All posts filed under: Politics

The University as a Total Institution

Concentrated Power is Not Rendered Harmless by the Good Intentions of Those Who Create It — Milton Friedman Administrators and staff at Edgewood College were recently called together to discuss a troubling note placed on the door to the diversity office after the election of Donald Trump. The note, which included a smiley face, stated “Suck it up, pussies.” In the hours after the note was found, the diversity office had coordinated with the Title IX office, human resources, the office of student conduct, and the Vice President for Student Development to determine an appropriate course of action. In their joint email to the Edgewood campus, the ad hoc committee said that the note “was hateful and harmful,” and that “it violated every value that this institution considers to be at its core.” If such a condemnation wasn’t enough, they added that “Covert micro-aggressions and overt macro-aggressions appear to have taken on a new fervor” since the election. They promptly determined that the note constituted a hate crime and called the Madison, Wisconsin Police Department. …

Your Guide to Blaming Russia for Everything

There’s a secret that not many people know. It’s time you were briefed on it. Close the door and make sure you’re not being followed. Things have gone too far to keep this under wraps any longer. This is going to feel like Ivan Drago punched you in the face. This time there’s no Rocky Balboa to dance around in a boxing ring wrapped in a flag in slow-motion and save freedom. It’s just you and me. This is liberty’s last stand against the barbarian hordes of the steppes. It’s time to wake up and smell the dark-roast Kremlin coffee. I’m talking dark-roast as in a steaming cup of pitch-black, irredeemable evil splashed in your face right after you smell it. If it’s any consolation for the disturbing content to come, the following semi-information will allow you to criticize populist, white Republicans as well as Russians, so it’s an automatic win-win. Let’s start at the beginning. Remember the serpent who tempted Eve to disobey God? That serpent was actually called Vladimir Serputin and he was …

In Praise of Ignorance

I recently had a discussion with a very intelligent woman, a Ph.D fresh from an Ivy League university. We met after the third Clinton-Trump debate, so the conversation naturally turned to race in America, a topic about which my interlocutor felt strongly. She explained that the United States’ criminal justice system is an oppressive apparatus of state racism. Mass incarceration, she told me, is in large measure the product of a war on drugs that unfairly targets African Americans. She painted a picture of prisons overfilled with African American men locked away for nonviolent drug offenses. She was convinced that the US criminal justice system requires dramatic reform or complete dismantling. My question for her was simple: approximately what fraction of US prisoners are incarcerated for possession — as opposed to pushing or smuggling? She did not know. It is worth pausing to reflect on this. There is hardly a fact about the war on drugs that could be more basic. But my interlocutor did not know the answer to this simple question, despite her …

Are the Gender Wars Just Getting Started?

The Victorian government has delivered an unexpected Christmas present to Australian conservatives: a parting of the ways with Roz Ward, the co-founder of the controversial Safe Schools program. Score one for the cisheteropatriarchy, as the kids call it. It may not be in the spirit of Tiny Tim to gloat over someone’s misfortune and dismissal at this time of year, and many people would resist the impulse. But I am not among such people. Since her emergence in the public spotlight, the problem with the criticism directed against Roz Ward is that it has not been relentless enough. Safe Schools, as most Australians have come to realise, combines a praiseworthy anti-bullying component with more than a few of the fashionably crackpot notions of gender and queer theorists. Originally intended for both primary and secondary school students, the program presents ideas like gender fluidity and the social construction of gender as unshakeable facts, rather than postmodern fads. A few of the program’s pedagogic tools also raised eyebrows. For the four and five year olds, who may …

What is a Sexist?

What kinds of statements about men and women constitute sexism? Is it sexist to say, for example, that on average, men are taller than women or that women live longer than men? Most people already accept the obvious truth that men and women differ in these physiological respects, and it would strain credulity to argue that such statements are sexist. Suggestions about psychological differences, however, can stoke controversy. Pressing the issue further by claiming that psychological and cognitive differences might partly explain wage gaps, employment gaps, and the like, will certainly invite harsh rebuke and likely a charge of sexism. Like “racist”, the definition of “sexist” seems to have ballooned in such a way as to include any claim about average differences between males and females from the neck up. Some feminists, in particular, fear that assertions about differences between men and women threaten the social progress we’ve made over the past few centuries. Perhaps they have a point (as we discuss below). But we should consider whether such an expansive definition of sexism is …

Islam’s Liberal Counter-Insurgency

A review of The Battle for British Islam: Reclaiming Muslim Identity from Extremism, by Sara Khan. Saqi Books (September 2016) 256 pages In his 2004 book The War for Muslim Minds, the French political analyst Gilles Kepel offered a stark review of the ongoing struggle to reconcile Islam with modernity. At the time of writing, the democratic project in Iraq was collapsing into escalating disorder and sectarian terror. More ominously, America’s inability to police the mayhem, the revelations of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, and the failure to uncover the promised WMD stockpiles were not only damaging American credibility, but also the credibility of Western democratic ideals themselves. In the book’s final chapter, however, Kepel turned his gaze towards Europe and found grounds for optimism. Here, he argued, democratic participation offered Muslim reformers with unprecedented opportunities. Unencumbered by the violence, corruption, and authoritarianism strangling open discussion and progress across the Muslim-majority world, a new generation of activists might succeed in defining and fashioning a secular and progressive Islam, liberated from the retrogressive doctrines that were pulling …

The Hijab and the Regressive Left’s Absurd Campaign to Betray Freethinking Women

Progressives should act like progressives – even when Islam is concerned The first woman in a hijab to anchor a television news broadcast!  To dance as a ballerina!  To fence in the Olympics!  To — cue for gasps at the sheer progressive splendor of the moment — pose in Playboy!   Headlines proclaiming such “firsts” — performed by Muslim women living, nota bene, in the United States and Canada — have appeared often in the press over the past couple of years. Surely by now you’ve seen them.  The associated coverage is frequently gushing, but when it is not, it is not probing, and certainly not critical.  It is, in fact, part and parcel of the regressive left’s insidious attempt at brainwashing well-meaning liberals into lauding what should be, in our increasingly diverse societies, at best a neutral fact: freedom of speech means freedom of religion.  Women should be free to dress as they please.  Some Muslim women wear hijabs and are the first to do so in various endeavors.   By no means does freedom of religion, however, …

The Social Justice Left and the Alt-Right: Our Divided New World

If you have ventured across the World Wide Web much further than cat pictures, recipes and nudie pics you might know of two eccentric movements in modern politics: the “social justice” Left and the “Alt-Right”. Both of them exist largely on the Internet and both of them represent extreme forms of the identitarian elements of left and right wing ideology. Both of them approach the culture war meaning business. The social justice left came first. Fusing anti-racist, feminist and LGBTQ concerns, it is not a particularly coherent ideological or political movement, encompassing both communists as well as liberals. The left wing elements represent the tendency of Marxists, disillusioned by the lack of Western revolutionary potential, to pursue what Rudi Dutschke called a “long march through the institutions of power“. Yet what made social justice so ubiquitous was its potential for subsummation by the capital class. As Rory Ellwood has argued, businesses have financial incentives to support immigration and female labour — and, importantly, one can seem cool and countercultural by endorsing progressive social opinions even if …

Stop Calling People “Low Information Voters”

A pernicious term used for those who voted for Trump and Brexit is the “low information voter”. Most likely uneducated, the low information voter doesn’t know much about “the issues”. He votes according to his gut feeling. He sabotages delicate democratic systems with the blunt exercise of his democratic rights. Bob Geldof calls Brexit voters the “army of stupid”. US philosopher Jason Brennan describes Trump voters as “ignorant, irrational, misinformed, nationalists.” In the Washington Post, the low information voter is defined as one who is more likely to respond to emotional appeals about issues such as the economy, immigration, Muslims, race relations and sexism. The Post goes onto explain: Low information voters are those who do not know certain basic facts about government and lack what psychologists call a “need for cognition.” Those with a high need for cognition have a positive attitude toward tasks that require reasoning and effortful thinking and are, therefore, more likely to invest the time and resources to do so when evaluating complex issues. In other words, low information people …

Pronoun Wars: Gender Theorists go Head-to-Head with Jordan Peterson

Canada’s new Bill C-16 has free speech advocates worried. At issue is the introduction of social construct definitions of gender identity and gender expression into our country’s Human Rights code. The bill makes it illegal to target those who identify or express themselves differently from their biological gender. Specifically, it protects against genocide and the public or willful incitements of hatred. It’s troubling that those last two offences, which are closely related, have also been added to Canada’s criminal code. They compel speech when it comes to gendered pronouns, and do so with imprecise language, creating the potential for multiple interpretations. Disregarded also is the semantic chill surrounding the pronoun issue, a chill that far exceeds the defined acreage of the written law. As Jordan Peterson, the embattled University of Toronto professor believes, “the PC police are already living in [our] heads.” It’s an opinion he successfully argued in a debate held at the University of Toronto last Saturday. Less successful were the two women who went up against Peterson. First was Law Professor Brenda Cossman, director of the …