I Don't Want to be in Any Cult That Would Have Me as a Member

Charles C. W. Cooke channels Dana Carvey as John McLaughlin:

That excerpt is from an Atlantic (paywalled) article by Adam Rubenstein ("former New York Times Opinion staffer", emphasis on "former"): I Was a Heretic at The New York Times. Ed Morrissey has further analysis at Hot Air: Former NYT Editor: It's a Cult, and I'm Its Heretic. He provides a further excerpt from Rubenstein:

Being a conservative—or at least being considered one—at the Times was a strange experience. I often found myself asking questions like “Doesn’t all of this talk of ‘voter suppression’ on the left sound similar to charges of ‘voter fraud’ on the right?” only to realize how unwelcome such questions were. By asking, I’d revealed that I wasn’t on the same team as my colleagues, that I didn’t accept as an article of faith the liberal premise that voter suppression was a grave threat to liberal democracy while voter fraud was entirely fake news.

Or take the Hunter Biden laptop story: Was it truly “unsubstantiated,” as the paper kept saying? At the time, it had been substantiated, however unusually, by Rudy Giuliani. Many of my colleagues were clearly worried that lending credence to the laptop story could hurt the electoral prospects of Joe Biden and the Democrats. But starting from a place of party politics and assessing how a particular story could affect an election isn’t journalism. Nor is a vague unease with difficult subjects. “The state of Israel makes me very uncomfortable,” a colleague once told me. This was something I was used to hearing from young progressives on college campuses, but not at work.

As I and many others have pointed out: the precipitous decline in peoples' trust in the mainstream media is richly deserved.

Also of note:

  • Exposing something we've already seen exposed many times before. Like Eva Green's boobs. Reactions continue to Google's Gemini fiasco. Megan McArdle goes for the obvious: Female popes? Google’s amusing AI bias underscores a serious problem. It's not only generated images of the lady popes or the "diverse" Nazis, but also…

    Unfortunately, though, once Google shut down Gemini’s image generation, users turned to probing its text output. And as those absurdities piled up, things began to look la lot worse for Google — and society. Gemini appears to have been programmed to avoid offending the leftmost 5 percent of the U.S. political distribution, at the price of offending the rightmost 50 percent.

    It effortlessly wrote toasts praising Democratic politicians — even controversial ones such as Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.) — while deeming every elected Republican I tried too controversial, even Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who had stood up to President Donald Trump’s election malfeasance. It had no trouble condemning the Holocaust but offered caveats about complexity in denouncing the murderous legacies of Stalin and Mao. It would praise essays in favor of abortion rights, but not those against.

    As James Damore found out back in 2017, and Adam Rubenstein (see above) back in 2021, some places are "hostile work environments" for anyone dissenting from the woke ideology.

    Nate Silver weighs in as well: Google abandoned "don't be evil" — and Gemini is the result.

    It’s increasingly apparent that Gemini is among the more disastrous product rollouts in the history of Silicon Valley and maybe even the recent history of corporate America, at least coming from a company of Google’s prestige. Wall Street is starting to notice, with Google (Alphabet) stock down 4.5 percent on Monday amid analyst warnings about Gemini’s effect on Google’s reputation.

    Gemini grabbed my attention because the overlap between politics, media and AI is a place on the Venn Diagram where think I can add a lot of value. Despite Google’s protestations to the contrary, the reasons for Gemini’s shortcomings are mostly political, not technological. Also, many of the debates about Gemini are familiar territory, because they parallel decades-old debates in journalism. Should journalists strive to promote the common good or instead just reveal the world for what it is? Where is the line between information and advocacy? Is it even possible or desirable to be unbiased — and if so, how does one go about accomplishing that?2 How should consumers navigate a world rife with misinformation — when sometimes the misinformation is published by the most authoritative sources? How are the answers affected by the increasing consolidation of the industry toward a few big winners — and by increasing political polarization in the US and other industrialized democracies?

    Full disclosure: I

    1. am a loyal Google customer (their search engine, Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Chrome, even a Chromebook);
    2. don't remotely trust Google on any even remotely political issue.

    What can I say. I am large, I contain multitudes.

  • But Jeff Maurer has some advice that won't be taken. And that is: Gemini Can Teach Liberals Why Nobody Likes Us.

