All posts filed under: Top Stories

Anti-Russian Hysteria, American Hypocrisy, and the Risk of Nuclear Confrontation

Marx’s statement that “history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce,” must now be reworded, in light of the new Cold War developing with Russia and that country’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections: “history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farcical, potentially catastrophic, tragedy.” We are witnessing the unfolding of a drama with an undeniably Rabelaisian protagonist – President Donald Trump – a character so monstrously flawed as to be scarcely imaginable as anything other than a real-life, modern-day scion of the fictional Pantagruel, the grotesquely cruel King of the Dipsodes. Surrounding Trump are many courtiers of varying degrees of fatuity and mendacity. And since Trump’s decision to batter an airfield in Syria, a Russian ally, with Tomahawk missiles, an array of print-media pundits and cable-channel panjandrums slaving away after mammon and ratings has cheered him on. Finally, they say, he’s showing he’s not “Putin’s puppet” and is acting presidential! Though Trump himself has recently tweeted, “Things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia. At the right time …

Denying Encryption To Terrorists Is A Fantasy

The script for responding to Western terror attacks is now so predictable that they might as well publish a schedule in the TV listings. First we get the platitudes: “praying for” the affected city, liking Facebook statuses, and projecting flags onto buildings. Next there is the denial stage, where the commentariat implore us not to make assumptions about the attacker’s motives, because for all we know this was actually the work of Buddhist monks or the National Farmers’ Union. Then comes the hand-wringing over the potential racist backlash at the hands of the unstable, knuckle-dragging public, whose desire for an anti-Muslim pogrom can only be kept in check by loudly proclaiming that Islamic terrorists are not Real Muslims. Finally, once the emotion has died down, politicians can get on with doing what they do best — demanding more control over the internet. After Khalid Masood murdered four people in London last month, Home Secretary Amber Rudd wasted no time in laying the blame at the feet of WhatsApp, insisting that secure messaging apps must not …

Companies Shed Degree Requirements to Promote Merit Over Qualifications

At the end of 2016, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed that close to two-thirds of all Australians had completed a degree or apprenticeship. The growth in the number of people attending a university or TAFE has risen out of a cyclical demand-driven system called “academic inflation”. Think supply and demand. If an employer can hire someone with a degree or someone without, they’ll hire the person with a degree because they are seen as the superior candidate. This puts pressure on everyone to get degrees. But once everyone has one, the value of having a degree goes down. A couple of decades ago, a high school diploma was sufficient to get a job in journalism or business. Now a bachelor’s degree is required. Where a bachelor’s degree was sufficient to get a job in research, now a master’s degree is required. Where a master’s degree was sufficient to get a job in university tutoring, now a PhD is required. The number of people gaining master’s degrees has doubled from the early 1980s to …

Laura Kipnis, Rape Culture, and the Disappearance of Sex

Earlier this month, HarperCollins released Northwestern professor Laura Kipnis’ book Unwanted Advances, based on her article about the accusations and subsequent resignation of fellow professor Peter Ludlow for alleged sexual misconduct with a student. Kipnis characterizes the investigation as an “inquisition,” and draws doubt on the “credibility of the accuser’s claims and the fairness of the process”. I won’t go into the further details of the actual case, but what makes Unwanted Advances especially relevant is its broader examination of the “rape culture” hysteria on college campuses, a claim that asserts that fully 25% of women will be victims of sexual assault while in college. A number of critics have dissected the flawed methodology on which this astronomical number is based, and noted that if true, it would mean that American college campuses are as, if not more dangerous than cultures that truly turn a blind eye to rape, such as Afghanistan or the Congo, where 48 women are raped every hour. I think most casual observers would have to be at least somewhat skeptical …

The De-Professionalization of the Academy

The author of the following essay is a Professor at a top-ranking, metropolitan U.S. university. The names of both university and professor have been fictionalized to protect the professor from retaliation. In the fall of 2005, I began working as a full-time faculty member in the General Studies program at Hudson University. I was promoted to full Professor last year. Thus, the tale I tell does not represent sour grapes. Rather, what follows is a jeremiad decrying the direction that academia has taken in order to underscore the threats posed to academic integrity and institutional legitimacy. Over twelve years, I have watched with increasing dismay and incredulity as academic integrity, fairness, and intellectual rigor have been eroded, with the implicit endorsement of administration and faculty alike. I have witnessed the de-professionalization of the professoriate—hiring policies based on tokenized identity politics and cronyism, the increasing intellectual and ideological conformity expected from faculty and students, and the subsequent curtailment of academic freedom. Just to be clear, most of my faculty colleagues are well-educated, bright, and dedicated teachers. …

Reviving “Essentialism” and Other Scientific Straw Men

Cordelia Fine’s latest attempt at human exceptionalism and biology denial Testosterone Rex has drawn rave reviews from (almost) everyone, from the popular press to Nature. Happy to go against this grain, I would like to suggest that these much-circulated rumours of the death of human nature have been somewhat exaggerated. Most of Fine’s targets are probably quite well deserved chunks of popular science, male chauvinism, and journalistic overreach. However, when she turns her sights on serious science she makes some rather egregious blunders. This is a pity—because there is much in the public understanding of sex differences that could really use some popular explication and myth busting. Let’s start with what is positive about the book. Many will find her anecdotal approach to be engaging and charming. I didn’t, but I’m a miserable old curmudgeon who wants to get to grips with the facts, not be reassured via an anecdote about kangaroo testicles that that the writer “doesn’t hate men really”. On this point: I’m always a little unsettled by people who feel the need …

Q and A on the Syrian Airstrike with Sumantra Maitra

Sumantra Maitra is a regular contributor to Quillette, and is a PhD candidate in International Relations at the University of Nottingham and is a member of the Centre for Conflict, Security and Terrorism (CST). His area of research is in Great power politics and NeoRealism, with a focus on Russian foreign policy and military strategy. What follows is a QandA session regarding the US strikes on Syria. Hi Sumantra. Thanks for chatting with Quillette. You’ve said that the airstrike on Syria is a good show of deterrence from the US? Can you expand on this – who do you think this message of deterrence is aimed at? The airstrike on Syria is a fall back to a more conventional US foreign policy. Since 1993, the United States has been a leader of the Western liberal order, and has often used airstrikes and missile strikes to deter principal adversaries as well as defend liberal norms. It is, of course, questionable how effective that strategy was, but it has been standard practice. That changed during the second …

Islam Has Become Toxic in the West

On 20th September 2015, Republican contender Dr Ben Carson averred in an interview with NBC that Islam is not consistent with the US constitution and “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.” It would have been interesting to know of Carson’s reasoning. Moreover, we might have expected what may itself be an unconstitutional stance to have damaged his campaign. But quite the reverse happened. Five weeks later, a CBS/New York Times poll showed that he had taken the lead from Donald Trump to become the Republican frontrunner. Perhaps Trump and his team drew an important lesson from this, for on December 7th 2015, in the aftermath of Islamist terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Trump made a forthright pronouncement in which he called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” This boosted his ratings so that by December 21st, according to a CNN/ORC poll, he was once again in the lead; a lead he would not …

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Explains How To Combat Political Islam

What happens when we let fear, muddled thinking, ignorance, and political correctness guide us in confronting a threat to our constitutional freedoms? We lose everything. In the United States, our ability to enjoy our rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness rests largely on the protection the First Amendment accords to freedom of speech and its corollary, the freedom to exercise the religion of our choice – or, of course, to profess no religion at all. It follows, then, that we should both vigorously defend the First Amendment and subject to withering criticism any challenges to it. If we begin dodging or concealing the truth about a threat to free speech, whether out of fear of appearing improper or even of knowing the consequences, we place ourselves at risk of losing our freedom of speech – and everything else we cherish in a democracy. Speech consists of words. Words and how we use them matter. So, in the annals of self-defeating political inanities, the Obama administration’s term for Islamist terrorism – “violent extremism” – stands out …

Infantilizing Students Post-Election

How to explain the babying of students increasingly practiced by college administrators, student-life staff and faculty? Last fall, dozens of institutions publicly “reached out” to comfort students after the surprise election of Donald Trump. At Berkeley, for example, The American Cultures Center posted the following notice: The election results have elicited anxiety, fear, and grieving for some of our community members. As we proceed with the rest of this week and semester, it is crucial to acknowledge the trauma that is felt on campus. For this reason, we want to make you aware of some post-election teaching resources and several healing spaces that have been made available. The attention these letters, Tweets and web postings lavish on student emotions is remarkable, as is their distressingly slight engagement with civics and their outright disregard of political history. The fact that Trump ran an ugly campaign and has gotten off to a blunder-riddled start to his presidency is irrelevant to the troubling meanings to be gathered from these letters. At the most extreme one finds authorities assuring students …