Walter, as you know I am an admirer of you and your work. I love the precision and the humanity of your writing. This piece, as the kids would say: “Nailed it”. Knowing your background and your vast vocabulary, I impressed with your use of one word throughout this writing. The rhythm with which you inserted the word “bullshit” throughout was like a metronome of alarm. It was a perfect use of the word. And that is not bullshit! Shalom my friend.

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Beautifully said.

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I just read this on 2-6-23, and in parts, it was as if Kirn had read my mind, & expressed my thoughts in an articulate way that I could not myself do.

We can not lead a full life without being aware of what is happening in the world around us, but because of the all encompassing lies, bias & partisanship it is almost impossible to know, muck less understand, what is going on. Instead of clarity, we have the fog of “news”.

This piece is profound - everyone who cares about this country needs to be able to read it . . It begs the question: how de we fix this . . Can we?

Thank you Walter.

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Can we? I posit that the only way to fix it is a socialist revolution. Except that this concept had been smeared through negative PR, McCarthyism and also the failures of the USSR (real and perceived) that many people who recognise all the same problems that were prevalent in early 20C and highlighted in Lenin’s writings (just in one example, Lenin wrote of public officials retiring into cushy jobs in the industry, after having championed the rights of companies within that industry… this could’ve been written today!) are afraid to make that extra logical connection.

19C was a much more vibrant debating sphere.

So, what are the underlying issues?

The capture of various institutions by the Big Capital (Big Finance, Big Tech, Big Pharma, military-industrial complex…): the legislature via lobbying and election financing, the press via shareholding. We all agree that these are the problems, and I would claim that these are systemic issues. The power imbalance is real, a very well-resourced few can always change the system to their advantage, and over time this change gets more and more extreme.

About a decade ago US economists analysed the data on voting and found negative correlation between the laws and the people’s will. Basically, the laws getting passed were the opposite of what the people wanted. Then they restricted their data to the wealthiest people, and found perfect correlation. Their conclusion? USA is an oligarchy, NOT a democracy. Look up Princeton University Prof Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Prof Benjamin I Page.

This, to me, is a systemic issue, requiring a systemic approach.

This approach is impossible to implement from within the system—the system itself, the bureaucracy, the two main parties… will never allow it to happen. An oligarchy. Not a democracy.

And yet, just like the socialist writers of the 19C and 20C were pointing out, there’s many more of us than there is of them.

So, can this be changed? Yes. But it won’t change itself, and it won’t be changed within the system.

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Brilliant! An excellent summation of the crumbling of the formerly impressive edifice of truth seeking, which didn't necessarily get 'the truth,' but it sure did get more truth than the 'narrative building' that has replaced it.

You remind me how, in the 1980s, when I was an editorial writer at a big metro daily in the midwest, we didn't trust the reporting of the news side, because we knew their biases. So we reported our own pieces. I was very young, and I cared very much about getting it 'right.' I weighed what actually happened, and the consequences, rather obsessively, against policy prescriptions, and ideology. It seemed to matter. I can't imagine what young journalists think now, as they imbibe the narrative, and further it, and never seem to question it.

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The young journalists are rather open about preferring a “social-justice” imbued narrative over reporting unbiased facts. See for instance the conversations in the leaked NYT town hall meeting. But also, see what they say on twitter and how they reprimand each other for reporting anything that goes against the narrative (eg the Biden laptop story).

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There is nothing organic about it. It is literally what they are trained to do. The young ones get it in school. The older ones get it through their D.E.I. re-education seminars.

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But there's no central committee planning and propagating it with their tentacles everywhere. So there's something organic or at least mindlessly mechanical about it.

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I’m not entirely sure about that

While our politicians are focused on the next election

Other leaders are focused on making their country the most powerful country in the next 50 years

In order to do that, by definition, you need to replace the existing most powerful country

One way is to outcompete

Another more insidious way is to undermine

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Matt Taibbi brought me here, I was taking a break from my daily life to dig into the daily "bullshit". I don't have Twitter, but I'd lying if I said I didn't read it. Taibbi is one of the voices I've grown to trust and when he said he subbed to "Unbound" I did as well sight unread.

Walter, I really enjoyed this. I've now read it three times and shared it as wide as I could with the understanding, only a fraction of the responses that claimed to be "excited to check it out" ever would, but the few that did would be better off for it.

I have two young boys, both in their first years of life having gone through more than I have in my 34 years. Both with heart conditions, both with open-heart surgeries in the near past.

The first 2/3rds of this quenched a thirst I have to hear others pile on to the hollowed-out institutions I've grown to distrust. The last 1/3 spoke to my heart and helped bring me back to earth. Reminding me that life is right in front of me, not hidden in the whispers of government chambers I'll never be in and will never hear.

I'm not sure what you wanted us to take away from this piece, but I do know what I have. Life exists above the "bullshit" and the choice to dig is mine alone.

I look forward to reading more of your work.

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Ditto to every word aside from the biographical. Love and strength to you and your boys.

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Congratulations on being a dad

I understand where you’re coming from

But I think we all need to engage

Express our opinions

Not recklessly, you don’t want to get fired or canceled,

But selectively with those who are open to different opinions

If we don’t then the bs will keep getting deeper

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Best thing I've read in a long long time. An antidote.

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Thank you for this Walter. You reassure me I am not the only one. How wonderful that you spent that time with your father, and caring for him. A few years, pre-pandemic, that was me with my mother, who had dementia/alzheimers. Thank God for those caregivers who made her happy and helped me keep her at home where she wanted to be.

The one thong you don't mention is that for certain friends, for whom belonging to sort of social climbing order that is the present zeitgeist and seems to be represented by media sour4, the bullshit has become an encapsulating religion. I used to think dialogue was possible. Now I tend to find myself opting out.

Thank you and God bless you

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Yes in encapsulating religion. It has all become religion.

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Please forgive lack of editing!

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Sharlene Worthy

Some things are difficult for me to understand. There is a feeling I get when I’ve read something that has made a difference in my life. This is that piece.

Thank you for sharing this beautiful work.

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Sep 30, 2021Liked by Walter Kirn

This is brilliant. Thank you for sharing it. I am a recovering photojournalist--even had a couple of pictures in Time when print was still barely relevant, so I can relate somewhat to your journey. You have perfectly captured the disorientation I feel as I try to keep meaningfully informed.

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I recognized your name and opened it up to see why I knew it.

My dad, also a chemical engineer, subscribed to TIME for decades, even though he called it a tool of the Left (ca. 1980.)

After I graduated from college & married, we subscribed for decades. I remember well the issue on The Science of Happiness! Also I found Joel Stein’s sophomoric snarkiness amusing, but quit my subscription about 15 years ago.

Deeply appreciate your views on the harm/ irrelevance/ vacuousness/ propaganda of the news & media today.

C. S. Lewis didn’t read the newspaper, considering it a waste of time. When asked why, he supposedly replied “…if it’s important, someone will tell me about it.”

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I’m sorry for your loss, Walter. This was a remarkable piece.

I think I’m going to go for a walk.

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Frakkin epic, Walter!

Every word a poke in the eye of the monster that media has become.

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Somehow I have never heard of you before, but got linked to this article from Matt Taibbi.

Take my $100! Worth it for this piece alone.

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Found this through Matt Taibbi too. I don't really want to subscribe to any more substacks, but a lot in this one post spoke to me. I've been thinking about my schooling too. 'Our teacher called this “showing awareness” and implied it helped.' I had similar experiences and looking back, it all seems so complacent.

I've been giving up on news for a while. I used to watch a hour long news programme every week night and the Sunday politics shows, and I gave both up a few years ago and don't miss them at all.

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Yeah I'm 14 paid subscriptions and swore off more at 10... but this post was so damn good got the rare "founder" sub from me.

I wish I could just give up on the news, but I have kids being harmed by all the bullshit so I have to take an active part in learning the bullshit at the source. Exhausting!

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An absolutely fantastic, heartwarming, heartbreaking and relevant piece. I wish I could write like you! This piece should be trumpeted throughout the bulls**t media in our land - it would kill most of that media - but the world would be a better place. Thank you Walter.

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Great article Walter.

One thing: It was NOT the Mafia, the Cubans, the Russians, nor Oswald-- who killed JFK. The people (agencies), who "covered it up" (which the the Mafia, the Cubans, the Russians, nor Oswald-- had the access or ability to cover it up) are the ones who killed him.

Those who covertly infiltrated, spied on, and worked tirelessly (and illegally), to undermine Jim Garrisons investigation into who killed JFK ... is where you will find that answer (of who.)

PS - For those so inclined, the book: "On the Trail of the Assassins : One Man's Quest to Solve the Murder of President Kennedy" is a brilliant, thrilling (scary--wake up call). and revealing expose on the efforts and sacrifices one brave unwavering Patriot American endured, to find and expose the truth.

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Thank you for your article. I get it. I got it a very long time ago. But the questions is, what is to be done? Diagnostics is essential, but without follow-on treatment the patient does not get well.

In 1969 I attended the graduation exercises of the Columbia School of Journalism. My then-friend Wayne Barrett was getting his MS. He later became an editor at The Village Voice and published several books, at least one of which was widely in re-demand not so long ago. I recall the reception afterward. He introduced me to, among other journalistic notables, Fred Friendly, and designated him a mentor. But the one most important thing I got from that event was what he told me was the essential lesson he had learned there. “The purpose of journalism is to form public opinion along certain lines.” More than fifty years ago. And people are just now waking up to what’s been going on.

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Propaganda, not journalism: “The purpose of journalism is to form public opinion along certain lines.”

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Whoa! Precisely! Exactly! Eloquent, articulate and well-said. Gratitude for your work.

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Owing to spending too much time in Taibbi/Greenwald's substack comments, I hit a bit of a brick wall, and declared the whole thing (i.e. The Bullshit, its consumption, analysis, meta-analysis, political-economic theorizing) ineffectual. I deiced that I need a sermon (despite being a darwin-thumping atheist) and chose Cornel West's concept of hope in practice.

I wrote a short article in January this year "There is no emancipation in narratives" using the analogy of a back hole at the personal psychic center of social understanding. It's right here on substack. It feels like what you describes is similar.

I chose to redoubled my efforts in music study, composition and practice, and I started an arts and culture podcast (also here on substack), volunteered at the animal shelter, and I steer clear of conversations in what I called the primary narrative that article I mentioned.

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