Daily Media Links 9/2

September 2, 2021   •  By Nathan Maxwell   •  
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The Courts

Washington Post: Va. Supreme Court affirms judge’s ruling reinstating Loudoun teacher who refused to use transgender pronouns

By Hannah Natanson

The Virginia Supreme Court this week reaffirmed a lower court’s decision requiring Loudoun County Public Schools to reinstate [Tanner Cross] whom Loudoun had suspended for refusing to use transgender students’ pronouns…

In June, Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge James E. Plowman ruled that the school district must reinstate Cross as the teacher’s lawsuit proceeds. Plowman called Loudoun’s punishment of Cross “unconstitutional” because it “silenced others from speaking publicly” on the issue of transgender rights. Loudoun appealed the decision to the state’s high court.

On Monday, the Virginia Supreme Court asserted that Plowman’s decision must stand. The justices wrote in a 14-page court order that Loudoun had failed to prove that “the circuit court abused its discretion.”…

“Cross was opposing a policy that might burden his freedoms of expression and religion by requiring him to speak and interact with students in a way that affirms gender transition,” the justices wrote. “Although the [Loudoun school] Board may have considered Cross’ speech to be ‘a trifling and annoying instance of individual distasteful abuse of a privilege,’ we believe Cross has a strong claim to the view that his public dissent implicates ‘fundamental societal values’ deeply embedded in our Constitutional Republic.”

Business Insider: How Marc Elias, the Democrats’ $1,200-an-hour legal bulldog, is preparing for his own war with Trumpism

By C. Ryan Barber and Jack Newsham

Elias Law Group is launching with 15 partners, all but one of whom are coming from Perkins Coie, with a total of 50 lawyers, Elias said. He expects it to have more than 60 by the end of September and more than 70 by the start of 2022.

It will have two groups, with the partner Elisabeth Frost overseeing litigation and Ezra Reese presiding over the political-law practice, where lawyers counsel campaigns, political action committees, and nonprofits on campaign finance and other election-related issues.

Congress

Washington Post: Congress may be about to help local news. It can’t happen soon enough.

By Margaret Sullivan

Bipartisan support in Congress has gathered for the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, and its supporters believe there’s a decent chance it will be a part of the huge spending bill that Congress is now focusing on.

The proposal, which provides a series of tax credits rather than direct grants, is intended to give local newspapers, digital-only publications and other local news organizations a chance to be financially viable as they figure out how to make their way in the new digital world…

For many journalists, the notion of government funding has long been a kind of dangerous “third rail” — not worth the risks.

I used to be in that camp myself. Who wants public officials or government bureaucrats interfering in news, I always felt. No, thanks.

But having watched the grim consequences of local news’s worsening decline over the past two decades, I think the Local Journalism Sustainability Act has real value.

Research

Election Law Blog: ELB Book Corner: Primo and Milyo (Post 3 of 4): Campaign Finance Laws Won’t “Fix” American Democracy

By Rick Hasen

I am pleased to welcome to ELB Book Corner David Primo and Jeff Milyo, writing about their new book, Campaign Finance and American Democracy: What The Public Really Thinks and Why It Matters (U Chicago Press 2020). Here is their third of four posts:

The states provide a natural laboratory for studying the effects of campaign finance reform because regulations vary across states and change over time more frequently than at the federal level…

We construct the largest dataset to date of survey results asking Americans about trust and confidence in state government—nearly 60,000 individual-level observations in all. Our data spans several changes in state campaign finance laws, allowing us to leverage these changes to better estimate the effects of laws, as well as the Citizens United decision, on trust, giving us a unique window into that controversial decision’s effects on trust in government.

Our book goes into detail on the underlying statistical methodology, but the bottom line is this: we find there simply is no meaningful relationship between state-level trust in government and state campaign finance laws—including contribution limits and public financing—during this time period. We view this as the most important finding in our book, as it challenges 45 years of assumptions about the role campaign finance reform plays in maintaining confidence in government.

Free Speech

TK News by Matt Taibbi: NPR Trashes Free Speech. A Brief Response

By Matt Taibbi

The guests for NPR’s just-released On The Media episode about the dangers of free speech included Andrew Marantz, author of an article called, “Free Speech is Killing Us”; P.E. Moskowitz, author of “The Case Against Free Speech”; Susan Benesch, director of the “Dangerous Speech Project”; and Berkeley professor John Powell, whose contribution was to rip John Stuart Mill’s defense of free speech in On Liberty as “wrong.”

That’s about right for NPR, which for years now has regularly congratulated itself for being a beacon of diversity while expunging every conceivable alternative point of view…

The essence of arguments made by all of NPR’s guests is that the modern conception of speech rights is based upon John Stuart Mill’s outdated conception of harm, which they summarized as saying, “My freedom to swing my fist ends at the tip of your nose.”

Because, they say, we now know that people can be harmed by something other than physical violence, Mill…was wrong, and we have to recalibrate our understanding of speech rights accordingly…

It was all a near-perfect distillation of the pretensions of NPR’s current target audience, which clearly feels we’ve reached the blue-state version of the End of History, where all important truths are agreed upon, and there’s no longer need to indulge empty gestures to pluralism like the “marketplace of ideas.”

Online Speech Platforms

Jonathan Turley: Twitter Permanently Bans Former NYT Journalist Alex Berenson

We previously discussed how Twitter’s growing censorship program has targeted former New York Times journalist and author Alex Berenson who is an outspoken critic of the government’s scientific claims and response to the pandemic… Now he is permanently suspended after his criticism of the vaccine and possible side effects. Twitter has again showed that it will silence those who dare to disagree or even question its approved narrative and that of government.

On his Substack page, Berenson posted a brief message titled, “Goodbye Twitter.” He then posted the following as the tweet that was the final straw with Twitter.

“Don’t think of it as a vaccine,” he continued. “Think of it – at best – as a therapeutic with a limited window of efficacy and terrible side effect profile that must be dosed IN ADVANCE OF ILLNESS.”…

The most chilling aspect of this story is how many on the left applaud such censorship. A new poll shows roughly half of the public supporting not just corporate censorship but government censorship of anything deemed “misinformation.”

CNN: Fighting vaccine disinformation is crucial to ending the pandemic

By Ann M. Ravel and Kristin Urquiza

We must demand social media companies take serious steps to curb vaccine misinformation and disinformation. Here’s what these companies should do:

Anyone with more than 50,000 followers — that is, a person that we’ve determined has “high reach” on social media — and a history of sharing disinformation about Covid-19 should have their posts subjected to a pre-clearance policy in which the content can be fact-checked before it’s posted online and damage has already been done…

It’s also critical for the federal government to play a more significant role. To begin, the Biden-Harris administration should create a coordinated national response and appoint a disinformation expert to the Covid-19 task force…

Congress should also advance legislation that improves public access to critical social media data. In particular, the Social Media DATA Act and the Algorithmic Justice and Online Platform Transparency Act would help hold powerful social media companies accountable by increasing access to information about content moderation and online ad targeting.

CNN: Reddit takes action against groups spreading Covid misinformation

By Rishi Iyengar

After days of controversy over its decision not to crack down on misinformation about Covid-19, Reddit is somewhat backtracking, taking action against dozens of its groups known as “subreddits.”

The social media site on Wednesday banned one prominent subreddit called r/NoNewNormal, which described itself as hosting a “[skeptical] discussion of the ‘new normal’ that has manifested as an outcome of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic” and has been flagged by several prominent subreddits as a significant source of Covid-19 and vaccine misinformation…

And while r/NoNewNormal was the only subreddit banned outright, Reddit also said it had placed 54 other subreddits under “quarantine” — a term the platform uses for communities it places behind a warning and removes from search and recommendations. The most common reason for communities to be quarantined, according to Reddit’s page on the policy, is if they host “highly offensive or upsetting” content or are “dedicated to promoting hoaxes … that warrant additional scrutiny.”

The States

Pioneer Press: MN lawmaker cuts off 3 fingers in saw mishap; lobbyists’ donations create awkwardness

By Dave Orrick

On Aug. 22, Rep. Erin Koegel, DFL-Spring Lake Park, lost control of a power saw and cut off three fingers on her left hand, according to a statement she released Tuesday…

Soon after, a GoFundMe page was established online to raise money to “help the family with hiring a mommy’s helper/child care, food and necessities for the family while Erin recovers from this accident.”…

The cause was amplified by House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, who tweeted out a call for donations. They flowed in. As of Tuesday afternoon, the site listed more than $8,300 in donations, exceeding the stated goal of $5,000.

What raised a few eyebrows among those knowledgeable of state politics was that a number of lobbyists’ names could be seen on the donor list.

That would appear to be a violation of a state law that prohibits state lawmakers and other public officials and employees from accepting most gifts worth more than $5 from lobbyists…

“It was more ‘please help my co-worker,’ [Hortman] said. “Let’s just be human beings and damn the torpedoes.”

Nathan Maxwell

https://www.ifs.org/author/nmaxwell/

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