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E-Pluribus | January 27, 2023
The ongoing chill on the publishing industry; climate change 'fact checks' don't always (polar) bear out; and when justice isn't blind.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Pamela Paul: The Long Shadow of ‘American Dirt’
Pluribus has been sounding an alarm about the publishing industry almost from our inception. In her New York Times newsletter, Pamela Paul chronicles the sad story of how the novel American Dirt and its author fell victim to an illiberal smear campaign, and the reverberations are still being felt today.
[I]f the proposal for “American Dirt” landed on desks today, it wouldn’t get published.
“In the past two or three years, there’s a lot of commentary about the publishing industry being increasingly eager to appease potential cancelers, to not get into trouble to begin with, to become fearful and conformist,” says Bernard Schweizer, a professor emeritus of English at Long Island University who is founding a small publishing company, Heresy Press, with his wife, Liang, to take on the kind of riskier work that now gets passed over. According to Schweizer, the publisher will look for work “that lies between the narrow ideological, nonaesthetic interests presently flourishing on both the left and the right” and “won’t blink at alleged acts of cultural appropriation.” As he told me: “The point is not to offend but to publish stories that are unfettered and freewheeling, maybe nonconformist in one way or another. Somebody may be offended or not, but that’s the kind of risk we want to take.”
For some aspiring writers, the mood remains pessimistic. “My take is the only take and the one everyone knows to be true but only admits in private: the literary world only accepts work that aligns with the progressive/woke point of view of rich coastal liberals,” the Latino writer Alex Perez said in an interview with Hobart magazine last fall. “This explains why everything reads and sounds the same, from major publishing houses to vanity zines with a readership of 15.” Shortly after publication of Perez’s interview, Hobart’s staff of editors quit and Perez was widely mocked on social media. Elizabeth Ellen, Hobart’s editor and the person who conducted the interview, posted a letter from the editor advocating for an atmosphere “in which fear is not the basis of creation, nor the undercurrent of discussion.”
History has shown that no matter how much critics, politicians and activists may try, you cannot prevent people from enjoying a novel. This is something the book world, faced with ongoing threats of book banning, should know better than anyone else.
Read it all.
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Bjorn Lomborg: Partisan ‘Fact Checkers’ Spread Climate-Change Misinformation
The majestic polar bear is the poster child for climate change with heart-rending photos of forlorn bears floating off into the sunset (of extinction?) on small chunks of ice. Bjorn Lomborg writes at The Wall Street Journal that ostensibly disinterested journalists are misrepresenting their plight in the service of climate change alarmism.
Activists have used polar bears as an icon of climate apocalypse for decades, but the best data show that far from dying out, their numbers are growing. The official assessments from the leading scientists who study these animals—the Polar Bear Specialist Group within the International Union for Conservation of Nature—peg the global population today at 22,000 to 31,000. That’s higher than the 5,000 to 19,000 polar bears scientists estimated were around in the 1960s.
The main reason has nothing to do with climate. An international agreement enacted in 1976 limits polar-bear hunting, always the key threat to polar bears’ numbers. Polar bears survived through the last interglacial period, 130,000 to 115,000 years ago, when it was significantly warmer than it is now.
[ . . . ]
Agence France-Presse, the world’s oldest news service, has found new relevance in marketing itself as an online “digital verification service.” It stamped “MISLEADING” over the top of my post and declared I’d used “unreliable data.” Other media platforms quickly followed suit, with Facebook flagging multiple posts and newspaper columns in which I made these points as “partly false” and “could mislead.”
But the AFP is verifiably wrong. It based its finding almost entirely on an interview with a retired scientist, Dag Vongraven. He accepts that I referenced the correct findings, but claims that because of the scientists’ limited ability to track animals back then, the 1960s data are “guesswork” that can’t be trusted. The implication is that the rise in the estimated number of polar bears reflects improved tracking, not real population growth.
Read the whole thing.
John Kerkhoff: Upside-Down Courts: Agency Adjudication and the Rule of Law
Superman famously fought for “Truth, Justice and the American Way” (until recently swapping out “the American Way” for “a Better Tomorrow”, anyway), so the Man of Steel would be appalled at how many government agencies operate. Over the years, the executive branch has increasingly encroached on the functions of the other two branches of government, and, writes John Kerkhoff at Discourse Magazine, often functions as “prosecutor, judge and jury,” a concerning development for the rule of law.
The American Constitution is based fundamentally on the idea that the sovereign people delegate specific, enumerated and limited powers to the government. These powers are vested in three separate branches, and the judicial branch alone holds the “judicial power of the United States,” which includes “the power to bind parties and to authorize the deprivation of private rights.” Other branches cannot exercise judicial power. Were it otherwise, the Constitution’s structure and purpose would be undermined.
[ . . . ]
[I]f courts make binding legal judgments, executive agencies can’t. As Judge Eric Murphy put it this year: “[B]oth Article III and the Due Process Clause generally require the government to follow common-law procedure (including, fundamentally, the use of a ‘court’) when seeking to deprive people of their private rights to property or liberty.” It’s really that simple. Executive adjudication, though, runs roughshod over this principle. Allowing the executive branch to decide the law and issue binding judgments on individuals when private rights are involved takes the “judicial power” outside of Article III. That poses a grave constitutional problem.
[. . .]
Those in the crosshairs of agency enforcement won’t even get a jury, among the most important protections to the framers of the Constitution. For one reason or another, jury rights fall away in agency proceedings. And scholars and judges have long forgotten about the jury’s central role in our history since the Supreme Court’s decision in Atlas Roofing, which essentially allowed Congress to place any claim by a federal agency in juryless agency adjudication. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that the government could seek civil penalties for violations of workplace safety rules in an administrative proceeding—without a jury. Atlas Roofing was wrong, egregiously so. But it has long allowed agencies to investigate, prosecute and decide core private rights without any juror ever hearing the case.
Read it all.
The Foundation for Individual Rights & Expression on Facebook’s reinstatement of Donald Trump:
Leor Sapir and Jesse Singal on the disingenuous use of “citations” to back up transgender-related claims:
Finally, I wonder how THE AP feels about that dehumanizing label “The Media”? (note: the tweet was later deleted):