Context collapse is our constant companion online. The openness of the web that has given us so much has given us this phenomenon, too, and it complicates things. It isn’t inherently dangerous, but it does require work and critical thought. The internet makes us telepathic, angry, and weird—but it also lets us collaborate, remix, and rapidly reconfigure one another’s ideas on a massive scale.
Around Valentine’s Day, people found some things I’ve said over the last decade upsetting. Some of those things I said, and the way that I said them, I stand by completely. They require context to understand, but that’s not a flaw—that’s part of what makes them complicated and useful thoughts. Some things I’ve said—mostly things not discovered by the mob, to be honest—are not so great, and I don’t agree with them now. But that’s a worthwhile part of my story. I’d hate to think I haven’t learned anything in the last 20 years. I used to think that color-blindness and not talking about race would fix racism. They won’t. I used to be too scared to let people know when I didn’t understand something, and just muddle through hoping I wouldn’t get caught. That was a terrible way of dealing with the world. I used to think that showing someone how wrong they were on the internet could fix the world. I said a lot of stupid things when I believed that.
I did not spring fully formed from the head of Zeus, neither did you, nor did The New York Times. The growing process is always messy and often ugly, whether you’re a person or a caterpillar, or a global network, or the newspaper of record.
Here is your task, person on the internet, reader of journalism, speaker to the world on social media: You make the world now, in a way that you never did before. Your beliefs have a power they’ve never had in human history. You must learn to investigate with a scientific and loving mind not only what is true, but what is effective in the world. Right now we are a world of geniuses who constantly love to call each other idiots. But humanity is the most complicated thing we’ve found in the universe, and so far as we know, we’re the only thing even looking. We are miracles by the billions with powers and luxuries beyond the dreams of kings of old.
I am not, and will never be, a simple writer. I have sought to convict, accuse, comfort, and plead with my readers. I’m leaving the majority of my flaws online: Go for it, you can find them if you want. It’s a choice I made long ago.
If you look long enough you can find my early terrible writing. You can find blog posts in which I am an idiot. I’ve had a lot of uninformed and passionate opinions on geopolitical issues from Ireland to Israel. You can find tweets I thought were witty, but think are stupid now. You can find opinions I still hold that you disagree with. I’m going to leave most of that stuff up. In doing so, I’m telling you that you have to look for context if you are seeking to understand me. You don’t have to try, I’m not particularly important, but I am complicated. When I die, I’m going to instruct my executors to burn nothing. Leave the crap there, because it’s part of my journey, and that journey has a value. People who came from where I did, and who were given the thoughts I was given, should know that the future can be different from the past.