Editorial

From the Editor

Quillette was created with the intention of giving non-journalists — in particular scientists and scholars — a platform to share ideas without unnecessary editorial interference. I used the tagline “a platform for free thought” when the site launched because I wanted to encourage a wide range of contributions, no matter who and where they came from. Since Quillette launched in November 2015, free thought has definitely shown itself to be alive and well. The platform has not only become popular across the English-speaking world, but we receive insightful and bold contributions almost every day. It’s as if, somehow, a dam has burst.

Why did I chose the name Quillette? In French, a synonym for quillette is bouture d’osier, which is a type of wood off-cutting used to grow new trees. An off-cutting planted in the ground that grows into a tree — this seemed to me a great metaphor for an essay. An off-cutting just needs the right conditions to thrive. Give it sunlight, water, and fertile soil and it will grow into something majestic, lasting generations. Likewise, a well expressed idea just needs a platform and it too can grow into something powerful and enduring.

Although many of us today live in professional and social communities that frown upon the expression of our most honest opinions, this reality doesn’t stop us from having insights and observations about the world around us. When we shape these thoughts into well-crafted essays, we are able to refine our ideas, and when we publish those ideas, we push open the doors that allow other people to articulate their own ideas in turn. I firmly believe that this process of innovation — whether cultural, scientific or technological — comes from the creative minority that is willing to push open these doors.

I don’t believe it’s hyperbolic to say that we are living in a period of great flux. Tremendous opportunities for innovation are open to us because of the wonder of the internet. Never before have so many people had access to standards of living that were only dreamed of by our ancestors. Never before has the barrier to entry been so low for those who want to communicate with an international audience. Knowledge has never been shared so easily, and access to learning has never been so open and democratic.

But at the same time, our old institutions are dying. Legacy media is not the gatekeeping institution it once was. Large parts of our higher education systems have been captured by administrators and activists. For better or worse, the esteem we hold for our establishment institutions is declining. 

So at this particular moment in time, when old institutions are dying, and current ideologies are in flux, Quillette offers a space for thoughtful discussion about the topics of import, no matter how complex or difficult. We believe that there is no challenge too great that it can’t be met head on with the human capacities for reason and ingenuity. We don’t pretend to have all the answers, and we may make mistakes along the way. But whatever the future holds, we hope you continue with us on this adventure and support us in our mission.


Warmly,
Claire Lehmann
Founder / Editor in Chief

If you liked this article please consider becoming a patron of Quillette

53 Comments

  1. Rachel :) says

    Quillette has changed my life, far for the better. It has become a (now joking, to my husband) phrase at home: “oh my gosh this new article on Quillette says…”
    It’s also one of the only sites where the comments are just as, and indeed in some cases more, interesting than the articles themselves. Relatively troll free (i.e. civil) and very thoughtful.
    Proud to be a supporter! Huzzah!

    • The articles are generally excellent. However, the comments section is largely an echo chamber for dogmatic libertarians and conservatives who, without a shred of irony, constantly demonstrate the kind of ideological rigidity they love to accuse progressives of possessing.

      • John McCormick says

        Who or what is barring the participation of progressivists in the comment sections of Quillette articles? Are you accusing the editors of removing progressivist comments?

        Presenting a contradictory opinion in the comment section of a progressivist publication is called “trolling” and frequently results in the removal of the comment.

        To some of us, intellectual comfort is no comfort at all.

        • Yours is the kind of strawman argument I frequently encounter on Quillette and other conservative leaning sites. Where did I suggest that proggressivists are barred or edited? Where did I suggest that ‘something needs to be done about it’ as a subsequent response to my post has implied? Furthermore, your suggestion that it is only progressivist sites and publications that ban trolls and edit contrarian opinions is both laughable and very telling.

      • Susan says

        @Simon
        “. . . the comments section is largely an echo chamber for dogmatic libertarians and conservatives . . .”
        So are you suggesting something be done about this? If so what? Do you often comment?

      • I can name one progressive who routinely comments. He is in almost every single comment section and normally leaves more than one comment. That would be Jack B Nimble. (I believe he is progressive but he may correct this if he sees it. He is, at least, solidly left wing.)
        .
        And, I’ve seen plenty other people I’d mark as progressive. I myself would say I’m closest to a liberal. I think you may be weighing the areas where their does get arguments back and forth between those two groups more than the other groups.

