URLs du Jour

2022-03-09

  • And once we have that sorted out, who fact-checks the fact-checks of the fact-check fact-checkers? Martin Gurri wonders: Who Fact-Checks the Fact-Checkers?

    There can be little doubt that the lords of Silicon Valley, proprietors of the digital platforms, felt the need to appease the politicians in Washington and accommodate their own young, progressive workforces. The move to fact-checking begged many awkward questions about our post-truth moment but was flattering to the elites, who expected, as pedigreed “experts,” that the task of fact-checking would fall to them. In this they were correct.

    Remarkably, Facebook, Twitter and Google have subcontracted fact-checking to the news media—more accurately, to a handful of traditional media players clustered around the Poynter Institute, including Reuters, the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse. There could be no pretense of impartiality in the choice: Since 2016, the media has served as the attack dogs of the elite class. It commoditized opposition to Trump into a business proposition, as old-fashioned journalism, with its veneer of objectivity, gave way to a post-journalism that preached polarization to anxious liberals.

    The public has hardly applauded this transformation: According to a recent survey by public relations firm Edelman, roughly six-in-ten Americans believe they are being lied to by journalists. But fact-checking was never an attempt to regain the public’s trust. It was an exchange of protection for status, with a lot of money thrown into the bargain. To the question, “Who decides?” the semi-dead news media, with the blessing of the tech lords, returned a zombie growl: “We do.”

    Gurri has an interesting take on what a "fact" is, and its relationship to "truth". Buckle up, some bumpy philosophy ahead.


  • I think the "Build Back Better" legislation should have been called the "Spend a Shitload of Money We Don't Have" bill. In our second exercise in infinite regress today, David Harsanyi urges: Don’t Say ‘Don’t Say Gay’. He provides a number of MSM sources saying that, though. (Sample from ABC: "Florida lawmakers pass ‘Don’t Say Gay’")

    To its credit, CNN ran the most accurate headline: “Florida House approves bill prohibiting schools from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in K–3 classrooms.”

    “Don’t Say Gay” is the moniker partisan Democrats have given the Florida bill. It is intentionally misleading. The legislation, which never mentions the word “gay” anywhere, does, as CNN notes, prohibit public-school teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” That’s a lot different from what “Don’t Say Gay” implies.

    If Republicans had decided to call the Democrats’ recent abortion bill — on demand, until crowning, paid for by taxpayers — the “Let’s Kill Babies” bill (though pretty accurate, actually), no major news agency would have allowed those words to creep into their reporting, much less used it in a headline. If liberals want to engage in hyperbole, that’s their business, but how can we trust outlets that shamelessly regurgitate their propaganda? (That’s rhetorical.)

    As Instapundit is fond of saying: "Just think of the media as Democratic Party operatives with bylines, and it all makes sense."


  • A bubble that seems impervious to popping. Kevin D. Williamson writes on The Cable-News Bubble. Something I noticed myself:

    Over the weekend, Saturday Night Live opened its show with a parody of Laura Ingraham (played by Kate McKinnon) and Tucker Carlson (Alex Moffat), who were shown hosting a gala fundraiser for poor, suffering Russian oligarchs. The point was a serious one, but I did find myself wondering how something like that would really land with the general population. The media care intensely about the media, which is why Fox News figures figure so prominently in SNL sketches and why right-wing talk radio spends about 75 percent of its oxygen denouncing the so-called mainstream media. Jon Stewart cares a great deal about Tucker Carlson. But I doubt that very much of SNL’s audience knows Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham well enough even to know whether the impressions of them were any good. (Yes for McKinnon’s Ingraham, no for Moffat’s Carlson; Moffat would be closer to the mark if he simply remained in his “Guy Who Just Bought a Boat” character.) I suppose it is enough for SNL’s purposes that its audience is made up mostly of people who know that Tucker Carlson exists and that they are expected to hate him, that Fox News is a thing and that they are expected to hate it.

    (I wonder how many people who watched Watchmen realized that the pundit-show parody in the opening scene was supposed to be The McLaughlin Group, once an inescapable cultural presence for a certain kind of American and another favorite SNL target; I wonder how many people watching Aladdin get the William F. Buckley Jr. impersonation or know that there was such a thing as Firing Line. Damned few, I’d bet.)

    KDW makes important points, as always. I'm simply content with pointing out that SNL's non-political stuff has gotten funnier of late, while its political stuff (usually still around Trump, nowadays occasionally about DeSantis) has gotten (even) less funny.


  • They're pretty smart at Princeton, but not smart enough. Edward Yingling & Stuart Taylor Jr., writing at Minding the Campus describe How Princeton Eviscerated Its Free Speech Rule and Covered It Up.

