URLs du Jour

2022-04-28

[It's All Free!]

  • Yeah, that's a problem. Jacob Sullum on what an aging totalitarian thinks: Anthony Fauci Thinks Scientific Expertise Trumps the Rule of Law.

    Anthony Fauci was "surprised and disappointed" by last week's ruling against the mask mandate for travelers issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "This is a CDC issue," President Joe Biden's top medical adviser told CNN. "It should not have been a court issue."

    Fauci, who objects to federalism as well as judicial review, embodies the mild-mannered arrogance of technocrats who assume their scientific expertise trumps the rule of law. Because they believe they know what is best for us, they are dismayed by any attempt to limit their influence or restrain their power.

    Jacob notes (younger totalitarian) Jen Psaki's enthusiastic agreement: "Public health decisions shouldn't be made by the courts. They should be made by public health experts."

    The idea that "public health" is some sort of trump card that entitles government authorities to enforce edicts on the citizenry without worrying about legal niceties is dangerous and appalling.

    You know what other things "public health experts" have deemed to be threats?

    Of course: Guns.

    Climate Change.

    Racism.

    Sexism.

    And yes, even Capitalism itself.

    Statists in white coats are forever looking for excuses to chop away at liberty.


  • Not about Achilles. Bryan Caplan notes something darned odd: The Heel Heuristic.

    You discover that your favorite movie star is a full-blown heel. He cheated on his spouse, got caught, and ended up divorced. Now, he’s estranged from his kids.

    Question: How do you respond? Do you boycott his future movies? Stop watching his earlier movies? Treat him as an unperson?

    Or do you shrug in disappointment, muse “Well, it’s really none of my business” - and continue to enjoy the star’s work?

    Bryan notes that the "none of my business" course is the common and defensible choice. But:

    Now consider each the following other actions.

    1. Exposing yourself to acquaintances in your hotel room.

    2. Using the N-word during standup comedy.

    3. Affirming the biological reality of gender.

    4. Using a racial epithet on camera when you didn’t know you were being filmed.

    5. Posting a sexist tweet.

    Question: Are any of these actions remotely as bad as being a full-blown heel - a man who cheats on his wife, gets divorced, and stops seeing his kids?

    Honestly, I doubt almost anyone sincerely thinks so.

    And yet, Bryan points out, those latter violations have been used as excuses for cancellation. He advises people to adopt a general equanimity toward the behavior and opinions of others that don't affect you.

    I'll admit I haven't always followed Bryan's advice. I've self-cancelled a small number of celebrities due either to their Commie sympathies, or their display of contempt for people sharing my political sympathies: Jane Fonda, Bonnie Raitt, Steven King, Ken Jennings, Don Winslow.

    Well, I still watch Ken Jennings when he shows up on Jeopardy! or The Chase. But I stopped buying his books. Library only! Same for Winslow.

    (And I admit I'm sort of relieved when it's Mayim Bialik's turn to host Jeopardy!. I've heard she's kind of a loon, and I know she uses her neuroscience credentials to hawk bogus supplements. I like her anyway.)

    But, bottom line, it's equally clear that if I totally shut out heels and political idiots from my cultural consumption, I'd wind up … well, with a much more restricted diet. And just imagine the due diligence I'd have to apply in monitoring authors and actors for unacceptable behavior and ideas!

    Yeah, Bryan's probably right about this.


  • But speaking of heels… UnPopulist author Aviezer Tucker makes a strained metaphor: Putin’s Achilles Heel Is Buried Beneath the Boot of His Totalitarianism. He makes an interesting distinction (and I'm fond of making distinctions):

    Many commentators have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of becoming an autocrat who is using his invasion of Ukraine as cover for turning Russia into an authoritarian state. This analysis is wrong; worse, it’s misleading.

    In fact, Putin has been directing a gradual totalitarian restoration in Russia since his ascent to power more than two decades ago. We are now witnessing the denouement of this process. Understanding the totalitarian — not authoritarian — nature of Putin’s restoration is vitally important for understanding not just Russia’s present state, but also its future and the various ways in which Putin’s regime might be susceptible to collapse.

    It occurs to me that I probably have been guilty of mixing up the concepts of authoritarianism and totalitarianism. Including stuff I just wrote a couple items back. I'll be honest and leave them alone, as examples of my sloppy thinking. But I'll try to be more careful in the future. And probably often fail.


  • How long before they start tearing down the Walt Disney statues? Jonah Goldberg writes on the recent battle in the culture war: DeSantis Beat Disney—Then the Mob Wanted More.

    Florida recently passed the Parental Rights in Education bill (tendentiously called the “Don’t Say Gay” law by detractors). The Walt Disney Company, under CEO Bob Chapek, tried to stay out of the controversy. But a pincer movement of internal and external political pressure forced the company to publicly oppose the bill.

    Worse, a video of a Disney meeting at which executives boasted of their “not at all secret” agenda to incorporate gay and transgender themes into Disney content was leaked at the worst possible moment. The very online right was already in a full-blown moral panic about pedophilia, basically holding that anyone who opposed the bill was either a “groomer” or “groomer friendly.” (Once a term for adults who manipulate underage children for sexual abuse, “groomer” suddenly meant dissenters from a moral crusade.)

    Well, you know what happened next.

    I'm not dumping by Disney+ subscription, sorry. Although I despair for the upcoming flood of Disney content into which "gay and transgender themes" have been shoehorned.

    I promise I won't freak out when I (eventually) watch Lightyear's same-sex smooch. I may, however, roll my eyes.

    And no tongues! No tongues, Disney!


  • And that need is desperate. David French hangs out a help-wanted sign: Stoics Needed.

    In moments of crisis or trouble, do you look to the people who are losing their minds? Or do you find yourself immediately gravitating to those who remain calm?

    I’m reminded of an amusing moment shortly after I returned from Iraq. I was back with my reserve unit, and a young soldier called one of our veteran officers and declared that he was dealing with a “crisis.”

    “A crisis?” The officer answered. “Are there body parts on the floor?”

    The soldier paused, obviously confused. “No sir.”

    “Well then, we’ve got a problem, not a crisis. Let’s deal with it.”

    The point was made. Don’t automatically escalate the stakes of any given problem. Pause. Take a breath. Decide the proportionate response.

    In my perfect world, schools would still teach about slavery and Jim Crow, etc. But they would dial that stuff back about 25%, and make room for teaching about stoicism. No indoctrination, just… put it out there as a possible lifestyle choice.