All posts filed under: Politics

Is Postmodernism Inherently Authoritarian?

College campuses are ostensibly venues for free and open discussion. All ideas should be given an open hearing, and be judged according to their individual merits. Are they supported by good evidence? Are they internally consistent? Will they produce desirable outcomes? That, in any case, is the ideal. More and more, it seems, there is breed of campus activist that disagrees with this view. At Berkeley, protesters rioted to shut down a speech by the right-wing provocateur, Milo Yiannopoulos. In Middlebury, they shouted down Charles Murray and later assaulted Professor Alison Stanger, who was hosting the talk. At Evergreen State College, they are championing the dismissal of a biology professor who expressed concern over the discriminatory nature of a campus event. Groups like Antifa (short for anti-fascist) adopt curiously jackbooted and signally authoritarian strategies to enforce their political will. They seem to be fighting fascism with something that looks conspicuously like fascism. Largely, the most raucous elements of far-left authoritarianism are part of fringe group. However, there is some cause for greater concern. According to …

Trump’s Warsaw Speech: Defending the West or Defending Illiberalism?

The reaction to Donald Trump’s first major speech in Europe reminds me of the old Jewish joke in which two men ask a rabbi to resolve a dispute. After listening to the first one, the rabbi says, “You’re absolutely right!” Then the second man makes his case, and the rabbi replies, “Yes, you’re quite right!” The rabbi’s wife chimes in: “That makes no sense—how can they both be right?” The rabbi ponders her words and says, “You know what? You’re right, too!” Responses to Trump’s Thursday speech in Warsaw, Poland, which focused on the need to preserve and defend Western civilization and its values, have been sharply polarized along partisan lines. On the liberal side, Sarah Wildman in Vox, Peter Beinart and James Fallows in The Atlantic, and Jeet Heer in The New Republic have argued that it was at best an appeal to tribalism and at worst practically an alt-right manifesto, full of dog-whistles for white nationalists. Conservatives, even Trump’s harshest critics such as Jonah Goldberg, David French, and William Kristol, have mostly praised …

A Tale of Two Europes

The Bravalla Music Festival, held this year between June 28 and July 1, is Sweden’s largest annual music event. Or it used to be. After a reported 23 sexual assaults and four rapes, festival organizers decided to cancel next year’s event, citing that “Certain men… apparently cannot behave.” This is not the first year that Bravalla has served as a breeding ground of sexual assault—five women were raped last year as well. Indeed, ticket sales have been declining for years, mostly due to concerns over the attacks. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven chimed in, “This is so disgusting. These are obnoxious acts by deplorable men.” In its place, Swedish comedian Emma Knyckare is planning to organize a “man-free” concert next year, until “all men have learned how to behave.” Indeed, a recently released statistic from the UN places Sweden as the second highest country in terms of rapes per capita, only behind a tiny country in southern Africa, Lesotho, that you’ve probably never heard of. It certainly appears that there is something amiss in the …

America’s Real Pivot

Trump’s Warsaw speech marks an era defining the rebalancing of Euro-American relations Donald Trump’s speech in Poland, for lack of better words, marks the beginning of a new era in global politics. Speeches change history. Speeches mark the direction a great power is going, a pivot, if you will. That word has become a catchphrase in the last decade, but it can be used for Trump’s Warsaw speech, which marked the solidifying ideological lines of our times. Trump is no great orator. He isn’t linguistically gifted, either due to age, or due to his New York-ish snappy rhetorical style. Notwithstanding those limitations, this speech will possibly go down in history as one of the most important speeches of his presidency. Here’s the full speech in text, for the more academically minded. Everything about the speech was planned pitch perfect. The choice of the venue is Poland, a central European civilizational powerhouse, with immense historical importance. Poland has made cultural contributions and has a scientific legacy that can put any other European country to shame. In …

Is America Heading for a Civil War?

The National Rifle Association’s latest advertisement has been described as a “whisper shy of a call for full civil war“. Dana Loesch, NRA spokesperson, paints a Manichaean picture for U.S. citizens that can only be resolved through the “clenched fist of truth”. If you haven’t seen it, watch it now.   This advertisement comes less than three weeks after an assassination attempt at the Republican Congressional baseball team, carried out by a Bernie Sanders supporter, which some of the Left seemed to tacitly support. The escalating political rhetoric on both sides has led Pat Buchanan to ask openly what some on the American Right have been pondering privately for a while: Is American system broken beyond repair? John Podhoretz agrees there’s a sense that America is descending into chaos. Kevin Williamson blames it on the acceptance of political violence by the Left. This concern isn’t new. A year ago, Ross Douthat also wondered whether American society was unravelling. Is America heading for a civil war, and what would be the global implications of such an event? Only …

Skepticism About White Privilege

Privilege, and race-based privilege in particular, occupies a key niche in the rich ecosystem of error that is campus leftism. White privilege is a central theme of the protests at Evergreen State College, University of Missouri, Yale University, and so on. Detecting and eliminating it is the aim of a new method of pedagogy that effectively renders education the handmaiden of activism. Unfortunately the question “what is to be done?” has here, as in other domains, prematurely eclipsed “what is to be thought?” A close look at the notion of white privilege casts doubt on whether the racial disparities that currently exist within the U.S. constitute any such thing. White Privilege as “Invisible Knapsack” Peggy McIntosh’s 1988 paper, “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See” is a seminal work on white privilege. McIntosh observes that many men who recognize that women are disadvantaged are reluctant to admit that they are over-privileged. She extends this observation to race, lamenting that “My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an …

Social Justice and the End of Moral Certainty

From the perspective of ‘Social Justice Warriors’, resistance to their demands—no matter how respectable the speaker or moderate the tone—is further evidence that they are fighting the good fight. For many of them, the basic format of moral progress has from day one been taught as follows: the status quo has gaping moral blind spots, the amelioration of which will come only after, and by virtue of, energetic protest. As Steven Pinker has argued, however, moral blind spots have until now been relatively low-hanging fruit, despite their being unacknowledged by most people at the time. Indeed, most intellectual pursuits begin with low-hanging fruits, with objects of inquiry whose discovery does not necessarily require an aberrational stroke of unprecedented genius, but rather someone with an impressive intellect and time on their hands. In mathematics, for instance, many foundational concepts were co-discovered independently in different parts of the world. History reveals that foundational advances are few, and that subsequent to them spawn—in hydra-like fashion—many more, often arcane corollary branches of inquiry. In accordance with this general characteristic …