Kanye West, Sam Bankman-Fried, and the Cult of Not Reading – The Atlantic


Can you really trust someone who hates books? Thomas Chatterton Williams looks at what someone’s complete rejection of the idea that there is any value in reading books says about whom a person — and a society — is.

Ye’s patently reprehensible anti-Semitic tirades rightly drew the world’s scorn. But his anti-book stance is disturbing because it says something about not only Ye’s character but the smugly solipsistic tenor of this cultural moment.

Williams does take care to distinguish between people who simply don’t read and people who act as if books have absolutely nothing to offer, which I appreciate. It’s the utter contempt that there is nothing to learn from reading a book — any book — that irritates him most.

It is one thing in practice not to read books, or not to read them as much as one might wish. But it is something else entirely to despise the act in principle. Identifying as someone who categorically rejects books suggests a much larger deficiency of character.

In yet another example of everything old being new again, Williams also connects this current idiocy back to a passage from Anna Karenina (a book, horrors) that talks about so-called “free-thinkers” who refuse to learn the principles of the things they insist on rebelling against. Perhaps that’s because to learn about the moral and philosophical underpinnings of an idea or a school of thought makes it harder to claim your brainstorm is any sort of improvement.

Or has it might be stated in today’s tech-centric terms, it’s harder to “disrupt” an industry (the ride-sharing apps purport to disrupt traditional taxi services, or Airbnb disrupts the hotel business) if you take the time to learn why those businesses exist in their current form. Or as a social media wit once deadpanned after reading about a Silicon Valley wizard extolling his new idea of a community space that would include books and other goods to be jointly owned and borrowed by community members when needed, computers with internet access, gathering spaces and other amenities, “Congratulations, bro. You just invented the library.”

Top photo: Tyler Comrie / The Atlantic; Getty

Published by Julia

I learned to read before I started kindergarten, and I haven't stopped yet.

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