Americans spend three to four times more time watching TV together than talking with one another

Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

Jared Diamond argues (in Upheaval) that the US is facing a political and cultural crisis:

No one, in the 5,400-year history of centralized government on all of the continents, has figured out how to ensure that the policies implemented with enviable speed by dictatorships consist predominantly of good policies.


I also acknowledge that democracy isn’t necessarily the best option for all countries; it’s difficult for it to prevail in countries lacking the prerequisites of a literate electorate and a widely accepted national identity.


To understand the fundamental benefits of an immigrant population, imagine that you could divide the population of any country into two groups: one consisting on the average of the youngest, healthiest, boldest, most risk-tolerant, most hard-working, ambitious, and innovative people; the other consisting of everybody else. Transplant the first group to another country, and leave the second group in their country of origin. That selective transplanting approximates the decision to emigrate and its successful accomplishment.


One friend of mine, nominated to a second-level position in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, withdrew his candidacy when he still hadn’t been confirmed after a year of waiting.


Why has this breakdown of political compromise accelerated within the last two decades? In addition to the other harm that it causes, it’s self-reinforcing, because it makes people other than uncompromising ideologues reluctant to seek government service as an elected representative. Two friends of mine who had been widely respected long-serving U.S. senators, and who seemed likely to succeed once again if they ran for re-election, decided instead to retire because they were so frustrated with the political atmosphere in Congress.


One suggested explanation is the astronomical rise in costs of election campaigns, which has made donors more important than in the past.


As one disillusioned friend wrote me after retiring from a long career in politics, “Of all the issues that we face, I think that the skew of money in our political system and our personal lives has been by far the most damaging. Politicians and political outcomes have been purchased on a grander scale than ever before… the scramble for political money saps time and money and enthusiasm… political schedules bend to money, political discourse worsens, and politicians do not know each other as they fly back and forth to their districts.”


Formerly, our representatives served in Congress in Washington during the week; then they had to remain in Washington for the weekend because they couldn’t return to their home state and back within the span of a weekend. Their families lived in Washington, and their children went to school in Washington. On weekends the representatives and their spouses and children socialized with one another, the representatives got to know one another’s spouses and children, and the representatives spent time with one another as friends and not just as political adversaries or allies. Today, though, the high cost of election campaigns puts pressure on representatives to visit their home state often for the purpose of fund-raising, and the growth of domestic air travel makes that feasible.


Those of you American readers over the age of 40, please reflect on changes that you’ve seen yourself in American elevator behavior (people waiting to enter an elevator now less likely to wait for those exiting the elevator); declining courtesy in traffic (not deferring to other drivers); declining friendliness on hiking trails and streets (Americans under 40 less likely to say hello to strangers than Americans over 40); and above all, in many circles, increasingly abusive “speech” of all sorts, especially in electronic communication.


American academic debates have become more vicious today than they were 60 years ago.


Already at the beginning of my academic career, I found myself involved in scholarly controversies, just as I am now. But I formerly thought of the scientists with whom I disagreed on scientific matters as personal friends, not as personal enemies. For example, I recall spending a vacation in Britain after a physiological conference, touring ruined Cistercian monasteries with a nice and gentle American physiologist with whom I had strongly disagreed about the mechanism of epithelial water transport at the conference. That would be impossible today. Instead, I’ve now repeatedly been sued, threatened with lawsuits, and verbally abused by scholars disagreeing with me. My lecture hosts have been forced to hire bodyguards to shield me from angry critics. One scholar concluded a published review of one of my books with the words “Shut up!”


All of these arenas of American life are facets of the same widely discussed phenomenon: the decline of what is termed “social capital.”


“… social capital refers to connections among individuals—social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them. In that sense social capital is closely related to what some have called ‘civic virtue.’”


But Americans have been decreasingly involved in such face-to-face groups, while becoming increasingly involved in on-line groups in which you never meet, see, or hear the other person.


The telephone appeared in 1890 but didn’t saturate the U.S. market until around 1957. Radio rose to saturation from 1923 to 1937, and TV from 1948 to 1955. The biggest change has been the more recent rise of the internet, cell phones, and text messaging.


Americans spend three to four times more time watching TV together than talking with one another, and at least one-third of all TV viewing time is spent alone (often on the internet rather than in front of a TV set).


In a Canadian valley were three otherwise similar towns, one of which happened to be out of reach for the TV transmitter serving the area. When that town did gain reception, participation in clubs and other meetings declined compared to participation in that same town before TV arrived, down to levels comparable to participation in the other two towns already served by TV.


In the remote areas of New Guinea where I do fieldwork, and where new communication technologies haven’t yet arrived, all communication is still face-to-face and full-attention—as it used to be in the U.S. Traditional New Guineans spend most of their waking hours talking to one another. In contrast to the distracted and sparse conversations of Americans, traditional New Guinea conversations have no interruptions to look at the cell phone in one’s lap, nor to tap out e-mails or text messages during a conversation with a person physically present but receiving only a fraction of one’s attention.


One American missionary’s son who grew up as a child in a New Guinea village and moved to the U.S. only in his high school years described his shock on discovering the contrast between children’s playing styles in New Guinea and in the U.S. In New Guinea, children in a village wandered in and out of one another’s huts throughout the day. In the U.S., as my friend discovered, “Kids go into their own houses, close the door, and watch TV by themselves.”


South Korean applicants for training as primary schoolteachers have to score in the top 5% on national college entrance exams, and there are 12 teachers applying for every secondary school teaching job in South Korea. In contrast, American teachers have the lowest relative salaries (i.e., relative to average national salaries for all jobs) among major democracies.


All schoolteachers in South Korea, Singapore, and Finland come from the top third of their school classes, but nearly half of American teachers come from the bottom third of their classes.


In all my 53 years of teaching at the University of California (Los Angeles), a university that attracts good students, I have had only one student who told me that he wanted to become a schoolteacher.


For instance, Canada’s criteria for admitting immigrants are more detailed and rational than the U.S.’s. As a result, 80% of Canadians consider immigrants good for the Canadian economy—a far cry from the lacerating divisions in American society over immigration.


  1. Kirk says:

    Missing from Diamond’s mental image is any such thing as a remote sense of self-awareness and responsibility for how things have changed in academia. He decries the Gleichschaltung, and simultaneously supports it by attacking his ideological opponents. Then, like the classic wounded gazelle, he wonders why they’re so antagonistic towards him and his fellows.

    You wonder why academia in the US is so screwed up, Mr. Diamond? Go look in a damn mirror, and start asking yourself why there are no real conservative voices or viewpoints allowed in your little hothouse gardens of intellectual vacuity. Examine the reaction to men like Jordan, and ask why their viewpoints are so widely condemned within academia, and why the majority of your fellow left-wing radicals are trying to silence them.

    This Diamond character is precious; he decries the American child’s sense of property and play, looks at the fact that the New Guinean does not seem to have either property or ideas of property rights, and then asks “Why are they so economically disadvantaged…?”. Yeah. Duh. No property rights, no spur to ambition, dumbass–There’s a reason that primitive societies remain bastions of privation and primitive attitudes, and it’s down to the fact that they have no rule of law or property rights. There’s no point to working hard in New Guinea, because someone of higher social status is just going to come along and appropriate it, or your family is going to glom onto the product of your work, leaving you with nothing. Which is why, precisely, those societies remain mired in deep poverty.

    It’s also why Africa is as f**ked up as it is, why the Nazis and the Venezuelans were economically so screwed up, and why socialism or communism never seem to work out, in real life.

    Frankly, you want to live decently? The only real answer is that when the socialist or fascist comes along, you put a bullet into their head before they can put one into yours, and take what you have. They never, ever produce anything themselves–Look at Venezuela, for a perfect examplar of where those ideas take you: Poverty and privation. Venezuela is where Nazi Germany would have wound up about 1950, absent the German military and the availability of the option to go out and rape the neighbors economically. The whole of it, when you look at any of these “social equity” schemes, of whatever flavor, is an economic con game on a massive scale. Chavez’s daughter is now the most wealthy woman in Venezuela, with an estimated personal worth of four billion dollars. Socialism is a Ponzi scheme, pure and simple, filled with little economic peccadillos like Sam J’s glorious Adolf fiddling the German Post Office for royalties on his image… Which he demanded go on the postage stamps, in the first place.

    They’re all crooks and thieves, top to bottom. Hitler ran out of Jews to loot, and that’s why he moved to Czechs and Austrians, then Poles and everyone else. Had he won, his economic fantasy-land would have immured Europe to centuries of depravity and deprivation, all the while piously pronouncing on what wonders he was performing for them. And, the credulous fools like Sam J would have been cheering from the sidelines as their hero raped them financially. Dear God, just the scam perpetrated by the whole VW scheme… It’s amazing that nobody figured it all out, but then, that’s why the war was started in ’39: A distraction from it all, as the bills came due.

  2. Graham says:

    His focus on process and civility, two current obsessions, is all very well but misses the point.

    A society is the more civil when most people agree on most things, especially most of the big things, and the things they disagree on do not really matter all that much to them.

    When you start to disagree on big things that matter, the civility slowly drains away as it must, and arguably should.

    What hypocrite can maintain forever perfect civility, let alone love, toward people who aggressively threaten the things that really matter to them?

    Every time I hear someone on the left call for civility, I assume they are either stupid or it’s just another power play to control the shape of discourse. And they are not often stupid. It’s just part of how they are allowed to be uncivil and I am not.

  3. Sam J. says:

    “…Sam J’s glorious Adolf fiddling the German Post Office for royalties on his image…”

    “…Hitler ran out of Jews to loot…”

    Total lies and bullshit as usual. This is why I correct you. You lie. Jews lie constantly. You especially lie about building 7 and the nature of the attack on the US on 9-11. It is IMPOSSIBLE for a building to fall the same speed as a rock dropped in air unless the building had the exact same support as the rock, Namely AIR. The building had no support. There’s no way this could happen unless there was some sort of demo and there’s no way that could happen without the sponsorship and acquiescence of the Jews who owned the buildings, controlled the security of the building and the Jews who own the media covering it up.

    Here’s where Kirks new lie comes in. He constantly tries to tie Arabs into 9-11 and when I bring up that it’s impossible for Arabs to wire up building 7 for demo he smartly keeps quite. So what he is doing now is trying to subtly tie me to some other disreputable thing like the Nazis. I’m not a Nazi, wasn’t born in Nazi times and have nothing to do with them but I damn sure don’t trust the Jews because of their BEHAVIOR just like the Nazis and also like hundreds of other societies that have thrown them out. Thrown them out because of the Jews behavior, not mine, not the Nazis or anyone else. Their behavior. Their behavior has changed little and is responsible for them being thrown out of every single country they’ve every been to in any numbers. It’s quite a record don’t you think? That no one, not one single race, or peoples can stand to have them in their country for long and eventually throws them out. It’s because of stuff like 9-11 that this is so and this constant lying and distortion of the truth. It’s annoying as fuck to listen them lie constantly over and over. Just their constant lying whining persecution complex is probably enough to drive people to expel them alone. No one gives a shit if the worship whoever or however, it’s their God awful behavior that does them in.

    I also don’t believe Hitler stole from the Jews and even if he did areppropriating what the Jews stole from the Germans is perfectly legal and even more so, moral.

    The Jews bribe and blackmail officials to loot the common people while boosting the take of a few elites. They of course make a great to do of this being legal. Well then it’s also perfectly legal when they are thrown out of power and the State and people take back what the Jews pilfered from everyone in the first place but to the Jews….this is some big crime, (and also very much probably why they hate Putin who nipped their latest Russia looting in the bud). Cry, fucking cry, they took back what we stole. Cry, cry our sick religion says we own everything and you should all be our slaves, cry, cry, and if you you’re not our slaves you’re meanies and anti-Semites, cry, cry.

    The Jews have always been primarily a parasitical force on top of the people and when they are bodily removed from the people, thrown out, the people automatically become much wealthier, happier and life becomes more pleasant. Especially without the constant verbal attacks by the Jews, who as part of their vile behavior, attack verbally anyone who defends the people of whatever nation they are parasiting off of at the time.

  4. Graham says:


    You touch on one of the now almost forgotten debates about Nazi Germany, related to the various German and British historical controversies about how consistent Hitler was with previous German statecraft, what his goals for Europe actually were, was the war planned, planned but for later, or stumbled into as a gambler’s failure, and when and how did he originally plan to dispose of the Jews. He always hated them and wanted rid of them, but whether he actually expected to kill them all en masse prior to the war or even 1942. Those kinds of things.

    In this case, despite having read many of the arguments on one side of all those lines, I always tended to assume perhaps a little over the top that everything went more or less according to plan apart from the losing the war part…

    That is to say, the economic spree of the 1930s was always designed to build popular support for the regime that could be capitalized on later [Hitler and the government were aware before and well into the war that it wasn't inherently popular with most Germans as such] and military capacity for the all out war and all that followed. If plundering Europe and colonizing the East is always the idea, the ordinary rules of the economic system would not forever apply.

    And yet, even from Tooze, one gets some reinforcement for the idea that it was all a flim flam act and everything, military, economic, diplomatic, was all basically Hitler taking a mulligan every day until the only thing left was to risk all out war first with the French and British and then with the Russians, because there was no stopping point.

    By comparison, even Wilhelm II’s Germany was a supremely rational player.

  5. Kirk says:

    You’re pretty much typical for the intellectual lightweights that take up and espouse reflexive love for Hitler and his friends. You’ve got zero grasp on reality, and demand answers to questions that are only existent in your own shallow minds.

    Building 7 collapsed because the idiots put diesel fuel tanks into the building, some of which were on the upper floors. You start fires in a steel frame building like that, and the steel heats up enough to allow rivets to pop, welds to break, and the steel to lose its inherent characteristics when cold, and you’re gonna get deformation of the frame, followed by collapse when the lower floors heat up enough to start that process. You don’t need explosives, and there were no signs of explosives or “controlled demolition” in that collapse.

