Education, Politics, recent

What Happened When We Tried to Debate Immigration

Immigration and diversity politics dominate our political and public debates. Disagreements about these issues lie behind the rise of populist politics on the left and the right, as well as the growing polarization of our societies more widely. Unless we find a way of side-stepping the extremes and debating these issues in an evidence-led, analytical way then the moderate, pluralistic middle will buckle and give way.

This is why, as two university professors who work on these issues, we decided to help organize and join a public debate about immigration and ethnic change. The debate, held in London on December 6, was a great success, featuring a nuanced and evidence-based discussion attended by 400 people. It was initially titled, “Is Rising Ethnic Diversity a Threat to the West?” This was certainly a provocative title, designed to draw in a large audience who might hold strong views on the topic but who would nonetheless be exposed to a moderated and evidence-led debate. Though we would later change the title, we couldn’t escape its powerful logic: On the night itself, we repeatedly returned to this phrasing because it is the clearest way of distinguishing competing positions.

Aside from ourselves, two university professors who between us have researched the issue for decades, the panel included Trevor Philips, the former Head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (who is of African-Caribbean heritage), and David Aaronovitch, a liberal columnist at The Times. The debate was chaired by Claire Fox and co-sponsored by the Academy of Ideas, founded to provide a “forum committed to open and robust public debate in which ideas can be interrogated,” and the online magazine UnHerd, which aims to draw attention to stories and ideas that do not usually get covered in the mainstream media.

As soon as the title of the event was published it provoked a strong backlash. Rather than a genuine debate, it was interpreted as an open attack on immigrants and minorities. Before the event had taken place, before a word had been spoken, one professor accused us of “helping to advance a white nationalist agenda” and engaging in “nativist and racist discourse.” Other academics retweeted accounts that suggested we were “complicit in violence,” including the U.S. mail bombs and the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue (two of our panelists are of Jewish heritage). Still others contended that we were contributing to racism, that by posing the question we were “devaluing” scholars from minority backgrounds (Kaufmann is of mixed race).

University of Bath racism researcher, Aurelien Mondon, retweeted this post

In the spirit of compromise, and to meet our critics halfway, we changed the title of the event to: “Immigration and Diversity Politics: A Challenge to Liberal Democracy?” But that was not enough. Even after this change, academics joined with self-described anti-fascist activists to publish an open letter on the platform Open Democracy. Titled “Framing ethnic diversity as a ‘threat’ will normalise far-right hate,” the letter claimed that the debate “was framed within the terms of white supremacist discourse” and “automatically targets communities already suffering from discrimination as part of the ‘problem.’” While the letter did not call for the debate to be cancelled, it concluded that “no other alternative factor or scenario is identified as a ‘threat.’” that the event had “racist presumptions,” “contributes to far right ‘dog whistling,’” and “serves to normalise ideas that should be firmly challenged.” These claims, they continued, were “undeniable.”

An e-mail account was launched and others were urged to sign the open letter, which was also shared on Twitter by a prominent (Routledge) academic book series as “an important response from anti-racist & anti-fascist academics to recent efforts to mainstream far right ideas & discourse.” One of our Wikipedia pages was vandalized while others sought to interest the press in a smear campaign. A network of activist academics and students—both inside and outside of our institutions—raised complaints with our universities. While we were not formally asked to cancel the debate, one of us came under pressure to withdraw. Like many such incidents, much of this activity was informal, relying on trolling, reputational damage and peer pressure to police virtue.

By contrast, we faced criticism from liberal commentators outside of academe who, writing in national newspapers, criticized our decision to change the title as obfuscating a pressing subject that urgently requires rational discussion. One argued that the backlash and decision to moderate the title of the debate would only embolden far-right extremists. “Ironically and tragically,” argued columnist David Aaronovitch, who joined the debate, “this idiocy by the liberal left allows the far-right to pose as the champions of free speech and therefore as champions of true British aspirations.” Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian also cautioned that “the struggle against normalization is not quite as clear-cut as some of its most righteous warriors would have you believe,” and argued that while liberal democracy may have to give space to ideas that are circulated on the far-right it must ensure that these ideas are interrogated (as was the point of our debate).

The panel discussion on immigration and diversity politics. Photo: Toby Young

Before turning to the troublesome idea of “normalization,” we would make two points about the title. The first is that, in the world of academic research, the word “threat,” which many of our critics found so troubling, is commonplace. Stick the words “threat” and “immigration” into Google Scholar and you will see more than one million entries. “Integrated Threat Theory,” for example, has long been used to explain why some people feel more hostile than others toward immigrants and minorities, with feelings of threat, actual or perceived, being a key predictor of this reaction. Many people on social media found the idea that ethnic diversity could be seen as a “threat” extremely troubling, but Integrated Threat Theory has been used to explain, for example, how Americans and Mexicans think about each other, why Dutch adolescents voice prejudice toward Muslims, why workers feel hostile toward immigrant workers, why there are varying levels of trust in more ethnically diverse neighborhoods and why some Europeans back restrictive immigration policies. This is why some academics have openly debated, in top journals, questions like “Is Hispanic immigration a threat to American identity?”

Furthermore, the reason that academics have spent so much time exploring the idea of “threat” is because large numbers of people across Western democracies do feel under threat from immigration and rising ethnic diversity. There is no point shying away from it. It is reflected in countless studies and surveys, such as an Ipsos-MORI study last year, which found that across 25 countries an average of 42 percent of people believe that immigration is having negative effects on their country, while just under half feel that immigration “is causing their country to change in ways that they do not like.”

Another study, by the anti-racist group Hope Not Hate, an organizer of which signed the open letter against us, found that four in ten people in Britain feel that “British culture is undermined by multiculturalism” (the group subsequently called for a “national conversation about immigration that would give people a chance to express their concerns so that anxieties are not driven underground or exploited by those seeking to stoke division”—a goal that we would strongly support).

But there is also a deeper issue here, which concerns the “normalization hypothesis.” Warning against the “normalization” of the far-right has long been a cornerstone of thinking among anti-fascist and left-wing activists. The argument is that mainstream institutions like universities, the media and political parties should never give a platform to fascist or far-right figures because this treats them as legitimate actors, risks increasing their appeal, and fuels hostility towards immigrants and minorities. Merely adopting the language or phraseology of these controversial figures, it is argued, even as a basis for a public debate or critical reflection, lends credence to their ideology.

The “normalization hypothesis” is widely accepted by journalists and academics, including those who work on populism, fascism and closely-related fields like immigration, identity, criminology, race and gender. Witness the tweet by the academic book series on Fascism and the Far Right that presents Anti-Fascist Action’s (AFA) no-platforming for fascists as “a good baseline for praxis.” Those who do not adopt this line are criticized, often with support from left-wing journalists.

Setting aside the fact that we are not members of the “far-right,” normalization is a perfectly reasonable hypothesis where genuine far-right speakers are concerned. But, like all theories, it must be open to falsification. It should only gain strength after surviving repeated attempts at refutation. Once a theory congeals into what the anthropologist Scott Atran has called a “sacred value,” something that lies beyond question (such as the divinity of Jesus for Christians), it stifles the progress of social science and restricts freedom of enquiry. Or, even worse, it can backfire, abetting the very forces it opposes. Given the importance of free expression and inquiry in any open society, we believe it is incumbent upon those who demand an ethical limit on free expression in the interests of sensitivity to offer rigorous evidence of harm, and a method of demonstrating harm that is transparent and can be replicated and falsified.

The claim that our title was deeply offensive to ethnic minorities and risked fueling xenophobia by “mainstreaming” far-right discourse should be put under the microscope. Researchers must always be willing to open their claims to measurement and back assertions up with data. All of us are prone to confirmation bias and motivated reasoning. The whole point of science is to define terms and hypothesized relationships, set out ways to measure these, and then test them as rigorously as we can–without making claims that go beyond what the data support. This can be done quantitatively or qualitatively (via a critical mass of scholars, so long as they have viewpoint diversity). To turn our backs on the scientific method is to yield to our biases, abandon the quest for objectivity and simply engage in a naked struggle for power.

So, let’s interrogate this idea of normalization. The first thing to say is that there are actually some good reasons to be skeptical about the claim that engaging with controversial ideas, even far-right ideas, or even giving controversial speakers a platform, has an effect on public opinion. Recently, voting results before and after the involvement of Steve Bannon at the Toronto Munk debate suggested that his appearance had zero effect on people’s views. In Britain, the appearance of a right-wing extremist leader on a popular television show in 2009 had no statistically significant increase in support for his party (which one year later promptly collapsed). While there are plenty of studies that show priming or framing effects (i.e. people who read a negative passage about immigration become more concerned about it), the idea that exposing a controversial speaker to critical questioning, or using a controversial phrase to frame discussion on a “mainstream” platform somehow increases support for extremism, has no basis in social science. The “normalization” charge is an article of faith rather than a conclusion based on an empirically-verified theory. The fact that it is so often invoked to no-platform speakers on university campuses, or silence enquiry, means that it must be held to empirical account. We believe in free inquiry, but we also understand there are societal considerations to weigh in the balance. So if there are demonstrable harms that are large enough to offset the good that comes from open debate using controversial terminology, we need to take this extremely seriously.

Our critics, including those who signed the open letter, put forward two claims. First, that our debate was deeply offensive to immigrants and ethnic minorities. Second, that the “white supremacist framing” “normalized” public hostility toward these minority groups. Let’s interrogate the first claim, that deep offense has been given. To answer this question, within a modest budget, we conducted surveys of people in Britain and America, using the online platforms Amazon Mechanical Turk and Prolific Academic. These have been used by thousands of academic papers. Those who take these surveys skew more liberal, young and white than average–this is not a random sample of the population. But when comparing groups (whites versus minorities, liberals versus conservatives) they provide tests of significant relationships in the data. Our sample is 500 respondents across four surveys.

We first tried to ascertain whether minorities were offended by the original title of our debate. We split a sample of 190 Britons and 56 Americans into three groups. One group saw our original title (“Is Rising Ethnic Diversity a Threat to the West”), another saw a picture of John Esposito’s (1993) book The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality, and a control group saw a blank page. Note that the cover to Esposito’s book included, at the top, a New York Times endorsement saying it was “a useful antidote to the barrage of exaggerated views on Islam.” The sample was evenly split between white and minority respondents. People were then asked: “On a scale from 0 to 100, where 0 is ‘not at all’ and 100 is ‘very much’, how interested are you in the above?” We wish that the 47/100 average score for our debate had been higher but we’ll take it. Respondents were then asked: “How offended are you by the above?” using the same phraseology. Earlier in the survey we had also collected information about our respondents, such as their age, gender, education, liberal-conservative ideology, attitude toward Brexit, and which party they had voted for at the most recent election.

What did we find? First of all, the average level of offence among those who read our (original) debate advertisement was very low, at just 28 out of 100. This was, however, slightly higher than for the blank page (11/100) and the picture of John Esposito’s book (18/100). Indeed, there were a few individuals who gave our ad a 100 score, demonstrating maximum offence. But who were they? If we focus on the 79 individuals (41 white and 38 non-white) who were shown the debate poster, we find no significant difference in the degree to which whites and minorities find it offensive. However, the one group that was most offended (giving a score above 50 on the “offensiveness scale”), were those who self-identified as “extremely liberal” on a seven-point liberal-to-conservative scale. In other words, it was extreme liberals who were the most likely to be highly offended by the initial title of our debate.

Figure 1 shows the results, broken down by race and ideology. While the error bars for race overlap, showing no statistically-significant effect, ideology exhibits an important “non-linear” relationship, with “extreme liberals” standing clearly apart from moderate liberals and conservatives. It seems that whether someone was offended by our debate had to do with ideology, not race.

Whether or not you felt offended by our debate is anchored strongly in social construction: Those who feel the most strongly invested in liberal ideology, regardless of race, found the description about our debate more offensive than others.

Figure 1: Degree of Offense by Race and Ideology

N=80 (41 white, 39 non-white). R2=.18. Controls for age, education, gender, U.K./U.S. (all not significant, thus dropped). “Extreme liberal” is significant at p<.01 level. Note that we have no “extremely conservative” (scale point 7) respondents in this sample. Platform: Prolific Academic.

What about the second charge, that we are “normalizing” racist discourse? If this was indeed the case, we would expect whites who were shown the description of our debate to alter their perception of ethnic minorities–to become more hostile. But the 41 whites who were shown details of our debate did not express any less warmth on a 0-100 thermometer scale towards Muslims, Asian and African immigrants, black people or European immigrants than the group of 33 whites who viewed a blank page, or the 51 that saw Esposito’s book cover. Like those who viewed the Munk debate, the effect on “hate” is again nil. These results are consistent with representative U.S. surveys showing that largely white “solid liberals” (16 percent of people) or “progressive activists” (eight percent of people) are much more radical than the political tribes occupied by most minority voters.

We academics—and those in discursive bubbles more generally—can sometimes possess a fine-tuned sensitivity, and a greater sense of our own importance, which others do not share. This holds as much for offenses against the right, as those against the left. Take the case of one of those who signed the open letter against us, the “radical political theorist” George Cicarellio-Maher. On Christmas Eve 2016, Cicarellio-Maher tweeted “All I want for Christmas is White Genocide.” “White genocide” is an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that has gained currency among far-right groups. Numerous right-wing trolls and callers besieged Cicarellio-Maher with threats, including death threats. He eventually had to leave his position at Drexel University, a lamentable victory for the mob over academic freedom. We decided to re-run our analysis, only this time we showed respondents the tweet by Cicarellio-Maher. In sharp contrast to the description of our debate, of the 130 respondents who saw the tweet (65 each in UK and US), most were offended, though not overly so. The average score across the US and UK was 59/100 (versus an average score of 28 for our debate). British respondents were more offended (66/100 compared to 52/100 in the U.S.). But, as with our debate, there was no significant difference between whites and ethnic minorities. Rather, the gap was between liberals and conservatives, and Clinton and Trump supporters. This time, the “extreme conservatives” stand out for scoring the tweet 100/100 for offensiveness.

Figure 2: Reactions to “White Genocide Tweet” by Race and Ideology

N=130 (65 UK, 65 U.S., 112 white, 18 non-white). R2=.08. Controls for age, education, gender, U.K./U.S. (all not significant apart from U.K. resident, retained in model). “Extremely conservative” is borderline significant at p<.05 level. Platform: Prolific Academic (U.K.) and Amazon MTurk (U.S.).

Moreover, white respondents who read Cicarellio-Maher’s “white genocide” tweet did not become more hostile toward minorities and immigrants. If anything, whites who were exposed to his tweet became warmer towards African and Asian immigrants (though no effects were visible for other minorities). They were offended by the tweet but this appeared to make some people more sympathetic to minorities. Why does this matter? Well, it goes to show that people aren’t the impressionable pieces of clay which the proponents of “normalization” would have us believe. While ideas have consequences, those consequences are complex and they often refuse to cooperate with simplistic narratives that enjoy support among activist scholars but which, when put under the microscope by evidence-led researchers, fall apart. Unlike our critics, we don’t invoke ethereal concepts like “normalization” or sacred narratives; our methods are transparent and open to replication and falsification (we will happily share these data).

Clearly, this doesn’t exhaust the range of tests that might be conducted. It would be important to look at the content of far-right posts and videos following our debate to see if the title predicts increased far-right activity or support, as we should for Cicarellio-Maher’s tweet. While we doubt that our event aroused much interest in far-right arenas, it is more likely that the “white genocide” furore attracted debate on prominent ultra-right-wing blogs (such as Stormfront). There is also compelling evidence from large-scale survey data that whites’ perceptions that they are being discriminated against is a driver of Trump support and this kind of tweet may have fed those perceptions (due to a sense there is a double-standard in which only white people may be abused, especially among “cultural elites”). Yet a closer relationship between the content of the “white genocide” tweet and whites’ perceptions of being discriminated against would need to be established before making a strong claim that Cicarellio-Maher gave national populism a shot in the arm. We also think that anyone seeking to link the “white genocide” tweet to violence or increased far-right recruitment would need to do more than assert the case, as our interlocutors have with our debate.

But, even then, effects would need to be substantial to provide sufficient grounds for censuring debate in a free society. After all, discussion of controversial topics like Britain’s Middle East policy or Israeli settlements can give ammunition to Islamist extremists. This does not mean that these subjects should not be discussed in plain language and in a moderate, reasonable way. Moving forward with debate must be weighed against the cost of not doing so, which could involve ideas gaining popularity underground or giving ammunition to conspiracy theories against “elites.”

As the Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said: “Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burnt women. It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears. To justify suppression of free speech, there must be reasonable ground to fear that serious evil will result if free speech is practiced.”

Short of any empirical evidence that shows harms arising as a direct result of a debate over the harms of not having a debate, we feel that free societies should engage in open discussion of uncomfortable issues. To return to Jonathan Freedland, this is exactly why our discussion was designed in a way that would allow ideas to be interrogated by a diverse panel, a moderated discussion, and questions from the public.

The reaction to our debate reflected the three psychological processes identified by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff in their new book The Coddling of the American Mind. Haidt and Lukianoff warn that progressive activists at elite American campuses are engaging in precisely the kind of psychological processes that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) seeks to correct. Catastrophizing involves focusing on the worst possible outcome as the most likely outcome. “If I don’t get a good grade, my life is over,” is one example. Another is the notion that a public debate will help fascists to triumph.

Haidt and Lukianoff also draw attention to the pitfalls of emotional reasoning: “Always trust your feelings” is a poor guide to the world compared to observing representative data, attempting to refute one’s intuitions with alternative explanations and only accepting theories that have withstood repeated attempts at falsification. When a topic feels uncomfortable, or sounds offensive, it is important to resist one’s gut feeling that something immoral is taking place until evidence comes in. Yet few of our critics were willing to look past this emotional reasoning.

And finally, dichotomous thinking. Collapsing the complex reality of the world into a black-and-white morality tale in which there are good and evil people (or fascists and anti-fascists) is the third “great untruth.” Populists are masters of this approach. The notion that there are “good” anti-fascists who are protecting minorities from “bad” fascists is an example of this cognitive style. Surprisingly, many academics who specialize in the study of populism have proved all too willing to exhibit dichotomous thinking.

All three modes are displayed in the open letter and in the vitriolic attacks that followed. These and other attempts were aimed at smearing our reputations. As Haidt notes, the use of open letters, which seek to close down serious deliberation, has increased dramatically from 2017: “Such letters are efforts to win by applying social pressure, magnified by social media, rather than using the proper method of the academy: Reasoned argument.”

While we are all for robust debate, the response to our event reveals a great deal about the mindset of some of our most vociferous opponents, including those who teach our young adults in universities. We only hope this brand of anti-intellectualism does not penetrate more widely within the academy, both in Britain and elsewhere.

Matthew Goodwin is a professor of politics at the University of Kent. He is the author, with Roger Eatwell, of 
National Populism: the Revolt Against Liberal Democracy (Penguin 2018). Follow him on Twitter @GoodwinMJ.

Eric Kaufmann is professor of politics at Birkbeck, University of London. He is the author of Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration and the Future of White Majorities (Penguin 2018). Follow him on Twitter @epkaufm.


  1. Peter from Oz says

    It’s not surprising the left doesn’t want to debate this issue. It is difficult to conduct rational discourse with those who are driven by emotional fundamentalism.
    The left’s only trick is to pretend that mainstream views held by the majority of people are somehow unacceptable or evil. That means that those views cannot be spoken, let alone debated. I find it works wonders if you use their definitional style of argument back at them, and ask them to explain themselves. Mrs Thatcher was very good at this. When an interviewer made an assertion she would immediately asked for proof and berate the interviewer for not sticking to the subject.

    • Rat Ski says

      Very true. The cultural Marxists have even created new words like ‘unconscious bias’, cultural intelligence and intersectionality as an atttempt to silence mainstream views.

      • Πέτρος says

        “Unless we find a way of side-stepping the extremes and debating these issues in an evidence-led, analytical way then the moderate, pluralistic middle will buckle and give way.”

        “academics joined with self-described anti-fascist activists to publish an open letter on the platform Open Democracy. Titled “Framing ethnic diversity as a ‘threat’ will normalise far-right hate,” the letter claimed that the debate “was framed within the terms of white supremacist discourse””

        #2 tells me that #1 is a ship that’s almost certainly sailing out of sight.


        Because people are arguing over “framing.” When two sides can’t agree over the size of the frame that fits the picture, you aren’t in Kansas anymore. “Evidence-led” and “analytical” don’t mean anything. You’re dealing with two incommensurate belief systems. One side is measuring in millimeters and the other in unicorn horns. If you think those two measuring systems can be reconciled, you may want to get checked for denial.

        You guys go ahead and dicker about the picture frame. I’m gonna go to the range and practice capture-fire* technique with my Glock 9mm.

        What is a “Glock 9mm”? It’s an Austrian-made precision tool for resolving difficult framing issues. Here’s how it works:

        When an interlocutor refuses at length to stop measuring in unicorn horns and threatens that YOU must measure in unicorn horns or else he will force you for your own good, you pull out the Glock 9mm and use it to reframe the situation. You prove through a combination of Austrian math, engineering, and logic that measuring in millimeters–to a diameter of 9 millimeters in this particular case–has distinct real-world advantages that can only be denied at the cost of his ceasing to be able to measure anything at all whatsoever; and he’d better calm the actual fuck down and agree to disagree.

        The results, in my experience, border on the miraculous. I’m so happy my country allows a citizen of good character to legally purchase and keep precision reframing equipment. The Founders had a keen instinct for how fanatics like to force others into their own measurement system. Because of them, I am allowed to say … μολὼν λαβέ, buckos.

        *Capture fire – A technique in which the slide of a semi-automatic pistol is held forward with the thumb or the opposite hand during firing, preventing the slide from retracting automatically and ejecting the spent cartridge, but also preventing jamming or locking of the slide during very close combat with someone who measures in unicorn horns and demands you do the same. Mostly used by police officers, special forces soldiers, and trained bodyguards.

        • Oppressed Indigenous Neanderthal says

          “What is a “Glock 9mm”? It’s an Austrian-made precision tool for resolving difficult framing issues.”


          I needed that after the graphs. Good grief.

          I believe the Glock 9mm also doubles as a “Freedom Delivery System.”

          It uses hot gases to deliver an 8-gram comet of freedom at 360 meters/second to those who don’t have any freedom and are trying to take somebody else’s.

        • I prefer my semi-automatics come from the armory of democracy, i.e. Springfield armory. I carry an XD40 subcompact, prefer the heavier hitting power of a .40.
          I am, however, a wheel gun fan persoanllp. I prefer the reliability of a good revolver. I have a Ruger Redhawk in .44 magnum and a Cimarron SAA in .45 Long Colt. For self defense I am getting an Ruger Sp101 in .327 magnum.

    • Anti-immigration as a moral story is funny when you consider how most religions are not particularly open to other cultures other than to impose that religion upon them. Those who differ are labeled bad actors, often with death as a normal and just punishment.
      If you are afraid to debate an idea, it’s most likely because you know your idea is faith-based, not evidence-based.

      • Peter from Oz says

        david of k
        ”If you are afraid to debate an idea, it’s most likely because you know your idea is faith-based, not evidence-based.”
        I think that’s true to some degree. I would add the rider that some people don’t actually know that their arguments are ”faith-based.” Once they have received the ”truth,” then they assume the evidence for that truth is overwhelming.

    • robinwcollins says

      It is important to distinguish exactly which group is problematic. It is not “the left”, it is the extremist variant, the regressive left, but also the extreme right.

  2. ATate says

    “We only hope this brand of anti-intellectualism does not penetrate more widely within the academy, both in Britain and elsewhere“

    Too late. Nice try though.

    • Byron Thanopoulos says

      Hope unfortunately is not a method but a religious instrument. When one has a problem one has to Act.
      Anything else is call Thanatosis… I.e. pretend to be dead to avoid death.

  3. Bruce Donaldson Scott says

    Thank you for the sanity, but I doubt that in the long run, the totalitarian Left will stop being totalitarian when they control all of the institutions, however, I have not lost hope.

  4. Andrew Worth says

    Those on the radical far left should never be described as “extreme liberals”, it makes them sound like they’re extremely liberal, when “neo-fascists” would be closer to the mark.

  5. ga gamba says

    The authors and the other debate participants deserve to be commended for not only organising the event but for also staying the course to see it through. Pity the debate’s title was changed though.

    Before turning to the troublesome idea of “normalization,”

    These are things that have been normalised. Assertions of “safety under threat” and the like are the go-to gambit to shut up speakers and harass owners/managers of spaces. A belief by progressive academics they are clairvoyants who know the thoughts and motives of others even before they are revealed by the speakers themselves. Debates are now viewed as akin to monologues. That each side is given a go is no longer acceptable; it’s not even recognised by the events’ opponents. Is there an implied concession that their side can’t form a credible argument and prevail? “Words are violence” but, bizarrely, genuine violence perpetrated against anyone deemed rightwing, accurately or not, is not only tolerable it’s commendable.

    • Dazza says

      The biggest problem with “normalization” is two professors in the UK spelling it with a “z”!

    • Ga gamba you are correct in pointing out the implicit concession. This is precisely what is happening. Whenever there is a fair debate, they lose. So why debate? Define debates as bad instead. Easy peasy.

      • They don’t even teach the art of debate anymore. Assertions and ad hominems, straw men and other logical fallacies are perfectly acceptable and too often substituted for logical discussion

  6. Orion Buttigieg says

    Academia is done. They’ve lost and are now throwing haymakers in desperation. Anything to protect their religion. The age of barely mediocre is before us.

    • Circuses and Bread ?? - Solutions, not politics says


      Yes, I agree that academia is pretty much done. However that’s a good thing. I don’t see that our society will be any worse off and probably much better off as a result of the demise of most of academia. Academia spends billions if not trillions of dollars. And what are we getting for it? Are it’s graduates so well trained in marketable job skills that we couldn’t utilize a cheaper alternative? Is the research performed so cutting edge that we couldn’t get a better end result through say the use of tax credits for research?

      In hindsight we’re not mourning the end of horses and buggies as a primary means of transport given the auto. Nor will we mourn the demise of academia given that something better will likely replace it.

      • J.Ryall says


        “And what are we getting for it?”

        Bowl season and March Madness, dangit! Kidding aside, I agree that most humanities and social sciences researchers add little value to society and that we are reaching a point where it may be necessary to remove the cancerous parts of the institution.

    • NickG says

      The toxic tertiary education system must be disintermediated ASAP.

  7. There’s just no such thing as an “extreme liberal”. I chuckled every time I read this. The whole point is that those people aren’t liberal, unless this word has utterly lost its meaning.

    • Ray Andrews says


      Freedom is slavery. War is Peace. Marxism is the new liberalism. Treating everyone the same is Discrimination. To control the language is to control the mind. Orwell attempted to write a warning, instead it seems he wrote a textbook.

  8. Escape Goat says

    While I agree with the general approach applaud the courage it took to have such a debate, I’m not sure that “harm” is the appropriate determinant of whether free speech should be allowed.

    • Indeed, when a purported sexual harassment victim comes out publicly, isn’t harm to the perpetrator rather the point? Isn’t every case filed with the police and courts an attempt to cause harm to another? Isn’t every war resolution? Don’t terms like micro-aggression and triggering imply harming the declared bad actor?

    • Kelli R. says

      Can you say more about this? What do you suggest as a determinant?

  9. Joshua Yonkin says

    I stopped reading at the point where it became apparent that you were in a constant state of backpedaling trying to reason with a neurotic group of people who fundamentally do not believe in liberal values, i.e. freedom of speech. You have already lost when you’ve been cowed by demands to reframe the debate along new terms that you never thought were necessary in the first place. Pretending that the censoring of controversial opinions under the threat of reputation demolition and career sabotage is anything other than thought terminating violence, perpetrated by those who have already made up their mind and are now out to make up everyone else’s mind or else, is disastrously naive and will only invite more of the same tactics to the detriment of civil society.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Joshua Yonkin

      It is a very good question whether the time has come to abandon our own civility and actually fight the neo-Stalinists — open ideological war. It is our civility and sense of compromise and flex (ever backwards) that got us to this point. Fire with fire? Maybe, maybe not. But we incinerated Dresden in the name of civilization, it had to be done. Politeness is not working … or is it? Some say the tide has turned.

      • Kelli R. says

        @Ray Andrews

        Where would this end? I suggest a rereading of Aeschylus’s The Oresteia.

        The Antifa folks justify their own violence by a perceived violence on the right. Let’s not give them any real justification.

        Keep writing. Keep speaking. The bubbles they are floating in will eventually pop.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Kelli R.

          There’s the rub, eh? I think we’ve been too passive, OTOH, as you say, one would not want to give them any genuine ammunition. I can argue it either way, I just like to get intelligent thoughts on the matter.

      • If there were just two sides with different assumptions then I wouldn’t want any part of either.

        The only side worth associating with is one that’s respectful of opposing views and willing to be persuaded via debate. Give that up and lose a lot of support.

        • Byron Thanopoulos says

          Logical fallacy.
          The sides are:
          Crazy Vs logical
          Crazy Vs crazy
          Logical Vs logical
          Debate can only occur in the third case. In the other cases its certain that force will be used. That’s otherwise known as pragmatism…

      • augustine says

        This line of reasoning recalls the criticism of the role of UN peacekeepers as a force that mainly perpetuates conflict over long periods of time. Without a decisive victory in a conflict that has already gone violent, the hopes for conquest simmer on both sides and thereby dampen incentives to negotiate a peaceful resolution. Sometimes conflict– with a decisive outcome– is the resolution itself, in place of unending strife and psychological torture for the populations involved. There is no shortage of examples in history of both types and everything in between.

        May the dispassionate seeking of knowledge and understanding advocated in this article always appeal to reasonable men. The problem is that knowledge and understanding are not the most crucial determinants in human affairs. What is in our hearts is outside the province of science.

  10. E. Olson says

    There is much confusion with descriptions of various groups. The authors (and many others) equate Fascism and Nationalism with the Far-Right and Liberals with the Far-Left – which is wildly inaccurate as their own results show. From most text-book definitions and my own understanding, Fascists are against free-speech, strongly oppose political opponents by banning or imprisoning them, and frequently resort to violence to get their way, while Liberals are the exact opposite. Nationalists believe the rights and welfare of a nation’s citizens come first before trying to “save the world”, and usually that the nation’s citizens are superior in capability or culture versus the people of other nations. Meanwhile, Leftists generally believe most citizens are too stupid and selfish to be trusted to make the “correct” decisions on most matters, and that smarter and more open-minded government officials need to regulate, tax, propagandize, and mandate how citizenry should properly act and what they should believe – i.e. more government is always better. Those on the right believe that powerful government is inherently corrupt because of the imperfections of man, and that people should be allowed to make their own decisions even if the results are sometimes imperfect – i.e. government should be as small as possible and mainly concerned with maintaining borders, enforcing minimal laws, and protecting property and constitutional rights.

    I believe the confusion in terms can largely be blamed on the Nazis and their opponents. The Nazis were white (Aryan) nationalists who violently opposed free speech and political opponents, and hated Communists, which for Leftists means they must be automatically “Far-Right” Fascists. Yet the Nazis loved big government, Communist era Russians and Chinese were/are certainly very nationalistic and believe in the superiority of their people and culture, and Leftist regimes have been the most violent suppressors of free speech and political opposition in history. Thus Nationalism cannot really be an identifier of the Right or Left as it occurs across the political spectrum, but love of big government and the power to enforce Fascist values can only come from the Left, while Liberal values can also only be threatened from the Left because the small government desired by the Right doesn’t have the power. This is well illustrated by the article even if they misuse a lot of the political terminology. Which side (Left or Right) is most offended by free speech and open debate on topics such as immigration (or IQ, gender differences, the mental health of transsexuals, and other politically contentious issues of our time)? Which side is most likely to violently oppose, fire, and physically attack people who hold opposing views? The answer is clear – it is the Left and they should definitely not be described as Liberals, because their behavior matches up perfectly with Fascism. What can be said is that in the West it is only people on the Right who are currently Nationalists, because those on the Left tend to hate Western culture and seek to topple it by importing every illiberal, violent, and big government loving ethnic, religious, and racial group they can, which is why they can’t debate the immigration topic.

    • Ken Smithmier says

      Great piece. Those of us in the hinterlands actually have brains, and the ability to use them reasonably, logically, and critically. We don’t need condescending academics to shield us. Give us information and opinion and most of the time we’ll do a pretty good job of separating good from bad.

    • ga gamba says

      The answer is clear – it is the Left and they should definitely not be described as Liberals, because their behavior matches up perfectly with Fascism.

      They certainly are illiberal. I hesitate to call them fascists not because they’re neither authoritarian nor violent, but because fascism is imprinted in the public mind with the brown- and black-shirted thugs, Nazis, Franco, etc. You have about 90 years of baggage to grapple with. Calling them fascists shifts the needed discussion off of leftwing violence to whether or not the word fascist is accurate. You yourself devoted a few sentences explaining it. Think about the word Nazi or fascist. You never see an explanation offered by the accuser who shouts those words. Instead of keeping the topic focussed on tyranny, now we’re talking about definitions, which is a digression the left loves. Over the years the left was adroit at dodging its own culpability for thuggish behavior and instigating violence such as the Red Terrors in the ’20s and ’30s of Spain, Hungary (read about Bela Kun and his Lenin Boys), and elsewhere. Sad to say it, but communist doesn’t have equal stigma as fascist, mostly due to how educators amplify the crimes of the former by ignoring or waving away those of the latter. “That wasn’t real communism.” I think instead of calling them fascists and spending time and effort explaining how it’s applicable, it’s better to use words such as Cheka tyrants, Stasi thugs, or murderous Maoists. I recall a frequent commentator here, Peter from Oz if my memory hasn’t failed me, uses oikophobes when writing about them, but this may be a bit esoteric.

      Moving on, the left-right dimension is but one. I think it may be outdated, or at least its relevance is less so now. Certainly there are the authoritarian-libertarian and globalist-nativist dimensions. This is why the MSM is having such trouble pigeonholing the gilets jaunes in France, though perhaps they’re holding back in the hope the traditional left organisations such as labour unions and other activists may wrest control of the movement to resurrect the France’s dormant and inconsequential leftist parties.

      • But they are fanatic cultists; as were the Hitlerites, Stalinists and Maoists of the 20th C.

        The tactic Goodwin and Kaufmann ran into looks very much like the kind of shunning the separatists used against the CoE in the mid-17th C. and the Quakers used against the Presbyterians and Congregationalists as well as the CoE in the last half of the 17th C.

      • Peter from Oz says

        In summary I think the people we are talking about are oikophobes who suffer from conservatism by proxy which is mixed in with a very distorted sense of chivlary and noblesse oblige. The whole lot is washed down with a good dose of the zero sum fallacy. These lefties really are a wonderful admixture of wrong headedness.

    • You can feel a nation should focus on itself without also thinking it’s supreme.
      Every person I know fails the check on whether they are supreme and better than all others, yet every one of them understands self-interest, family-interest, community-interest come before “fixing” the rest of the world to be like them.

    • Jorge says

      @ E. Olson:

      “From most text-book definitions and my own understanding … Leftists generally believe most citizens are too stupid and selfish to be trusted to make the “correct” decisions on most matters, and that smarter and more open-minded government officials need to regulate, tax, propagandize, and mandate how citizenry should properly act and what they should believe – i.e. more government is always better.”

      Progressives, not traditional “leftists” of the Thomas Jefferson persuasion. Precious few of those left.

    • Peter from Oz says

      E. Olson
      Well said.
      I like to describe Nazism/Fascism and Communism as the pepsi and coke of the political world. They were in fact almost the same thing, and were pursuing the same statist ends, but they spent a lot of time and energy trying to prove that they are different. That is why communists and fascists hated each other so much: each needed a bogey man to keep power.
      In contrast, representative democracy is a tonic water. Yes. it’s a beverage, but it’s not in direct competition for the same market as the sweet and sticky communists and fascists.
      Sometimes, however, one wishes that those defending representative democracy would put a little gin in that tonic.

      • Maoist and Stalinist, Stalinist and Leninist, Stalinist and Trotskyist erc. It seems that the more alike the more hostility there. So is it any surprise Nazis and Stalinist were similar but mortal enemies (however, at one time they were also allies). Actually, there does seem to be a common denominator in my list… Everyone hated Stalinist. Hmmmmm.

    • CRISP says

      How could these academics not know that Mussolini was a far-left socialist who ran two leftist journals. He was a Marxist who believed the State should direct and control the economy, not the capitalists. His Fascist Party was based on Marxist principles, which includes violence in the pursuit of the workers’ state.
      In the Weimar Republic, Hitler’s Workers’ Party found its greatest support among the proletariat and in universities, which then as now were hotbeds of left-wing activists. He was opposed to capitalism, organised religion, and the ruling establishment – hardly the beliefs of a conservative – and wanted to tear these down to build his new society in which the State should direct and control the economy.
      Throughout that time, Communists and Nazis fought each other over the same narrow support base and there was virtually nothing to separate them, with many regularly swapping sides. As Goebbels said “Communists make the best Nazis.”
      The reason Stalin signed a pact with Hitler is that he believed they were cut from the same cloth. Unfortunately for Stalin, he was absolutely right. It’s just that Hitler got in first.
      Many of Lenin’s speeches called for and justified the need for violence. When you are wedded to a Utopian ideology and you see enemies everywhere, justification for the most extreme acts, including genocide, is easy. 200 million victims and counting…

      • E. Olson says

        Crisp – you should be writing the history books, where some honesty about this era is very much needed.

  11. Markus says

    I wish people would treat Twitter as something that is largely irrelevant. I mean, honestly, you can have a raging Twitter mob for some celebrity saying something about some other celebrity.

    How can anyone sane, left alone an intelligent academic, not see the mechanisms that drive Twitter (and its users) towards hysteria and verbal hyperventilation?

    I can’t help it, but I find myself stopping to read articles as soon as I they describe something that happened on Twitter or describe something someone said on Twitter.

    What happens on Twitter is mostly brain-farting, why would anyone care?

    • Peter from Oz says

      I agree. I’ve never even looked a Twitter. Why I should give a toss about whether someone says something on Twitter that offends the other 1% f the popyulation who reads that drivel is beyond comprehension.

    • Daniel says

      Confused. You said you “find [yourself] stopping to read articles”. Did you mean “stopping reading articles”? The two phrases mean the opposite.

      • Markus says

        @Dainiel. Sorry, non-native speaker. I meant, I often stop reading (and skip the rest of) an article, once the article shows that it’s mostly about something (or some backlash or some outrage) that happened on Twitter.

  12. The authors warn against dichotomous thinking:

    “And finally, dichotomous thinking. Collapsing the complex reality of the world into a black-and-white morality tale in which there are good and evil people (or fascists and anti-fascists) is the third “great untruth.” Populists are masters of this approach. The notion that there are “good” anti-fascists who are protecting minorities from “bad” fascists is an example of this cognitive style.”

    Dichotomous thinking is broader than the example they give, and includes drawing a line dividing the universe of people into Left/Right or progressive/conservative labels. Such broad brushing can quickly lead to tribalism and polarization into us/them. Then come the politicians who say “give me power so that I can protect you against them”.

    When someone says they are progressive, get behind the label; ask them what they consider to be progress and not progress. For conservatives, ask them what it is that they wish to conserve or not conserve. Their answers will bring you closer to their actual views than how you or they might label them.

    The fascist/anti-fascist labels have also been used this way. These are epithets, contemporary swear words, not meaningful summaries of the positions of others. I would suggest, instead, looking at what people are actually saying. If a group of signatories to open letters for shutting down debates are saying that the debate is too dangerous to be permitted to be held, ask them to prove it by evidence. If they can’t, whether they are of the right or left is irrelevant. They are a group of people demanding that the prospective debaters accept their emotional opposition to the subject, saying, in effect, “our emotions are preferable to, and should over-ride yours”, which begs the question “why?”

    There are people who write for Quillette saying, for example, that they are usually on the left but don’t hate Jordan Peterson, or in other ways showing nuance and some degree of an open mind. This is valuable. But broad brush labels obscure commonality and consensus, compress the thought processes of others into narrow and ill-fitting compartments, and then attack the compartments created by the labels as if they were the actual views of real people.

    • Peter from Oz says

      A very prescient comment.
      I’d say that most people would have an admixture of views on different subjects that range across the ”left/right” spectrum.
      But I would say the real dichotomy is between those who think that everything can be solved by the means of politcs and those who would rather just get on with life.

  13. The divinity of Jesus was and is far from ‘beyond question’ for Christians, who have debated the matter in Church councils and elsewhere for centuries, producing a variety of answers. It’s a pity Quillette so rarely mentions Christianity or any religion except as bad examples of something.

    • E. Olson says

      John – I wouldn’t say your comment is 100% true. For example, we have many (usually of non-believer/anti-Christian status) who will frequently impart their vast religious knowledge by telling us that Jesus would definitely be for open-borders, very generous welfare states, high tax rates on the rich, strict gun control, and against driving SUVs to prevent man-made climate change, and hence if you don’t believe what Jesus “believes” you are not a good Christian.

    • Stephanie says

      @Johntshea, I agree. It’s a little tiresome to hear people complain about the products of their values, while throwing shade at the values that could have kept us from this mess.

  14. Rose M says

    I just heard the Russian opera “A Life for the Tsar” – a tragic opera celebrating Ivan Susanin, a hero of the17th century who gave his life for the newly elected Tsar Mikhail, the first of the Romanov dynasty.

    No big news that during the Soviet era the opera was re-titled “Ivan Susanin” and purged of every reference to the Romanov.

    The original title and the Romanov references have since been reinstated. In the West, however, we are definitely living now under a Soviet style political correct dictatorship.

  15. Morgan Foster says

    “We only hope this brand of anti-intellectualism does not penetrate more widely within the academy, both in Britain and elsewhere.”

    The next Democratic president of the US will have control over the US Dept. of Education. “This brand of anti-intellectualism” has not yet run its course in the academy.

  16. Ray Andrews says

    The scientific method and appeals to data are all well and good. Also, one can frame the diversity/immigration question in terms of grand issues of the survival of our civilization, and I can look at it that way too. But there is another perspective, and that is the rather less high-strung issue of personal esthetics and choice. I prefer Indian cuisine to Japanese cuisine. Is that okay? Or must I not Discriminate?

    I like diversity — I mean diversity, not Diversity. You know, the old meaning of the word, meaning one thing not being the same as another. I don’t want London to be like Lahore or Malmo to be like Mogadishu, I want them to be diverse. This is just a personal esthetic choice. When I go to Turkey I’m glad that it’s still like Turkey and the people there are mostly Turks. If I ever get to Sweden I already know that I’ll be disappointed that Sweden is not entirely like Sweden anymore, but rather somewhat like Somalia. Mind, if I went to Somalia I’d be hoping the place was still Somali, not Swazi and if I went to Swaziland, exactly the converse. Now, if others want to live in a homogenized world (Diversity), that’s just fine, who am I to tell anyone what they prefer? But as for me, I like diversity and that means that I’d personally prefer that Britain remained British. Just me.

    • E. Olson says

      Ray – since your name doesn’t sound Japanese or Indian, your preference for Indian or Japanese cuisine is irrelevant – since to prepare or eat either is cultural appropriation – which is bad in any language.

      Your comment on small “d” diversity is very interesting. It wasn’t very long ago that most places in America or Canada, or Australia might brag about their diversity by pointing to their Italian, Greek, English, French, German, Swedish, or Polish neighborhoods, and their various associated Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish places of worship, schools, and hospitals, but today diversity seems to only mean people who come failed countries and cultures and with non-white skin color and non-Christian/Jewish beliefs.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @E. Olson

        ” is cultural appropriation”

        That might be next, but so far one is still permitted to eat at an ethnic restaurant, tho of course one dare not Appropriate by cooking it oneself, certainly.

        I remember liking diversity too, back when the idea was that we’d make our countries more interesting but not throw out our own identities entirely. But Diversity means surrendering any notion that one has seniority — or even any right to an opinion — as to how one’s own country should develop.

    • There’s real irony in the fact that as the world gets “more diverse” it actually stops being diverse.
      Look at how you can shop all over the USA and now just find the same stores that exist everywhere else. Regional diversity WITHIN a country has disappeared as more diverse ideas spread across those regions.
      Can France be “truly French” with lots of diversity?

  17. Farris says

    “Rather than a genuine debate, it was interpreted as an open attack on immigrants and minorities.”

    Naturally, those content with the status quo will inevitably view debating the status quo as a threat.

    Generic terms like alt-right and fascist have no real meaning. They are just used interchangeably with people we hate. However, allowing ideas or notions to go unchallenged is like failing to treat an infection. Don’t be surprised if it festers. The notion that challenging weak propositions legitimizes those positions is a weak kneed excuse for laziness.

  18. Calvin Hobbes says

    The takeaway for me is that democracy in Britain is dead, for all practical purposes. This debate amounts to some twitching by the corpse, but there’s no real hope that the corpse will come back to life.

  19. martti_s says

    America has a far too big a role in today’s political and philosophical questions. One big reason is that the rich country has an abundace of chattering class verbosities.
    The problem arises hwen the vocabulary that historically has been adequate to describe people’s political orientations and their openness is totally useless in the new world settings.

    ‘Liberals’ as they are called today are nothing but. They are neopuritans nitpicking on words and expressions that a hypothetical PoC or LGBT might find offensive. More often than not, they do not have any proof that the group they say they represent exists, let alone reacts to the said words.

    They are on their collective egotrips, not giving a flying F about where the real world stands. They have created an industry of being outraged, living in a fantasyland of their own greatness.
    Who benefits? They themselves do, so does the media. Marketers do. People get attention and fame presenting views that still five years ago would have been laughed silent.

    A lot of blame goes to the Internet. Everybody is a content creator or an aspiring columnist.
    Before Internet, I thought that people who can write also can think.
    Heh! Imagine!

  20. “All I want for Christmas is White Genocide.”

    Surely, this is incitement to murder a particular group of people. In a sane world he’d be put in jail.

    • E. Olson says

      ia – Sorry, but he had tenure and couldn’t even be fired, because tenure is all about protecting idiot Leftist academics (but I repeat myself), which also means that jail would be pretty much out of the question. Of course if he had said all I want for Christmas is “for blacks to go back to Africa” or “Muslims to blow themselves up with an IED”, or “females to get back in the kitchen where they belong”, he would no doubt have been fired before the end of the business day, beat to a pulp by masked “anti-fascists” on his way home, had his home raided by the FBI and been arrested for hate crimes, and CNN would be blaming Trump for creating a culture of hate.

  21. The authors don’t differentiate between legal immigration and illegal, nor between highly desired skills and working class skills. The reason this is important besides the obvious – if people can break the law with impunity, the rule of law is useless; and if there is one set of rules for one sort of people (brown low skilled workers mostly male), and another for another set (everyone else), then the law is also discriminatory no matter how high minded its framers claim to be. It’s also important because without the words, the ideas cannot be framed. So if we don’t pay attention to the percentage of young males and no-skill or low-skill workers coming in illegally (NOT legally) we cannot frame the debate as economic. Therefore the major concerns of those opposing the illegal immigrants – they depress wages, they depress the quality of schools, hospitals, and other services due to high need and low tax base, they burden the neighborhoods with high crime (if that is true; statistics indicate it is) – cannot even be considered. In other words, by refusing to define the problem accurately , the authors are inadvertently actually preventing a solution as well.

    Another issue is that the authors seem to believe that logic and reason are behind the academics who are so eager to import illegal low skilled workers aka “immigrants” that they mob-attack and mob-shame anyone who even questions the policy. So they argue with logic, facts and reason. This will accomplish precisely nothing. The people who want illegal immigrants want them for 100% emotional reasons. No amount of facts will persuade them otherwise.

    The reason academics & upper class politicians want the illegal immigrants should be obvious once you frame the problem economically- they are a terrific source of cheap labor and undercut union wages. And their nonwhite status allows the nearly all-white, all upper middle class to thump their chest and pretend they are moral while doing so. Finally, it’s an easy way to maintain status in the academic hierarchy which otherwise is fast losing its status based on competence and instead derives status based on dogma and group identities and belonging to the church of Diversity, Equity Et al. They also sow dissent and thus allow the ruling class to rule with more ease. (This is a centuries old technique in controlling the electorate).Finally, they allow the Western culture to disintegrate, something that is truly bizarre and a sort of suicide; although I think they think they’re exempt and they only want to stop “them” from the benefits of the West. They really believe I think that they can continue to destroy the West and at the same time remain in power and operate by the rules of the West. It’s delusional and naive but they are drunk on power and hysterical about their narrative (that everything can be explained incredibly simply, with white Western men as Evil, and Brown/Black nonwestern people are Good–except for them, for they are the priests. Or whatever.)

    It’s all a game for them because they have no immediate consequence. I guarantee you that zero percent of the academics actually live with illegal immigrants and send their children to school with them, nor have any of them been impacted economically (the opposite–they make terrific cheap maids, gardeners, Uber drivers, factory workers, and so on). This is literally theoretical for them. The plebes are the ones who are burdened with the consequences and to shut them up the very second they complain they are attacked. This is rather similar to the techniques used during, say, the Peasant Revolt, only it’s only incidental death (though violence) and not direct death since the intellegentsia doesn’t like to sully its hands.

    At any event, the authors need to step outside academia to properly respond to this threat. The article is a good start but incomplete.

    • Legal or not doesn’t really matter, as a culture is changed when too many of other cultures arrive in short order AND believe their new nation should adopt their ways from the places they fled because they were so awful.
      Legal and illegal are just government states based on current law.
      If your country says it’s fully legal to accept millions fleeing Yemen or Syria, the effect isn’t much different than if they arrive without permission.

    • Circuses and Bread ?? -Solutions, not politics says


      Your post struck a chord, especially the paragraph about academics and upper class politicians. There seems to be a sort of witting or unwitting synergy between them. They must realize that rocking the boat as it were is to neither the academics nor the politicians benefit. Perhaps that in part explains why so much utterly ineffective political action comes out of academia?

      While I’m sure the motives of the authors are pure and on the up and up, I’m hard pressed to think of a more ineffective action to take with regard to immigration policy than getting together and having a seminar to discuss it. I bet the politicians will get right on that PDQ! ?

    • JollyLittlePerson says

      I agree with d that legal vs illegal immigration DOES matter. Perhaps not so much in the case of David of Kirkland’s example when, if I remember correctly, millions of people fleeing failed countries turned up illegally in Europe, and then so as not to appear ‘racist’ Angela Merkel and her like said “Let them stay”.

      Legal vs illegal immigration matters when the debaters say they are using empirical evidence and Science to claim things like immigrants commit less crime than native- born people. I believe that this is true, but it is largely because legal immigrants to the US (and many other countries) go through very strict vetting. If you have a long criminal record you won’t be let in. From my experience of immigrating to the US they are even concerned about (charmingly phrased) crimes of moral turpitude.

      Lumping the very low crime causing legal immigrants with illegal immigrants creates a law abiding average. This is used as an excuse to cry ‘racism’ to beat back those who want to debate immigration or control national borders but is an excellent example of cherry-picking data to reach the conclusion that you want and trying to shut down debate by saying “But it’s Science”.

  22. Eric H says

    It seems to me that I’ve seen an increase in these types of “complicit in the violence” claims lately (Sarah Myhre saying as much about Cliff Mass comes to mind). The people making these claims presume that violence in the form of bombs is on a spectrum with disinterest and anger as a form of personal expression. It is not, and everyone on all sides of controversy should understand that it is not. Violence and speech are separated by simple rules. The best antidote to bad ideas is more free speech; more violence is a poor cure for violence.

  23. Circuses and Bread ?? - Solutions, not politics says

    The naïveté of the article was rather charming. So the authors put together a conference for a learned discussion on immigration policy . I guess it never occurred to them to ask themselves if the politicians really give a rat’s ass what they or the rest of the plebs think about it? Or to do some sort of economic analysis as to what level of resources, if any, could cause a change in immigration policy?

    While it’s not for me to say how people need to spend their time, I dare say that the folks who organized and attended this would have accomplished more for society if they had skipped it and done charity work instead. Heck, they would likely have accomplished as much if they had gone to a soccer match instead.

    • @circuses, Totally agreed. You basically say what I said, only you say it more succinctly!

      I just love how for all these academics this is all theoretical. They have nothing at stake, no skin in the game whatsover. It’s “those” plebes whose neighborhoods, schools, jobs, and hospitals are impacted. The academics just trot on their merry way, preening themselves. this is how these two authors can in all seriousness put together a conference complete with charts and data, about “immigration.” Or how, in my kids’ universities, the presidents, who live in gated mansions (literally a wall) and earns well over $1 million/year, can pontificate and tweet about ‘there is no such thing as an illegal person” and pompously be for ‘migrants.’ Meanwhile, exactly how many ‘migrants’ do they have in their kids’ schools or do they help out in their second or third houses?

  24. I watched the Bannon-Frum Munk Debate quite carefully, and while Frum was relatively restrained in personal invective against Bannon, Frum essentially said nothing beyond variations on “Orange Man Bad”. Bannon, however, consistently developed a generally cogent and level-headed case towards both understanding and legitimizing the present movements in much of the West towards nationalism and populism.

    (This Munk event, of course, preceded the gilets jaunes outbursts in France, which are likely nowhere near over).

    Given that extreme pressure —in part from the highest political levels— was applied to the Munk organizers and venue to pre-emptively “deplatform” Bannon; and given that the audience response evaluation technology had been successfully used in many previous Munk Debates, I seriously wonder whether the original determination that Bannon “won” overwhelmingly was possibly accurate, and the hastily adopted backdown that actually nobody’s minds were changed, is conceivably suspect.

    This has to be looked at in terms of a previous Munk Debate where an uncharacteristically impassioned Mark Steyn drove the insulting and snide Simon Schama into the ground, and the audience response evaluation was tilted vastly towards Steyn… whose political views are certainly comparable to Bannon’s.

  25. Erica from Eckenridge says

    It’s been scientifically proven that if you simply deny that these activities (illegal immigration and massive migrations) take place, they will go away.

  26. 2dogs says

    Between the “open borders” people on one side and the “ban all Muslims” people on the other, there is enormous room for compromise.

    Can we at least talk about the issue in the hope of finding a workable compromise?

    Apparently not. Seems that belligerence and violence in the streets is the order of the day.

  27. Kelli R. says

    I am thinking about the two ideas that we’re tested for their offensiveness in the poll. One is not even a proposition; it is a question. (This is unusual in formal debate, where, normally, a positively stated proposition is debated.)

    In order to be offended by a question, one would have to decide on an answer and take offense at that. Why did the objectors assume an anti-immigration answer? Do they think that a reasoned discussion can result in only that one outcome? Do they distrust all people who engage in debate in the same way the hippies didn’t trust people over 30? In their minds, is an appeal to reason outmoded? Has reason proved ineffectual?

    The second idea was a self report. It tells us what one person wishes. Should I be offended by the wishes of a person I have never heard of? Perhaps not.

    I do find it offensive that someone who doesn’t know me would be happy for me to die. But I am more offended that only the extreme conservatives were very much offended by the wish for white genocide.

    Were other respondents not offended because it was just some guy spouting off or making a joke on Twitter? Or was it because they actually think a little genocide might be good for white people? When did any kind of genocide become something to be entertained even lightly?

  28. Huffman Heather says

    You crafted a provocative title then complain that people were provoked.

    • Morgan Foster says

      An intellectually provocative title. The provocation that followed was anything but.

  29. I think the instincts of the authors to disprove and debate the idea that their conversations are to be deplatformed are well intentioned but wrong. Qualifying your thoughts and right to forward ideas on immigration with, “One of our colleagues is African/Caribbean.”, is the wrong approach IMO.

    Someone’s racial, gender, sexual…identity are not qualifiers for good or bad ideas. Sorry, they’re just not. Playing that card may put these identitarians back on their heels for a microsecond, but it’s not a sound strategy because it’s the same game they play. That an ideas worth is related to the external identity of its champion.

    I believe that a good parenting strategy needs to be put into effect to combat these sorts of illogical tantrums. Ignore the bad behavior. (Meaning no response, no apologies, no conciliation…you don’t put a child in time out and then argue with them about why you’re wrong for putting them in time out) Extend an invitation to communicate and cooperate in pro social formats. The reward is that other adults hear and respect you, your ideas stand on their merit, and your thoughts are honed into a sharper and more cogent logic than (fingers in ears) “La la la la la.”.

    I see the techniques from these sorts of political players and the chronically outraged as similar to bad behaviors that I discourage (with moderate success) in my children.

  30. Robert Franklin says

    What I’d like to know is how many of the people offended by the forum’s title could define “fascism.” My guess is not many. Their idea of fascism tends to be anything that offends them.

    • Aerth says

      For current Left – Facists and Nazis are everyone that do not agree on everything with them.

  31. R Henry says


    1)The current cultural nomenclature in USA is intentionally freighted with ambiguity. The issue is identified as “Immigration,” but there isn’t any particular piece of new legislation that is being debated. Instead, activists seek to ignore, or operationally nullify, existing, duly enacted and valid laws. As such, the issue isn’t immigration, it is the Rule of Law.

    2) The public “debate” is not centered on reality. Activists have worked assiduously to blur any distiction between immigration that is measured and controlled versus illegal, uncontrolled border crossings by nationals of other countries.

  32. Stephanie says

    It’s a shame the organisers were foolish enough to change the title of the debate. It should have been obvious that it would make no difference to how the fascists receive it. Changing the name is an admission of defeat to these people. I hope they learnt their lesson.

    Immigration is not uniformly threatening, it depends in large part of where the immigrants are from. Immigration from places with sky-high rape rates cannot avoid bringing some of that in, particularly when those people are racist, and see white girls as objects to be exploited. The rash of gang rape gangs in the UK demonstrate the real harms posed by such immigration. I’m not aware of a single positive effect that counter balances thousands of girls repeatedly raped. The left is aware of this, that’s why they cannot allow for a debate to take place.

    If only it was only their children who would be raped, and their neighbourhoods rendered shitholes. If we cannot stem the tide of immigration, we should establish a system whereby Brits in favour of mass migration must welcome them into their neighbourhoods exclusively. If diversity is such a wonderful thing, it’s “benefits” should go exclusively to them.

  33. Note that “far right”, as used above, is the paleo-Democrats (KKK not a part of today’s political right.

  34. BrannigansLaw says

    “To turn our backs on the scientific method is to yield to our biases, abandon the quest for objectivity and simply engage in a naked struggle for power.”

    This is a fantastic, concise statement of the importance of free inquiry.

  35. Daniel says

    The problem the authors ran into was the forum. Debating anything of substance in a university setting nowadays seems to be a totally fruitless proposition.

    This problem is so big and entrenched, it isn’t going away. University students are surpassed in regressive idiocy only by their professors, who in turn are far surpassed by the administrators.

    Stop all public funding to universities. Do away with all student loans. Allow students to declare bankruptcy to ditch out of student debt. Universities can jolly well offer their own loans — and they’ll be highly motivated to pay careful attention to the character of their students as a result. We can probably all predict which majors will be most likely to pay off their debt, and which won’t.

  36. rickoxo says

    I enjoyed immensely the debates/discussions between Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson about evolution and religion. Neither Harris nor Peterson thought they were presenting the last word, that either of them resolved anything or that anything was accomplished. But two intelligent people had a thoughtful, respectful conversation about a controversial topic and the rest of us could listen in.

    It seems like the author’s had a similar intention for a conversation about immigration, but instead of knowing that there would be backlash, resistance and hostility and going forward anyway, they got seriously sidetracked pre-event.

    Trying to argue with a drunk person is always a bad idea, just as it’s almost always a bad idea trying to prove how you’re not whatever 20 awful adjectives are being used about you for having a conversation about any controversial topic. A goal of the IDW was to be a place for these types of conversations so that they could actually happen. The goal was never to get lost in endless arguments about why it’s not racist to try to talk about race.

    I can’t believe the author’s thought it was worth spending all that time talking about the ridiculous fight before the event and not write about the actual topic itself.

  37. Coffee Klatch says

    When I got down to the line graph measuring the levels of offense, I almost shit my pants from laughing so hard. The IDW/HeteroDox/Quillette orbit has jumped the fucking shark.

    When we reach 100 commenters on this thread can you please take a survey of whether I should have Raisin Bran or toast for breakfast in the morning? LOL.

    Also, you have to think people on the left are pretty fucking stupid to buy this bullshit. As if we haven’t read the nth million opinion article or argued online with the nth million dunderfuck that has argued the “levels of mistrust in a diverse society “research.” We know exactly what you’re up to.

    You know what threatens Western Civ? Crinkle-dicked white babymen who continually cry-bitch about being denied the spoils of what they never contributed to anyway. People making a difference in Western Civilization aren’t sitting around circle jerking about lady-witches and head measuring and spreadsheets about girls coding and having actual intellectuals reject your crazoid, butt-tragic temper tantrum writ large with a chorus of sad incels ready to follow any dickhead who eats only meat and is afraid of apple cider of the dumbest fucking cliff ever.

    • Can’t tell if this is intentional parody or unintentional self-parody. And please don’t try to pass yourself off as a representative of the left, because you’re not. You’re the outspoken far-left minority and most people inside of the far-left tail (e.g. me) think you are ridiculous as well.

  38. Hamilton Sunshine says

    The truth is simply this:

    Silencing somebody because they MAY give succour to extremist right, merely gives succour to the extremist left or vice versa.

    And the emboldened side who are still allowed to speak will then become more arrogant, less capable of self reflection and therefore more extreme. They will silence more and more nuanced and centrist people (mission creep) until there are so many people silenced they will eventually take a sledge hammer to the silencers.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Trump, Corbyn, Brexit, Orban, Tommy Robinson. Monsters made by the elite telling everyone to eat cake for far too long.

  39. Waterloo Sunrise says

    The surest sign of whether something is good for bad for a nation is what the Jewish community thinks about it. And the Jewish community in Britain is firmly in favour of mass immigration and the fullest possible range of racial and religious groups making Britain their home. Therefore mass immigration and the maximal diversity must be regarded as core British values. No ifs, no buts: anyone who disagrees is a hater and bigot or an enabler of haters and bigots.

    Just ask Barbara Roche, Jonathan Portes and the Board of Deputies.

    • Eric Kaufmann says

      Not so. I’m Jewish and Remember that Jews are the strongest Tory voting group in the UK.

      • Waterloo Sunrise says

        If you’re Jewish, you know that what I said is true, so I don’t understand why you deny it. The Jewish community in Britain is overwhelmingly in favour of mass immigration and maximal diversity. When the brave dissident Melanie Phillips questions Jewish support for Muslim immigration, she is precisely that: a brave dissident.

        As for the Tories: the Jewish community are very happy with resolute Tory support for Israel and complete Tory failure to reduce immigration. Barbara Roche, the very Jewish New Labour minister behind the boom in Third-World immigration, recently announced in the Evening Standard that “Migration has always been an essential part of British life.” George Osborne, the part-Jewish editor and ex-Tory minister, replied like this:

        The fact that migration from outside the EU continues to rise is revealing. The Brexiteers and the Prime Minister say we have to end free movement of people so we “take back control” of our borders and get immigration down. But we have control of our borders when it comes to non-Europeans, and yet their numbers are going up. That’s because the Government is talking about getting net immigration down to the tens of thousands but isn’t prepared to do the things in practice to achieve it — such as turn away international students, deny our economy access to workers, break up families or deny refugees.

        The fact that they don’t practice what they preach is good thing. I suspect the same would be true were we ever to end free movement of people with the EU — although that seems to me also, thankfully, becoming less and less likely, judging by the way things are going.

        Meanwhile, in the US:

        We, Rabbis from across the United States, call on our elected officials to keep America’s doors open to refugees.

        Faced with the largest refugee crisis in all of human history, the United States must continue to be a safe haven for people fleeing religious persecution, genocide, and terror.

        Our Jewish tradition teaches that every individual was created in the image of God. We must not turn our backs to the suffering of those individuals who have fled horrific violence, and who continue to be in extreme peril.

        Furthermore, Jewish history bears witness to the critical choice facing our country: whether to rescue those in need or to construct barriers to keep them out. Jews have seen America at its best, and we know what it looks like for our country to provide the chance at a new beginning. In generations past, our families were given opportunities to gain education, join the workforce, and become part of building our great nation.

        As Rabbis, we take seriously the biblical mandate to “welcome the stranger.” Grounded in our history and values, we will continue to raise our voices in support of refugees and call on our great nation to uphold a legacy of welcome.

        Oddly enough, that biblical mandate doesn’t work v. well in Israel and big walls keep desperate refugees out. As a Jewish social scientist, can you explain that? Maybe it’s something to do with the unsuitable climate in Israel? Or maybe Israel is masochistic and doesn’t want to experience the joys of diversity so loudly hailed by the Jewish community in the US, UK and Europe?

  40. Matthew Goodwin says

    Hi All, just to say thanks for the comments which I have found interesting, Matt Goodwin

  41. Western civilisation is in the grip of a secular ideology (post-racial multiculturalism & DIVERSITY) which serves the same purpose of socio-political intimidation & control that medieval church ideology once did. It is no accident that the primary source of this ideology lies amongst academics, who in many ways are the modern, secular heirs and counters of the medieval clergy.

    It began as an understandable overreaction to the horrors of Nazism, thereby denying the importance & even the very existence of race altogether, before being co-opted by the state & its elites to serve their age-old strategy of divide & rule, whereby society is divided into a morally superior, now supposedly non-tribal, unprejudiced, “colour-blind” and xenophilic elite, on the one hand, and the morally inferior, naturally (evolved human nature being what it is) tribal, prejudiced, not colour-blind, but nativist and xenophobically-inclined masses, on the other, who must submit to the authority of and domination by their “moral superiors”.

    A moral animal like ourselves can be manipulated and controlled by a regime of moral rewards & intimidation as well as by one of material/physical rewards & intimidation. In fact, it is much easier to control in this fashion.

    It is, in effect, a modern, secular replacement for the power-political role of medieval church ideology. Original sin (disobedience of divine, i.e. priestly/state authority) has been replaced by “racial prejudice” (the natural human inclination – like original sin – to identity with members of one’s own tribe, race or ethnic group, which was made responsible (wrongly) for the Holocaust and equated with the evils of Nazi racism), and which only submission to priestly/academic/state ideology and authority can save us from eternal damnation for, not as heathens and heretics, as in the past, but as bigots, xenophobes, nativists & racists.

    Mainstream academia, which has been captured by the far left, are playing the role of the medieval church, while academics like the authors of this article are the beginnings of a Protestant Reformation, which is, nevertheless, still beholden to sacred scripture of post-racial multiculturalism & DIVERSITY, while I, on the other hand, am an atheist, who doesn’t believe in any of it.

    I elaborate on Twitter:

  42. You seem to be surprised. Strange.
    Just as if a Cathar or a Hussite would claim to be surprised when called a heretic.
    And do not tell me that “Heretic” is too harsh a comparison. The set of mind at that time and today is exactly the same.
    When a sheep Went/goes astray it will immediately be chased back by the guarding dogs* (domini canes).
    Then and now.
    Be glad that you did not encounter the “Schutzstaffel” from AntiFa.

    *think of the dogs from “Animal Farm”

  43. Pingback: What Happened When We Tried to Debate Immigration | 3 Quarks Daily

  44. MRM Berlin says

    How were the graphs in these figures calculated? I find it hard to believe that curves for white/non-white respondents go strictly in parallel across all data points. Also, error bars are unlikely to have almost exactly the same span across all data points when numbers of white/non-white respondents were very different in Fig. 2…

    • MKT Junker says

      Any good scholar would make their data available. This straight line simplicity is at best sloppy, but more likely eorroneous. Multiple categories, very few data points, and no clarity on how the responses were mapped to ideological categories. It would be easIER to construct a chart with two professors as data points.

  45. Pingback: Will Noah Carl get a fair hearing? | Coffee House

  46. Graham P says

    PC is all about gaining
    Power and Control by using
    Political Censorship with accusations of
    Phoney Crimes made by the
    Pathologically Corrupt.

  47. Lydia says

    I really admire all the work that you all put into this. It was an Olympian effort. But the “fact” remains, ironically, that facts don’t matter when you are dealing with underdeveloped Puritanesque sin sniffing emotionalism from the totalitarians. Speech they disagree with is “violence”. How you can ever hope to reason your way through that one, is beyond me.

    I believe the only hope in these situations is use
    persuasion with those who might just be interested in their own free speech, someday.

  48. Erica from The West Village says

    The sooner you understand Progressive’s want their houses cleaned every week for no more than $75 and their children nannied for no more than $250/week…the sooner we can all cone to agreement why open borders are important to the personal economies of TOL’s. (The Oppressive Left).

  49. Albion says

    How can too much immigration not be a threat to the homogenous host society? Rightly or wrongly, our identity is tied up with not only our ethnicity, but our history, traditions, culture, country, community etc etc. Traditions and cultural markers are continually under attack, either through social media or progressive laws. History, British in particular is now only allowed to be veiwed through the prism of imperialism and colonialism and identity, English, British for example is being changed to allow any ethnicity to adopt these identities, yet markedly a white Englishman could not for example become Afro-Carribean, but the reverse can certainly be true.

    I’m not going to go down the road of the cultural marxism conspiracy theories or the influence of the Frankfurt School, but it does appear as though everything that Britain as a society had in place as being quintessentially English or British, is slowly being deconstructed to a point that native identity is disappearing or actively discouraged from being promoted as even existing. Terms like nativist and nationalist, little Englander, xenophobe and racist are not confined to social media but exist as standard epithets from opinion writers in mainstream media, making it very clear to the reader what is now acceptable and what isn’t. Identity politics, ironically is all about pushing minority identities to the fore, but the largest identity and ethnic group in Britain is slowly being sidelined, losing its ability to have a voice in the public space (hate speech legislation, social media mobbing etc) and is naturally (the Brexit vote) somewhat unhappy about that. Yes, rising ethnic diversity is a threat to western european identities, and demographics is destiny, but don’t expect left-liberal media, politicians and academia to support that point of view or have a reasoned debate about it.

  50. Help me understand. The authors assert that they “…believe in free inquiry, but [they] also understand there are societal considerations to weigh in the balance. So, if there are demonstrable harms that are large enough to offset the good that comes from open debate using controversial terminology, we need to take this extremely seriously.” Henceforth, to resolve this (or any other) issue, the authors (academics) take a survey? If the survey says yes; then, we will not take action X (i.e., debate immigration). If the survey says no; then we will take action X. Really? The concept you academics use to take or avoid action is “demonstrable harms” as assessed by a survey; and, if these “harms” equate to whether an individual was offended by X; or, might change their mind from X to Y as a consequence of the debate.

    I wonder how that would work if we put your concept to the test at any historical point in time. For example, in Nazi Germany a possible question might be “should we dispossess the Jews of all their belongings and redistribute their wealth to Arian Germans”. Or, in the early days of the Soviet Union we might ask the populace “Should we dispossess the kulaks from their belongings and redistribute their wealth to the proletariat” The survey says…

    Only the modern-day academic would think this way; and, this is why the concept of freedom of speech has gone by the wayside in academia.

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