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We Must Defend Free Thought

You probably have felt afraid to speak your mind freely at some point. Whether it is in a university class, a meeting at work, or amongst friends online, it’s likely that you have remained silent when you have had ideas or opinions that haven’t conformed to received wisdom.

This is not an unusual or maladaptive response. In fact, knowing when to stay quiet and knowing how to avoid conflict is a necessary and important part of being an adult. Most arguments are pointless and there is no reason to get into fights with people whom we otherwise want to cooperate with and build mutually beneficial relationships.

Nevertheless, I worry that intellectual self-policing is happening more and more often, particularly for those living in tight-knit and politically homogenous communities. In such environments, challenging the prevailing ideological orthodoxy—even if it’s only to plead for more tolerance of diverse viewpoints—can lead to reputational damage, harassment, and, in some cases, career suicide.

Today, these strictly enforced thought codes are pervading spaces where naturally open-minded and liberal people work, such as academia, media and the arts. Complying with these repressive codes and, worse, being expected to report those who breach them, sticks in the craw of people with naturally liberal predispositions—even if they share many of the progressive aims of those who enforce these dogmas.

In a lengthy blog post on his website, the writer and psychiatrist Scott Alexander (his website Slate Star Codex is a near anagram of his name) describes how his life was derailed by those who harassed him over comments made on a Reddit forum related to his blog. The full background story and blog post can be found here, but the short version is that because right-of-centre people were not completely banned from the thread, and because discussions which were actually diverse took place, people were able to point to the small percentage of comments that included those they consider beyond the pale–hereditarians, anti-feminists, etc.—and claim that the entire thread, and Scott himself, was racist and misogynist, among other sins.

Scott points out that it was not trolling that got him (and the forum) into trouble. It was people expressing themselves in a civil, reasonable way:

The fact is, it’s very easy to moderate comment sections. It’s very easy to remove spam, bots, racial slurs, low-effort trolls, and abuse. I do it single-handedly on this blog’s 2000+ weekly comments. r/slatestarcodex’s volunteer team of six moderators did it every day on the CW Thread, and you can scroll through week after week of multiple-thousand-post culture war thread and see how thorough a job they did.

But once you remove all those things, you’re left with people honestly and civilly arguing for their opinions. And that’s the scariest thing of all.

He goes on to describe the distress that was caused by months of harassment and misrepresentation of the forum, his blog, and himself. He describes friends of his being called up and harassed as well as people contacting his workplace trying to get him fired. He eventually decided, in consultation with the thread’s moderators, to shut it down. He gives several reasons for writing about this decision, a step he did not take lightly. He knows that to reveal how much pain the harassers have caused him (a nervous breakdown) will only embolden them. One of the reasons he gives for his post is to prove to others that people really are self-censoring. He thought he would provide at least one example: himself.

[I]f someone speaks up against the increasing climate of fear and harassment or the decline of free speech, they get hit with an omnidirectional salvo of “You continue to speak just fine, and people are listening to you, so obviously the climate of fear can’t be too bad, people can’t be harassing you too much, and you’re probably just lying to get attention.” But if someone is too afraid to speak up, or nobody listens to them, then the issue never gets brought up, and mission accomplished for the people creating the climate of fear. The only way to escape the double-bind is for someone to speak up and admit “Hey, I personally am a giant coward who is silencing himself out of fear in this specific way right now, but only after this message”. This is not a particularly noble role, but it’s one I’m well-positioned to play here, and I think it’s worth the awkwardness to provide at least one example that doesn’t fit the double-bind pattern.

As long-standing admirers of Slate Star Codex, we would like to express our sympathy and solidarity with Scott. Needless to say, he is not a racist or a misogynist. On the contrary, he is one of the most insightful, reasonable, open-minded, genuinely progressive voices on the Internet. He has now made a full recovery and will continue to blog—and the thread he was forced to disassociate himself from is now continuing under a new banner and can be found here. Courage, mon frère. You have more friends than you know.

*  *  *

For the past three years, essays written and published on Quillette have nucleated around the core value that free thought must live. The idea is simple. All one has to do is put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and construct a well-reasoned argument—with consideration given to available evidence—and share it with others as widely as possible—and the intellectual legacy that was handed down to us by our forebears will be preserved and shepherded into the future for our descendants.

Quillette is an old French word for a wicker tree off-cutting that, when planted in the ground,  grows into a willow tree. Similarly, one original idea can grow from these humble beginnings into something long-lasting and majestic. A ‘quillette’ also represents the potential for rebirth and new life emerging from old.

*  *  *

The unpleasant reality that we must face today is that there is a small subset of hard-line ideologues who oppose open discourse altogether. The fact that you may not feel comfortable speaking your mind openly, and may feel afraid of serious consequences, is viewed by these people as an accomplishment. It is easy to ignore this reality, but when it harms people we admire, and threatens to stifle earnest discussions taking place in good faith, this reality must be dealt with head-on.

Their position is that debate “normalises” unsavoury people and that to platform anyone with right-of-centre views is the equivalent to “legitimising Nazis”. This fanatical minority is tiny in number but has successfully cowed university administrators, corporate leaders, and countless thoughtful people into silence. So successful are their tactics, they have even instilled climates of fear in institutions that were established with the explicit purpose of defending free thought. If these institutions cannot resist such vandals, who can?

At Quillette we defend free thought—with words—because that is all we have, and because that is what civilised men and women do. And we do it with ideas and counter-arguments, not ad hominem attacks designed to run people into the ground.

The problem we face now is new. Social media and ideological rigidity are combining to create a threat that our societies have not encountered before. We must adapt quickly to deal with the challenges at hand. The university—an institution which was originally set up with the purpose of defending free thought—has failed in this mission too many times in recent years to inspire much confidence. So we must not be complacent. Where the responsibility for defending free thought has been skirted, others, including you, dear reader, must pick up the slack.

One might reasonably ask the question: what does it matter if an obscure culture war thread was shut down and the blogger associated with it experienced distress? Isn’t this the risk you take if you venture into the public square? What does it matter if a forum closes, if we can continue to live in nations that have free markets as well as scientific and technological progress?

It matters because forums that give rise to organic intellectual discussion are ground zero for free thought. Scientific and technological progress cannot happen without people thinking freely—so to clamp down on it is to clamp down on progress itself. One could argue that such forums have parallels with the salons which sparked the French Enlightenment or the coffee houses where Scottish Enlightenment thought catalysed. The cross-pollination of ideas is important. While this used to happen within the university, it is now increasingly happening online.

It also matters because the people who are shutting down open discourse are sadistic bullies and we cannot let them win. While many of them actually enjoy causing others distress—a frightening realisation—we must also remember that they are a small minority. And while the rest of us may never match their vindictiveness and underhanded tactics, we do have numbers on our side. All people—whether they are apolitical, conservative, libertarian, centrist, moderate or progressive-left—can join together to oppose this new threat to free thought.

To do so, you can start by speaking and writing plainly, and with raw honesty and courage. Share your inner thoughts and support those around you who speak frankly. You should write well-reasoned arguments for your positions and spread them widely. Don’t be afraid of criticism. Criticism helps us grow. Have the confidence to know that there is nothing more penetrating than the human imagination and the human capacity for reason. From the most dazzling scientific and medical breakthroughs, to works of art that transform people’s lives—all of these first emerge from the interior worlds of individuals. That individual may be unknown, unrecognised, underprivileged and lacking in confidence. That individual may be you.

One of the most important steps in this process will be execution and distribution. That is where we can help. As long as Quillette exists, we will work with you to shepherd new ideas and thoughtful conversations into public view. While other institutions may buckle under attack, our raison d’être is to preserve Quillette as a space where free thought lives.

 

Claire Lehmann is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Quillette.

194 Comments

  1. Picturing Quillette as Gandalf here “You shall not pass.” Nicely done, laying down a marker for free thought.

    • Alan G says

      Younger than Gandalf but marking the same perilous boundary is Czeslaw Milosz: in The Captive Mind he exposes how tyrannies have enslaved minds, not merely through terrorism, but also by the imposition of ‘ideas’, their objective being the “mastery of the human spirit”. The present struggle in academia is a continuation of this, but since now the aspirant tyrants are ‘scholars’ they may be more effective than pure thugs.

  2. Culture Pacifist says

    For anyone wanting to check out the culture war thread, it’s on a weekly sticky thread linked from the subreddit in question, currently hosted here. https://www.reddit.com/r/TheMotte/comments/artngn/culture_war_roundup_for_the_week_of_february_18/

    The forum does generally lean left, and it’s valued by its members because posters try to engage in good faith. If you decide to check it out or join, take some time to read the rules and quality comment threads to get an idea for the norms of the community. If you’ve never engaged in sincere dialogue with people who see the world very differently than you do, it can be a good place to start.

    The thread will only be worth preserving if it remains a place that hosts commentary on the culture war rather than attempts to wage it. Wherever you end up on the Internet, try to treat your ideological opponents as you would want to be treated in turn, and correct your own misconcpmiscon as often as you seek to correct someone else’s.

    • Deserious Washington says

      I have been a participant in the Culture War threads since the beginning.

      The third rail of this is what was coined by Steve Sailer HBD or human bio-diversity. The motte for this is human population groups differ, due to natural selection such as Tibetan altitude tolerance or sickle cell trait in central Africans. The Bailey is that races have different mean IQs and most of the racial achievement differences in the US parallels the difference in IQ.

      This is discussed openly (most of the time – there was a month long ban on the stuff due to it making everyone crazy.)

      This is where all the people calling poor Scott (who I think is a Jew) a Nazi enabler.

      Cards on table – I think the balance of the science is on the Sailorite position. But since we are all children and epitaths are easier than discussions, here we are.

      • Jack B. Nimble says

        @Deserious Washington

        “……The motte for this is human population groups differ, due to natural selection such as Tibetan altitude tolerance or sickle cell trait in central Africans. The Bailey is that races have different mean IQs and most of the racial achievement differences in the US parallels the difference in IQ…….”

        I’m frankly amazed that you could cram so many errors into two short sentences. Here’s a brief and incomplete list of mistakes:

        1..’Human population groups differ due to natural selection.’ Geographic variation in humans is an observable fact, just like in most other wide-ranging species, but convincing evidence for natural selection driving geographic variation is hard to come by. Also, what about random forces like founder events? And what about stabilizing selection, which probably helps maintain some blood group polymorphisms in humans? And don’t forget geographic variation in deleterious mutations like cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs, etc. How do we explain those variants as adaptations?

        2..How do we define human groups? If we define them by allele frequency differences, then it is circular reasoning to claim that human groups differ in allele frequencies. If we define groups by geography, then we are simply talking about geographic variation under a fancy name [population group].

        3..Human genetic history is affected by unique events like long-distance migration, gene mutation and founder events. These events necessarily occur at particular points in time and space, but there is no reason to think that the outcome is shaped entirely or mostly by natural selection.

        4..In the second sentence, you shift from ‘groups’ to ‘races.’ But central Africans aren’t a race and Tibetans aren’t a race, so even if genetic adaptation to hypoxia at high altitudes is the result of natural selection, etc., that doesn’t support the existence of discrete races.

        Bottom Line: Naive Darwinism [that sees natural selection at work EVERYWHERE in the biological world] is the root cause of your mistakes.

        • Ah, sophists to the rescue.

          1.) Yes, environment selection has nothing to do with the ability to live at high altitudes found in Tibetans, or Sickle Cell Anemia conferring resistance to malaria and being prevalent in certain populations which have to worry about malaria.

          2.) How do we define a species? Wolves and Coyotes are supposedly different species, but they can mate and produce offspring. Obviously, species are culturally constructed and are a system of oppression to harm people who prefer copulating with dogs.

          3.) Evolution doesn’t apply to human populations, just animals. Its all random and founder effects in humans.

          4.) If wolves are distinct from coyotes, and those distinctions are the result of natural selection, it doesn’t support the existence of discrete species (or if you are a “speciesist” it doesn’t support the existence of discrete “families”, as wolves and coyotes are in the same Canidea family).

          4a.) [Remember, while humans can breed animals like dogs for certain traits, nature could never do so, because humans have souls and nature is a blind machine.]

          5.) Because species are socially constructed and don’t reflect any biological differences, there can be no “science” concerning the “origins” of “species”. “The origin of species” is simply a hegemonic system of oppression invented by white males to enslave and victimize sexual minorities and people of color.

        • “And don’t forget geographic variation in deleterious mutations like cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs, etc. How do we explain those variants as adaptations?”

          Ooo, I know this one, at least for cystic fibrosis. If I remember this correctly, having a single gene for cystic fibrosis conferred immunity to the Black Death plague, but having two meant you got cystic fibrosis and probably died. Since so many people died of the Black Death, the cystic fibrosis gene was preserved.

          Similar story for Sickle Cell Anemia and Malaria today.

        • Peter Schaeffer says

          JBN, “but convincing evidence for natural selection driving geographic variation is hard to come by” Wow is that poor. Dark skin as a protection against folate deficiency vs. light skin as an aid to Vitamin D production. From “Modern Human Diversity – Skin Color”. Quote

          “Melanin, the skin’s brown pigment, is a natural sunscreen that protects tropical peoples from the many harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV rays can, for example, strip away folic acid, a nutrient essential to the development of healthy fetuses. Yet when a certain amount of UV rays penetrates the skin, it helps the human body use vitamin D to absorb the calcium necessary for strong bones. This delicate balancing act explains why the peoples that migrated to colder geographic zones with less sunlight developed lighter skin color. As people moved to areas farther from the equator with lower UV levels, natural selection favored lighter skin which allowed UV rays to penetrate and produce essential vitamin D. The darker skin of peoples who lived closer to the equator was important in preventing folate deficiency. Measures of skin reflectance, a way to quantify skin color by measuring the amount of light it reflects, in people around the world support this idea. While UV rays can cause skin cancer, because skin cancer usually affects people after they have had children, it likely had little effect on the evolution of skin color because evolution favors changes that improve reproductive success.”

          See also “Adaptation is key in human evolution”. Quote

          “For years researchers have puzzled over whether adaptation plays a major role in human evolution or whether most changes are due to neutral, random selection of genes and traits.

          Geneticists at Stanford now have laid this question to rest. Their results, published Jan. 16 online in Public Library of Science Genetics, show adaptation—the process by which organisms change to better fit their environment—is indeed a large part of human genomic evolution.

          “Others have looked for the signal of widespread adaptation and couldn’t find it. Now we’ve used a lot more data and did a lot of work cleaning it up,” said Dmitri Petrov, associate professor of biology at Stanford University and one of two senior authors of the paper. “We were able to detect the adaptation signatures quite clearly, and they have the characteristic shape we anticipated.””

      • HBD is an interesting topic, and one that I wish could be productively explored. With both words being key – “productively” as in without animosity or bias towards any one group and “explored” as in you can give good-faith theories without being shamed or labelled.

        There is something to be learned about the divergence of, say, Asian and black Americans in terms of academic and societal performance. Both have somewhat similar historical background in terms of oppression, but have seen very different results in the last few decades as open racial discrimination has become frowned upon in society.

        It doesn’t necessarily even lead to “black people have a lower IQ as a group”, and I would claim this whole focus on IQ is a bit of a cop-out. But the problem is that we can’t even possibly explore this very real societal issue because one of the hypotheses would be the IQ hypothesis, and that is not OK to even be talked about.

        • Jack B. Nimble says

          @LAW

          Yes, HBD is interesting, but the above comment by @KD and the reference to Steve Sailer [who calls David Reich the “Third” Reich, heh heh] by @Deserious Washington show why most human geneticists don’t take right-wing HBD cheerleaders like Sailer and Cochran seriously, or even deseriously.

          • What is wrong with my comment?

            Once people realize the problem is evolution, not HBD, we can return to scientific creationism, and restore the social justice jihad to its proper 19th Century Puritan/Anglo-Protestant roots (William Gladstone, et. al.).

          • Jack B. Nimble:

            Surely, you must concede that every argument made against “race” (that is, biological distinctions between members of the same “species”) can be made equally against the concept of “species”, as well as “families”, etc.

            If “species” don’t exist, then a scientific “theory” concerning the “origins of species” is as much pseudo-science as HBD. I assume you are man enough to acknowledge the consequences of your arguments, even if that puts you in the camp of Christian Fundamentalist apologists. Politics makes strange bedfellows, after all.

          • Jack B. Nimble says

            @KD

            You can’t win this argument by rhetorical tricks:

            “……Surely, you must concede that…… …..I assume you are man enough to acknowledge the consequences of your arguments……Politics makes strange bedfellows…..”

            In elementary biology texts, it’s easy to find statements like this:

            “What do scientists mean when they say that species is the only “natural” rank in classification? Answer- Species is the only Linnean rank not defined by scientists. A species is defined by a natural process— mating to produce fertile offspring [source: https://www.antiessays.com/free-essays/18-1-Assessment-Review-591870.html ] .

            This statement is true to a first approximation but is not the complete story. Otherwise terms like semi-species, super-species, species complexes, species swarm, etc., etc. wouldn’t exist in the literature. In brief, there are many examples of closely-related groups of organisms that don’t fit a simple definition of separate species. In those cases, classifying these organisms into species categories is somewhat arbitrary and subject to disagreement among experts. [ Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Species_complex%5D

            I don’t have time or inclination to cover all of the relevant topics here; I suggest reading some of the literature citations in the above-linked Wikipedia article.

            Bottom Line: all taxonomic ranks except species [e.g., subspecies, genus, family, order, class, etc.] are artificial human constructs that are assumed to represent evolutionary relationships. The rank of species may be natural OR artificial, depending on circumstances and the opinion of experts. For example, wolves, coyotes, domesticated dogs, Australian dingoes and African golden ‘jackals’ probably represent a single species complex within the genus Lupus, but not everyone agrees with that.

          • Peter Schaeffer says

            JBN, I looked at Steve Sailer’s writing about David Reich (“Reich in NYT: “How Genetics Is Changing Our Understanding of ‘Race’””). The only reference to “Third” Reich was by Hippopotamusdrome.

  3. John Dutchman says

    Thank you for creating this magazine. I am impressed with everything I read and hear, here. Hear! Hear!

    • “Thank you for creating this magazine. I am impressed with everything I read and hear, here. Hear! Hear!”

      Hear, hear!! Quillette is a breath of fresh air in an era where news is opinion.

  4. codadmin says

    Well said, Claire.

    I am much more pessimistic about the size of their ranks, however.

    If western nations were still homogeneous, it might have all blown over. But they aren’t.

    The intersectional, anti-white, anti-western beliefs of this new inquisition are the ‘conventional wisdom’ for large swathes of the minority populations.

    • Cornfed says

      Unfortunately, I am forced to agree that there seem to be many more than just a tiny minority. I often ask myself, who actually comes up with these crazy ideas? They just seem to bubble up and become automatically accepted. Why aren’t the nuts being shouted down? Why do corporations capitulate so readily to their pressure? Why don’t university presidents put their feet down? The answer, I’m afraid, is that both private and public institutions are filled with executives and HR administrators who graduated from all the finest universities, and so have been marinated in this propaganda. In other words, our society is run by people who are in agreement with the mob. It is not a tiny minority.

      • It’s my observation that it starts long before the university. Indoctrination is also part of K-12 especially in public schools where left-leaning government officials work with (and negotiate with) left-leaning unions. Can we do better than government-run schools?

      • Charlie says

        How about this theory.
        Affluence leads to a reduction of vitality as stated by Ibn Khaldun. IK said a dynasty lasts about 120 years or three generations. The Industrial Revolution started with Newcomen in 1712 and then was followed by A Darby, Brindley , Smeaton, Watt,bout inventing the steam engine and affluence of the West takes off with the end of the American Civil War and unification of Germany in 1870.

        The success of the west is based upon the Enlightenment of which the Agricultural and Industrial revolutions are practical manifestations, curiosity, property rights and the individual having the ability to think and act for themselves.

        The West has suffered two World Wars which killed able people but also provided opportunities for exceptional individual courage and action. In WW 2 there were Wing Commanders in fighter units at 21 years( P Finucane ) and Colonels of special forces at 24 years. A British Special Forces officer said WW2 enabled people to do what they want: if they desired they could volunteer for aircrew, commandos, airborne, special forces , etc, etc.

        The massive rise in affluence and peace since 1960 has produced a significant number of mediocre effete impractical middle class humanities graduates who are aware of their inadequacy in either constructing or maintaining civilisation . Those that decry Western Civilisation are mediocre graduates . They are not like Oxbridge Dons of the 19 th century who had degrees in classics and maths and spoke three to four modern European languages.

        It is well known that in family firms that by the third generation the blood is becoming thin and the fourth or fifth are usually useless: the Western World has this problem.

        Most modern mediocre effete impractical humanities graduates lack the creative skill of a Newcomen et al, the scholarship of a 19th century Oxbridge Don and the courage of a WW2 hero. Consequently, these types of cultural Marxist/Post Modernists which to destroy Western Culture because it demonstrates their inadequacy and irrelevance. Nietzsche talked about master/slave morality and the resentment of the latter. CM/PMs are the inadequate and irrelevant and therefore feel resentment and spite towards the adequate and relevant. Of course if a CM/Pm produces work equal to Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Newton, Mozart, Newcomen, etc , I would be wrong.

        A Toynbee in his ” Study of history” says civilisations end when the creative power of the creative minority runs out.

        CMs/PMs are the fifth generation of family firm who demand dividends ( tax payers money ) but lack the vitality and creative power, so consumed by spite and resentment they destroy the edifice of western civilisation which demonstrates their inadequacy and irrelevance.

        • Charlie – Thanks for emphasizing the transitory nature of human and civilization vitality.

          It does appear that civilizations do posses a kind of life force which manifests itself in its highest forms under optimum levels of Necessity. Subvert Necessity and the life force dissipates.

          It also seems that we human beings are enveloped by forces greater than ourselves and to the degree we can cope successfully with these forces we are indeed masters of our destinies. To the extent we either resent or deny the existence of these forces we are either conscious resentful slaves or oblivious ones.

          Today with our hyper individualism we presume we can do or be whatever we want – we get to “construct” reality. We deny all forces beyond ourselves. But the more we are in denial of forces greater than ourselves the more we are the function of these forces. All of our Orwellian Happy Talk is merely a kind of psychological opiate which renders us impotent,

          Our best and brightest, which is to say, our most impotent and resentful, are preparing us for absorption into the Borg – apparently Resistance is Futile.

      • However, not only is this 8% extremely vocal and aggressive, they also happen to have finagled their way into positions of power in the throughout the MSM, Corporate HR departments, Advertising agencies, University Department Management/Leadership, Social Media Management and policing of users, Church Clergy, and, of course, The US CONGRESS! They are far from limited to policing action/thought in the so-called Cultural War. These far-left activists are now directly impacting people’s incomes/businesses directly through removing bank accounts at financial institutions. (While Patreon was the “front-man” many of us protested by closing our accounts, they were likely simply the messenger to shoot, as it appears PayPal and MasterCard were pulling the strings on this. This has gone WAY too far to be considered “that PC bullshit that makes us roll our eyes.” Our personal silence will ring in our ears at deafening volumes when they come for us and our families. We didn’t mind so much when they un-personed Alex Jone, Gavin McInnes, et al … until they come for us.

        • K. Dershem says

          You’re much more pessimistic than I am about how far the illiberal left is likely to go (“when they come for us and our families”), but you may end up being correct.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @K. Dershem

            I don’t think they are planing any death camps or gulags, but let’s get seriously dystopian: Ten years from now, the whole of Bangladesh is displaced, the sub-continent melts down into Hindu-Muslim war. Pakistan and India go nuclear. Every one who can leave leaves for Europe and the Anglosphere. Planes are commandeered as well as whole cruise ships — Africans and Middle Easterners landing 30,000 at a time on the beaches. The entire house of cards that we call civilization collapses almost overnight. There are no battle lines because the woke are trying to stop the populists/nationalists from ‘Hating’ the invaders, the invaders are trying to eat, and the Haters are trying to save the white race and/or civilization itself. For a time the woke control the government and army, and focus all their efforts on the Haters, but units start going rogue. The only coordinated group are the jihadis — they know exactly what they are doing. Then, to finish us off, Katla blows, sending the world into two or three years of volcanic winter and all our crops fail. No need for them to ‘come for us’ we’ll all be dead anyway.

            Point being that the woke will have so emasculated and baffled, buggered and bewildered their own societies that any chance of a coordinated survival strategy will be impossible.

            Sorry

        • K. Dershem says

          Ray: you have a vivid (and depressing) imagination! For all of our sakes, I hope you’re not a prophet in addition to being a secret dolphin.

          Others: I think the analogy between SJWs and Nazis is fundamentally unsound, so I don’t share your sense of panic. I’m equally opposed to the illiberal left and the reactionary right, but I don’t think that either group is comprised of fascists. In my view, exaggerating threats is a sure way to lose credibility. I could, of course, be wrong — I might end up in a re-education camp with all the other white, male, hetero-cis enemies of the state. But I don’t think that’s likely.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @K. Dershem

            I ‘explore’ dystopian nightmares, but I also nurture more optimistic hopes as well. I quite deliberately bounce back and forth between them. No, the Warriors are not Nazis. If there was to be some hell, it would be a hell by accident, not by design. Optimistically, sometimes I wonder if the entire edifice of Correctness and twitter mobs, might just vanish overnight like a sort of passing fashion craze that’s over. Indeed, the fanatics on both sides are equally scary. But I’m deeply worried about Europe. In America, the divide must be repaired or things could get scary. An end to wokeness would calm the moderate right down and the polarization might moderate. That’s my agenda.

      • Craig WIllms says

        “Overall, 80% of Americans dislike political correctness, including a majority of liberals”

        Yeah. yeah I keep hearing this stat, but find it curious that political correctness has become the de facto controlling authority in the West. Every institution bows to it’s unelected power. Government, media, education, big business and even my Church dare not tread beyond what is ‘allowed’ by politically correct doctrine.

        People don’t dare speak their minds in public, since one so-called misspoken word can sink a career.

        • What % of Germans were Nazi’s. I mean real hardcore. Maybe 5% or less. I mean what were they polling before the Great Depression. You need a small core of fanatics, in just enough places of power.

          Then you need some tacit supporters. The kind of people that don’t necessarily agree or understand “the ideology”, but will go along with it if they think it increases their status or could get them free stuff. Bitter military veterans, those industrialists that were more afraid of the communists, some of the people who abandoned the DNVP from 1930-32. This group needs to be larger but not that large. Not even a majority.

          Then you just need the others to comply. They don’t have to believe or support it. They just need to comply. If there are resisters only that they be isolated and uncoordinated enough to make their resistance acceptably ineffective.

          I can completely belief that a motivated progressive minority, in concert with a vaguely allied non-white vote bloc, could gain dominance over average people who would just go along to get along.

          • stevengregg says

            Hitler wrote that for each Nazi Party member, there were ten passive supporters.

            It does not take many wolves to make the sheep comply. For one German district with 250,000 people in it, there were only a couple dozen Gestapo keeping them in line. Half of them were secretaries. People would rat on their neighbors who did not render the Hitler salute or made a Hitler joke or were gay or something else they did not like. The Gestapo would mail them an invitation for an appointment at Gestapo headquarters, where they would be questioned on their offenses. That was enough for most people to get in line. For those who got a second meeting, they never returned, but were sent off to the camps or executed. That was enough to terrorize the rest of the population into compliance.

          • Alas, modern Western societies are much more pathetic than Nazi Germany. While a small percentage of Germans may have been committed Nazis, and a greater number committed conformists and opportunists, the Nazi’s actually rounded up and shot dissidents.

            In modern Western societies, there is no where the level of social repression, but people timidly go along anyway. Its truly pathetic to see what dissidents in the Soviet Union and under the Nazi’s endured, and compare it with the cowardice and careerism on display in the Academy today.

    • david of Kirkland says

      It is interesting that most countries people point to for “goodness” tend to be more homogenous than not. Social cohesion is much harder among a diverse crowd for obvious reasons that cohesion and diversity are opposites.

  5. Lightning Rose says

    Free thought experiment here: Yes, there is “self-editing” going on. Always has been. Long before the Web was a thing, we used to call it “manners” and “privacy.” Marriage, religion, politics, sex and personal finances were understood by all to be “off limits” topics at work and among casual acquaintances, think friends at a cocktail party. Yes, your brother, your wife, your husband, your grown children probably knew what you REALLY thought, but this was not information generally shared with the world for really GOOD REASONS that should still be obvious to all. Business and personal lives were kept separate for the most part and this worked well.

    We are now seeing the real-life fallout resulting from people violating that hidebound old rule wholesale, in a cultural bout of “verbal diarrhea” caused, apparently by use of the digital medium acting as a kind of weird pentothal. No opinion is so obtuse, so irrelevant, so self-destructive that it won’t see the light of day before the maximum number of reflexively voyeuristic clickophiles, for no constructive, productive or defensible reason whatsoever.

    This goes double for your drunken revels, ill-advised dress-up costumes, revenge port, dubious affiliations, texting your “junk,” and a WHOLE LOT OF OTHER shit that in ages past ANY sensible adult kept to themselves. IOW, if you regularly disport yourself in whorehouses, or with nude selfies, you MIGHT want to keep that to yourself. Like, DUH?

    Please do NOT argue that you “neeeeeed!” to do this for your living. Unless you’re some kind of YouTube succubus who lives for the ad revenue. In which case, get a job.

    • Mark Bjorge says

      I tend to agree with your assessment. I was taught by midwestern parents to never discuss money, politics, or religion in polite company. That’s incredibly old fashioned today, but it was the rule through much of the 20th century and, I presume, before.

      • stevengregg says

        While it is good Midwestern manners to not discuss money, politics, or religion in polite company, it was good Midwestern manners not to harass and ruin people who disagreed with you, even in private. That is a new development courtesy of the Left.

    • Jeff from Minnesota says

      So when I was banned from the Minnesota Public Radio blog because I spoke up and pointed out that those on on Medicaid only pay $3 co-pays, even for ER visits, in the state of Minnesota (backed up with a medical document that I sent directly to the individual running that blog); that was because I didn’t have good enough manners? I wasn’t allowed to bring that up as a reason ER costs/visits and general medical costs were increasing in the state? Is that the kind of thing we’re talking about here?

      Or how about how I have every 5th comment not make it through moderators (very civil, much more civil than left leaning comments I see make it through moderation) at my local newspaper’s website that I actually pay for (Star Tribune). I’m more of a pragmatic libertarian, not extreme by any means but I’ve never had a liberal idea/comment blocked, legalizing marijuana, pro-abortion, etc., ever blocked on that website but my more conservative ideas where I comment on taxes, criticize liberal politicians (our new DFL governor’s budget I’ve had a 2-3 comments never appear because I said he changed due his time in Washington DC and he doesn’t understand or stand up for the average working class person with his 20 cent per gallon gas tax increase) somehow I have every 4th or 5th comment “moderated” out of existence.

      I agree, vulgar comments that only attack without a specific criticism or just troll are not okay but if someone is making a valid, specific point that some might disagree with, as a moderator that comment shouldn’t be deleted it should be allowed to appear.

      • K. Dershem says

        “[I]f someone is making a valid, specific point that some might disagree with, as a moderator that comment shouldn’t be deleted it should be allowed to appear.”

        As a fellow Minnesotan (and a staunch supporter of free speech), I completely agree with you. Makes me glad I didn’t renew my MPR membership … I now support podcasts instead.

        • Jeff from Minnesota says

          I tried to directly appeal to the individual running MPR’s blog and wrote an email to him with my evidence (a document from a doctor friend of mine) which clearly laid out my statement as 100% factual. Suddenly he moved the goalposts and started to talk about “YouTube comments”. Not only that he tried to make it about me posting under a pseudonym (which I did to remain anonymous), I had recently decided to contribute and become a member as well…which I let him know but he made a claim that I was not a member. I mean it got insane, after being proven wrong with my document he went on a full rant on his blog and used his mob to attack me and used the fact that I wished to remain anonymous against me and suggested that wasn’t okay (while the vast majority posted under single first names as I did or they used some other odd username). I was having my comments deleted while trying to respond to people (under “guest” since my regular account was blocked), which is absolutely infuriating, eventually I just asked the “mob” I would just leave if I wasn’t adding anything and not one of them came to my defense, I disagreed, I needed to be removed, that was the end of it; I’m a person who didn’t even vote for Trump but I have close friends who did and I understand to some extend why they did. But there was no place for me, a moderate/libertarian among the liberal mob and I haven’t been back since and I cancelled my membership to MPR after that. Sad state that we’re in today.

          • K. Dershem says

            I’m sorry you went through that! Yeah, MPR is becoming increasingly woke. I can’t even listen to Kerri Miller any more.

          • Craig WIllms says

            @Jeff
            I gave up on the local media years ago. MPR is a lost cause. As K Dersham said you can’t even listen to Kerri Miller. She is outright hostile to the Republicans she interviews, you can hear the venom in her voice and practically see the spittle fly. The next day nothing but sweetness and light with the Democrat.

            If it’s not that it’s expose’ after expose’ about what a rotten country America is (when a Republican is in power). I have nothing good to say about MPR these days.

          • Lightning Rose says

            The Constitution only restricts the GOVERNMENT from restricting speech. This comes as a surprise to many, but private entities of all types, be they employers, newspapers, social media platforms, etc. have every right to censor, de-platform or just plain refuse to print any opinions (or facts) from anyone they find inconvenient to their preferred narrative.

            While you have the right to speak or write anything you choose, that does not confer a “right” to be published on a private platform you do not own. Crummy fact of life!

            Referencing my post above, I think some of you missed my point. The current incendiary political climate has motivated all kinds of people to rant and rave on public platforms what would formerly have been kept to themselves as private opinions. Before doing this, one should consider carefully whether publicizing political or cultural views could negatively impact one’s job, finances, children’s school acceptance, social life, etc. Most blog and article comment boards are basically the equivalent of hollering down a well. But the minute it’s tied to your real name, the trolls have target lock with frequently AWFUL repercussions.

            Is “getting it off your chest” to people you don’t really know actually worth it? I fear the “virtual world” and the real world are starting to get a bit muddled for many people.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @K. Dershem

          Minnesota should join Canada, you guys are mostly sane there, you’re cool headed enough to be Canucks.

        • @ Lightning Rose

          “but private entities of all types, be they employers, newspapers, social media platforms, etc. have every right to censor, de-platform or just plain refuse to print any opinions (or facts) from anyone they find inconvenient to their preferred narrative”

          What about baking cakes?

          • K. Dershem says

            Ray: I would love to see Minnesota join Canada! Alas, the U.S. doesn’t have a happy history with states that try to secede …

    • Constantin says

      “It is really exhausting to live in a dictatorship of ‘Me’, which is basically a tyranny of others.”
      ― Stefan Molyneux

  6. Thanks. However I must honestly say that the risk of being fired from my academic job for writing a dissenting piece on Quilette may be too high, unfortunately.

    • Sydney says

      @gcc

      That’s where Jordan Peterson began (not on Quillette, but in taking a principled and high-profile anti-SJW stand). He took on U of T’s administration and a proposed federal bill on compelled speech. He did okay.

      • Nicholas says

        @sydney, survivorship bias: for every Jordan Pererson or Lindsay Shepard, there are 100s of people ehw did not weather the storm…. And most of them end up writing an article about it in Quillette!

        • Craig WIllms says

          And Jordan Peterson to this day lives in fear of sinking the whole thing with an incautious quip or slip of the tongue.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @ga gamba

        Nope, not me. My name is my signature and my cheques are always good. I suppose it might take them five minutes less to find me when the time comes, that’s fine. I ain’t running and I ain’t hiding.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @K. Dershem

            I still am, but Claire started blocking me after I came out, she’s a cetaceaphobe, it seems, so I hafta bear my oppression and just act primateocentric … for now. But the future is finned.

          • Stephen J. says

            Now that kind of question only ever has an ulterior porpoise.

        • ga gamba says

          Good on ya, Ray. That advice is for those who claim compelling reasons to be unable to do so.

          Hell, if the nom de guerres of Lenin, Stalin, Kim Il-Sung, Tito, Ho Chi Minh, Leon Trotsky, and Pol Pot (to name a few) were acceptable to the left when they were besieged, and even when they weren’t, I think it’s fair play to all then.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @ga gamba

            Ha! That’s quite a list. Not Pol Pot? Sheesh I thought comrade Pot was the real deal. But as you suggest, nom de guerres (nomes de guerre ?) are the chique thing so I shouldn’t be surprised. But Fidel was really Fidel!!

  7. winnie wildflower says

    I realize i have been self-censoring my whole life on account of having a tyrannical father. I have always been so cowardly that i openly admit i would rather lie than hurt people’s feelings. I would rather lie to keep myself safe. ( I love Jordan Peterson but that whole speaking the truth thing is a recipe for unbearable pain)
    Just the other day it occurred to me that the reason why i am attracted to friends who are frank is because i am a closet-frank -person.
    I bought a little Maltese cross the other day to remind myself of the 4 cardinal virtues, one of which is fortitude. I want to develop it. It’s time for me to come out of the closet.
    Thank you Claire for your inspiring article !

    • “I love Jordan Peterson but that whole speaking the truth thing is a recipe for unbearable pain”

      You’re onto something here. A lot of people relate to this. For some people, the truth-first approach can be dangerously traumatic if not approached very carefully. Please consider writing a Quillette article. Sounds to me like you might have something to offer. I’d be interested.

  8. ga gamba says

    Well said, Ms Lehmann.

    He eventually decided, in consultation with the thread’s moderators, to shut it down. He gives several reasons for writing about this decision, a step he did not take lightly. He knows that to reveal how much pain the harassers have caused him (a nervous breakdown) will only embolden them.

    Indeed it will. I’m sorry to say it but closing his thread is a victory to them. You think they’re sitting around questioning themselves and wondering if they’ve gone too far? “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”

    One of the reasons he gives for his post is to prove to others that people really are self-censoring.

    That’s exactly what they want. Self-censoring is not seen as a defect, rather it’s victory because not only have you silenced the fella who dared to speak up, “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it”, you likely have scared off others who thought of doing so too, “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Without a unified opposition facing you, you may freely frolic to further subvert society and shape it to your capricious whims. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.”

    People should be outraged. I’ve not seeing evidence of a critical mass being so and remaining reliably so. A fella gets censored, or worse, and there a howls of protest for a short while, and it subsides. Make no mistake, the ground has been lost.

    The question is this: Will this victory, and all the others just like it, be a Pyrrhic one? It remains to be seen. If I were to place a bet, I’d wager on the censorious. Success begets success, and seeing how almost everyone except Chick-fil-A and Quillette has caved, the victories amassed are impressive. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.”

    People need to consider their tactics. Perform an after-action review. What went wrong and what, if anything, was successful? Even in a loss there may have been some things that worked but weren’t sustained.

    They’ve already demonstrated their tactics – it’s battle plan is titled Rules for Radicals. There’s nothing in it about civility, fair play, “play the ball and not the man”, being truthful, holding one’s own side accountable, or any other noble attribute.

    “Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.” I think they have a lot power. I hope I’m proved wrong. It’s good to have one’s ideas be incorrect once in while. Keeps you from getting lazy and complacent. 😉

    Ultimately, as long as people still think they’re in a polite debate and not in a uncivil war they’ll keep chalking up loses. And, hell, if we’re bound to lose would you rather go down like those honouring the bushido code than like one of those poor fellas forced to kneel before getting his head sawn off by ISIS?

    Stand and fight or kneel and succumb… your choice.

    • Saw file says

      Y’all keep up the outstanding work, Ms. Lehmann

      @gg

      I completely agree with your last paragraph.

      Those who are perpetuating these atrocities are not good people and they do not intend benefit to the whole. They don’t even pretend to be. They’ll straight up share their intention’s and end goal’s with anyone who is willing to ‘listen’. That’s what has always mystified me about the legions of “useful idiots” who arise and march when they beat the drums. I really believe that they truly don’t understand the song of the drummers.

      Good people need to understand that this is not about fair play. They need to fundamentally understand the inherent nature of those that they are up against and what their objectives are. They need to understand the current risks and what will be lost if they succeed. Many of the freedoms that were so hard won, and we have taken for granted for so long, are what we risk.

      It’s not an exaggeration to call this a (un)civil war, but it is not between the Left and the Right. It is between the light and the dark (right vs. wrong) , and it is winner take all.
      They are not interested in negotiation and compromise. There is no’geneva convention’ for this fight.
      The only way that it can be won is by the ‘good’ people becoming less ‘good’, and getting down into the mud with their opponents. Organize on mass and use the same weapons and tactics.
      It is the only way that this tiny minority of fanatical zealots can be eradicated.

    • Lightning Rose says

      If something about anything was NOT posted on the Internet, would it matter?

      I think people here are granting FAR too much importance to opinionizing online!

      Ask yourself: Who even SEES this shit? How would anyone even know you are “here?” Why would they care? How would they even find out, unless you blather it all over creation IRL?

      Ponder.

    • Farris says

      @Ga Gamba

      Do you ever feel as though you’re being tested?
      For instance Ms. Claire Lehmann posts an article entitled “We Must Defend Free Speech”, an ideal with which most commenters agree. Then one of the very next articles is by a hard core leftist complaining about being deplatformed. Couldn’t such dual postings be construed as a test of one’s commitment to Freedom of Expression?

      These are not rhetorical questions. I posted these questions in reply because you along with several others on this site put forth opinions with which I often not only agree but admire.

  9. Let’s be clear: The attack on freedom of thought — and the tired accusations against people of which most of us here are aware — come from the radical/far left.

    It’s up to moderate leftists, centrists, libertarians, classical liberals, and conservatives to call out the Loony Left.

    • Mike Dwyer says

      Mark,

      I agree where this is mostly coming from, but I don’t think Loony Left best describes them. These people aren’t crazy, they are just the latest in a long line of evolution in this direction. the kids on college campuses are now two generations removed from the same Baby Boomers that consciously decided to take up spots on college campuses and began indoctrinating future liberals.

  10. K. Dershem says

    The Quillette comment section would be more welcoming and constructive if more people followed the principles propounded by TheMotte reddit. As its editors write, “Extremists with opposing positions can feed off each other, highlighting each other’s worst points to justify their own angry rhetoric, which becomes in turn a new example of bad behavior for the other side to highlight. We would like to avoid these dynamics ….

    In general, we would prefer that you argue to understand, rather than arguing to win. This thread is not territory to be claimed by one group or another. Indeed, the aim is to have many different viewpoints represented here. Thus, we also ask that you:

    Speak plainly, avoiding sarcasm and mockery. When disagreeing with someone, state your objections explicitly.

    Be as precise and charitable as you can. Don’t paraphrase unflatteringly.

    Don’t imply that someone said something they did not say, even if you think it follows from what they said.

    Write like everyone is reading and you want them to be included in the discussion.”

    https://www.reddit.com/r/TheMotte/comments/artngn/culture_war_roundup_for_the_week_of_february_18/

    • No more sarcasm , Dershem? Then we would have missed Voltaire. Sarcasm is a form of idealism. And better understood than dusty reason. Also, it sticks better in men’s memories, sometimes for centuries even!

    • K. Dershem, I agree completely. Given the ideological bent of most Quillette content (i.e., opposed to the excesses of progressive lefties), the Quillette comment section is at risk of becoming a conservative echo chamber (although I don’t believe that is the case yet). In my opinion, the value of Quillette as a whole would be increased if we avoid that, and maintain a positive and welcoming environment to all (or at least to respectful lefties, moderate lefties, centrists, etc.).

      • Ray Andrews says

        @Mike

        Yup, we need more lefties. A few have been chased away and that is too bad because they were sensible folks, not SWJ mad-dogs.

    • SeanV3 says

      I think the biggest problem with these comments is that you’re unable to sort them or collapse them in any way, so it’s hard to get a good sense of the more interesting comments without reading all of them – which I rarely have time for.

    • Stephanie says

      K.Dershem, I appreciate the sentiment, but there are only maybe three people who regularly break those rules, and they aren’t particularly well-liked.

      This is a more civil and thoughtful comments section than I’ve ever seen. If a better one exists (that isn’t moderated), please refer me to it so I can join!

      • Ray Andrews says

        @ Stephanie

        Yup, it is pretty fantastic isn’t it? I’d be interested to hear from Claire how many comments she removes and how many people she’s banned. I’m betting the number is very small. Trolls seem to know they just can’t find a home here. It shows that rational discussion is not dead. It is interesting to discuss the rules tho: I myself am tolerant of sarcasm, it bites, but it makes a point. Even the strawman, it can be seen as fallacy, OTOH it can show where a certain slippery slope might lead.

  11. Sydney says

    You know the vulnerable group that faces a barrage of indoctrination, propaganda, and lies DAILY? K-12 Schoolchildren in union/government public schools.

    Kids whose families are centrist or conservative (or kids who simply want to learn to think for themselves) live six hours every day in environments where they feel forced to hide and to shut up. Most children are easily cowed and intimidated by teachers, and they worry about their grades and also being mocked by peers who don’t question anything.

    It’s no small thing that state schools are entirely run by far-leftists (curricula created by far-left academic programs, unions run by globalist far-leftists, admin controlled by left governments, and far-left teachers who are brainless products of all these things). And I came from the left, so I’m well-placed to clearly see it in the materials that come home daily. We should all worry.

    • K. Dershem says

      “State schools are entirely run by far-leftists (curricula created by far-left academic programs, unions run by globalist far-leftists, admin controlled by left governments, and far-left teachers who are brainless products of all these things.) Sydney, could you provide evidence for this claim?

      • Morgan Foster says

        @K.Dershem

        I believe Sydney just offered his personal testimony as direct evidence.

        • K. Dershem says

          I have no idea who Sydney is or what he/she does, so I don’t find that very compelling. Claiming that public schools “are entirely run by far-leftists” is an extraordinarily bold claim; an anonymously expressed opinion does not constitute extraordinary evidence.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @K. Dershem

            You’re a reasonable guy K, but I think you’re making a mistake there. We can appeal to our general estimate of the state of something without necessarily providing hard data, can’t we? Some social trends can’t be reduced to hard figures, they are just trends but they might be very real just the same. I think we all know that education has been very generally taken over by leftist doctrine, don’t we? I can’t show you data, but do I have to? Surely we all know it? I think appeals to our general experience, and of course our personal, direct experience, are valid. Don’t you?

          • K. Dershem says

            Ray: there’s a huge difference between “progressive” and “far-left.” The OP claimed that public schools have been completely taken over by the latter, which strikes me as an extreme and extraordinary claim. I’d be much more willing to agree that K-12 education has a progressive bias, which is not all that surprising given the demographics of individuals who go into teaching. (The same is true of social workers.) Likewise, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to discover that people who go into finance have a conservative bias due to the influence of self-selection. I don’t think a top-down conspiracy is to blame, as the OP seems to imply, nor do I think that teachers are “brainless” puppets who blindly follow the dictates of their “globalist” masters.

      • @ kdershem. Here is a direct quote,

        “Our graphic is used as a training tool and educational resource for thousands schools globally at all levels of education from kindergarten through university.”.

        Don’t believe me? Here’s a link.
        http://www.transstudent.org/cms

        • …Concerning the gender unicorn as an educational tool for informing children about their gender, sexuality, sex, and who they’re sexually attracted to.

          • K. Dershem says

            I don’t find that example to be “far-left,” but that may be an expression of my own political biases. If the gender unicorn was condemning heterosexuality and claiming that all men are toxic, that would be different. I assume you’re on the right (perhaps the far right), so the far-ness of the graphic may look different from where you stand.

          • Lightning Rose says

            The only thing you’d need to explain to your normal kid about “the gender unicorn” is that unicorns are imaginary beings..

            See what I did there? 😉

        • Ray Andrews says

          @K. Dershem

          “Ray: there’s a huge difference …”

          Point made sir. I stand corrected.

      • Sydney says

        My reply here is really meant for the commenters who know what’s going on. If you doubt my original comment you either don’t have children, or don’t have them in public Canadian schools, or you’re so far gone on the left that you can’t see your way out. I get it; I originally came from the far left.

        If these bitlys don’t function, they link to posters created and distributed (one on a billboard) by the unhinged left in Canada. One is straight out of the Cultural Revolution, and the other is a checklist of how bad a child is by intersectionalist standards. Google ‘white privilege bc schools images’ and they should both pop up in among the images.

        https://bit.ly/2SXGJ6T
        https://bit.ly/2SoO3TS

        Just a few of MANY, MANY daily examples of how the left has swallowed K-12 curricula and general thinking (I use that term loosely):

        The English teacher who proclaimed that “bells are right wing” to explain why the school was stopping use of bells.
        The PhD-level Music teacher who took a bewildering, context-free swipe at “dead white composers” to students in a specialty program dedicated for music students.
        The Socials teacher who used a “white” teen boy as a random “example” of “bad” 18th-century colonialism in a non-“white”-majority class. ie, “Look at him; they looked just like him,” she said.
        The French teacher (in Canada) who made a ‘match-the-image-to-the-word’ game where US President Trump (NOTHING to do with Canadian second-language education) was matched to the word “lunatic.”
        The assemblies where students are told that “there are infinite genders,” and where they are made to apologize for government policies regarding First Nations bands of 150 years ago.
        The English teacher not reading Beowulf (the only books read are those that fit trendy left narratives), but instead making students mangle it so that it fits the left narrative of the “bad white male” losing against the “good, othered” character.
        The Socials teacher who was clearly understood by the students to have literally ranted for almost every class for an entire year about US President Trump (we are in Canada and students have NO reason to hear about him in school).
        The English class that was given a handout (no context whatsoever) of an “identity wheel” for students to “identify” themselves in terms of minority and victimhood status.
        The Socials teacher who conveniently teaches that fascism and the Third Reich are “right wing” when in fact they were both left-wing developments.
        Forcing teen boys to waste their time (and leave their prodigious energy unused and bottled) in mixed-gender PhysEd classes for the benefit of girls.
        The teachers who, day after day, declare and present their personal (union-made) opinions as facts, and never once try and teach students to think for themselves.

        I could be doing this all day.

        • @sydney. A principle for a city school here in Portland Oregon sent an email to parents advertising her, “How to combat whiteness.”, seminar. She is white herself and a good portion of the email was spent qualifying her allyship with claims that her family is “nonwhite” and her salary supports those non white people. She also claimed that she pays reparations to nonwhites who are not part of her family.

          Ironically, white people who couldn’t afford the seminar (suggested donation price 800$) could qualify for “scholarships”. Boiled down, white people who don’t have any disposable income can still come to learn about all the ways in which they are privileged, fragile, and how to help erase their own dominant influence on life and society in general.

    • Marian Hennings says

      Are today’s school materials any worse than the right-wing Weekly Readers and Junior Scholastics that were foisted on students in the 1950s and 1960s? Those publications were blatant propaganda and are partly responsible for the ignorant view most Americans my age have of socialism.

      • I’m not going to qualify my point with where I fall on the political spectrum.

        1. The gender unicorn is a graphic developed and used to educate children about their sex (appropriate), sexuality ( developmentally inappropriate), their gender (a confusing concept to introduce to kindergarteners), and also who they’re “emotionally” attracted to (which would technically be about anyone that shows interest in them).

        These are things to think about at some point in ones life for certain. At age 5? And with a graphic designed and proliferated by trans activists? No. You’re not going to get a reasoned discussion or nuance from a class full of babies. Their developmental limits allow for a discussion on what they pee out of and that’s about it. What you get with this tool is indoctrination.

        • K. Dershem says

          In the Netherlands, age-appropriate sex education starts in kindergarten.

          “You’ll never hear an explicit reference to sex in a kindergarten class. In fact, the term for what’s being taught here is sexuality education rather than sex education. That’s because the goal is bigger than that, says Ineke van der Vlugt, an expert on youth sexual development for Rutgers WPF, the Dutch sexuality research institute behind the curriculum. It’s about having open, honest conversations about love and relationships ….

          According to the World Bank, the teen pregnancy rate in the Netherlands is one of the lowest in the world, five times lower than the U.S. Rates of HIV infection and sexually transmitted diseases are also low.

          “We have to help young people navigate all the choices they face and stand up for themselves in all situations, sexual and otherwise” …

          There are multiple factors that likely contribute to these numbers. Easy access to contraception is one. Condoms, for example, are available in vending machines, and the birth control pill is free for anyone under age 21. But there’s also a growing body of research that specifically credits comprehensive sexuality education. A recent study from Georgetown University shows that starting sex ed in primary school helps avoid unintended pregnancies, maternal deaths, unsafe abortions and STDs.

          Proponents of the Dutch model argue that their approach extends beyond those risks. Their brand of sex ed reflects a broader emphasis on young people’s rights, responsibility and respect that many public health experts say is the foundation of sexual health.

          https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/spring-fever

          Sounds pretty good to me!

          • Age appropriate is the key phrase there.

            And I wouldn’t tout the Netherlands as a great place for sex education before you see what their birth rate is.

            It’s 181st lowest out of 193 countries. A dying country is hardly something to brag about.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @K. Dershem

            You never fail to be reasonable. Your case is compelling there. I might say that there’s more to the future of society than pregnancy rates, but the wind of the argument is on your side, given those trends.

    • My kids go to a public school in one of the most lefty urban cities in America, and this is a real concern. They moved to a new school that is much less *openly* political, but I assume that their teachers, administrators, etc. are 85% progressive and let their ideology seep into instruction. I therefore see it as my duty to (a) instill a healthy sense of skepticism in my kids, and (b) embolden them to stand up if they think an authority figure is wrong.

      • K. Dershem says

        Ike, are you suggesting that sex education causes lower birth rates? If so, that’s a very strange claim. Fertility rates drop when countries become wealthier and women become educated. There currently are 7.5 billion humans on the planet. As long as it’s achieved voluntarily (not through coercive methods like China’s now-abandoned one-child policy), I think a demographic transition to lower fertility rates should be celebrated, not scorned.

