Good afternoon, everyone.
I started reading Walker Percy’s debut novel The Moviegoer this week. The story follows Binx Bolling, a thirty-year-old stockbroker in post-war New Orleans, who embarks on a search for meaning in a city whose transformation has left its natives alienated from it.
A couple of passages felt relevant to what I’ve come to understand as an emergent neo-civicism that draws meaning from unquestioning compliance with dictates both federal and local, making little room for dissent.
At the beginning of the book, Bolling revels in the minutiae of compliance:
It is a pleasure to carry out the duties of a citizen and to receive in return a receipt or a neat styrene card with one’s name on it certifying, so to speak, one’s right to exist. What satisfaction I take in appearing the first day to get my auto tag and brake sticker…I pay attention to all spot announcements on the radio about mental health, the seven signs of cancer, and safe driving—though as I say, I prefer to ride the bus.
Pages later, expanding on why he likes to ride the bus, Bolling explains, “The truth is I dislike cars. Whenever I drive a car, I have the feeling I have become invisible.”
Bolling’s sentiments, expressed in the context of 1950s New Orleans, are weirdly contemporary. I talk frequently about the obsession with riding the bus that characterizes leaders in Metro government, but the more striking aspect of this is how Bolling’s compliance with bureaucratic processes is what makes him feel like an individual even as they indicate his safe retreat into the comfort of mass compliance and undifferentiated anonymity.
Ultimately, Bolling reveals a deep dissatisfaction with “checking the boxes” of compliance, giving way to a crisis that sends him on a spiritual quest of sorts, wandering the streets of the French Quarter, Chicago, and roadtripping along the Gulf Coast as he searches for meaning.
Similarly, in 1990’s The Hunt for Red October, Captain Raimus (Sean Connery) and Capt. Vasili Borodin (Sam Neill), two Soviets orchestrating a daring defection from the USSR in a nuclear submarine, fantasize about life in America free from the compulsive compliance that defined their homeland.
“I will live in Montana,” tells Capt Borodin. “And I will marry a round American woman and raise rabbits, and she will cook them for me. And I will have a pickup truck... maybe even a ‘recreational vehicle.’ And drive from state to state. Do they let you do that?”
George Washington was not successful because he was more competent and compliant—bureaucratic virtues—than his British opponents, but because he was blessed with the spirit of daring and resilience, blessed by divine providence. These characteristics allow man to see past the shallowness of conforming desires and reach for something greater and further. Something they may not even know exists, but nonetheless, feel compelled to pursue.
In all instances, we see men striving for and seeking out something more meaningful than mere compliance in their respective pursuits. A fundamental American quality that we would do well to remember now and then.
✦ STATE’S COMPLAINTS AGAINST META REVEALED
From Megan Podsiedlik
“I am the most well-known person of my generation," replied Mark Zuckerberg to an email from four billionaire META investors who called him “*the spokesman* for the Millennial Generation…at least in the USA."
On October 23, 2023, Tennessee’s AG held a press conference announcing the state’s lawsuit against Meta. The suit, pursued by 42 attorneys general, alleged the social media giant misrepresented their platforms’ addictive nature. At the time, documents from the bipartisan, nationwide investigation were released with heavy redactions. Yesterday, Skmetti’s office was finally able to release the fully un-redacted version of the suit.
META METRICS: TENNESSEE
Midway through the complaint, there’s a full section dedicated to Meta’s focus on Tennessee—especially their keen interest in the Nashville area. The suit mentions a Tennessean guest column by Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg, published in 2020. Titled “Nashville Area is a Special Place and Facebook Wants to Be a Part of It,” the piece took note of “the various ways Nashvillians used Meta's products in the wake of the March 2020 tornadoes, during the Covid-19 pandemic, and in relation to various philanthropic causes,” which include “two solar energy projects in Lincoln and Madison counties,” and “Meta's efforts to support small and black-owned businesses in Tennessee during the pandemic,” to name a few.
Further along, the suit mentions a discussion the Tennessean's editorial board had with Meta a month after Sandberg’s column was printed: “Internal documents show that the company viewed this as ‘an opportunity to proactively reach out and build relationships with the outlet and Board and provide a positive, forward looking message relating to the impact of [Meta)...particularly in Tennessee.’"
The un-redacted suit then goes on to unveil Meta’s internal data showing how closely they’re monitoring Instagram's performance among youths in the Volunteer state. Among the metrics were things like teen consumption of Instagram features and teen market “penetration” in Tennessee.
Perhaps most strikingly, Meta's internal metrics show that as of 2020, Meta determined that Instagram had fully ‘saturated’ the market for Tennesseans under 35 years of age. That same year, Meta found that it had fully "penetrated" the teenage market in Tennessee.Presumably, these metrics mean that Meta believed that, as of 2020, there were as many Instagram accounts for teenagers in Tennessee as there were teenagers in the State.
META’S SIX MOST ALARMING PRACTICES
Yesterday, Skrmetti’s office highlighted Meta’s most concerning practices, all of which are mentioned in the suit and address Meta’s dismissal of various internal studies showing the detrimental effects of their platforms on teen brain development.
Senate Report Shows Hazards of Rejecting $1 Billion in Federal Education Funds (Scene) Lawmakers in the state Senate have released a report related to possibly rejecting more than $1 billion of federal education funds — about 10 percent of Tennessee’s education budget
Mayor O’Connell Names Five Nominees to Metro Arts Commission (Banner) Mayor Freddie O’Connell will bring five more nominees for appointment to the Metro Arts Commission before the Metro Council at next week’s meeting.
New House bill would expand who can challenge books in Tennessee public schools (Tennessean) Rep. Gino Bulso, R-Brentwood, introduced HB-1632 to allow “a parent of a child who attends, or who is eligible to attend” a public or charter school to file a lawsuit against a school district over enforcement of the Age Appropriate Materials Act.
Decades of farming degraded this Tennessee stream; restoration efforts are now under way (Lookout) Trace Creek, a tributary of the Harpeth River thousands of years old, flows for four miles through the Stephens Valley neighborhood bordering Williamson and Davidson counties along the Natchez Trace.
- Maneet Chauhan to close North Gulch restaurant due to ongoing losses since Covid-19 (NBJ)
- For-sale historic building sees asking price reduced (Post)
- Downtown residential high-rise units listed for sale (Post)
- St. Regis hotel, condo tower planned for SoBro (Post)
- Downtown design firm eyes move (Post)
### THINGS TO DO
📅 Visit our On The Radar list to find upcoming events around Nashville.
🎧 On Spotify: Pamphleteer's Picks, a playlist of our favorite bands in town this week.
👨🏻🌾 Check out our Nashville farmer's market guide.
🪕 Liam Purcell & Cane Mill Road @ Station Inn, 8p, $20, Info
+ bluegrass, roots & jamgrass from Deep Gap, North Carolina
🎸 Zephaniah Ohora & Friends @ Dee's Lounge, 9p, $10, Info
+ country singer-songwriter
🎹 Great Gershwin! @ Schermerhorn Symphony Center, 7:30p, $36+, Info
🎸 Under High Street and Weak Daze @ The East Room, 8p, $12.83, Info
+ local alternative & indie-rock
🎸 Open Mic @ Fox & Locke, 6:30p, Free, Info
+ vet community here
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- And check out our podcast, YouTube, and article archive for more.