All posts filed under: Politics

Were Trump Voters Irrational?

In September 2016, in collaboration with my colleagues Richard West and Maggie Toplak, I published a book titled The Rationality Quotient. In it, we described our attempt to create the first comprehensive test of rational thinking. The book is very much an academic volume, full of statistics and technical details. We had expected our academic peers to engage with the statistics and technical details, and they did begin to do just that after its publication. But then the November 8, 2016 United States presidential election intervened. The nature of my email suddenly changed. I began to receive many communications containing gallows humor, like “Wow, you’ll sure have a lot to study now” or “We sure need your test now, don’t we?” Many of these emails had the implication that I now had the perfect group to study—Trump voters—who were obviously irrational in the eyes of my email correspondents. Subsequent to the election, I also received many invitations to speak. Several of these invitations came with the subtle (or sometimes not-so-subtle) implication that I surely would …

The German Election—A Conservative Analysis

The Germans have a word for everything, as they say on this side of the English Channel. The German word, for the leader of opposition is Oppositionsführer, and suddenly in a strange twist of fate seems surprisingly apt. After 60 years of post-Cold war consensus, the far-right is back in German parliament in a poll defying show, scoring 13.5% of the vote. The unlikely Oppositionsführer however, is a lesbian West German single mother, academic and former banker, who is fluent in Mandarin, and whose partner claims Sinhalese heritage. Unusual for a far-right party in Mittel-Europa, whose standard demographic is anti-immigrant, primarily East German males, and who are instinctively opposed to LGBT rights. Germany is a country which takes politics seriously. Chancellor Angela Merkel is an academic herself. So is Alice Weidel, the unlikely star leader of AFD. Yet, for a nation which is so thoroughly qualified and post-modern, and regarded the most stable in Europe, Germany proved once again, that even in 2017, it has not bypassed the golden rule of classical Burkean conservatism. For …

Smearing Free Thought In Silicon Valley

In the aftermath of the so-called Google memo affair, there has been no shortage of misleading and in some cases downright inaccurate media coverage painting the author, James Damore, and his supporters in a very unfavorable light. The most recent example of this arose this past weekend, when The New York Times printed a hit piece on its front page with the inflammatory headline, “As Inequality Roils Tech World, A Group Wants More Say: Men.”1 In a clear display of narrative-driven journalism, the article attempts to smear those in the technology industry who hold dissenting views on gender issues by associating them with a political movement with which the public has little familiarity while providing little explanation of what that movement is or what it stands for. Like much of the media coverage on this issue, the article misrepresents what Damore said in his memo, claiming that he argued that women “were biologically less capable of engineering.” In reality, Damore’s memo focused on differences between the sexes in interests and personality traits, not abilities, that …

Why Can Comedians Be So Irritating?

I am bored by comedians. Everywhere you turn, people are telling jokes on talk shows, panel shows, sketch shows, stand up specials, sitcoms, podcasts and films. Most of them are worthless. There is “biting” comedy that nibbles; “searing” satire that is tepid; “laugh out loud” humour that is met with weary silence. I am being unfair, of course. One could say with at least as much justice that is one is bored by political commentators and if we can have fresh insights, they can have fresh jokes. Still, I wonder why so many comedians are so unfunny. There are Dave Chappelles and Bill Burrs but these are the exceptions. Some ramble about their sex lives like drunk men in boring pubs. Some drop cultural references, mistaking them for punchlines. Some steal jokes from Twitter about Donald Trump’s hairdo. Some, worst of all, forget they are comedians, posing as authorities on religion, politics and science. So, we are treated to Ricky Gervais on God; Amy Schumer on sexism; Russell Brand on everything. The problem is not so much that …

The Rage Against Selective Outrage

There’s a lot of outrage about selective outrage. If the Left and the Right agree on one thing it is that the other side routinely engages in selective expressions of outrage, and that they are terrible for doing this. To be selectively outraged is to be guilty – of irrationality at least, and probably of moral hypocrisy as well. Social media affords endless opportunities for “calling out” those who seem to exhibit these sins. Here I caution against this unproductive fascination with our opponents’ selective outrage. The standard of avoiding all selective outrage is psychologically unrealistic. And, ironically, most outrage about selective outrage turns out to be selective itself. How much rage is “selective outrage”? What is selective outrage? Sometimes people use it to mean pretend outrage, in which people cry “crocodile tears” over things that don’t really upset them. I think we should reserve the term for displays of outrage that are sincere, though disproportionate and lacking in intellectual integrity. The trouble is that our minds are awash with partisan bias. Partisanship colors perceptions …

Kurds Need A Street: A (Classical) Liberal Case for Kurdistan

The eyes of the world are fixed uneasily upon a referendum about to be held in the Kurdish region of Iraq. Kurds will, undoubtedly, vote for an independent homeland. It is widely felt that the fate of these people is coming to a head, their freedom calling, and war looming. Nervously, Western leaders are pressuring the Kurds to postpone the vote, as they eye the alliance forming between the Sunni dictatorship in Ankara and the Shiite theocracy in Tehran which, at last, have found a common interest: crushing Kurdish independence. The possibility of a free Kurdistan is perhaps the only flower to have grown out of the rubble of the 2003 Iraq war, but scarcely a flower grows in the Middle East without an army boot eager to trample it. The West’s failure to support Kurdish aspirations says something unflattering about the moral bravery of our generation. In pitiless realpolitik, Western leaders are correct that there are costs and risks to helping the Kurds gain statehood. Backing them will strain important relationships in Ankara and …

The Brains Trust of Intersectionality

Munroe Bergdorf, a trailblazing transgender model was sacked from L’Oréal after she tried to defend her comment that all white people are racist. In a bizarre rant, she further stated that Western society as a whole is a system rooted in structural racism and white supremacy, and tied herself in proverbial knots, defending the claim that even Heather Heyer (the woman recently murdered protesting racism in Charlottesville) is in fact also a white supremacist. In a simultaneous case, the UK’s Channel 4 interviewed someone, who declares herself an “Islamist anti-colonial feminist” named Nadia Chan. The trouble was, she is also a virulent racist and anti-Semite. In a now deleted segment, which caused heavy backlash as soon as it came out, Nadia said, that Muslims like London mayor Sadiq Khan were equivalent to traitors. When asked, if she would be okay with more Muslim representation she replied she wouldn’t be, as that would mean diluting her identity to appease the British public, her identity, in this case, meaning her religion. These might be two separate and superficially different …