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E-Pluribus | April 26, 2022
Elon Musk and Freedom of Tweets, who is a 'minority', and religious liberty and the Supreme Court.
A round up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Wall Street Journal Editorial Board: Elon Musk, Twitter and Free Speech
The sheer panic sparked by the pending acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk filled the social media site with enough hyperbole to illustrate a dozen more essays on the topic. The Wall Street Journal editorial board, while not 100% sold on Musk’s ability to “fix” what ails Twitter, suggests that perhaps the apocalyptic response to Musk’s latest project is overwrought.
What a gamble for Mr. Musk, who argues he can unlock value in Twitter that its current leadership can’t. According to the Journal, the financing proposal he announced last week includes $21 billion in personal equity. That amounts to roughly 10% of his net worth, going by the Forbes estimate. As collateral on debt, Mr. Musk would also pledge about a third of his Tesla stake. It isn’t every day the world’s richest man makes a bet like this.
[ . . . ]
If Mr. Musk can strike a more satisfying balance on content moderation, maybe he’s right about Twitter’s hidden value. Current management is correct that most regular social-media users don’t want a daily bath of Russian bots, jihadist propaganda, noxious harassment and so forth. Ditto for advertisers, who represent about 90% of the company’s revenue. Yet Silicon Valley’s tech lords have decided they want to be arbiters of speech on political topics like climate change and the origins of Covid.
[ . . . ]
The hyperbole surrounding Mr. Musk’s Twitter foray has been curious, hilarious, and sometimes both. Mr. Musk “is increasingly behaving like a movie supervillain,” an Axios writer said. A former CEO of the social site Reddit called for government regulation “to prevent rich people from controlling our channels of communication.” That line was published in an op-ed at the Washington Post, which is owned by the noted pauper Jeff Bezos.
Read the whole thing.
Yascha Mounk: America Won’t Ever Be Majority Minority
The promotion of Yascha Mounk’s new book, The Great Experiment: Why Diverse Democracies Fall Apart and How They Can Endure, continues this week with an excerpt at Persuasion regarding the reputed minority/majority divide in America. Mounk takes issue with the trope that the US will soon be a “majority minority” country, a concept rooted in a myopic skin-deep view of people that implies ideology correlates with race — a notion Mounk finds unsupported by the facts.
Political strategists have also set their sights on the moment when the country is supposedly set to become majority minority. Since Hispanics and African-Americans tend to support the Democratic Party in greater numbers, many Democrats now hope that the ongoing demographic transformation will help them inflict permanent defeat on the Republican Party—and perhaps even remake the country in keeping with their longstanding social and cultural aspirations.
Among other Americans, that same prospect is capable of provoking enormous fear. Demographic change, in their view, might change the country in which they grew up beyond recognition, or even relegate them to a subordinate position.
In its most extreme form, this fear takes the form of apocalyptic warnings about the “great replacement” that is supposedly taking place in western societies. Traitorous politicians, far-right activists claim, are plotting to replace the existing population with newcomers that they hope to control more easily than the native-born.
But the set of assumptions which underwrites both these hopes and these fears is mistaken. Most developed democracies will never become “majority minority” in any meaningful sense. It is highly premature to assume that the politics of the future will neatly pit “whites” against “people of color.” And anybody who wants diverse democracies like the United States to succeed actually has reason to celebrate the fact that demography, despite the belief that so many parts of both left and right now share, is not destiny.
[ . . . ]
But when you bother to look at how different groups actually see themselves, it quickly becomes apparent that many of their members don’t fit the neat narrative that has been imposed on them. In particular, three rapidly growing groups of Americans that should, according to the prevailing narrative, simply see themselves as “people of color” actually have a much more complicated self-conception: mixed-race Americans, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans.
Read it all.
Nicole Stelle Garnett and Elizabeth Totzke: Endorse Religious Liberty
Despite freedom of religion’s presence in the First Amendment along with that of speech and the press, it has at times been treated more as an inconvenience or embarrassment rather than celebrated and vigorously defended. Now that free expression in all forms is facing increasing pressure, cases involving religious liberty before the Supreme Court have taken on a new urgency, write Nicole Stelle Garnett and Elizabeth Totzke at City Journal.
Many of the Court’s recent religious-liberty decisions sound a similar theme: namely, that the First Amendment requires government neutrality toward religion—that it prohibits the government from disfavoring religious believers or institutions, from silencing religious speech, and from suppressing religious conduct. So why do government actors persist in doing these things, necessitating the Court’s repeated corrective action?
Part of the fault lies with the Supreme Court itself. Despite reiterating, in case after case, that the Constitution demands government neutrality toward religion, the Court has stubbornly failed to clear away an undergrowth of older precedents that arguably suggest the opposite. Bureaucrats and judges alike cling to these outdated precedents, using them to mask their confusion, ignorance, or outright animus toward religious believers and institutions.
[ . . . ]
Across the country, public school administrators have sterilized public schools of all things religious—even if wholly private—all in the name of avoiding any perceived endorsement of religion. And in applying the endorsement test, courts frequently reach conflicting conclusions about whether the First Amendment requires these actions or prohibits them. For example, federal courts have held that the Constitution permits public school choirs to perform religious hymns in Texas but not in New Jersey, and they have concluded that graduating students can refer to God in high school commencement speeches in Florida but can be punished for doing so in Colorado.
Read it all here.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is at times mischaracterized as a right-wing organization. The state of Florida is currently finding out otherwise:
Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter has at least one enthusiastic fan: former CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey:
And finally, Christopher Mims pours cold water on everyone’s Elon Musk/Twitter utopian and dystopian fantasies: