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No. 640: Beyond Compliance

No. 640: Beyond Compliance

馃嚭馃嚫 There's more to life than complying 路聽The AG takes on Meta 路聽Rejecting federal education funds 路 Much more!

Good afternoon, everyone.

I started reading Walker Percy鈥檚 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鈥檝e 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鈥檚 name on it certifying, so to speak, one鈥檚 right to exist. What satisfaction I take in appearing the first day to get my auto tag and brake sticker鈥 pay attention to all spot announcements on the radio about mental health, the seven signs of cancer, and safe driving鈥攖hough as I say, I prefer to ride the bus.

Pages later, expanding on why he likes to ride the bus, Bolling explains, 鈥淭he truth is I dislike cars. Whenever I drive a car, I have the feeling I have become invisible.鈥

Bolling鈥檚 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鈥檚 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 鈥渃hecking the boxes鈥 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鈥檚 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.

鈥淚 will live in Montana,鈥 tells Capt Borodin. 鈥淎nd 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 鈥榬ecreational vehicle.鈥 And drive from state to state. Do they let you do that?鈥

George Washington was not successful because he was more competent and compliant鈥攂ureaucratic virtues鈥攖han 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.




Photo by Dima Solomin / Unsplash

From Megan Podsiedlik

鈥淚 am the most well-known person of my generation," replied Mark Zuckerberg to an email from four billionaire META investors who called him 鈥*the spokesman* for the Millennial Generation鈥t least in the USA."

On October 23, 2023, Tennessee鈥檚 AG held a press conference announcing the state鈥檚 lawsuit against Meta. The suit, pursued by 42 attorneys general, alleged the social media giant misrepresented their platforms鈥 addictive nature. At the time, documents from the bipartisan, nationwide investigation were released with heavy redactions. Yesterday, Skmetti鈥檚 office was finally able to release the fully un-redacted version of the suit.


Midway through the complaint, there鈥檚 a full section dedicated to Meta鈥檚 focus on Tennessee鈥攅specially their keen interest in the Nashville area. The suit mentions a Tennessean guest column by Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg, published in 2020. Titled 鈥淣ashville Area is a Special Place and Facebook Wants to Be a Part of It,鈥 the piece took note of  鈥渢he 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,鈥 which include 鈥渢wo solar energy projects in Lincoln and Madison counties,鈥 and 鈥淢eta's efforts to support small and black-owned businesses in Tennessee during the pandemic,鈥 to name a few.

Further along, the suit mentions a discussion the Tennessean's editorial board had with Meta a month after Sandberg鈥檚 column was printed: 鈥淚nternal documents show that the company viewed this as 鈥榓n 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.鈥"

The un-redacted suit then goes on to unveil Meta鈥檚 internal data showing how closely they鈥檙e monitoring Instagram's performance among youths in the Volunteer state. Among the metrics were things like teen consumption of Instagram features and teen market 鈥減enetration鈥 in Tennessee. 

Perhaps most strikingly, Meta's internal metrics show that as of 2020, Meta determined that Instagram had fully 鈥榮aturated鈥 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.


Yesterday, Skrmetti鈥檚 office highlighted Meta鈥檚 most concerning practices, all of which are mentioned in the suit and address Meta鈥檚 dismissal of various internal studies showing the detrimental effects of their platforms on teen brain development.

The AG鈥檚 abbreviated version of the 75-page suit barely scratches the surface. The full lawsuit is available on the Tennessee Attorney General website.


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 鈥 about 10 percent of Tennessee鈥檚 education budget

Mayor O鈥機onnell Names Five Nominees to Metro Arts Commission (Banner) Mayor Freddie O鈥機onnell will bring five more nominees for appointment to the Metro Arts Commission before the Metro Council at next week鈥檚 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 鈥渁 parent of a child who attends, or who is eligible to attend鈥 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)


View our calendar for the week here and our weekly film rundown here.

馃搮 Visit our On The Radar list to find upcoming events around Nashville.

馃帶 On Spotify: Pamphleteer's Picks, a playlist of our favorite bands in town this week.

馃懆馃徎鈥嶐煂 Check out our Nashville farmer's market guide.


馃獣 Liam Purcell & Cane Mill Road @ Station Inn, 8p, $20, Info
+ bluegrass, roots & jamgrass from Deep Gap, North Carolina

馃幐 Zephaniah Ohora & Friends @ Dee's Lounge, 9p, $10, Info
+ country singer-songwriter

馃幑 Great Gershwin! @ Schermerhorn Symphony Center, 7:30p, $36+, Info

馃幐 Under High Street and Weak Daze @ The East Room, 8p, $12.83, Info
+ local alternative & indie-rock

馃崁 Live Irish Music @ McNamara鈥檚 Irish Pub, 6p, Free, Info

馃幐 Kelly鈥檚 Heroes @ Robert鈥檚 Western World, 6:30p, Free, Info

馃幐 Open Mic @ Fox & Locke, 6:30p, Free, Info
+ vet community here

In case you missed it...

馃摪 Check out the full newsletter archive here.

No. 639: Racking Up Time
鈴 Who talks the most 路 Bret Easton Ellis鈥 new novel 路 Epstein flight logs 路 Much more!
No. 638: Here鈥檚 Your Sign
馃 113th General Assembly begins 路 Signs as a fixation 路 Three bills that you鈥檒l hear about, but won鈥檛 pass 路 Much more!
No. 637: Country Music Without the Country
馃搮 Today, Davis talks about country music, Miles recaps the Titans鈥 finale, and Megan gets us ready for the start of the 113th General Assembly tomorrow.
No. 636: Polls, Chesterton, Raw Eggs, Oh My!
馃搫 Fireworks on the horizon 路 Raw Egg Nationalist 路 Chesterton in Nashville 路 Push Polls 路 Much More!
No. 635: How the Right Can Learn to Stop Worrying and Love the Arts
馃柤 Enjoying ugly things isn鈥檛 cool 路 Book review of Monsters 路 Beacon Poll results 路 Much More!


  • 馃摉 The Anti-Nostalgia of Bret Easton Ellis: A review of The Shards (Read)
  • 馃枈 G.K. Chesterton's commentary on Nashville and the broader South from his 1921 tour of the US still resonates (Read)
  • 馃 Dream Scenario takes on Culture War schisms from the defiant middle. (Read)
  • 馃彉 The double-edged sword of prosperity in Tennessee's small towns (Read)
  • And check out our podcast, YouTube, and article archive for more.