I understand the journalistic impulse to probe the motives and mindset of deluded individuals ("One family's path to Jan. 6," front page, Jan. 2). At the same time, I worry that the volume of attention paid to families like the Westburys is a disservice to the public interest. The proponents of disinformation and flat-out lies need no help from responsible media. The risk of elevating and propagating the divisive and dangerous delusions these people irrationally cling to is not insignificant given current polling data on the percentage of people who believe the election was "stolen" and that violence against the government is justified when your views and preferences do not prevail. I would encourage a much more circumspect approach to reporting on these delusional people. They need less attention, not more.
Chris Malecek, Mendota Heights
The article gave far too much print space to the Westbury family, especially their crowdfunding to pay for the legal bills surrounding their insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. However, it did immediately remind me of a profound discussion in the midst of a silly YouTube video that I watched on New Year's Eve (sober, thank you very much).
This discussion was on the YouTube video "Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains the Universe While Eating Spicy Wings," between the 5:50 and 7:07 minute marks. With your permission, I have transcribed Tyson's thoughts:
"I'm an educator. My task is not to debunk the crazy ideas of adults but to establish an educational system that is incapable of producing an adult that thinks that way in the first place."
When asked whether the number of people who think that way has increased over time:
"I think that number of people may be the same over time. They just now can write a blog that the whole world has access to via a search engine. Right? You'd be alone with your own view that has no correspondence to objective reality, and you type it into a Google search, and it'll find every other person like you who thinks the same way, giving you the false sense that you're actually onto something, that you have some deep insight into the world that no one else has. This is delusional. The internet landed in our laps without creating a curriculum that empowers you to know when someone online is full of [it]."
This discussion was in reference to "flat-earthers" (see also the day's comics), but clearly covers the other falsehoods mentioned early in the article. Add the legislators, both Minnesota and federal, who tout the falsehoods that instigated the insurrection, and the number of delusional believers skyrockets. I'm not willing to go so far as to blame the educational system but rather the instigators who fed gullible individuals the lies in the first place, then doubled down to spread it far and wide.
Susan Bloyer, St. Louis Park
Call in the data scientists
Excellent, balanced article Jan. 2 on technological advances in legislative representative mapmaking ("Technology levels playing field for legislative maps"). Unfortunately, we can already see the tendrils of political party disruption. The parties will submit new maps for district representation, favoring as much as possible their established supporters. With no redistricting agreement from our Legislature, the issue will be handed to a reluctant state court, as has happened in the past. Anti-science will prevail.
It would be useful, more efficient, more accurate and, in the long run, less expensive to call in the data scientists to redistrict the state and pass the necessary law early in the year, thus enhancing our election process and aiding all candidates equally, incumbent and new.
Carl Brookins, Roseville
'MINNESOTA IN DECLINE'
How about a requirement for young people and state service?
The Jan. 4 commentary "Minnesota, in decline, needs a turnaround," by Andy Brehm, got me thinking.
As I turn 75 this year and am grateful for a good life, I am dismayed at the future prospects for our children and grandchildren within Minnesota and the nation. What can we do? If we do nothing, nothing will change (for the better). So how about serious brainstorming and willingness to move in different directions with the hope of different results?
My husband has often talked of the benefit of "national service" requirements. While that might be an overwhelming conversation nationwide, what if we Minnesotans started that conversation in an attempt to change the direction of our state?
Could we consider a "state service" requirement for two years for young people? That could include training and pay for local jobs. Instead of welfare, use the money for that training and payment. And if any young people object, they can move to a more generous state, request an exemption, or be subject to a charge of desertion and assigned to jobs not of their choice.
What could happen? An immediate solution to some of the crimes committed by unemployed young people who have no future direction. Use that trained employee pool to fill the critical needs of the medical, restaurant, bus drivers, schools, farmers, etc. Could these youths be of service to seniors who need snow and lawn help, or painting, or repairs? Even young people with disabilities could participate in answering 911 phones or other unique positions.
On a recent trip to Cuba, we witnessed no unemployment or discrimination. Everyone had something to do. Even the lady who offered a slip of toilet paper to users of the toilets — with a small cup for tips. While Cuba has other major issues, I thought that was interesting.
Sure a program of this nature would need a sharp turn in our current behaviors, but if we let politics govern our direction or do nothing, where will we be? I don't have that many years left, but I will do what I can for the sake of our state and families. I hope others will do the same. Perhaps the legion of retired military members could help design a program in conjunction with the lawmakers who will have to provide legislation and divert funding to make this happen.
Let's be a good example to the rest of our country, and let's get going.
Nancy Andreotti, Bloomington
Respectful? I beg to differ.
I reacted to the Jan. 2 article "Building to scale" (which also had the online display text " 'Respectful' new Edina home was designed to blend into old neighborhood") much as I have to most of the articles I encounter in the Star Tribune's weekly Homes section: with deep disappointment. The section devotes itself primarily to the housing options and choices of the upper-income groups, with no regard to the social issues raised by those choices. This piece in particular describes the decision of two "empty-nesters" to demolish their 1,600-square-foot home in an affluent neighborhood and replace it with a home almost double the original's size. Does it not strike anyone else that we have lost any sense of perspective on suitable housing?
While I expect the new home is far more energy-efficient than its predecessor, I also expect that its overall energy use in the years ahead will dwarf past use. Just the energy involved in creating and assembling the materials involved no doubt substantially offsets whatever efficiency was gained.
Articles such as this implicitly endorse the idea of demolishing serviceable existing structures in favor of fantasies affordable by the few at a time when we should be re-examining our housing values. "McMansions" have become the norm in new construction, bearing little relationship to our personal or societal needs. Perhaps it's time the Star Tribune re-evaluated the direction of this section.
James M. Hamilton, St. Paul
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