Author: Jonathan Kay

An Interview With Lisa Littman, Who Coined the Term ‘Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria’

In 2018, Lisa Littman, Assistant Professor of the Practice at the Brown University School of Public Health, published an article in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE entitled Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria in Adolescents and Young Adults: A Study of Parental Reports. The article drew attention to a phenomenon that had attracted widespread concern among parents, but which had not yet been studied systematically in the scientific literature. Following publication, Dr. Littman and her study became the subject of intense criticism from some activists, who accused the author of spreading misconceptions about transgender people and employing biased methods. In response to this criticism, PLOS ONE initiated a re-review of Dr. Littman’s paper. This week, following the recent conclusion of that review, a modified version of Dr. Littman’s paper was published by PLOS ONE. And both Dr. Littman and PLOS One have released statements. According to the Notice of Republication, “Other than the addition of a few missing values in Table 13, the Results section is unchanged in the updated version of the article. The Competing Interests statement …

The Rise and (Possible) Fall of Justin Trudeau Show the Perils of Woke Governance

The scandal that has engulfed Justin Trudeau’s government in recent weeks is, in many ways, a very Canadian affair: It involves no sex, violence or even allegations of personal enrichment. Rather, it centers on the question of whether the Prime Minister and his representatives improperly pressured his ex-minister of justice—a former Indigenous chief named Jody Wilson-Raybould—to back off the criminal prosecution of a well-connected Quebec-based engineering firm that has been charged with fraud and corruption. To be clear, no one is alleging that Trudeau and his minions flat-out ordered Wilson-Raybould to reverse her decision in the case. In true Canadian style, the badgering of the former justice minister seems to have been a largely passive aggressive exercise, with a succession of public figures reminding her about all the many, many jobs that might be lost in (politically sensitive) Quebec if she didn’t reconsider her decision. And when she stuck to her principles and failed to relent, the PM removed her from her justice-ministry post, and pushed in a newcomer named David Lametti who—quelle surprise—seems quite …

Punishing the Crime vs. Blacklisting the Soul

The assassination of Julius Caesar is known best for the fictional elements that Shakespeare and others invented. Caesar never actually said “Et tu, Brute?,” and Brutus never said “Sic semper tyrannis.” The historical record suggests the dictator remained silent and covered his head while the conspirators rained daggers upon him. The whole scene actually sounds quite grubby. No one even bothered to collect Caesar’s body until slaves got around to it on their own initiative. The truly amazing fact is that Brutus and Cassius had no real follow-up plan. They lived in a bubble of their own conspiratorial making, and imagined that the great mass of ordinary Roman citizens would laud them as heroes. When this didn’t happen, they simply fled the city as power coalesced around Mark Antony. In the civil war that followed, two sides emerged—those who cast Brutus and Cassius as noble Liberators (as the conspirators called themselves), and those who demanded they be hunted down as enemies of the state. The stabbing of Caesar was one of history’s most famous homicides—which …

Entering the Mind of an Inuit Whale-Hunter

This is a review of the Greenland (Second Ed.) Board Game, from Sierra Madre Games. A bowhead whale is a majestic and intimidating creature—up to 60 feet in length, weighing up to 100 tons, with a triangular hunk of bone for a skull, which the bowhead uses to smash through Arctic ice on its way to the ocean surface. Yet amazingly, the Indigenous peoples of northern Europe and North America found a way to kill and harvest these massive creatures without modern ships or weapons. Their hunts, conducted by small kin groups operating out of coastal hunting camps, could be extraordinarily risky. Even the job of butchering the giant beasts and hauling the proceeds back home was exhausting and dangerous. But the enterprise was worthwhile, because a single Bowhead might provide enough food and fuel to keep the hunters and their families alive for a whole year. Any visitor to the far north can only marvel at how any community could not only survive, but at times even flourish, in a region where almost any modern …

Gillette’s Progressive Politics: ‘Corinthian Leather’ for the Progressive Soul

My father was never a big fan of television—in part because his attention span always has been shorter than your average late-20th-century commercial break. He also would become exasperated by the nonsense claims made by advertisers. We now live in separate cities, so we don’t watch television together. But I can only imagine what his reaction would be to Gillette’s new commercial calling out toxic masculinity. Being a metallurgical engineer (as I, too, would later become), my father was especially irritated by ads for razors. In one well-known spot for the Vintage Stainless Steel Doubled-Edged Blade (this was before my time, but he often talked about it), an actor would be asked to compare a “Personna Stainless, seven shaves old” with another “well-known blade, brand new”—shaving half his face with each. The actor, of course, identifies the Personna as being the more comfortable of the pair. The announcer then hammers home the fact that the Personna prevailed despite being seven shaves old. But that fact was meaningless, my father would tell me (and others), because …

