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E-Pluribus | February 13, 2023
Death by DEI; more on Big Disinformation; and looking deeper into the conservative take on liberalism.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Matthew Spalding: DEI Spells Death for the Idea of a University
The lofty ideal of a university is to present a vast array of ideas and concepts to students seeking to pursue knowledge and form their worldviews. At the Wall Street Journal, Matthew Spalding writes that the full court press on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at many institutions of higher learning is undermining that vision.
[Diversity, equity and inclusion are all] good words with respectable origins. Yet in true Orwellian fashion, they have been redefined.
Diversity is no longer a term to describe the breadth of our differences but a demand to flatter and grant privileges to purportedly oppressed identity groups. Equity assigns desirable positions based on race, sex and sexual orientation rather than character, competence and merit. Inclusion now means creating a social environment where identity groups are celebrated while those who disagree are maligned.
“Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion”—the compound form of these modern concepts—is especially toxic. It divides us by social identity groups, ranks those groups on privilege and power, and excludes those who fail to honor the new orthodoxy. Rather than being equally endowed with innate dignity and fundamental rights as human beings—best judged by our character and not skin color—we are supposed to discriminate and confer status based on race, sex and cultural affinity.
This isn’t merely a conceptual problem. DEI initiatives have proliferated in higher education. There are offices, deans and vice presidents of diversity, equity and inclusion at most colleges and universities, such as New College of Florida, where I have recently been appointed a trustee. One review of top universities found an average of 45 DEI staff members at each school (about one DEI staffer for every 30 professors). Another study found that 20% of academic job postings require DEI statements as a requirement of employment or promotion.
Read it all here.
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Judson Berger: A Massive ‘Disinformation’ Racket
Judson Berger at National Review summarizes the findings of an investigation by the Washington Examiner on a behind-the-scenes blacklisting of mostly-right-leaning websites. Depressing advertising revenue was the ultimate target of the effort by a British “nonpartisan” organization. (An update on the story is included in Around Twitter below.)
The Washington Examiner has a piece out that should boil the blood of anyone who believes in a free and adversarial (we’ll get to that word in a minute) press.
The report flagged the work of “disinformation”-tracking groups, and how their net effect is to essentially sideline and defund conservative-leaning media:
“Major ad companies are increasingly seeking guidance from purportedly “nonpartisan” groups claiming to be detecting and fighting online “disinformation.” These same “disinformation” monitors are compiling secret website blacklists and feeding them to ad companies, with the aim of defunding and shutting down disfavored speech, according to sources familiar with the situation, public memos, and emails obtained by the Washington Examiner.”
The work of a British outfit called the Global Disinformation Index deserves particular mention, and scorn. Its latest “risk assessment” of American online media is its own Steele dossier of disinformation and a radiating example of why one must always read the methodology.
Starting with the obvious problem: Its list of the “ten riskiest online news outlets” is, you might have guessed, entirely composed of conservative or libertarian-leaning websites. . .
Read the whole thing.
Jason Willick: The conservative challenge to liberalism goes deeper than self-interest
The cynical view of politics is that everyone is simply looking to tilt the playing field in his own direction. Relying on a recent study out of Stanford University, Jason Willick writes at the Washington Post that there is evidence that, at least on the conservative side, principle can and does win out over naked self-interest.
Conservatism’s preference for decentralized power, then, appears “to be rooted in principle,” not partisan advantage. What about when it comes to another procedural norm — freedom of speech?
A January paper by Ruth E. Appel and Jennifer Pan of Stanford University and Margaret E. Roberts of the University of California at San Diego measured the propensity of Democrats and Republicans to remove partisan misinformation on social media. The differences are stark: “Even when Republicans agree that content is false, they are half as likely as Democrats to say that the content should be removed and more than twice as likely to consider removal as censorship,” the study found.
[ . . . ]
If conservative support for free speech were primarily self-serving, we’d expect Republican respondents would target Democratic misinformation for removal. Instead, the authors found: “Regardless of the partisan slant of the content, Democrats are more likely to support the removal of content, while Republicans are more likely to oppose removing content.” Moreover, Democrats discriminate somewhat in favor of misinformation that supports their party, while Republicans treat pro-Republican and pro-Democratic content similarly.
The Republican emphasis on freedom of speech online is sometimes interpreted as a reflection on the party’s purported disregard for the truth. Instead, it might reflect a genuine conservative position about the optimal way for political communication to operate.
[ . . . ]
The “process arguments” favored by right and left have changed before, and they could change again. After all, there’s nothing inherently virtuous about a rigid commitment to processes such as federalism and the marketplace of ideas if they lead to terrible outcomes.
Read it all.
An update from the Washington Examiner’s Gabe Kaminsky on Microsoft’s “disinformation” blacklist:
Is helping blind people see bad? How prevalent is this view? Via Cathy Young:
And finally, via Wesley Yang, presented without comment: