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Cook-Lynn Critiques Social Media; Blogger Defends Tools of His Trade

Writer and retired professor Elizabeth Cook-Lynn swears off and swears at social media:

This invention was not the Utopian Dream whose purpose, some suggest, get’s rid of the gatekeepers of the publishing world and somehow results in liberation. It will not improve our depth of understanding of a multi-cultural world, but will instead bring about low-quality results in any narrative. What this moment of juvenile hubris has done is it has enabled young, high-minded university graduates to gather at Silicon Valley, make millions, publish me-me-me works that they believe are worth something and reward extremes. In the process, it has changed how society works and shows us the darker side of human nature.

Wasn’t it Michaelangelo who drew plans for a submarine, but decided not to publish them because his theory about the failure of human nature told him humans would use the invention as a tool for terrible war? Whoever it was in that by-gone century, he was a man who understood human nature in a way that the Silicon Valley [genius] has not.

Americans, who are the most capable of the “Hot or Not” ideas people of the modern world should heed my mother’s advice: “Just because you can does not mean you should.” Is there anything that will stop us? [Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, “Social Media: It’s Even Worse Than I Thought,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.06.16]

We could take the same view of the Electoral College and democracy: they put Trump in the White House, so let’s eliminate them.

As you can imagine, I respond somewhat negatively to Cook-Lynn’s dismissal of social media as evil. For more than a decade, I’ve provided my most useful public service (after teaching) through social media, publishing entertaining and instructive blog posts and podcasts, producing investigative journalism, sharing my articles and others’ via Facebook and Twitter, promoting causes and events, and helping other people connect for conversation and political organizing.

That’s not to say that Cook-Lynn is all wrong about social media. I’m keenly aware of the vitriolic abuse and constant character assassination facilitated and amplified by our omnipresent networked gizmos. Social media makes more public and persistent “the darker side of human nature.” And I fully support Cook-Lynn’s personal solution to the problem, her refusal to connect to Facebook. There is no moral obligation to read Facebook, to Tweet or Instagram, or even to carry a phone in one’s pocket, never mind have it set to wail or wiggle every time a text or tweet comes in. (For the record, the only alert I let my phone emit is for good old-fashioned phone calls… and even there, I frequently silence that ringer.)

I’m fine with creating Facebook- and phone-free zones—dinner table, classroom, driver’s seat, theater, date—but I can’t go as far as Cook-Lynn and wish for a Facebook-/phonefree alternative timeline where Mark Zuckerberg dropped programming and got his degree in psychology, where DARPA had a premonition of the Cylons and didn’t invent the Internet, or where we all play da Vinci and refuse to invent submarines.

Hitler used a portable Remington typewriter. Identity Evropa uses a laser printer. Donald Trump uses Twitter. Erase those technologies from history, and Hitler, Identity Evropa, and Trump would still be jerks, finding other ways to promote themselves and degrade and exploit others. Citizens who don’t want to be exposed to the darker, Trumpian side of human nature can stay off social media… but we can also use that social media to lay bare and combat that Trumpy darkness. We can use our phones to organize marches and voters.

If we are not capable of governing ourselves, of standing for truth and decency, no amount of Web-Luddism will save us. I’ll keep blogging and tweeting and encouraging others to use the technology responsibly.


  1. bearcreekbat 2017-06-18 10:43

    Good for you Cory. I appreciate, admire, and am absolutely amazed at your skills and seemingly endless energy in continually developing meaningful stories and responding to comments from your readers.

  2. grudznick 2017-06-18 12:31

    Many hateful comments and commenters who espouse vitriol and hate and rage. I hear the facebooks are even worse which is one of the reasons grudznick refuses to learn how to do that. Bloggings are one thing because people don’t have to read them but with the twitters and facebookings they are jammed down your maw, as I understand it.

  3. Roger Cornelius 2017-06-18 13:02

    It has been more than 50 years since FCC Chairman Newton Minow delivered his television’s “vast American wasteland speech. Fast forward to today and we see that television may become a dying form of communication as younger people are using more and more of the internet’s social media.
    Just as Cory won’t turn away from social media neither will I, television and the media need to viewed and used with responsibility and discretion and knowing what is rubbish and what is not.

  4. Porter Lansing 2017-06-18 13:35

    Throughout history old people have always had negative opinions of new things and ideas. The things Ms. Cook-Lynn despises about social media are the same things said about television in the 50’s, movies in the 30’s and even chamber music in the 19th century. In a competition for the attention of the public, if we could put all the old people who want things to stay the same on one team and all the young people who love social media and new things in general on another team which team do you think would prevail. New things and ideas always get the attention and staying the same always loses. Always ….. It’s not social media that Cook-Lynn is criticizing. It’s change.
    A bit of advice to old people my age and older. Embrace change. Explore new things and ideas. Learn to do something new and learn to think in new ways, every day. Why? Do you want to be just another grumpy, old fart waiting to die with a scowl on your face? You make it hard for young people to even want to be around you.

  5. Donald Pay 2017-06-18 14:42

    I agree with PL. Besides that, technology evolves. Facebook used to be just a place for college students to keep in touch with each other. It evolved to what it is now, and it will probably evolve to something different in a few years. The people who use it force change. If you don’t use it you can’t change it.

  6. Adam 2017-06-18 16:19

    I want to use social media responsibly, but in 2016, conserva-voters proved that they really sort of require name calling to choose the right candidate and ideas – they reasonate with words that they identify with to set the stage for their innermost thoughts.