        • Jack B. Nimble says

          @aerosthoughts

          Hi, J.B. here–

          I have tried 3 times today to comment on this thread, but my replies disappeared–was it something I said, or just a computer glitch?

          As someone who has been banned [for life!!] from commenting on The American Conservative web site, and as someone who was almost doxxed by another web site, I tend to be wary of commenting anywhere, unless I can do so anonymously. I comment because I enjoy it, and if someone else finds it informative or entertaining, then fine. If not, why should I care? I’ve already had my fun.

          I try to avoid labels, political or otherwise. While my views lean left, I find lots to disagree with on both conservative and progressive web sites. And I avoid posting on progressive web sites because–why preach to the choir?

          And that TAC editor who banned me? He started by blocking individual comments, then he began editing my comments to change their meaning. That’s a big NO-NO!!! Then I was banned for life with no explanation. The lesson I drew from that episode is that [some] conservatives are intolerant, hyper-sensitive, easily-triggered and deeply dishonest. Just like some progressives!

          • Thanks for the reply! This is the first notification I got so maybe it was a software glitch or perhaps the server or some other connection wasn’t working properly.

            I understand the wariness of labels. I tend to avoid them myself but sometimes it’s inevitable.

            One thing I want to be clear in case there is any doubt, I was not intending to use progressive as a perjorative. I read a good amount of your comments. I have replied to one or two I think. I disagree with you at times but I appreciate your perspective. I only named you as I think you at least delve into details for your reasoning and I think even those who disagree with you should appreciate that along with your willingness to engage. ga gamba is another person who comments often. I’d say he probably leans slightly right (please correct me if you see this) but he can have great comments too.

            I’m an independent and do fall very close to the center (I might as well put skin in here so it doesn’t seem I hung you out). I see value in comments from people I agree and disagree with if they have detail. It’s better than rhetoric and seeing as though comment sections are normally almost all rhetoric I find Quillette to have one of the best comment sections normally (not all the time but it’s the internet).

            I have defended progressivism against someone who said it poisons everything (it was not said hear) which is patently false. I’d say similar things for conservatism or most other movements.

            Anyways, I hope I didn’t offend you. I surely did not intend offense. I’ll see you around here in the comments section.

          • Oh and one other note, I agree with your last last couple sentences. Conservatives can be just as sensitive. I’ve had to catch myself at times as well.

      • LAW says

        I don’t see that at all – this is one of the most civil and thoughtful comments sections on the internet, especially so given that it’s mostly anonymous.

        People are allowed to have strong opinions without it being “dogmatic”. The problem comes when those people insist that others aren’t allowed to have equally strong opposing opinions. I see little evidence of this problem here – in fact, many of us are here precisely because this site seems to understand this issue and is tackling it head on.

  2. Matthew says

    Yeah, I rarely read the comment sections at other sites. Here, it’s pretty good. (Even if I only lurk… :D)

  3. Kathleen says

    Love the metaphor for the organic propagation of ideas! Incredible how your initial inspiration was perfectly timed to nurture a thought community that’s growing like a weed internationally. We’re all indebted to you!

  4. mobile867 says

    Thank you for creating a platform for these topics and discussions. We need it.

  5. ga gamba says

    I read the title From the Editor and my heart sank. Uh-oh. Experience has taught me in such messages often are policy changes, i.e. more censorship and “less harm”, resulting in the degradation of the site. I was relieved to see Ms Lehmann has not joined the others on this dreadful path.

    I thank her, the writers, and those who post comments, all of whom make Quillette such a brilliant site.

  6. John Michaels says

    Honestly the publication is successful in providing a forum. Since you did mentioned the times we are in, and the search for alternatives, it is good to understand that we are not any different from societies 2000 years ago. The Hellinistic Times provide a good background for learning not about what will happen to us, but how it will happen.

  7. Pingback: Qulillette - From the Editor. - Claire Lehmann - The Intellectual Dark Web.

  8. Maree Robertson says

    Quillette has broadened my horizons beyond my imaginings.

  9. defmn says

    I would like to add my voice to those thanking you for creating this little corner of the internet. An oasis of reason in a sea of used plastic straws. 😉

  10. Jared Dubiel says

    I want to thank Quillette and its contributors for doing what they are doing, however I have one criticism I want to make known in general for your articles:
    Get some proofreaders! I have seen at least one typo in I think every article I’ve read here. The reputation of journalistic honesty and integrity you gain by open discussion is tainted by the inability to catch simple errors like misspelled words.
    Again, thank you for your work!

    • 4chan.org says

      God damn english majors, it’s fine you know what they meant, maybe if english was not such a shit show we would not have these problems.

  11. Tim says

    English is not a shit show. And just because you know what they meant doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. Do you go to an interview in sweatpants? Why not? Surely your boss will know who you are.

    The role of an editor is certainly under discussion, but I don’t think anyone here is opposed to enforcing (by suggesting improvements rather than simply rejecting) basic grammatical standards so that the articles, and ultimately Quilette itself look their best.

    If the site doesn’t have the resources to enact that properly that’s a different issue, but typos should be corrected.

  12. dirk says

    I admire you Claire, for the idea and working out of this platform. A good form of intellectual globalism. I wonder how and why people discover it and stay there, I myself through a dutch newspaper with a column on the famous interview Peterson-Newman, and via Uri Harris’ essay on it, on this -bouture- (nice metaphore). Harris, by hinting at the academia as the culprit of SJW, showed me something that was bothering me for years now. An anecdote to explain (though I know how bad they sometimes can fall here): in the 1980s we were working in rural projects in Africa. Everything went fine (the pumps worked and irrigated the fields, the harvests were good, the dairy of colleagues gave amply milk, the training was taken care of) but we were evaluated badly by a new strand of supervisors (mostly sociologists, new type) from oversea. To the utmost surprise of our teamleaders, we all had failed in their eyes, why? because all these results were not in the interest of the women, the small peasants, the local poor, the victims of suppressive systems. This was new to us. The fact that development had to be only in their interest was a change of the original project terms of reference. We thought to have to work on development in general, but in the meantime, the clients had changed into (perceived)victimized due to unjust systems. It would grow out into a storm. I am out of that stormy world long time now, and in calmer weather since, into Quillette! I enjoy it. Nice platform.

  13. John McCormick says

    I slipped the shackles that imprisoned my mind in Plato’s cave through mathematics and physics, but math, physics and the logic that make them work are insufficient to understand the social world in which we live. The typically well-argued and provocative articles in Quillette are an excellent complement for those of us whose life experiences lie mostly in understanding of the physical world. This is why I am a patron.

  14. Pizza Pete says

    With the hollowing out of legacy media and elite social sciences academia going down the ideological rabbit hole, a huge space has opened up. Quillette has done a great job of filling this space and is a truly unique venue for which I am grateful. The only thing I hope for more of going forward, as someone who is a socially conservative libertarian, is more of a platform for reasonable, non-Leftist progressives. It’s hard to hear them because they are either cowering or being shouted over, but it would be great to see more from this non-Leftist left ( I’m thinking the Katie Herzog, Jesse Singal types).

  15. Hamr says

    Much thanks to all at Quillette, for providing this platform.

  16. augustine says

    Many thanks to the dedicated staff at Quillette. I have learned a lot and have especially enjoyed the varied range of viewpoints in the articles and comments, even if (or especially because) they are mostly within the constraints of views from the right and centre. Intellectual argumentation that is not evidently derived from modern liberalism is needed now more than ever.

    One minor quibble: “off-cutting” is not a term in English as far as I can determine. It sounds like you are referring to instances where large branches of a tree may be cut off and planted directly, a method that works only with certain species. Sometimes they are used to create “living fences”, usually in dry tropical areas. It is a particular type of woody cutting.

    • dirk says

      Quite possible, augustine, (but don’t know for sure, english is not my mother tongue) that off-cutting is not an official term, but used in certain areas, especially maybe in rural areas. In Dutch, we also make difference between the ordinary cuttings and the ones from a tree. We also use the term -off- (dutch -af-leggers) in that case. Gardeners and farmers often have their own idiom, an idiom that slowly vanishes, as are the farmers themselves.

  17. I rarely comment, but always read. Having thereby become something of a Quillette Tragic may I express my great appreciation for what you and your Quillette collaborators have achieved. Including that Quillette is the only non-economic blog site where I regularly read, enjoy and learn from the comments.

  18. It is worth noting that there is another avenue for commenting on the essays–the Quillette Circle on the Facebook platform. We’ve also planted two other saplings, one in New York City the other in San Francisco, which allow members to meet and discuss the issues raised in the articles and related topics in other channels.

    Those reading these comments who don’t know about the “chapters” but would like to know more, please Message us:

    Jeremy Block in New York ~ https://www.facebook.com/messages/t/jeremy.s.block
    Tom Merle in SF~ https://www.facebook.com/messages/t/tom.merle

  19. Bubblecar says

    When I first encountered Quillette I soon decided that it’s another right-wing ghetto, so didn’t stay long. But I’ve peeped in a bit more and the range of articles appears to be reasonably wide.

    Much of the BTL comment though does seem to be the usual moaning conservatives, angry and bewildered in a world that has left them behind, despite the fact that their politicians are in power in most countries.

  20. dirk says

    Small French lesson:
    osier= willow
    bouture= cutting, or, in case of trees, off-cutting
    bouture d’osier= willow off-cutting
    bouture d’olivier= olivetree off-cutting
    bouture de vigne= vine off-cutting
    bouturer= make plant cuttings
    bouturage= propagation by (off-)cutting
    The big difference between propagation by seed or by (off-)cutting is that offspring by cutting is genetically exactly the one of the parent, by seed from 2 parents, you start afresh with another genetic rearrangement.
    Some of all this (or all?) makes up the metaphor of Claire. I guess, only the propagation from the mothertree itself.

    • augustine says

      Yes and nature continues to surprise us. Now we know that a tree– a single individual from a single seed– can exhibit different genotypes on different branches. This would be like some of your fingers or an arm having different DNA than the rest of you.

      A brief review of Francis Halle’s marvelous book, In Praise of Plants:

      http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=376

      • dirk says

        Yes, of course, the bud mutations, another story, but not something for Quilette I think, too specialistic, though, some commenters here want to ban all non-biologists from the blog.

  21. Scott Bicheno says

    Well said Claire – long may it continue.

  22. Mazzakim says

    I left a not-entirely-fair comment on an article that Quillette came across as a bunch of precocious undergraduates with the occasional slumming grad student dropping by. That many of the authors aren’t professional writers is noticeable from the technical quality of the writing, but I appreciate the desire to give voice to interesting people and perspectives otherwise left out of the collective conversation.

    While the commentariat does seem to skew young, white, male and libertarian, I do notice my fellow leftists among a more diverse crowd lurking about. Quillette has become a consistent stopping point on my regular reading rounds.

    • LAW says

      :wave:

      I’m not sure what it means to be “leftist” anymore, but I do know that I support Medicare-for-all, a progressive tax structure, getting rid of guns, free speech, pro-choice, and a number of other things the Democratic Party represents (well, maybe *traditionally* represents in the case of free speech).

      However, I am straight, white, and male, and I am unwilling to sign on to a vision of America in which I am the enemy. And that’s the vision most Democrats are selling these days. I would suspect that most of my comments would sound like “young white male libertarian” if you had to put them in a bucket. But in reality, I’m a middle-aged orphaned Democrat. Just something to consider when you are trying to stereotype commenters.

      • You certainly are a different kind of “leftist” if you believe in “getting rid of guns, free speech, pro-choice, and a number of other things the Democratic Party represents…”

        I kid because I love.

      • Mazzakim says

        So to counter my generalization about Quillette commenters, you make a generalization about “most” Democrats? Especially to make a claim that sounds suspiciously like recent conservative rhetoric? Okay.

        But to take your comment at face value, you would stop supporting those policy positions you say you support because you think, what, people are being mean to you? Okay.

        “Most” Democrats I know do not regard politics as a sum zero game. Expanding the right to vote to women didn’t take away the vote from men. Ensuring blacks could sit at the lunch counter didn’t mean whites could no longer eat at those counters. Allowing gay people to marry didn’t remove the right of straight people to marry. How exactly are straight white males being treated as the “enemy” by the Democratic party? What am I missing?

        • Wilson Hill says

          I think it’s a much more recent increasing development, you won’t find it much in policy, especially older policy. But if you’re sincerely curious as to where this impression comes from just search something like “white people headlines” and click the images tab for an easy skim. Or any hashtag-something-so-white movement (which lately includes things like the Canadian wilderness, if you can believe that). Or the Back To Eden Portland bakery story featured here. Or “teach men not to rape”, surely I don’t have to explain how ludicrous that sounds. Or deplatforming Bernie, that was a horribly amusing example. As is the concept of “white male privilege” and a smash-worthy “patriarchy” (which is somehow cool with men suffering upwards of 90% of workplace injury and death, and comprising the vast majority of the homeless, among other privileges). I’m still not sure what exactly it means that “The Future is Female.” When was the last time you read/heard something positively qualified with any association to white men? Ever? How many times has somebody been publicly discredited simply on the grounds of being a “white man” while gender and race are like virtues for everybody else? You can split hairs within the party, but it goes without saying that none of this rhetoric is coming from the right, and any dissent within the left isn’t well tolerated, never mind entertained. So how’s that workin’ out? Well so far we’ve got President Trump and gun sales doubling in a decade.

        • LAW says

          @Mazzakim Ah yes, the dickish condescending lecture on how I should vote the way you want me to vote. Works like a charm!

          If you don’t see the way Democrats are constantly using straight white men as the antagonist, you’re not looking very hard. But if you need an example, “Bernie Bros” would be a good place to start. The criticism there was literally “young white males like Bernie Sanders, therefore he is bad”.

          As someone else said, Google “male privilege” or “toxic masculinity” to see thousands and thousands of vitriolic screeds, almost entirely written by “liberals”. Those are the people you are working to empower if you vote for most Democrats, and I simply can’t get on board with that.

          So, as I said – if a political party and its followers wants to make me the enemy, I’m not voting for it. It’s not rocket science. I doubt you would lecture 1st-generation Mexican immigrants who say that despite their socially conservative/pro-life views, they’re not comfortable voting for Trump. This is why identity politics sucks – if you create a tribe, those outside the tribe quickly feel ostracized, and go find a different tribe who actually welcomes their presence.

  23. Wilson Hill says

    Cheers! You all are doing great work, and the popularity of Quillette and IDW speakers are tremendously reassuring in a world where it seems like extremist simpletons are running the show, and running it into the ground.

  24. I think ‘Toilette’ would have been a more appropriate masthead, metaphorically speaking, because whenever I feel besmirched by unrespectable, novel, complex, or radical thoughts that are beyond the pale, only a couple essays on this moderately progressive platform are enough to cleanse my mind of all such extremist biases, and make me feel presentable enough to rejoin polite society, for whom the truth is always, comfortably, in the middle.

  25. I’d heard about Quillette a few times before actually visiting. I think I finally came and had a look after Mrs. Lehmann’s interview with Dr. Peterson. I’ve been visiting multiple times a week and sometimes multiple times a day ever since. This place has become like an oasis in an intellectual desert for me. The comments are often just as well-written, though, unfortunately, as Quillette has grown in popularity, civility has begun to wane as others have moved in an begun to antagonize rather than argue in good faith. C’est la vie!

    Thanks for making this place, Mrs. Lehman.

    • dirk says

      That’s indeed a serious thing to worry about K, I was also taken aback by it the last weeks, but what can you do? Moderate after all?

  26. Mark says

    Great site. I enjoy reading it every day.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that the grammar isn’t great in many of the articles. Simple things such as “i.e., blah blah” are often written as “ie: blah blah”.

    Consider hiring a poor student with some grammar skills.

  27. Thank you Claire. It’s reassuring to read articles that are far more fair-minded and considered than the typical polarised views of mainstream media.

  28. C Young says

    Its quite hard to pin down what makes Quillette special. Liberation from both progressive and conservative meta-narratives perhaps? Absence of ad hominem in the comments ? A retro attachment to truth and enlightenment values? Let’s hope it can stay that way as it grows.

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