URLs du Jour

2021-07-25

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  • WIRED's Statist Advocacy du Jour. Roger McNamee performs his usual duty in this recent op-ed: Biden Has to Play Hardball with Internet Platforms.

    The federal government’s campaign to reform internet platforms dramatically escalated this week. The Surgeon General cited disinformation as a public health menace. The White House press secretary called on Facebook to remove 12 accounts that may be responsible for as much as 65 percent of the Covid disinformation on the site. In reference to Facebook, President Joe Biden said, “They’re killing people,” only to walk that back a day later. Then he appointed Jonathan Kanter, architect of the EU’s antitrust case against Google, to run the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. The table may finally be set for necessary reform.

    Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter have become core communications platforms in our society, but they are collectively undermining public health, democracy, privacy, and competition, with disastrous consequences. Most Americans understand this, but don’t want to be inconvenienced by losing what they like about internet platforms. And they struggle to understand the problem’s scope. The platforms have successfully muddied the waters, using their massive wealth to co-opt huge swaths of academia, think tanks, and NGOs, as well as many politicians.

    Governments at all levels have discovered the magical words "public health" can be used to excuse any and all encroachments on civil liberties. People are saying things you don't like on Facebook? Declare those statements "misinformation" damaging to "public health" and abracadabra, you can demand that Zuck take them down!

    It's not government doing the censorship, it's Facebook. So it's constitutionally legit!

    A sampling of McNamee's WIRED op-ed heds:

    There is no event around which McNamee can't spin his demands for draconian social media regulation.


  • Meanwhile, What's Being Swept Under the Rug? Libertarian Leanings is where I noticed this tweet:

    (Clicking through to the Garland letter, I think Mollie's reference to the DOJ dropping investigations in "all states" is incorrect; the New Jersey one (apparently) started last October is sputtering along.

    Still.

    Sample criticism from Jazz Shaw at Hot Air:

    While all of the governors in question made some bad decisions, Cuomo’s were arguably the worst by far and resulted in the largest number of deaths. Barring the nursing homes from even asking about an applicant’s COVID status and threatening to suspend their licenses if they did was simply criminally incompetent. We may not have had a vaccine at the time, but it had already become obvious how quickly the virus was able to spread and the disparate impact it had on the elderly and the medically infirm. Nursing home residents generally fall into both of those categories.

    Doesn’t the fact that Andrew Cuomo was caught red-handed lying about the number of deaths suggest anything to Garland indicating that something was amiss? The fact that the CDC was already issuing guidance that was directly the opposite of Cuomo’s mandates should also strengthen the case that those actions were proof of at least massive incompetence and negligence, if not intentional malfeasance.

    Ah, but criminal? Maybe not. Maybe those geezers deserved their fate by living in a blue state and (some of them probably) voting for the executioners! Obviously suicidal tendencies were at work.

    Sigh. Let's not forget that there was plenty of misinformation, unconscionable delay, and loads of bureaucratic screwups at the Federal level (CDC, FDA, Fauci, Trump) as well. Those probably caused thousands of deaths all by themselves. I'm not sure how their body count compares to Cuomo's. It's certainly a couple orders of magnitude greater than anything you can attribute to Facebook.

    But McNamee and his ilk want to go after Facebook et. al. instead. To quote the headline at Libertarian Leanings: "If It Weren't For Double Standards..."


  • Language Evolves, Unfortunately. Daniel B. Klein provides 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Call Leftists “Liberal”. Some linguistic history:

    The word liberal first acquired a political meaning in Britain in the 1770s.

    But prior to that, over many centuries, “liberal” had two meanings. First, “liberal” signified activities becoming of a free man—the liberal arts, the liberal sciences, the liberal professions. Liber in Latin means both “free” and “book.”

    The other meaning was generous, as in “giving liberally” or “liberal supplies.” Generosity is characteristic of a free man, so this meaning relates to the first.

    Reason #1

    The two ancient meanings run deep in Western civilization. Calling leftists “liberal” evokes generosity and the blessings of the liberal arts and sciences. To call leftists “liberal” is to extol their character and purpose.

    It was not for nothing that, between 1880 and 1940, collectivists arrogated “liberal” for themselves.

    I'll point out the Google Dictionary still clings (bitterly) to the non-collectivist sense of liberal:

    1. willing to respect or accept behavior or opinions different from one's own; open to new ideas.
    2. relating to or denoting a political and social philosophy that promotes individual rights, civil liberties, democracy, and free enterprise.

    You'll find most of those attitudes pretty rare on the left these days.

    But if "liberal" means you're "open to new ideas", does that mean you're open to illiberal ideas? Hm. Cue to every Star Trek episode where Kirk defeated an AI by trapping it in contradiction.


  • George Leef takes Klein's article and doubles down: Let's Reclaim the Word 'Liberal'.

    I am with him 100 percent. My only quibble is that he suggests the term “progressive,” which is also misleading. The authoritarian ideas those people favor do not lead to progress; they lead to regress, back to earlier systems of top-down control by powerful elites and institutions.

    Let’s call them statists, authoritarians, or just control freaks.

    Maybe the best approach is to (accurately) label people's ideas without pigeonholing people themselves. After all, I'm uncomfortable with most of the tags people have tried to stick on me.