    This has been gone over and over again, in the popular press, it’s been in academic engineering journals, and the mechanisms are well-understood by everyone except the moronic few that keep espousing their little fantasies. Only saving grace is that most of these sub-morons are also anti-vaxxers and chemtrail enthusiasts, so we’re not talking about intellectual giants whose deaths in the coming plagues brought on by their ignorance are going to do much damage to human potential.

    The sheer intellectual vacuity on display with most racists is staggering–They think they’re natures elite, and the most fit for survival, but they are literally too stupid to grasp fundamentals of physics, engineering, or economics. You want an animal-kingdom analogy for Sam J’s ilk, you just need to go look at the domestic turkey, which need to brought in out of the rain, lest they drown themselves looking up at the sky. One day, his keepers will no doubt forget him, or just grow tired of his nattering, and he’ll be left out-of-doors to suffer the consequences of his own feckless galactic stupidity.

    Dear God, I can barely tolerate reading his vapid posts. At least, if you’re going to talk insipid trash, be original in your conspiracy theories and beliefs… Repetition of whatever foolishness you last read is hardly entertaining, Sam, and that’s all you really offer us here–The opportunity to laugh at your stereotypical racist stupidity.

  6. Lucklucky says:

    I’m waiting for the day that Sam changes his name from Jewish Samuel ;-)

    “and also very much probably why they hate Putin who nipped their latest Russia looting in the bud”

    Uau! He seems to have liked his Jewish teacher…

  7. Sam J. says:

    “…Building 7 collapsed because the idiots put diesel fuel tanks into the building…”

    Blah, blah, blah, you’re lying or you’re a fool. Either one.

    The building fell with NO resistance for close to 108 feet. Did the small tank of diesel boil away all of the concrete and steel columns so that it had the same resistance as AIR??? No it didn’t. For the building to fall the same speed as a rock dropped in air, which it did, the resistance to the building falling HAD to be the same as air.

    It’s obvious that the support was demoed out from under the building. All four sides fell mostly level so all support was lost at almost the same persise time or within miliseconds. Fire didn;t do that. COuld not do that. Impossible. You’re blatently lying. Bald faced lie or you’re a complete idiot if you believe a fire can do this. A total imbecile.

    Somebody fucked up. My guess is that either building 7 was supposed to come down when the North tower did or it was supposed to come down when hit by the third plane which was most likely shot down.

    There were people in the building at the time the first and second towers fell. They were making their way out and and a huge explosion blew them back up the stairwell. One of them, Barry Jennings, worked for the emergency management system of New York city and gave a long interview.

    Here’s his interview.

    I did look up the diesel tank. I found,

    “…One tank holding 6,000 gallons of fuel was in the building to provide power to the command bunker on the 23rd floor. Another set of four tanks holding as much as 36,000 gallons were just below ground on the building’s southwest side for generators that served some of the other tenants…”

    I don’t know if this is true or not. It may be a total lie that there was a 6,000 gal. tank in the building. This is normally a fire code violation. I doubt it’s true but one of the explanations bandied about after the fall was that the generator tanks burned. This was probably made up by someone who knew nothing about fire codes or generators so they had to add a tank that may not have existed at all. I know a little about generators, fire alarm and control systems. Fire code is put the big tank in the ground and a very small “day tank” next to the generator. A pump fills the very small day tank. The pump is tied to the fire alarm and if the fire alarm goes off the relay for the pump power opens.

    Barry Jennings also explains a tank exploding did not fit the actual damage he personally saw.

    None of this matters though because the building fell as if it was only support was AIR. How you going to explain this? You can’t without demo. There’s no way possible for the Jews to lie their way out of this.

  8. Sam J. says:

    “… there were no signs of explosives or “controlled demolition” in that collapse…”

    No explosions??? Ok I already linked one video with a guy in the building that said there were large explosions. Here’s another by a fire Marshall.

    Fireman retired so now he can talk. He was right next to the damn building. Says,”…there was an explosion and the building came down…”

    Here’s numerous people saying there were explosives.

    There’s a extremely good video by an engineer about the other buildings.

    While looking for the video I found this new one I haven’t seen. Apparently anonymous.

    Look at 2:27 and just after. You can see the core. I suspect that they blew the outer section and left the inner core so the outside would slide down the core and not fall on other buildings.

    Anonymous release of 3 WTC collapse videos

    Your Jew buddies fucked up. There’s no way to talk your way out of this.

    This is why I say Jews are psychopaths. Only psychopaths would do something so foolish.

  9. Mike says:

    Crikey. That’s got to be one of the fastest examples of Godwin’s Law I’ve ever seen. First comment on a post about declining levels of US sociality and already linking it to the Nazis.

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