Also: why I'm sending money to The Dispatch. Even occasional readers may have noticed that I'm a Kevin D. Williamson fanboy. He's recently pulled up his stakes from National Review, and decamped for … well, let him tell you about it in an unpaywalled article: Why I’m at The Dispatch.
Some of you may know me from National Review, where I spent 15 years, or from the Atlantic, where I spent three days, or from my earlier newspaper work, or from one of my books. I’ve done a lot of different things, but the thing I’ve always liked best is long-form reported pieces, going to places where interesting things are happening and trying to understand them and explain them. The idea is to make you say, “Huh, interesting, I didn’t really know anything about that.” In most cases, I won’t have known very much about that two weeks ago, either—whatever that is—which is fun. Someone once described journalists as “people who have the bad taste to learn in public.” And that’s what I’m here at the Dispatch to do, mostly.
I’m not going to pretend that I don’t enjoy delivering verbal beatdowns to sundry miscreants defiling our public life and institutions—or that readers haven’t enjoyed those, too, or that I’m not good at that—but that isn’t what I’m here to do. That’s the directive from Dispatch On High Such As It Is: extra reporting, hold the hot takes.
I assume that most of his Dispatch content will be paywalled. That won't stop me from plugging and excerpting it here. I recommend you cough up for a subscription. (They have an enticing promo offer right now.) Can't afford it? As KDW has advised in the past: Get a job, hippie.
A tale (not quite) as old as time. Kat Rosenfield writes at Unherd on The American media's racism fantasy. The latest datapoint on that ongoing story being…
It was the kind of correction you love to see. The story that originally broke in the final days of August, about a young black athlete being racially heckled in front of a crowd of thousands at Utah’s Brigham Young University, was not just exaggerated but completely false. The n-word was not shouted, let alone repeatedly, at Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson when she went up to serve. A crowd of more than 5,000 people did not stand idly by during an act of malignant racism. The United States is not, apparently, a socially backwards hellscape where people openly scream slurs at packed sporting events without compunction or shame.
Unfortunately, it’s a correction that many people are probably never going to see — or if they do, they won’t believe it.
Ms. Rosenfield links to an (uncorrected, as I type) USA Today column from Mike Freeman from a couple weeks back: "Right-wing conspiracy theory involving Duke volleyball player is absurd".
Mike, conspiracy theories are absurd. At least that's the way to bet.
You know what's not absurd? Skepticism. Which is a stance you should have adopted.
Let's go back to Ms. Rosenfield's bottom line, which should go on a Post-It above Mike Freeman's workstation, and that of every other "journalist" who bought into this fantasy:
Needless to say, it is not good for a society to exist in a state of such constant catastrophising vigilance for signs of racial resentment. Amid our obsessive fear of fake news, this is a particularly insidious sort of misinformation; it is the reason why, for instance, liberal Americans grossly overestimate the number of unarmed black men killed every year by police. The actual number in 2019 was somewhere between 10 and 30, but fully 53% of surveyed liberals assumed it was over 1,000, while 22% estimated the number at 10,000 or more. It is also why, even as Americans across the board report feeling good about diversity and warmth for their black countrymen, we nevertheless believe that other people’s racism is bad and getting worse.
But the worst harm is something more basic: it is bad for black Americans to be unreasonably terrified that they’ll be hate-crimed every time they leave the house. It is wrong to instil fear and pessimism and panic for the sake of clicks. And telling people that many of their fellow Americans secretly hate them and wish them harm, when this is not in fact the case, is morally reprehensible.
Yeah. Let me also mention that Ms. Rosenfield's latest book is really good.
Meet the New Scientist, same as the Old Scientist. Jerry Coyne notes a recent effort from a "science" magazine to boost illiberalism: New Scientist calls for curbs on “free speech” in America. It's from Annalee Newitz, American journalist and fiction writer, and here's her article Coyne is rebutting: Twitter and the dangers of the US myth of free speech.
Myth? Oh well. 'Twas nice while it lasted.
Newitz's article is free-after-registration, or you can just check out the long excerpts Coyne provides. Here's one:
It turns out that information overload is just as toxic to democracy as censorship is. We need to chuck out the US myth that bad speech can be “cured” with more speech. Without moderation, ground rules for debate and thoughtful regulation in our digital public squares, it is impossible for us to reach agreement on anything.
