Please get better at reading

If there is one advice almost always valid, is this.

Once upon a time, people did get that not every piece of short nonfiction writing is an opinion piece, crafted to advance a particular argument.

Then, social media tilted things so that pretty much everything written on paper or online is no longer some “autonomous device”, that each reader must turn on and then off by himself. Today, you and 300 other furious strangers can tell an author to kill herself before she’s finished her first coffee.

Today, every published piece of writing is treated as the beginning of a conversation, in which readers are entitled to a bespoke response**. If something is unclear, the author must expand; if something offends, the author must account and atone. But not everything the internet treats as ambiguous actually is. Texts generally do contain evidence that certain interpretations are more valid than others:

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Basically, there is no apparent awareness that, in writing a piece and publishing it, the author has said what they meant to say and turned the project of thinking about it over to the reader. Because that is what reading must be, first of all: a matter of decoding symbols, AUTONOMOUSLY. Personally.

Please get better at reading

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Social media have made the entire world a library with no exits nor supervisors, but full of lousy reading. But reading better is, whether you like it or not, a prerequisite of thinking better, and quite literally a matter of survival in the time of Covid and climate change.

We have to do better. It’s no longer enough to see a headline, feel a feeling, and go off. We have to ask more questions, of ourselves and our sources. You can never read too well.

What next, with credits: thanks to Kate Harding for a great invitation to read, but CRITICALLY, of which this post is just a heavily, but respectfully edited excerpt. Go read the full thing, and above follow that advice, and ask everybody to do the same.