    Like a lot of people, I’ve spent the past week enjoying the 50 clown car pileup known as Google Gemini. It’s incredible that a major company shipped such a hilariously inept product; it’s like if Serta released a mattress made of broken glass, or if Playschool sold a xylophone that explodes on contact. Companies don’t normally manufacture and release their own PR disasters; the Harvey Weinstein scandal, for example, was a secret that got revealed — it wasn’t a $100 million film called The Magical Masturbator of Miramax.

    [Jeff's poster for that film is at the link.]

    As useless as Gemini seems, it might actually be good for one thing. I believe that Democrats have a broadly popular agenda centered on things like job growth and preserving abortion access. But I also believe that they punch below their weight because liberals/progressives/whatever you want to call us are frequently really annoying. Worse still: We often don’t know that we’re annoying. We think we’re on a crusade that compels us to speak out, even though probably the best thing we could do to advance progressive causes would be to live in a trailer underground and never talk to anyone. Gemini embodies the type of righteous left-wing jagweed that most people hate. By spending some time with Gemini, I think people on the left can come to understand why much of the country would like to see pianos fall on our heads.

    Of course, Jeff's wrong about the "broadly popular agenda". Otherwise, though…

  • Whatchamacallit. Robert Graboyes has an interesting post about political nomenclature: Equity, Equitist, Equitism.

    Egalitarians aspire to equalize individual rights and opportunities, and perhaps to equalize ex post outcomes across individuals via social safety nets. Equitists, well-intentioned though they may be, pigeonhole people by immutable characteristics (race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, disability, etc.) and then seek to equalize average outcomes across groups. Someone in charge (an equitist, naturally) must devise a taxonomy of mankind, assign every individual to some cell in that taxonomy, rank each cell along something like an oppressor/oppressed spectrum, and then allocate rights, privileges, opportunities, and wealth among these cells.

    Generally, egalitarians seek to define “equal” objectively (e.g., equal rights, opportunities, access to education, income), whereas equitism’s definitions of “equal” are subjective. Equitism is largely an outgrowth of Frankfurt School critical theory, which rejects the very notion of objectivity.

    I'm not as copacetic as is Graboyes about "egalitarian"; it had a bad French-Revolution odor about it when I was growing up. And I think his label of "equitism" is too obscure to catch on. Still, it's a good essay.

  • See the Headline du Jour. So I'm not "signing up", but David Harsany might: If This Is 'Christian Nationalism,' Sign Me Up!

    The other day, Politico writer Heidi Przybyla appeared on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes” to talk about the hysteria de jour, “Christian nationalism.” Donald Trump, she explained, has surrounded himself with an “extremist element of conservative Christians,” who were misrepresenting “so-called natural law” in their attempt to roll back abortion “rights” and other leftist policy preferences. What makes “Christian nationalists” different, she went on, was that they believe “our rights as Americans, as all human beings, don’t come from any earthly authority.”

    As numerous critics have already pointed out, “Christian nationalism” sounds identical to the case for American liberty offered in the Declaration of Independence. Then again, the idea that man has inalienable, universal rights goes back to ancient Greece, at least. The entire American project is contingent on accepting the notion that the state can’t give or take our God-given freedoms. It is the best kind of “extremism.”

    A telling observation:

    It’s also true that the “Christian nationalism” scare is a ginned-up partisan effort to spook non-Christian voters. And, clearly, to some secular Americans, the idea that a non-“earthly authority” can bestow rights on humans sounds nuts. As a nonbeliever myself, I’ve been asked by Christians many times how I can square my skepticism of the Almighty with a belief in natural rights.

    My answer is simple: I choose to.

    “This is the bind post-Christian America finds itself in,” tweeted historian Tom Holland. “It can no longer appeal to a Creator as the author of its citizens’ rights, so [he] has to pretend that these rights somehow have an inherent existence: a notion requiring no less of a leap of faith than does belief in God.”

    No less but no more. Just as an atheist or agnostic or irreligious secular American accepts that it’s wrong to steal and murder and cheat, they can accept that man has an inherent right to speak freely and the right to defend himself, his family, and his property. History, experience, and an innate sense of the world tell me that such rights benefit individuals as well as mankind. It is rational.

    Rational. Well, that's a relief.

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