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E-Pluribus | June 1, 2022
Oversimplifying tragedy; new Taliban, same as the old Taliban; and the misinformation is coming from inside the (White) house.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Gerard Baker: Political Narratives Are the Media’s Default in Times of Tragedy
Mention “objectivity” in reporting amongst a group of journalists and a rhetorical hockey game is likely to break out. The proper way to present and frame news is and has been the subject of intense debate. In the Wall Street Journal, Gerard Baker argues that tragedies such as mass shootings often successfully tempt media figures to fit the story to preconceived narratives rather than stick to the facts.
[A] morally indignant and intellectually tendentious approach is what characterizes almost all news reporting now. The media holds up the brutal murder of 10 African-Americans this month in Buffalo as indicative of the white nationalist wave that supposedly has the nation in its grip and—much more excitingly for the new breed of journalist that wants to ban all journalism other than his own—as primarily the fault of Fox News.
[ . . . ]
It is true that conservatives sometimes indulge the temptation to use news for convenient, ulterior purposes. Right-leaning news organizations can also seize on episodes and incidents, around immigration for example, that are used to support a narrative.
But it’s much more baleful coming from the progressive media. Not just because they are the cultural hegemons, driving so much of the national discussion. But also because of their faith in the unerring ability of government to fix the various flaws these incidents supposedly expose. The answer to all our problems is never more freedom but less: more gun restrictions; more restrictions of speech and behavior; more regulations on the economy; more limitations on energy development.
Read it all here.
Charlotte Lawson: The Woke Taliban That Never Was
As momentum for the US to leave Afghanistan built, those favoring the move posited the notion that a kinder, gentler Taliban had evolved over the last 20 years and the prospects for women in that country were looking up in spite of the impending resumption of Taliban rule. The New York Times even platformed a wanted FBI terrorist to assure the world that under the Taliban, “the rights of women that are granted by Islam — from the right to education to the right to work — are protected.” As Charlotte Lawson reports for The Dispatch, it was all an illusion.
The Taliban’s most recent restriction on Afghan women hits at the heart of this debate. Early this month, the group issued a decree requiring women in public to wear either a full-covering burqa or a niqab, a black veil with only a thin slit through which eyes can be seen. And on May 21, the Ministry of Vice and Virtue mandated that all remaining female anchors on news stations wear masks during broadcasts.
[ . . . ]
The Taliban’s actions should surprise no one.
“We always had the example of what was going on in Taliban-controlled areas, which were growing over recent years, and we know that what was happening is pretty much what’s happening across the whole country now,” Heather Barr, associate director of the Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, told The Dispatch. “The situation for women in Afghanistan on August 14 was really difficult … But it was night and day compared to the situation now.”
The new reality now facing women inside occupied Afghanistan stands in stark contrast to promises of tolerance the Taliban proffered and that the U.S. and its allies tacitly accepted last summer. In the final days of the U.S. military evacuation from Afghanistan in August, the State Department publicly regarded the extremist group as its “partner” as it encouraged the formation of a diverse, tolerant Afghan government. At State’s disposal to continue to shape Afghanistan’s civic society post-withdrawal, U.S. officials claimed, was the Taliban’s desire for international recognition and assistance.
Read the whole thing.
Eric Boehm: New CBO Report Exposes Biden's Deficit-Reduction Misinformation
Despite the Biden administration’s professed desire (see Disinformation Governance Board) to stamp out false narratives and dis- and misinformation, Eric Boehm at Reason writes that the Biden White House has given the public several trillion reasons to not take it seriously.
[T]he CBO's projections are best understood not as a crystal ball providing information about future growth rates and inflation. Rather, the agency's long-term projections serve as a baseline—a literal one, when it comes to measuring the impact of new legislative proposals—for measuring how Congress and the White House have influenced future budgetary trends through recent policy changes. To really understand the usefulness of the CBO's projections, then, you have to look at what the agency was projecting last year and the year before that—then compare it to what the CBO is expecting now.
That's especially important to do right now because the Biden administration is pushing a wildly misleading talking point about the falling federal budget deficit. The deficit "has gone down both years that I've been here. Period. Those are the facts," the president said earlier this month.
As I've explained at length previously, the deficit is falling from the stratospheric levels that it reached during the COVID-19 pandemic because a lot of one-time, emergency pandemic spending is coming off the books. It's tricky because Biden is correct that the deficit is likely to fall by more than $1 trillion this year—even though this year's deficit is going to be larger than the deficit was in 2019, the last pre-pandemic year.
Read it all.
Via Heterodox Academy, Stuart Ritchie on the politicization of science:
Steven Pinker talks to the Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism’s Angel Eduardo about human nature:
And finally, via the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, author Salman Rushdie on free speech: