E-Pluribus | February 7, 2024
Balancing child safety, parental rights, and liberty - part 2; decolonize everything; and reforming civil asset forfeiture.
A round-up of the latest and best musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Michael Toscano: It’s Time to Pass the Kids Online Safety Act
Yesterday, Pluribus featured Jessica Melugin at The Dispatch detailing why she believes the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) poses a serious threat to individual liberty. Today, we return to The Dispatch for another point of view: Michael Toscano believes KOSA will help parents protect their children from ubiquitous social media influence.
Last May, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy released an advisory warning that declared that current science provided “ample indicators” that social media presents a “profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.” Murthy’s warning is supported by the research of Gallup’s Jonathan T. Rothwell, co-published by the Institute for Family Studies (IFS)—where I am the executive director—in October 2023. Rothwell surveyed 6,643 parents who care for a child between the ages of 3 and 19, as well as 1,580 of those parents’ children (ages 13 to 19), and found the following:
Teens who spend more than 5 hours a day on social media were 60% more likely to express suicidal thoughts or harm themselves, 2.8 times more likely to hold a negative view of their body, and 30% more likely to report a lot of sadness the day before.
Rothwell’s work bolsters the conclusions of scholars like Jonathan Haidt and Jean Twenge, who have convincingly shown that addiction to smartphones and social media have been the primary driver of a profound mental health crisis among Gen Z, which is wracked by unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide attempts.
[. . .]
Critics of legislation aiming to make social media platforms safer for kids are indeed correct that the weight of judicial precedent has tilted against additional regulation, ever since Reno v. ACLU struck down key provisions of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. But these pro-Big-Tech rulings are weakened by outdated visions of the internet that are entirely ignorant of smartphones, social media, and the havoc they have wreaked on America’s kids.
[. . .]
KOSA [Kids Online Safety Act] merely creates the conditions for a safer experience for kids on social media. As I have previously argued, Zuckerberg is in fact correct that the devices and app stores of Apple and Google—which profit off of the addiction of minors to these platforms by being their primary portals of access—need to be regulated, too; but he is wrong to think that this should absolve Meta altogether. Best of all would be legislation that liberates adolescents from these platforms by literally banning them from it entirely via age verification, just as we ban them from buying cigarettes, another addictive substance we once left unregulated. But if liberty is the ultimate goal, then safety is the right place to start. To that end, the Kids Online Safety Act should be passed by Congress without delay.
Read the whole thing.
Lawrence M. Krauss: Concordia University 'Decolonises' Engineering
Canada’s Concordia University has plans to “change the ways in which we teach” that involve “decolonization.” At Quillette, Lawrence Krauss says this “change” has nothing to do with improving education. If teaching is about giving students the skills they need to thrive in the world, Concordia’s current emphasis will accomplish little towards that goal.
This was part of a recent statement by Donna Kahérakwas Goodleaf, the Director of Decolonizing Curriculum and Pedagogy at Canada’s Concordia University’s Centre for Teaching and Learning. She was talking about the university’s new five-year strategic plan to decolonize and indigenize its entire curriculum and pedagogy. The university’s provost, Anne Whitelaw, agreed: “This strategic plan … will change the ways in which we teach at Concordia.”
[. . .]
Concordia may be located on land that was once the Six Nations Confederacy, but for better or worse, it is now part of Quebec, a province within a country called Canada, which was confederated in 1867 under laws that have governed society for the past 157 years. As much as one might bemoan the fate of Canada’s indigenous peoples, universities like Concordia exist precisely because they embody educational structures created to encourage study, learning, and research aimed at unravelling the true nature of reality and using that knowledge to help guide our modern society. Imposing political criteria like decolonization and indigenization on curricula that include physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, and so on is to shackle these fields to fantasies.
Goodleaf is quite clear about the intent of the new curriculum. It “creates a path where everyone is equal and no worldview is superior.” But as nice as this claim sounds, it simply isn’t true. Not everyone is equal. Some people are more talented musicians than others. Some are more gifted athletes. Some have better mathematical skills. Some are taller. Of course, it is important to treat everyone with equal respect, in spite of the obvious physiological and intellectual inequities that exist between individual human beings. This is a wonderful tenet that stems from the Enlightenment. (I don’t know enough about their cosmogeny to be certain, but I bet that the peoples of the Six Nations Confederacy also recognized that individuals differ in their skills and abilities and therefore probably did not consider everyone to be equal—especially people outside the Confederacy.) Indeed, the very notion Goodleaf espouses—that people should be considered equals, and their differing worldviews should all be granted equal consideration—is uniquely Western. In fact, it could be seen as one of the Western cultural norms that she is supposedly critiquing.
And some worldviews are superior to others: especially those that conform to reality, rather than myth. Some people still believe that the Earth is flat, but that view is not consistent with building and launching of satellites that help us predict the weather, guide our travel, and save many lives. A worldview that helps create knowledge, including a better understanding of the realities of being human and of the laws that govern the cosmos, will help produce structures and technologies that improve our lives. A worldview based on myth and superstition, governed by ideological strictures that discourage or punish open questioning will diminish the quality of human existence. Human history has demonstrated this time and again.
[. . .]
Whatever one’s views as to the scholarly validity of a course like this, it does not seem likely to provide students with skills that will be attractive on the job market. Will firms that hire electrical engineering graduates from Concordia be more inclined to select students who have spent time researching EDI, or will they prefer those who have concentrated on, say, advanced semiconductors or new battery technologies?
Read it all here.
C.J. Ciaramella: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt Says Civil Asset Forfeiture 'Isn't Fair' and Calls for Reforms
Police officers who catch bad guys by bending the rules may be heroes on hit TV shows. But in real life, they’re the bad guys. Although civil asset forfeiture is currently legal, C.J. Ciaramella of Reason argues that that doesn’t make it ethical. Ciaramella reports that Oklahoma has joined a growing list of states that have or are likely to reform their civil asset forfeiture rules.
Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police can seize property they suspect of being connected to criminal activity, even if the owner is never charged with a crime.
Law enforcement groups say civil forfeiture is a crucial tool to cripple drug trafficking and other organized crime by targeting criminals' cash and assets.
However, civil rights groups say the practice is tilted against property owners and creates perverse profit incentives for police. Investigations have repeatedly uncovered cases across the county where police officers accused innocent people of being drug traffickers for carrying large amounts of cash—which is perfectly legal—and then seized their money. Property owners are then forced to go to court, where they bear the burden of proof to demonstrate their innocence.
For example, in 2021, NBC News reported on the case of two Vietnamese men who had over $130,000 in cash seized after they were pulled over by Oklahoma sheriff's deputies. The men were let free without criminal charges or a receipt for their seized cash.
"Now I have to prove I'm innocent, and they are the ones who illegally took my money and basically stole some of my money, too," one of the men told NBC.
[. . .]
"Governor Stitt was right. No Oklahoman should lose their property through forfeiture unless they are convicted of a crime. Forfeiture should only be available as punishment for a crime in criminal court," Institute for Justice senior legislative counsel Lee McGrath said in a press release. "Oklahoma prosecutors should use forfeiture to confiscate the fruit of crime, but their litigation should be done as part of a criminal prosecution—not separate and crazy civil litigation where cars and cash are named as the defendants."
Read it all.
Around Twitter (X)
As everyone know, nothing says “white supremacy” like… the Sistine Chapel?
The Foundation for Individuals Rights & Expression (FIRE) with some good news regarding the American Bar Association’s law school accreditation requirements:
And finally, you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts, BLM: