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E-Pluribus | November 17, 2021
Social media users can vote with their feet, the media and false narratives, and the American Medical Association's new vocabulary.
A round up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Klon Kitchen: Legislation Can’t Fix Social Media
Although the issue is not occupying constant headlines as much lately, there are still calls for more government regulation of social media. At The Dispatch, Klon Kitchen writes that users of these sites are more than capable of providing the accountability needed to bring about change without Congress sticking its nose in.
It is perhaps apocryphal, but when reportedly commenting on Russia’s peasant soldiers deserting the tsar’s army during Russia’s Revolution between 1905-1906, Vladimir Illich Lenin—the founder and first head of government for Soviet Russia—quipped, “They voted with their feet.”
In 1956, economist Charles Tiebout argued in his essay A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures, that a similar type of “foot voting” (a term he does not use), where consumers willfully relocate to jurisdictions where policies better align with their preferences, is more efficient and effective than voting to change government or its policies. Ronald Reagan, agreeing with Tiebout, often said Americans should “move along” if their local government was not to their liking.
This is of course consistent with our diverse federal system of government so eloquently summarized by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who said, “a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” Legal scholar Ily Somin says these laboratories of democracy and the migratory options they enable are, therefore, “a tool for enhancing political freedom: the ability of the people to choose the political regime under which they wish to live.”
Read it all.
Andrew Sullivan: When All The Media Narratives Collapse
In a post similar to Gerard Baker’s featured at Pluribus (item #2) yesterday, Andrew Sullivan surveys media blunders over the past few years that spread misinformation far more effectively than any conspiracy theorist could ever hope to do. Without a serious commitment to objective, fact-based journalism, the mainstream press will continue to see its reputation suffer and its influence and value diminish.
Think of the other narratives the MSM pushed in recent years that have collapsed. They viciously defamed the Covington boys. They authoritatively told us that bounties had been placed on US soldiers in Afghanistan by Putin — and Trump’s denials only made them more certain. They told us that the lab-leak theory of Covid was a conspiracy theory with no evidence behind it at all. (The NYT actually had the story of the leak theory, by Donald McNeil, killed it, and then fired McNeil, their best Covid reporter, after some schoolgirls complained he wasn’t woke.) Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
The MSM took the ludicrous story of Jussie Smollett seriously because it fit their nutty “white supremacy” narrative. They told us that a woman was brutally gang-raped at UVA (invented), that the Pulse mass shooting was driven by homophobia (untrue) and that the Atlanta spa shooter was motivated by anti-Asian bias (no known evidence for that at all). For good measure, they followed up with story after story about white supremacists targeting Asian-Americans, in a new wave of “hate,” even as the assaults were disproportionately by African Americans and the mentally ill.
As Greenwald noted, the NYT “published an emotionally gut-wrenching but complete fiction that never had any evidence — that Officer Sicknick’s skull was savagely bashed in with a fire extinguisher by a pro-Trump mob until he died.” The media told us that an alleged transgender exposure in the Wi Spa in Los Angeles was an anti-trans hoax (also untrue). They told us that the emails recovered on Hunter Biden’s laptop were Russian disinformation. They did this just before an election and used that claim to stymie the story on social media. But they were not Russian disinformation. They were a valid if minor news story the media consciously kept from its audience for partisan purposes.
More recently, the MSM were telling us for months that inflation is a phantasm. We were told that the “2021 Inflation Scare is another in a series of false alarms going back several decades.” We were assured that “the numbers at least for now are on the side of those expecting the trend to subside and then stabilize at lower levels.” Any concern was “fearmongering politics.” And now we wake up to the highest inflation in 30 years, counter-balancing wage increases. Still, they tell us, all will be well.
And at some point, you wonder: what narrative are they pushing now that is also bullshit? One comes to mind: the assurance that the insane amount of debt we have incurred this century is absolutely nothing to be concerned about because interest rates are super-low and borrowing more and more now is a no-brainer. But when inflation spikes and sets off a potential spiral in wages to catch up, will interest rates stay so quiescent? And if interest rates go up, how will we service the debt so easily?
Read the whole thing.
ICYMI: Matt Bai: Paging Dr. Orwell. The American Medical Association takes on the politics of language.
A couple of weeks ago, Matt Bai wrote in the Washington Post about a document issued by the American Medical Association on “health equity” and how language used by the medical community needs to change. Rather than focusing on scientific accuracy to achieve the best outcomes for patients, medical providers are urged to adapt a diversity-and-inclusion based vocabulary to “disrupt” “dominant narratives.”
The long list of words and phrases the AMA now proscribes includes “marginalized communities,” “morbidly obese,” “the homeless,” “inmates,” “individuals,” “ethnic groups” and “racial groups,” and anything that could be related to violent imagery, such as “target communities” or “tackle issues.”
In their place, doctors are now advised to use terms such as “groups that are struggling against economic marginalization,” “people with severe obesity,” “people who are experiencing homelessness” and so on.
Also expunged are the words “Caucasian,” “minority,” “vulnerable,” “white paper,” “blackmail,” “blackball” and “slave.” (Public service: If your doctor feels the need to use any of those last ones in the course of an exam, maybe find another doctor.)
First, part of what we learned in the 20th century, during a series of long wars against tyrannical governments and ideologies, is that all repressive movements start by mandating versions of history and their own lists of acceptable terminology.
These medical groups — and, more to the point, the elite academic movement they’re kowtowing to — may believe they’re bringing history and language more in line with the goal of social justice. What they’re actually doing is trying to control what their members are allowed to think and say.
Read it all here.
Part of a thread by Helen Pluckrose on “race neutrality”:
Via Heterodox Academy, some thoughts from Steven Pinker on how beliefs tend to function in our society; Robert George also chimes in:
Substack hits a new milestone:
Finally, another Woke in Plain English installment from Peter Boghossian: