Free Speech

Three Core Beliefs that Define the Boundaries of Free Inquiry and Discourse on Many Campuses

These beliefs shouldn’t be considered the only legitimate way to see the world.

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This is the second in a series of five posts we are publishing this week as the co-authors of a new book from Oxford University Press titled "Unassailable Ideas: How Unwritten Rules and Social Media Shape Discourse in American Higher Education." The first post from this series can be found here.

One of the key arguments we make in the book is that there is a set of three beliefs that shape much of the contemporary campus environment. We explain these beliefs as follows.

Belief #1: Anything That Aims to Undermine Traditional Frameworks is Automatically Deemed Good

The first belief is that any action to undermine or replace traditional frameworks or power structures is by definition a good thing. This belief is grounded in the view—that we share—that many of society's problems and inequalities can be attributed to historical power structures that have favored members of the white, cisgender, heteronormative patriarchy. But that does not mean that all proposals to address historical inequities constitute good solutions.

We emphasize that our goal is not to defend traditional power structures. To state the obvious, there is nothing redeeming about historical (or present-day) discrimination, including sexism, racism, intolerance toward members of the LGBTQ community, and so on. One can rightly condemn those ills while at the same time recognizing that not all initiatives undertaken with the goals of combating them will be effective. Some will be, and some won't be.

The fact that an initiative aims to counteract historical wrongs doesn't mean that, on that basis alone, it should be exempt from an objective evaluation of its merits and drawbacks. A similar observation was articulated by Conor Friedersdorf, who wrote in the Atlantic that "[t]o object to a means of achieving x is not to be anti-x." In other words, as Friedersdorf suggests, there is a distinction to be made between criticizing a proposed means to achieve an end and criticizing the goal of achieving that end.

The campus culture of providing unquestioning endorsement of anything presented as a mechanism to undermine, remake, or remove society's real or perceived hierarchies (including the corporate and/or governmental entities and structures that are viewed as enablers of those hierarchies) has broad reach, creating considerable collateral damage. For instance, because this belief is applied to any societal feature perceived (whether correctly or not) as having its provenance in historically dominant cultural frameworks, it can lead to absurd consequences, such as assertions that math and logic are inherently racist.

Belief #2: Discrimination is the Cause of All Unequal Group Outcomes

The second belief is that, absent the hand of discriminatory actors, all group-level outcomes would be equal. However, this belief precludes fully considering the role of potential differences in preferences, priorities, and culture that might also contribute to unequal outcomes. It also doesn't fully recognize the complex ways in which different factors (including but not limited to discrimination) might interact in shaping group outcomes, and the challenges of distinguishing correlation from causation.

To take one example, consider a culture in which music plays a particularly large and central role. Such a culture might be expected to produce a disproportionately large number of people who become accomplished musicians. Now, it might also be true that the members of this culture experience discrimination. One can then ask whether they have notably high levels of musical achievement as a consequence (among others) of discrimination. Or is this outcome independent of discrimination? Or, perhaps the role of music in this culture can be tied in part to cultural factors independent of discrimination and in part to discrimination.

Under the second belief, the unequal group outcome—in this case, a higher level of musical achievement among members of this culture—must be due to discrimination. But as the foregoing example illustrates, this assumption forecloses a more expansive inquiry that is more open to recognizing culturally driven differences without necessarily tying them to narratives of oppression.

Another factor sometimes raised in relation to group differences is biology. This is a particularly fraught topic, and understandably so given the frequency with which spurious biological explanations for group differences have been used for nefarious purposes in the past. And to be clear, we are not suggesting that there is any validity to flawed assertions regarding, for example, purported racial or gender differences in intelligence.

But the fact that claims regarding purported group differences have often been driven by some combination of racism, sexism, and bad science doesn't mean that all attempts to explore group differences are attributable to such bias. It seems reasonable to posit, for example, that the dramatic statistical overrepresentation of men among violent criminals has at least some basis in biology.

A similar assertion regarding an underlying biological role could also be made regarding the fact—reflected in car insurance rates—that young male drivers tend to get in more accidents than do young female drivers. Yet under the second belief, these suggestions are deemed improper. Instead, it is only permissible to seek explanations based on socialization and gender norms.

Belief #3: The Primacy of Identity

The third belief is in the primacy of identity, which is commonly invoked through race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. In articulating this belief we are in no way suggesting that identity isn't important. Rather, we are asserting that although it is completely reasonable—and in some cases absolutely necessary—to see things through the lens of identity, that does not mean that an identity-centered view is the only legitimate way of examining all issues. While adherence to the third belief has the very positive consequence of ensuring that identity-centered perspectives have a seat at the table, it is often invoked in a way that excludes non-identity-centered perspectives from discourse—despite the value that those perspectives can often add.

Today's identity politics are an understandable reaction to historical (and continuing) patterns of discrimination through which oppressed groups have often been marginalized in the past precisely because those in power placed primacy on these axes of identity and used it in despicable ways (e.g., slavery). Part of the movement to reclaim historically marginalized identities includes elevating them. Yet, as a result of this belief, it has become increasingly unacceptable to make statements suggesting that identity should not always have primacy….

In an academic culture in which identity is given primacy, it stands to reason that efforts to advance a particular group's interests should take priority, with less attention given to ways in which those efforts may themselves be exclusionary. And, this comes at the price of deemphasizing the opportunities for engagement among members of different identity groups, which in theory is one of most important benefits of a university education. Another consequence of the on-campus focus on identity is that racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination are often the only causal mechanisms advanced for a complex set of problems, not all of which are ascribable solely to discrimination.

NEXT: Classes #13: The Separation of Powers III and Covenants II

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  1. These false beliefs are to empower and to enrich the Democrat Party, the party of the lawyer. This profession is the cause of 90% of all social pathologies. All political corrrectness is case. If you wish to end it, you must crush these rent seeking judges. Impeachment should begin for their decisions. All non-profit privileges should be rescinded for the slightest viewpoint discrimination. Government funding should be cut off for the slightest disloyalty or Marxist utterance.

    1. Well that is a view, and I might agree in part that lawyers are often not the problem-solvers they aspire to be. But “rent seeking judges” is quite the opposite of reality for most judges who are forced to prioritize judicial efficiency in the face of overloaded dockets. It is also not clear on a quick skim how your comment is responsive to the post.

      1. its not responsive to the original post, its an issue he rants about in lots of posts.

        1. The post is about political correctness. All PC comes from the fear of ruinous litigation. All PC is prior case. For example, a joke is now sexual harassment, and will cost the employer $million. That came from case law. It is not the idea of the employer. This is the Inquisition 2.0.

          The Inquisition 1.0 lasted 700 years, and was an excellent business model to enrich the Vatican. Does anyone believe that Vatican wealth came from collection boxes? It came from plea deals. You blasphemed. You can avoid the stake by a plea deal, like half your estates. The 1.0 version ended when French patriots beheaded or expelled 10000 high church officials. Impeachment is better. This enemy profession must be crushed. To deter.

          1. That is the most idiotic take on the Inquisition and indulgences I’ve ever seen, culminating in a clarion call for a second inquisition but this time on behalf of non-PC culture. Nice.

            1. We are in the Inquisition 2.0. What are you a child? I am calling for the American version of the French Revolution, impeachment instead of beheadings.

              1. There are 25000 members in the lawyer hierarchy. A mass arrest, brief show trials, and 10 year sentences should stop these traitors. Repeat every 20 years. To deter.

                The lawyer cannot be replaced. No one else wants the job of enforcement of the rules. The profession just has to be restrained. It is totally out of control.

                1. “First thing we do is kill all the lawyers” said Richard the Butcher was a joke line.

                  You’re advocating here for a righty version of Bane taking over Gotham City, you’re aware of that right?

                  1. I am calling for the Rule of Law to apply to an out of control, lawless profession destroying our nation, causing 90% of all social pathologies for its enrichment and empowerment.

        2. The government should not subsidize treason.

          1. To be pedantic: if the government does something, by definition that is not treason. Treason is trying to overthrow the government.

            1. And to be really really clear: government judges define what is constitutional. Just because YOU think something is unconstitutional has nothing to with what government judges think is unconstitutional. Government defines its own limits.

              Stalin and Trotsky defined each other as traitors. Guess which one won.

              1. Judicial review violates Article I Section 1, giving “all” lawmaking power to the Congress. The court is the running dog of the Congress, which does not want to face controversial topics. I am proposing occasionally yanking the choke chain on the insurrection of the Supreme Court against that Section. Repeal the Marriage Protection Act, we repeal you. Enact cataclysmic state prerogative legislation in Roe, we repeal you. Impeach them all every few years.

          2. Pro Tip: If Putin/Russia wants to use its trolls, I’d suggest learning to spell “David” correctly. We’d be less likely to see through such obvious bullshit.

            It’s always worthwhile doing a bit of editing. (Как по-русски “proofreader?”)

            1. That is a stupid but predictable, Democrat personal insult. It violates the Fallacy of Irrelevance.

              1. I’m a Republican. But whatever.

                1. You mean, like the “Republicans” that Biden takes questions from at his “town halls”?

                  1. Yes, probably. In that (a) I’m a registered Republican and have been for years, (b) I voted for Trump in 2016 and financially supported his candidacy [I’ve posted publicly, here, about this, and have for years, so it’s no secret], (c) I’m pro-gun, (d) I’m pro-choice, (e) I’m pro-death penalty (in limited circumstances), (f) I’m for higher taxes for the filthy rich, and lower taxes for working class, and (g) I’m close to a free speech absolutist. Liberal on most social issues, conservative on most financial issues. In other words, someone you’d consider to be a fake Republican or RINO. Feel free to define all of us as not true Republicans (as part of a No True Scotsman argument, I guess).

                    1. Well, you’ve out Trumped me, although from your comments I wouldn’t have expected it.

                      In that

                      a) I’m currently a registered democrat. But was a registered republican in 2016. And a registered Democrat before that. And a registered independent before that.
                      b) I voted libertarian in 2016. Last time I donated was Kerry in 2004
                      c) I’m pro second amendment, but not necessarily pro-gun.
                      d) I’m neither pro-choice or pro-life.
                      e) I’m pro-death penalty
                      f) It’s more complicated on taxes.
                      g) I’m pro-free speech.

                      Make what you will from that.

                    2. What is your stand on the lawyer profession, the stupidest, most toxic group of people, yet in total control of the three branches of government? They are Democrats.

                    3. But Santa, we’ll try this up anyway.

                      As a Trump-voting republican. Propose 3 questions to ask Biden during a town hall.

                2. You should register as a Democrat.

            2. Actually, misspelling your name is a great tactic for avoiding visibility from search algorithms, although it’s better to have an edit distance > 1.

              1. That is clever. I just made a stupid mistake.

                1. With everything you think or say, yes.

                  1. If the public is oppressed by the lawyer hierarchy, the lawyer is doubly so, and the regular street judge is triply so. When these traitors are arrested, the lawyer profession will thrive and multiply its value to society by 10. Your income will quadruple from the added value you can bring to society. I am your best real friend. Be nicer to me.

    2. Also, is there no disconnect between “privileges should be rescinded for the slightest viewpoint discrimination” and “funding should be cut off for the slightest disloyalty or Marxist utterance.”

      1. The post is about political correctness. All PC comes from the fear of ruinous litigation. All PC is prior case. For example, a joke is now sexual harassment, and will cost the employer $million. That came from case law. It is not the idea of the employer. This is the Inquisition 2.0.

        The Inquisition 1.0 lasted 700 years, and was an excellent business model to enrich the Vatican. Does anyone believe that Vatican wealth came from collection boxes? It came from plea deals. You blasphemed. You can avoid the stake by a plea deal, like half your estates. The 1.0 version ended when French patriots beheaded or expelled 10000 high church officials. Impeachment is better. This enemy profession must be crushed. To deter.

        1. Interesting contention that “All PC comes from the fear of ruinous litigation.” Against my observation and experience–but interesting. Until I went to law school as an older student with an engineering background, I’d never met anyone who expressed concern about courts or potential lawsuits based on personal expression. Political correctness seems much more driven by peer pressure and social embarrassment, though your posts suggest immunity to those motivators.

          1. Had you met any administrators? They would be responsible for avoiding litigation.

            1. So now you are admitting that not all PC derives from fear of litigation? Or that academic administrators somehow wield power over every instance of PC in society? The latter is incredible if you’ve ever ventured outside the academic bubble.

      2. Marxists should be purged. They are deniers, and do not argue in good faith. They seek to destroy our nation. Would you have active members of the KKK or of the Nazi Party on your faculty? If not, the same goes for Marxists. Hiring such individuals is suicidal, and should not be allowed by the government.

        1. I think most of us have a different idea of what makes someone “Marxists” than you do, and therein lies the problem. Just because some people think Charles Murray is a “Nazi” or member of the “KKK” should not be disqualifying for his position at AEI.

          1. Murray is not a Nazi. He is the opposite. BLM are all avowed, card carrying Marxists, as are all their surrogates enforcing PC.

    3. Why stop at 90%? Where’s your ambition?

      1. All our problems are caused by lawyers. The American Revolution was a huge lawyer mistake. Taxes doubled going from 1% of GDP to 2%. The dumbasses did not understand that was to fund war against the Indians to protect the lawyer land holdings. The American Revolution caused the Civil War. Had these lawyer dumbasses been less hysterical, slavery would have ended in 1833, enforced by a sheriff. We would have a Parliament, as Canada does, and would have been a less extreme, less crazy nation as a British colony.
        All colonies should beg the British to return to run their governments. In India, the idiot lawyer Gandhi caused 10 megadeaths in ethnic cleansing from his idiotic ending of British rule, then decades of war between people who look exactly alike. India could have been like Canada too. Moron. Nothing on this earth is stupider or more toxic than the lawyer. Nothing.

  2. Here is some food for thought for you BLM defund the police types.

    The defund the police movement is based upon the assumption that police departments are inherently racist due to institutional structure and no amount of “reform” can fix it so therefore the entire institution must be jettisoned.

    If you believe this, then how do you square that belief with not doing the same thing to higher education? Censorship, bias, and totalitarianism is so engrained in the entire system of higher education I can see no way of addressing it short of wholesale defunding it.

    Reforms have been tried and failed. This problem has persisted since 1988 and it is 2020. How do you think this can be “fixed” when the current system is packed full of bureaucrats that are naturally inclined to abridging freedoms and censorship?

    I once read Harvey Silverglate said that this stuff was so crazy it would be over in 10 years. That was when the Shadow University was published in the late 90’s. We are not twice that timeframe out and still nothing.

    Time to just rip it all down and defund the entire thing.

    1. “Censorship, bias, and totalitarianism is so engrained in the entire system of higher education I can see no way of addressing it short of wholesale defunding it.”
      But to the Progressive, that’s a feature, not a bug, as long as the censorship, bias, and totalitarianism aligns with their worldview.

    2. I used to think that academics sacrificed salary for lifestyle and security. Realizing now that they are the highest paid public employees in most states, and can make far more than top federal executives with far more responsibility (e.g., Secretary of State, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs), I am amazed that more states’ taxpayers have not capped salaries of their “public servants.” Perhaps federal funding should be tied to a salary cap in-line with federal pay scales, to push states in a more fiscally responsible direction. Private schools are of course welcome to pay more and fund their own research, and faculty/administrators/coaches who think they can earn more in the market are free to prove it.

      1. If I’m not mistaken, the highest paid state employee in Alabama is Nick Saban. Followed by Gus Malzahn.

        1. Does someone know how to find the Reason comment formatting guide?

      2. This is typically only true of academics in positions that bring in large amounts of money- medical school folks who are also doctors, for example.

        1. Nationally, teacher’s salaries are above the average for the communities they are in.

    3. “The defund the police movement is based upon the assumption that police departments are inherently racist due to institutional structure and no amount of “reform” can fix it so therefore the entire institution must be jettisoned.”

      I have heard arguments for partially defunding the police that is not based on this premise.

    4. “Time to just rip it all down and defund the entire thing.”

      Why? Just so we can save Harvey Silverglate’s pathetic prediction?

      1. Good question. Why should we defund police because one guy took all the drugs that resulted in an overdose death while in police custody for committing a crime (while high on said drugs)?

        1. I never said we should defund all the police (“rip it all down and defund the entire thing”).

    5. “Defunding the police” most often isn’t about ripping down the police.

      “Defund the police” is often shorthand for redistributing some resources that presently go to the police to other social services that can (a) perform functions currently given to the police (b) at lower cost. So those people might be talking caseworkers and counselors for issues like unpaid rent and substance abuse, reserving police for situations like armed robbery where greater force is warranted. Sometimes other proposals are bound up in it, like dismantling the power of police unions in order to increase accountability for officers who kill civilians.

      In education, this would be roughly equivalent to offering more funding for technical schools and co-op education, rather than putting most of the focus on a traditional four-year university curriculum. It’d also mean examining what issues fall upon schools at present and helping to fund those obligations separately – should universities be involved in housing, food aid, mental counseling, and other services, or should those be provided instead by a separate group?

      The move would create universities that can focus on education while related but distinct services can focus on the other needs of the students, and where police can focus on law enforcement and related but distinct services can focus on all the social issues that police have been pressed into trying to address as well.

      I’d be up for debating both kinds of change, and considering the efficiency gains and losses between these services. I’m not up for quick “gotchas” that take a post on campus norms to raise an irrelevant issue.

      1. ““Defund the police” is often shorthand for redistributing some resources that presently go to the police to other social services that can…”

        So it’s “Repeal and Replace the Police?”

        1. It’s a “replace the police with specialists outside of law enforcement, in limited situations” suggestion. You can agree with the idea or disagree with it. But it’s actually a serious proposal, and smartass reflexive dismissal is a shame.

          (I think that interesting good-faith proposals from liberals and conservatives should be at least considered and examined thoughtfully. When Brownback led Kansas, he proposed massive tax cuts and other deeply-conservative proposals. I thought they were bad ideas at the time, but it was interesting to see them play out. It did turn out that his ideas were disastrous, but we’re supposed to be 50 state laboratories, and now we have a better idea of what will happen to your state, if you were to again try Sam’s dopey ideas. I’d like to see a few Jx try moving funding around, to see if it’s a good or a bad idea, and to see what issues turn out to be better–or more poorly–handled via law enforcement.)

    6. The government should not subsidize treason.

  3. Culture is super important while being innocuous. You better get my gender correct but we have a million genders and you could never get my gender correct without me taking a while to explain my gender to you.

  4. Belief #1: Anything That Aims to Undermine Traditional Frameworks is Automatically Deemed Good
    Conservative: Belief in established tradition as hard-wrought experience. Change should only happen slowly and after much debate.

    Liberal: Belief that society must be radically changed to save it from itself. Hence classical liberals of the Founding Fathers, who wanted independence as well as limitations on government to stop it from becoming dictatorial again. And 20th century liberals expanding a social safety net.

    The above bullet point is insanity. It offers no reasoning nor goal, just a binding meme for a power grab. Well, I guess it has a goal.

    Belief #2: Discrimination is the Cause of All Unequal Group Outcomes
    A theory, which is fine. But as a presumption so government can skip the dirty work of proof before jailing people, it’s terrible.

    Belief #3: The Primacy of Identity
    Less sympathy for this objection. While it’s true that dividing everyone into groups, declaring each group has a problem, and it is their primary problem, and they are the solution, is hardly the opposite of “he will not divide us”, it would still be illegal in many states for gay people to have sex, much less marry, if the conservative principle dominated.

    This is why you should all be libertarians instead. In favor of radical changes that increase freedom. Full stop.

    “We need detailed control over peoples’ social lives!”

    “No! We need detailed control over peoples’ economic lives!”

    No. You’re both terrible people. Have a nice day.

    1. “We need detailed control over peoples’ social lives!”

      If your argument is that conservatives want to control people’s social lives, it just isn’t true. Not today. What aspect of your life does the Republican Party want to control? I can only think of one thing — abortion. But, of course, there’s the life of the unborn baby to be considered, so it isn’t just your life.
      And before someone brings up “gay rights” — as far as I know, the GOP is not advocating bringing back sodomy prosecutions. That being so, how are Republicans trying to “control” gay people? By denying them marriage licenses? As I see it, that’s sort of like denying a driver’s license to someone who’s blind. There’s a good reason for doing it, and saying “But I really want it!” isn’t a good enough answer.

      1. “That being so, how are Republicans trying to “control” gay people? By denying them marriage licenses? As I see it, that’s sort of like denying a driver’s license to someone who’s blind.”

        Does conservatism generate bigots, or merely attract them?

        1. You’re the biggest bigot that posts here Rev.

          If we let gay people do whatever they want, they end up bankrupting the Boy Scouts with all the molestation, and you may as well line up the altar boys like a Ottoman harem.

          1. Quite a class of commenters you have cultivated here, Prof. Volokh.

          2. mad_kalak, if someone said that if we let Christians do whatever they want we’ll end up with pogroms, inquisitions, and Jim Crow, you’d have no trouble seeing that as a stupid and bigoted comment. Well, your own stupid and bigoted comment about gays is no better.

            By the way, does it concern you at all that when Jesus was on earth, the religious conservatives were the ones who had him crucified?

  5. I don’t think today’s politics of identity victimhood can be understood without historical context. The politics of identity victimhood was invented by southerners to explain and justify southern hegemony and southern racism. If everything is explained by ones oppression, identity is all and its preservation preservation of the self, and any criticism represents a tool of oppression, then white southerners’ characterization of black aspirations for civil rights as a front for Yankee oppression, and their need for safe spaces in which they don’t get reminded of the instruments of their oppression, become as understandable as similar needs for safe spaces today. And attitudes towards ideas seen as fronts for identity oppression seem similar as well.

    One can of course have an opinion on which set of identities is better or more right. But it’s not clear to me that ones changes the remarkable structural similarity.

    The politics of identity victimhood provide a way for victim groups to perceive themselves as insulated from any moral challenges to their condict. The history suggests that this insulation can go very far indeed. It can succeed for long periods of time. A well-marketed and resloute parade of victimhood can make our nation so overcome by a sense of guilt towards the victims that it loses any ability to challenge what the victims are doing to others, as indeed occurred in the late 19th and much of the 20th century.

    The historical roots of the politics of identity victimhood ought to provide a cautionary tale for those who today are eager to assume its mantle, put on its robe and hood, and take up its flaming cross.

  6. Discrimination is the Cause of All Unequal Group Outcomes

    I’m not sure that’s actually a correct characterization of the belief. I think it is closer to “discrimination is the cause of all unequal group outcomes in favor of dominant groups”.

    For instance, I don’t believe that these folks think that discrimination is the cause of why there are so many Black professional basketball players, or so many Hispanic professional baseball players, or so many Indians working in technology sectors.

    It’s only when a dominant group is overrepresented that this must be due to discrimination.

    1. “It’s only when a dominant group is overrepresented that this must be due to discrimination.”

      This statement is bordering on a tautology, and can only be made interesting depending on how the speaker defines “dominant” and “overrepresented”. And your examples efficiently show why the statement is uninteresting unless we know something about the underlying causes of representation, which is why the OP refutes the original claim.

    2. I agree. For the SJW, overrepresentation of minorities in a positive skill based hierarchy is intrinsically good, but underrepresentation of majorities is a non issue. Usually. Unless the minority overrepresentation can be attributed to a type of false consciousnesses whereby the minority seeks narrow activity because they think it’s their only route for economic success (like black rappers and NBA players).

      Nobody, other than in a joking manner, complains about the underrepresentation of whites in the NBA or among 100 yard dash winners at the higher levels of competition. However, the underrepresentation of a minority, in say, the higher levels of swimming competitions or chess, must represent systematic discrimination because of a refusal to acknowledge the role of biology/genes. Of course, overrepresntation of a minority in crime statistics is also systematic racism. It’s always some sort of disparate impact caused by lack of opportunity, like not enough swimming pools or chess clubs in proximity to the minority.

      While there is a bit of that as an explanation for why there are so few, for example, black figure skaters, at the top levels of competition, it has more to do with skill and talent. Cultural explanations, such as blacks choose to play basketball rather than baseball are rejected out of hand.

      1. Yes and no. The ability to play music well, or be a star basketball player, or a chess master, is connected to talent and ability that’s difficult to fudge. Either you’ve got what it takes, or you don’t. So there are fewer opportunities for discrimination because those fields really are as close to pure meritocracies as you’re going to find.

        That’s different from having a job in which who you know is a significant part of whether you get hired and, if so, for what position. Maybe merit really is the reason there are few black CEOs of Fortune 500 corporations, or maybe the fact that it’s harder for blacks to make the necessary connections to be taken seriously for Fortune 500 leadership positions has something to do with it. I’ve had enough experience with major corporations over the years that I do not automatically assume that merit has anything to do with the job someone holds, and the higher up the ladder one climbs, the more true that is.

        1. Nobody disagrees that seeds scattered in the desert don’t grow as much as seeds scattered in fertile soil.

          The problem with the general leftist view on this, is a near complete deliberate blindness to the role of biology/genes and cultural predilections. In short, it’s systematic racism if it can be a lever to pry some sort of policy changes, otherwise, like less white rappers compared to their % of populace or NFL running backs compared to lineman, is evidence of absolutely nothing.

          1. I’m not a leftist, but if you have any actual data pointing to “biology/genes and cultural predilections” I’d be interested to see it.

    3. That definitely explains the number of Jews on faculties.

  7. They wanted to be so brave, but they put in so many “while we agree that” cop-outs that they wind up timid instead.

    1. Yeah, there were so many of those that it sort of dominates the article.

      And the sad thing is, all that appeasement won’t save them. The people who do enforcement just scan to the first use of the word “but” and nail ’em.

      1. Duck salad, mulched,
        Which of those appeasements and cop-outs do you think untrue? Or does “bravery” or slavish adherence to some predefined party line take presence over truth, in your view?

        1. Presence -> precedence, sorry

        2. Arch1 – I don’t think any of them are untrue. They’re just unnecessary. The reality of discrimination doesn’t mean it has to be called out in each and every paragraph. It’s also pleading – why do they need to keep insisting they understand about racism? It’s like they doth protest too much, or have already been accused of not getting it.

          It’s 2020 and at least among *academics*, the target audience here, everyone gets the baseline argument that discrimination is a problem. There are a few professors who might disagree, but it’s not because there’s been an insufficient amount of awareness campaigning.

          1. Maybe a better way to explain:

            Would a Ta Nehisi Coates essay be improved if he prefaced each of his points with “While there is nothing wrong per se with being born white…” or “To be sure, the black community must acknowledge…”

            In my opinion, no. If someone is so dense, or hostile to TNC’s message, that they need reassurance at such a basic level then they can’t be reached anyway. All they would do is distract from his argument and make it sound like he’s sorry for being against racism.

    2. “They wanted to be so brave, but they put in so many “while we agree that” cop-outs that they wind up timid instead.”

      Perhaps they’re attempting to be taken seriously beyond the context of white, male, right-wing blogs that attract an audience of bigoted, stale-thinking, anti-social culture war losers?

      1. The problem is that to the Kirklands of the world the authors of this post will remain Mensheviks and will get the same treatment as the clingers and kulaks.

        1. I may nominate “clinger” for word of the year.

  8. Speaking of free discourse, Twitter and Facebook are censoring President Trump again.

    I am wondering if any helpful folks here can point to the false, misleading, or potentially harmful part of this tweet.

    “Flu season is coming up! Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu. Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!”

    1. COVID-19 is not less lethal in the population at large, and the attempt at partition (“in most populations”) is a dishonest rhetorical move.

      1. What’s dishonest about it? It’s true, informative, and extremely pertinent in the context of this new, unprecedented executive command and control of all people and activities in the country.

        1. 100,000 is not true.
          We have a flu vaccine
          The flu is not a virgin soil pandemic

          As is their right as a private company, Facebook has responded to public demand and has created rules about Coronavirus misinformation. Those rules have been in effect for a while. You only get unhappy when Trump runs afoul of them.

          You really don’t like to post on topic around here; mostly wanting to amplify whatever Breitbart has posted without even checking their facts.

          1. I rarely post off-topic; sorry for the off-topic post.

            You have not pointed to a single false or misleading thing. I think, though not completely certain, the 100,000 is true.

            1. A quick google search suggests the last >100K flu deaths was 1967. If true, do you still think the President’s statement is not “misleading”?

              1. Yes.

                1. If 1967 predated the flu vaccine, and flu deaths subsequent to vaccine development did not approach 100k, then I would say the statement is definitely misleading. However, a quick Google search suggests that the flu vaccine has been around since the 1940s. Of course 100k in prior decades is a much larger percentage of the population, too.

                2. The CDC’s estimate range for the 2017-2018 season is actually 46,000 to 95,000 (95% uncertainty interval). By itself, this would not make the statement true, but it is certainly a data point that weighs on the degree to which such a statement is misleading.

                3. In the context of which tweets are considered “misleading . . . information related to COVID-19” on Twitter, President Trump’s statement is just the opposite of “misleading,” it is enlightening.

                As an aside, here’s an article that I liked back on May 1.

                https://www.aier.org/article/woodstock-occurred-in-the-middle-of-a-pandemic/

                1. The flu vaccine dates back to WWII, soldiers headed to Europe got it. But it wasn’t in wide civilian use for several decades.

              2. 1967-8 was also the last flu pandemic. If Trump was making a reasonable argument, he’d be comparing pandemics, not covid to seasonal flu.

                That said, it’s not entirely clear what point Trump is trying to make in the quote, honestly. If by ‘populations’ he means age cohorts, he’s approaching a point. Once you adjust for undetected covid infections (ie, the same thing they do for flu cases each year – which are statistical estimates of total infections, not actual reported cases), covid appears to be less lethal than seasonal flu for 18-44 year olds, and significantly less lethal for <18. I'm not sure i'd describe that as 'most', but it's a decent fraction of the population. (Covid is significantly more lethal than seasonal flu for 65+, as its lethality spikes way more than seasonal flu).

                But all that's trying to assume a sensible interpretation of what he's saying, and I'm not sure I'm willing to give Trump that, as he gives no indication that's what he actually means.

                Of course, if he was comparing to *flu pandemics*, like he should be, the interesting thing about flu pandemics is their pattern of mortality skews *younger* compared to seasonal flu, not older like Covid does.

                1. And FWIW, despite having a flu vaccine, flu pandemics are indeed ‘virgin soil’ for at least most of the population. Flu pandemics happen because antigen changes render existing resistance/immunity irrelevant or severely deprecate it.

            2. Actually I think the 100,000 number is for 1967-1968. So the claim that it sometimes happens is true. I suspect Sarcastro in usual form is finding some pedantic point in an attempt to control the narrative.

              1. It’s not pedantry – it goes to the core of why Trump’s post is deceitful.

            3. I pointed it out because you actually do it quite a bit.

              Anyhow, the 100,000 is true not in the way anyone would read that tweet. That’s misleading.

              1. Anyhow, the 100,000 is true not in the way anyone would read that tweet

                Demonstrably false. You often seem confused about what something says and what you think it should say to push your narrative. In this case, that it sometimes happens is simply true. A couple of times is certainly sometimes.

                1. I guess it is a matter of opinion what the most obvious implications are.

                  Twitter seems to agree with me, and not with you.

                  1. That is no argument.

              2. The 100,000 is true in the way anyone would read that tweet. “Sometimes” includes 67-68 in the way anyone would read the word “sometimes” – except those straining desperately for a way to discredit every little thing the President says.

                1. If it’s talking about 1967, it’s not supportive of the rest of the tweet. But it looks like it is, which is misleading.

                  Even under your strained definition of truth, it’s not truthful.

              3. I definitely agree here that it’s misleading.

                I think a more fundamental problem is Trump himself doesn’t know exactly what he means. At best he latched onto a statistic he heard once (likely related to flu pandemics), doesn’t understand the context of that statistic, and repeats it without context (which he has forgotten). While Trump is an extreme exemplar of this, many people have problems with providing sufficient context – including the media, who is supposed to be informing the public. For most people, it’s like the world before they were ~15 didn’t exist and never happened, and nothing that happened before that point ever matters. (This is problematic when describing stochastic events with long waiting times, like pandemics, ‘strong’ storms, and ‘record’ floods)

          2. “responded to public demand”

            Oh-kay. Sure.

            1. This is not some conspiracy of leftist tech CEOs.

              They were getting beaten up by all the conspiracy theories floating around (Plandemic, etc.) and acted accordingly. It’s a PR exercize. But to do it right, they gotta follow through.

          3. So, let’s review a few interesting data points in history

            One of the major flus was the 1980-1981 epidemic. This caused 52,000 deaths in the US, despite there being a vaccine. The population of the US was rather less then, and that would equate to 76,000 deaths today. Pretty dramatic.

        2. Hardly informative. The statement doesn’t identify which kinds of populations. For instance, COVID seems lethal relative to the flu in most ethnicities, among genders, among most economic groups, and so on. Either he’s just plain wrong, or he’s very selective in how he defines his “populations.”

          He also hasn’t qualified how COVID is less lethal than the flu in whatever populations he’s talking about. It’s utterly unsubstantiated, and doesn’t pass a casual logical inspection: the flu has a much lower baseline death rate than COVID (at least 10 times lower), so why would the death rate for flu suddenly be higher than COVID in most populations? Hint: flu is not more lethal than COVID, even if he’s talking about age.

          So, yes, he’s being factually incorrect at best. Given his track record with facts, I feel safe calling this statement dishonest.

        3. Statements can be misleading even if all of the words are true. For example, I could say “The Vietnam War was responsible for thousands of deaths–even the expert martial artist Bruce Lee died during the Vietnam war!” Many readers might conclude that Bruce Lee’s death had something to do with war when really he died from an adverse reaction to a painkiller in Hong Kong.

    2. “I am wondering if any helpful folks here can point to the false, misleading, or potentially harmful part of this tweet.”

      Sure, I’m here to help.

      1) “sometimes over 100,000” is misleading because the flu season hasn’t killed “over 100,000” in the United States in at least a decade, according to the President’s CDC.

      2) I would be interested to know how the President could say “in most populations far less lethal”. I am certain there are some ways to define “populations” in a way to make this statement true, but without knowing, it’s misleading. The IFR for the flu is probably lower for most age groups than COVID. The very young might be an exception.

      3) COVID isn’t seasonal yet, and won’t be until we have a vaccine. Why are we comparing a seasonal disease with a vaccine with a non-seasonal disease that doesn’t have one?

      1. 1) But you’re comparing the flu with vaccines, and Covid without. This underscores that Covid 19 actually IS in the range of flu viruses when it comes to lethality. It’s just a novel virus we weren’t originally prepped for; If we weren’t vaccinating for the flu, it would kill about as many people.

        2) “I am certain there are some ways to define “populations” in a way to make this statement true,” In fact, obvious ways, as your very next remark made clear.

        3) A vaccine is hardly going to make Covid seasonal, it’s not what makes influenza seasonal. What makes it seasonal is the relative likelihood of transmission depending on the weather, and the accumulation of new strains over the summer that people aren’t already immune to. On the first issue, we haven’t been through a full year, so we simply don’t know.

        If you look at states like NY or NJ, which blundered into the worst possible outcome, the pandemic is OVER there. They’ve gone from a peak of a thousand deaths per day, to a back ground level in the single digits. If in a couple months that starts climbing again, we’ll have reason to think Covid is going to be seasonal. I suspect not, it seems to have a lower mutation rate than influenza, and so is likely to just burn through the vulnerable population, and then become a background nuisance, even if we don’t get a vaccine.

        1. I should add that my expectation is that all states are going to converge on a total death rate from Covid of around 100-150 deaths per 100k, and then just watch it go away. The states that more effectively blocked transmission are just stretching the process out.

          That was, after all, the original argument for lockdowns: “Flattening” the curve so that, while the area under the curve didn’t change, hospitals never got overwhelmed. Well, they didn’t get overwhelmed even in the states that peaked the curve instead.

        2. If you look at states like NY or NJ, which blundered into the worst possible outcome, the pandemic is OVER there

          That’s not how any of this works.

          1. No, that actually IS how it works. Covid hit NY and NJ harder than anywhere else, they got up to about 150 deaths per 100k, and then the death rate just petered out. States that did a better job of “flattening the curve” are still seeing significant numbers of deaths because they haven’t burned through their vulnerable population and achieved herd immunity.

            They could end the lockdowns in NY and NJ tomorrow, and they’d be fine.

            1. So you think enough people in NYC have gotten coronavirus to allow for herd immunity?

              1. But you’re comparing the flu with vaccines, and Covid without. This underscores that Covid 19 actually IS in the range of flu viruses when it comes to lethality. It’s just a novel virus we weren’t originally prepped for; If we weren’t vaccinating for the flu, it would kill about as many people.

                Possibly true, but irrelevant. This is not a statistics class. We are not dealing with a hypothetical situation. The comparative lethality of the flu and Covid without a flu vaccine is of academic, but not practical interest, because we do have a flu vaccine, and don’t have a Covid vaccine. When it comes to making policy we have to deal with that reality.

                So you think enough people in NYC have gotten coronavirus to allow for herd immunity?

                This is necessary for Brett to defend the idiotic policies of places like FL and GA.

                1. So, you think then that it was a good idea to put elderly with COVID into nursing homes and to not sterilize subway cars?

                  1. So, you think then that it was a good idea to put elderly with COVID into nursing homes and to not sterilize subway cars?

                    WTF are you talking about?

                    1. He’s talking about the state level policies that made several Democratic states so deadly.

                    2. I know.

                      I was wondering what that had to do with the comment he was responding to?

              2. It’s not purely a function of numbers.

                First, there’s a significant background level of immunity to Covid 19 due to people who got SARS, or any of at least 4 coronovirus “common colds”. This has been proven by plasma testing. So a lot of people who have never gotten Covid 19 aren’t going to get it even if exposed, and thus can’t transmit it.

                Second, the upside of “super-spreaders”, is that once the super-spreaders have gotten over the virus and become immune, they can’t spread it again. The people most likely to effectively spread a virus get it first, the people least likely to effectively spread it get it last.

                So there is no one population-wide “K” value, and the percentage of people who have to get the virus and get over it to achieve herd immunity is much lower than naive estimates assuming no prior immunity and identical spreading behavior.

                So, yes, I think NY and NJ have pretty much achieved herd immunity, even if they got there the hard way.

                1. Everyone is still social distancing. As the experts have told everyone, herd immunity, even on he local level, is pretty far away.

                  1. As SOME of the experts, whose predictions for the trajectory of the pandemic proved to be crap, told everyone.

              3. I think there’s emerging evidence that 25% prevalence approaches high enough in a diverse set of circumstances to achieve <1 RO, with some social distancing/intervention. And there is evidence that New York is near 25% prevalence.

                1. Really? Do you have a cite – I’d be interested in that.
                  I’m hearing otherwise from experts.

                  1. Since June or July several modelers, but particularly Gabriela Gomes has been examining herd immunity estimates on the assumption that people have variable susceptibility to COVID infection. If true, she and a term of researchers have generated a (not yet) peer reviewed model that shows herd immunity thresholds from 10-20%. Available here.

                    Anecdotally, a lot of the places that have leveled off have prevalence rates in the teens to mid 20s. I’m not aware of any place with prevalence rates above 30% but which are seeing increasing numbers of COVID infections.

                    1. Cool. That’d be pretty cool.

                      Though my immediate concern is that herd immunity with social distancing may not be herd immunity without.

                  2. Multiply the report NY cases by 10. ==> 5,000,000. Devide by 20,000,000. ==> 25%

                    From physics training you should have done that estimate.

                  3. In addition to NToJ’s excellent post, ~25% virus penetration during a pandemic also matches historical flu pandemics pretty well. They generally achieved ~25% penetration. (Estimates for 1917 ‘spanish’ flu are 25-33%, 1957 and 1968 flu pandemics are in the 20-25% range).

                    Considering flu and covid-19 are both respiratory illnesses that spread by droplets exhaled into the air, similar pandemic dynamics would be a reasonable approximation.

            2. Claiming that herd immunity has been achieved is wildly irresponsible in the absence of any evidence that that is true. In the past four weeks, there were 14,675 new cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey, which is a big jump; there were 9,192 new cases in the preceding four weeks. That could be explained by a reduction in measures such as social distancing, but only if these measures are actually working to control the virus.

              1. ‘New cases’ are not necessarily “real” at this point, especially with mass pcr-based testing (which can detect recovered infections weeks after you no longer have active virus in your system), and false positives from massively expanded testing regimes.

                Death data is much more reliable at this point. New York shows no sign of an uptick in medical consequences of Covid-19, it’s been done with the pandemic since ~June. (Not with Covid – we’ll never be done with covid – but it’s no longer an epidemic in NY).

                New Jersey has seen no uptick in deaths in the last 2 months. It hasn’t even really seen an uptick in cases – they’re pretty flat since early June. Changes day to day or week to week just look like stochastic noise. But as the deaths continue to fall, it’s likely even the appearance of relatively constant rate of new cases (or even an increase) is illusory – the reality is truly new cases must be dropping too. New Jersey has been done with the epidemic about as long as NY has.

                The extremely low and decreasing deaths per day in both NY and NJ is evidence herd immunity is near.

            3. “and then the death rate just petered out.”

              That seems a little strong. I have been using worldometers as a source. If you click the ‘yesterday’ button and eyeball yesterday’s deaths against the population column, NY is just under one death/1M population. That’s a little under the national median, and a lot lower than NY’s peak, but not exactly ‘petered out’. And declaring ‘pandemic is OVER’ seems premature. Yesterday’s 18 deaths times 365 is 6750 deaths a year. In 2018 there were 943 traffic fatalities in NY – anything that is 7 times the traffic fatality rate is pretty serious.

              (do be aware, the numbers jump about a lot day to day)

              1. 18 was a high day in the last several weeks. The average is significantly lower than that (some days even had zero). And those numbers are going to fall more, on average.

                Regardless, look at the shape of the deaths by day graph. Deaths are clearly petering out in NY. (I’m using the NY Times data – hardly a cheerleader of ending lockdowns).

                Epidemics follow a Gompertz Curve. New York’s deaths per day plot is a nice illustration of what a Gompertz Curve looks like.

                1. “18 was a high day in the last several weeks. The average is significantly lower than that (some days even had zero).”

                  The worldometers daily numbers are below (from hovering over the graph). I’m open to the argument that their numbers are wrong.

                  The graph is surely a lot closer to zero than it was when they were losing 1K people a day (duh!). That’s not evidence it is trending to zero though; just that they now have numbers comparable to other states.

                  I surely hope that the epidemic in NY (and elsewhere) is petering out; I just don’t see incontrovertible proof of that in the NY numbers. I fervently hope you are right, though!

                  It will be fascinating in 5 or 10 years time to read the histories of this to see what was done right and wrong, what would have happened if …, etc.

                  Oct7 26
                  Oct6 12
                  Oct5 18
                  Oct4 10
                  Oct3 3
                  Oct2 21
                  Oct1 20
                  Sep30 13
                  Sep29 4
                  Sep28 14
                  Sep27 9
                  Sep26 4
                  Sep25 9
                  Sep24 5
                  Sep23 5

            4. There is no herd immunity only increased herd resistance

        3. 1) No, the President is comparing the flu with vaccines, and COVID without. I’m responding to why that comparison is flawed.

          2) Yes, but doing so makes the statement misleading and unhelpful.

          3) The entire discussion lacks nuance. There are not “seasonal” diseases and “non-seasonal” diseases. There is a continuum under which any given disease thrives under seasonal conditions, some moreso than others. Partially effective vaccines can turn a disease that spreads year-round (though marginally in certain seasons) into a “seasonal” disease. What makes the flu seasonal is both that it is not as effectively transmitted in certain seasons and that it has a vaccine. Some researchers predict (based on data available) that COVID will eventually become “seasonal” with higher group immunity and vaccines. But we’re a long ways from that.

          1. You’re the one that brought up this “seasonal” vs “non-seasonal” distinction, but I agree with your second thought here that this isn’t pertinent. What is pertinent is vaccines.

          2. Look, I was born in the 1950’s. Flu vaccination was pretty uncommon during my childhood. I assure you that “flu season” was as much a thing back then before vaccines were altering the cycle, as it is now.

            1. Ok, I’m happy to look at any data you have. I’m perfectly willing to be persuaded that there are weeks/months in the year where the flu has no effect whatsoever. A vaccine (and/or group immunity) would still have the effect of increasing the percentage of weeks/months where that would be the case, though.

        4. 1) If we have to go back to the 1968 to find a year with 100K deaths from the flu, we’re very much not comparing the flu with vaccines to Covid without vaccines. While flu vaccines did exist, their use wasn’t nearly as widespread, the ’68 pandemic was the result of a novel strain that required new types of vaccines to be created.

          2) I don’t understand how you’re being responsive. What are the populations for which the seasonal flu is more deadly? Certainly it’s true for very young people, but I’m intrigued by the bucketing that allows anyone to claim it’s “most”. Can you point to any analysis that supports this statement?

          Your assumption that places that peaked early are now basically done with Covid seems…optimistic. We obviously don’t have enough information yet to say whether it will end up being true or not. As you say, we haven’t even yet seen whether there’s going to be a new round of infections from seasonal factors (some combination of the virus doing better and people being in enclosed spaces a lot more).

          1. There are new influenza vaccines every year as the virus mutates and becomes resistant.

      2. “at least a decade, according to the President’s CDC.”

        Based on your statement here, I am going to conclude that the flu has hit that number in past 2 decades. Which means the statement is not untrue or misleading.

        2) Pure speculation on your part, but at least it’s something.

        3) The fact that the flu is seasonal with a vaccine, is a difference well understood and pointed to in the tweet itself, so this isn’t misleading. Besides, the difference actually makes the comparison more compelling. If the COVID numbers were for a seasonal disease with a vaccine, and the flu wasn’t, that would make the comparison less compelling.

        1. 1) Why? Did you check the data? I said last ten years because that’s all the CDC shows, not because I found a 100K death season in 2009. By the way, if the President is relying on the Spanish Flu to justify the 100K number, do you think that’s both “not untrue” and not “misleading”?

          2) I can only speculate about what the President meant because he doesn’t speak clearly. Will you apply the same level of skepticism to things I say, that you do to the President?

          3) In terms of learning “to live with” a disease, it’s misleading to compare diseases with vaccines against diseases without.

          We will one day learn to live with COVID. No thanks to this President.

          1. FYI: Deaths by influenza and pneumonia in the U.S. from 1950 to 2017(Per 100k) You can clearly see when vaccination started to become common.

            1. I can’t tell what point you’re trying to make. If it is that people learned to live with the flu pre-vaccine, and therefore will learn to live with COVID, of course that’s true. Some people learned to live during the Blitz. Some humans learned to live with the Spanish Flu. Part of living with those things–and mitigating the costs–involved making decisions that changed the way we lived.

              1. “I said last ten years because that’s all the CDC shows”

                So I provided you my link, because I had a source that went back further than 10 years.

                That’s all, just trying to be helpful.

                1. My response went to the wrong spot. It should have been a response to your comment above.

              2. Yeah, people lived with the flu before vaccines. Well, most of ’em lived.

                It’s better with vaccines, I can say that from personal experience. I got the flu more times during my childhood than during my entire adult life, and I’m in my 60’s.

                BUT.

                Lockdowns and crashing the whole economy in response to what the country of my childhood would have viewed as an ordinary flu season has been a tremendous over-reaction, which will have negative effects going forward far in excess of what the virus itself would have caused. Poverty kills, and we will be a significantly poorer country going forward than we’d have been without the horrible, civil liberties eroding, over-reaction.

                To some extent I can excuse the initial reaction, when it was suspected Covid was an escaped biological warfare agent. But this nonsense has gone on far too long! It’s become a self-perpetuating moral panic.

                1. The country of your childhood would not have treated COVID as “an ordinary flu season”. Further, COVID was a new virus, and although we know now that the IFR is relatively low, that wasn’t known early on. Some overreaction is to be expected when dealing with a novel disease (rather than the flu of your youth, which even back then was hardly novel). It would be idiotic for governments to treat every new disease exclusively in terms of old ones, since tail end, unanticipated risks can be unimaginably catastrophic. And given the body bags, it’s not even clear we overreacted (at least in my view). It might end up so, in hindsight, if the leveling-off holds true.

                  I am sure the two of us will have some agreement about which policies were proper and which were overreactions. I’m not going to get in that argument with you at a general level; if you want to discuss which specific disease mitigation policies were a mistake, I’m happy to engage. I agree that those policies are not without cost and will be judged in hindsight on a cost-effectiveness basis. It is possible (but far from proven) that mitigation efforts end up killing more people than the alternative. Since many countries approached the problem differently, we will have plenty of time to wring hands over those issues in the coming decades.

                  1. You realize the government didn’t institute lockdowns for either the 1957 or 1968 flu pandemic, right? One of which would have been during his childhood. The country of his childhood didn’t even treat epidemics of flu as something that required draconian reactions. (And both those flus were novel as far as our immune system was concerned. That it was a ‘flu’ instead of a coronavirus is a meaningless distinction, since we’ve all likely had a coronavirus infection before too – 4 viral strains of the common cold are coronaviruses. Covid-19 is precisely as novel as past pandemic flus).

                    And despite the high death rate in 1968, the media barely covered the fact there was a flu pandemic going on.

            2. So, Brett even if we accept your premise that Covid has run its course in some places and we’ll see death rates come in at 100 – 150 per 100K, that means that it would be 2-3 times more deadly than pre-vaccination flus, and something like 10x more deadly that what we expect from seasonal flus these days.

              This is basically the opposite impression that Trump’s tweet provides.

        2. So you’re claiming Trump is making some sort of theoretical claim, and didn’t just mean the flu kills more people than Covid?

          That’s a stretch.

          1. The statement is not that complicated or hard to understand, yet is as nuanced as a single tweet can hope to be on such a topic. It’s clear that the statement was produced and vetted by political advisors and is true.

            It’s far from a claim that the flu kills more people than COVID. Instead, it is a claim that COVID as a disease is at least remotely comparable to the flu, and even better than remotely, when taking into account the existence of vaccines and the likely eventual rollout of a COVID vaccine. That’s an extremely pertinent observation because the draconian public policy responses to COVID have been in some instances scientifically unsupportable and several orders of magnitude removed from COVID being even remotely comparable to the flu.

            1. ML,
              Based on data from the 100 countries with 80% of the covid-19 infections and representing 5.5 billion people, one can show quantitatively that covid-19 is dramatically different to influenza. And to claim otherwise is gross misinformation.

              https://medrxiv.org/cgi/content/short/2020.09.30.20204990v1

      3. In Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zeeland, Taiwan Covid has been apparently less lethal than influenza.

      4. FWIW, although i’m not defending the president’s claim in any of these

        1/ As far as i’m aware, the Hong Kong Flu from 1968 is the last flu to kill 100k+ people. It was a pandemic flu, not a seasonal flu. Trump is absolutely wrong to suggest seasonal flu gets that high.

        (There’s also a fundamental illiteracy here – comparing raw death totals across years with substantially different populations. You really should adjust death totals to a common population total, or just use per capita rates. If US population continues to increase, we likely will see a seasonal flu with 100k deaths).

        2/ I’ve seen data suggesting IFR for flu is higher for 30-44 and younger age cohorts (approximately), and IFR for covid is higher for older populations. (The 20-29 and 30-44 cohort IFR estimates are pretty similar for both diseases, so that could wobble depending on the estimates – they’re both pretty low regardless).

        Which still doesn’t get you to most, even if you assume Trump meant ‘age cohorts’ by “populations”.

        3/ Covid may well be seasonal without a vaccine. Laboratory testing has demonstrated that heat, humidity, and sunlight all cause a decrease in covid-19 viral half-life in an environment. These things (and our exposure to them) have seasonality, obviously.

        (During the epidemic phase, the virus likely isn’t very constrained by poorer ambient conditions because vulnerable hosts are common).

    3. Not to defend Twitter and Facebook, but for Republicans to have become voluntarily dependent on communications channels utterly controlled by their ideological enemies has to be one of the stupidest mistakes a political party has ever made in all of history.

      This doesn’t excuse these platforms claiming to be free, and engaging in rampant political censorship, but, come on now! At what point is the right going to bite the bullet and construct it’s own platforms the left can’t censor?

      1. These platforms already exist, some for years. Parler. Codias. Gab. thedonald.win. Voat.

        1. Parlier, 2 years.
          Codias, 4 years.
          Gab, 3 years, and the left made a very serious effort to kill it off in 2018.
          The_Donald.win, created this year after Reddit kicked them off.
          Voat, 6 years.

          So, yes, there are the beginnings of efforts in that direction, but only recently.

      2. Well, yeah, but the whole social media thing is still pretty new. Far more ridiculous is the degree of leftist control over mainstream media institutions, government bureaucracies, universities, etc.

        Anyway, I’m not really focused on the censorship issue so much as the substance of the tweet here. But if it’s not even untrue in anyway, that does make the censorship quite outlandish.

        1. Some people seem to struggle with the concept that mainstream, strong education, media, and government institutions would favor reason, science, modernity, and inclusiveness over superstition, ignorance, bigotry, and backwardness.

          No wonder they can’t keep up in the culture war.

          1. Kirkland, I know you will continue, but you posting this doesn’t make any of it true. And, although I like to mess with you, nobody else gives you or your lies much thought.

      3. Even better, Trump is in the processing of banning the most potent competitor to the existing social media platforms in years.

        1. I would be hard put, much as I dislike Zuckerberg, to claim that Xi is preferable.

          1. Sure, but if you have different platforms with different biases you end up with different messages getting through.

            The idea isn’t for TikTok to replace Facebook as the new One True Social Media platform, but to have a government and marketplace that encourages a diversity of alternatives so that when people don’t like one option they have choices.

            1. I’d be hard put to be confident that the biases Xi would demand are all that different from the ones Zuckerberg and Bezos would; Google actually helped China with implementing their “social credit” system, you know, and both FB and Google are currently rolling out in the US something that looks disturbingly like a “social credit” score system, complete with denial of services to people with “bad” scores.

              Yes, maybe the American SC system will debit you less for comparing Xi to Winnie the Pooh, and more for referring to a guy who had his junk cut off as “him”. That’s not what I call a big difference.

    4. “Speaking of free discourse, Twitter and Facebook are censoring President Trump again.”

      Why don’t you start a right-wing Twitter for fun and profit, vindicating conservative market principles?

      And maybe don’t complain about censorship of conservatives at a white, male blog that repeatedly censors non-conservatives?

      Carry on, clingers.

      1. I’ve actually given it some thought.

      2. “white, male blog”

        Arthur, what is your race and sex?

  9. The emphasis on college campuses is overwrought.

    1) There is no new problem here; we’re describing a problem documented since Socrates lived. People who are old don’t agree with people who are young, and when young people get together they have beliefs that old people disagree with. Young people have been annoying forever. That’s part of being young. Notice how everything above would have applied to the Cause Heads in 1994’s PCU, or the hippies MAD was lambasting in the 60s, or the Beatniks Kerouac described in the 40s.

    2) College campuses do not have nearly as much influence as their supporters or detractors think. If you graduate from high school, the likelihood that you will get a bachelor’s degree in 10 years is approximately 33%. Not all college students are undergoing marxist training. The vast majority of college students are not marxists or engaged in identity politics at all. Part of the reason we think they are is because most journalists did spend a significant time at four-year universities reporting on the tiny minority of students who were engaged in identity politics full time. They then go off to write for newspapers which give disproportionate attention to protests and marxists, etc. because that’s what all the employees at the newspapers know. Consider how many articles the NYTimes has about the Ivy League versus community colleges, even though the former makes up a statistically insignificant portion of all students, whereas the latter makes up about 40% of all students. The people who think universities run the world are people who work for universities or culture warriors who hate people who work for universities. The rest of us just engage in commerce and move on with our lives, mostly.

    3) I haven’t lived long enough to know if there was any moment in history when universities were important bastions of “Free Inquiry and Discourse”. The Red Scare suggests that wasn’t always the case. But the internet (and its unparalleled ability to spread inquiries and discourse) has solved the problem. Even better, you no longer have to be a professor at a university to spread ideas and discourse. Anybody can do it. It’s democraticizing in a way that should have rendered universities irrelevant, at least in whatever role they pretend to occupy for spreading discourse.

    1. I also think the 3 points they present would be agreed with by just about everyone; they’re a bit strawmanish.

    2. Good points all, especially this one: “The people who think universities run the world are people who work for universities or culture warriors who hate people who work for universities.”

    3. Good points, although, it doesn’t seem overwrought to emphasize college campuses when writing a book about college campuses.

      1. The authors are both in academia so they fall under 2). Like the authors, I typically write about things that affect my life and profession more than things that don’t, even though the things that affect my life and profession are not reflective of what is actually affecting most people. What’s overwrought is:

        “These beliefs shouldn’t be considered the only legitimate way to see the world.”

        The statement is true and uncontroversial. But they’re shooting soft targets. The only places where anybody believes the above statement is the tiny, infinitesimal corner of the world occupied by the authors, and there only a tiny, infinitesimal number of people believe those things.

  10. “many of society’s problems and inequalities can be attributed to historical power structures that have favored members of the white, cisgender, heteronormative patriarchy. ”

    My God, the bullshit still stinks.

  11. “Belief #2: Discrimination is the Cause of All Unequal Group Outcomes”
    Another non-falsifiable statement. No wonder campuses are in confusion.

    1. Why do you think this statement is non-falsifiable?

  12. Because there is NO way to verify in an objective, viewpoint -neutral fashion. In the end it is just a politically motivated opinion.
    But I am willing to consider your proposed experimental technique.

    1. Qualitiative is not the same as non-falsifiable.

      I also don’t think you’d find a lot of people on campus down with that proposition.

      1. I never mentioned anything about quantitative measurements.
        As for what people on campus has as an opinion, that is irrelevant.

    2. On the theoretical level, any statement in the form of “All X are Y” is falsifiable because you just have to find one Y that is not X.

      And it’s pretty easy to falsify. Women on average give birth to more children than do men. I have never heard anybody explain it on the basis of discrimination, or any basis other than the fact that women are born with uteruses and men aren’t.

      Do you suppose there are people out there arguing that the different life outcomes between people with and without down syndrome can be explained exclusively by discrimination?

      1. Ah, so you claim that you have demonstrated that the proposition is false.
        But the defenders of the proposition (and that includes defenders of disparate impact policies) will just say that yours is a bit of sophistry that just distorts what they mean. In other words, they want the proposition to be non-falsifiable.

