Weekly Roundup and a Letter from the Editor
Weekly Roundup, September 17th, 2021

Weekly Roundup and a Letter from the Editor

Claire Lehmann
Claire Lehmann

Dear Reader,

Thank you for supporting Quillette with your subscription. By now you have probably noticed our new look—we have a cleaner and simpler website that is faster and easier to navigate (note the search function at the top of the home page). You may have also noticed that we have switched ads off. This has been a deliberate choice on my behalf, as I want to bring you the highest quality content and highest quality reader experience.

So welcome to the new ad-free Quillette!

Quillette is now entering its sixth year of operation. I am delighted by how many of you have become members of our community. We have a collegiate and politically diverse community of contributors and similarly, our discussion forum draws insights from highly knowledgeable and curious readers. I wish to thank each and every one of our contributors and forum members for making Quillette what it is today.

In this short letter, I hope to clarify one issue of concern that has arisen over the past few months and has caused consternation among a minority of readers—particularly on social media—and that is our editorial position on COVID vaccines.

Quillette has published a range of articles that have been pro-vaccination since the beginning of the pandemic. Some of these articles include “Looking for COVID-19 ‘Miracle Drugs’? We Already Have Them. They’re Called Vaccines,” “Vaccines and the Coronavirus Crank Crisis,” “Making the (Conservative) Case for Vaccine Passports,” and “Vexed by the Un-Vaxxed.”

A number of readers have expressed outrage and disgust that we have taken a strong pro-vax editorial position. (Out of all the controversial editorial positions we have taken over the years, I am surprised that being pro-vax has turned out to be the most controversial.) I have received angry emails and indignant comments on social media alleging that I have been paid off by “Big Pharma,” or the Australian government—as if being pro-vax during a pandemic were not supported by the overwhelming majority of people in Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US today.

Being pro-vaccination is consistent with everything that Quillette stands for, and has always stood for. Supporting the mainstream science on vaccines is no different to supporting the mainstream science on psychological sex differences, or the mainstream science on intelligence (two controversial topics on which we've also taken a strong editorial position).

Scientific consensus can—indeed must—be questioned in good faith. Yet there is a clear difference between questioning a scientific consensus within a young science such as psychology or climate science (disciplines which still have rather rudimentary methodologies) and an older science such as biomedicine, which has one of the most robust methodologies known to man—the double-blinded randomised controlled trial (RCT). Querying epidemiological models is one thing, but denying evidence that arises from RCTs with tens of thousands of participants is akin to arguing that the Earth is flat.

Vaccine technologies have existed for longer than automobiles, antibiotics, X-rays, thermometers, the telephone, and the lightbulb. The technology underpinning mRNA vaccines is likewise older than many people think—and although some of our COVID vaccines use this newer technology, these particular vaccines have been tested more thoroughly than any others we've ever had before. This is not an opinion. It is simply a fact.

In November last year, we published an editorial heralding the emergence of mRNA vaccines as a “triumph of science.” This remains our position today. For all of the destruction and misery brought about by the COVID pandemic, the rapid technological response to it has been a marvel, and one of the only rays of light in what has been a dark period in our recent history.

On the Cusp of a Vaccine—and a Historic Scientific Triumph
More than a century separated the first wave of Spanish flu in 1918 from the emergence of COVID-19 in early 2020. Yet as Nicholas Christakis writes in his new book, Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live, there are people who’ve

Some have expressed surprise that Quillette would adopt the “mainstream position” on this issue. Or that we have taken a position inconsistent with “conservative” or “libertarian” principles. We have, after all, run many articles that dispute the mainstream position on weighty topics like gender, race, academia, and education. The assumption seems to be that because we disagree a lot with the Left, we must be part of the Right.

This is simply a misunderstanding. Quillette is not a contrarian or partisan publication and it never has been. And if we are partisan, it is in the preference of empiricism over intuition or revelation. In an uncertain world, sometimes the elite consensus will get it right and sometimes it won't. If a popular narrative is not supported by good evidence, or if good evidence supports another more plausible explanation for what is going on, what we publish will tend to counter that narrative.

That is why you will find articles querying narratives underpinning activist movements such as Black Lives Matter and the modern transgender movement among these pages. The anti-vax movement is not dissimilar to the activist movements we have scrutinised over the years. Radicals of all kinds rest their claims on cherry-picked data, the imputation of sinister motives, unfalsifiable theories about government conspiracies, and emotional reasoning.

It may be that the pro-vax message is just as unpopular to a right-wing audience as debunking the tabula rasa is for a left-wing audience. If this is the case, so be it. I have received more pushback for being pro-vaccine than for taking any other editorial position in the history of Quillette. Nevertheless, I can reassure you that it will not influence the essays and writers and views we decide to publish. In 2021, our mission remains unchanged, and that is to defend the Enlightenment project.

If you would like to join us in our mission please consider subscribing to the Quillette Circle, contributing via essays which can be sent to pitch@quillette.com, and supporting us financially through a paid subscription.

Warmly,

Claire Lehmann

P.S. Please enjoy our weekly roundup of articles. Don't miss "George Floyd and the Rise of the Rival Constitution," by Craig Trainor, and Kenneth Whyte on Ralph Nader and the 'Sack of Detroit'. And—don't miss our weekly podcast with our indefatigable host, Jon Kay. —C

George Floyd and the Rise of the Rival Constitution
On May 25th, 2020, a Minneapolis police officer subdued a suspected forger by placing his knee on the suspect’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. The encounter was filmed and wildly disseminated. The suspect died as a result of several factors, including the officer’s use of excessive
How Social-Justice Extremists Spawned a Generation of ‘Progressive’ Antisemites
In 2019, the Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) division of Stanford University’s Student Affairs department launched a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training program with a mandate to instruct students about institutional racism. Instead, the program provided a case study of ho…
Understanding the Motivated Reasoning of Anti-Vax Refuseniks
COVID has hospitalized 6.2 million Americans, killed at least 640,000 (the true count may be 800,000), and caused permanent cardiovascular, neurological, and other health problems in many others. Thankfully, the available vaccines are highly effective in preventing hospitalization and death. And yet…
The Status Game: Male, Grandiose, Humiliated
Elliot was 11 years old and playing happily at summer camp when he accidentally bumped into a pretty and popular girl. “She got very angry,” he recounted later. “She cursed at me and pushed me.” He froze, shocked, completely lost as to how to respond. Everybody was watching. “Are you
The Moral Panic about Eugenics Poses a Threat to Abortion Rights
American partisan politics has just been inflamed by implementation of a Texas ban on abortions once an embryo’s heartbeat is detected, usually after the sixth week of pregnancy. The new law gets around Roe v Wade by making it possible for anyone to charge a person who helps a
Male Underachievement and the Gender Turf Wars
The National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), a non-profit education organization, published a report earlier this year that ought to have alarmed many Americans. Compared to the prior semester, the decline in male university enrollment was double that of women: Enrollment declines are steeper for men t…
Judith Butler: Enough Already!
If I were Judith Butler, I would desist from giving interviews to journalists. She has done a few lately (with Owen Jones on YouTube, with Slate magazine last year, with the Guardian a few days ago, etc.) and in each and every one of those interviews, she repeats the same
Podcast #165: Peter Boghossian on Why He Quit Portland State University
“Grievance Studies” hoaxster and philosophy professor Peter Boghossian tells Quillette podcast host Jonathan Kay why he could no longer continue waging his struggle for intellectual pluralism without first shaking off the ideological constraints of campus life.
Lessons for Big Tech from Ralph Nader’s ‘Sack of Detroit’
Until recently, Silicon Valley enjoyed a relatively high degree of freedom from US government regulation. That was a deliberate policy choice. Responding to public enthusiasm for the possibilities of global interconnectedness and an endless stream of easily accessible information, Congress decreed e…

Claire Lehmann

Claire Lehmann is the founding editor of Quillette.