        • Stephanie says

          The transition to low fertility rates as women get educated is voluntary only on a very superficial level. Girls are indoctrinated to believe that being an empowered woman requires fulfilling the traditionally male role of high scholastic and career achievement. The magnitude of the loss of our best reproductive years isn’t felt until it’s too late, hence the explosion of IVF treatment. Even then, few can speak out against this grave disservice, because hey, we got some fancy pieces of paper and we don’t want a man to keep us in the kitchen, right?

          • K. Dershem says

            Stephanie, do you think girls should be indoctrinated to believe that they can only fulfill their potential by marrying young and having children? As a non-radical (equity) feminist, I think women should be free to make their own decisions. Staying home to care for children should not be stigmatized, but neither should pursuing a career. Women choose to have fewer children in every country that becomes wealthier and provides them with a broader range of options. If indoctrination is responsible, it’s been remarkably consistent across many different societies.

        • Sex Ed is not a direct causal link to lower pregnancy or even lower teen pregnancy. It’s like many issues, there’s multiple reasons for a single outcome. Teaching your children that pregnancy is something to be avoided may carry over to adulthood though.

          And I fail to see how lower birth rates in developed nations is a good thing. Undeveloped countries have the opposite issue and the world is being populated by poor, uneducated people. Nothing against the poor and uneducated, but they’re rarely making things better for their fellow man or society in general.

          There is literally nothing more important than pregnancy, family, and child rearing to the future success and longevity of good ideas and prosperous and just nations.

          • K. Dershem says

            Sex ed doesn’t teach kids that pregnancy should be avoided; it teaches them how to avoid pregnancy if they’re not ready to have kids. There’s an enormous difference.

          • Reread your last statement. You’re saying sex Ed teaches kids how to avoid pregnancy, but not that it should be avoided.

            That’s nonsense.

          • K. Dershem says

            No, it’s not nonsense. It’s an important distinction. Teaching kids that pregnancy should be avoided is a moral/normative claim: you *should* avoid getting pregnant. Teaching kids how to avoid getting pregnant provides them with knowledge, enabling them to decide whether or not to get pregnant when or if they decide they want to have children. You argued that sex ed indoctrinates girls into “masculine” pursuits instead of teaching them the joys of motherhood; I’m saying it teaches them how the reproductive system works and how to reduce the chance of pregnancy if they decide to have sex.

  12. Mike Dwyer says

    Claire,

    Thank you so much for starting this site and for building such an interesting group of contributors. I wrote for a cultural site for years and finally had to give it up because it was clear that it had been taken over by the Regressive Left. It was no longer a place where productive dialogue could happen. When I read the essays here at Quillette i find myself nodding along to nearly every point. It’s very comforting, after years of questioning my own positions due to hostility, to find out that other people actually think the same things I do. It gives me great hope for the future.

  13. Farris says

    There was a time when progressive organizations such as the ACLU even defended the right of the American Nazi Party to demonstrate. I hope this was not the high water mark of freedom of speech. Unfortunately the ACLU has recently backed away from defending reprehensible speech. When any person or group is prevented from speaking, all are impacted. Allow people to reveal themselves, in order to become better informed. Free Speech makes it much easier to distinguish the intellects from the cads. If the worst among us is free to speak, we can rest assured our freedom to speak is protected.
    I very much enjoy the articles and comment section on Quillette. I have on occasion disagreed with fellow commenters. I have always found the other commenters cordial respectful and often passionate. When the occasional troll appears few rise to the bait. Justice Hugo Black was an absolutist on First Amendment protections. I hope that mode of thinking has not become antiquated and will soon return.
    “Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes even perceptibly worse than it was, before the crusade began.”
    Aldous Huxley

  14. Peter from Oz says

    I think there is something more important at stake than the right to investigate any line of thought, and that is the right to be wrong.
    It seems to me that the most horrible thing in society to today is the need for soem puritan cry bullies to go out of their to find offence if someone uses language that can be twisted into one of the forms of bigotry so loahted by so-called progressives. Even if the person in question merely made a self-acknowledged error and has never ever shown any signs of bad behaviour before, it doesn’t matter. The harshest retribution must be imposed, so as to cow the rest of us into conformity.
    My theory is that this behaviour by the progressives has increased as the part played by religion and social conformity receeded. They have come to the fore to take over the role of social policeman left vacant by older-style authority figures. We are now turning towards a new Victorianism.

    • Morgan Foster says

      @Peter from Oz

      The lost-religion theory is, perhaps, most apt regarding arguments over climate change.

      The consensus of scientists was, at one time, that the sun revolved around the earth. To say that it might be the other way around was to deny science, costing the heretic his job and quite possibly his life.

      • JWatts says

        I believe that the fundamentals of AGW are correct. But like many skeptics, I doubt the predictions. Both the magnitude of warming and the apocalyptic scenarios. The projections haven’t been accurate to date.

  15. I’m not afraid to speak up when I’ve got an opinion that differs from “received wisdom.” I’m afraid to speak up when I have any opinion at all about anything vaguely related to matters of race, gender, and sexuality, even when I think those opinions happen to coincide with what’s considered politically correct. I’m afraid of saying the right thing the wrong way or in the wrong context. I’m afraid to say anything.

    I probably didn’t have anything worth saying anyway, but I can’t risk losing everything over expressing an opinion.

  16. Morgan Foster says

    @Claire Lehmann

    Ms. Lehmann, this seems like a relevant moment to request an article or a series of them from Quillette contributors.

    In addition to calling upon people to speak freely in the face of political oppression, might there not be something to be done to resist from another direction? From behind?

    We all recognize that the lair of the beast of left-wing intolerance is the ‘academy’; universities both private and public. But we also seem to have convinced ourselves that the offenders within the academy are more or less invulnerable to direct attack.

    Are they?

    1. Can voices of reason not prevail upon private donors to cease giving money until such time as reason is restored to the campuses of their alma maters?

    2. Can state legislatures not reorganize their university systems to take authority and power away from those who have it now; trustees, chancellors, presidents, faculty committees and student bodies? They can all be neutered financially. They can all be removed from authority over student admissions and curricula, even those with tenure.

    None of it would be easy. It may well take as much time as it took for the academy to be corrupted. But surely, these things need to be done.

    Quillette seems an ideal home for such discussion.

    • K. Dershem says

      @Morgan, I think you’re assuming that views expressed on Quillette have far more popular support than they actually do. There’s a sense among commenters (less so on the part of most authors) that colleges and universities have been completely taken over by the radical left, who are indoctrinating students with their destructive ideology. This may be true of grievance studies departments, but I don’t think it’s true of higher education as a whole. Most students attend two-year colleges and second- and third-tier state universities, which are significantly less “woke” than elite east and west coast institutions. Much of the electorate does not think that universities are in a state of crisis — they’re more concerned about high levels of student debt than ideological imbalance. Attempts to fundamentally reform higher ed may gain some traction in deep red states, but I strongly suspect they’ll fail in purple and blue states.

      • DeplorableDude says

        @K. Dershem The problem with higher education is in the over leadership. The grievance studies group wouldn’t get away with what they get away with if leadership didn’t back them up. Let’s not even talk about the Title IX kangaroo courts.

      • K., did you miss the Quillette article about PC principles infiltrating engineering, or the one about law? There’s no escaping it these days. The Oscars last night. Knitting. Teen fashion mags. It’s everywhere.

        • K. Dershem says

          @benita — I can’t find the source, but in an interview about _The Coddling of the American Mind_ Jonathan Haidt acknowledged that the problem of political correctness is significantly worse at elite colleges in the Northeast and West than elsewhere in academia. It certainly seems like most of the prominent stories about deplatforming etc. have emerged from those institutions. In response to Haidt’s original “Coddling” article in the Atlantic, a commentator wrote the following:

          “On some campuses, a dogmatic form of identity politics clearly has taken hold. But what’s too often missing from this picture is the very thing that opponents of political correctness so often decry: a sense of proportion and judgment, and an awareness that what transpires on the radical edges of elite universities is not always an accurate barometer of what’s happening in the wider world.

          Even at places like Brown and Oberlin, there are plenty of less-privileged students struggling to make ends meet. Like their peers at state universities and community colleges, these students have genuine grievances that are grounded in reality and in the very real material burdens that so many young graduates will soon face.”

          In other words, kvetching about “cultural appropriation” is a luxury which many students don’t have the time to indulge; they’re too busy working multiple jobs and worrying about unsustainable levels of student debt. (I’m not Jewish, so I’m not sure if I’m actually allowed to use the word “kvetching.”)

          https://prospect.org/article/meanwhile-back-most-campuses

          This isn’t definitive, but there is evidence that there are more moderate and conservative faculty at community colleges than at other institutions (sorry about the formatting):

          Institution type Liberal Moderate Conservative
          Community college 37.1 43.9 19.0
          BA, non liberal arts 38.8 48.5 12.7
          Liberal arts 61.0 35.1 3.9
          Non elite, PhD 44.3 51.9 3.8
          Elite, PhD 56.6 33.1 10.2
          Total 44.1 46.6 9.3

          https://www.conservativecriminology.com/uploads/5/6/1/7/56173731/lounsbery_9-25.pdf (chart is on pg. 29)

          • K. Dershem says

            Sorry, that the above response was to Mike, not benita.

      • “Most students attend two-year colleges and second- and third-tier state universities, which are significantly less “woke” than elite east and west coast institutions. ”

        I’m not sure I believe that (about less elite institutions being less “woke”). Do you have a basis for that opinion other than personal experience?

      • Axiom says

        @K, I can attend college at a state university in a deep-red state and can attest to the pervasive influence of the diversity cult there. While not a hotbed of illiberalism such as you will find at places like Berkeley or Evergreen (or any of the ivy leagues), speech policing and self-censorship are commonplace occurrences. In addition, increasingly ‘woke’ viewpoints are inserted into a number of courses unrelated to grievance studies; not to mention mandatory “multiculturalism training” for all incoming freshmen where impressionable adolescents are told all about the racist cisheteropatriarchy. I have witnessed all of this over the past four years and I can tell you that the power and influence of the regressive left is growing on campus. I fully realize that my personal experience is merely anecdotal, but I can’t help but think that if the leftist moral authoritarianism exists to the degree that it does here in the heart of MAGA country, what is it like on the coasts? And as Nassim Taleb points out, it takes only a tiny, vocal minority to affect significant social change, https://medium.com/incerto/the-most-intolerant-wins-the-dictatorship-of-the-small-minority-3f1f83ce4e15. My hope is that the unsustainable cost of tuition forces a collapse and subsequent restructuring of higher ed in the US. Perhaps on the other side of such a reconstruction we would see less activism and more genuine scholarship.

        • K. Dershem says

          @Axiom: thanks for your comment. I don’t deny that illiberalism is present on non-elite college campuses, just that it’s less pervasive and intense. In my view, there’s a great deal of hysteria and hyperbole in many of the comments on this site. I can’t count the number of times that SJWs have been compared to Nazis. I don’t want to minimize the problem, but I think it needs to be kept in perspective. I suspect the vast majority of students on your campus are more concerned with passing classes, getting over hangovers, graduating on time and finding a job than they are with cultural appropriation and microaggressions. That’s probably true at elite schools as well. As we saw in Charlottlesville (at the other end of the political spectrum), vocal extremists receive a disproportionate amount of attention. The regressive left must be resisted, but I don’t think that cause is served by exaggerating their influence.

          • Stephanie says

            I’ve never attended an American University, but the underrated university I attended in conservative country was just as free speech stifling as the elite university I attended in lefty country. These were the two extremes of Canadian society, and if anything the former was worse. I have yet to see an Australian university that isn’t terribly leftist.

            The fact it might be worse at elite universities because of their privileged student base doesn’t mean the problem at less elite universities isn’t there. Give it time, it’s spreading quickly.

  17. bill53 says

    Try working for a big corporation like Verizon from which I just retired/escaped. They have an entire diversity/PC department devoted to one world view. Only one religion is banned from the Verizon workplace, Christians including Christmas. I was warned about not accepting the unacceptable, homosexuality and QUILTBAG2 glamour. I was warned not to complain about memos trying to normalize islam and paganism like the hindu worship of animals. I was warned about accepting mentally ill folks who thought they could change their sex. Yada, yada, yada.

  18. The surest way to stifle free thought is neither by censorship nor intimidation, but by destroying the capacity to think. So long as we confuse thinking with ideation (thought ungrounded in experience) we are easily seduced and intimidated by Fake Thought, which is to say, Bullshit.

  19. Peter Pan says

    It seems to me that the cultural contexts within which the free speech shouting matches are now dramatized needs to be taken into account. And the fact that millions of people are now dramatizing a poor-me victim mentality.
    We are now all living in a “culture of complaint” which is the title of a 1993 book by Robert Hughes
    The Culture of Complaint – The Fraying of America.
    And a 24/7 argument culture which is the title of a 1999 book by Deborah Tannen The Argument Culture Stopping America’s War of Words.
    20-25 years later the situation described in those books has become far worse, by many degrees.
    Is it now even possible to find any sources of balanced sanity in the midst of the cacophony of self-righteous voices? Especially as many people now seem to think and act as if ceaseless argumentation is the only way to keep themselves interested in life.

    Anyone can point to almost countless incidents in which they or someone else has been supposedly victimized, or hard done by. Quillette regularly features such “poor me” voices.
    But none of the complainants featured on Quillette are being sent off to a “re-education” camp, or even suffering any serious threat to their well-being, or the well-being of their family, relatives or friends.
    In the context of both Australian and USA politics could someone please give me a comprehensive definition of “far left”? Or is this phrase just an example of right wing group-think?

  20. Quillette also means CPR for the soul, apparently. At least in my case.

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  22. The problem we face now is not new, I tasted it first reading The Archipelago as a teenager – it’s standard issue totalitarianism. Note:-
    Foucault said, “The polemi­cist…pro­ceeds en­cased in priv­i­leges that he pos­sesses in ad­vance and will never agree to ques­tion. On prin­ci­ple, he pos­sesses rights au­tho­riz­ing him to wage war and mak­ing that strug­gle a just un­der­tak­ing; the per­son he con­fronts is not a part­ner in search for the truth, but an ad­ver­sary, an en­emy who is wrong, who is harm­ful, and whose very ex­is­tence con­sti­tutes a threat. For him, then, the game con­sists not of rec­og­niz­ing this per­son as a sub­ject hav­ing the right to speak, but of abol­ish­ing him as in­ter­locu­tor from any pos­si­ble di­a­logue; and his final ob­jec­tive will be not to come as close as pos­si­ble to a difficult truth, but to bring about the tri­umph of the just cause he has been man­i­festly up­hold­ing from the be­gin­ning.”

    I think eschewing politically correct language is a very good place to start.

  23. A C Harper says

    I have a small quibble (insert inappropriate joke here) which shouldn’t be held against the general thrust of the article which is otherwise excellent.

    The title “We Must Defend Free Thought” follows the format of some Left leaning newspapers (e.g. the Guardian in the UK). ‘We MUST do something about something bad’ or ‘We MUST do something good more’. Either variant strikes me as an authoritarian statement and I would be more comfortable with ‘We should defend Free Thought’, or ‘In defence of Free Speech’.

    As long as we don’t go to the other extreme… ’10 reasons for supporting Free Speech’.

    It’s just a quibble.

    • A C Harper – I think it’s more than a quibble and you are onto something. This is a good article but the author is moralizing to the extent she is encouraging certain behaviors – defend free thought!

      This is all well and good, but, it seems to me the real threat to a healthy society is not so much a lack of encouragement of free thought but a lack of the grounds which produce thought in the first place. To the extent we modern human beings are abstracted from experience we are rendered incapable of thinking. All knowledge is rendered into “opinion”.

      When large numbers of people are convinced knowledge is opinion then Yeats’s prophecy is fulfilled:

      The best lack all conviction, while the worst
      Are full of passionate intensity.

    • George G says

      “You must” is the modern “Thou shalt” The Guardian is always issuing new commandments to the faithful. In Claire’s defence there is a place for “musts” just because its a rhetorical device overused by inarticulate idiots at The Grievance don’t be too quick to tar her with the same brush

  24. What I have noted in my contacts with family, friends, colleagues and strangers: my self censuring depends for a great deal on the ambience, what I easily come forth with in one, I would never say in another. Sometimes out of civility, sometimes out of downright fear (in dictatorial nations). I,m sometimes flabbergasted how some people, abroad, seem not to realise this dependency on ambience, they seem to think that they are at home and honest, where I see irreparable things happening.

    • Apart of that civil and fear, the deepest one to direct self censuring is, of course, love! Everyone will agree with that one!

  25. Blasè says

    It’s incredible how much damage is caused in the name of “compassion”, particularly to those who are the intended recipients of said compassion.
    Glad to be part of a community of people who want to treat the underlying infections rather than just the symptoms. Keep at it folks, and Godspeed.

  26. Lydia says

    They are NOT a small minority. They run our institutions. One of the worst here are public school systems. People have mortgages and children so they self censor. people who do speak up and take the hit found they are standing alone. They are also out of careers. if you want to speak up make sure you are very close to retirement. Same for Unis.

    I am absolutely stunned it has gotten this far in our society. And people cannot even count on the courts. I think a few very public wins could really help turn this around.

  27. Nicholas says

    @Claire Lehmann

    Thanks for the article, love Slatestar Codex, when is Scott going to write for Quillette? He’s done good work that would fit in nicely here.

    Oh, also on a post about a redit thread and blog comments, seems like a good time to ask when Quillette is going to get a real comments system. I would really appreciate Disqus or some equivalent here.

    • Everett Brunson says

      I enjoy Disqus. I love its format and its ability to archive commentary and allow one the ability to follow other commenters. With that said, I’m afraid if Quillette changed over to Disqus the entire “flavor” of Quillette commentary would be forever changed. Disqus is both haven and heaven for Trolls and they would change the landscape in a very negative manner.

  28. Maybe conservatives need a Green Book, a pocket guide to safe spaces where they can go and speak their minds without fear of people saying nasty things about them.

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  30. G-d, the dash don't be silent says

    An history of well placed zealots pushing extreme ideologies through consolidated media mouthpieces to the detriment of society? A tendency to form abstractions upon abstractions until deadly (when implemented) hypotheses such as communism supplant visceral truths that people know by experience? Making victim status a core pillar of their sense of self?

    Why is this happening with such gusto after the WASP aristocracy faded into the background and granted active management of social, educational, and political institutions to certain educated immigrant groups fleeing Europe for good reasons? Who could possibly be driving this degeneration in the social fabric?

    What is the one group of people you’re strictly disallowed to name?

    • After years of working out just why our societies are in the mess they are in, I suddenly came across a pro-Marxist article that painted it all out in a simple graphical form for me.

      The proud ‘achievement’ of György Lukács and his associates in the Frankfurt School (see the first graphic after the picture of the statue):
      http://www.webcitation.org/76SVDfUDg

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  32. Janet says

    I’ve been reading Quillette for many months now, but this is my first comment. Thank you for this site. It is helping keep me sane!

    Back in the mid-90s, I was completing the coursework for a doctorate in French literature and was required to take intro to literary theory. My undergraduate work was actually not in literature (it was in Comouter Science), so this was first real exposure to critical theory. From the very beginning, I could see all kind of flaws in the arguments of key thinkers. I specifically remember describing exactly how Derrida’s De la Grammatologie was mostly tautological.

    My professor did not at all appreciate this. Instead of engaging with me, she called me a fascist (because I had dared to critique Derrida who was Jewish) and said that i was no longer allowed to speak in class and that I would get a B no matter what just so I knew what it felt like to be discrimated against.

    Needless to say, I was shocked and immediately complained to the department chair. Eventually, I was given permission to drop the class without losing my assistantship (since that was the official penalty for not carrying a full load).

    I eventually competed my doctorate and used quite a bit of theory in my dissertation. However, it was not critical theory, deconstruction, psychocriticism or any of the multiple flavors of these theories. Instead I derived models of language and interpersonal relationships from a blend of eighteenth-century materialist thought and contemporary evolutionary psychology, neuroscience while explicit positioning myself against critical theory and its assumptions.

    I specially focused on the representation of sympathetic relations between self and other. The main problem I had with critical theory and psychocriticism is that opposition between self and other is baked into the theory. In other words, they begin with the assumption that the other can *never* be understood and that it is fundamentally *impossible* to actually identify with any aspect of their reality. You might think you are doing that, but you are always deluding yourself and projecting your own desires and fantasies onto the other.

    Simple put, this is both dangerous and untrue. I also see it playing out again and again in the dynamics of the social justice movement. We must be silent in the presence of the other because we can never understand what it is like to be them, etc.

    Anyway, I am thankfully no longer in ac

    • stevengregg says

      If it’s impossible to understand the Other, why would it be written in books or taught in college. The mere learning it refutes it.

    • I remember reading Baudrillard (I’m pretty sure it was Baudrillard) in college and thinking “OMG, this is just pure bullshit!”

    • Sydney says

      @Janet

      “My professor did not at all appreciate this. Instead of engaging with me, she called me a fascist (because I had dared to critique Derrida who was Jewish)…”

      The professor should be thrown into far-left/intersectionalist retraining and re-education camp!

      Intersectionalists and far-lefties hate Jews (a trait they share with the actual far-right), so while it’s a lefty crime to critique Derrida, it’s open season on anyone’s ‘Jewishness’. I assure you: a lefty will always keep its (…) stripes for calls made against Jews or anything Israeli.

  33. Janet says

    Anyway, I am thankfully no longer in academia. However, I am dismayed at the extent to which this thought has crept into everyday life. Is there no escape?

    I am currently a member of a Unitarian Universalist “church” and am uncomfortable with the encroachment of the social justice religion and am doing my best to keep it at bay.

    • It’s important to ask yourself, “Who am I not allowed to criticize, even if they’re specifically known for playing the victim while they continue barbaric practices such as newborn circumcision despite global condemnation?” The answer might not surprise you. I wish it someone else, I really do, but all signs point to them.

      Why would they fall into this tendency to project their own inadequacies on other historical losers with abstract monstrosities such as “critical race theory”? Could they have an outsize sense of inadequacy brought on by senselessly emasculating their own people?

      It’s almost like embracing the failures of a lost tribe breeds further failures. I worry that iterative sexual trauma and inbreeding for 2,500 years has actually corrupted the genome of a certain tribe that is quite taboo to name in any mildly critical context.

      • Uh…newborn circumcision is not globally condemned. At any rate, if you’re going to blame the Jews, at least have the balls to blame the Jews instead of pussyfooting about. You’re anonymous anyway.

        • Janet says

          @Mike, Yes, I agree. Thanks.

          Besides, I wasn’t trying to condemn the Jews or blame any group in particular. I wanted to give an example of what may happen if you do challenge ideological orthodoxy in academia. Chances are you will not be engaged (no matter how good your argument is). You will instead be shut down.

          • Sorry, Janet. My comment was (meant to be) in reply to “yhwh.” I did find your use of “church” in quotation marks, in relation to Unitarians, to be funny. The local church I grew up in (United Methodist) is now 100% Social Justice Sunday. I can certainly see a “social justice” message in the works of Jesus, but it’s ridiculously over the top.

        • It definitely is condemned by every civilized medical establishment. Obviously I’m omitting the third world because it doesn’t matter.

          You clearly missed the tongue-in-cheek pussyfooting, meant to highlight the extreme caution that people are punished into for making such outlandish claims as, “subjecting infants to life-changing sexual trauma is a practice of questionable value.”

          You’ve obviously never talked to a Jew about circumcision. Depending on their level of indoctrination, you can practically see the the smokescreen of perpetual victimhood coming out from behind their eyes.

          The more radical reform/humanist Jews are the ones I have the most hope for, but even a lot of them double down when you even suggest that their precious covenant might not be a very good idea.

          That ego-investment defense isn’t peculiar to Jews of course, but 2,500 years of brainwashing doesn’t fix itself.

          • @yhwh

            If you are using a “no true Scot” premise to define what counts as a “civilized medical establishment,” then there’s not much point in arguing. But you might want to consider that, in 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics found “the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks.” That is hardly condemnation. Now, I’m not arguing that circumcision is good or bad or anything else, but your original claim that it is globally condemned is simply not true.

            You are also mistaken in your assumption that I have never spoken with a Jew about circumcision. I have (both in person and through the magic of the Internet!).

            This is all straying far from the topic of the article and the comments section in general, but you might want to consider reevaluating your premises.

          • Man, you’re legitimately dangerous. Wikipedia fallacies, anemic reasoning to gratify your own “fair and balanced” ego, and shallow understanding of the issue at hand. If it were up to you, you’d mutter some nonsense about “the benefits outweigh the risks” and turn a blind eye to the destruction of America’s social fabric, while lamenting the lack of “civility” in “discourse” and feebly shaking your head.

            The AAP is essentially a mouthpiece for Jewish zealots (the late Edgar Schoen, Andrew Friedman, and others) and their 2012 cop-out was most roundly condemned by every European and Commonwealth medical establishment that weighed in. These are the only institutions that matter in this problem space: the third world effectively doesn’t exist.

            My point stands firmer than ever: Jews ascended in most American public institutions and started disseminating bullshit like victim-worship, identity politics, intersectionality, and other monstrous abstractions that have no basis in real life. They try to force society into their preferred abstraction, and of course it’s a complete disaster (see 20th century Soviet history).

            They tend to form these abstractions, and the insufferable passive-aggressive victim aspect, because they mutilate their sons’ genitals. This corrupts the limbic firmware with known physiological effects such as raising the blood cortisol baseline, enlarging the amygdala, and removing endocrine components of yet-unknown function (the foreskin has estrogen receptors).

            The psychological effects are also quite damaging, especially the ease with which the trauma is repressed. If you think that systematically ablating the most sensitive part of the penis at birth is socially benign, I envy you your complete ignorance.

            I remember reading a rat study that observed the most interpersonal violence between cut and uncut rats, with the cut ones usually initiating the violence. I haven’t been able to find the citation again, but this is the subtext of what neo-Nazis say when they talk about Jews being “parasites that undermine the host nation.” The circumcision question is inescapable and would be so even if there were no Jews in America, because the WASPs adopted the rabbinic procedure in the Victorian era.

  34. You rhetorically ask why we should care about a single blogger. I would say there is no need to .. if it were just one blogger gone, just one incident.

    But it is not just one blog. It is not an isolated incident. That is why we must all care. For the same reasons we should all care about minorities of any kind – without letting them appear to be the majority through our care.

    The words of Niemöller come to mind. He was writing about the way that the minority Nazis took over the majority thought in Germany. Yet the same sentiment applies to our societies today as they are being taken over by the minority Cultural Marxists.

    “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
    “Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
    “Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
    “Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

  35. I went to Slate Star Codex once. I clicked on one thread and then spent hours reading probably over a thousand comments. I was blown away by the level of thoughtfulness and intelligence in the comments, and the fact that these people were putting in so much effort to express their views on a comment thread on an obscure site. I planned to go back, but there is just so much to read, online and in real life.

  36. John Achterhof says

    Great essay. Amongst the evergreen content of the closing segment my favorite was this simple advice:

    “Don’t be afraid of criticism. Criticism helps us grow.”

    Humans differ most remarkably from all other animals not perhaps in anything entirely innate, but rather arising of the extraordinarily long development (stress and assimilation) that is required to reach some approximation of full potential. Thus one may comprehend the dreadful privation of that cultural condition that has come to be associated with ease and comfort, decadence.

    Cheers then to Claire for creating Quillette.

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  45. Donald Ronald says

    Let’s see…speak out, get fired, and impoverish my family and ruin my children’s future, or keep my head down and prosper…mmmm

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  47. What the heck says

    I drafted a free speech policy for my University, gathered support, worked with students and other groups, went to the VC’s meetings.

    End result, it’s gathering dust whilst the big new initiative is that you have up to 9 genders to choose from at enrolment.

    Back to my real work.

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  49. About the tree of the illustration: off-cuttings (= quillettes) of such a wind and storm tormented tree will only develop in such a shape if planted on a similar wind stricken plane. Nice cover for Wuthering Heights.

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  55. Serenity says

    Excellent article! Thank you.

    We MUST defend free speech. But how?

    On individual level it is difficult because progressive mentality and SJW mobbing have taken over group / cultural level.

    The reasons for bullying and harassment to take off are certain degree of lowlessness (or lack of law inforcement) and imbalance of power.

    Western Academia is overwhelmingly liberal with ideologically progressive administration. This imbalance of power fosters SJW bullies.

    The only effective way to defend free speech is to raise the defence to the political level. I mean political lobbying

    – to stop funding ideologically biased Liberal Studies of all sorts,

    – to balance conservative and liberal staff employed by universities, aiming to 50/50. How? Difficult question. Your call.

  56. Evander says

    Late to the comments on this one.

    Responding to the liberal cri de coeur of the article, I’ll speak my mind frankly.

    I was disappointed in Quillette when they censored the comments of a user named Vikki on a December 18 article, presumably on the grounds of posting obscenities. It’s a shame that her posts that weren’t laden with obscenities were also deleted; a damnatio memoriae, if you will.

    I was disappointed in Quillette when an email that I sent through expressing polite curiosity over the supposed censorship went unanswered, as did its follow-up email.

    I’ve read the T&Cs and noted that you effectively reserve the right to delete comments. But in this case no distinction was made between wheat and chaff, you just erased the user.

    Vicki included inappropriate remarks in some of her posts, but they weren’t all bad. Most posters have thick enough hides to deal with the odd insult.

    Why did you delete all her comments, not just the seemingly unpublishable ones? Did you caution her beforehand?

    A little more transparency on the matter would have been appreciated at the time. Hence, my redredging of the issue here.

    • Jack B. Nimble says

      @Evander

      Lots of websites have a policy of deleting comments, but leaving the meta data [date, name of commenter] in the thread. That’s one way to achieve user transparency, and it shows who is being censored and how often.

      Speaking as someone who was permanently banned from posting at The American Conservative, I don’t mind the banning, just the hypocrisy. For example, one editor at TAC complains almost every week that traditional, right-wing views are being censored on ‘mainstream’ outlets, yet he finds no inconsistency in using his own editorial power to ban opposing views from TAC.

      I suspect that a similar process is at work here, which is ironic in view of the emphasis on ‘who controls the platform’ and ‘free speech.’

      PS — Don’t expect to hear back from the editors; I never got a response to my email sent to TAC. Ignoring emails is just another way that editors demonstrate the power asymmetry inherent in publishing.

  57. Sully Transhuman says

    There is a meeting at work tomorrow, it will be about gender equity in awards and such. Do I go and say what I think? Do I tell them about the fact that when I was at high school (37 years ago) we teenage boys were told we were all rapists and the girls “can do anything”? Do I tell them about the months of sexual harrassment by a mob of older women I received on my first job? Do I point out that 60% of my University enrolments are female? Do I point out the endless leadership courses, travel grants, and scholarships available to young women, with nothing for the young men? Do I point out those women who have achieved the highest ranking at the University possible with the research profile of a typical mid-career male lecturer? Do I do all this and become known as a troublemaker and never get a grant, promotion…or get ostracized? Or do I lie and compromise my integrity?

    I’ll do neither, I’ll take a sick day.

  58. Anonymous Coward says

    I too felt afraid to speak up for years. It’s only in the last two that I have become comfortable speaking about my anarchist and communist views. Because in the past losers like the people who write at this magazine would start having meltdowns about the Black Book of Communism or worse, begin to speak in economic tongues about the free market and the end of history. Lately though they seem to be shutting up, goodness knows why. Anyway, thanks for writing your magazine. I hate it.

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  60. Allen Farrington says

    “So successful are their tactics, they have even instilled climates of fear in institutions that were established with the explicit purpose of defending free thought. If these institutions cannot resist such vandals, who can?”

    I realise this is rhetorical, Claire, but it isn’t at all surprising. Universities are probably the single most culturally powerful institutions we have. A fanatical minority seeking to exert its influence more broadly is obviously going to try to corrupt them. The reason, as far as I can tell, is that they are centralised – not just physically but in their organisational architecture. Individuals entering the institution do so to taste its power, and subsume themselves to it. They become important only insofar as they are part of that institution, barely as actual individuals. Corrupt the centralised institution and you corrupt all but the most defiant of its members. It’s an entirely obvious ploy.

    Who can resist such vandals? Institutions that, while powerful, are decentralised, and which primarily exist as a medium for their members to connect with one another. That way the power remains in the hands of the individuals and the institution is just a channel. Corrupt the channel and the members will up and find another.

    In other words, the Internet and – which I’m sure was your point all along – Quillette.

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