Could you shut these people up for us? Will Duffield has an important report at Cato: Jawboning against Speech. His abstract:
Over the past two decades, social media has drastically reduced the cost of speaking, allowing users the world over to publish with the push of a button. This amazing capability is limited by the fact that speakers do not own the platforms they increasingly rely on. If access to the platforms is withdrawn, speakers lose the reach that social media grants. In America, government censorship is limited by the First Amendment. Nevertheless, seizing upon the relationship between platforms and speakers, government officials increasingly demand that platforms refrain from publishing disfavored speech. They threaten platforms with punitive legislation, antitrust investigations, and prosecution. Government officials can use informal pressure — bullying, threatening, and cajoling — to sway the decisions of private platforms and limit the publication of disfavored speech. The use of this informal pressure, known as jawboning, is growing. Left unchecked, it threatens to become normalized as an extraconstitutional method of speech regulation. While courts have censured jawboning in other contexts, existing judicial remedies struggle to address social media jawboning. Amid the opacity and scale of social media moderation, government influence is difficult to detect or prevent. Ultimately, congressional rulemaking and the people’s selection of liberal, temperate officials remain the only reliable checks on this novel threat to free speech.
It's a long and important article. Goes well with yesterday's item about Biden using his presidency as a "bully pulpit". It should be an impeachable offense.
Confirmation bias, I think. Jesse Singal describes How the Media Fell for A Racism Sham.
Last month, Rachel Richardson—the only black starter on the women’s volleyball team at Duke University—leveled a shocking accusation. She said that during her team’s August 26 match against Brigham Young University, fans inside the BYU arena in Provo, Utah inundated her with racist abuse and threats.
After the match, 19-year-old Richardson told her godmother, Lesa Pamplin, about the incident. Pamplin is a criminal defense attorney running for a county judgeship in Texas, and was not at the game—but the next day, she published a tweet that rocketed the story to national attention: “My Goddaughter is the only black starter for Dukes [sic] volleyball team. While playing yesterday, she was called a [n-word] every time she served. She was threatened by a white male that told her to watch her back going to the team bus. A police officer had to be put by their bench.”
Well, if you were paying attention during the Jussie Smollett affair, or the Covington Kids affair, or the Smith College affair, or the…
Well, you get my point. Singal notes: "Unsurprisingly, major media outlets were all over this story." But:
There is no evidence that the chain of events described by Richardson and her family members occurred. There isn’t even evidence a single slur was hurled at her and her teammates, let alone a terrifying onslaught of them.
All the journalists who credulously reported on this event were wrong—and it was an embarrassing kind of wrong, because the red flags were large, numerous, and flapping loudly. Richardson and her family members reported that racial slurs had been hurled with abandon, loudly and repeatedly, in a crowded gym filled with more than 5,000 people. But the journalists covering this incident never stopped to notice how odd it was that none of these vile slurs were captured by any of the thousands of little handheld cameras in the gym at the time, nor on the bigger cameras recording the match. Nor did they find it strange that in the days following the incident, not a single other eyewitness came forward—none of Richardson’s black teammates, and none of the players for either team.
It is vitally important to "major media outlets" that every American hate incident be reported loudly and often, without a shred of skepticism or sanity-checking.
And then they wonder why people don't trust them any more.
The hubris is strong with this one. "UNH Today", the publicity outlet for the University Near Here, profiles Michael Ettlinger, Director of UNH's Carsey School of Public Policy, and the headline indicates what a tongue bath it is: Steady Guidance and a Broad Perspective.
Michael Ettlinger is always thinking of the bigger picture.
“My undergraduate degree was in electrical engineering and then, well, then I went to law school,” he says, looking back. “In a way, it’s the ultimate engineering challenge, right? To figure out how society operates.”
He does not express the slightest doubt that he's the perfect guy to do that. Humility is not his strong point:
“I might surprise an economist about how much I know about economics or someone who's spent their career on clean energy about how much I know about clean energy or someone who works on immigration about how much I know about immigration. The experts know more than me, but what I bring to the table is knowing enough about all [the disciplines] to help weave them together and make interconnections between them,” he says, emphasizing the collaborative nature of politics. “There are a lot of issues that end up crossing disciplinary boundaries.”
The article describes Ettlinger's pre-UNH career, heavily involved with Democratic politics and "progressive" think tanks. When not engaged in self-praise, he takes indirect responsibility for the "Inflation Reduction Act, which he believes echoes the work he was a part of at [the Center for American Progress]".
Please accept the thanks of a grateful nation, Mike.
We previously noted Ettlinger in this 2016 article, which told the story of his Wikileaked offer of "helpful" UNH resources to the Hillary Clinton campaign when it was getting off the ground in 2015.
It's nice to pretend you're a simple problem-solving social engineer, when you're just another political hack.
Solving the big problems, answering the big questions. Underappreciated researchers get their due every year from the Cambridge, MA-based "Improbable Research" organization, and Here are the winners of the 2022 Ig Nobel Prizes. Skipping down to the Peace Prize:
Citation: "Junhui Wu, Szabolcs Számadó, Pat Barclay, Bianca Beersma, Terence Dores Cruz, Sergio Lo Iacono, Annika Nieper, Kim Peters, Wojtek Przepiorka, Leo Tiokhin and Paul Van Lange, for developing an algorithm to help gossipers decide when to tell the truth and when to lie."
We generally think of gossip as a negative factor in social interactions, but the authors of this 2021 paper treat the practice—which they define as "sharing information about absent others [the target] with one or more receivers"—as a viable strategy for promoting and sustaining cooperation, particularly in situations where there are conflicting interests with in-group or out-group members or strangers. That information can be positive, negative, or neutral, but it should be honest. Low-level dishonest gossip can be relatively harmless. But when gossip is dishonest—i.e., the gossiper lies—at sufficiently high levels, the system breaks down and that vital social cooperation can't evolve.
Yes, unless I'm miscounting, that's eleven authors. Perhaps one of them, someday, will become Director of the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH,
URLs du Jour