Social media's social impact, politics at the High Court, the '83 Beirut bombing: Weekend Decode

One video and two articles you don't want to miss

By far the best bit of media I stumbled upon over the weekend was a short film called Look Up (five minutes, so do watch it) by a Brit. It is a wonderful, witty and almost corny plea for people to look up from their screens and devices and make some eye contact and live in the social world.  The BBC has a nice little interview with the guy who made it, Gary Turk.

Relevance to Washington and politics? Well, here’s the deal:  All of us need to decode how social media and always-connected life is changing society and culture.  In some ways, politics is a canary in a coal mine, the first victim of invisible but deadly fumes. New media has changed politics and will keep doing  so.  As citizens and consumers, we need to understand that.

But really, just do what over 35 million people around the world have already done: Watch the video, it’s great.

On a slightly more “eat your vegetables” note, the Supreme Court correspondent of The New York Times, Adam Liptak, has written a very clear useful account of just how partisan and polarized the Court has become.

What is different about Liptak’s piece is he gets into history and shows the current situation is an anomaly – and a problem.  Here’s a key paragraph:

“An undesirable consequence of the court’s partisan divide,” said Justin Driver, a law professor at the University of Texas, “is that it becomes increasingly difficult to contend with a straight face that constitutional law is not simply politics by other means, and that justices are not merely politicians clad in fine robes. If that perception becomes pervasive among today’s law students, who will become tomorrow’s judges, after all, it could assume a self-reinforcing quality.”

Finally, in a short essay in The New Yorker, Jane Mayer embarrasses the current scandal-mongering of Washington with an historical reminder. She writes:

Around dawn on October 23, 1983, I was in Beirut, Lebanon, when a suicide bomber drove a truck laden with the equivalent of twenty-one thousand pounds of TNT into the heart of a U.S. Marine compound, killing two hundred and forty-one servicemen. The U.S. military command, which regarded the Marines’ presence as a non-combative, “peace-keeping mission,” had left a vehicle gate wide open, and ordered the sentries to keep their weapons unloaded. The only real resistance the suicide bomber had encountered was a scrim of concertina wire. When I arrived on the scene a short while later to report on it for the Wall Street Journal, the Marine barracks were flattened. From beneath the dusty, smoking slabs of collapsed concrete, piteous American voices could be heard, begging for help. Thirteen more American servicemen later died from injuries, making it the single deadliest attack on American Marines since the Battle of Iwo Jima.”

Mayer goes on to wonder what the investigation into this  tragic incident would have been like if Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and his ilk had been around.  It is not a pretty thought experiment.

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