Beliefs, Motorcycles, Syria, Truth, Jerusalem, Soviet Union

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

Crony Beliefs

Kevin Simler | Melting Asphalt | 2nd November 2016

Why do individuals hold beliefs that are demonstrably unfounded or contradictory? Here is an analogy which is suggestive if not conclusive: Beliefs in the brain work “like employees at a company”. They are retained as long as they are useful — and they can be useful in different ways. Some beliefs — “merit beliefs” — are there to help us to make better decisions; they need to be true. Other beliefs — “crony beliefs” — help us to make and keep like-minded friends; they don’t need to be true (5,100 words)

A Biker’s Sunday

Richard Hammond | Drive Tribe | 19th February 2017

A leisurely motorbike ride through the Malvern Hills in western England. “I’m not going anywhere, in the sense that the point of this journey is the journey. It’s Sunday morning, the roads are dry, the sky isn’t threatening anything and the worst of the road salt has gone. I’m lucky and have a choice of bikes at home. I’ve chosen a Kawasaki Z900 from 1976. It’s not perfect, my Z900, but then neither am I and we are working together to overcome our respective shortcomings” (1,350 words)

A Journey Through Assad’s Syria

Fritz Schaap | Der Spiegel | 20th February 2017

Aleppo is half-levelled, Homs is two-thirds destroyed, Latakia is “largely untouched” and “still a popular vacation spot”. Assad rules a “rump state” with Russian and Iranian support. There is reconstruction but no reconciliation. “Large Mercedes tractor-trailers drive water tanks through Aleppo’s ruins while the streets are patrolled by armoured vehicles manned by Russian soldiers. Assad can frequently be seen on television while fear can be seen in the eyes of many residents” (4,100 words)

Intellectual Integrity In The Age Of Donald Trump

Bret Stephens | Time | 18th February 2017

Bret Stephens gives the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at UCLA: “We crossed a rubicon in the Clinton years, when three things happened: we decided that some types of presidential lies didn’t matter; we concluded that “character” was over-rated when judging a president; we allowed the lines between political culture and celebrity culture to become hopelessly blurred. But whatever one might say about President Clinton, what we have now is the crack-cocaine version of that” (3,700 words)

Jerusalem Syndrome At The Met

Edward Rothstein | Mosaic | 8th February 2017

The Metropolitan Museum’s “sumptuous and ecstatically received exhibition”, Jerusalem 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven, portrays medieval Jerusalem as “a place inhabited by three different faiths and traditions living side by side”, a city that “miraculously anticipated today’s progressive ideal”. Not remotely so. Jerusalem was an economic backwater and a place of constant struggle between Christians and Muslims. “As for the Jews, the best that can be said is that they survived” (6,800 words)

How The Soviet Union Disappeared

Branko Milanovic | Global Inequality | 19th February 2017

Mikhail Gorbachev belonged to the first generation brought up entirely on Marxist dogmas; he sincerely believed that democracy was a sham and that socialism was the inevitable future of mankind; so he fatally underestimated the consequences of introducing some limited elements of democracy into the Soviet system. He had no understanding of the disruptive power of democracy, nor of how weak and arbitrary the Soviet State would appear, once it ceased to rely on terror for its authority (1,090 words)

Video of the day: Introduction To Storytelling

What to expect:

A lesson from Pixar and Khan Academy’s new film-making course, “Pixar In A Box” (2’56”)

Thought for the day

Where do I find all the time for not reading so many books!
Karl Kraus

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