Unlike the Dream Police, They Live Outside Your Head

[Speech Police] While most of the MSM is saying "Move along, nothing to see here," Reason's Robby Soave says, correctly, that attention must be paid. The most recent print cover story: How the CDC Became the Speech Police.

Anthony Fauci, the federal government's most prominent authority on COVID-19, had his final White House press conference two days before Thanksgiving 2022. The event served as a send-off for the longserving director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who was finally stepping down after nearly four decades on the job.

Ashish Jha, the Biden administration's coronavirus response coordinator, hailed Fauci as "the most important, consequential public servant in the United States in the last half century." White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre described him as a near-constant "source of information and facts" for all Americans throughout the pandemic.

Indeed, the U.S. public's understanding of COVID-19—its virality, how to prevent its  spread, and even where it comes from—was largely controlled by Fauci and bureaucrats like him, to a greater degree than most people realize. The federal government shaped the rules of online discussion in unprecedented and unnerving ways.

Accompanying the cover article is a supplement, Inside the Facebook Files: Emails Reveal CDC's Role in Stifling COVID Dissent. And how that relates to ongoing regulatory threats:

This is just a snapshot of the messages exchanged between the CDC and Meta. They also had regular conference calls. The CDC was not the only arm of the federal government engaged in this work, of course: White House staffers also castigated Meta for not deplatforming alleged misinformation fast enough. President Joe Biden himself accused Facebook of "killing people" in July 2021.

One wonders whether these condemnations, from Biden and others in his administration—which included the specific threat of punitive regulation if demands for greater censorship were not met—influenced Meta's decision to delegate COVID-19 content moderation to the CDC.

Maybe Twitter and Facebook would have behaved exactly the same way in the absence of government pressure.

And maybe, to quote Wayne Campbell, monkeys might fly out of my butt.

Hiawatha Bray has advice on this topic: We ignore Musk’s ‘Twitter Files’ at our peril. His relevant question:

Suppose The New York Times or The Boston Globe met regularly with the US government to discuss which stories they ought to publish, and which ones they shouldn’t. Suppose the same company also knowingly ran stories under fake names by US intelligence agents pushing the government’s agenda in foreign countries.

Happily this isn’t going on at newspapers. But it’s happened at Twitter.

There's no indication that this has bothered anyone important.

Briefly noted:

  • David Boaz notes stirrings of discontent: The NAACP Has a Demand: Teach Our Kids to Read.

    The Fairfax County NAACP in Virginia is making demands on the local school system: they want the schools to teach black and Hispanic kids to read. And they want the school to start using the best research‐​tested methods, the phonics‐​based approach that I wrote about last August.

    The NAACP points out that Fairfax County Public Schools first promised to make “minority achievement” a priority in 1984, yet the achievement gap in reading between black and white students has persisted. In a meeting in March 2021 and an open letter the following month, the Washington Post reports, they blamed “the absence of systematic, cumulative, phonics‐based reading instruction in the early elementary classroom.” And, they wrote, “All the research suggests that this shift would have the most immediate and profound impact on closing the achievement gap.”

    You'd think that an organization whose name literally stands for the advancement of colored people might have done something like this before now.

  • Kevin D. Williamson reminds us: There Is No Painless Way to Balance the Budget. Get ready for some factual, sobering, arithmetic:

    You cannot balance the budget just by cutting programs that you don’t like. You cannot balance the budget by booting layabouts off welfare, by reducing “waste, fraud, and abuse,” by eliminating foreign aid, or by repealing the grievously misnamed Affordable Care Act. And, progressives, take note: You cannot balance the budget by reinstating Eisenhower-era tax rates, either.

    Here are a few things to keep in mind.

    “Non-defense discretionary spending”—meaning everything except the military budget and statutory entitlements such as Social Security—adds up to a pretty small share of federal spending.

    In fiscal year 2022, the federal deficit was about $1.4 trillion, which was 5.5 percent of GDP. All discretionary spending combined was about $1.7 trillion, but non-defense discretionary spending was only about half of that. What that means is that if you cut total non-defense discretionary spending to $0.00 (an absurd notion, but useful for the purposes of illustration) you would not eliminate the deficit—you would, in fact, only roll it back to its approximate level in 2018. If you want to balance the budget by cutting both defense and non-defense discretionary spending, then you’d have to eliminate the Army and the Air Force and get by with the Navy and the Marine Corps, or make cuts of roughly equivalent depth—cutting nickel-and-dime “woke” programs won’t get it done. Obviously, that is not a thing that is going to happen—so we should not pretend that this is a plausible option.

    Well, we'll just raise taxes on the rich! Get them to "pay their fair share."

    I hope you're not saying that, but if you're even thinking that, KDW takes you on further down in the article. I don't see one of those Dispatch padlocks on the page, so you might want to read the whole thing, and should.

  • Jerry Coyne looks at A bizarre Cornell course about black holes that conflates astronomy and ideology. Cornell's course description from 2020:

    Conventional wisdom would have it that the “black” in black holes has nothing to do with race. Surely there can be no connection between the cosmos and the idea of racial blackness. Can there? Contemporary Black Studies theorists, artists, fiction writers implicitly and explicitly posit just such a connection. Theorists use astronomy concepts like “black holes” and “event horizons” to interpret the history of race in creative ways, while artists and musicians conjure blackness through cosmological themes and images. Co-taught by professors in Comparative Literature and Astronomy, this course will introduce students to the fundamentals of astronomy concepts through readings in Black Studies. Texts may include works by theorists like Michelle Wright and Denise Ferreira da Silva, authors like Octavia Butler and Nalo Hopkinson, music by Sun Ra, Outkast and Janelle Monáe. Astronomy concepts will include the electromagnetic spectrum, stellar evolution, and general relativity.

    Just let me say right here that Janelle Monáe was pretty good in Glass Onion. Do not disrespect Janelle Monáe.

    For additional amusement, one of Jerry's colleagues asked ChatGPT:

    What are black holes and what is the relationship to race

    The reply:

    Black holes are extremely dense regions of space that have extremely strong gravitational fields. They are formed when very massive stars die and collapse under the force of their own gravity. Nothing, including light, can escape from inside a black hole’s event horizon, the point of no return.

    There is no relationship between black holes and race. Black holes are a scientific concept that is based on the laws of physics, and race is a social construct with no scientific basis. They are not related to each other in any way.

    I know that ChatGPT just echoes back, semi-coherently, a rehash of the content it's been trained on. But I'd suggest that it take a look at this content from Robert J. Morris at Quillette More Than Just a Social Construct.

    “In support of efforts to confront our country’s history of racism and injustice,” stated an American Medical Association press release in 2020, “the nation’s leading physicians voted to adopt two new policies today recognizing race as a social construct—rather than a biological construct—at the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Special Meeting of its House of Delegates (HOD).” This kind of statement from the leaders of American medicine has become increasingly common in recent years.

    The National Institutes of Health holds that, “Race is a social construct used to group people. Race was constructed as a hierarchal human-grouping system, generating racial classifications to identify, distinguish and marginalize some groups across nations, regions and the world.” The America College of Physicians has stated that race is “social rather than biological.” The American Academy of Pediatrics says its members believe that, “Race is a historically derived social construct that has no place as a biologic proxy.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has stated, “Race is a social category, not a biological or genetic condition that elevates risk for certain diagnoses and health disparities.”

    This refusal to acknowledge that race is an important variable in patient care runs contrary to what I was taught during my medical training several decades ago. Back then, when presenting the results of a patient’s medical history and physical examination to an attending physician, the medical student, intern, or resident was expected to start the description of the case by stating the patient’s age, race, and sex. Why? Because these were believed to be important factors when determining potential susceptibility to disease and appropriate treatment.

    But apparently, at least back in December, it was possible to get ChatGPT to sound pretty racist, if you provided the right prompts. Maybe the above is the result of an effort to correct that.

    And I should note that This Sort Of Thing has been happening for a while. Nearly thirty years ago, Evelynn Hammonds penned "Black (W)holes and the Geometry of Black Female Sexuality". And she went on to become "the Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science and Professor of African and African-American Studies at Harvard University, and former Dean of Harvard College."

  • Finally, a recommendation that's just a lot of fun to read, from Nellie Bowles: TGIF: I Love Davos. It's a compendium of random topics, here's one:

    → Quick reminder on Davos: Everyone at the World Economic Forum in Davos, a confab of political and financial leaders, arrives by private jet, which is how they move through the world, pumping carbon into your neighborhood air as they go. You, on the other hand, need to stop complaining about your paper straw. It’s meant to wilt and congeal, that’s how you know it’s working! Davosians can arrive by carbon-spewing jet, with a separate jet trailing behind carrying their poodles and pregnant surrogates. And once in Davos, the plan is to terrify and shame everyone who’s not there.

    Here’s Al Gore at Davos this week on greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere: “the accumulated amount is now trapping as much extra heat as would be released by 600,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs exploding every single day on the earth. . . . That’s what’s boiling the oceans, creating these atmospheric rivers, and the rain bombs, and sucking the moisture out of the land, and creating the droughts, and melting the ice and raising the sea level, and causing these waves of climate refugees!”

    Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

    I'm pretty sure a boiling ocean would have made the news, Al.

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:53 AM EST