There is a vast and pleasant country between total censorship and total information chaos, and that is where I hope to live one day. I’ll save you a seat.
So I ask this obvious question to Ms. Newitz:
“Who, do you propose, should censor the speech of “anti-democratic politicians,” trolls, promoters of offense and hate, confusing messages (presumably false information about Covid and the like), and others. Do you nominate yourself? Or would you prefer a Department of Censorship. And how will you silence the likes of Trump?”
I’m looking forward to Newitz, in a future column, describing how she would arrange things to turn America into the “vast and pleasant country” she craves. How, exactly, will she arrange the suppression of speech that she finds cruel, vicious, chaotic, and trollish?
Free speech isn’t a myth, but if censorious folk like Newitz get their way, it will become one.
But if you'd like to check out Annalee's tale of "time travelers fighting for reproductive rights across thousands of years of history"…
Our timeline is a trash fire. If you need some dirty, raw hope right now, my novel THE FUTURE OF ANOTHER TIMELINE is on sale for $2.99 in the U.S. It's about time travelers fighting for reproductive rights across thousands of years of history. https://t.co/gsqMm50qHf— Annalee Newitz (@Annaleen) September 16, 2022
Hey! Will Wheaton liked it!
I'm pretty sure we won't see her novel of time travelers fighting for free speech rights across thousands of years of history anytime soon.
A simple question. And it's posed by the WSJ editorialists to the Folks in Charge: Is the Pandemic ‘Over,’ or Not?.
President Biden finally dared to say it on Sunday, declaring in an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” that the “pandemic is over.” Various public-health eminences are saying he’s wrong, but his comments recognize the reality of the disease at this stage and the public mood. The trouble is that his Administration still hasn’t lifted its official finding of a Covid public-health emergency.
Eric Topol, the Scripps Research Translational Institute director who is one of America’s leading Covid scolds, tweeted “Wish this was true. What’s over is @POTUS’s and our government’s will to get ahead of it, with magical thinking on the new bivalent boosters. Ignores #LongCovid, inevitability of new variants, and our current incapability for blocking infections and transmission.”
I detect a whiff of that old Blazing Saddles quote: "We have to protect our phoney baloney jobs here, gentlemen!"
And, yes, further down, the WSJ notes: "The reason is almost certainly money." And also power. And also (specifically) the power to give away taxpayer money.
And for more details on that… Peter Suderman takes Biden pandemic-over pronouncement literally, but not seriously: Biden Inadvertently Declares His Student Loan Forgiveness Program Illegal.
If the pandemic is over, then there is no ongoing national emergency, which means that the already shaky legal ground on which the Biden administration based its action has now collapsed entirely.
What's more, the administration had previously acknowledged that it lacked the legal standing to enact policy based on a pandemic emergency.
In a post flagging the legal implications of Biden's inconsistency, National Review's Charles Cooke notes that "in May, the Biden administration (correctly) reported that it was obliged to end the use of Title 42 of the 1944 Public Health Services Act at the border because the Covid-19 emergency had passed." The administration, in other words, had already concluded that the pandemic was no longer an emergency that justified extraordinary action months prior to the student loan forgiveness announcement. But that, of course, was a policy the Biden administration wanted to end. For legal purposes, the Biden administration's position was that the pandemic was over when it needed to be over, but ongoing when it needed to be ongoing.
Suderman concludes that Biden "cannot even be bothered to keep his shoddy story straight." I'd add: He likely lacks the mental capacity to even notice that his shoddy story isn't straight. Also: nobody outside of us Reason-reading cranks will call him on it.
We're not walking anything back, but you shouldn't pay attention to anything the senile old fool says. Jimmy Quinn at National Review notes another Orwellian moment. Senior White House Official: Biden’s Taiwan Comments Were Not Walked Back.
During an interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes, Biden said that the U.S. would send American service members to defend Taiwan “if in fact there was an unprecedented attack” by China.
White House officials told the television program, however, that the president’s comments did not represent a change in U.S. policy, and that there is no official commitment to mount a defense of Taiwan. White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell then denied that this contradicts what the president said during the interview last night.
And then he said: "Who are you gonna believe? Me, or your own ears?"
To point out something obvious: having the president babble incoherently about foreign policy and America's response to naked aggression is kind of dangerous. Just ask Ukraine.
[And you'll want to check out the Quote Investigator for the Marxist take on our current situation.]