All posts filed under: Politics

Nobody Should Listen to Twitter Mobs

Last fortnight, the New York Times stood behind its new editorial board hire Sarah Jeong, after critics on the right dug up Jeong’s offensive tweets sarcastically mocking white people, saying things like “oh man it’s kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men,” and using a #CancelWhitePeople hashtag. The Times argued that Jeong’s tweets were a sort of counter-trolling response to sustained harassment she endured as a young Asian-American female technology reporter.  Jeong’s critics noted that her offensive tweets weren’t in direct response to any harassment, and that they displayed a degree of hostility to white people that would be considered racist and out of bounds if directed toward any other group.  Nonetheless, the Times did not fire her. This was the right decision.  People shouldn’t lose jobs and opportunities over old tweets.  But if the New York Times did the right thing here, then, by the same standard, several prominent media companies, including the Times, have made wrong decisions in the recent past. Nobody should be …

The Problem with ‘Facts Not Feelings’

In the midst of our turbulent political and cultural moment there endures an intellectual sub-culture that refuses to be dislodged by the relativism prevalent on the Left and the Right. In the crosshairs of postmodernist excess and ‘alternative facts,’ a number intellectuals and institutions are prioritizing moral and empirical truth over ideology. This is a space that includes organisations like the Heterodox Academy and the cluster of academics and public thinkers now known as the Intellectual Dark Web. One of the brightest stars in this constellation is the conservative pundit Ben Shapiro—a gifted polemicist who has debated his way to prominence in American politics. With a podcast that reaches millions and a reputation for being as willing to criticize conservatives as he is to engage conventionally liberal thinkers in far-reaching conversations, Shapiro has given a face to popular conservatism that is strikingly more empirical and intellectually honest than that offered by the likes of Candace Owens, Steven Crowder, and Tomi Lahren. Nevertheless, one aspect of Shapiro’s message constitutes an over-correction that is itself in need …

The World According to Realism

The late political scientist Samuel P. Huntington argued in the 1993 Foreign Affairs article “The Clash of Civilizations?” (later expanded into a book with the question mark removed) that post-Cold War conflict would precipitate over differences in identity, religion, and culture. Fareed Zakaria, a former Huntington student, wrote of his mentor’s thesis, “While others were celebrating the fall of communism and the rise of globalization, he saw that with ideology disappearing as a source of human identity, religion was returning to the fore.” Huntington was writing in response to the argument of another former student, Francis Fukuyama, that a Hegelian “End of History” was upon us. In the heady days following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Huntington held the minority opinion that geopolitics and power still mattered, and worried that American foreign policy was entering a new era of history with its eyes half shut. Stephen Walt points out that at the time of Huntington’s article liberal internationalism was ascendant, al Qaeda was a minor threat, the Middle East was healing, and America was king. …

Do Britain’s Muslims Have a Right Not to be Offended?

Religious freedom is one of the core principles of any modern liberal society. As a secularist, I defend the right of religious people to send their children to faith schools, have their children circumcised, or wear the burqa. This does not mean I approve of any of these practices; they should be permissible but not protected from criticism. We should be free to ridicule, lampoon, chastise, critique, etc. every aspect of religious belief that we tolerate. This is, more or less, what the U.K.’s former Conservative Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson wrote in his now infamous newspaper column in the Telegraph last week. Yet all hell has broken loose. It was greeted by near-hysterical outrage and shrill denunciations of Johnson’s alleged dog whistle racism; reports of civil war in the Tory Party over the matter; the now ubiquitous demands for an apology for causing offence (or else), which was backed in this instance by the Prime Minister. Boris’s is now the subject of an internal Party inquiry. It’s worth untangling this sorry tale as a snap-shot …

Moral Panic, Then and Now

When my very Christian parents tried to throw away my 14-year-old sister’s heavy metal records, she ran away to her friend’s house. I cried for days. It felt like the end of everything. My sister would be gone forever. I would now live in what was referred to at the time as a “broken home.” I imagined that I’d be reunited with my sister in a few years—on the mean city streets after I’d been forced into a life of crime. Both my parents and sister seemed to make good arguments. My mother and father tried to trash the records because they loved my sister, while my sister ran away because of her love for Dee Snyder. My parents wanted my sister to be safe. My sister wanted to express her individuality through music. My parents claimed that heavy metal was the cause of my sister’s rebellious behavior. My sister said that Judas Priest rocked, and elevated Ozzy Osbourne to secular sainthood. My parents thought my sister had fallen victim to satanic messages encoded in …

Democratic Socialism is a Scam

When I attended a rally with my family in Little Havana for then-Senator Barack Obama in 2007, our old neighborhood greeted both us and the future 44th president as if we were traitors. Older, conservative protestors yelled “Comunistas!” at us from across the Miami-Dade County Auditorium. We brushed off the attacks because we knew they came from understandably traumatized exiles and, to paraphrase the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, as Cuban Americans, we know socialism when we see it. Obama was no socialist. In fact, his message resonated with us, in part, because of his emphasis on helping those who were struggling by giving them a hand up, rather than a hand out—that was our story. My mom came to this country shortly before I was born and worked as a social worker while she studied English. The pay wasn’t great, and she sometimes had to work a second job, but the hours were flexible and she had good healthcare benefits for our family. After 15 years, she was able to save enough money …

The Infantilization of Black America

In contemporary political discourse, black America often seems to be perceived as a monolith. We are expected to think, act, and vote as one, and any attempt to step outside the bounds of our pre-determined spectrum of thoughts can lead to summary excommunication. Our diversity pertains to our race, ethnicity, gender orientation, or sexual preference when set against the rest of the American population, but the diversity of opinions, beliefs, and values found among American blacks is seldom acknowledged. Even though the ‘black community’ in America includes immigrants from Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America, as well as multiracial individuals and descendants of the slave trade, we are often grouped together as one large indistinguishable ideological bloc. Consider the recent criticism heaped on Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott committed the apparently unpardonable sin of saying that he doesn’t agree with the NFL players who chose to protest police violence by taking a knee during the national anthem. Speaking to reporters, Prescott said: I never protest during the anthem and I don’t think that’s the …

Britain’s Populist Revolt

More than two years have passed since Britain voted for Brexit. Ever since that moment, the vote to leave the European Union has routinely been framed as an aberration; a radical departure from ‘normal’ life. Countless journalists, scholars, and celebrities have lined up to offer their diagnosis of what caused this apparent moment of madness among the electorate. Russia-backed social media accounts. Shady big tech firms like Cambridge Analytica. Austerity. The malign influence of populist ‘Brexiteers’ like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. The Brexit campaign exceeding its legal spending limit. Or a much-debated claim, written on the side of a bus, that Brexit would allow Britain to redirect its millions of pounds worth of contributions to the EU into its own creaking health service. Typical is a recent piece by a (British) columnist in the New York Times who argues: “Britain is in this mess principally because the Brexiteers—led largely by Mr. Johnson—sold the country a series of lies in the lead up to the June 2016 referendum.” Britain has produced a Brexit debate that is …

Toxic Masculinity and Gender Equity in the Australian Defence Force

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is comprised of the three military services: the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Army, and the Royal Australian Air Force, all of which have been subject to increasing criticism in recent years for being dominated by straight white men. This, it is alleged, makes them, ipso facto, a petri dish for ‘toxic masculinity.’ That allegation has been lent apparent weight by the reporting of multiple gender-related scandals including the ADFA sex scandal, Jedi Council, various hazing rituals, death symbols, and HMAS Success, to name a few. Some of this criticism has been so strident that past and present military leaders have had no choice but to commission reports and inquiries into standards and practices within the ADF, and to implement various culture change initiatives including Pathway to Change, New Generation Navy, Adaptive Army, and New Horizon. All of these initiatives place significant emphasis on greater integration of women into the respective services but offer limited reasoning other than catch-phrases like ‘diversity,’ ‘equity,’ and ‘modernising.’ All three services are now working toward …

Hashtags and Terror Narratives in Toronto

On April 15, 2013, hours after the Tsarnaev brothers set off explosives at the Boston Marathon, the #bostonstrong hashtag went viral on Twitter. A week later, at the first home Red Sox game following the tragedy, the Fenway Park public announcer declared, “We are one. We are strong. We are Boston. We are Boston strong.” Since then, the same meme has been adopted by numerous other cities in the wake of local tragedies—including my own, Toronto, which proclaimed itself #TorontoStrong following a deadly van attack that took 10 lives in April. The idea that communities become stronger in the wake of mass murder is attractive. And sometimes, it’s even true—because outside threats stimulate a spirit of collective defiance and solidarity. But many acts of mass murder are perpetrated by mentally ill killers who have no political motive. In these cases, tragedies can actually widen fissures within society, because different factions co-opt the crime to advance their own agendas. Collective strength can exist only when citizens have a sense of common purpose. On Sunday, Toronto suffered …