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E-Pluribus | February 15, 2023
The State Department's unReason-able disinformation warnings; how censorship happens; and the weak foundations of the current "social justice" movement.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Robby Soave: U.S. State Department Funds a Disinformation Index That Warns Advertisers To Avoid Reason
Monday’s Pluribus round-up included a Washington Examiner investigation on how the government is engaging in back-door speech suppression against primarily right-leaning websites. Robby Soave of Reason notes that his home publication was considered especially nefarious by the group monitoring sites and compiling the Global Disinformation Index.
The Global Disinformation Index (GDI) is a British organization that evaluates news outlets' susceptibility to disinformation. The ultimate aim is to persuade online advertisers to blacklist dangerous publications and websites.
[. . .]
The U.S. government evidently values this work; in fact, the State Department subsidizes it. The National Endowment for Democracy—a nonprofit that has received $330 million in taxpayer dollars from the State Department—contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to GDI's budget, according to an investigation by The Washington Examiner's Gabe Kaminsky.
Should the State Department spend public money to help an organization pressure advertisers to punish U.S. media companies? The answer, quite obviously, is no: The First Amendment prohibits the U.S. government from censoring private companies for good reason, and government actors should not seek to evade the First Amendment's protections in order to censor indirectly or exert pressure inappropriately.
[. . .]
But GDI evidently considers Reason even more threatening than The Washington Examiner. Reason is listed among GDI's 10 allegedly absolute "riskiest online news outlets," alongside the New York Post, Real Clear Politics, The Daily Wire, The Blaze, One America News Network, The Federalist, Newsmax, The American Spectator, and The American Conservative.
Read the whole thing.
Nell Gluckman: ‘This Is How Censorship Happens’
In the current struggle against illiberalism, “backlash” is in the eye of the beholder, but Nell Gluckman writing at the Chronicle of Higher Education says there is reason to be troubled by the actions of legislatures across the country that impact what may and may not be taught or even spoken of at institutions of higher learning.
[. . .] In the past two years, more than a dozen states have passed laws or taken other actions that discourage the teaching of critical race theory or “divisive concepts,” posing a threat to free speech in academic settings. More such action is coming this year. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has proposed eliminating public colleges’ diversity spending in his recent higher-education plan. Bills seeking to interrogate or curtail how colleges incorporate diversity programming into their operations have sprung up in Iowa, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Texas.
As states pass more laws, colleges and universities will be left to interpret them. In cases where the effect on higher education is unclear, administrators will be left to divine where the line between legality and illegality might be, and that’s what worries free-speech advocates. Campus leaders who do not want to run afoul of lawmakers and risk losing state funding may decide to play it safe and tell their employees exactly where they think that line is — and instruct them not to cross it. Faculty and staff members without job security and those who do not wish to draw the attention of the conservative media may feel pressure to self-censor.
Such guidance allows legislators to regulate speech “not through direct censorship, but through prudent managing of risk,” said Jeremy C. Young, senior manager of free expression and education at PEN America. He said the laws amount to the most severe intrusions into free expression on campuses since the McCarthy era, in the 1950s. The PEN America staff, he said, has started referring to them as the “Ed Scare” because they’re so reminiscent of the “Red Scare.”
“It’s not that they are hand-in-glove conspiring with the people who want to make it a crime to talk about abortion, but of course this is how censorship happens,” Young said. “This is the banality of censorship.”
Read it all here.
Glenn Loury: When the "Racial Justice" Narrative Crumbles
Glenn Loury is not holding back in his latest conversation at his Substack with John McWhorter. Some excerpts are posted in a transcript in which Loury and McWhorter discuss a renewed call for reparations as the latest sign that the “social justice” diehards are pulling out all the stops.
GLENN LOURY: We're in the twenty-first century. The year is 2023. The country is changing and changing and changing. Tens of millions of non-European immigrants are making lives here. The politics of this country, the Hispanics are a more significant ethnicity than the blacks in the long term when you think about ethnic pluralism in the country. The Chinese are coming, the world is changing. Globalization. Nobody's got time for a person who can't read and who can't count.
I think this is shtick. “We were enslaved. We are black. We are owed something” is a house of cards. I think Trump was an early indication of the instability of the system. I'm not embracing or endorsing him. I'm just saying that, in challenging some of these shibboleths, he could draw tens upon tens of millions of people to the polls. And some of those shibboleths had to do with this empty-suited house of cards, which is the current posture of aggrievement on behalf of so-called justice in a multiracial country, et cetera, et cetera.
[. . .]
JOHN MCWHORTER: [M]y main thing about reparations is simply this. If it happened, nothing would change. The whole race debate would continue just the way it is because of the people who are so committed to having the race debate be in a certain way. As soon as all that money was given out, there would be this mantra: “They better not think it's over. Can't treat us like animals for 400 years and then think you can just pay us off. Woo! Woo!” Nothing would change.
Read it all.
Here’s the beginning of a Jesse Singal thread responding to an open letter by some New York Times contributors to the paper decrying the Times’s “editorial bias in the newspaper’s reporting on transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming people.”
And finally, in case you missed it, here’s a look at what can get you a decade in prison in Iran: