All posts filed under: Politics

Evergreen State and the Battle for Modernity

Last week, tiny public liberal arts college Evergreen State in Olympia, Washington became the focus of national attention when progressive biology professor Bret Weinstein attracted the ire of a student lynch mob for refusing to leave campus due to being white. I won’t delve into the full timeline, which can be readily found elsewhere, but basically the university has celebrated a long standing tradition starting in the 70s, called Day of Absence, in which black students consensually left campus in order to leave “those left to reflect on the meaning of their community without these essential members.” On this particular occasion, they requested that whites leave instead, and when Weinstein wrote an email protesting, describing the event as “a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself,” chaos shortly ensued. Online videos surfaced displaying student activists menacing, cursing, and chanting at white professors, even demanding that president George Bridges keep his hands to his side. Currently, news reports indicate that vigilante groups are roaming the campus with bats, seeking out Weinstein …

Manchester’s Children and the Regressive Left

Editor’s note: This goes to publication on the same day that the London Attacks have occurred on London Bridge and at Borough Market. This latest attack comes less than a fortnight after the Manchester bombing.   Are the enlightened losing the battle of ideas? It would certainly seem so. Moral decay, hypocrisy, ginned-up hysteria, and denials of verifiable fact are suffusing our public discourse. Atavism, nativism, undue respect for religion (and one religion in particular, about which more below) are now ascendant; a childishly intolerant, tantrum-like brand of Leftist militancy has emerged, with intersectionality, cultural appropriation, and “privilege” being the fashionable catchwords, and de-platforming controversial speakers a common manifestation. (The specter of postmodernism hovers over all the above.) This militancy displays a strain of ideological derangement so outlandish that it resembles the most vicious of nuthouse satire and would be risible if it weren’t so dangerous. We can safely say that we’re teetering on the brink of civilizational suicide—a suicide assisted by those of the illiberal left. Nowhere is this more evident than on university campuses. In mid-May at …

A Summer Night, London, 2017

What might take place on a random summer Saturday night in a European capital city? It might be full of armed police rushing to a pub, barking at patrons to lie down immediately, because there’s a possibility of a bomb that might go off. There will be texting to colleagues who work in an area, to ask if they are okay. Friends will call each other advising them to avoid certain “no-go” areas. There will be a constant refreshing of one’s Twitter feed or the feeling of being glued to a news channel if you’re at home. It is BBC writing there’s a “Van incident at a bridge”, a euphemism, of course. But everyone will know what it means, what just happened, and who might be responsible. No one talks about it in civilised circles anymore, and certainly not on the BBC. It is watching a high trust society behave like a war zone. It is police tweeting and asking public to “run, hide and tell”. It is police making hundreds of late night revellers walk in a straight …

Paranoid Paleoconservatives

On Saturday 19 November 2016, less than two weeks after Donald Trump’s presidential election victory, the National Policy Institute held its annual conference in Washington DC. Ordinarily an obscure talking shop noticed by no-one, this year the mood among the 200 or so attendees was buoyant and the event had attracted a handful of curious journalists and angry protesters. Trump’s populist campaign had energized a political fringe tendency now known as the alt-right (or ‘alternative right’), and the NPI’s director Richard Spencer had enjoyed some exposure as one of movement’s more articulate spokesmen. But the alt-right was still, on the whole, an unknown quantity. Media interest during the election had been fitful as attention focused on Trump’s pugnacious and apparently chaotic campaign. If the movement was understood at all, it was generally thought to be an epiphenomenon; a strange byproduct of the Trump candidacy and a racist internet subculture, notorious for the harassment campaigns it directed against anti-Trump conservatives and Jewish journalists on social media. As for alt-right ideology, if such a thing existed it …

Cultural Appropriation Sold Out When It Went Mainstream

It’s not the bloodbaths I mind so much as the tedium. Some of us survived the sub/dub wars; we should feel proud to see new generations hammering their keyboards with a violent passion, endlessly disputing the details of how to appreciate foreign culture. Unfortunately this turned out to be simultaneously the age in which everyone is expected to acknowledge the politics of cultural appropriation, and the age of trending topics and viral clicktivism. Public criticism of cultural appropriation, even in its more sober and reflective manifestations, duly narrows to a couple of apparent trends. One is a prominent concern with offensiveness, though the fact that so many things are now discovered to be offensive tends to dull its effect. Some appeals to offence do have a further dimension: objections to profane imitation of what a people holds to be sacred. The catch is that appeals to sanctity don’t fit neatly into a wider category of cultural appropriation: they won’t credibly work for sushi or sombreros, so if cultural appropriation per se is morally suspect then …

The EU’s Cosmopolitanism Gap

Senior figures in the European Union are growing impatient with its Eastern members over their refusal to accept refugees. Emmanuel Macron, the new president of France, has threatened sanctions if Poland and Hungary remain stubborn. Why is this? I hope to avoid unduly extending generalisations. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe are all different. All contain multitudes. In Poland, where I am fortunate enough to live, I have met progressives, liberals, libertarians, conservatives, traditionalists and, perversely, given recent history, adherents of communism and national socialists; as well, of course, as many people who hate politics. Nonetheless, it is a matter of undeniable fact that nations of the CEE tend to be less receptive to mass immigration—and, especially, Islamic immigration—than their Western cousins, on the level of elites and on the level of the masses. A simple explanation is that they are more homogenous. Western Europe has been rich enough, and liberal enough, to attract migrants for decades. The British are about 5% Muslim. Germans are about 5% Muslim. The French are probably more. People …

When Accusations Lose Their Bite

About a week ago, ABC canceled one of its most popular shows, “Last Man Standing” starring conservative comedian Tim Allen. This appears to be the belated consequence of a smear campaign directed against Allen in March, after he explained to Jimmy Kimmel why he was nervous talking about his involvement in Trump’s inauguration: “You gotta be real careful [in Hollywood]. You know, you get beat up if you don’t believe what everybody believes. It’s like 30s Germany.” Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, spearheaded the backlash. He asked: “Tim, have you lost your mind?” Apparently Allen’s comment “trivializes the horrors imposed on Jews in Nazi Germany,” and he needs to “leave [his] bubble to apologize to the Jewish people.” Just two months before Allen’s comments on Jimmy Kimmel, however, we find an interesting report in the Huffington Post: “Goldstein told HuffPost it would be hyperbolic and irresponsible to compare Trump’s actions to the Holocaust’s mass murders. ‘However, it would be equally irresponsible not to point out the similarities between …

“The EU is Essentially a German Empire”: Peter Hitchens on Geopolitics and the Future of Europe

“When the bugles call, the conservative’s instinct is to rally to the tattered…” Tattered what? Was it colours or banners? I was trying to remember the end of this line as I walked towards Café Phillies on Kensington High Street. To my surprise, the venue was unusually full, the average age of the patrons around seventy. I checked my Twitter feed. Macron had won in France and the EU bourgeoisie were predictably ecstatic. I ordered a coffee, took a table next to the door, and waited for Mr. Peter Hitchens. For those too young to remember the birth of this century, the aforementioned quote is from an essay entitled “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” published in The Spectator during the buildup to the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. I was eighteen, an idealist, fairly radical (as people usually are at that age) and an admirer of Peter’s elder brother Christopher. In the wake of the 9/11 outrage, there was a widespread feeling that we were on the cusp of a civilisational conflict that would define a generation. It was also the first …

Inverted Nationalism and Orwellian Patriotism

National loyalty is a bit like iodine: poisonous in large quantities yet salubrious in limited amounts. Dangerous nationalism, defined as morally unbalanced national loyalty, is obvious to Western intellectuals. But educated people, keen to give chauvinism the widest possible clearance, may adopt attitudes of indifference, or even contempt, toward their own societies. This goes hand-in-hand with an impulse to glorify foreign cultures. Roger Scruton coined the word “oikophobia” (Greek for “fear of home”) to describe this unhealthy state of mind. I shall call it “inverted nationalism.” In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argued that virtue is a mean between extremes. Courage, for example, is supposed to be the mean between cowardliness and rashness. One upshot is that moral improvement can itself be a morally perilous enterprise. When groups of people attempt to improve themselves and society, the propensity toward groupthink exacerbates the danger of over-compensation. Hence university students, eager to reject the easily perceived evils of racism and sexism, leave the golden mean in the dust as they stampede toward zealotry and sanctimony. The same purity-seeking mentality …

Who Will Make Our Coffee in Pret?

When a BBC Question Time audience member asked “Who will make our coffee in Pret?” she sincerely believed herself to be making an argument in favour of open borders and globalism. Her question is valid. Who would make the coffee in Pret? In London last summer I ate at a couple of Pret A Mangers (for those unfamiliar, Pret is a popular British coffee and sandwich chain), and after seeing the Question Time clip I recalled noting at the time a dearth of London accents in the stores. Not only at Prets; an absence of white Londoners was the norm in all the coffee shops and fast food restaurants I patronised. Not content with having caused a swell of murmured disapprovals in the audience the woman doubled down: “You’re not going to get English people to take those jobs.” On this point she is correct. But why? Why are there, relatively speaking, hardly any white Londoners serving coffee in Pret or flipping burgers at McDonald’s? With mass migration to the west everything works in a …