All posts filed under: Features

How the Social Justice Movement Fuels Corporate Capitalism

Before diving into a topic I’m sure will prove controversial, I want to start by clarifying that, as my other articles or my book Modern Sexuality can attest, I am very much pro-social justice. This piece is about how social justice has gone off the rails and been co-opted by capitalist or, dare I say, corporatist influences. Secondly, I am not anti-capitalist, in the sense of individuals having free rights to produce whatever product or service the market demands and receiving a fair price in return. Rather, I am opposed to unfettered, corporatist capitalism in which corporations create monopolies and influence politics and culture mainly to serve their business interests. With that out of the way, let’s go back to the fall of 2008 to examine how the social justice movement lost its way. On September 24, then-President George Bush made a special appearance on TV to warn the American public that the economy was on the verge of collapse. Several weeks prior, investment bank Lehman Brothers had filed for bankruptcy, producing a domino effect and taking the …

Platitudes About Terrorism Are Not Helping

Yesterday afternoon, a terrorist drove a 4×4 car onto the footpath of Westminster Bridge, mowing down pedestrians, maiming dozens and killing four people. Among the dead was a British police officer, Keith Palmer, a husband and a father. The British Prime Minister Theresa May called the attack “sick and depraved”. Yet it did not take long for others to put forward defensive statements: To an alien newly arrived from Jupiter it would appear that we humans on Earth merely have to say what we are and we magically become that thing. Witness all the debates about on campus about gender and racial and disabled identity. But terrorists who memorise the Quran, shout Allahu Akbar as they plough into pedestrians and—most importantly—self-identify as Muslim, are told by the liberal left “Nope, sorry. Not a Muslim”. When someone says “terrorism has no religion” they need to start by defining religion. Is Scientology religion? Is Scientology pure and virtuous and the people who do evil things in its name simply not real Scientologists? Were the Crusaders not real …

Cordelia Fine’s “Testosterone Rex” — A Review

A review of Testosterone Rex, by Cordelia Fine. W.W. Norton and Company (January 2017) 272 pages.  “Scientism”. “Orientalism”. “Historicism”. The trouble with inventing a belief system and ascribing it to your opponents is that you might inadvertently have built a straw man. After all, nobody actively signs up to these supposed philosophies: they’re terms of criticism or abuse. One such nebulous belief system is the topic of psychologist Cordelia Fine’s new book, Testosterone Rex. Unconcerned by the straw-manning risk, Fine introduces the eponymous “Testosterone Rex” as the “story of sex and society” that holds that there are male brains and there are female brains, programmed by evolution to be irreconcilably different, with testosterone explaining males’ greater risk-taking, promiscuity, competitiveness, and dominance. Fine argues that modern science is the asteroid that wiped out this T-Rex, revealing subtler cultural—not biological—explanations for the sex differences we see in society. Fine’s first target is the ‘Bateman Gradient’, a seminal (excuse the pun) finding on sexual selection from 1940s experiments on fruit flies. Geneticist Angus Bateman found that the link …

Using Social Media Scientifically

It is often said that we need more science in our public debate. By this, it is usually meant that people should base their views on scientific facts, which have more authority than mere opinion. It is said that political leaders and public commentators should be both scientifically literate, and base their views on scientific findings where it is relevant to do so. While this is a noble goal, it is not what I’m proposing here. Instead, I’d like to argue that we should attempt, on a day-to-day basis, to approach social media and news consumption scientifically. What do I mean by ‘scientifically’? Social media, and the internet more broadly, have afforded us tremendous potential to access information, and to interact with people beyond our immediate social circles. Interacting with others helps us to develop our knowledge of the world by digesting information, disseminating it, or engaging in dialogue about it. We can test our views about the world—however informal or loosely formed they are—against the views of others. However, social media debates can often …

On Parenting and Parents

It’s been a little over a year since my first article on parenting appeared in the pages of Quillette. Soon after publication, the essay began receiving quite a bit of attention; both positive and negative. This is to be expected for a topic that is as personally relevant to people as this one. People either have children of their own, or know what it is like to be someone’s child. We all have skin in this part of the game. My argument in that essay was somewhat incendiary, as I was suggesting that little evidence exists for pervasive and long-lasting parenting influences on child development. I still maintain that position; not out of a personal bias, but simply because that is what the evidence demands of me. That said, this essay is about why parenting is arguably the single most important activity in which you will engage. This is true, not because you will mould your child’s intellect or personality like a potter. Rather, this is true because your child might write a similar essay about …

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 …