WHO Says LGBTQ/Sex Ed Starts…At Birth?!?!

Estimated Reading Time: < 1 minute

The World Health Organization (WHO), which is beholden to and enamored of the genocidal Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and whose horrendous advice triggered the destructive COVID-19 measures such as masking and lockdowns, has more awful advice for you. According to the WHO, “sexuality education starts from birth.”

It’s never too early to teach your infant about sex and how they should chop off body parts! And this is the organization to which governments (including the Biden administration) want to give complete control over pandemic responses in future?

Notice the mention in the screenshot below of “early childhood masturbation” and “gender identity.”

“[The UK Telegraph, May 13] Outrage over WHO advice on sexuality for infants

Guide argues that ‘sexuality education starts from birth’

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is under pressure to withdraw guidance for schools recommending that toddlers ‘ask questions about sexuality’ and ‘explore gender identities.’”

God help us.


This article was published at Pro Deo et Libertate and is reproduced with permission.

The Philosophy Underlying DEI

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

Neetu Arnold recently wrote an article about the ways that colleges and universities are preparing for a “post-affirmative action era” by developing “strategies for universities to continue racial discrimination through facially race-neutral approaches in admissions and beyond,” the goal being to “achieve diversity-related goals without triggering legal scrutiny.” This is very important journalistic work.

But I’m not a journalist; I’m an academic philosopher. So I want to tackle a different question: why should we expect colleges and universities to remain committed to identitarian discrimination, of the sort rationalized and implemented nowadays under the aegis of “DEI” (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion)? Granting that this is the case, that higher educational institutions are so committed, it is important to understand how they are going about and will go about implementing this commitment. But why is it the case in the first place?

This is a question I can answer, having extensively studied the philosophy and theory underlying the politics driving these policies. There are two reasons, the first philosophical and the second sociological:

  • DEI is philosophically and ideologically core to the postmodernist identitarian leftism (PIL) which is hegemonic in academia and increasingly in the culture at large, and which drives government, academic, and corporate affirmative action as well as everything else associated with “wokeism” or “woke leftism.”
  • DEI is now a bureaucratic industry, from college campuses to corporate HR departments and from entertainment to government, and bureaucracies naturally grow rather than shrink absent external intervention—especially when the funding is there, and the money has absolutely poured into DEI from all quarters, from billionaires like McKenzie Scott to the Biden administration.

The sociological point is both less interesting and can be made more quickly, so I’ll start with that. According to Forbes, “Business spending on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives has skyrocketed in the last decade. It’s estimated the global market for DEI reached $7.5 billion in 2020 and is expected to double by 2026.” According to a 2021 report, “[o]rganizations across industries are making diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) a priority—with 79% planning to allocate more budget and resources in 2022.” In 2020, the National Institutes of Health launched a program that will “give 12 institutions a total of $241 million over nine years for diversity-focused faculty hiring,” while National Science Foundation “funding for so-called ‘anti-racist’ themes more than tripled from 2020 to 2021.”

At many colleges and universities, DEI statements are a mandatory part of job applications, and it has become common practice to “adopt explicit diversity ‘advocate’ or ‘champion’ policies” that place “someone on a search committee whose sole job is to highlight DEI priorities.” Not to mention that virtually every higher educational institution now has a DEI office, nor the proliferation of for-profit DEI consultancies. According to one report, “DEI staff listed by universities totaled 4.2 times the number of staff who assist students with disabilities in receiving reasonable accommodations, as required by law,” with the ratio at UNC being “13.3 times as many people devoted to promoting DEI as providing services to people with disabilities,” while at “Georgia Tech, there were 3.2 times as many DEI staff people as history professors.” Similarly, the DEI office at Yale’s School of Medicine has sixteen staff members, making it larger than their History of Medicine and Biomedical Informatics & Data Science departments, while the University of Michigan has 142 DEI employees costing $18 million annually.

Given the money poured and pouring into DEI and the iron law of bureaucratic expansion, it seems safe to say that DEI is here to stay for some time, even if popular sentiment were to turn against it. However, the more fundamental reason we can predict DEI to survive and grow, at least as long as PIL continues to dominate the political left, is philosophical and ideological—for DEI merely formalizes the core idea of PIL.

PIL is the result of both theoretical and empirical developments in the 1980s, especially, though with roots in the post-WWII era (in particular, in the emergence of French postmodernism and German critical theory and their initial reception in Anglophone academia in the 1960s). On the empirical side, there were the various empirical failures of socialism and communism, culminating in the fall of the Berlin Wall, which discredited the political vision of “classical Marxism” in the eyes of many on the left. On the theoretical side, there was the rise of what I have termed “anti-metaphysical” postmodernist philosophy and critical theory.

Postmodernism is “anti-metaphysical” in being anti-essentialist, anti-universalist, and anti-foundationalist. Essentialism is the view that things have fixed essences or sets of essential properties that determine what (kind of thing) they are, in contrast with inessential properties that can change without the thing undergoing a change of kind. Universalism is the view that some theoretical entities have universal validity, or validity across contexts. And foundationalism posits that some truths are basic, such that less basic truths depend on the more basic ones for their validity.

In contrast, postmodernists tend to claim that these phenomena (essences, universal truths, and theoretical foundations) either don’t exist or are contextually relative social constructions. For example, a “cultural relativist” postmodernist would claim that Aristotle’s definition of the human being as essentially rational—a claim about an essence that purports to universal validity and serves as the foundation for further claims, e.g., ones about human virtue—is at most only valid within the context of the Western tradition.

This makes PIL incompatible not just with traditional liberalism, which is full of “metaphysical” claims, but with classical Marxism as well. For classical Marxism is essentialist, universalist, and foundationalist about economics: it posits material economic relations (the “base”) as foundational for all other social phenomena (the “superstructure”), as well as a universal history in which the essential motor of progress is the political-economic struggle between the economic ruling class and the economic working-class or proletariat.

Now, PILs “deconstruct” both traditional liberalism and classical Marxism through postmodernist philosophy and theory—such as Nietzsche’s philosophy of the will to power, French poststructuralism, and German critical theory—which dominates Anglophone academic humanities and social sciences. From the liberal tradition PILs strategically retain a commitment to “democracy,” only reinterpreted as “radical democracy” rather than “liberal democracy,” and from classical Marxism they retain the basic philosophy of history, only divested of its economism.

The result is a subversive reinterpretation of the meaning of democracy predicated on a generalization of the Marxist philosophy of history. No longer is the motor of history taken to be the political-economic struggle between the oppressive economic “ruling class” and the oppressed economic “proletariat” in particular; rather, history is the story of political struggle between those with “oppressor” identities and those with “oppressed” identities in general—whether these identities be grounded in race, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, or something else. The goal of PIL’s political struggles on behalf of all such historically “oppressed” identities is then to “expand the democratic revolution in new directions” to include recognition of maximally many “Others” heretofore excluded from recognition as political actors and rights-bearers. Note that PILs take this “maximally” seriously, as exemplified by so-called “critical posthumanists,” who insist that this expansion of political recognition and inclusion extends not only to nonhuman animals, but even to inanimate matter.

Combatting this illiberal, divisive, and damaging development of Western postmodernity will require liberals and conservatives to come together in opposition to their common enemy.

The formulation “expanding the democratic revolution” is due to the “post-Marxist” theorists Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, who set forth the program for a PIL politics as well as its underlying theory in an influential 1985 book titled Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics. Three features of their treatment are particularly worth mentioning in this context: (1) the only grounds for leftist unity are contingently pragmatic/strategic, (2) identitarian pan-politicization as the core imperative of PIL, and (3) a discourse-theoretical understanding of politics.

First, because PIL is anti-metaphysical, the only possible basis for the political unity of the leftist identitarian coalition is contingent and pragmatic: strategic alliance in opposition to a common enemy. This is why “intersectionality” has become so prominent in PIL discourse. The idea is that all oppressions are connected, so that one cannot fight, say, climate change, without also addressing racism, sexism, etc. Since there are no metaphysical or deep ideological reasons for political unity, and since the various coalitional constituencies inevitably have diverging interests, keeping the coalition together requires the dogmatic adoption of a “new ‘common sense,’” as Laclau and Mouffe put it. In other words, PILs can’t rationally justify why the pursuit of racial justice must also address the politics of sex and gender, but the coalition threatens to pull apart if its members don’t believe this, so it simply must be believed, as a matter of “common sense.”

Second, the core practical imperative of PIL is that of identitarian pan-politicization—i.e., the politicization of all possible social identities and relations, including the proliferation of new identities for the purpose of political activation. In other words, all identities must be understood as either “oppressor” or “oppressed,” and all social differences among identities must be interpreted as resulting from identitarian political oppression. Are there more white or Asian doctors than black ones? Must be due to racism. Are there more men working in construction than women? Must be due to sexism. And so on.

Finally, PILs are social constructionists who view all meanings as outcomes of discursive political struggle and hence privilege the discursive as a means of social and political change, in contrast to classical Marxism, which relegated discourse and culture to the social “superstructure.” The claim that “politics is downstream of culture” is typically attributed to the American conservative Andrew Breitbart, but PILs appropriate the same idea from earlier sources on the left, like the socialist Rudi Dutschke (“long march through the institutions”) and the neo-Marxist Antonio Gramsci (“cultural hegemony”). The idea is to achieve popular cultural hegemony for the leftist “new ‘common sense’”—through the colonization of education, entertainment, etc.—such that the desired political changes will follow automatically in a democratic state. That’s why so much of PIL politics today plays out in the arena of the “purely performative,” e.g., discursive virtue-signaling such as listing “preferred pronouns” or making “land acknowledgements.” There’s a lot to say about this, but one point is that the “real battles”—e.g., for legal reform and civil rights—have been won for many of the identities constitutive of the leftist coalition, so that discursive performance is all that really remains.

Virtually all of PIL academic and popular discourse is intelligible in this light. “Representation,” from Hollywood casting to corporate hiring, means nothing other than PIL DEI—i.e., diversifying something (film crews, corporate boards, etc.), via the inclusion of “Others” alleged to have been historically excluded from it, for the sake of “equity” or “social justice.” That’s why the “LGBT” acronym is ever expanding, with “LGBTQIA2S+” being the current standard. Even the infamous “drag queen story hour” is intelligible in this light: as an attempt to diversify our relevant traditional understandings and frameworks (e.g., norms for what an educator is or should be, for what children should be exposed to in public, for what role models children should have) by including heretofore excluded persons/identities/groups for the sake of equity or social justice.

In conclusion, we can expect DEI to disappear only when PIL does, or at least not until the latter becomes a “fringe” ideology. It is encouraging to see efforts by conservative activists and states to rein in or even abolish DEI bureaucracies at public universities, as with the recent Texas legislation or the University of Missouri’s pledge to drop diversity statements from its faculty hiring process, but the problem is so much bigger. Hence, combatting this illiberal, divisive, and damaging development of Western postmodernity will require liberals and conservatives to come together in opposition to their common enemy, and this opposition can only be effective if both the underlying theory of PIL DEI and its practical implementations are adequately grasped.


This article was published by Law & Liberty and is reproduced with permission.

Weekend Read: A Colonial History of African-Americans

Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes

Since the 1989 publication of his widely admired but controversial Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, David Hackett Fischer has been a figure to reckon with. Subsequent publications such as Paul Revere’s Ride (1994) and Washington’s Crossing (2004) have further established his reputation as an American historian of the first rank, one whose works are meticulously documented, rigorous, and accessible. Moreover, he has consistently demonstrated an independence of mind increasingly rare in an era of historical writing steeped in anti-racist pieties.

By contrast to The 1619 Project and similar works that offer up a vision of America as irredeemably tainted by systemic racism, African Founders, while acknowledging the “persistent evils” of slavery and racism, attempts to assert an alternative vision—one in which the traditions of liberty, equality, and the rule of law transcended those evils and were embraced, with impressive results, by masters and slaves alike. Fischer tells his story well, though in a sprawling fashion that too often strays from the central focus expressed in its subtitle. Moreover, at times he seems to imply that cultural diversity belongs on the list of American ideals, as if it were in itself an inherent good rather than simply a reality that, for better or worse, we must accept.

In his introduction, Fischer declares his intention of writing an “open inquiry,” following the example of Herodotus. His central question is a daunting one: What happened “when Africans and Europeans came to North America, and the growth of race slavery collided with expansive ideas of freedom and liberty and rule of law in the European and mostly English-speaking colonies …”?

His method is similar to that employed in Albion’s Seed. He proceeds by identifying nine distinct American regions, each founded by separate groups of northern Europeans whose purposes and cultural traits were sometimes radically different from one another. Each of these in turn engaged in the African slave trade, bringing to their regions populations of slaves whose own distinctive origins have too often been overlooked and whose capacity for adapting to the cultural norms of their masters, while still maintaining their own group identities, was in itself both remarkable and fateful for the development of the colonies, which eventually merged into the Union forged at the Constitutional Convention.

Fischer’s method has been notably enhanced by the development in recent years of digital historical databases, especially those focused on tracing the African origins of enslaved peoples. Among these resources is the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, which, by 2008, after years of development by international scholars, had compiled data “on nearly 35,000 transatlantic slave voyages from 1501 to 1867,” resulting in a dramatically greater understanding of the precise geographical origins of the approximately 400,000 slaves who were brought to North America over the course of 366 years.

Such raw data, of course, is only useful if one understands something about the languages, customs, power structures, and religious beliefs of the regions in question. Fischer supplies this understanding admirably. In fact, during the years when this book was gestating, he traveled several times to those parts of Africa—Senegal, Mali, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire (“the Ivory Coast”), et al.—whence many of the slaves destined for North America originated.

According to the 1790 census, some 16,000 Africans lived in New England, most of them slaves, some free blacks. Their origins were varied, but Fischer estimates that well over half of them (or their parents and grandparents) were purchased on the Gold Coast, and most of these were Akan-speaking Asante and Fante peoples, known for their intelligence and martial spirit. Fischer notes that New England slaves “rapidly developed a distinctive pattern of association that set them apart from slaves in other cultural regions.” Puritan masters frequently allowed “temporal liberties” to their slaves, who responded by extending and cultivating their ethnic ties to Africa.

In one instance, near Lynn, Massachusetts, a well-known freed slave known as “King Pompey” organized an annual reunion of sorts for slaves in neighboring towns who came together by the hundreds, with the approval of their masters, to “celebrate their African origins.” In another instance, slaves used their days of liberty to organize “Militia Training Days,” where they were allowed to muster and march on designated “training fields.” More significant were “Negro Election Days,” annual events in which slaves, in emulation of their Puritan masters, elected “Negro governors” in Connecticut and Rhode Island or “Negro kings” in royal colonies, like New Hampshire.

Such festivities were widely practiced for over a century and generally included both English and African customs. Moreover, the power given to these Negro leaders was more than ceremonial; they were given authority to settle disputes among slaves, to try criminal cases, and more. Fischer argues that something extraordinary was enacted in these customs: “New England masters were sharing a measure of legitimate power and authority with African slaves.”

Naturally, in a culture saturated in anti-racist bigotry, we hear little of such practices today. That would, of course, cast doubt on the official narrative. One could argue that the liberties allowed slaves in New England and the encouragement of such democratic rituals were merely a cunning mechanism of control, but Fischer suggests that these examples of shared power, however limited in scope, played a role in the growth of anti-slavery sentiment in New England, and especially in the movement for suffrage reform.

In New Netherland, the Dutch traders and entrepreneurs who settled the colony favored slaves from the Congo and Angola, regions already skilled in the manufacture of quality textiles, with well-established trade networks in central and western Africa. Like their Dutch masters, they were adept at commerce and, as Fischer notes, “played the capitalist game of getting and keeping with remarkable success.”

How were they able to do this? Slavery in New Netherland was a corporate enterprise initiated and managed by the Dutch West India Company. Slaves who demonstrated commercial skills and ambitions were frequently allowed to acquire property and to accumulate profit. To the extent that they did so, they became “half free” while expanding “their own rights and privileges.” Prior to the British takeover of the colony, many half-free slaves doggedly pursued their full freedom, often petitioning Dutch authorities with success, resulting in a large population of free blacks residing in and around New Amsterdam.

For those who remained enslaved, conditions under British authority became more repressive, eventually resulting in the revolts of 1712 in the Hudson Valley and 1741 in Manhattan. While these uprisings led to harsh reprisals by authorities, the unrest also brought many among the master class to a greater awareness of the brutality of slavery, which then fed the growing antislavery movement in that colony, especially among the Anglican clergy.

In the Chesapeake region, and particularly in Virginia’s lower tidewater district, where that colony’s Cavalier elite (royalists in support of King Charles I) was concentrated, some 60 percent of the slaves in the early 18th century were from the Bight of Biafra and were mostly Ibo-speaking Igbo peoples, known for a spirit of “independence and individuality.” They were well-suited for adaptation to the political environment of the colonies since, in Africa, they had known no kings. As one oft-repeated Igbo proverb ran, “Ike di na awaja na awaja” (Power flows in many channels).

These concentrations of Biafran slaves were also amplified by the practice of “entail,” wherein slaves became the inalienable property of the estate. Indeed, to a greater degree than most of the other colonies, Virginia discouraged the separation of slave families for numerous reasons. Additionally, the development of distinct slave communities was encouraged by the use of “quartering” on large plantations, wherein extended families of slaves were segregated into semi-autonomous communities in which matriarchal lineages were perpetuated over many generations, just as they had been in Africa.

Such continuity also made it possible for relations between masters and slaves to become more intimate and familial. Slave weddings, for example, which combined both African and English customs, were occasions that brought both masters and slaves together, at least temporarily, within a shared conviviality, and encouraged a degree of mutual affection and respect that many today might find difficult to comprehend. Such relations were preserved most memorably, perhaps, in the now proscribed tales of Thomas Nelson Page, however idealized those depictions might be.

None of this is to deny the underlying brutality of slavery in the Chesapeake or elsewhere, but as early as 1782, many prominent Virginia families were supportive of manumission laws, which reflected the hope that slavery would eventually be abolished in the Chesapeake region. While schemes for abolition were unsuccessful, Fischer notes that the manumission movement “gave rise to individual acts of emancipation, sometimes on a large scale.” One notable example was that of Richard Randolph (a cousin of Thomas Jefferson), who inherited 100 slaves and, when his health declined in the 1790s, emancipated all of them in his will—a directive that was faithfully carried out by his widow.

Perhaps most interesting in Fischer’s treatment of the Chesapeake region is his claim that it produced more African leaders than other regions, due at least in part to the example of leadership among its slaveholding elite, who embodied what has been called “a hierarchical system of hegemonic liberty and freedom.” However oxymoronic the concept may seem, there is no doubt that many of the most influential of the Founders were bred within such a system. And black leaders, like Harriet Tubman (who was enslaved in Maryland), Frederick Douglass, and Booker T. Washington, embraced those ideals of liberty and freedom with undoubted conviction and passion. It is certainly questionable, however, whether the many prominent African leaders discussed by Fischer can justifiably be counted among the “founders” of America (as the book’s title suggests). On the other hand, it is certainly true, and well-supported in Fischer’s argument, that those leaders “expanded” upon the founding ideals.

The foregoing paragraphs have offered merely snapshots that reveal a small part of the riches to be found in this study. Yet, as rich as it is, the book is not without weaknesses. Among these is Fischer’s lamentable tendency to digress, sometimes at great length. For example, while dozens of pages detailing the causes and results of slave revolts do, up to a point, provide some useful context for his central argument, African Founders could certainly have benefited by the services of a more aggressive editor, unafraid of trimming.

Another problem is that key terms sometimes remain ill-defined. The term “diversity,” for instance, is used repeatedly in the book, not only to describe the diverse reality of the racial, ethnic, and religious culture that emerged in North America during the 17th century but also in a way that seems at times to inflate the value of the term, placing it on a par with liberty and equality (though Fischer never makes that comparison explicitly).

Consider the following: Speaking of the identity we know as “African-American” (a coinage that seems to have originated late in the 18th century among blacks themselves, predating all the other hyphenated ethnic identities), Fischer writes that “This new invention of hyphenated ethnicity became a fundamental idea of profound importance in the United States,” first appearing in the most “ethnically diverse cities.”

In such passages, Fischer seems to embrace uncritically the notion that America would be, culturally speaking, a deeply impoverished nation had it not been infused with the profusion of races and nationalities that today are on the verge of displacing the legacy of its northern European founders, those whose passion for liberty gave birth to the Constitution. This is hardly an accident of history, for the Constitution would have been unthinkable outside the long durée of European history, dating back to the Athenians of the 5th century, B.C.

This is not to suggest that the African-American contribution to the rich tapestry of American life is negligible. On the contrary, in many respects, that contribution has been both admirable and profound. But diversity is not in itself an unalloyed good, as we can see in many of our “ethnically diverse” communities today, which can hardly be regarded as examples of those shining cities on a hill imagined by the visionary John Winthrop.

To end, however, on a more positive note, African Founders is an important work that deserves to be widely read and studied, for it is a powerful counterthrust against the pernicious influence of the anti-racist propaganda that now dominates our intellectual discourse. As Fischer states forcefully in his conclusion, “Racism in its infinite variations will always exist in America and elsewhere. But to condemn the United States as a fundamentally racist society is false.” What such condemnations overlook, above all, is the heroic efforts of African-Americans themselves to enlarge “fundamental American rights”—efforts that have been largely successful.


This article was published by Chronicles Magazine and is reproduced with permission.

Bud Light’s Sales Implosion, Explained (by Mises)

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

I stopped drinking Bud Light decades ago, so when the Dylan Mulvaney controversy exploded last month, I didn’t need to consider if I’d stop drinking Anheuser-Busch’s most popular product.

What’s clear is that many others have decided to quit the beer over the brand’s decision to wade into transgender politics. According to figures reported in The St. Louis Dispatch, based on data from a Connecticut-based consulting group that focuses on the alcoholic beverage industry, Bud Light’s in-store sales fell 11 percent in the week that ended April 8 from the same period the previous year. Year-over-year sales fell even faster over the next two weeks, dropping 26 percent in mid April. The decline continued into May despite ad blitzes and marketing gimmicks that included $20 rebates—on a $19.98 case of beer. Oof.

Endless ink has been spilled over the controversy, which was fueled by celebrities like Travis Tritt and Kid Rock, who shot up several cases of Bud Light after the Mulvaney ads began to go viral.

Many public figures seemed genuinely stunned by what they saw as a massive overreaction to a single March Madness ad featuring Mulvaney, who drank from a Bud Light while talking cluelessly about the NCAA tournament.

“I thought there must be a piece of the story that I’m missing,” shock jock Howard Stern said on his show.

Writing at Vox, Emily Stewart poo-pooed the Bud Light controversy and predicted it would blow over, pointing out that similar campaigns directed at other major brands quickly fizzled out.

“In terms of hurting sales, boycotts tend not to be super effective as most people don’t respond, let alone stick to them,” wrote Stewart. “Remember the Great Keurig Boycott of 2017? Or Frito-Lay in 2021? Or, more recently, when people were mad because M&Ms were girls?”

Stewart might be correct that Bud Light’s problems will blow over, though I have doubts. Still, critics scratching their heads over the controversy have a point that there’s something fickle and disproportionate about it. After all, Jack Daniels, a brand with a consumer base similar to Bud Light, recently ran its own LGBTQ+ ad campaign featuring American drag queen Ru Paul, and it generated a fraction of the scrutiny. Miller Lite, meanwhile, ran its own “woke” ad that was ignored for months.

In a way, I feel sorry for Bud Light. The company is being singled out for doing the same thing other publicly traded companies are doing: catering to the ESG (environmental, social, and governance) puppeteers who are scoring them on “social responsibility.”

ESG scoring is notoriously opaque, but the costs of not playing the game are quite real. ESG funds managed some $40 trillion in assets as of 2022, according to Bloomberg, and a poor score can get a publicly traded company booted from a fund just that fast, as Tesla found out that same year when it was kicked off the S&P 500 ESG index despite its sparkling sustainability score.

“While Tesla may be playing its part in eliminating fuel-powered cars, it has fallen behind its peers when examined through a broader ESG lens,” said Margaret Dorn, the executive in charge of ESG scoring for North America. Dorn didn’t feel it necessary to elaborate further.

Unsurprisingly, companies are not thrilled about having to do this ESG dance. While they pay lip service to ESG publicly, a 2022 CNBC survey showed most CFOs supported efforts to prohibit pension funds from using ESG scoring to determine how they invest.

One can see why corporate executives chafe under the ESG framework. Instead of focusing on creating value and serving consumers, companies are forced to dance to the ESG piper’s tune and perform whatever social initiatives a tiny cabal of people regard as important.

This was always the danger in “stakeholder capitalism,” the decades-old attempt to nudge corporations into serving interests other than their own shareholders and consumers. It subordinates consumers, the very people who should be in charge.

“The real bosses, in the capitalist system of market economy, are the consumers,” the economist Ludwig von Mises famously wrote in his book Bureaucracy. “They, by their buying and by their abstention from buying, decide who should own the capital and run the plants. They determine what should be produced and in what quantity and quality.”

This is the true lesson of “Bud-lash.” Bud Light forgot who its bosses really were. It wasn’t just that Bud Light was serving the ESG puppeteers—who award companies points for diversity and inclusion initiatives as well as environmental ones—and ignoring its own consumer base. The company was openly insulting its consumer base, describing Bud Light as a “fratty” beer and “out of touch” brand “in decline.” It’s one thing to disregard your boss. It’s another thing to openly insult her.

Many see Bud-lash as “anti-trans,” but the response is more about reminding corporations who their boss really is: consumers. These are the true masters in a free market economy; they decide who wins and loses, who becomes rich, and who becomes poor. And yes, consumers are fickle.

“They are no easy bosses,” Mises reminds us. “They are full of whims and fancies, changeable and unpredictable. They do not care a whit for past merit. As soon as something is offered to them that they like better or that is cheaper, they desert their old purveyors. With them, nothing counts more than their own satisfaction.”

Bud Light was serving a boss other than its consumers, and it really shouldn’t have to. “ESG is a scam. It has been weaponized by phony social justice warriors,” Elon Musk wrote on Twitter after Tesla was given the boot from the S&P 500 ESG index. 

Musk is not wrong. ESG is a scam and a dangerous one. It is embraced by anti-capitalists precisely because it undermines the consumer sovereignty Mises described, and empowers the financial class, bureaucrats, and central bankers by enabling them to manage society as they desire while further enriching themselves.

A famous ancient text says, “No one can serve two masters.” Corporations like Bud Light need to remember who their true bosses are, and it’s past time consumers reminded them.


This article was published by AIER, The American Institute for Economic Research, and is reproduced with permission.

Waking Up To Wokeness

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

What is this trend called “Woke“ that is sweeping the country like some out-of-control kudzu?

The concept apparently originated with the idea that American culture has been asleep over the fact that racism (and other “isms”) have always dominated American life. To be “woke“ is to have awakened to this fact, and to have become militant about doing something about it. We have all sinned but are now woke to our transgressions and are humiliated by them…

A woke individual is the latest avatar of what used to be called a liberal Democrat, and more recently a “Progressive “. Woke is left of the far Left in politics. With Joe Biden dedicated to being a “transformative” president rather than a transitional president, as had been expected, the Woke movement gains in strength every day, even though Sleepy Joe may not be fully committed to its more radical ideals.

 To be a follower of Woke means adopting a self-righteous attitude that you are morally superior to those who don’t agree with you on all points, and whom you dismiss as “racists “, even when race is not actually involved.

Woke is all about correcting imbalances arising out of previously perceived injustices. Woke folk love to use the word “victims“ to characterize individuals and groups they see as needing legislative correction of all grievances, regardless of merit. “Social justice” is their mantra, by which they mean a new world order according to their ideas of right and wrong.

Pushed to the extreme, Woke dogma rejects the past as racist and sees the heroes of the past as flawed icons who must be toppled from their pedestals of respectability unless they are truly “blameless“ according to current-day standards of correct Woke behavior. The working assumption of Woke theorists is that any progress in the past must have been the result of racism. Innovation, hard work, and risk-taking were incidental. Good works count for nothing if one has any blemish on his Woke dossier.

Hence, Lincoln, who freed the slaves, is condemned because he did not free them all immediately and everywhere. George Washington, one of the wealthiest colonial aristocrats and the most significant moral force of the American Revolution, is condemned for being a slave owner on his plantations, even though he manumitted his slaves upon his death. Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, is in for special opprobrium because he cohabited with a slave woman in a quasi-connubial relationship. Apparently, she bore a striking resemblance to his dead wife and bore him several children, the descendants of whom survived to this day.

Woke claims to be all for free speech, and the elimination of hypocrisy, but its adherents ruthlessly suppress anyone who attempts a public presentation of alternate viewpoints. This reminds me of Muslim book burners who argued that since all Truth could be found in the Koran, everything else was superfluous and could be considered the work of the Devil.

Capitalism is seen as the work of the Devil. Even though Wokies argue that they are supporters of Capitalism because it creates good jobs, their policies, and programs go in the opposite direction. A good example involves the U.S. desire to stimulate the semiconductor industry. Congress passed subsidies to encourage the building of manufacturing facilities creating lots of jobs. But then Wokies added regulations that essentially negated the whole purpose by including expensive Woke benefits and mandatory unionization for companies applying for the subsidies.

Woke claims to be the champion of equal opportunity, but in practice, they are only interested in equality of outcomes.

Anyone who has above-average success is suspected of exploiting his employees. This is one of Karl Marx’s fundamental tenets.

In its desire to make us all equal, a basic strategy of all zealots is to gain control of the educational system. The Jesuits learned this 500 years ago, and they became the powers behind the thrones of many rulers before they were suppressed in the late 18th. Woke-ists today teach children that Capitalism is evil because it creates winners and losers. An important concept of Woke is that no one should ever be made to feel bad. Losing makes one feel bad, so competition should be discouraged. (What is Capitalism about if not competition?) Everyone should be told they are a winner and no one forced to suffer the ignominy of losing.

When students get out into the real world, of course, they find they are at a serious disadvantage. Predictably, they harangue their employers to pay more attention to Woke principles. Sadly, some employers have caved in, much like universities surrendered to Hippies during the Vietnam War era.

State and local governments are especially vulnerable to this, leading to absurdities like San Francisco guaranteeing all Blacks a house, a job, no taxes, and $5 million. It was nonsense, but the Woke response was, “Well, something had to be done about inequality.” In other words, if previous redistributive programs have not worked, double down. The rich will just have to pay their fair share. In a Woke world, the question of who pays is almost irrelevant. The focus is only on the objective of getting the benefits passed into law.

Frankly, Woke would be ignored if it were not so serious and becoming more strident and widespread as America’s received wisdom of the 21st Century. (Outside the U.S., it is for the most part seen, because woke is mostly just another example of American nuttiness, like Beanie Babies, hula hoops, and pet rocks.)  Have you heard Wokies tell any jokes about anything? Their mission is too serious for laughing. Unusual for any group of extremists, they can’t even laugh at themselves. They should, because Woke is a bad joke on us all.

What I am not suggesting is a return to Jim Crow, lynching, and “Whites Only” restrooms. All that was wrong, as were many abominations of the past, all over the world. Prejudice against those who are different in any way continues and will never go away completely. Fear of “the other” is a very human emotion. Nevertheless, advancements since the Civil Rights era began in the ’60s have been spectacular, except for the poorest blacks.

Woke insists this is because of “systemic racism”. I may be wrong, but I don’t agree.

I attribute the lack of progress largely due to the acceptance of a culture of victimhood that makes it easier to accept welfare checks and deal drugs instead of doing the hard things that most people have to do to succeed in life. 

I also blame those on the political Left for constantly doubling down on programs that have not worked but that provide political benefits. And they attack programs that do work. I am thinking here of charter schools that are wildly successful in elevating poor back children and are strongly supported by their parents. Of course, they are not subservient to the teachers’ unions or dependent on politicians for funding, as are public schools.

“Equal opportunity” should and does mean equal opportunity, not preferential treatment at every turn. There is no denying the tremendous progress made by people of color, ethnic groups, and by women during my working lifetime. Blacks have succeeded overwhelmingly in sports and in the entertainment industry. There is no reason they should not do well in business and science also. They are not stupid. But those areas require greater concentration on education, which takes longer to bear fruit. actually, many senior positions have been filled in increasing numbers by minorities in the last decade. And, extremely talented black women like Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama could probably obtain just about any corporate or political job they wanted.

Yes, overt discrimination against blacks continued long after slavery ended. But quasi-slavery was the lot of huge numbers of Asians who were imported to America until exclusionary immigration policies were enacted in the mid-20th Century. Today, that has all changed. It is ironic that universities are concerned by the over-concentration of Asians in their student bodies.

 My own experience with black Americans has been interesting. The first person of color I ever saw was an American soldier in the 1940s during WWII.

“Look, Mommy. That man is all brown!”

“Yes’, she replied. “He is what we call a colored man.”

“Really! What other colors do they come in?”

 I still remember the first time I saw a young black man kiss a white girl in public in NYC in 1961. It was a head-turner because it was so unusual then. But so was a woman riding a motorcycle down Park Avenue by herself that same year.

In the 1980’s I hired a black man as my Executive Assistant at Aetna, a move that colleagues thought risky because he was known to be a civil rights activist. He did just fine. Not long after, Aetna appointed its first black VP. He did fine also.

Two decades later Aetna elected Ron Williams as its CEO, the first C-Suite black in its history. He too did fine as a Company leader.

Progress continues and will continue. WOKE is more of a political movement about who gets to exercise power in the 21st Century. Its mantra is “social justice”, while ironically ignoring real justice.

Teen Vogue: More Politics Than Fashion

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

If you visit TeenVogue.com today, you’ll see a tab called “Politics.”

Recent headlines include “What does Donald Trump’s Indictment Actually Mean?” and a slew of articles on “trans kids,” including bathroom bans and “How to Be an Advocate for Trans Student Athletes.”

A deep dive into old Teen Vogue magazines reveals no such headlines, which begs the question ­— why has Teen Vogue moved from puff pieces about spring style to endorsements of communism? Does the shift matter?

I read Teen Vogue in the late 2000s and early 2010s, along with many of my middle school peers. I remember articles about “Bieber Fever” and full-page spreads of neon fashion trends. The most political commentary that I can remember was at least tangentially related to beauty and fashion — indictments of eating disorders and plastic surgery.

Many of the articles published on the Teen Vogue website today cannot claim any connection to fashion, beauty, or anything else expected from a magazine that caters to teenage girls.

Teen Vogue Goes Political

As someone who has only recently aged out of my teenage years (I’m now 21), Teen Vogue’s transformation is reminiscent of society’s shift throughout my high school years.

Every generation has faced issues that feel existential; for my parents, it was the Cold War and the very real possibility of nuclear annihilation. I’ve talked to my grandfather about what it was like to grow up during the Second World War, with food rations and friends and family going off to fight and die on foreign soil. For my generation, the two issues that I would describe as the most pressing are gun violence and climate change.

I am deeply concerned about both issues, and many others, ranging from human rights violations to elected public officials acting against their constituents’ interests.

The difference between my generation’s issues and previous problems is that teenagers today cannot escape the litany of issues, and Teen Vogue is only continuing that trend. If you open Instagram or TikTok or attend a public high school, you are constantly bombarded with news and commentary on social issues. For 24 hours a day, seven days a week, teens are inundated with information. Over the last few years, the pressure on teenagers to constantly be “in the know,” to be hardcore activists, and to express all the right opinions on complex political matters has become crushing.

Politicizing Teenagers

Teen Vogue has become another outlet exerting this pressure. Teens do not get the opportunity to escape, even when they open a magazine that has been ubiquitous with fashion and makeup. Teen Vogue was meant to be relaxing because we already have hard-hitting journalism. The New York Times, Washington Post, and Politico already exist, so we are perfectly capable of reading about Donald Trump’s indictment if we so choose.

What we can no longer find is an outlet in which teenage girls can be just that: teenage girls. Where can teen girls go to worry about fashion, makeup, and boy band members without being subjected to op-eds about the 2024 election?

Teenagers deserve refuge from political rhetoric and pressure to advocate for policy changes in their schools. Teen Vogue primarily targets girls ages 12–17, whose main concerns should be puppy love and eye makeup.

Teen Vogue is instead telling them that they should focus on issues like criminal justice reform and Supreme Court corruption, neither of which have much to do with the average suburban high school student. Moreover, Teen Vogue promotes only political ideology, which can be dangerous for impressionable teenagers who are still developing their critical thinking skills and worldviews.

For many parents and authority figures like teachers and coaches, Teen Vogue’s political coverage is also insidious because it is not expected. If parents see their teen reading the Washington Post or Politico, they have an idea of what they are reading. However, most parents would think that Teen Vogue is a source of fashion tips rather than Marxist ideology, thereby allowing Teen Vogue to influence teen’s opinions with little to no oversight.

Let teenagers learn and grow and have fun—there will be lots of time for political advocacy after they get to college. There is a time and place for youth activism, and that place is not Teen Vogue.

This article was published by Capital Research Center and is reproduced with permission.

And Just Like That, Your Rights are Gone

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

“He who controls the children, controls the future.”


Whose quote is that? It’s mine. It formulated in my mind over the past several months as I’ve been adding more and more parental rights issues into my speeches. Why do I keep adding more and more? Because the attack on parental rights is gaining momentum. Actually, here in New York, it’s hitting us like a freight train!

One of the great things about the work I do is that I get to travel around our State, and increasingly to other states, where I meet amazing people, many of whom share their personal stories with me. Though 99 percent of the stories they share are centered around atrocities that are usually a direct result of the government’s unconstitutional, pandemic-related dictates, I nonetheless enjoy hearing people’s stories. It’s part of my work… it’s research.

Whether it is a room full of 30 people, or a hall brimming with 1,000+ people, the stories people share with me after I give a speech or presentation are priceless. I gain great insight into what is going on in various communities, and I can draw similarities, make inferences, formulate an analysis, and then share the information. Knowledge is power!

Lately, I’ve been noticing a sharp increase in the stories I hear regarding direct attacks (or outright revocation), of parents’ rights. Those attacks are oftentimes coming from government entities, or pseudo-government entities (not officially run by the government, but so tied to their purse strings, they may as well be). So I began to connect the dots. There weren’t too many to connect with until I realized, they are coming after our children! Openly. Unabashedly. Intentionally.

And with a fervor, I’ve not seen before. But do you know who has seen it before? Who points it out to me and helps me see it clearly? My friends who were raised in communist countries, or their parents/grandparents were. THAT is who is tuned in to what is going on in our country right now.

I grew up as a competitive figure skater in the 1980s, a sport dominated for decades by the Soviet Union. Some of my close friends in the skating world were Soviet. Their parents would shock me when they relayed stories about the hours-long bread lines they used to have to wait on, or their family members who just up and “disappeared” in the middle of the night, or their freezing cold apartments that found them sleeping in their winter coats and shoes to try to stay warm. (By the way, their apartments weren’t frigid because they were too poor to buy heating fuel… it was because of the government-controlled everything!)

Within our skating world, everyone knew how the Soviets came to dominate our sport so solidly, and for so many decades, especially in the Pairs and Ice Dance disciplines. Nobody could touch them. By the way, they were absolutely amazing skaters – powerful, stoic, yet graceful. Their command of the ice was unmatched.

To make myself better, I studied them. We all did. If I was at a rink other than my own, whether for a competition or a training session, I could pick out the Soviets on the ice in a heartbeat. Not a word needed to be said between us. Just how their blades touched the ice was enough to know. So, what was their “secret” to world domination of figure skating? They took the children at a very young age and put them in training camps for the sport they thought that child would be good at. The children ate, slept and drank their sport.

Month after month. Year after year. Decade after decade. There was no choice. Neither you nor your parents had the right to tell the government, “No.” You served your country in whatever manner they told you to! No questions asked. No excuses allowed. And for those athletes who succeeded (like World or Olympic gold medalists), your family was “rewarded” with some “extras” – but do not dare ask to see your child skate in person, or watch them compete at the Olympic Games… that was unheard of. The parents got to watch their child compete on a small, old, TV in their living room! Those are the stories they told me.

Here in the US, the “government creep” that happens into your life is gradual. It oozes its way into your liberties, at first slowly, as they inch their way in, bit by bit. Then you awaken one day, and suddenly your rights are gone. This is what I’ve been hearing and seeing happen for years now, but especially the past three+ years of the COVID-19 mania.

So, of course, I did some digging regarding this hypothesis that was taking shape in my mind, of the government wanting to sever the sacred parent/child bond and take control of our children. I literally typed my above quote into a search engine, and an eerily similar quote surfaced. It was eerie because it was attributed to Adolf Hitler in 1935! Here is the quote:

“He alone who owns the youth gains the future.”

And so, here we are. 

Time for a real-life example. You know I always try to work those in. Quite powerful I think. So, as far as a parental rights attack story, I shared one such story in a recent Substack, if you want, that article is HERE. Basically, the stories run the gamut, from parents of grade-schoolers not being allowed to schedule their child’s health appointments, to parents of college students not being allowed to access their report cards, despite paying all the bills!

Although there are many states that are now passing laws to help protect parents’ rights, the exact OPPOSITE is happening here in New York state. I’ve written numerous articles about vile proposed laws, like the one that would require “comprehensive sexuality education” in all schools, starting in KINDERGARTEN and running straight through high school. Or the one that would allow children of any age to make their own medical decisions, even over parental objections (yes, that does include sex changes).

But there’s a new repugnant bill that’s on the move, so to speak. It’s not actually “new,” as it has been proposed for years, but it is “moving” now, meaning it has [had] been placed on the Assembly Health Committee’s agenda for a vote on Tuesday, May 16th. For a bill to become a law, it needs to pass in each of our two houses (Senate and Assembly). To get to the house floor, it has to first pass out of committee. So on May 16th, step one will happen… the Democrat-controlled Health Committee will vote on it.

The bill is A276b (last week it was A276a, but they tweaked it, and now it’s “b”). It would allow drugs and vaccines that are claimed to prevent sexually-transmitted diseases to be given to minor children without parental knowledge or consent! So, this bill eliminates the existing right of parents to know and have a choice over the drugs and vaccines our children get! 

The bill reads in part:


You can read the bill in full HERE, but some important notes are:

  • There are no age restrictions in this bill. So an 8-year-old could go get an STD shot without their parents knowing!
  • The bill would obviously promote underage sex.
  • It could protect pedophiles by subverting New York’s  “Mandated Reporter” law that requires licensed professionals to report suspected sexual abuse of children to law enforcement. Would any lucid adult think it normal for a grade-school student, to (behind their parents’ back) request a shot that supposedly prevents a sexually-transmitted disease?
  • It says the child can get one of the shots, “PROVIDED THAT THE PERSON HAS CAPACITY TO CONSENT TO THE CARE.” So, that means the person administering the shots (who, by the way, most likely has a financial incentive to give the shot), will now have the power to decide whether or not your child has the “capacity” to consent!
  • It endangers the well-being of a child. Children don’t know enough about their medical history to provide informed consent. Will they know if they had earlier adverse reactions to vaccines in the past, whether they have allergies or sensitivities to vaccine ingredients, or if there is a family medical history that would contra-indicate that particular vaccine? And what about the parent or first responder who is trying to help the child if they are having a bad reaction to the shot once they get back home… they won’t even know the child got the vaccine in the first place!
  • The bill violates federal law, which is unconstitutional. The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, (a horrific law from 1986 that removed legal liability from vaccine manufacturers and those who administer vaccines), requires that a healthcare professional provide a copy of the current vaccine information sheet to a child’s parent/legal representative before vaccinating a child with a list of shots that include some STD’s like hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV).

Who is [was] pushing for this despicable law? Here’s the list of odious, anti-parents’ rights dolts who are sponsoring/co-sponsoring this bill. The ones with a * next to their name are also co-sponsoring one or both of the above-mentioned anti-parental rights bills that I wrote about in prior Substacks:

*Amy Paulin – D
*Catalina Cruz – D
*Jeffrey Dinowitz -D
*Linda Rosenthal -D
*Phil Steck -D
*Harry B. Bronson -D
*Patricia Fahy – D
*Harvey Epstein – D
*Andrew Hevesi – D
*Jonathan Jacobson – D
Chantel Jackson – D
*Rebecca Seawright – D
*Anna Kelles – D
*Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas – D
*Jo Anne Simon – D

Hey, so does anyone notice anything that every single one of these deplorables have in common?


This article was published by the Brownstone Institute and is reproduced with permission.

Bobbie Anne Flower Cox has been a practicing attorney for 25 years.


‘Devout Catholic’ Biden Silent Amid Outrage Over Anti-Catholic, ‘Transgender Nuns’ Promoted by LA Dodgers

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

President Joe Biden has yet to weigh in on the outrage over the Los Angeles Dodgers inviting an anti-Catholic group of queer and transgender “nuns” to its Pride Night events.

The drag performers call themselves “The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence” and describe their group as “a leading-edge order of queer and trans nuns.” Though the group claims that it is not anti-Catholic, the tagline on its website states: “Go forth and sin some more,” apparently mocking Jesus Christ’s words to a biblical woman caught in adultery.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. Tax filings show that as of 2020, the group’s president was Marie-Noelle Murphy, a legal secretary at Friedman McCubbin Law Group LLP in San Francisco. Murphy, reached by phone, chided The Daily Signal for calling her at work and directed press inquiries to her Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence email.

According to a report from the Catholic League on the group’s anti-Catholic exploits, the performers have been insulting the Catholic Church since 1979 through “Hunky Jesus” contests on Easter Sundays, mock Masses featuring “holy communion wafers and tequila,” “exorcism” and a “Condom Savior Mass,” prizes for “hottest confessions” at a San Diego gay bar, and more.

“Our next step is to persuade Catholics in the Los Angeles area not to attend Pride Night on June 16,” Catholic League President Bill Donohue said Tuesday, the Catholic News Agency reported. “By boycotting this event, we can send a message to the Dodgers, and to Major League Baseball, that anti-Catholic bigotry is unacceptable.”

Catholic sisters or nuns are women who pledge their lives to God, making vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. These women devote their time to prayer and service and are highly revered in many communities.

Biden, for example, has said that he was “educated by nuns,” whom he has repeatedly praised.

Members of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence dress in “sexualized perversions of religious garb, taunting the women religious who serve the poor in Southern California and around the world,” as CatholicVote’s Brian Burch described, noting: “We sincerely doubt that the Dodgers would give such an award to a group which made a similar travesty of the Jewish faith or Muslim faith.”

The Daily Signal asked the White House repeatedly for Biden’s thoughts on the matter. Biden, a lifelong Catholic, has been repeatedly described by his administration and by corporate media as a “devout Catholic.” The White House did not respond to The Daily Signal’s requests for comment.

The Dodgers had initially removed the faux “sisters” from their Pride Night list after strong backlash from religious groups, including CatholicVote and Burch, who wrote in a letter to Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred Jr.: “The [Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence] mock Catholics by taking on vulgar names such as ‘Sister GladAss of the Joyous Reserectum.’”

“In one infamous stunt, they tricked an archbishop into giving them the Eucharist—the most important sacrament of the Catholic faith—so they could defile it,” Burch wrote. “This past Easter Sunday, the [Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence] put on an exhibition in San Francisco in which a performer dressed as Jesus carried a cross up a hill and then performed a pole dance on it.”

But on Monday, the baseball team apologized to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and asked them to “take their place on the field at our 10th annual LGBTQ+ Pride Night.” The leftist group of performers said in a statement on its website that the Dodgers gave it a “full apology and explanation.”

The group concluded its statement with yet another poke at the Catholic Church: “May the games be blessed!”

In a statement released Tuesday, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles called for “all Catholics and people of goodwill to stand against bigotry and hate in any form.”

“The decision to honor a group that clearly mocks the Catholic faith and makes light of the sincere and holy vocations of our women religious who are an integral part of our church is what has caused disappointment, concern, anger, and dismay from our Catholic community,” the archdiocese said, the Catholic News Agency reported.

“The ministries and vocations of our religious women should be honored and celebrated through genuine acts of appreciation, reverence, and respect for their sacred vows and for all the good works of our nuns and sisters in service of the mission of the Catholic Church,” the statement continued.

The archdiocese stands against any actions that would disparage and diminish our Christian faith and those who dedicate their lives to Christ. Let us also show our care and respect for our women religious by sending a message of support to their communities through phone calls, letters, and posts on their social channels; supporting vocations by donating to their orders; and/or making donations in their name to the programs they support. Let us show the world how much our women religious mean to us and our church.

The Dodgers did not respond to The Daily Signal’s requests for comment, including whether the team has had conversations with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles about the controversy.


This article was published by The Daily Signal and is reproduced with permission.

Journalism in the Age of Clickbait

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

Newspapers are the lifeblood of American democracy. At least they were. But the last three decades have seen a seismic shift, with storied and less-storied newspapers closing shop as Americans abandon traditional media in favor of more tailored, narrowly focused, and increasingly digital sources of news. More than half of Americans now rely on social media and other algorithm-curated news sources to help choose the articles they read. And only 16% continue to read newspapers and other print news sources, down from almost 50% as recently as 2013. Local newsrooms have been particularly hard hit, with nearly 1,800 newspapers having closed since 2004.

In her new book, Saving the News, Harvard Law School Professor Martha Minow warns that the shift to online news is no mere change to digital window dressing. It is a revolutionary departure that could prove catastrophic for the democratic engagement that news reporting nourishes. Most disruptive to the news industry, says Minow, has been the loss of the subscription revenues that newspapers rely on to fund newsgathering and investigative journalism.

The News We Read

Subscription revenues have been undermined in two ways. First, consumers have become so accustomed to free online content that newspapers have been forced to follow suit—offering up content for free and relying on advertising revenues to fund their operations. Like many businesses, newspapers have struggled to make the transition. A few marquee publications have successfully migrated their subscriber bases to an online format, but many more have been left scrambling, and largely failing, to attract online views.

Second, the online revolution has pressed newspapers to unbundle their content offerings. Like cable-television providers, newspapers long sold large bundles of content, lumping together everything from national politics to high-school athletics, weather forecasts, and crossword puzzles. Readers interested primarily in national politics and crossword puzzles subsidized local newsgathering and vice versa. Now, however, readers can play their daily word puzzle in one place, often for free, and find their political news elsewhere. With so many options available, readers see no need to get everything in one place. This puts newspapers in competition with more streamlined services for niche content and eliminates an important source of revenue.

It would be one thing if newspaper readers were exchanging their print newspapers for digital ones. But for most publications and for most readers, the shift has been more than a change in medium. Readers are not just receiving their old news sources digitally; they are consuming different genres of news altogether. At the heart of the shift, says Professor Minow, are platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Netflix, whose business models have fundamentally changed our media-consumption habits. Anyone who has found herself scrolling through her Twitter newsfeed or Netflix recommendations is familiar with the new landscape: A virtually infinite variety of content is there for the taking, all tailored to individual preferences. Instead of choosing from whatever is currently playing on the Big Three television networks, viewers now direct their own media consumption.

As platforms become ever more attuned to our preferences, we find ourselves inside individualized content bubbles that show us only what we want to see. This trend has carried over to the news industry. Not only have they changed television viewing habits, Minow explains, but “Amazon, YouTube, and Netflix changed the way vast numbers of people find news.” What’s more, she laments, decisions regarding users’ access to news and other media are made “without even consulting them.” “Instead of offering clear choices, digital platforms . . . rely on analyses of computer data usage that is opaque to users.”

The shift toward self-directed, Netflix-style news feeds has changed not only how Americans read the news but also the types of news stories they choose to read. With more and more news being consumed electronically, there is less need for the capital investment and bulky, expensive printing equipment required for traditional publishers. Low entry costs mean that anyone can become a publisher, whether or not they have investors, capital, or anything useful to say. Even low-quality, cheaply produced, clickbait-type articles can be profitable as long as they attract enough online viewers to bring in advertising dollars.

Media outlets have responded by adopting strategies that maximize revenues in the era of cheap content and self-directed media consumption. One such strategy is narrowcasting, where a news story is tailored to appeal to a small slice of the population rather than the public at large. Traditional publishing formats required newspapers to design content with broad appeal to attract a large subscriber base. But internet publication is so inexpensive that it is now a viable strategy to develop content for a single, niche audience.

Many media outlets have also begun to focus on sensational stories that rouse emotions and attract views, clicks, and advertising dollars by splitting the public into opposing camps. The effect, says Professor Minow, “is to make the user into the product and potentially provide easy vehicles for those who profit from increasing social division, fomenting hatred, and undermining democracy.” Perhaps most concerning of all, however, is the type of content we are losing: independent news outlets, regional news coverage, state and local politics, and investigative journalism—the sorts of reporting that drive vigorous participation in the political process.

Saving the News thus exposes an important trend in American journalism: Tailored, divisive, and potentially addictive online content is supplanting many of the news sources that Americans have relied on for the last century and which have been critical to democratic participation. Professor Minow’s critique, however, somewhat overstates the problem. It must be remembered, after all, that the news sources being displaced by digital media bore their own set of flaws—many of them little different from those we see today. Before Buzzfeed’s ten-question personality quizzes and “Foolproof Signs Your Partner is Cheating,” we had Cosmo and People magazines. And before Breitbart News and David Avocado Wolfe, we had cable news and radio shock jocks. Sensational journalism, narrowcasting, and the other tactics have been around for as long as humans have held idiosyncratic preferences and been attracted to salacious content. Content tailoring and scandal peddling may be cheaper and more targeted in the digital age, but the basic premise is nothing new. Everyone likes a good gossip column.

Minow lays bare a dramatic shift that is underway in American news reporting, and she shows how reform may be possible even within the confines of the First Amendment.

Free Speech Questions

A second shortcoming is related to the first. Professor Minow levels a powerful critique against Facebook, Twitter, and the clickbait articles that they host. Such “computational propaganda,” she argues, “enables a surprising amount of disinformation” by attracting user views (and advertising dollars) with “arresting headlines and attention-drawing ads.” That is certainly true, but by stopping there Professor Minnow leaves largely unexplored the other side of the phenomenon—the Americans who repeatedly choose to read such material and whose historical content preferences have trained the algorithms that now fill their social-media feeds. Online content may be vapid, misleading, and even blatantly false. But it is what Americans choose to read.

That is how the whole big-data, social-media machinery operates: Algorithms figure out what we most like to read and then hit us with a never-ending, firehose blast of it. They are Robert Nozick’s pleasure machines actualized! Behind the battle over social media, we thus find the age-old question of individual freedom versus governmental authority to impose well-meaning restrictions in the name of the public good. By approaching Big Tech one dimensionally, as a malevolent power force-feeding us harmful content, Professor Minow overlooks the struggle within each one of us between what we want in the moment and what we know is good for us.

This criticism of its framing aside, however, Saving the News makes at least two important contributions to the debate. First, it brings into unusually stark relief an important trend in American news reporting: the decline of local, in-depth, and investigative journalism. That in itself would be contribution enough. But Professor Minow’s work shines even more brightly when it turns to consider the First Amendment’s place in the online-news and disinformation debates. Does not the First Amendment, she asks, bar congressional action that would implicate expressive internet content? Were Congress to regulate online news reporting directly, of course, it would almost certainly run afoul of the First Amendment. Adherents to “First Amendment fundamentalism” might see this as the end of the inquiry, but, explains Professor Minow, this view misses an important nuance: Although the First Amendment prevents Congress from abridging the freedom of speech, the Constitution is no bar to Congressional action to strengthen speech.

The distinction between abridging versus strengthening free speech is the cornerstone of Professor Minow’s argument. To illustrate the point, she recounts the history of the Federal Communications Commission’s Fairness Doctrine, a rule formally announced by the FCC in 1949, but with roots much earlier, in the first decades of radio and television, when the scarcity of available frequencies limited the number of companies that could broadcast programming. To optimize use of the scarce signal spectrum, the FCC adopted the Fairness Doctrine, which placed significant restrictions on radio and television broadcasters’ freedom to select content: It imposed “must-carry” requirements on broadcasters to host news and other programming thought to be in the public interest, and, when discussing controversial issues of public concern, required broadcasters to present competing points of view to ensure that all sides of the issue were discussed. Despite these significant restrictions on broadcasters’ expressive activity, the Supreme Court upheld the rule against First Amendment challenge in its famous 1969 decision, Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC, reasoning that the scarcity of available frequencies made broadcast licensees trustees for the public and that the challenged Fairness Doctrine would enhance rather than restrict freedom of expression.

The history of the Fairness Doctrine and the Supreme Court’s Red Lion decision thus support Professor Minow’s basic point: Governmental expansion of avenues for speech on important issues is different from naked restriction of speech, even if some speech must be restricted in the process. Of course, the Fairness Doctrine was terminated in 1987 as part of the Reagan Administration’s deregulation program. And, Minow concedes, “A fair question is whether it would remain viable legally as the predicate of spectrum scarcity fades, given that content is now carried not just by broadcasting but also over cable and the internet.” Yet, even if the Fairness Doctrine itself might no longer be constitutionally sound, Minow urges Congress to take inspiration from it and consider new, alternative measures that would, as the Red Lion Court found, “enhance rather than abridge the freedoms of speech and press protected by the First Amendment.”

After introducing this key insight, Professor Minow avoids putting her weight behind any particular reform proposal. Instead, she presents a veritable smorgasbord of ideas. Social media companies might, for example, be required to pay local news sources for their stories, with the hope of reinvigorating local journalism; or consumer protection law might be leveraged to force platforms to remove fake or fraudulent online accounts; or Congress might even adopt the British model and use taxpayer funds to support newsgathering and reporting directly. In a way, what approach we should take is not Minow’s point. Her point is that traditional news journalism is in trouble and that we must resolve to do something about it, even if we don’t yet know exactly what.

In Saving the News, Professor Minow lays bare a dramatic shift that is underway in American news reporting, and she shows how reform may be possible even within the confines of the First Amendment. There is room to disagree on the proposals she offers, and her account of social media’s ills must be tempered by consideration of our own role and the importance of individual self-determination. But Professor Minow offers a compelling account of a shift we have all felt, toward sensationalistic and divisive media content. Anyone who thinks on these issues will benefit from her work.

This article was published by Law and Liberty and is reproduced with permission.

We Are Becoming Venezuela

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Those who regularly read my column know that The Beautiful Wife and I are experienced, world travelers. We have been to 80 countries together and love to travel to all corners of the world. One of the countries I would really like to go to is Venezuela.

At one point not too long ago, Venezuela had the best economy in Latin America and was in the top 20 economies in the world. It has the largest oil reserves in the world. In the last two decades of the 20th century, the economy started to decline. It was still a country with which many people I knew did business and visited regularly. I wanted to vacation there. I heard wonderful things about Caracas, the capital.

Then Hugo Chavez became president promising a Bolivian (socialist) revolution. He indeed provided a revolution until he died. A revolution of despair. The current leader, Nicolas Maduro, took over the country and finished destroying any semblance of civilized life. Human Rights Watch has reported there is a full-blown humanitarian crisis lacking safe water, basic nutrition, and healthcare. Whoever can get out has gotten out.

We missed our opportunity to visit Venezuela and likely will never be able to safely vacation there in our lifetimes.

The same thing is happening to major cities in the United States, and it too is self-inflicted. The elected leaders of these cities have driven the economies into the ground, driven out businesses, and created lawless environments.

I am specifically addressing San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. These are cities I have visited numerous times over the years. I walked around their downtown areas without a care for  safety and experienced all aspects of life there. No more. The elected leaders have allowed the cities to be driven into the ground. They have out-of-control homeless populations that make the entire environment unsafe and grimy.

I will no longer be driving down Lombard Street or walking around Union Square or enjoying a meal at Sears in San Francisco. I will no longer be walking over to Powell’s Books in Portland and then grabbing some lunch after cruising the book racks. I will no longer be heading over to Pike’s Place in Seattle to take in the wonderful fish market. Seattle handed over an entire section of their downtown to criminals and it has never fully recovered.

You cannot blame any of this on blacks or other minorities as they represent a minor portion of the population in these cities. No, the dismal decline of these cities is caused by the most dangerous people in America – white liberals. They have voted for hard-core Leftists to come into office with their extreme policies. They think they are doing well for others by allowing the public school systems to corrode while sending their own children to private schools. They believe criminals should not have ramifications for their crimes because the crimes were just a manifestation of their challenging past.

I will not be visiting any of these cities soon and maybe not ever again.

There is another city I am thinking of adding to the list. Just 18 months ago after numerous prior visits, we were in Chicago. We were there when possibly the worst mayor in American history was in office – Lori Lightfoot. She was so bad her constituency gave her only 17% in the election primary, thus eliminating her from the general election.

Given an opportunity to begin correcting the malaise Lightfoot created, the residents of Chicago doubled down by electing someone who could easily become worse. With a failing school system, they elected someone who received 95% of his contributions from public employee unions, largely from the teachers’ union.

Even before Brandon Johnson was installed into office, he displayed what a disaster he will become. After a mob destroyed parts of his city and threatened tourists, he made an astonishing statement regarding their criminal activity. What he should have said was he condemned the actions and that when he becomes mayor, he will put a stop to these kinds of actions.

Instead, he stated, “In no way do I condone the destructive activity we saw in the Loop and lakefront this weekend. It is and has no place in our city. However, it is not constructive to demonize youth who have otherwise been starved of opportunities in their own communities. Our city must work together to create spaces for youth to gather safely and responsibly, under adult guidance and supervision, to ensure that every part of our city remains welcome for both residents and visitors. This is one aspect of my comprehensive approach to improve public safety and make Chicago livable for everyone.”

That does not inspire confidence that I or anyone else walking his streets will be safe. While he is having social sessions, people will be beaten and robbed. His comments provided encouragement to the mob to continue their lawless actions because they will face no consequences.

Mr. Johnson won his election largely on the back of two groups voting for him — blacks and, you guessed it, the most dangerous group in America – white liberals. Funny, the area the mob attacked was where they live.

I may return to these cities once they decide to install sane leaders with sane policies. The Beautiful Wife and I have plenty of places to visit that are safer than the places mentioned above. I am thinking of Bangladesh.


This article was published by FlashReport and is reproduced with permission from the author.