URLs du Jour

2019-10-05

[Amazon Link]

I haven't purchased, read, or recommend the Amazon Product du Jour. But I cracked a smile just reading the subtitle. (The book will be out later this month.)

  • But speaking of elites, Kevin D. Williamson has thoughts on A Host of Squalid Oligarchs.

    Both Left and Right offer their own versions of anti-elitist rhetoric, although progressives seem to be making their peace with being the party of money and power from the Ivy League to Silicon Valley to Wall Street to the most expensive ZIP codes and the boardrooms of the Fortune 500. Their days of lampooning the Republicans as the party of the rich have come to an end, and now they lampoon Republicans as the party of the poor, the uneducated, and the dysfunctional. This is partly the product of a genuine desire for popularity, and partly the product of popularity or the appearance of popularity being a useful political tool.

    The endless citations of 86 percent of the people supporting this or that is only the politics of middle school refined: Everybody else is doing it, what’s the matter with you? We used to lionize the lone brave soul standing up to the madness of crowds, now we want to see whether the polls support driving the tank over that guy in Tiananmen Square. It is useful to have a villain to blame for everything, and it is helpful if that villain is weak and vulnerable, his numbers piteous. Again, democratic politics in its raw form is a great deal like ordinary schoolyard bullying, and bullies always prefer a weak victim to a strong one, and the vulnerability of the lonely and despised minority is itself provocative.

    It's a long essay, worth your while. Even money on whether you walk away from your social media accounts after reading it.


  • Mark J. Perry shares The best sentence [he] read today…...

    Diversity programs are increasingly not about getting past race; they are about insisting on its eternal centrality to everything in America.

    That is pretty good. The bad news: it's Andrew Sullivan, on whom I gave up back when he started obsessing over Sarah Palin's uterus. Ah, well, stopped clock and all that.

    I fear I've become utterly cynical about this sort of thing. How many times in my life have I seen this general behavior pattern in government or other institutions?

    1. A problem is noticed (or, at least, imagined/asserted);
    2. A bureaucracy is set up to solve the problem;
    3. The bureaucracy immediately realizes that if the problem is actually solved, the rationale for their jobs, money, and power goes away;
    4. So the bureaucracy becomes devoted to:
      • perpetuating the problem, only making ineffectual/counterproductive/silly efforts;
      • inflating the problem ("It's bigger and more stubborn than we thought. You need to give us a lot more money and power.");
      • wrapping the whole thing up in moralistic language;
      • denigrating any skeptics who have the temerity to point this out.

    Affirmative action is only one instance of the general pattern.


  • [Amazon Link]
    So the New York Times published an op-ed from Andrew Marantz, a New Yorker staff writer with a new book coming out (Amazon link at right): Free Speech Is Killing Us.

    There has never been a bright line between word and deed. Yet for years, the founders of Facebook and Twitter and 4chan and Reddit — along with the consumers obsessed with these products, and the investors who stood to profit from them — tried to pretend that the noxious speech prevalent on those platforms wouldn’t metastasize into physical violence. In the early years of this decade, back when people associated social media with Barack Obama or the Arab Spring, Twitter executives referred to their company as “the free-speech wing of the free-speech party.” Sticks and stones and assault rifles could hurt us, but the internet was surely only a force for progress.

    No one believes that anymore. Not after the social-media-fueled campaigns of Narendra Modi and Rodrigo Duterte and Donald Trump; not after the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Va.; not after the massacres in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and a Walmart in a majority-Hispanic part of El Paso. The Christchurch gunman, like so many of his ilk, had spent years on social media trying to advance the cause of white power. But these posts, he eventually decided, were not enough; now it was “time to make a real life effort post.” He murdered 52 people.

    Marantz makes the argument (by now pretty standard) in favor of "doing something" about "hate speech". And (see above) if his argument succeeds, the most predictable outcome is: the people given the power to "do something" will not use that power wisely or well.


  • At Reason, Robby Soave rebuts Marantz: The New York Times Says ‘Free Speech Is Killing Us.’ But Violent Crime Is Lower Than Ever..

    Most of [Marantz's] suggestions involve government regulation, government funding, or some other sort of govenrment intervention. (Repealing Section 230 would singlehandedly destroy free speech on the internet as we know it.) So it's worth exploring whether the claim "free speech is killing us" really holds up.

    It does not. Today the U.S. has greater protections for free speech and less violence. The Supreme Court has recognized increasingly fewer exceptions to the First Amendment over the last several decades. The result has not been an increase in violence: The violent crime rate has plummeted since the early 1990s.

    That's a pretty utilitarian argument, but not bad as those go.


  • But the Babylon Bee chimes in on the same topic with an op-ed: Free Speech Is Killing Us, by … um … Kim Jon Un.

    Noxious speech is causing tangible harm to the best country on earth, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

    Yet this fact implies a question so uncomfortable that many of us go to great lengths to avoid asking it. Namely, what should we — the government, private companies also owned by the government or the happy citizens of our republic — be doing about it?

    The answer is obvious: we should have thought police. We should crush free speech so we can preserve order and a stable society and a benevolent government. We should curb speech in an effort to stop violence.

    Note for Snopes: It's a deft satire! Not really by Kim Jon Un!