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E-Pluribus | September 23, 2021
Vaccines: to mandate or not to mandate; Texas takes on Big Tech; and CVS gets the Christopher Rufo treatment.
A round up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Glenn Greenwald: Vaccine Mandates: The End of Covid? Or the Beginning of Tyranny?
Among those Bari Weiss invited to write about vaccine mandates is Glenn Greenwald, who applies the same reasoning he used in his opposition to the War on Terror. Greenwald says risk factors cannot be overlooked when weighing the appropriateness of government actions, especially when those actions involve limiting or violating the rights of others.
The key remaining argument for vaccine passports is that there is a group of people who cannot be vaccinated even if they want to be, and are thus endangered by the unvaccinated: namely, children under 12 years of age and adults with health conditions that preclude the vaccine. And this is where my long-standing view about the need to weigh risks against deprivation of rights — which served as the foundation for my opposition to the War on Terror — shapes my position here.
My opposition to the War on Terror was not based on the view that the risk of terrorism was zero. Of course there was a risk. My argument was that the risk was sufficiently small — a U.S. citizen was more likely to die by lightning strike or falling in the bathtub than in a terror attack — that it was unjustified to deprive people basic rights (due process, privacy, free speech) in order to avert the relatively minimal risk of terrorism.
The principle at work is the same here. Denial of rights also carries costs, and we should not deprive core rights or radically restructure society (both of which carry high costs) in order to avert low risks.
And the risk is infinitesimal: In the U.S., there are roughly 74 million people under 18. In the last 16 months, 362 have died from COVID. The percentage of Americans incapable of taking the vaccine or for whom the vaccine is ineffective is also extremely small.
Read the whole thing.
Greg Abbott: A new Texas law fights Big Tech censorship. Last week showed why we need it.
The current debate on censorship both by and of Big Tech is still far from resolved, with many on the right and left at odds with those in their own ranks. Writing in the Washington Post, Texas governor Greg Abbott, though not using the word “monopoly,” justifies his state’s new law aimed at Big Tech because of the power a relatively small number of corporations have over what makes it to the “public square.”
This month, I signed a law that prohibits large social media companies with more than 50 million active users in the United States from banning or censoring a Texan, or the content he or she shares or receives, based on that person’s political or religious viewpoints. The need for this law has been apparent for years, as our country’s public square has become increasingly controlled by a few powerful companies that have proved to be flawed arbiters of constructive dialogue. But two events reported last week revealed why the law is urgently needed now — and why state governments such as ours have no choice but to act.
…Big Tech companies can unilaterally decide which information enters the public discourse. They also show how a handful of individuals, operating without transparency or public accountability, can sway sentiment based on their preferred viewpoints. This should terrify anyone who values free speech in the United States.
If a social media company can apply double standards based on someone’s position of power or influence, as in the case of Facebook, what is to stop it from censoring a mother from Beaumont for sharing her religious beliefs or a rancher from Amarillo supporting the Second Amendment? The answer is nothing — unless we fight back against Big Tech censorship and hold these companies accountable.
Read it all here.
Christopher F. Rufo: True Privilege
The drugstore CVS is the latest target of Christopher Rufo, who, at City Journal, reveals the details of antiracist training of the company’s employees. The materials used in the sessions include a now familiar laundry list of “intersectional” concepts such as privilege, oppressor-oppressed, and identities.
As a keynote for the initiative, Merlo—who has since retired—hosted a conversation with Boston University professor Ibram Kendi, who told 25,000 CVS employees that “to be born in [the United States] is to literally have racist ideas rain on our head consistently and constantly.” Kendi argued that Americans are “walking through society completely soaked in racist ideas,” including children as young as two to three years old. “Our kids are basically functioning on racist ideas, choosing who to play with based on the kid’s skin color,” Kendi said. The solution, in part, is to “diagnose” employees as “racist” in order to help them become “antiracist” and “stop hurting somebody else.”
A series of related training modules instructed employees to deconstruct their racial and sexual identities, then rank themselves according to their “privilege.” The exercise is grounded in the theory of intersectionality, which holds that individuals can be reduced to a network of overlapping identities that determine their position on the social hierarchy, with privileged groups occupying the “oppressor” role and unprivileged groups in the “oppressed” role. The training asked CVS employees to circle their identities—including race, gender, sexuality, and religion—and then reflect on their “privilege” during the discussion. Examples of privilege, according to a checklist, included “celebrat[ing] Christmas,” “hav[ing] a name that is easy to pronounce,” “feel[ing] safe in your neighborhood at night,” and “feel[ing] confident in my leadership style.”
Read it all.
Megan McArdle reacts to a New York Times assertion about gerrymandering:
The ACLU fixes a Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote to bring it in line with today’s sensibilities:
But as Glenn Greenwald points out, also makes a mockery of Ginsburg’s broader thoughts on the subject:
And finally, via the Indiana chapter of the Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism, some thoughts from Bari Weiss: