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E-Pluribus | April 8, 2022
Why Hungary is wrong for the Right, Facebook's selective censorship, and who is really subject to being cancelled?
A round up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Joseph C. Sternberg: Hungary Is No Model for Conservatives
Some on the right have had an unhealthy obsession with Viktor Orbán and his “conservative” governance in Hungary. Joseph Sternberg at the Wall Street Journal provides further reasons to doubt the “conservative” bonafides of Orbán based on the old “follow the money” principle.
The only problem for the credibility of Mr. Orbán’s fans is that he never actually fights all that hard. The tiltyard in which Mr. Orbán and his critics stage their jousts is the EU budget. Hungary is a net recipient of funds from the bloc. A pressing issue concerns up to €7.2 billion in pandemic aid that Brussels is stalling—Mr. Orbán says because he’s conservative, Brussels says because Budapest is corrupt.
For all the bellyaching about an overweening European bureaucracy, money is the only power Brussels has. That’s no small thing, but it’s something countries can accept or reject relatively freely. If Mr. Orbán really considers the EU’s demands on matters such as the organization of the judiciary to be intolerable affronts to Hungarian sovereignty, he could refuse Brussels’ handouts. He could even propose that Hungary leave the EU. Britain did, and the invading army staging a Reconquista from Belgium has yet to appear.
That Mr. Orbán never does either of those things should be more embarrassing to his boosters than it seems to be. One reason he doesn’t is that the EU remains popular in Hungary. Some 47% of Hungarian respondents had a positive view of the EU and only 13% had a negative view in the latest Eurobarometer poll, published this month—better than the 44% and 17% for the EU population as a whole. Last spring’s edition, for which more-complete breakdowns are available, found more Hungarians trust the EU (56%) than trust their own government (45%).
Read it all.
Liz Wolfe: Why Is Facebook Censoring Articles About How BLM Used Donations To Buy a $6 Million House?
Facebook has made a big show of trying to weed out “misinformation” on its site, but Liz Wolfe of Reason writes about the curious case of an embarrassing Black Lives Matter story being quashed by the social media giant. If Facebook is going to censor stories that simply report unflattering details rather than false information, how can the company claim to simply be a platform rather than an active participant in political and social discourse?
In October 2020, Black Lives Matter received $66.5 million from generous donors. Later that same month, a man named Dyane Pascall—the financial manager for BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors' consulting firm—bought the $6 million house. "Pascall transferred ownership of the house to an LLC established in Delaware by the law firm Perkins Coie," Sean Campbell reports at Intelligencer, which "ensured that the ultimate identity of the property's new owner was not disclosed to the public."
[ . . . ]
None of this is technically illegal, but all of it is ill-advised if your goal is to ensure donors trust that their money will be used to advance racial justice, not personal enrichment for the founders. And these reports, from both Intelligencer and the New York Post, are extraordinarily damning for an organization whose leaders have already come under scrutiny for their extravagant spending. Cullors' posh real estate holdings totaling at least $3.2 million were the subject of a prior New York Post piece that ended up being censored by Facebook, unable to be shared on the platform.
[ . . . ]
It's not just that such censorship is bad in principle (it is!), but also that the censors are often wrong and clumsy when they attempt to deem what's true and false. Private companies like Twitter and Facebook/Meta have every right to decide their own content moderation policies, but it's not hard to notice patterns in who and what they choose to crack down on. It's not always that the information is incorrect, just that the reporting is embarrassing to favored political causes or complicates a prevailing narrative.
Read it all here.
Christian Schneider: "Cancel Culture" Isn’t What You Think It Is
Our working definition of cancel culture at Pluribus is “disproportionate, punitive, coordinated, personal destruction and discrediting for a real or perceived offense with no offer of redemption.” Attempts to “cancel” can be aimed at anyone, but, while the impulse is still wrong, practically speaking the powerful are far less likely to feel its impact, writes Christian Schneider at Arc Digital.
None of these examples are “cancel culture.” Johnny Depp wasn’t “canceled”—he can be found on cologne commercials to this day. Louis C.K. is still headlining comedy tours. Donald Trump would be the GOP nominee if the primaries were held today. If Joe Rogan was dumped from Spotify, he could probably make more money charging for his podcast on a different site. (He reportedly just turned down a $100 million offer from another right-wing video platform.)
But cancel culture does exist, and the “witch hunt” claim demonstrates why.
First, the “witches” in Salem were, as far as we know, innocent. But more importantly, a “witch hunt” takes place when the powerful condemn the powerless, taking either their livelihoods or, as in the actual case in Salem, their lives.
True cancel culture exhibits the same dynamic—oftentimes, as in Steven Earnest’s case, powerful mobs will come for powerless individuals seeking to deprive them of their reputations and careers. You might chafe at the idea that undergraduate students ought to be seen as the holders of power—in this or in any other scenario. You would be right to be skeptical—by themselves, students don’t have the authority to suspend a professor. But they do if today’s cultural climate is characterized by an intense pressure, felt by the professor’s higher-ups in Earnest’s case but by any employer more generally, to readily and uncritically accept certain forms of outrage and allow it to harm the careers or livelihoods of innocent people.
Every day, powerless people are canceled because they don’t have the benefit of millions of followers or $100 million podcast contracts.
Read the whole thing.
Via the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Yale is encouraging “snitch” culture:
Via Wesley Yang, with comment by Andrew Sullivan:
And finally, since Pluribus is always concerned about misuse of language, here’s Vivek Ramaswamy with a curious use of “universal” by the city of Palm Springs: