Reason Roundup

Rep. Paul Gosar's AOC Anime Video Is Protected by the First Amendment

Plus: Moderna claims full credit for vaccines, 19 percent of university job openings require DEI statements, and more...

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Earlier this week, Rep. Paul Gosar (R–Ariz.) tweeted a parody anime video—a seemingly original take on the opening credits of the Attack on Titan series—that depicted a cartoon character with Gosar's actual face attacking and killing a monster with the face of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.).

Twitter added a warning label to the video, noting that it violates the company's policies on "hateful conduct." Here it is:

The video portrays Gosar, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R–Ga.), Rep. Lauren Boebert (R–Colo.), and U.S. border enforcement agents as anime heroes fighting villainous illegal immigrants, President Joe Biden, and Ocasio-Cortez. It's not a very funny or clever video. The only thing amusing about it is that Gosar—a 62-year-old man—actually knows what anime is.

The identity of the video's editor is unknown, though it may be someone who works for Gosar, since he also said that "the creativity of my team is off the hook."

Needless to say, Ocasio-Cortez did not appreciate the video:

Many of her colleagues were equally disturbed by the video. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D–Calif.) described Gosar as "bloodthirsty." Rep. Ted Lieu (D–Calif.) pointed out that "in any workplace in America, if a coworker made an anime video killing another coworker, that person would be fired."

He's probably right about that. But Congress is not like other workplaces. Employees are chosen not by bosses, but by a democratic process: elections. Gosar doesn't work for an HR-conscious manager; he works for the voters of Arizona, and it's their job to boot him if they don't like his anime videos.

One can sympathize with Gosar's Democratic colleagues for being irritated with his highly unprofessional—even creepy—behavior. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) went further than merely expressing understandable disgust with the video: She called for Gosar to face professional and legal consequences.

Whether Gosar's behavior violates some congressional ethics rules is one matter. But there is little doubt that the anime video constitutes First Amendment protected expression: Though it was in poor taste for Gosar to share it, he did not actually credibly threaten the lives of Biden or Ocasio-Cortez. A parody video of an anime figure vanquishing a villainous Democrat is clearly not a true threat of violence. Just as Kathy Griffin's infamous Trump head photo op was ill-advised yet completely legal, so too is Gosar's satirical tweet.

Law enforcement should make no effort to investigate the Gosar video, since the only conceivable conclusion they could reach is that it's protected speech. And the government should not—and indeed, cannot—police speech solely because it is offensive to people in power, even if the speech is, in fact, offensive.

FREE MINDS

About 19 percent of university jobs require applicants to make diversity commitments, according to a new study from the American Enterprise Institute. Authors James Paul and Robert Maranto evaluated nearly 1,000 academic job postings and found that one in five demanded commitments to supporting and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. These requirements were more common for positions at prestigious institutions, but they were just as common for positions in the hard sciences as they were for other jobs.

"The most surprising finding of the paper is that these requirements are not just limited to the softer humanities," Paul told the Washington Free Beacon. "I would have expected these statements to be less common in math and engineering, but they're not." The Free Beacon has more:

The study emphasizes that the 19 percent statistic is likely a low-ball estimate. For one thing, Paul and Maranto only used the terms "diverse" or "diversity" to identify jobs that require DEI statements; postings that eschewed that language in favor of "equity" or "antiracism" weren't counted under their coding scheme.

For another, the study only looked at job postings, not job applications. If some applications required diversity statements that weren't advertised in public postings, Paul and Maranto's results could be a significant undercount.

"I strongly suspect that if we went through the steps of applying for positions there'd be more jobs with DEI statements," Paul said. "Our estimate is conservative."


FREE MARKETS

Moderna is feuding with the federal government over who deserves credit for the invention of key compounds that make up the company's COVID-19 vaccine. According to The New York Times:

The vaccine grew out of a four-year collaboration between Moderna and the N.I.H., the government's biomedical research agency — a partnership that was widely hailed when the shot was found to be highly effective. The government called it the "N.I.H.-Moderna Covid-19 vaccine" at the time.

The agency says three scientists at its Vaccine Research Center — Dr. John R. Mascola, the center's director; Dr. Barney S. Graham, who recently retired; and Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, who is now at Harvard — worked with Moderna scientists to design the genetic sequence that prompts the vaccine to produce an immune response, and should be named on the "principal patent application."

Moderna disagrees. In a July filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the company said it had "reached the good-faith determination that these individuals did not co-invent" the component in question. Its application for the patent, which has not yet been issued, names several of its own employees as the sole inventors.

This dispute is not merely a point of pride; if NIH scientists are recognized as co-inventors, it will make it easier for the federal government to steer the vaccines and claim a portion of the profits.

"Federal employees listed as inventors on these patent applications assigned their rights to the U.S. government," said the NIH in a statement. "Accordingly, should the [United States Patent and Trademark Office] and other national patent authorities grant the patents, the U.S. government will hold ownership interest in the patents."


QUICK HITS

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) officiated the opulent wedding of Ivy Getty, a billionaire oil heiress. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose whereabouts were unknown to the general public last week, attended.

  • Blake Masters, a close associate of Peter Thiel who is running for a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona, thinks that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election.

  • Miami public school students can finally unmask.
  • New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has decided not to run for Senate in 2022. This is a blow to Republican efforts to retake the Senate during the midterm elections, as Sununu was seen as a strong potential contender against incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan.
  • The Washington Post reports that "most January 6 defendants were not part of far-right groups or premeditated conspiracies to attack the Capitol."