    Since well before 2016, they’ve needed to hear the words liar, murderer, little, tremendous and crooked or they’re just not inspired to look into issues.

    Any liberalish blog in Conserva-kota would need to embrace (in order to shine light on) the differences between political parties – and it’s readers should embrace the same language as their opponents – or the blog can’t reach across the divide and communicate with the other side.

    If only there were a way to celebrate our differences over dinner and a drink, but we can’t, sssoooo…

  7. grudznick 2017-06-18 18:59

    Today I learned about a fellow who is a blogger “journalist” named Alex Jones. He seems to be insaner than most, and he uses these social medias more effectively than our “journalist” friends Mr. H and PP. He has a website called which seems an odd place.

    I think we all need to check this out carefully. Blogging and tweeting is not journalism.

  8. Roger Cornelius 2017-06-18 19:39

    Megyn Kelly of NBC News nearly lost her job over the Alex Jones interview and that part of her program has been blocked. Alex Jones is an alt-right blogger and serves as one of Trump’s ministers of hate.
    It shouldn’t even be a question of whether or not Cory is a journalist, he is, and a damn good one at that. Cory understands that all journalism is about seeking the truth, Cory knows that basically journalism is about investigating and researching what he writes.
    Pat Powers is a journalistic whore of the lowest caliber, press releases and fake news is his mantra.

  9. Roger Cornelius 2017-06-18 19:40

    Nice of grudz to give Alex Jones a plug.

  10. grudznick 2017-06-18 19:47

    When did this happen, Mr. C? I think Mr. Trump hates this Ms. Kelly from way back and we all understand that, but he can’t fire her by golly.

    I had never heard of Alex Jones until today. He looks like a pretty unsavory fellow. But ranting hate and allowing ranting of hate is not “journalism.” It certainly is not research or investigation, it is just espousing one’s opinion.

    Blogging is not journalism and neither is this Mr. Jones, the Alex one, a journalist.

  11. grudznick 2017-06-18 20:01

    Mr. C, you can tell Mr. H’s debater background. He does not research the truth, like a journalist, he pick his side (anti) and then researches how to justify it. This is not a criticism of Mr. H, it is his job and he is definitely entertaining about it. It is a criticism of “truth” and “journalism.”

    Picking a side and then justifying it is not research.

  12. grudznick 2017-06-18 20:55

    I have to say I just watched a tape of this Mr. Jones fellow in it, and found it extremely disturbing.
    This is what it would be like if Lora Hubbel were elected Governor.

  13. Spike 2017-06-18 21:18

    Elizabeth Cook-Lynn is an amazing writer. A Facinating person. 87 years young. Pick up one of her books if you want to exercise your mind.
    Unafraid to state her position and defend it. And as Adam wishes, over a good meal and some suds.

    Cory you would have enjoyed her classroom. I tell ya.

  14. Adam 2017-06-18 22:39

    Cory’s an independent journalist – it’s a fact – and bloggers like him should be independently contracted by local newspapers to report and write stories on happinings and issues statewide.

    Not all bloggers are journalists, but some are, and Cory does great on the audio waves too.

    Alex Jones’ decade(s?) of success just shows how gullible the far Right is. No one ever thought he was a journalist – he was just a guy who – gosh darn it -when you really think about it – might prolly be right about what he says. He reflects the beast that is the dumbed down voting base the GOP has created. That’s all.

  15. mike from iowa 2017-06-19 06:33

    Grudz has Master compartmentalized and can now basically ignore what ever Master says. Master always speaks truth to power. He never fails. He is always good. He is the best of the best in South Dakota, Never forget this.

  16. grudznick 2017-06-19 13:11

    While I may look more the part, Mike has clearly turned into some sort of Gollum from Iowa.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-06-19 18:06

    Roger—television a dying form? Netflix is pretty good… but is that “television”?

  18. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-06-19 18:10

    I wonder: as young people turn now from television to social media, 40 years from now, will we see kids (and advertisers) turning their baser urges away from social media to some other new technology for mind manipulation?

    Hmmm, there’s something: make sure education works, make sure we’re teaching kids to be moral, critical thinkers, and no media—TV, Twitter, Snapchat, holodecks—will lure users into acting like jerks or being willing dupes of con men like Trump and Alex Jones.

  19. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-06-19 18:11

    Adam, I will continue to use the word liar factually and unabashedly.

  20. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-06-19 18:12

    Spike! I have one of Cook-Lynn’s books on my shelf, waiting its turn. I look forward to reading it.

  21. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-06-19 18:13

    Not all social media content is journalism. Not even all of this blog is journalism. But as my work today shows, you’ll find more journalism here than anywhere else in the blogosphere. :-)

  22. leslie 2017-06-19 23:27

    As of 06/08/17, the world’s richest five men owned over $400 billion in wealth. Thus, on average, each man owns nearly as much as 750 million people….In the eight years since the recession the Wilshire Total Market valuation has more than TRIPLED, rising from a little over $8 trillion to nearly $25 trillion. The great majority of it has gone to the very richest Americans. ALL modern US technology started with — and to a great extent continues with — our tax dollars and our research institutes and our subsidies to corporations.

    we must do multiple things at once. Cook-Lynn’s wisdom helps guide dems as this complex article too suggests.

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