Loose Ends (195)

I didn’t think any other politician (except perhaps John Fetterman) could make Joe Biden sound like a MENSA member, but behold Canada’s Justin Trudeau, at a recent parliamentary hearing: “Using protests to demand changes to public policy is something that I think is worrisome”

Guess what’s racist now? Fossils.

The rise of scientific racism in palaeoanthropology

A forensic anthropologist unmasks insidious interpretations of fossil finds.

. . . The delays in recognizing how racism damages and paralyses science remind us how much stamina is required to become anti-racist. White privilege and presumed superiority in all matters of importance have been the norm for so long that it has become a fundamental construct of Western societies. To counter this deeply embedded narrative . . . requires courage, especially when you have been a beneficiary of these prejudicial practices. To recognize, expose and call out the racism in science is not easy, particularly in the hallowed halls of academia.

Gosh, I never pondered how much courage it must take to denounce racism on a college campus these days. Who knew.

Chaser—the only places/things where we haven’t detected racism are the places we haven’t been to yet, but the scientific community is ready!

Astrobiologists concerned about imperialistic consequences of galactic exploration

[B]ecause some subset of these and other questions considered by those in his field are going to have societal implications, they are also going to lead to some amount of activism.

Rooted in DEI ideology and an anti-colonialist framework, much of this activism is carried out in the popular press among well-credentialed academics who emphasize the supposed need to rethink the language of their fields and make vocal exhortations to decolonize space.

“[S]pace exploration is…an extension of our imperial and colonial histories,” said science historian and U.S. National Radio Astronomy Observatory fellow Rebecca Charbonneau in an August 2022 interview with Scientific American.

Time to nuke academia from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure. Ripley-Hicks 2024!

Good to see team USA didn’t run up the score in its metric football match with England yesterday.

Instapundit reminds us of The Simpson’s take on the subject:


Advice For Elon

Elon Musk’s effort to turn Twitter into a free speech platform has encountered angry resistance from the Left. The EU has demanded that he expand censorship, liberals have insisted that “hate speech” has proliferated since his takeover, and so on. As Scott noted earlier, members of Twitter’s “Trust and Safety Council,” who may or may not be out of a job, have denounced Twitter’s incipient libertarianism.

At the same time, liberals have sneered when Musk has acknowledged some need for content moderation, as though that somehow negated his commitment to free speech. There is a lot of fuzzy thinking going on here. Liberals talk about the “safety” of the platform, which makes little sense unless they are claiming that it may cause your cell phone to explode, causing personal injury. Musk, on the other hand, has at times described himself as a free speech absolutist. I am an absolutist, too, if you start with an understanding of what “speech” means.

I don’t think the issue of content moderation on a social media platform is particularly hard to resolve. First of all, on reflection anyone–including more-or-less absolutists like Musk and me–will agree that some content moderation is necessary. Bots should be banned, child pornography should not be permitted, users should not be allowed to conspire to commit terrorist acts.

Such content moderation can easily be reconciled with Musk’s commitment to free speech. I drafted a statute that was introduced, but not passed, in the last session of Minnesota’s legislature. It applied to a defined range of social media platforms, and banned discrimination in content moderation. Platforms could moderate content to their hearts’ content, but in doing so, they were prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, sex, religion or political orientation.

The tech giants purported to be outraged by my proposal. They (Twitter, Facebook et al.) hired three industry groups to appear at a committee hearing to testify against it. They claimed that my bill would make it impossible to block child pornography or terrorist plots. Really? I asked. Please explain why you need to engage in race discrimination to prevent child pornography on your platform. They were unable to do so, of course. Their position was absurd.

One good thing about the anti-discrimination approach is that it is consistent with various degrees of content moderation. For example, a platform might want to enforce a minimum level of good taste. Thus, it might delete content featuring the severed head of Barack Obama, or use of the hashtag #RapeMichelle. Fine. But then, it would also have to ban content featuring the severed head of Donald Trump and the hashtag #RapeMelania, both of which were A-OK with Liberal Twitter.

If I were Elon Musk, I would announce whatever content moderation standards he wants to apply to Twitter. I would then add that those standards would be applied in a way that does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion or political orientation, and I would hire employees who would effectuate that commitment. Liberals would weep and gnash their teeth, but they would be unable to articulate a plausible objection to such a policy. As I know from experience.

The advice if free, Elon. If you take it, it will be the best bargain anyone offers you today.

On the same page

Television news anchors at local affiliates all over the country appear to be on the same page regurgitating the shibboleths of the day. The video below is something of a work of art that can serve as a companion to the one we featured in “The playbook on the laptop” and “Let the credits roll.”

Dr. Kheriaty is a psychiatrist and fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. When he wrote the First Things article “Dying of despair” in 2017, he was associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Medical Ethics Program at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine. Then something happened. I take it that he is not on the same page with the news anchors.

Dr. Kheriaty’s book is excerpted in the American Mind column here. The column is also accessible via the Tweet below.

Whither the Trust & Safety Council?

The Associated Press is one of the anchors of the garbage media in its newsprint form. The garbage manifests in a wide variety of aspects. See, for example, its story “Musk says granting amnesty to suspended Twitter accounts.” The headline is a bit difficult to decipher and the “reporter” who wrote it is not identified. The story, however, is datelined San Francisco. Perhaps that is all ye need to know.

The story is saturated with hostility to new Twitter, as I call it. The AP is, shall we say, unhappy that Musk is undoing the work of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council. Members of the Trust and Safety Council are also unhappy with new Twitter. Despite the patent hostility of the story to Musk and to new Twitter, the AP has tweeted out the story (below). The tweet draws on the story’s opening paragraph to provide an unintentionally hilariously variation on the “experts say” ventriloquism (as Steve Hayward calls it) that gives away the story’s tilt.

Here is the opening paragraph:

“New Twitter owner Elon Musk said Thursday that he is granting “amnesty” for suspended accounts, which online safety experts predict will spur a rise in harassment, hate speech and misinformation.

The troublesome Mr. Musk noticed and counterpunched while posing a good question about the identity of these “online safety experts.”

The AP decries the shape of things on Twitter with a minimal glimpse of specifics. Read on and it becomes clear: those “online safety experts” are members of old Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council. Is this some kind of a joke?

Reinstating banned accounts could mean bringing back the “worst offenders” including neo-Nazi trolls, people who maliciously posted intimate images of people without their consent and other accounts that repeatedly violated Twitter’s rules against hate speech, cyberstalking or harassment, said Danielle Citron, a law professor at the University of Virginia.

“It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” said Citron, who is also vice president of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative and sits on Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council, a group of outside advisers who haven’t met since Musk took over. “It’s crazy because the whole point of the permanent suspension is because these people were so bad they were bad for the business.”

Citron said an “amnesty” plan goes against years of work — supported by then-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey — to build a platform for healthy online discourse that wouldn’t drive away average users fearful of being harassed. In most cases, Twitter only permanently suspended accounts that didn’t respond to other restrictions, such as temporary suspensions or restricted posts.

“So many people actually learn from suspensions and don’t re-violate,” Citron said. “You have to get pretty bad to get a permanent suspension.”

Another member of the Trust and Safety Council, Alex Holmes, said he is still awaiting feedback on the status of the council, which is due to meet in mid-December.

“With this latest decision, I can’t see this sitting right with the council or indeed what is left of the policy team, whose job it is to create effective policies that keep the platform safe,” Holmes said.

In the month since Musk took over Twitter, groups that monitor the platform for racist, anti-Semitic and other toxic speech say it’s been on the rise on the world’s de facto public square. That has included a surge in racist abuse of World Cup soccer players that Twitter is allegedly failing to act on.

The anonymous reporter goes deep on the rot at new Twitter:

The uptick in harmful content is in large part due to the disorder following Musk’s decision to lay off half the company’s 7,500-person workforce, fire top executives, and then institute a series of ultimatums that prompted hundreds more to quit. Also let go were an untold number of contractors responsible for content moderation. Among those resigning over a lack of faith in Musk’s willingness to keep Twitter from devolving into a chaos of uncontrolled speech were Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth.

Major advertisers have also abandoned the platform.

On Oct. 28, the day after he took control, Musk tweeted that there would be no “major content decisions or account reinstatements” until Twitter formed a “content moderation council” with diverse viewpoints that would consider the cases.

On Tuesday, he said he was reneging on that promise because he’d agreed to it at the insistence of “a large coalition of political-social activists groups” who later ”broke the deal” by urging that advertisers at least temporarily stop giving Twitter their business.

A day earlier, Twitter reinstated the personal account of far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, which was banned in January for violating the platform’s COVID misinformation policies.

And that’s not all:

Musk, meanwhile, has been getting increasingly chummy on Twitter with right-wing figures. Before this month’s U.S. midterm elections he urged “independent-minded” people to vote Republican.

Say it ain’t so! Experts say that the source of the AP’s patent animus against new Twitter can be found in this paragraph.

The Week in Pictures: Cryptophan Edition

Forget the usual post-Thanksgiving turkey tryptophan hangover: what we have unfolding right now is a full-fledged cryptophan stupor overtaking the pretensions of Silicon Valley and its progressive cheerleaders. The collapse of FTX is more than just another spectacular case of corporate fraud and speculation rum amok, but is connected to some key aspects of  progressivism today, though few of the media accounts of the scene are taking note of this. I’ll explain elsewhere in due course. Meanwhile, pictures and memes await pairing with your leftovers, and back to the Musk-Twitter-Trump drama!

Headlines of the week:

Sharp eyes will get this. . . (Hint: “Can you tell me where my country lies. . .”)

And finally. . .

Podcast: The 3WHH Special Thanksgiving Holiday Edition

Posted a day ahead of the usual schedule, this special Thanksgiving long weekend edition with John Yoo sitting in the rotating host chair finds the 3WHH bartenders sharing some wine, whisky and food pairings from the big meal. I supplemented the usual fare with popovers, washed down with some 2015 Trump Meritage red, expecting that it was likely past its prime, and although it had indeed lost its fruit, the depth and complexity surprised nonetheless, suggesting perhaps some staying power. Make of that what you will.

We also reflected further on our recent expedition to Italy, offer some final post-mortems on the mid-term election aimed at debunking popular media themes about what explains the unexpected result, and why the FTX scandal illustrates some aspects of contemporary liberalism that the breathless media accounts are missing.

Finally, we explore the meaning and significance of the decision of several elite law schools to discontinue participating in the rankings games of U.S. News and World Report, with considerably disagreement among us about the whole business of academic rankings.

You know what to do now: listen here, or roll with your leftovers over to the host kitchen at Ricochet.

Who doesn’t like some good Thanksgiving popovers?

P.S. Listeners with exceptional music knowledge may recognize the cover of a classic Thanksgiving-themed song used as our exit bumper music this week.

P.S. (2). Some listeners have requested the text of the Kamalaism that concludes this episode, so here it is:

And the way that I think about it is, you know, like relay racing. You know, you race and someone passes the baton and then — right? So, that’s what life is. It’s basically a relay race.

And so, the people who are heroes, whichever gender they are, they ran their part of the race and then they passed us a baton. And the question is: What will we do with the time we carry the baton? Which means there’s no time to get tired. Come on. Right? (Laughter.)

The Daily Chart: Partisan Industries

This breakdown of how members of the two political parties regard individual industries is revealing of how deep our ideological divisions run. Some areas of division are not surprising (media, higher education, entertainment, oil & gas), but. . . trucking? Manufacturing? (Also, somewhat curious that Democrats are only half as negative about tobacco as Republicans. . .)

Bonus chart: this division on industry-group campaign contributions is not surprising, but also revealing: