Politics, recent

Punishing the Crime vs. Blacklisting the Soul

The assassination of Julius Caesar is known best for the fictional elements that Shakespeare and others invented. Caesar never actually said “Et tu, Brute?,” and Brutus never said “Sic semper tyrannis.” The historical record suggests the dictator remained silent and covered his head while the conspirators rained daggers upon him. The whole scene actually sounds quite grubby. No one even bothered to collect Caesar’s body until slaves got around to it on their own initiative.

The truly amazing fact is that Brutus and Cassius had no real follow-up plan. They lived in a bubble of their own conspiratorial making, and imagined that the great mass of ordinary Roman citizens would laud them as heroes. When this didn’t happen, they simply fled the city as power coalesced around Mark Antony. In the civil war that followed, two sides emerged—those who cast Brutus and Cassius as noble Liberators (as the conspirators called themselves), and those who demanded they be hunted down as enemies of the state.

The stabbing of Caesar was one of history’s most famous homicides—which is why I lead with it. But the binary response to the killing is something you see repeated throughout the centuries. Deadly violence has a polarizing effect on societies. With few exceptions—such as when bloodshed is hermetically contained among criminals or the lower classes more generally—murder demands a morally urgent response. When there’s a political aspect, the killer must be either punished by the old order, or lionized by its replacement. Either way, the rupture in the social fabric has to be sutured up quickly, lest society go to shambles, which is why ancient trials were so quick and ruthless.

But this ancient impulse gradually has become complicated by overlapping cultural forces. As human civilizations have become richer, they have rejected capital punishment and instead put criminals into prisons—which effectively operate as a sort of moral limbo. The rise of Christianity was owed in no small part to the promise that moral redemption was possible for sinners, including thieves, rapists and murderers. In modern times, we recognize that we’re all products of our environment and upbringing, an understanding that challenges the age-old Manichean understanding of the criminal element.

In times of yore, questions of guilt and innocence were political matters that could be hashed out on the battlefield. (The case against Caesar’s killers, for instance, was won at the Battle of Philippi.) But today, we fight wars of the cultural variety. And our moral understanding of a tragedy can be completely destabilized depending on how a narrative is interpreted. In December, for instance, Elizabeth Weil produced an extraordinary portrait of drifter Max Harris, who faces trial for his alleged role in a fire that killed three dozen people at a shambling artists’ commune in Oakland. Anyone who had followed the story superficially (as I had) might have thought that Harris was just some reckless art-house bum who had little concern for the lives of others. What emerges from Weil’s masterful account, instead, is a sensitive, confused man who’d endured many months of bullying, and who exerted himself strenuously trying to avert tragedy when the fire struck.

Another example—this one from Canada—can be found with Omar Khadr, an Arab-Canadian militant who was captured by American forces in Afghanistan when he was just 15, and then imprisoned at Guantanamo for a decade. To this day, Khadr often is described by conservatives as a sort of uber-terrorist almost on par with Osama Bin Laden. Over at the left-leaning CBC, on the other hand, Khadr often has been presented as a sort of angelic martyr to George W. Bush’s war-on-terror lawlessness. As with the old fight between Liberators and Caesarians, the classification is entirely political.

I am not a Christian. But I always have admired its emphasis on forgiveness and absolution, which are the most attractive and useful aspects of that faith. In our own age, this tradition has been co-opted by progressive secularists, who (properly) urge that our criminal-justice systems accommodate the possibility that people can change, and that we aren’t stamped “good” or “evil” at birth by God’s hand.

And just as Christians of yore celebrated the lowly street criminal who shed his criminal ways so that he might wander urban alleyways and country roads humbly preaching the word of God, so, too, do modern leftists reserve a special form of mercy for ex-criminals whose travails have granted them perspective on society’s bowels. Quillette author Zaid Jilani, for instance, recently described a sympathetic article in The Intercept about a murderer who, having paid his debt to society, was running for council in Austin, Texas. The author, Jilani noted, argued that Lewis Conway Jr.’s life experiences made him “an important candidate, able to connect with the thousands who have been isolated and defined by previous misdeeds of theirs or others—especially in the city’s minority communities, which as elsewhere are disproportionately impacted by the system.” In his article, Jilani contrasted the sympathy toward Conway with the treatment of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, who, of course, did not kill anyone—or, in fact, commit any crime at all—but rather stands accused of gross insensitivity and racism because of a photo of a man in blackface, and another dressed as a KKK member, included in a 35-year-old university yearbook page.

Jilani intended for this juxtaposition to show up the extraordinary hypocrisy displayed by some leftists when it comes to the treatment of past sins. But I would take the analysis one step further—for when it comes to Northam, it is not really the man’s sins that are at issue—since if that were the basis of judgment, he would be excused many times over thanks to the decades of professional excellence and public service that followed his university years. Rather, what is being impugned is Northam’s very soul. For one of the dominant ersatz-religious conceits of our age is that, when it comes to race, we all are marked by either purity or corruption—that is, in the language of old-timey religion, we are either heretics or believers, asleep or woke, lost or saved. And every tweet we write, every word we utter, every yearbook photo we publish shall be taken as part of the evidentiary record by which we shall be judged.

While the new religion of anti-racism has borrowed this fundamentalist take on human nature, it has very much rejected the leavening Christian tradition of forgiveness and pity. Which is why militant anti-racism now carries such a brittle, mean-spirited aspect. The subtext of the campaign against Northam is that his actions mark his soul as irredeemably stained—no matter whether the yearbook photos were from 35 years ago or last week. In the way that anti-racism promotes the idea of bigotry as a form of original sin that, once revealed, cannot ever be expunged or denied, it essentially channels the idea of hell-bound pre-destination in a way that would have earned appreciative nods from Gottschalk of Orbais.

Any creed, religious or secular, that organizes humanity into categories of good or evil based not on actions, but on their mere thoughts or the presumed state of their soul, is disposed toward Inquisition and social panic—since our thoughts are invisible to others, evil can lurk in our unconscious minds, and all that matters is whether our cast of mind puts us on the right side of history. (Such attitude was on display, certainly, in the response to Irish actor Liam Neeson’s recent confession that, almost 40 years ago, he once had roamed the streets looking to provoke a violent confrontation with a black man. The confession was rendered freely in the spirit of encouraging self-awareness of our dark emotions, and no real crime is alleged to have taken place. But promotional events associated with his new film were canceled anyway.) In a society that distinguishes the sin from the sinner, on the other hand, recitals of past misdeeds and impure thoughts are tolerated, and even encouraged—as with the Christian tradition of confession. For it is understood that we all share the same goal of preventing malign imaginings from being translated into action.

Earlier this month, the Alberta Teachers’ Association cancelled a conference panel discussion featuring Andrew Evans, a convicted murderer who confessed to the murder of a Vancouver sex-trade worker named Nicole Parisien in 2007. Since leaving prison on parole, Evans has worked with Alberta’s Adolescent Recovery Centre, and had intended to talk about overcoming addictions and bring a message of “hope.” Not so long ago, one would naturally assume that the activists urging the cancelation of this event would be law-and-order conservatives. But because of the nature of the crime at issue in this case, and the #MeToo backdrop, it’s not so clear. Indeed, we now live in an age when hard-right pundits and ultra-progressive feminists have adopted more or less the same hellfire-and-brimstone rhetoric when it comes to sex crimes. Which means that college students will have one less opportunity to learn lessons from any authentic specimen of that vast underclass that exists as both feedstock and output of our criminal-justice system.

When Evans’ panel appearance got canceled, it made me think of a somewhat similar event that took place in 2017, in the form of a University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) panel called “Reflections on Hate and Trauma.”

“We wanted to assemble a diverse group of people who have shared some similar pathways into and out of violent movements,” said Dr. Barbara Perry, who helped organize the proceedings. “We shared with our audience the optimistic message that there is life after experiences such as hate, violence, anger and marginalization.” It was pretty much exactly the same message that Evans had wanted to deliver, except that the UOIT panel included not just one ex-con but several. Yet no one protested at UOIT.

If you visit this news link, you’ll see a photo of one of the panelists, my friend Eddie Hertrich, addressing a packed classroom while dozens of students listen and take notes. Eddie spent more than two decades in jail for murdering another drug dealer as part of some senseless feud. After we were introduced in 2015 by his lawyer, Eddie wrote about his criminal past for the magazine I then edited. Now his story has been turned into a book, which will be released later this month by Canada’s Dundurn Press.

I remember being anxious about running Eddie’s work in my magazine, as there recently had been a number of controversies in the Canadian literary world in regard to publishing the “wrong” sort of author—a poet who was accused of intimidating an ex-girlfriend, a university professor who had been accused (falsely) of raping a girlfriend, a novelist who had stood up for due process. Surely, publishing an outright murderer was far worse than any of that, I naively imagined. But in the end, not a single person complained. It was a total non-event—because the murder of one drug dealer by another is not a matter that concerns the priests of the inquisition. On the other hand, had Eddie appeared in a photo with his victim, wearing blackface and hood—instead of merely killing him in rural Ontario and leaving the body in a ditch—well, that would have been a far more serious issue.

Eddie’s book is worth reading—not because he was an especially unusual criminal, but because he wasn’t, and his story stands in for all the many thousands of others who will live similarly hard lives without ever telling the world how things went wrong. He grew up poor in Toronto, fell ass-backwards into crime thanks to his older brother, chased money and women, hurt people, made enemies, killed one of them, got caught, then spent much of the rest of his life trying to survive prison. Along the way, he became a better person—and a pretty good writer, too. When he got out a few years ago, he made good decisions, found honest work, shunned his enablers, lived clean. As much as Northam, Neeson, Harris, Evans and all the other figures I’ve mentioned above, he is as complex and mutable as you and me—and a living rebuke to the idea that any of us have some true character, good or bad, that will forever define us.


Jonathan Kay is Canadian editor of Quillette. Follow him at @jonkay. 

87 Comments

  1. Christian progressives have abandoned the grace of God. Their other is not worthy of any grace.

    They are far more Progressive than they are Christian.

  2. Nate D. says

    I’m happy that we’re finally emphasizing the progressive left’s hypocrisy when it comes to forgiveness and redemption. Sam Harris drove this home in his recent appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast. I think is something centrist need to keep putting out there.

    A question concerning Virginia Governor Ralph Northam: When I was a teen and young adult, halloween costumes and party costumes were often MEANT to be offensive. In those days, there was a desire to rebel against conservative and well-mannered sensibilities. Being offensive was lauded by progressives because it “forced people out of the comfort zones,”; a tactic you’d often see at gay pride rallies, where men would dress in ass-less chaps and wear ball-gags. I remember wearing a t-shirt with a big red hammer and sickle on it, not because I wanted to promote communism, but because I wanted to irritate my conservative teachers at school. Being offensive was extolled as a progressive virtue. The idea was, that offending people and pissing conservatives off would eventually cause them to give up hope, retreat, and leave the public square in the hands of progressives. It worked too. Conservatives left the academy and pop culture in toto.

    It seems to be a bit unfair for progressives to dredge up old college photos and to crucify people for doing something that progressives used to celebrate. Chances are high that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and his friends dressed up in black face to piss off racist conservatives; to laugh while they fumbled with their ties and mumbled that “kids these days are so irreverent.”

    By the way, I can’t stand Ralph Northam, and enjoy a good bit of political schadenfreude. Still, I feel all these halloween costume scandals lack any sort of historical context.

    • Andrew says

      Well you can’t have context because context becomes the response to things. You’ve gotta shut down those pesky responses.

    • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

      @Nate D.

      Exactly. That Northam would have that photo in his yearbook is proof positive that he knows such things as blackface are quite improper — that’s why he did them in a context where we used to understand that a JOKE was being made. Yes, a deliberately offensive joke, but a joke. A parody, a mockery. We used to do this sort of thing all the time and it was good.

    • yandoodan says

      “Chances are high that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and his friends dressed up in black face to piss off racist conservatives; to laugh while they fumbled with their ties and mumbled that “kids these days are so irreverent.” “

      I doubt it. The purpose of blackface is to ridicule black people, and so increase intimidation. It was the case in the early 19th century, it’s the case now, and it’s the case for every time in between. The idea that a southern white would don blackface or KKK robes (!) to satirize segregationists is a stretch at the very least.

      I find the author convincing about repentance and redemption, even changing my position on Northam. Children in high school should not be held to the same standards as adults, and we should allow for the (very likely) change in morals as well as opinions since then. Still … black face? Come on.

      • Stephanie says

        Yea, it’s hard to imagine blackface or KKK robes being offensive to racists. The most generous interpretation is that they were just trolling their politically-sensitive classmates.

        I’m also not sure that Northam’s public record is actually inconsistent with him being a racist. His defenders point out how he advanced social programs disproportionately affecting black people. There’s a case to be made that such programs infantilize people, rendering them dependent on the government and fraying the social fabric of the community. Slavery is illegal, but by rendering black people dependent, they become easy to control, and thus an unquestioning block of support for the political party that domesticated them.

        Democrats have Latino illegal immigrants to do their slave labour: the utility of the black populace is purely for political power now. They’ve sold them the racist idea that black people are incapable of succeeding in a meritocracy, shrouded in nebulous terms such as “structural racism.” Thankfully stastics from the last couple of elections show that more black people are seeing through the ruse, particularly the successful ones.

  3. Morgan Foster says

    Forgiving white men in positions of power would mean lost opportunities to replace them with black men or women of any color.

    I don’t see the Progressive Left learning that kind of forgiveness anytime soon, and they are generally not given to feelings of shame or embarrassment over the hypocrisy involved.

    • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

      @Morgan Foster

      It’s more than that. The black lieutenant governor is in even more trouble. SJ will happily eat it’s own devotees. If anything the woke are at even greater risk of being denounced.

      • Angela says

        The black lieutenant govenor was largely defended by democrats after the first accusation of rape. It was only after the second woman came forward with ample evidence that everyone turned on him. The second accusser has classmates who she swear she told them he raped her back in 2000 when it happened. She also has Facebook messages from years ago where she talks about him raping her. Thats about as good of evidence your ever gonna get on a 19 year old rape. I dont think it should be enough to convict him in criminal court, but its enough to sink him politically. Had Kavanaugh had that kind of evidence him he would have been sunk too.

        Ironically had Kavanaguh been sunk the much more socially conservative woman on the short list would likely be on the court now. She also likely would have made a firm ruling against abortion rights in that recent hearing. Instead Kavanaguh wrote an opinion that pretty clearly shows he isnt aching to overturn Roe and Casey.

        • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

          @Angela

          What is a bit shocking about this case is that the guy might actually be proven guilty. It ruins the lynch mob feel of the thing.

        • Dan Love says

          @Angela

          What was the “ample evidence”? I’m not too familiar with the accusations against the lieutenant governor, but the only thing I read is that the accuser told a bunch of people it was rape and wrote about it. That doesn’t count for anything because it hinges on one person’s narrative and provides no other information outside that narrative. That is, people and writing that repeat her narrative provide no more evidence than her narrative alone.

          I can tell a billion people and write a million messages about how I own a green Ferrari. All of the people’s statements and my writing mean nothing more than my claim alone because they are nothing more than duplicates of my claim alone. Duplicates do not add corroboration, they simply repeat a single claim.

          There’s no physical evidence, and this is too easily possibly explained by regret sex. I’m not saying it was, but I am saying it’s not rational to take sides because neither side has more proof than the other.

          Being only a “his word vs. her word” case, there’s no more reason, at this time, to believe her word than his. You can’t obliterate someone’s career on a person’s word.

    • yandoodan says

      Actually it would mean replacing all three top politicians with Republicans. You can already see the Progressive Left suddenly learning compassion towards kids who do stupid things in high school..

      • Angela says

        Actually I think if the Lt. Governor resigns the current governor could replace him with a random democrat then resign himself. The current governor looks like he’s saying fuck it I’m staying though. The Lt. Governor is more likely to resign since hes facing two rape accusations including one with pretty decent supporting evidence.

  4. chinese in montreal says

    Ok, can anyone give me a coherent answer “why” it is racist to wear black face? For that matter, why it is wrong to dress as an Indian in Halloween party? I get these annoying letters from my University administrators every year admonishing we plebians not to dress offensively blah blah, which is to be expected. But I see even in Free speech circle nobody seems to challenge the notion that it is racist to wear a black face but presumably not any other color. Is it racist to wear a yellow face? A white face for black people? Or is it only racist for white people to dress black face? Is asian allowed to wear a black face? Not that I want to, but it just seems such a petty and arbitrary things to get all worked up to.

    • Once upon a time, there was a popular form of entertainment in America called “blackface,” in which white entertainers made themselves up with exaggerated Negroid features (black skin, thick lips, etc.) and acted out demeaning stereotypes of black people, i.e., stupid, servile, clownish, childishly happy, etc. Many black people understandably found this form of entertainment offensive.

      In a baby with bathwater overreaction, the objection to this particular form of entertainment has morphed into a general rule that it is irredeemably wrong for a white person to dress as a member of another race, to the point where it would be hard to play Olivier’s “Othello” on many campuses. It’s like reacting to sexual immorality by requiring that furniture legs be skirted.

      FWIW, I never heard of anyone painting his or her face yellow, but most people would consider it offensive for a white person to do Charlie Chan imitations, along the lines of “Confucius say . . .” or “Honorable gentleman will now . . . ” I also never heard of an Asian in America wearing blackface, but that would probably offend people too.

      • In the NL, we have Santa Claus (probably later adapted for the US kids in an overseas form), a white bishop on a white horse, with some Black Peets as servants/compagnons, with a black face of exaggerated negroid traits, pitch black face,thick red lips, rings in their ears and speaking a broken Dutch. It is an age old and the most important children’s feast for kids and adults alike, with always lots of presents, Black Peet had a sack with him to put in the naughty children and take them back to Spain. Only the last 5 yrs, SJW and blacks and stupefied American visitors (Oh!!!!, hell, what is this? this can’t be!!!! you can’t make this!!!!!!!) there is now a tendency to color Black Peet green, or grey, and leave out the caricatures. However, the nation is divided still, in pro- and contra Black Peet! Tradition is holy for many!

    • Walter Fox says

      It’s in the same category as, when trying to find the right female person for a position Mitt Romney was bizarrely attacked for saying “We have binders full of them” .

      • Angela says

        Actually no it’s not the same at all. Mitt Romney phrased something kind of awkwardly. This is minstrel show black face and a klan suit. Mitt Romeny did absolutely nothing wrong and that was quite possibly the most insane controversy ever. Even worse than the NASA Scientist Shirt Scandal.

        This is absolutely something that should be apologized for. It shouldn’t end his career, but pretending it’s no big deal is insane.

    • Andrew says

      Cause black-face (also see yellow-face) was a form of entertainment that white people used to mock and insult black people.

      If you’re dressing up as a native you’re most likely furthering a stereotype that would just as much a Halloween costume to any native.

      Personally, I call it bad taste.

      • Ray B says

        Angela, what is the evidence to prove that whites were actually mocking black people when doing themselves up in blackface?

        As a kid in Australia, I used to see the “Black & White Minstrel Show” on TV. My family watched it for the entertainment. They had great songs. It was a long time ago, but I don’t recall taking away any racist anti-black messages from the show.

    • Angela says

      I think there’s a huge distinction between dressing up like a black celebrity and donning real freaking minstrel show black face. Id be much more supportive of the governor if his pictire was him dresses as Kareem Abdul Jabar instead of a minstrel show black face next to guy in a literal clan suit.

      I also think there’s a huge distinction to be made that this guy was 25 years old and graduating from med school. He wasnt some completely naive teenager. Also this was 1984 not 1964.

      With all that being said I dont think he should be forced from office.

      • Angela says

        Id argue there’s there levels of blackface. Level 1 is dressing like a black celebrity and darkening your face but with no intent to mock. Level 2 is dressibg up like a black stereotypical gang banger. Level 3 is this actual minstrel show black face.

      • Angela says

        Finally I’ll add that I grew up around this time in a much deeper part of the South than Virginia. It was definitely not a bastion of of racial sensitivity, but most of us were deeply ashamed of the outright extreme racism of the Klan and minstrel show black face. Id honestly say it seemed like whites had much more guilt over the Jim Crow era growing up in the early 80s.

    • peanut gallery says

      Because? It’s not. If I were a child again and dressed up as Mr. T because I thought Mr. T was cool (which he is btw) it would be weird if I didn’t get dark for the costume. The gulf between racist depictions of black people way way way back in the day and a child dressing up as Mr. T is huge. One depiction is based in hate, one in love. If you can’t tell the difference between love and hate, then there’s something wrong with your brain. From conversations, you’d think that racist black face was on TV like last week. It’s a totally absurd double standard invented to punish white people for something that happened before they were born. Chapelle can do white-face. The reverse will result in much wailing and gnashing of teeth. It’s not inherently racist. Context matters. Totalitarian authoritarians aren’t big on nuance however.

  5. Alexander Allan says

    A puzzling article as I am not sure if it is just a long winded plug for his mate’s book.

    Anyway a couple of issues I wish to point out:

    “..that we aren’t stamped “good” or “evil” at birth by God’s hand” – nowhere is Christian theology are we stamped in such a manner by God’s hand. We are born with original sin which is a total different concept.

    “ he made good decisions”.- You will need to articulate how a progressive ideology that denies the supernatural and free will, as our thoughts are merely byproducts of biochemical reactions in out body, can make one change ones directions as “we recognise that we’re all products of our environment and upbringing, an understanding that challenges the age-old Manichean understanding of the criminal element.”

    • Hobbes says

      Calvinism stipulates predestination, meaning your name has either been written down in the Book of Life since the very beginning, or you are damned. A person’s piety may be judged evidence of their redemption, but never cause.

      • It’s true. If Calvin had understood corporate identification with the head of our fictive kinship, ie Jesus is chosen from the foundations of the Earth, and while we are in him so are we, then he would have come up with a better theology.

  6. Farris says

    So why does a photograph which has existed for over 30 years become newsworthy?
    1. There is a new morality a foot coupled with the desire to re-litigate old grievances.
    2. There exists the desire to reinforce the notion of tribal privilege.
    3. Puritans are not forgiving.
    4. It is click bait that fulfills the 24/7 news cycle.
    5. Tabloid journalism is currently popular.
    6. There is a constant hunt for trophies and scalps.
    7. Double standards and hypocrisy are fair game.
    8. Objecting to such disreputable practices puts one in league with the offender.
    9. Postmodernism’s lack of boundaries and standards.
    10. Cowardice and a lack of loyalty.

    Please feel free to add more.

    • Toronto guy says

      11. no single person with any power (eg a CEO, major politician, celebrity, university president) will stand up and say this is nonsense. Instead, everyone caves immediately. for instance, the head of ABC could have written off the Rosanne situation as say a ” joke in bad taste to be overlooked” instead of cancelling the show and in a few weeks the thing would have been forgotten.

  7. I have to say, the Andrew Evans case, with which I’m not familiar, may be the first such deplatforming to which I’m sympathetic. There is a valid case to be made for why we have a sex offender registry and not a murderer registry, but it’s neither great nor anywhere near sufficient. People may very well be wrong about this. There’s just no rational potential for reconciliation when your victim ceases to be, even when granting and respecting religious convictions. And (recognizing some small irony) I say this out of empathy for the murderer, not the murdered – I just can’t imagine getting over committing even the most justified heroic applauded killing, and as such I couldn’t begin to expect the same from society in any context. I’m not even sure I’d want that (see the story of Claude Eatherly). Which isn’t to say the Kim Jongs of the world have a better system, far from it. But redemption from murder is a tough one. FAR tougher than sex crimes or racism, in my opinion. Lately those examples are too often stale grievances, to borrow a term from Coleman Hughes.

  8. david of Kirkland says

    All this “new movement” is really just age old authoritarianism. Use coercion to achieve your goals, make others do the charity or good deeds you won’t do yourself, hate those not in your tribe, etc.

  9. Morgan Foster says

    “my friend Eddie Hertrich … spent more than two decades in jail for murdering another drug dealer as part of some senseless feud.”

    There’s always more to the story, isn’t there? Especially when the first reference is tantalizingly vague.

    There’s not a lot on Google about the exact details of the murder of which Mr. Hertrich was convicted, but there is a bit, and I presume this is the same Eddie Hertrich we’ve been discussing.

    https://www.upi.com/Archives/1983/04/18/Two-men-pleaded-guilty-Monday-to-a-reduced-charge/7194419490000/

    “Edward Hugo Hertrich, 26, and Brian Edward Stewart, 27, both of Toronto, were given mandatory life sentences in 1979 for the first-degree murder of a 29-year-old man. ….

    Tommy Rowan’s body was found with six bullet holes and his hands handcuffed behind his back in September 1978 in a shallow grave on a Lindsay, Ont., area farm.”

    So Eddie Hertrich, 21 or thereabouts at the time of the murder, was not still a child. And the “senseless feud” of which the author speaks was not some sort of silly misunderstanding. Neither was it any kind of self defense.

    It was, by the above reported facts, a planned, calculated, cold-blooded execution in a place where a body could be conveniently concealed.

    This is the kind of detail that is important to me in the moral calculation of forgiveness.

    • Jonathan Kay did not say Eddie Hertrich was a child at the time, or that it was a silly misunderstanding, or self-defense.

      • Morgan Foster says

        @ johntshea

        No, he didn’t. I didn’t say he did.

  10. Modern progressivism’s worst aspect isn’t just denying a fellow human being genuine redemption. The calls for all three Virginia politicians to step down creates a culture of accuse and destroy. I am not a supporter of any of these three, but believe strongly in personal redemption and, publicly, the right to a trial (as opposed to an Inquisition) before civil death. Otherwise we enter an era where the mere accusation of something (racism, sexism, etc…) removes someone who either is innocent or has changed over the years. Thomas Aquinas once observed that genuine good begins with genuine hatred, but only given the correct culture.

  11. While I’m generally against this kind of stuff, Northram won his campaign with an ad that said those who voted for his opponent wanted to run minority children over with their truck…

    I also notice something else. Something like “since this incident, this person (leftist) has done so much for black people…”. Inevitably, they mean “this person directed white people tax money to black people.” Which I guess is suppose to give you a pass? Word is Northram is suddenly reading up on reparations…

  12. scribblerg says

    What on earth does Liam Neesom need to be “redeemed” for? Let’s lay out some facts that are uncomfortable for adult-children who pretend to be moral:

    1. Young black men are incredibly more violent than any other racial group. They form 2% of the population in the U.S. but commit 50% of the murders.

    2. Black on white rape rates are incredibly more skewed towards blacks raping whites than the reverse. Typically there are about 13-14,000 black on white rapes reported in the U.S. in a year whereas some years in the U.S. there are 0 white on black rapes reported.

    How can this be so in a society that is supposedly riddled with white supremacy and white violence towards blacks? In fact, the exact opposite is true. In fact, there is an epidemic of black on white violence in the West in general, and certainly in the U.S. and now in the U.K. too. To deny this is to lie about reality. Watch this video – every single fact cited in it is true. Black violence is very high and a real problem in the U.S. https://youtu.be/lEyRJLQccUY

    I’m not alt right nor white nationalist. But there are real problems with black on white violence in our society, and instead of discussing it honestly, I have to deal with truly idiotic moral reasoning to try and explain it all. It get it, the Left are hypocrites, liars and phonies. This is not news.

    I remember Eric Holder saying that “we are cowards” when it comes to race. We are – we are afraid to look that the depravity occurring in the inner city “black community”.

    If you don’t like these facts and think they make me racist, you are anti-intellectual and dishonest. I don’t have a racist bone in my body and in fact am in a mixed race family. But I’m much more scared of violence from a young black man than most other classes of persons. Thats just cuz I’m rational. And I won’t be told I’m racist for it. And if get a little biased or angry when a friend is raped, I’ll never apologize for it. I’d expect 1000 times more outrage to be focused on the vicious, savage act of rape and why so many more blacks rape white girls than focusing on my reaction. The focus on correcting or apologizing for a completely human reaction is absurd and insulting. That’s what Liam should be afraid of.

    But of course, all he’s doing is virtue signaling. The entire enterprise is disgusting and dishonest from start to finish.

    • What about black on black crime? My understanding is that there are a lot more black victims of black criminals than white, but I don’t have the statistics to hand. Still it is significant, and we should work towards a reduction in victims of all sorts. That recent killing of Jazmine Barnes in Houston is a heartbreaking example of the need for that across the board.
      My wife used to teach first grade in an inner city school in a good-sized southern city, and appalled by how a car backfire or similar such loud explosive sound would impel a number of her young students, mostly black, to hit the deck in response. In comparison, most of them really looked forward to visits by the city policeman assigned to their school for anti-drug education, who was usually white. They saw him as a protector, as well as a cool guy during his presentations.

  13. Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

    I have a theory: We are hyper vigilant about racism because the fact is that we are all guilty of it. Of course Northam is a racist, so am I and so are you. You and I just haven’t been caught yet, and that’s mostly because we aren’t politically significant targets like Kavanaugh and Northram. Mind, when I say racist I mean the new definition which involves our souls, not the older definition which involves how we actually behave.

    My racism reminds me to be extra careful to treat certain Victim groups with an extra level of courtesy that I’d not bother with for mere white people. And when I ran a business, I gave them preferential hiring. But in my deepest soul, yes I’m a racist because reality is racist too. As the Muslims say, it is the doubters that scream out their faith from the housetops. The most vigorous anti-racist Warrior is trying to hide her own racism — from herself. She busies herself destroying others to prove to her comrades and herself how pure she is, but she knows she is lying, and she knows as well that one single slip and she’s a goner too, because everyone around her has the same problem that she does. To make the standard parallel, she is effusive in her praise of the emperor’s new clothes because not to see them would mean that she is not woke. Except that she is naked too and doesn’t want anyone else to notice.

    • Peter from Oz says

      The poofta basher who bashes hardest is really a poofta himself.

    • So in other words, everyone is a racist, and if you say no you aren’t racist, then that’s the most damning proof that you are.

      …. fuck off.

  14. I don’t think it’s especially radical to believe that people can change. I doubt anyone from the radical right or left – or anyone else, for that matter – hasn’t confronted their own blemishes and worked to resolve them at some point in their lives. Given this, what *is* radical is the intolerance, and lack of forgiveness, in people who believe that change is impossible.

    I’ll admit that there are degrees of flaws in one’s character: a petty liar isn’t a rapist. I was confronted with the question of degree when I taught Biology in prisons. In this one class, 35 men sat before me who had violated a child or a woman. Tempting as it was, I hadn’t been asked to judge them (they had already been judged), but simply to teach Biology. However, I couldn’t help thinking about how could justice be restored for their victims and themselves (so they not be judged again and again).

    Unlike Jonathan, I am (non-practicing) Christian and I profoundly believe in the redemption that confession can bring. It is the most difficult thing a person can do. The transformation begins with the perpetrator confronting his/her beliefs and actions. Properly done, with an open heart, the perpetrator can come to fully appreciate the harm caused by their actions, perhaps bodily feeling the intensity of the hurt, shame and helplessness their actions brought about. Redemption only becomes possible when they feel a visceral revulsion at what they’ve done.

    Perpetrators can unburden themselves of their guilt and seek forgiveness by admitting the wrong in their actions, compensating their victim and by promising never to act this way. And the victim can unburden themselves of their anger, hatred and shame by accepting the confession, if heart-felt. Both of these acts demand extraordinary courage (which is why the Catholic Church used priests as intermediaries). If done right, the confession, compensation and forgiveness truly cleanse everyone’s soul and is redemptive. Then, the perpetrator and victim can announce publicly that the confession was received, the debt has been repaid and that they have found again peace in their soul.

    I don’t know that there is another way to do this. I certainly know this is not what we’re doing and I think we fail as a society because of it.

    • scribblerg says

      Change what? A biased impulse? Who cares? Why on earth does this matter at all? Liam got a bit wound up after a friend was raped, yawn. Jesus, what a pathetically stupid society we are.

  15. @Alexander Allan

    “..that we aren’t stamped “good” or “evil” at birth by God’s hand” – nowhere is Christian theology are we stamped in such a manner by God’s hand. We are born with original sin which is a total different concept.”

    Yes, somewhere in Christian theology: Calvinist Protestantism preached predestination. In this theology we are indeed stamped good or evil at birth by God’s hand.

  16. ga gamba says

    But because of the nature of the crime at issue in this case, and the #MeToo backdrop, it’s not so clear. Indeed, we now live in an age when hard-right pundits and ultra-progressive feminists have adopted more or less the same hellfire-and-brimstone rhetoric when it comes to sex crimes.

    Perhaps not, at least not in the case of ultra-progressive feminists. Take the case of Donna Hylton. She was convicted of kidnap, torture, rape, and murder of a gay man. The 62-year-old victim was starved, burned, beaten, sexually tortured (the victim’s testicles were squeezed with a pair of pliers), and forcibly sodomised with a steel pole over the course of more than two weeks. He was finished off by suffocation.

    Heinous stuff.

    One might wonder what motivated her. Had Thomas Vigliarolo done something horrendous to Hylton and this was her vengeance a la Charles Bronson? Nope. She needed $1500 to pay a photographer for a portfolio to kickstart her desired modeling career; her promised $9,000 cut of the ransom demanded for Vigliarolo’s release was to achieve this end. Girl need her photos, ya know?

    Hylton served her time.

    One might think that upon release Hylton would desire to live a normal live; she earned her degree and works as an AIDS counselor.

    Hylton decided to tell and sell her truth. She wrote her biography A Little Piece Of Light (aren’t there laws about criminals monetising their crimes?), became an activist, and entered the world of the college speaking circuit. She’s often invited by professors of criminal justice.

    Is her topic “Don’t kidnap, torture, rape, and murder people”?

    No.

    She’s a judicial reform advocate, concocting a narrative that she’s the victim of the racist and patriarchal system. It’s one the professors and the activists want to hear, and Hylton is rewarded with the students’ tuition and the taxpayers’ money. Students who attend her talks report that she completely omits why she was imprisoned.

    “She made it seem like she was some innocent woman who was put in jail,” a student who attended her event at Manhattanville College said. “She didn’t say why she was in jail. She said it was because of the color of her skin.”

    She had a rough, even brutal, life as a child of colour. Kaboom! She’s behind bars.

    Such a heartfelt and touching story is hers that she found renown and won herself a place as a speaker at the 2017 Women’s March in Washington – the grand parade of pink pussy hats, the spectacular spectacle of Hollywood celebrities throwing tantrums. She was hobnobbing with the queens of the #MeToo movement protesting the systemic systems of structural institutions.

    Given the progressives’ fixation on optics, one wonders what kind of optics they were going for by putting a convicted and still rationalising rapist-murderer behind the podium centre stage at the premier event. Of all the women who suffered horrors and didn’t choose to become rapist-murderers to select from, the March organisers went with Deadly Donna instead – was Mattress Girl busy? Hylton also was interviewed by and appeared on various television shows where she was given the opportunity to make the case for the March.

    These things are bad. Men raping women. Men sexually assaulting women. Men male gazing women. Men talking over women. Men mansplaining to women. Men manspreading in proximity to women.

    And this is perfectly acceptable, if not commendable: A woman raping and murdering a man, a stranger who did not one thing against her.

    That’s the progressives’ #MeToo movement. There’s dehumanising rape, and there’s empowering rape too, apparently.

    Rosario Dawson has been signed to portray Hylton in the Hollywood production of her biography. See ya at the cinema.

    • Mal O'Justaid says

      Transgender women and radical feminists who become men get a shock when discovering what “male privilege” is really like:

      “… My ability to empathize has grown exponentially, because I now factor men into my thinking and feeling about situations. Prior to my transition, I rarely considered how men how men experienced life, or what they thought, wanted, or liked about their lives.”

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQmJ44qcQlU

    • Steve says

      Apparently people are still surprised, if not shocked, by such stories. By now one would think most of us would have realized: that’s what these people *are*.

      Nevertheless moral outrage is the only possible sane response. Does it surprise us to hear that the SS officer beat a Jewish grandmother to death with his pistol in 1942? Nope. But it should still induce nausea, or we’re truly lost.

  17. It is an amazing coincidence that all three of the Democrats at the top of the Virginia government are simultaneously facing public scandals and widespread calls for their resignation. This would flip control of Virginia’s executive branch to Republicans.

    This is how US politics is going to play for the foreseeable future, until the Democrats stop throwing their leaders under the bus on the basis of any allegation whatsoever without any opportunity for apology or redemption.

    • K. Dershem says

      I agree. If Al Franken was a Republican he would almost certainly still be in the U.S. Senate. A zero tolerance policy for stupid jokes and past mistakes (some of which are decades old) is very foolish, especially if it’s unilaterally adopted by one political party and rejected by its competitor. Unless they’re guilty of serious transgressions or actual crimes — like Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein — politicians should be judged by their behavior in office and the policies they support.

      • Do you believe that progressives go easier on Republicans?

        I see some articles saying “let this all blow over, remember that Northam directs tax dollars to us.” I doubt the same would be written if he was GOP.

        • K. Dershem says

          No, I don’t. But conservatives are more forgiving of fellow conservatives than liberals are of liberals — that was my point.

          • Conservative politicians were already not going to get those woke votes, so they’re not as vulnerable. Whereas any politician who relies on liberal goodwill has to sign on to the Zero Tolerance standard whether they like it or not.

  18. Constantin says

    Most normal societies are more or less instinctively opposed to making crime profitable in any conceivable manner. While we embraced somewhat reluctantly the notion that 20 years of imprisonment is a just punishment for taking a life, we did not include in the bargain the idea of forgiveness. Moreover, we are legitimately concerned about narcissistic characters who are not only able to forgive themselves, but also feel an urge to be published and promoted by someone like Mr. Kay. I deplore equally the coward organizers for proposing “an authentic specimen” for a panel discussion and for letting themselves be bullied by “do gooders” intent on controlling what others may hear. The sad fact that psychopaths seem with increasing frequency involved in social services and educational fields makes me queasy. I completely understand that once we release murderers from jail, they should be able to make a living and exist. I might be even persuaded to employ one as an act of charity, but not in a position that exposes others to untoward influence or risk. I would, however, look for one that has truly appreciated the monstrosity of the crime and is seeking atonement. That would exclude anybody writing a book or seeking to illuminate others with their jail acquired wisdom.

  19. Sydney says

    This piece was a just another book promo. But it careened around wildly, trying to look like something weightier than just another book promo.

    The Liam Neeson Hollywood photo works as click-bait. Caesar gives it the stamp of the classics. Author didn’t mention that Omar Khadr murdered a US solider and was still somehow paid $10M by the Canadian government that felt guilty that he sat in a US prison for the crime. A few more evidently ‘redemption and forgiveness’ stories follow.

    Then the bizarre example of the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) cancelling a murderer’s appearance on a panel during its annual gathering. And the cancellation is presented as though it was a bad thing!

    The far-left ATA idiots showed grievously poor judgment inviting a man who spent scant seven years in [cushy Canadian] jail after murdering an innocent woman, Nicole Parisien, in cold blood; and he’s even shown grinning bizarrely in the photo that accompanies the story in the National Post:

    https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/alberta-teachers-association-defends-murderer-speaking-at-calgary-conference?utm_campaign=magnet&utm_source=article_page&utm_medium=related_articles

    Evans wasn’t a substance-addicted teenager when he strangled Parisien to death and tried in vain to cover up, hide the murder, and flee to another city (and jurisdiction). Why is he a poster boy for teen substance abuse and addiction? No reason: he wasn’t a teen addict; he was just a randomly evil adult. Today, he’s the poster boy for a teen-addiction NGO because do-gooders want to give him a job. Why did the ATA put a murderer on a panel to speak to K-12 teachers? Because Canada’s union teachers are imbeciles.

    Redemption, schnedemption. Maybe your ex-con book is great, and maybe it’s not. Why not just plug the book on its own merits instead of dragging every squalid, stinking cat off the street to do the selling for it?

    • Steve says

      Alas Mr. Kay has managed to work himself into positions of intellectual prestige for which his is manifestly ill-equipped. Now and then Mr. Kay (a good-natured fellow, from all accounts) writes something that doesn’t make the reader wince (“the language of old-timey religion” or “appreciative nods from Gottschalk of Orbais”), but those would be exceptions to usual pseudo-intellectual cant.

  20. Thanks for this article, which highlights some of the contradictions and changing fashions of large body of people who, at any one time, characterise themselves as the right-thinking left-leaning (supportive of the weak and marginalised, suspicious of wealth and power) movement which is Essential to Improving Society.

    The Inquisitorial nature of global Wokefullness is a serious matter for those whose professional lives have been derailed, and more broadly for the chilling effect this has on everyone else not so far tarred and feathered by mob rule on social media.

    To Farris’ list I would add the huge amount of time the majority of people spend on social media, the TV of the current day (“Amusing Ourselves to Death”, Neil Postman 1985), but far more prone to propagating memes and moral panics within hours or days than any prior form of communication.

    Social media and the various news websites, YouTube channels, print publications, radio and TV broadcasters now feed from each other, with social media being the most powerful, most rapidly responding form of mass information dissemination ever devised.

    Social media took a decade or so to develop its strength, and a crucial part of its ubiquity was the mass adoption of Internet connected cellphones with social media applications.

    This extraordinary 24 hours a day network of connectivity, amplification, distortion and noise can turn a single factually correct input into a bewildering din of crap, less pretty but similar in some ways to how a single low frequency strike on a large gong causes it to boom and hiss in the seconds which follow.

    Messy humanity connected back to itself, archived, amplified and propagated. All sorts of things can be created and grow exponentially in this environment, not all of them bad. Wokefullness propagates in tens and hundreds of millions of people and the fear of the Twitter etc. Woke Mob gives most people pause for though if they ever consider uttering a sentiment which would attract the attention of the keyboard and cellphone vigilantes.

    I can’t imagine what will replace Internet connectivity for computers and cellphones, other perhaps, than the same thing for neural implants. I can’t imagine what applications of this network might arise to reduce the proclivity of social media and everything else to be a frequently fetid environment for social contagions of all sorts.

    Humans apparently evolved to deal with a hundred or so individuals. Now we daily read the output of system which collects the most extreme stuff from billions of people.

    Google indicates that people have been asking about – or hopefully proclaiming – Peak Woke for the last year or so. Critiques such as this article, pointing out its hypocrisies, will generally not be read by the Wokefull. Perhaps if they all viewed Tracy Ullman’s Woke support group video: https://twitter.com/bbccomedy/status/1010189882503950336 there would be a chance of turning the tide, since I don’t know of any shallow popular movement which can withstand such acutely targeted ridicule.

    The question then is: what social contagion will supplant Wokefullness? I am concerned it will be something less obviously stupid and therefore more difficult to deal with.

    Quillette writers and commenters have been tackling this in earnest, but I see no clearly articulated alternative. I don’t think there is a cohesive way of tackling the essential questions of what life is (human and other species), what the Universe is, with any creator or non-physical aspect to life or not. How to deal with the extraordinary differences between individual humans, the significant on-average differences between races and cultures, and the contradictions and potential positive aspects of the various operating systems people adopt – the religions and similarly all-encompassing existential and moral frameworks, including non-physical denying atheism and Wokefullness? All this with global warming, mountains of debt and the inability of many left-leaning political parties to protect citizens by genuinely controlling who else comes to live in their countries.

    Most people don’t have the time and patience to read numerous books on history, philosophy and religion, science (ideal and as practiced) and contemporary social developments.

    So I foresee the Post-Woke social contagion as some kind of mish-mash back to a 1950s-styled, loosey-goosey, flexible framework which rejects the most obvious of the Woke excesses, but at the same time consigns the just-mentioned topics – and indeed perhaps the idea of reading books at all – to the TLDR bin. So gay lesbian transgender queer disadvantaged disabled non-white non-Western victims of excessive power and wealth etc. etc. might be OK people or not, according to personal preferences – but just don’t get in my face and expect me to go out of my way for groups of such people or change my thinking to whatever would be most convenient for you. Including the idea that there’s no significant differences between the races, that people are irrevocably part of groups which are inherently oppressive or trying to escape oppression, or that Islam, Buddhism or whatever offer any improvements on where Western civilisation was heading before the post-modern identity politics rot set in.

    I think most Quillettarians are laudably seeking a coherent, if variegated, life philosophy for themselves which might be broadly adopted to supplant the obviously flawed widely adopted operating systems of the past and present. This might include, as this article suggests, adopting some of the more generous and tolerant aspects of Christianity. But I think there are human limits to forgiveness when victims have been tortured, irrevocably traumatised and/or killed.

    I think some progress can be made with this, but only with a level of sensitivity, imagination, intellect, effort and patience several orders of magnitude greater than that which will be undertaken by the critical mass of people who are the vehicle for the social contagion, AKA widely adopted mental operating system, of the day.

    I envisage the Post-Woke as having given up on coherency and the possibility of thoroughly investigating humanity, biology, physics and cosmology – and just want a way of getting on with life, without excessive constraints or guilt, and generally without being too much of an arsehole. (How does one not be an arsehole to the citizens of a successful country while also not being an arsehole to the countless more desperately poor people who want to get into the country, but who can’t be accommodated due to sheer numbers and/or lack of the skills, culture and motivation which the country requires?) The dominant framework needs to be something most people can learn in a year or two without concerted effort. It cant be the stuff of people who read serious books.

    At least it would be honest in recognising that the adherents haven’t read all they could about life’s questions, and that their thoughts and morals are perhaps biased and sub-optimal. If so, then it would not be such an oppressive mass operating system as the guilt-driven, guilt-propagating, holier-than-thou, SJW OS which leads people to think they have made the world a much better place if they use their social media accounts to attack miscreants who even once, in the distant past, violated Woke Principles.

    However, given the success of Trumpism, fundamental Islam and apocalyptic and/or puritanical, punitive, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and the me-focused, avoidant and otherwise incoherent New Age frameworks, I am probably being optimistic about the social contagion.

  21. E. Olson says

    “I am not a Christian. But I always have admired its emphasis on forgiveness and absolution, which are the most attractive and useful aspects of that faith.”

    I find it very interesting that so many centrist/right leaning political commentators go out of their way to make sure that readers know they aren’t Christian/Jewish, but then go on to use Biblical references with regards to the political issue they are discussing. It’s almost as if these “non-believer” or “non-practicing” authors want to make sure the reader doesn’t mistakenly believe that the author is one of those gun clinging Jesus freaks that the Left is always making fun of or criticizing.

    One further problem, is that these non-believer types seldom use their religious references correctly. In this particular case, the author fails to note that “forgiveness and absolution” is strictly New Testament, which contrasts very strongly with the smite thy enemy, eye for an eye, and a largely non-forgiving God of the Old Testament (and the Koran). The author fails to make this distinction, but it is an important one, because the Left uses both Testaments. If you are a sinner of a “victim” class the Left gives you New Testament forgiveness and absolution no matter what the sin, but if you are a white male heterosexual the Left will definitely treat you as an enemy that needs to be destroyed no matter how small or distant the “sin” was, which is definitely Old Testament/Koran.

    The interesting question is what is likely to happen when the victim classes increasingly come from cultures and classes that get little or no religious based socialization on right versus wrong and heaven and hell, but instead learn that no matter how badly they behave they will always be forgiven, and even celebrated whenever Leftists are in power? On the other hand, what is likely to happen when the “privileged” classes find out that no matter how many good deeds they do, they run the risk of being totally destroyed for even the smallest of transgressions whenever Leftists are in power?

    • The Old Testament is details how to handle running a society. The New Testament how to live in a society run by someone else.

      Being foregiving and obeying authority is good at the individual level. But if you are an authority you have to get into the messy business of justice, and justice can’t all be foregiveness. When your an individual you can be generous with your time and money. But when your a government there are practical limits to the generosity of directing other people’s time and money.

      So you are called on in the New Testament to help foreigners in dire straights on the side of the road. However, there is no passage about lobbying King Herod for Open Borders. Jesus doesn’t even have a problem telling his followers to pay taxes and follow the law, even the law of a brutal authoritarian state that was causing great harm to Judea. Probably because it was better then the even more brutal alternatives.

    • Mal O'Justaid says

      I got caught up in a discussion on Facebook where a guy who had actually even used the words ‘social justice’ at one point was being stunningly conceited and rude to a Nigerian Christian, because he was convinced he was really a Bible Belt American pretending. I’d been doing research involving the huge numbers of people coming on line in the developing world, and in a relatively short time Facebook jumped from 1 to 2 billion users, so I was well aware that here was a guy in Africa, probably still fairly new to the internet on a phone, genuinely exploring and engaging in conversations that seemed interesting and discussing religion, and I tried explaining it to the other guy who was totally convinced it couldn’t possibly be true, yet thinking he was morally righteous and woke, while being a total rude and obnoxious dick. When I think I got the sense he finally clicked, the cognitive dissonance was palpable. The hypocrisy is so ludicrous it’s really quite hard to fathom. Even worse when it’s often supposedly well educated people, even professors, who seem to be genuinely comfortable with the total contradiction of being sanctimonious and ruthlessly intolerant hardline enforcers of shaming and punishing the racists and sexists, while at the same time judging other people entirely based on their race and sex The clue should be in the words race and sex.

      Ironically, it was a Christian parable that asked the question “why do you judge the splinter in your brother’s eye, when you have a log in your own?.

      Jordan Peterson actually explained it really well, that it’s really just tribalism related to the fear and vulnerability of facing the harsh realities of life without the protection of the tribe. So it actually has little to do with any of the issues. The reason it makes no sense is because they aren’t actually that interested in the issues, they are just looking for a weakness in the other tribe they can take advantage of.

      People are constantly trying to find categories that simply explain bad behaviour while hopefully absolving ourselves or succumbing to it, but all of the bad things that happened throughout human history could have been done by any human. One of the worst flaws and dangers of humans is our capacity to justify terrible and evil things, if we feel it can be adequately explained by demonising the other.

      I’m amazed more people aren’t pointing out that going on about “oppression” by a “wealthy, privileged elite” was where Hitler got started. Pretty sure he even used those words in Mein Kampf. Invoking the Nazis has almost become so much of a cliché as to be meaningless now, but right now, right in front of us, we’re seeing “oppression” and “privilege” being used to justify pure racism and sexism, by the exact people who go on about it the most. It’s almost like some kind of weird, Stanford Prison experiment style IQ test, to see how much people think things through. But it really disturbs me when professors, and the supposed ‘intelligentsia’ are happily doing it. Even putting aside how vastly inaccurate it is, or how it negatively affects while males especially, the notion that you can in any way help the causes of racism and sexism by being very racist and sexist is so ludicrously stupid, it can’t possibly really be the belief. Because it isn’t. It’s tribalism, pure and simple.

      • peanut gallery says

        @Mal
        Ha! I was once temporarily banned for commenting somewhere that N.T. Coates was looking for a final solution for the White Person Problem. It’s not a slippery slope argument, it’s a timeline. The line goes up from the left and it represents a body count. At the beginning of the timeline is Coates. At the end it’s a Hitler, sitting on a pile of corpses from their heinous ideology that says the primacy of race reigns supreme. They said my comment was “racist.” Against who? The Jews? Or is it forbidden to call a black person a racist?

  22. Jonathan clearly is not of the naturalist/calvinist notion/upbringing, you carry your heritage and DNA with you, that’s your fate, you have to do with it. The opposite is the existentialism of Sartre, you are what you choose to be, what you ambition is, e.g.,you are not even born a woman, you make yourself one (Simone as influenced by him). It’s also ingrained in the American Dream, the beginning only of your own personal reality, the ball is in your court, it’s up to you to play.
    Personally, at times I lean to one side, realising that the other is never far away and can (or must) take over.

  23. ” Omar Khadr, an Arab-Canadian militant who was captured by American forces in Afghanistan when he was just 15, and then imprisoned at Guantanamo for a decade”
    The author omits how Khadr killed a US Special Forces medic with a grenade.

    ” fell ass-backwards into crime thanks to his older brother”
    No, thanks to himself, essentially.

  24. Marko Novak says

    While I agree in principle with the article, there is something very satisfying about someone who has supported the most recent version of the “puritanical mob” being subjected to the mob itself for having violated one of its tenets. When the offender is instead forgiven for their heresy, instead of facing the elitist and media torches and pitchforks in an act of kindness that no unwoke outsider would ever experience, it is very exposing of their hypocrisy to any who may be flirting with that ideology. Win/win situation.

  25. TheSnark says

    The current political situation, as in Virginia, has little to do with Christian forgiveness or guilt. It has little to do with Christianity at all. It is more akin to the pathology of the French Revolution executing Louis XVI, closely followed by the beheading of most of its own leadership, all for crimes “against the citizens”,

    The Republicans when through that process with the Tea Party weeding out the “RINOs” (Republicans in Name Only), though that was largely through the electoral process, Now the Democrats are generating social media mobs to attack anyone who offended against whatever the current purity is.

    We haven’t got the the stage of guillotines yet, but we have surely started down that path.

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  30. TANSTAAFL says

    “we recognize that we’re all products of our environment and upbringing”

    Utter, complete bunk.

    Environment contributes maybe 30% to human behavior.

    The rest is innate in human nature.

  31. Morgan Foster says

    From the article: “…modern leftists reserve a special form of mercy for ex-criminals whose travails have granted them perspective on society’s bowels.”

    Mercy apportioned by race, class and gender.

    It is tearing the modern left apart at the foundations.

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  33. Saw file says

    Kay definitely trotted out his lefty creds, referencing the POS murdering islamist terrorist Omar Khader as a “arab-canadian militant”. He’s a fkn murderer for islam who petitions the court to renew his ties to (what is remaining of) his killer family. Now he will become a nurse (jumped a 2yr waiting list)in Alberta, CDN.
    Why say he was ” just 15″ , when he was actually days away from being 16yoa? Ah…at 16yoa, no longer a ‘child soldier’. You can join the CDN armed forces at 16yoa.
    Plus…ala CDN Liberal government… now a (10.5) millionaire.

    • Thylacine says

      Before the American soldiers stormed the compound, they gave all of the women and children an opportunity to come to safety. They did, except for Omar. Omar admits to participating in armed resistance to the American soldiers; and, speaking to his motivation at the time, has never denied that he would have been happy had he been able to kill more American soldiers. He does not deny that he threw the grenade that killed the medic and seriously injured another soldier; his story now is that his memory of events that day are so mashed and manipulated, he can’t remember much and can’t trust even what he does remember.

      Omar was not a “child soldier” for the simple reason that he wasn’t a “soldier.” But labels don’t really matter much. He was a trained killer and IED maker. 15-year-old boys in Afghanistan, the USA, and Canada are capable of being convicted of murder and serving lengthy jail terms.

      The Supreme Court of Canada found that Omar’s constitutional rights had been violated, but there is no case law prescribing the appropriate legal remedy for such violations as he had suffered, because there is no comparable case law. It’s an entirely fact-dependent case. Damages in the tens of millions of dollars is extremely unlikely to be warranted, especially since nothing the Canadian government did to him affected how the Americans were determined to treat him, anyway. There’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t have pleaded guilty and spent just as long in an American prison, even if Canadian agents had respected Omar’s rights. So there are serious problems with Omar’s tort case, on both causation and damages. Even if he did spend a year or two longer in an American jail than might otherwise have been the case, damages in the tens of millions has never been awarded to any other Canadian for such a slight injustice. I’m guessing that Omar’s several teams of “pro bono” lawyers, American and Canadian, have sucked most of that settlement money out of him already.

      For the past few years, Omar presents to the public as a totally different person, with normal goals in life, intelligence, and modesty. Your guess is as good as mine how genuine that portrayal is. Greater transformations have been documented. But even if it is 100% genuine, it still does not excuse what Omar admits to having done, intentionally, as a teen. Forgiveness is a personal choice for each of us; Omar is not entitled to it.

  34. Chuck Gafvert says

    I’d term an act of bigotry as an “unforgivable sin” in Christian parlance, and reserve “original sin” for being born into “white privilege.”

  35. George W. says

    The resentment towards Khader was more the result of Justin Trudeau’s poor judgment and lack of leadership in awarding him so quickly with a cash reward. His predicament, tragic as it may be, was no fault of the Canadian Gov’t, nor the American, but rests solely with his family, and their radical ideology. There were so many other ways to handle his situation, but were beyond the sophistication of Trudeaus decision making skills.
    A more thoughtful solution would have been to allow the court case to play out, and any money awarded to be subject to leans against him from the widow of the soldier in question. After losing his settlement to the widow, the Canadian Gov’t might have offered to pay for his nursing education and perhaps buying him a modest condo. In this case the Canadian people would very likely have felt sympathy for him, and truly wished him success.

  36. E. Olsen wrote, in part:

    ” . . . victim classes increasingly come from cultures and classes that get little or no religious based socialization on right versus wrong and heaven and hell, but instead learn that no matter how badly they behave they will always be forgiven, and even celebrated whenever Leftists are in power?”

    Reading Mary Hudson’s “Public Education’s Dirty Secret” https://quillette.com/2019/02/10/public-educations-dirty-secret/ it is easy to get the impression that many or most such individuals get away with whatever they can, and that they do not educate or otherwise improve themselves – whilst also at least partly thwarting the efforts of those who do want to educate themselves. In other words, the special treatment infantalises them and does not encourage the development of actual life skills and independence outside crime and welfare dependency.

    However, for the Guilt Economy to function smoothly, it is necessary that all such classes of people, including every individual, is accorded such special considerations because to do otherwise – such as to insist on people taking responsibility for their own behaviour, health, education and employment – would run counter to the central theme upon which the GE is based: that this class of people have been and always will be oppressed by some other class of people.

    “On the other hand, what is likely to happen when the ‘privileged’ classes find out that no matter how many good deeds they do, they run the risk of being totally destroyed for even the smallest of transgressions whenever Leftists are in power?”

    These human sacrifices are a necessary part of the Identity Politics Guilt Economy. Their banishment from society (as practiced by the hot-and-cold running water drama queen Torah deity Yahweh) is a sharp reminder to all in the oppressing class that their devotion to constant sacrifice at the Temple (7th century BCE Hebrew sacrifice means bringing an animal to be slaughtered on the alter, with the priests keeping a defined percentage of the meat and therefore not needing to make a living other means*) is absolutely necessary to their not also being banished. Even a single transgressive photo or utterance from youth, decades past, can be used to nail another sacrifice – though the effort involved in doing so probably only makes sense if the transgressor is especially prominent.

    The purpose of the guilt economy? So that the high priests and priestesses of said economy (whoever it is who wails the loudest about guilt and who enacts the banishments) will be seen as guiltless, despite most of them, as an accident of birth, being born into the oppressing class. Said priests therefore attain their social climbing goals by inducing guilt in their oppressor class mates. Social media and newspaper / news-sites opinion columns are ideal pulpits from which to do this.

    In cases where the priests decide to forgive a transgression – such as Donna Hylton (da gamba’s message above) being forgiven for being one of seven torturers and murderers – it seems the key principle is that the forgiven is one of the oppressed class. This underlines the unassailable distinction between being a member of the oppressed class vs. a member of the oppressing class.

    My take on this Identity Politics Guilt Economy, with its intersectionality etc., is that that it exists on a primary level to elevate its high priests with little actual effort other than the usual priestly activities of public utterances and the occasional ritual. The permanent state of conflict between oppressor and oppressed classes is necessary since only with this can the guilt-professing and guilt-inducing utterances be recognised as the highest expression of moral rectitude and intellectual achievement. (Actually helping people, especially far from a pulpit, would be much more work and of no use for social climbing.)

    I think the second level of the Guilt Economy is driven not by career social climbers (priests and priestesses) but by ordinary, generally good-hearted, folk of the oppressor class who accept, perhaps with private doubts, their complicity in the oppressive thrust of history. For their own personal reasons (their own profound guilt of being part of this class, driven in part by knowledge of past atrocities and rarer continuing oppression) and/or by the need to be seen as socially and morally clean (anyone in government or the helping professions), they publicly and privately remonstrate according to the examples set by the priests and priestesses, so hoping to establish their reputation as one of the oppressive class who utterly rejects all that is wrong with said class, which is pretty much everything. In their enthusiasm their actions are pretty much indistinguishable from those of the priests and priestesses – their public and friend-to-friend utterances and declarations give as further sense of respectability to the tenets of identity politics, so drawing into the GE numerous other good-minded folk who have not yet performed the necessary public self-flagellations. Those folk are, of course, the next in line to perform these secondary roles.

    A third level is driven by people who are of the supposedly (and quite likely, in the past) oppressed class, or any member of the oppressor class which claims to speak on their behalf. These people are constantly reminding one of their audiences – those in the oppressor class – how ALL the current suffering of the oppressed class, now, just as in the past, is due to the actions (including unintended actions and carelessness) of the oppressor class. This can be used to gain government and/or charity funding for oppressed class organisations and social programs, including those who employ these people. So any discussion of how oppressed class individuals might be responsible for their own plight, or how it might be due to bad genes or oppressed class culture, cannot be tolerated.

    Their other audience is those in the oppressed class, further infantalising them.

    I refer to this Identity Politics business as a Guilt Economy because its actors attempt to reduce their own guilt by inducing guilt in others. To the degree they succeed, more individuals are suckered into the same process. There’s a lot of guilt-induction in conventional religions, not least the guilt induced into the Jewish people in the southern kingdom by the people who finalised the Torah around King Josiah’s time – for contemplating worshiping any deity other than Yahweh (as the refugees from the just vanquished northern kingdom had been doing routinely) or for worshiping Yahweh (meaning bringing meat to the priests) at any other temple than the one in Jerusalem.

    * My recollection from “The Bible Unearthed” (Finkelstein and Silberman) and “Who Wrote the Bible” (Friedman).

  37. Victoria says

    For all the adulation Quillette receives, this article by one of its editors, shows it has the same penchant for dishonesty and liberal narrativism as the media it claims to challenge.

    Two examples:
    1. “Omar Khadr, an Arab-Canadian militant who was captured by American forces in Afghanistan when he was just 15, and then imprisoned at Guantanamo for a decade.”

    Kay conveniently omits that Khadr is believed to have killed Sgt. Christopher Speer, a man Kay lacks the integrity to even name.

    2. Andrew Evans murdered a woman in 2007 and is somehow on parole in 2018-9. Sorry if that makes me a “hellfire-and-brimstone” conservative to think that is prima facie injustice. Also note how Kay slinks over to characterizing a murder as a mere “sex crime” in order to push through his ideological point.

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