If I could wave a wand, there’d be universal content metadata around “news,” “features,” and “op-ed” such that I could tap on things and not get a face full of partisan noise that looked like news when I read the headline. All the content wold be tagged and filterable.

I see an eyebrow furrowing somewhere … why did Mike choose a screen shot of an anti-Trump thing to complain about?

Well, I don’t have any examples of pro-Trump things to complain about because I don’t read any of that. Not even to gawk or hate-read. If I’m going to read something awful, I go right for the straight product from committed ideologues. Not the think tank weasels, either.

That’s not much, either way. Most of the stuff I actually allow into news apps is establishment media. I don’t talk much about the stuff I read to the left of that because it’s 2021 and we’re going through one of those circular firing squad/narcissism of small differences cycles, and these are conversations best had with people in the “intentional family” circle in the Venn diagram – people with whom grace is regularly extended and received, because right now we all seem to be demanding that nobody get any grace.

Anyhow, the point is not “I stumbled across an anti-trump column and it upset me.” The point is I hate most of the op-ed you’re going to find in an establishment newspaper or magazine and avoid reading it when I can. If I form parasocial relationships anywhere, it’s with people who think about stuff, and the thing I want from those people is something other than recitation of assorted party lines.

I think that’s what ultimately killed the Michelle Goldberg/Ross Douthat iteration of The Argument. You knew where it was going to go each week: Two reliable ideologues staking out positions a few inches to the left or right of center on a stale political continuum that does not serve us any longer. Good maybe for getting topped up on your talking points or maintaining your ideological licensure, but just utterly useless for understanding the world any better, or reliably feeling that sorta stomach-fluttering w o o o m of a challenging idea or shift in perspective.

The new iteration is sometimes worse, because the host just brings in think tank people – the ones making the uncut product a Ross Douthat or Michelle Goldberg pedals on the op/ed playground. And it has a libertarianoid streak that’s still firmly rooted in your basic PMC verities. But sometimes it develops a charming wobble in the rear axle and careens around.

This is on my mind because Ben wandered into the tv room last night and we had a brief scuffle over what Al and I were watching. I won’t go into what at all. Nothing you can’t find on a popular streaming service. It led to the sort of broad indictment 17-year-olds are good at delivering, and we spent a good 15 minutes unpacking all of it together.

My closing argument was, “if I don’t watch stuff like this, and let myself hear voices like this, I will not understand the world any better, and I feel like everyone right now is trying to tell me I don’t need to understand the world any better … that I just need to pick a side and embrace its particular dogma and call it a day. That sounds like death.”

Yeah, I have really talked around that content. I don’t want to be judged for what raises my curiosity. I want to be judged for what I do. That’s all I’m doing with you.