All posts filed under: Features

On Betrayal by the Left – Talking with Ex-Muslim Sarah Haider

In twenty-first-century America, what happens to a young woman who has wised up and quit a faith-based ideology that ordains the second-class status of women, the submissiveness of wives to husbands (even violent husbands), the partial disinheritance of female heirs in favor of their male counterparts, the stoning of adulterers (and especially adulteresses, given the misogynistic vagaries of evidentiary law associated with said ideology), the taking of captive women as sex slaves, the adherence to a cumbersome dress code, and that also sanctions the savagery of female genital mutilation? Does she win plaudits for standing up her for rights as a woman? Do progressives recite panegyrics that sing her courage and praise her clear-sightedness? Is she inundated with offers of support? Does she feel, perhaps for the first time in her life, that the United States, her adopted country – the only country on Earth established, at least according to its foundational documents, on the rights to free speech, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – wholly and unreservedly welcomes her as one of its …

Censorship-Free Social Media: the Next Big Thing, or Just Another Echo Chamber?

In July 2016, Breitbart Tech journalist and notorious right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was permanently banned from Twitter. It wasn’t his first run-in with the Twitter authorities, but this time the ban was permanent. The justification was that he had allegedly encouraged his 300,000-odd followers to harass Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones. But his fans took the view that Yiannopoulos, like others before and since, had been kicked off Twitter because his conservative politics offended the sensibilities of its left-wing CEO, Jack Dorsey. Four months later, Donald Trump — candidate of choice for Yiannopoulos and his alt-right fellow travellers — achieved a surprise victory in the US presidential election; a seismic political upheaval that, like the similarly unexpected Brexit vote, seemed to put the impotence of the establishment media beyond any doubt. If Twitter and other Democrat-supporting behemoths thought that policing online speech was going to carry Hillary Clinton to victory, they were mistaken. Censorship, however, is like alternative medicine: if it doesn’t work, you just need to do more of it. Social media purges have only intensified since …

Is Hayek’s Moral Vision Compatible with Democracy?

One of the most extraordinary intellects of recent times, F. A. Hayek’s ideas of individual liberty and free markets are embedded in modern discourse. His economic and social theories helped unite social conservatives, free market proponents, and anti-communists who crafted an alliance on both sides of the Atlantic during the last half of the 20th century. His innovative thought was vital to contemporary idioms like deregulation, globalization, and right sizing government. Today there are well over one hundred “market oriented” institutes that promote Hayek’s theories and social philosophy and even present day governments and political parties still acknowledge his contributions. Yet, ironically, the great economist was uncomfortable with the label ‘conservative’ — always describing himself as a classical liberal. Despite so much public acclaim, little known features of the professor’s social thought are especially relevant to today’s political and cultural controversies. Although Hayek is celebrated by conservative activists and institutes as a bulwark for traditional values, many well informed people would be surprised to learn that his beliefs concerning morality and its role in a free …

Why British Academics are Guilty of Groupthink

According to recent studies, the majority of British and American academics are to be found on the left wing of the political landscape. It is estimated that up to 80% of professional academics are left-liberals, leading to warnings of the dangers of groupthink in universities. The current anti-Brexit, pity party mood within UK universities is part of this culture of academic groupthink prevalent in the higher education sector. Academic unions and senior university managers have, in a rare show of shared values, sought to console those seemingly traumatised by the result of a democratic referendum. One obvious possible reason for the apparent lack of EU naysayers within universities is the inverse correlation researchers have found between the level of educational attainment and the likelihood of voting to leave the EU. It is reassuring to think that ignorance and bigotry are the cause of all our woes. But what about the nonintellectual reasons why academics might support membership of the EU so uncritically? When experts are viewed with such famous disdain, perhaps academics should ask themselves …

Money Laundering for the Soul: The Unbearable Ease of Moral Self-Exoneration

Perhaps it was the recent steady trickle of headlines reporting banned refugees, gunned down immigrants, and desecrated graveyards that got me thinking about the human ability to do onto others what we would not at all want others to do onto us; the facility with which we come to hurt others in ways that a short time earlier would have seemed inconceivable, and will no doubt seem so again in the not-far future; our ability to suspend our moral principles and ignore — or worse yet, inflict — cruel conduct that is in clear violation of the moral principles we claim to espouse. We do this with surprising ease, often basing sustained bouts of deliberate nastiness on nebulous reasoning. To quote the writer Loren Eisley, humans “kill for shadowy ideas more ferociously than other creatures kill for food.” And we do it with relish. As the British philosopher Jonathan Glover has noted, “Our species’ fascination and preoccupation with inflicting brutality on itself, the sheer innovative effort dedicated to the task, and the visceral thrill of …

Methods Behind the Campus Madness

Unless you are living under a rock, you should know that a recent talk by Charles Murray was shouted down by a group of Middlebury College Maoists and was followed by random acts of violence and assault in a carpark. As Murray was escorted out, by Professor Allison Stanger, a renowned scholar of International Relations, a lady more courageous than any of the wannabe Red Guards acting like brutes in a pack, she was pulled by her hair, which affected her neck, and she was forced to go to the hospital and wear a neck brace. Murray, a scholar known for his provocative, and hitherto unreplicated 1994 opus, The Bell Curve, was invited to the college to give a talk about his more recent book, Coming Apart. The rest, is well archived and painful. I wrote recently that the campus violence won’t stop with the violence in Berkeley against Milo. I wasn’t wrong. One look at the protesters would be enough to fathom that none of them even bothered to read Murray’s scholarship; that would …

Sociology’s Stagnation

Emile Durkheim is the father of modern sociology; he is a titan. Over a century ago the great man issued an edict that would forever alter — or you could say, forever derail — the course of the discipline that he established. His proclamation, paraphrased loosely, was that any social occurrence was a product of other social occurrences that came before it. Society and culture were “prime movers”, an ultimate cause of things in the world that, for its own part, had no cause. Social facts orbited in their own solar system, untethered from the psychology and biology of individual humans. It’s almost as if this idea originated from a burning bush, high on some ancient mountain, as it would to this day steer the direction of much social science thought. Durkheim’s insight would be a hall pass for social scientists to spend decades ignoring certain uncomfortable realities. Let me try and give you an idea of just how fetid the waters really are. In 1990 (over two decades ago) the sociologist Pierre van den …

On Truth and Beauty

To my great surprise I found myself reading a Buzzfeed listicle the other day. The piece: “Women’s ideal body types through history.” The contents: various images of a diverse cast of models showing how beauty standards have changed over time. One of the first things that struck me as I skimmed the article was that while female beauty standards do seem to have changed over time (though not too much — almost all the models were slim) it’s curious that the ideal male form hasn’t changed at all; Michelangelo’s David is as beautiful in 2017 as he was in 1517 and can expect to be in 2517. I learned that the Ancient Egyptians believed long braided hair was an important aspect of female beauty. Braids “framed a symmetrical face”, and the most desired women were slender, with high waists and slim shoulders. (The “Ancient Egyptian” model was African-American, although Ancient Egyptians are more likely to have resembled other Mediterranean peoples.) Chinese women of the Han Dynasty (c.206BC – 220AD) were expected to have long black hair, red lips and white …

Why Social Scientists Should Not Participate in the March for Science

Many social scientists are excited about and poised to participate in the upcoming March for Science, which is being described by the organizers as a “celebration of our passion for science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community.” I realize that this will be a controversial position, but I believe the best way social scientists can contribute to the March for Science is to quietly sit this one out. I am very much pro-science and share some of the concerns people have about cultural and political threats to science. That being said, in my opinion, the social sciences are currently too compromised to help the cause. Even those who have the best intentions risk doing more harm than good. Why? For one, there is very little political and ideological diversity in the social sciences. It is true that many academic fields lean left, but this especially the case within the social sciences. Check out Heterodox Academy for details. In many social science departments it is easier to find a Marxist than a …

How French Intellectuals Lost Their Faith

As the Socialist government of François Hollande slumps into obscurity, the favourites in this year’s French presidential elections are a liberal, Emmanuel Macron, a conservative, François Fillon, and a national conservative, Marine Le Pen. Amid the usual corruption scandals is the smell of what the French call “le declinisme.“ France is a country ill-at-ease with itself. Mr Hollande plumbed record depths in his approval ratings and while Ms Le Pen is predicted to lose the elections, it is astonishing that she has so much of a shot. Populism has spread across America and Europe, of course, but what distinguishes France is the extent to which its artists and intellectuals have expressed the same concerns as its electorate. This is somewhat surprising. French intellectuals have long been at the forefront of revolutionary thought. Voltaire and Rousseau radicalised French liberal opinion in the years before the toppling of the Ancien Regime. In the 20th Century, Sartre, Althusser and Badiou promoted communism, while Lacan, Derrida, and Foucault dug into the foundations of Western culture. Their disciples led the …