All posts filed under: Politics

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 …

Canada’s Twitter Mobs and Left-Wing Hypocrisy

I grew up working class, and proud. My father was a Marxist who was active in the labour movement, campaigned for Canada’s left-wing New Democratic Party, and educated me about the harms of capitalism. Throughout my teen years and young adulthood, I never questioned which side I was on. To this day, I remain steadfast in my belief that everyone deserves access to affordable housing, free health care, and advanced education. I believe that poverty is unacceptable and that wealth is unethical. I believe racism and sexism are embedded within our society. I’m pink, through and through. But politics aren’t just about words and ideas. They’re also about ethics and action—both personal and political. And though I remain a leftist in my principles, I can no longer stand in solidarity with former fellow travellers whose ethics are dictated by social convenience, who prioritize retweets over free inquiry, democracy, and debate, and who respond to disagreement with calls for censorship (or worse). These feelings aren’t new for me. But they’ve recently come into sharper focus. *   *  …

Steven Pinker: Counter-Enlightenment Convictions are ‘Surprisingly Resilient’

Steven Pinker is a cognitive scientist and is the author of several books including Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress published by Viking Press earlier this year. Editors at Quillette contacted Professor Pinker for a Q&A: what follows is a transcript of our Q&A, conducted via email. On Psychology Quillette: What are some of the classic experiments in psychology that you think an educated person should know about? Steven Pinker: Where to begin? I’d cite studies of illusions and biases, to remind people of the fallibility of our perceptual and cognitive faculties. These would include experiments on visual attention by the late Anne Treisman and others showing that people are unaware of visual material they don’t attend to, together with any experiment on memory showing how un-photographic our recollections are (for example, Elizabeth Loftus’s studies on the unreliability of eyewitness testimony, or even the low-tech study in which people are asked to draw a penny, an object they have seen thousands of times). Let’s add Slovic, Tversky, and Kahneman’s demonstrations of illusions in reasoning about …

Towards a Cognitive Theory of Politics

In recent years, a consensus has been forming about how we reason and develop the opinions we defend. In his influential 2012 book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt argued that the first principle of moral psychology is: Intuition comes first and reasoning follows. Intuition is the reflexive gut feeling of like or dislike we experience in response to the things we see in the social world around us. In Thinking Fast and Slow, psychologist Daniel Kahneman observed that conscious reasoning requires language, the construction of an argument, and therefore time, so it can happen only after our intuition has already told us whether we approve or disapprove of something. In their book The Enigma of Reason, Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber argue that the main evolved purpose of reason is to justify our intuitions and to persuade others that our own intuitions are correct. When it comes to social issues that we care about, reason is usually a post hoc rationalization of feelings already felt and decisions already taken. …

Sam Harris was Right; Ezra Klein Should Know Better

Earlier this week, Ph.D. neuroscientist turned pop-philosopher Sam Harris invited Vox Editor-at-Large Ezra Klein to debate Harris on his popular podcast. The topic: Harris’s decision to feature Charles Murray for the purposes of defending him— from charges of racism, on his show last year. Murray is famous in part for writing The Bell Curve, which included a controversial chapter which mentions racial differences in IQ. But this isn’t Klein’s first flirtation with character assassinations. In case you missed it, Harris and Klein have been feuding publicly since Murray appeared on Harris’s show last year. Vox published a piece attacking Harris for featuring Murray, accusing the two of participating in “pseudoscientific racialist speculation.” Vox then refused to publish a rebuttal written by Richard Haier, respected psychologist and editor-in-chief of the scientific journal Intelligence. (It finally found a home at this publication, here.) Next, Harris released his email correspondence with Klein, and that eventually led to this week’s heated podcast. Mid-way through the podcast, Harris says: you appear to be willing to believe people… are not speaking with real integrity about data because it serves political ends, …

Training the Masculinity Out of Children

With the recent school shootings, the rise of Donald Trump, and the recent exposure of sexual assault in Hollywood and the wider media, articles about something called ‘toxic masculinity’ are doing the rounds once again. ‘Toxic masculinity,’ we are told, takes many forms in contemporary life and discourse. For example, in an (unfortunately serious) article for NBC, Marcie Bianco describes Elon Musk’s groundbreaking rocket launch as evidence of men’s patriarchal entitlement to conquer. (At the Clayman Institute for Gender Reseach, Bianco manages “the only university fellowship in the nation that aims to train students how to become feminist journalists.”) All the menz are freaking out about this article. Mission complete https://t.co/Wf0x80uMvF — Marcie Bianco (@MarcieBianco) February 21, 2018 More subtle but equally specious rhetoric, generally derived from the French postmodern tradition, analyzes the socialization of boys through an analytical prism of dominance or systems of power and knowledge. A recent article in the Washington Examiner reported that a kindergarten teacher named Karen Keller was preventing boys in her class from playing with Lego in an attempt to compensate …

Seeking Refuge in the Embattled Centre

A few days ago, Lindsay Shepherd, the Canadian free speech Joan of Arc, bloodied but unbowed by her brush with the grand inquisitors of Laurier University’s virtue squad, announced that she was no longer left-wing, and was taking up a position in the political centre. For months she had been courted and wooed by right-wing provocateurs and held up as an exemplar of courage in the face of her university’s nosey-parker thought police. She had been interviewed by Mark Stein, Jordan Peterson, and Dave Rubin among many other older and more sophisticated interlocutors in the wake of her dressing down, and vilified by some of the louder, more insistent puritans on the Left. This 23-year-old Master’s student quickly became a sensation on Twitter and YouTube, the newly made-up face on the prow of a ship slicing through choppy ideological seas. At once defiant and confessional, Shepherd declared that she had grown to distrust the motives and aspirations of left-wing “social justice warriors.” She explained that actions and attitudes like bike-riding and worrying about the environment …

The China Model Is Failing

Chairman Xi Jinping is preparing to prolong his rule beyond the end of his second term, thereby breaking with the two-term limit set by Deng Xiaoping. The two-term limit had been one of the few civilized elements of China’s political system, checking the worst excesses of despotism and providing some structure for the peaceful transfer of power. Xi’s stunt is, however, only the latest episode in China’s creeping return to more intensified political control. This development has yet to show its full destructive impact on China’s economic development (for that, we must wait a few more years), but it is already having a devastating effect in the realm of ideas, as it is the final nail in the coffin of the ‘China model’ philosophy. Of course, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its defenders will continue to portray China’s political system as uniquely virtuous. But, intellectually and internationally, that line will be difficult to maintain. It is precisely because those old perceptions are now threatened, that the Propaganda Ministry has ordered Chinese media to lash …

Kevin Williamson, Jeffrey Goldberg, and Victimhood Culture

The circumstances of The Atlantic’s recent firing of columnist Kevin Williamson make clear that victimhood culture is rapidly spreading beyond university campuses. Williamson was fired for comments about abortion — comments made in tweets and a podcast before The Atlantic ever hired him. His position, that abortion is murder, is certainly a mainstream position shared by millions of Americans. What is not mainstream is his view that women who have abortions should be subject to the same legal penalties as other murderers — possibly including the death penalty. This is an unpopular opinion that even many pro-lifers find offensive.  Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg, in explaining why he fired Williamson, called it “callous and violent.” But to focus too much on the statement itself, and whether or not it’s extreme or offensive, is to miss the point of what’s happening. Williamson isn’t the first columnist to be targeted in this way. Bari Weiss at the New York Times and Megan McArdle at the Washington Post have also faced the wrath of online social justice mobs. And the abortion comments weren’t the only thing of Williamson’s that the mobs were objecting …

Labour Power-Games Threaten 150 Years of British-Jewish Identity

We live in an age of demonstrations – but the one protest you never see is a Jewish one. Until this week, when it was revealed that the leader of the British Labour Party had posted approvingly about a Protocols-of-Zion style public mural. This triggered the first public protest against anti-Semitism since 2012. But taking to the streets is a huge departure for the Jewish community, whose security has typically rested on fitting in. Unlike other minority groups – which now self-organise at the smallest provocation – Jewish organisations try to keep calm and carry on. This was the thrust of last year’s major report into anti-Semitism by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (IJPR), in spite of it being commissioned in response to a 30 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents. Sitting behind this enforced calm is the memory that Jewish de-assimilation can be fast and fatal. Berlin and Vienna were both thriving Jewish centres right up to the First World War, in which German-speaking Jews served with distinction. What came next was too fast …