Science is Real? Well…

A video from Reason's Aaron Brown: Jonathan Haidt's Anti-Social Media Crusade Marred By Bad Science.

Text of the video is at the link, but you'll miss a Thomas Sowell cameo.

In his 1996 book, The Vision of the Anointed, economist Thomas Sowell sketched out a pattern that many of the "crusading movements" of the 20th century have followed. First, they identify a "great danger" to society, followed by an "urgent need" for government action "to avert impending catastrophe."

A new book by psychologist and author Jonathan Haidt, The Anxious Generation, argues that the government must regulate social media because it's causing a teen mental health crisis. Haidt is, in many ways, a model researcher because of his rigor, transparency, and openness to dissent. On this issue, however, he fits neatly into Sowell's framework.

Those best equipped to get attention from the government and the media are the most "articulate" people, Sowell observes, and they often reference opaque studies without explaining them. And Haidt is certainly articulate—his book is well-written and filled with compelling insights. But he claims far too much certainty for his views, based on research that is mostly junk. And he advocates for restrictive government policies without doing the simple tests that might support or disprove their value.

Brown provides a number of reasons to take Haidt with a grain of salt or two. Haidt has been a Pun Salad favorite over the years; I grep 39 references. I reported on books he's written or co-written here, here, and here. I don't know about The Anxious Generation.

Also of note:

  • Hey, kids! What time is it? Writing in the Harvard Crimson, Professor Randall Kennedy says pull the plug: Mandatory DEI Statements Are Ideological Pledges of Allegiance. Time to Abandon Them.

    On a posting for a position as an assistant professor in international and comparative education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, applicants are required to submit a CV, a cover letter, a research statement, three letters of reference, three or more writing samples, and a statement of teaching philosophy that includes a description of their “orientation toward diversity, equity, and inclusion practices.”

    At Harvard and elsewhere, hiring for academic jobs increasingly requires these so-called diversity statements, which Harvard’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning describes as being “about your commitment to furthering EDIB within the context of institutions of higher education.”

    By requiring academics to profess — and flaunt — faith in DEI, the proliferation of diversity statements poses a profound challenge to academic freedom.

    So, he's one of those right-wing baddies, looking to entrench white supremacy? Well, no. Check any bio. His bottom line:

    It would be hard to overstate the degree to which many academics at Harvard and beyond feel intense and growing resentment against the DEI enterprise because of features that are perhaps most evident in the demand for DEI statements. I am a scholar on the left committed to struggles for social justice. The realities surrounding mandatory DEI statements, however, make me wince. The practice of demanding them ought to be abandoned, both at Harvard and beyond.

    The DEI Empire has no clothes?

  • A new collective noun is proposed. Jonah Goldberg looks at our presidential candidates and groups them into A Gerontocracy of Blowhards.

    What got me thinking about this was an interview with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on CNN Monday night. RFK Jr. said (emphasis mine):

    Listen, I can make the argument that President Biden is a much worse threat to democracy.

    And the reason for that is President Biden is the first candidate in history, the first president in history that has used the federal agencies to censor political speech, so to censor his opponent. I can say that because I just won a case in the federal Court of Appeals and now before the Supreme Court that shows that he started censoring not just me—37 hours after he took the oath of office, he was censoring me.

    No president in the country has ever done that. The greatest threat to democracy is not somebody who questions election returns, but a president of the United States who uses the power of his office to force the social media companies, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter to open a portal and give access to that portal to the FBI, to the CIA, to the IRS, to CISA, to NIH to censor his political critics.

    President Biden, the first president in history, used the Secret—his power over the Secret Service to deny Secret Service protection to one of his political opponents for political reasons. He’s weaponizing the federal agencies.

    Ohmigod, don't get Jonah started on… too late.

    Eugene V. Debs ran for president five times, in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920. On his fifth bid for the presidency, he ran from prison because that’s where the Woodrow Wilson administration put him. Debs was hardly the only critic or opponent sent to prison. Under the Espionage and Sedition Acts, the Wilson administration prosecuted more than 2,000 people for criticizing Wilson and the war (I’ve seen higher estimates, and there were thousands more arrests at the local level, but you get the point). At least 1,000 people were thrown in jail. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure some of them deserved it. But a lot didn’t.

    As for censorship, Wilson declared war on “disloyal” publications, particularly—but not exclusively—German-language newspapers. Nearly half of German-language publications folded during the war. This was in part because the Wilson administration refused to let them use the postal system. The radical magazine The Masses was crushed by the Wilson administration, in part for publishing a cartoon saying the war was “making the world safe for capitalism.” From Liberal Fascism:

    Over four hundred publications had been denied privileges by May 1918. The Nation had been suppressed for criticizing Samuel Gompers. The journal Public had been smacked for suggesting that the war should be paid for by taxes rather than loans, and the Freeman’s Journal and Catholic Register for reprinting Thomas Jefferson’s views that Ireland should be a republic. Even the pro-war New Republic wasn’t safe. It was twice warned that it would be banned from the mail if it continued to run the National Civil Liberties Bureau’s ads asking for donations and volunteers.

    And that's not all. Unfortunately, it's behind the Dispatch paywall, so … subscribe.