    In July 2020, a Princeton University professor, Joshua Katz, wrote an article containing provocative language that generated controversy on campus. While voicing strong disagreement with that language, Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber clearly and publicly stated a few days later that it was protected by Princeton’s university-wide rule on free speech. But since then, through other Princeton officials, the university has for over a year viciously attacked Professor Katz as a racist on its website and elsewhere for the exact same language. These attacks have clearly violated the Princeton free speech rule, as well as other Princeton rules.

    When eight Princeton professors, acting as whistleblowers, filed a formal complaint about these attacks last October, high-ranking Princeton officials responded with a ruling that can only be described as a crude attempt to cover up the university’s violations; in the process, they eviscerated the free speech rule. The officials absurdly found that the widely disseminated presentation smearing Katz was not an “official University document” despite overwhelming public evidence that it is. They also issued a false interpretation of the free speech rule, stating dishonestly that it did not apply to Professor Katz’s language. Furthermore, under their deliberate misinterpretation, the free speech rule will no longer protect the vast majority of other statements by students and faculty that are clearly protected by its language and intent.

    The authors go on to make their case with plenty of detailed evidence. Katz's article is here at Quillette; we wrote about it here.


  • Flattened by light rail. The AntiPlanner (an pseudonymous Randal O'Toole) looks at Transit Safety: A Matter of Design

    Light rail is safe to ride, but it is one of the most dangerous forms of travel in the United States. That’s because most of the people who are killed by light-rail trains aren’t riding them; they are people struck by the trains. According to Federal Transit Administration (FTA) data, 657 fatalities have been associated with light rail since 2002, but only 20 of them were passengers on board the trains.

    Counting all fatalities, light rail was associated with 15.9 deaths for every billion passenger-miles that it carried. This is much higher than most other transit modes: buses were 4.9; heavy rail was 5.6; commuter rail was 7.6; and streetcars were 11.6. The only mode more dangerous than light rail was what the FTA calls hybrid rail, which is really light rail but powered by Diesels instead of electricity. It was associated with 20.6 deaths per billion passenger-miles.

    Where are all the "if it saves just one life" people on this? Shouldn't they be pushing to get rid of light rail? Or at least wrapping all the cars in three layers of pillows?


Last Modified 2022-03-15 5:46 AM EDT

The Courier

[4 stars] [IMDB Link] [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

[Consumer note: the Amazon link above goes to a "playback region 2" DVD. Apparently, there's no US-playable disc currently available.]

A pretty good Cold War spy thriller, based on true events. It's the dark days of the conflict, early 1960s. MI6 and the CIA are trying to get reliable information out of the USSR, and they seize upon the offer of Oleg Penkovsky, a GRU higher-up dismayed by the bellicose rhetoric and provocative actions of hard-liners like Khrushchev. But making contact with Penkovsky could be dicey, they need someone who's not an obvious spy. So they hit on Greville Wynne, a British businessman with no obvious MI6 attachments.

Greville is incredulous and reluctant, but after some soul-searching, accepts this new role, acting as (see the title) a courier for the information Penkovsky wants to smuggle out to the West. But it's a dangerous game, and the wrong people are getting suspicious, moles on our side are reporting back to the USSR about the intel Penkovsky is providing. So things don't go smoothly.

Greville is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who surprisingly did not get an Oscar nomination for his work here. (Why don't they just auto-nominate him for every year in which he's in a picture.)

I kept looking for any Cold War revisionism here. Only one bit, where the deployment of US missiles in Turkey is mentioned as a counter to the discovery of Russian missiles in Cuba. Other than that, though, it's pretty blunt about (accurately) portraying the USSR commies as brutal thugs.

World of Trouble

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Executive summary: being on a doomed planet kind of sucks.

This is the concluding title in Ben H. Winters' "Last Policeman" trilogy. At the end of the second book, the narrator, ex-cop Henry Palace was headed off to an enclave in western Massachusetts to await the end of the world. Which is to be brought about by the imminent collision of the rogue asteroid "Maia".

Instead of just sitting around and waiting, Henry decides to track down his missing sister, Nico, who has been swept up by a group of conspiracy theorists; they believe there's a plan to detonate a nuke in just the right place and time to divert Maia from its path. But where are they? (And could they have a handle on actual truth?) Henry and sidekick Cortez return to Concord, NH to interview Abigail, the ex-girlfriend of another cult member. That visit sends them off to the fictional town of Rotary, Ohio. Where they find an apparent victim of violence … and nobody else. But there's a mysterious concrete cap over what appears to be an underground enclave…

What's going on? Henry follows the evidence, which takes him on a nightmarish tour: encounters with armed gangs, rednecks, various lunatics, and an isolated Amish family. He absorbs a lot of physical abuse, all set against the countdown to humanity's demise.

Winters' writing style is … well, I'm not sure what adjective to use. Ornate? Picturesque? Flowery? It's not garish enough to be off-putting, though.


Last Modified 2022-03-09 10:10 AM EDT