        1. “Ah, so you claim that you have demonstrated that the proposition is false.”

          No. We were having a discussion about whether a statement is falsifiable. “All stars in the universe will burn out within 10 billion years” is a falsifiable statement. I have not purported to demonstrate that the proposition is false; it’s still falsifiable. The examples I used were intended to demonstrate that the statement was in fact falsified under some conditions. But the statement could be falsifiable even without those conditions.

          If your definition of “non-falsifiable statement” is that someone, somewhere, will reject any possible falsification, I must concede that you are right. Like you, I can invent a hypothetical person to disagree with any statement. If falsification is subject to no limitations save your imagination, there’s little reason for you to have brought it up in the first place, and no reason for me to continue discussing it with you.

  13. consider a culture in which music plays a particularly large and central role. Such a culture might be expected to produce a disproportionately large number of people who become accomplished musicians. Now, it might also be true that the members of this culture experience discrimination. One can then ask whether they have notably high levels of musical achievement as a consequence (among others) of discrimination. Or is this outcome independent of discrimination?

    I doubt you can untangle this. Discrimination in certain areas will drive talented, ambitious, group members to seek other outlets from a narrower range of possibilities. And then these tendencies become part of the group culture, even when discrimination lessens or disappears.

    1. This is a good point, and complicates things a lot. Let’s unpack it.

      It’s not enough to say in X (which is merit based) there are more of group Y than group Z, therefore Y is better at X than Z. Assume being good at X also requires a lot of practice. You’d want to know how much time Y versus Z spend practicing X to determine whether the difference can be explained on group preference grounds (which you posit might itself prove discrimination) rather than inherent skill grounds. I suspect that men are better at chess than women, but assume at least some of the outcome gap between men and women is explained by the fact that more men play chess than women. If you know the preference or practice rate of Y and Z, though, you could come closer to determining who is innately better.

      Now, as to your argument that discrimination can cause outcomes even after the discrimination is removed, wouldn’t the implication of that be that there’s no problem? Once the discrimination is removed, there’s no discrimination to remediate.

      1. Assume being good at X also requires a lot of practice. You’d want to know how much time Y versus Z spend practicing X to determine whether the difference can be explained on group preference grounds

        But the tendency to practice X to start with may be, often will be, influenced by perceived discrimination. Suppose you and I are equally talented at both music and, broadly, STEM.

        If I believe that discrimination will prevent me from getting the kind of education I need to be a successful engineer, say, then I might well devote a large share of my time to music while you, facing no such discrimination, spend more time on your studies. So the practice time comparison gets you nowhere.

        Now, as to your argument that discrimination can cause outcomes even after the discrimination is removed, wouldn’t the implication of that be that there’s no problem? Once the discrimination is removed, there’s no discrimination to remediate.

        I don’t think so. The outcomes are still there. It’s one thing to say, “Hey, this guy is a concert pianist rather than an engineer.” It’s another to say he’s a handyman. Your conclusion assumes first that the different outcomes don’t matter so much, but they often do. Narrowing the range of opportunities members of a group face invariably damages many of them. The conclusion also assumes, of course, that there was no discrimination in the music business, which is not a given.

        1. “If I believe that discrimination will prevent me from getting the kind of education I need to be a successful engineer, say, then I might well devote a large share of my time to music while you, facing no such discrimination, spend more time on your studies. So the practice time comparison gets you nowhere.”

          Yes, but if we remove the discrimination (as posited) this effect will dissipate.

          “Your conclusion assumes first that the different outcomes don’t matter so much, but they often do.”

          The opposite; my conclusion assumes that removing the discrimination which causes different outcomes is important. Because the different outcomes matter. The distinction is I don’t care about different outcomes unless they are caused by discrimination. If they are no longer caused by discrimination, there’s nothing to fix. I’m not going to force people to be concert pianists if they don’t want to be concert pianists.

          By the way what’s wrong with being a handyman? If you wanted to show different outcomes, shouldn’t we use examples where people are less happy due to their stunted choices? Or are you operating on the assumption that concert pianists and engineers are happier than handymen?

          1. Nothing wrong with being a handyman, but engineers are better-paid and enjoy more prestige. That doesn’t mean handymen can’t be quite happy, but one who would have liked to do something else but was stifled by discrimination might nit be that happy.

            More later.

          2. But removing discrimination doesn’t mean outcomes aren’t influenced by discrimination.

            Past discrimination still has effects today. For a long time Blacks were excluded, formally or not, from federal housing programs, like FHA loans. That exclusion probably impacts the wealth of Black families today.

            If your parents or even grandparents were denied educational or employment opportunities that’s going to affect your economic status today.

            These kinds of discrimination-based “specializations” linger. Jews are disproportionately represented in the legal profession, for example. Now, a big part of that is cultural, but some is due to the fact that there was, for a long time, discrimination against Jews in the corporate world. I can remember that it was considered quite newsworthy when Irving Shapiro became head of DuPont, partly because he wasn’t a DuPont, but also because he was Jewish.

            1. “But removing discrimination doesn’t mean outcomes aren’t influenced by discrimination.

              If your parents or even grandparents were denied educational or employment opportunities that’s going to affect your economic status today.”

              True enough, but once the discrimination is removed the effect lessens over time. My grandparents didn’t get indoor plumbing until the 1960’s, and neither of my parents graduated from high school. My sibling and I are retired software engineers. What we got from our lineage was a penchant for doing whatever you were doing as well as you could, and that seems to have had more influence than the hardship and discrimination our grandparents faced. Alternatively, perhaps the difficulties they faced gave them a work ethic they might not have had if they had led lives of ease, and we benefited from that inheritance.

              1. All that is entirely plausible. There are always those who overcome difficulties. That doesn’t mean the overall situation isn’t what it is.

                1. I’m curious what you think the overall situation is. Let’s take the following proposition: ‘once discrimination is ended, hard work over a few generations can largely overcome the effects of the past discrimination’. Do you tend to agree or disagree with that?

                  (it’s also perhaps worth noting that the currents run in both directions … I know of several people born with the proverbial silver spoon, given every advantage in education, etc, that have moved themselves well into the left end of the economic spectrum by a lack of application. If you start with a robber baron level of wealth I suppose that takes a few generations, but if you only start in the upper middle class it can be done in one)

        2. bernard,
          Let’s take your musical example to the real world.
          It is the case (Measured with statistical significance) that the number of Mandarin speakers who have perfect pitch is much greater than those who are native speakers of European languages.
          It is also the case that persons with perfect pitch will be able to perform some musical tasks better or quicker, or lees error prone than other who only have relative pitch.
          Discrimination?
          Bad discrimination?
          Irrelevant discrimination?

          1. Irrelevant discrimination.

            The discrimination is in favor of those with perfect pitch, not Mandarin speakers. (By the way, is this a function of speaking Mandarin, or of ethnicity?)

            1. Speaking Mandarin. It is a feature in all populations that use pitch languages.

              1. That’s interesting.

      2. If the question is if Lamarckian inheritance exists, the answer is no.

  14. I hope the Conspirators will be happy being ruled by the Chinese under an “Asian” system. Because, as they say, white people and their ideas and systems are pretty much the root of all evil. (Fortunately, if they are unhappy, they will not be allowed to complain, so at least we won’t have to listen.)

  15. Shorter:
    1. Ends justify the means.
    2 and 3. Only specific people deserve to live the lives they choose. Everyone else can either be eliminated of forced into service until they’re no longer useful.

  16. I’m not sure why academics think that saving the planet is so difficult. Just deconstruct the problematic and inequitable power structures, and reconstruct more equitable ones, zippity-zoop, problems solved.

    1. If life were only that easy.

  17. When I was 13, my dad, an Eisenhower R, had me read The Communist Manifesto.

    When I finished it he asked me if I saw the flaw. I did not, but I thought it was a bunch of BS. He told me that critical thinking required more than an opinion.

    He asked me whether “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” and I said I thought it was more the history of inventions. He said “What about the history of religion?” “What about the history of migrations?” “what about the history of diseases, volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, fires”?

    He went on. “Don’t ever buy a single explanation for all of human conduct everywhere. It is way too complex for that.”

    1. “Don’t ever buy a single explanation for all of human conduct everywhere. It is way too complex for that.”

      Oh, the irony.

    2. Humans tend to simplify, to attempt to reach a single solution or cause -sometimes two. It seems to be in our nature when deprived of the time to, or the ability to critically and rationally think, we will exclude all nuance to select one, maybe two possibilities. We will then hold on to these choices until shown that we are being irrational, and sometimes well beyond then.

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