Even better for sheer comic embarrassment, I reckon, is the interview the BBC’s North America Technology reporter, James Clayton, did this week with the world’s second-richest man and Twitter CEO Elon Musk. Generally, when a journalist is preparing for an encounter of that importance, you really do your homework. Young Clayton thought it was sufficient to turn up with a bunch of lazy, Leftist assumptions which probably quite accurately represent the groupthink in the BBC newsroom. Elon Musk had other ideas.
Clayton pointed out that Musk had sacked a lot of “content moderators” at Twitter. “There’s not enough people to police this stuff, particularly around hate speech,” he chastised.
“What hate speech are you talking about?” asked Musk amiably. “You use Twitter. Do you see a rise in hate speech? I don’t.”
“Personally, on my For You [page], I would get more of that kind of content, yeah, personally,” burbled Clayton incoherently.
Musk pushed back: “You see more hate speech personally? Content you don’t like, or what?” The Twitter boss challenged the man from the Beeb to “describe a hateful thing”.
Clayton: “You know, just content that … may include something that is slightly racist or slightly sexist.”
As flies to wanton boys are junior reporters to tech titans. They kill them for their sport. “So, you think if something is slightly sexist it should be banned?” Musk mused lethally.
“No, I’m not saying anything,” protested Clayton, by now dimly aware (very dimly, no John Simpson he) that prey had turned predator.
Musk challenged the journalist to name just one specific example of the content he claimed to have been offended by. Panicking, the reporter executed a screeching U-turn. Clayton had stopped using the Twitter For You page for the past few weeks, he said.
“So, how could you see that hateful content?… Sir, you don’t know what you’re talking about. You can’t even give me a single example … not even one tweet and yet you claimed the hateful content was high. That’s a false. You just lied!”
Oh, wow. Checkmate, Elon Musk.
That implies that Justice Thomas never disclosed his interest in the Savannah house where his mother lived. But he didn’t need to. “Information pertaining to a personal residence is exempted from reporting, unless the property generates rental income,” the filing instructions say on page 33. Nor was there any requirement to disclose the ownership of the other two Savannah properties after the houses were demolished. Who wants to rent an empty lot in Savannah?
When an asset isn’t sold but stops being reportable—in this case because it is no longer capable of generating rental income—page 50 of the filing instructions directs the filer to “insert ‘(Y)’ after the asset description in Column A and leave Columns B-D blank, or include an explanatory note in Part VIII.” Justice Thomas did exactly that for the Savannah rental properties in 2010, and for the Liberty County property in 2015. The latter footnote reads simply: “Line 1: The asset listed on line 1 does not receive any rental income for this property.” This is the disclosure Ms. Canter and her co-signers mistake for a deception.
When my mother died in 2019, I inherited a one-third interest in her house, which I sold to my brother. I understand the statute to mean that if I had been a federal judge, I would be obligated to disclose that transaction. But if I hadn’t been made aware of the statute, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to think of my inheritance as an “investment,” and I searched the filing instructions in vain for language that makes plain a judge’s duty to disclose this sort of transaction.
George Will isn’t optimistic about the short-run prospects of class fluidity in America. Here’s his conclusion:
Speaking of vehicles, there is a cultural variable that is pertinent to political predictions. For more than 40 years, the Ford F-Series truck has been the nation’s best-selling vehicle — not just the best-selling truck. Do you own one or know anyone who does? If your answer is “yes,” or if it is “no,” you probably are a member of, and a stranger to, a large American (if you will forgive the expression) class.
We tend to think of Adam Smith’s lifelong project as offering a description of human relations and passions and an argument for markets. But as some of his earliest American readers understood, Smith often takes the commercial economy as a given, and looks to convince us to choose a virtuous life. He was plainly a champion of the market economy, for its ability to improve both wealth and dignity. But it was in the realm of moral philosophy that he seemed to think persuasion was most necessary.
At its best, lots of philanthropy is very useful, but may not be sustainable over time—a sugar high that rarely enables that “teach a man how to fish” thing. Effective altruism may be an oxymoron. And it’s hard to miss that much of philanthropy is to fix government failures in education, welfare or medicine. I think that was Bono’s point.
But at its shadiest, philanthropy drives the misallocation of capital, overvaluing professors, the U.N. and climate poets and undervaluing those who can productively increase societal wealth to fund solutions to the future’s harder problems.
If only there were a way to use capital to provide opportunity, train workers, pay middle-class wages, help people build wealth … wait, it just came to me. How about starting new companies and investing in entrepreneurs and world-changing technology? Sure, that’s “a hazardous journey,” but so what? Actually, part of OpenAI is now a for-profit. Yes, it turns out the perfect cure for the flaw in capitalism is, voilà, more capitalism. You may not get that warm fuzzy feeling or media adulation—in fact, you’ll likely be labeled greedy—but you might fund future economic powerhouses. Scolds will throw shade. Ignore them.
Second, for trust in science. The Covid lockdowns revealed a nasty streak of authoritarianism in some medical circles. Many commitments made by leading medics and scientists in the past 30 years to public dialogue, engagement and partnership were binned in favour of a false certainty and a simplistic read-off from science to policy. Public-health leaders used to see their role as educators, acknowledging uncertainties. “Do as I say” is not a good way to build trust, let alone being nudged by subliminal pressures to comply rather than question.
The lack of rigorous research on masks stands for the wider policy failures of a state that has excessively privileged expertise from the medical and natural sciences without recognising that its impact always depends on its translation into actions by ordinary citizens.