Author: Genevieve Weynerowski

The Historian’s Hubris

Niall Ferguson is a compelling writer, wry and puckish, intellectually curious. He has a knack for converting his deep knowledge of history and finance into narratives the average reader can grasp. There’s a generosity and a sense of excitement to his writing that have helped propel him to stardom in the publishing world and on the small screen. But for all his qualities, Ferguson didn’t know enough to pause before hitting ‘Send.’ Instead, by gleefully attempting to crush a coterie of left-wing Stanford University students who were trying to gain influence within his invited speakers series Cardinal Conversations, he threw gasoline on the blazing free speech wars and turned his own, noble-sounding words into ash. Ferguson has vowed to retreat “to [his] beloved study,” where presumably he will hunker down, reassess his methods and motives, and even, one hopes, re-emerge a better man. One of our era’s most recognizable defenders of free speech, Ferguson co-founded Cardinal Conversations to foster open debate at Stanford. When it was announced that Charles Murray, author of the infamous 1994 monograph, The Bell …

Seeking Refuge in the Embattled Centre

A few days ago, Lindsay Shepherd, the Canadian free speech Joan of Arc, bloodied but unbowed by her brush with the grand inquisitors of Laurier University’s virtue squad, announced that she was no longer left-wing, and was taking up a position in the political centre. For months she had been courted and wooed by right-wing provocateurs and held up as an exemplar of courage in the face of her university’s nosey-parker thought police. She had been interviewed by Mark Stein, Jordan Peterson, and Dave Rubin among many other older and more sophisticated interlocutors in the wake of her dressing down, and vilified by some of the louder, more insistent puritans on the Left. This 23-year-old Master’s student quickly became a sensation on Twitter and YouTube, the newly made-up face on the prow of a ship slicing through choppy ideological seas. At once defiant and confessional, Shepherd declared that she had grown to distrust the motives and aspirations of left-wing “social justice warriors.” She explained that actions and attitudes like bike-riding and worrying about the environment …

Privilege: a Term That Has Lost Its Utility

Earlier this year, Twitter was on fire with claims that Margaret Atwood was “abusing her privilege”. She had written an op-ed in the Globe and Mail (“Am I a bad feminist?”) in which she compared the immoderate zeal of the Me Too movement to the purity campaigns following other tectonic social revolutions. The movement wasn’t ready for uncharitable comparisons. How dare she equate Me Too’s calls for rough justice with Stalin’s purges? In the Globe and Mail piece Atwood explained why, unlike several other Canadian authors who had buckled under pressure from their detractors, she had declined to remove her signature from an open letter to UBC. Steven Galloway, formerly the Chair of UBC’s creative writing program, had been fired, without severance pay, following a series of complaints of sexual misconduct, despite having been exonerated. Atwood and her fellow writers had protested the opaque process by which Galloway was tried and found wanting by the university. In the wake of Me Too, Atwood’s call for transparency in the case was viewed by many as just …