Dumb Mobs

You know, I don’t want to irk two of the handful of people who read this thing, but I just can’t cheer on the Fenway crowd for booing the Phillies’ Brett Myers last Saturday. And it’s not just because I have to disagree with Dan Shaughnessy on everything.

Booing a formerly-beloved center fielder, giving a standing ovation to a well-beloved part-time outfielder, these are things that are within the confines of the game. When the crowd acts like a jury of 35,000, making a decision with scant (though emotionally charged) evidence, on what will probably be a real criminal case, it feels wrong; it’s the kind of mass impulse that leads to the kind of awful things mobs can do. Even though the guy really does sound like a shit, even though what he is reported to have done is awful, and even though the only remorse he still seems to have shown is of the “I’m sorry you found out about it” variety.

I can’t get on the fans too hard. If I’d have been at Fenway, I probably would have joined in. But I can’t take the extra step and say it’s good or that I’m happy about it.

Really, if there’s anyone at fault here (besides Myers himself), it’s the Phillies management for starting him the next day. I mean, even if he had done something trivial, say got arrested for shoplifting some executive toys from Nieman Marcus, I don’t think it’s out of line for them to pull the guy out of the lineup the next day.

On a similar note, there was a good interview with Jaron Lanier in the Globe’s Ideas section last Sunday on the load of crap that is the whole “Wisdom of Crowds” idea. He draws what I think is a valid parallel between the mute acceptance of badly designed software and group think: the idea that “the computer must know better than I do” being a similar individual abdication of responsibility.

Anthony Lane on Superman

This is why I love the man.

Picture my disappointment as I realized that, for all the pizzazz of “Superman Returns,” its global weapon of choice would not be terrorism, or nuclear piracy, or dirty bombs. It would be real estate. What does Warner Bros. have in mind for the next installment? Superman overhauls corporate pension plans? Luthor screws Medicare?

and even better:

“Mankind is a rope fastened between animal and superman—a rope over an abyss.” That is Nietzsche, coiner of the Übermensch, and in “Thus Spake Zarathustra” he scorns what he calls “extraterrestrial hopes” in favor of those, rooted on earth, who struggle to overcome the weakness of their own humanity. That is a proper, if perilous, subject for grownup cinema, and I for one have grown tired of supermen, and superwomen, who start with such a flagrant advantage over the rest of us. Mind you, if Superman is such a paragon, how come he wants to save a species so universally dumb that not a single member of it recognizes him when he puts on a pair of glasses?