All posts filed under: Politics

Kelly Sadler and a Loss of Perspective

Kelly Sadler, the Special Assistant to the President’s Office of Communication, has become the latest protagonist in our national ritual of excoriating individuals for inappropriate statements. As of this writing, the Trump administration still refuses to fire Ms. Sadler or apologize for her dismissal of Senator John McCain’s opposition to CIA nominee Gina Haspel because “he’s dying anyway.” Sadler’s statement reminded me of anthropologist Ernest Becker’s observation that we are psychologically and emotionally built to deny our own mortality. The relatively younger and presumably healthier special assistant dismissed the ageing senator fighting terminal cancer, apparently oblivious to the fact that she too is dying. She found a position of relative power over McCain based on her temporary good health and wielded it against him. Her words provided her, if only for a split second, with an illusion of invulnerability. Pointing out the psychological and evolutionary motives behind Kelly Sadler’s words is not just existential philosophizing. We all live in the shadow of death. Sadler might have been killed in a car accident the same day …

Growing Up in a Progressive Utopia

I grew up in one of the most progressive societies in the history of humanity. The gap between the rich and poor was tiny compared to the current gulf between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ we find across much of the West. Access to education was universal and students were paid to study and offered free accommodation. Healthcare was available to all and free at the point of use. Racial tensions were non-existent, with hundreds of different ethnic groups living side by side in harmony under the mantra of ‘Friendship of the Peoples.’ Women’s equality was at the very heart of Government policy. According to the prevailing ideology “all forms of inequality were to be erased through the abolition of class structures and the shaping of an egalitarian society based on the fair distribution of resources among the people.” You are probably wondering whether the idyllic nation from which I hail is Sweden or Iceland. It was the Soviet Union. In modern Britain the top 10 percent earn 24 times as much as the bottom 10 …

Is There Room in Diversity For White People?

It’s tempting to snicker at snowflake culture, with its noisy campus gauntlet of trigger warnings, microaggressions, and in-your-face privilege-checking—but transpiring quietly off-stage at academia’s administrative levels is a far more sinister phenomenon undertaken in the name of one of society’s more theoretically desirable goals: diversity. Here a disclaimer seems in order. Regardless of political affiliation, fair-minded observers will concede that educational facilities for minorities have remained decidedly separate, and in no way equal, in the several generations since 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education. Such inequities naturally show up in college enrollment and performance: minority students who are products of inferior grade-school systems find it harder to negotiate the realm of higher education, in terms of both gaining entry and keeping up once they’re there. Accordingly, colleges have implemented various programs and protocols designed to boost campus diversity and help at-risk students feel more at home. Now, reasonable people can differ about whether academia, as the ancestral home of white guilt, has been overzealous at micromanaging outcomes. Significant race-based preferences remain widespread, and lawsuits continue to be filed …

Two Arguments for Inequality

Social inequality is amongst the most contentious and prominent social issues in the twenty-first century. After declining significantly in the mid-twentieth century, inequality has now reached stark levels. A recent Credit Suisse report indicated that the globe’s richest 1 percent are on track to own half of the world’s wealth. In November 2017, Forbes reported that the three wealthiest Americans now own more wealth than the bottom 160 million. The disparity between those who have a great deal, and those with much less, has grown so stark that in his bestselling book Capital in the Twenty-First Century economist Thomas Piketty warned that we might be entering a new “Gilded Age.” It would be driven by a global class of individuals who enjoy vast inherited wealth, demonstrate little allegiance to the nation state and its tax laws, and commit themselves to further entrenching their social power. These prompts raise the question of what can possibly justify such stark inequities; especially in a global context where the World Bank estimates that in 2013 roughly 767 million individuals lived on …

The Illiberal Logic of Intersectionality

A spate of articles about intersectionality have been published recently—two at Heterodox Academy from Ian Storey and Chris Martin and another at the Atlantic from Conor Friedersdorf. These three authors seek to challenge what appears to be a reflexive hostility among conservative and centrist thinkers to the ideas of intersectional theory. Broadly speaking, they all agree that intersectional principles do not necessarily pose a threat to the free speech and that intersectionality is a useful conceptual framework, as it allows us to better understand the unique set of problems faced by people with intersecting identities (e.g. black women, gay Hispanic men). Storey and Friedersdorf, moreover, argue that the fact that campus activists have used intersectionality to suppress speech proves only that the tactics of the social justice movement can be illiberal, but not that the theory is itself at fault for illiberal activist conduct. Thought-provoking and insightful though their essays were, the claim that intersectionality can be fully separated from radicalism and opposition to free speech remains unconvincing. That is not to say that all …

Unpopular Speech and the Shaping of the First Amendment

American civil libertarians are justifiably proud of the broad set of rights that their country’s citizens enjoy, and the unique legal protections afforded to freedom of expression, in particular. A variety of judicial rulings throughout the twentieth century expanded the interpretation of the First Amendment to provide some of the widest speech protections in the Western world. Although exceptions exist for ‘obscenity’ and ‘fighting words,’ Americans may otherwise be as expressive or inflammatory as they please, so long as they do not espouse a direct incitement to imminent lawless action. However, rapid cultural shifts in recent years has prompted a greater willingness on university campuses to categorise and censor what is often referred to as ‘hate speech,’ which is muddying the lines around protected expression. Next year will be the 100th anniversary of one of the most famous cases in United States Supreme Court history, Schenck v. U.S., which, along with a lower court case two years earlier, Masses Publishing Company v. Patten, helped to formulate the modern interpretation of the First Amendment. In a …

Unconscious Bias Training as a Management Tool

A number of social scientists have pointed to a paucity of good evidence that such ‘unconscious bias training’ is effective in achieving its stated aims. However, I have little doubt that Starbucks’ new initiative will be effective, because it is clear to me that the desired effect is not to change minds but to deter conduct. Boring, uncomfortable training sessions are punishments, which send clear messages about what one must do to avoid further sanction. Frankly, if such punishments were only used to deter employees from calling the police on people waiting for friends before ordering drinks, I wouldn’t object. Alas, such training is far more commonly used to promote hiring quotas. In my workplace (a STEM department in a university), it is widely known that training on ‘unconscious bias’ is the punishment that hiring committees face for not hiring enough female and (non-Asian) minority professors. I have been in the room when an administrator said quite candidly that the latest round of faculty hires had not been sufficiently diverse, “So now everyone [emphasis in original] gets …

Khalistan’s Deadly Shadow

The New York City police officers looked bored, unable to understand a word, as they eyed the angry crowd at Madison Square Garden. A sawmill worker from the Canadian province of British Columbia took the stage with a retinue of robed warriors toting curved swords. He wore an ornate turban and sliced the air with his hand as he promised a massacre of Hindus. “They say that Hindus are our brothers!” he declared in Punjabi. “But I give you my most solemn assurance that, until we kill 50,000 Hindus, we will not rest!” In response, the crowd erupted in slogans: “Hindu dogs! Death to them! Indira bitch! Death to her! Blood for blood!” “Indira” referred to Indira Gandhi, then prime minister of India. She lived for only three months after this scene unfolded. It was July 28, 1984—the founding convention of the World Sikh Organization (WSO), created to carve an independent Sikh state out of India. The millworker, Ajaib Singh Bagri, was number-two in the Babbar Khalsa International, a terrorist group engaged in an armed …

Why We Marched to Defend Free Speech in the UK

Writers Helen Dale and Shazia Hobbs both attended the ‘Free Dankula’ protests on Monday April 23, Shazia in Airdrie, Scotland and Helen in London, England. Here, they report exclusively for Quillette. Helen: I’m not sure speaking at a protest was ever on my bucket list but at least I can say I’ve done it now. In circumstances I still find peculiar — outlined here to American journalist Tim Pool at 17:10 — I finished up speaking at the London ‘Free Dankula’ cum ‘Free Speech’ protest. Shazia: I arrived at Airdrie Sheriff Court on Monday morning not knowing what sort of turn out to expect. I was delighted to see lots of people had travelled from England to support Markus Meechan, but I was disappointed to see Scots hadn’t turned out in their thousands. Scottish law is different from English law and Scottish people should have been a more visible presence, since the outcome of the case could curtail their freedom of speech. This man was also at risk of ‘going in the gaol’ as Scots …

Kanye West and the Future of Black Conservatism

On April 21st, Kanye West sent a tweet out to his 13.4 million followers that read: “I love the way Candace Owens thinks.” A celebrity endorsing his favorite political pundit is hardly unusual, but one of the most famous rappers of all time endorsing a black, pro-Trump firebrand like Owens is a once-in-a-lifetime event. Owens has taken stances against Black Lives Matter, feminism, and various other causes championed by the Left and, although she doesn’t follow the Republican party line on every issue, she has advocated for tax cuts, personal responsibility, and many other traditionally right-wing values. The core of her message is that there’s a stubborn refusal—among blacks and whites alike—to let go of the narrative that blacks are continually beleaguered by white racism. What we need, according to Owens, is a new story about what black America can be, which looks toward a bright future instead of clinging to an ugly past. It’s easy to see why West—a man with grandiose visions of his own future, who considers himself to be our generation’s …