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E-Pluribus | January 25, 2022
Civil liberties and mandates, what's the matter with the term 'systemic racism', and the BBC edits its own past.
A round up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Robby Soave: Broad Vaccine Mandates Are a Serious Violation of Civil Liberties
The arrival of Omicron has renewed the debate over vaccine mandates, which are viewed by some as a violation of civil liberties. The less virulent strain of the virus is also more likely to infect the vaccinated, says Robby Soave of Reason, which weakens the justification for government-mandated injections even more.
The government should not have the power to force you to make a private medical decision that has little effect on anyone else. Your vaccination status is, by and large, your business. The vaccines are not substantially blocking the spread of COVID-19: We all know countless vaccinated people who've caught the disease. This is particularly true of the omicron wave: It's great to be vaccinated, but the vaccine is not preventing you or your close contacts from contracting COVID-19. The vaccine is a personal health decision. It protects the person who gets it, and thus it's not really the government's business.
Yet countless municipalities, including our nation's capital—the site of this weekend's protest—are broadly mandating vaccination. In D.C., if you want to enter a restaurant, you have to show not just your vaccine card, but also a photo ID—like a driver's license—in order to prove that the card is really yours.
We will never stop cases no matter how desperately we mandate vaccines, masks, and everything else. The only thing we can control is deaths, but the government shouldn't force this choice on people. You shouldn't have to show identification to participate in social life—to leave your home. Isn't that something Democrats used to believe—or still pretend to believe? […]
Read it all.
Matt Lutz: The Problem With “Systemic Racism”
Writing at Persuasion, Matt Lutz concedes that “persistent racial disparities” confirms the existence of systemic racism. However, Lutz says the use of the term is largely unhelpful because it engenders a myopic view of disparate outcomes and therefore muddies the waters when trying to come up with solutions to the problems involved.
These days, in discussions of race, the term “systemic racism” is everywhere. In the bad old days, the theory goes, racism was personal, a matter of individual racial animus. Personal racism was easy to identify and, thus, easy to stamp out, or at least to drive underground. Why, then, do racial inequalities persist? Believers in systemic racism would say that disparities today are not primarily caused by the racism of people, but by the racism of systems. We have a society that is racist, even if the people in it are not personally racist.
But what is systemic racism? NAACP President Derrick Johnson defines it as “systems and structures that have procedures or processes that disadvantages [sic] African Americans.” Other definitions are similar: systemic racism is the collective structural features of society that give rise to racial inequalities. But the claim that racial disparities are caused by systemic racism is another tautology dressed up in jargon. What is it about society that creates racial disadvantages? There’s systemic racism in it, whose nature is to make society racially unequal. It’s an explanation that only Molière’s doctor could love.
This is not to say that systemic racism doesn’t exist. There are persistent racial disparities in society; those disparities have a cause; therefore, there is systemic racism. But the ease of that proof shows that the concept of “systemic racism” is not a particularly useful analytic concept. It is not entirely useless—the idea that disparate outcomes can result even if no one feels personal racial animus is true and important.
But the claim that disparate outcomes are explained by systemic racism provides only a facile illusion of understanding the causes of disparate outcomes. Advocates would claim that focusing on systemic racism can help end racial inequalities. But because the concept of “systemic racism” obscures rather than elucidates the mechanisms by which inequalities persist, a conceptual framework centered on “systemic racism” impedes efforts to dismantle those mechanisms.
Read it all here.
Charles C. W. Cooke: The BBC Quietly Censors Its Own Archives
The venerable British Broadcasting Company has taken a knife (some might say an axe) to its own archives in an attempt to bring its catalog into line with modern sensibilities. But Charles Cooke at National Review writes that despite presumably good intentions, at least in some cases, such literal history revision has a very fuzzy ending point, if any and, especially when a government is doing the revising, raises even deeper concerns.
Because it is so old, much of the material that the BBC has been altering is not available to purchase or download, nor broadly owned on physical media, which means that when the BBC elects to change it, it is changing the only working copy that the majority of the public may enjoy. In a free market, one might be obliged to throw up one’s hands and lament that the copyright holder was such a philistine. But the BBC is a de facto government agency — an agency for which all Britons who own televisions are forced by statute to pay — and, as a result, the material that it is modifying is effectively publicly owned.
This raises a host of important questions — chief among which is: Why, if “the vast majority” of the BBC’s audience expects the organization to render its archives more “suitable,” has it been doing so in secret? Again: In the Internet age, changes made to source material tend to be iterative rather than additive. When the New York Times updates a story in its newspaper, one can plausibly obtain both copies. By contrast, when the New York Times updates a story on its website, the original page disappears. By its own admission, the BBC has been deleting entire sketches from comedy series that are 50, 60, or 70 years old, many of which can be heard only with the BBC’s permission. Are we simply to assume that the public supports this development? And, if so, are we permitted to wonder why the BBC was not open about it?
Read the whole thing.
Via Heterodox Academy, Samantha Hedges on curiosity and viewpoint diversity:
The Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR) weighs in on race-based COVID-19 policies:
Part of a thread from Megan McArdle on “diversity initiatives.” Click here to read it all and for a link to her column:
Finally, a response to a tweet we included in Around Twitter yesterday: