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E-Pluribus | May 20, 2022
The unemployed cancer research genius; Woke Capital on the defensive; and the importance of teaching history, warts and all.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Suzy Weiss: He Was a World-Renowned Cancer Researcher. Now He's Collecting Unemployment.
At Bari Weiss’s Common Sense Substack, Suzy Weiss writes about a story illustrating the fallout from the collision of the sexual revolution and the MeToo movement. David Sabatini was by all accounts a brilliant molecular biologist and cancer researcher on track for a Nobel Prize. In the wake of a soured sexual relationship with a younger colleague during his pending divorce, Sabatini’s life and career have crashed after a 248-page report was issued by his now-former employer, MIT’s Whitehead Institute, on his alleged conduct.
So what exactly had those 248 pages said? What had David Sabatini been found guilty of that merited this kind of punishment? Chiefly, failing to disclose his consensual relationship with Knouse. On top of that, the report found that Sabatini, in his day-to-day administration of the lab, violated the Whitehead’s Anti-Harassment Policy, since his “behavior created a sexualized undercurrent in the lab.” Sabatini’s relationship with Knouse exacerbated things, given his “indirect influence” over her, which violated the Anti-Harassment Policy and ran afoul of the “spirit” if not the letter of another of the institute's policies.
[. . .]
“While we have not found any evidence that Sabatini discriminates against or fails to support females in his lab, we find that Sabatini’s propensity to praise or gravitate toward those in the lab that mirror his desired personality traits, scientific success, or view of ‘science above all else,’ creates additional obstacles for female lab members,” the report concluded.
This was baffling to everyone I spoke to: Nine of Sabatini’s current and former lab employees, a current faculty member at the Whitehead, and half a dozen top doctors and scientists in Sabatini’s field. Most of them would not speak on the record for fear of being associated with Sabatini and derailing their own careers. “It’s impossible to be honest about this and preserve your own skin,” says a scientist who recently worked under Sabatini.
Read it all here.
C. Boyden Gray and Jonathan Berry: The Welcome Pushback Against Politicized Investment Managers
Criticism of corporate America has led to even the most powerful of companies to try to appease the social justice movement. C. Boyden Gray and Jonathan Berry write at the Wall Street Journal that the wokeness of the Big Three investment is now meeting with growing resistance in an effort to return a greater level of influence to investors that is too often usurped through heavy-handed tactics of the Big Three.
[T]he Big Three investment managers. . . now own the market. BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street control more than $20 trillion in assets. In 90% of public companies, one of the Big Three is the largest shareholder. More money means more votes: At S&P 500 companies, the Big Three cast about 20% to 25% of all shareholder votes. And that vote bloc will only grow as more Americans move their savings into passive funds.
That concentration of voting power in three like-minded investment companies, given the diversity of all other voting interests, means the Big Three can often direct the outcome of board elections and shareholder proposals.
[. . .]
[BlackRock’s CEO Larry] Fink’s power needs to go back to the Americans whose money gives rise to that power, and not be diverted to political agendas or Chinese interests.
[. . .]
Congress is joining the conversation. This week, the Senate took up a major bill, the Investor Democracy is Expected Act. The Index Act requires passive investment managers to cast funds’ most important votes in accord with the wishes of actual investors. This kind of reform dissipates the political power amassed by the Big Three as an incident to the rise of passive investing. It would push America’s public companies to respond to the desires of ultimate investors—i.e., regular people.
Read it all.
Christopher J Ferguson: History is complicated. Let's teach the complexity
They say history is written by the victors, though in the modern age with global internet, history can be written by anyone with a keyboard. Christopher Ferguson of the Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism argues that whoever writes history, a comprehensive and honest approach is indispensable. We must not look away from the seamier side of the past in order to preserve either our sensibilities or the reputations of our forebears if we are going to learn the lessons needed to help shape a better present and future.
It’s a simple fact that Hawaii was neither an egalitarian paradise before the West arrived, nor a land of savage people who benefitted fully from annexation. Like all human beings throughout the world and throughout history, Hawaiians had the capacity to treat others violently and with cruelty, but also with compassion and kindness. They were also bullied and exploited by the West, including the U.S. The West’s objectives in Hawaii were always complicated, not universally evil. American annexation deprived native Hawaiians of their autonomy, and yet it still might have been the best possible outcome compared to the likely alternatives.
When we teach history to our kids, it’s okay for them to understand all of this. Too often, history is used not to teach us more about our past, but as a bludgeon in the moral battles of the present. The most recent of these is over the influence of “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) on K-12 pedagogy. Many progressives contradictorily claim either that it isn’t being taught at all, or that it is “just teaching history.” By contrast, those opposed to CRT often respond with book bannings of questionable constitutionality that, even if intended to address real problems, run the risk of chilling accurate history along with it.
The jingoistic history of the past is unrealistic and often racist, but a nihilistic revisionist history that is increasingly being thrust into K-12 education is equally bad. Both deprive students of the ability to fully understand the complexities of our human story.
Read the whole thing.
The “free speech crowd”? Tim Miller’s broad brush provokes a response from Yascha Mounk, but the exchange seems to end amicably enough:
And finally, via The New York Times, an uncancellation in Florida: