For me, the big question isn’t whether Jonathan Chait (or Glenn Greenwald, or name any other extremely online person who you think is a controversialist or party hack) is an innately terrible human being. It’s why we have a media architecture that creates feedback loops that reinforce certain behaviors (whether it’s being hackish, or stirring shit for the sake of attention, or some combination) with attention and engagement. My hypothesis is that the dynamics of social media and the coalitional aspects of our cognitive architectures have come to reinforce each other in increasingly unfortunate ways, so that people reliably get attention by either reinforcing or outraging political sensibilities rather than saying actually interesting things.
We can disagree about whether particular people started out in a bad place, or whether they broke bad over time – and we probably don’t have data to figure out any good answers. But I think people are more likely to agree to the surmise that we are in a world where it is much easier than it ought to be for people’s worst tendencies to feed on themselves, once they’ve reached a certain degree of online fame. It’s like climate change – we can disagree over whether individual weather events are the result of global climate change, but fighting about the particulars of this or that hurricane is missing the point about the deeper and more structural changes.
Offered without comment, other than that the choice of “ChaitGPT” as title is just *chef’s kiss* (even as it’s arguably an example of what Farrell is critiquing here), and also that this is basically the dark metastasis of what Robin Sloan once dubbed the “media cyborg” phenomenon, a concept I’ve been wanting to pick up and run with at book length for around a decade or so.
(Anyone interested in publishing such an exploration, whether at book length or much shorter, hit me up.)