Columbia University marketing professor Gita Johar] conducted a series of experiments…. People were presented with ambiguous statements. Volunteers could say they either believed it, disbelieved it or they could keep an open but skeptical mind and demand evidence, in other words, ask for fact checking. Here’s the catch. Some of the volunteers heard these claims while they were by themselves.

Others felt they were in a group setting or in a social media environment where other people were present and also hearing the same claims. In group settings, people quickly accepted or rejected claims that were in line with their prior beliefs. But compared to when they were by themselves, they were significantly less interested in being skeptical but open-minded.

Volunteers did 30 to 50 percent less fact checking when they heard information presented to them in a social media context compared to when they were alone.

I’m feelin’ smug right about now.

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