Martin Gurri on the Revolt of The Republic

Martin Gurri (youtubemp3) is an author and former CIA analyst whose book, the Revolt of the Republic, describes how and why we have political revolutions and a seeming explosion of negativity in media and politics. 

Martin spent his career analyzing media reports around the world and noticed the decline of the primacy of ‘papers of record’ coincided with big changes in political discourse everywhere. I normally avoid political analysis and discourse as mostly unproductive shouting but Martin stands out as a dispassionate and insightful observer of current events.

In this interview we compare various social media platforms, discuss what the public really wants and how we might get out of this mess. Martin has the unique distinction of recognizing the commonalities between Obama and Trump and his theory ties together movements on the left and the right.

One quick bit of extra background from my research: other than his own experience, Gurri drew on material from Walter Lippman, a mid-20th century journalist who feared that the spread of mass media would disempower the ‘elites’ in a destructive and destabilizing way. These elites wring their hands with every new ‘wave’ of media technology as Gurri describes in the book. And for the most part they’re wrong.

Is this time different? The pessimist might say it’s a question of degree rather than type.. We are an archer walking towards a target, the closer we get the better our chances. More democratization of media means more frequent and more violent and more random the revolutions. Even here!

The optimist says there is a direction to history. All technology is an amplification of human nature: mostly good and partly evil. There is a natural check pre-built inside us that stops the madness from overcoming the wisdom of crowds at scale for long. 

Gurri is careful to not come down too strongly on this but offers some predictions for the world might change: institutions of authority must become more open. It’s an interesting nod (head fake?) in the direction of that ultimate fascinating but not-sure-where-it’s-going technology of our day: blockchain. See my show with Steve Mildenhall on that most open of technologies. 

Thanks for listening!

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