Understanding the Miracle of Hanukkah Through the Ancient World’s Prism of Horrors

Satirist Alan King once famously remarked that the story behind every Jewish holiday can be summarized as “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.” But that template doesn’t do justice to Hanukkah—which marks the period during the 2nd Century B.C when Jewish guerrillas, led by Mattathias the Hasmonean and then his son Judah Maccabee, rose up successfully against the Seleucid Empire (and its Hellenized Jewish supporters). This was a successful Jewish military campaign, not the usual passive attempt to survive external aggression. Judah’s men were not gentle souls. At Hanukkah, we linger on the reportedly miraculous way in which a small supply of sacred oil lasted for eight days during the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. But the fanatics who launched this campaign were more concerned with smashing idols, forcibly circumcising children, and slaughtering Seleucid troops. (The war ended in 160 BC, after the Jews forged an alliance with Rome, and the Seleucids eventually gave in to the Maccabees’ demands for increased religious freedom.) Unlike Passover, which is centered on the …

Portrait of the Artist as a False Accuser

In 1976 and 1977, New York City was terrorized by one of America’s most infamous serial killers. Before being captured in front of his Yonkers home, David Berkowitz killed six victims, and wounded seven others. Berkowitz claimed he was following the orders of his neighbour’s dog, whom he described as being connected to a demonic figure named Sam. “I am a monster,” Berkowitz wrote in one of the notes he left for police. “I am the ‘Son of Sam.’” Berkowitz was sentenced to six life sentences, and remains in jail to this day. His legacy includes not only the horrific crimes he committed, but also a special kind of legislation inspired by fears that the killer would sell his lurid and sensational story to a publisher or studio. The “Son of Sam” law created by New York State in 1977, which exists in modified form to this day, required that revenues from a criminal’s descriptions of his crimes be deposited in escrow and disbursed to his victims. And while Berkowitz’s crimes were especially horrific, these …

As a Toronto Mob Brays, David Frum and Steve Bannon Joust over Populism’s Split Soul

It’s always gratifying when real life actors conspire to validate claims that an author makes in the abstract realm. Thus did I experience a blush of pundit’s pride upon observing the protestors who assembled in downtown Toronto in advance of Steve Bannon’s Munk Debate with David Frum on Friday night. Just days before, I had noted progressives’ now-epidemic habit of labeling everyone they dislike as a—real, not figurative—Nazi. And now, just days later, here I was, in a security line outside Roy Thomson Hall, surrounded by hundreds of protestors declaring Bannon to be a Nazi, and we audience members to be on moral par with Hitler’s followers. Some of the placards betrayed signs of haste—including signs held up by a couple that read, “Fuck You Nazis,” and “Nazis, Get Fucked,” on matching sides of a grease-stained pizza box. But the sentiment came through loud and clear: It’s 1933. Which side are you on? Fortunately, the scene inside the debate hall—where 2,800 audience members had assembled to see Frum and Bannon debate the resolution, “The future …

Nazis: A Modern Field Guide

In the Fall of 1943, as American troops were working their way northward through Italy, U.S. commanders were doing their best to address a basic problem of military intelligence: troops in the field couldn’t tell different kinds of German troops and weapons apart. This could have life or death consequences: An American squad armed with a bazooka could stand fast against a thinly armoured halftrack, but had little chance of harming the heaviest German tanks. Likewise, GIs had to be far more careful when fighting elite German infantry units than with the conscripts and armed prisoners from the eastern front that the Wehrmacht threw into the field as the conflict wore on. And so the U.S. War Department produced a 400-page book called Handbook on German Military Forces, with the purpose of giving officers and enlisted men “a better understanding of their principal enemy.” A set of colour plates within the book show German soldiers in a variety of uniform styles and poses, from the Continental uniform style seen in most war movies, to tropical …

Fight the Scourge of Antisemitism—but Take Hope from Pittsburgh’s Righteous Gentiles

There are some hate criminals whose motives are well-disguised behind reams of obscure or contradictory web ramblings. Robert Bowers, the 46-year-old suspect in Saturday’s Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, would not fit in that category. Before allegedly killing 11 people in and around the Tree of Life, he declared online that “Jews are the children of Satan.” He also claimed the Holocaust was a lie, and that “it’s the filthy EVIL Jews Bringing the Filthy EVIL Muslims into the Country!” Like James Alex Fields Jr., the alleged Charlottesville car-attack killer, and Cesar Sayoc, the hate-addled bodybuilder and status hound who’s been charged with mailing pipe bombs to Democrats this month, Bowers was a confused, pathetic failure looking to blame his problems on others. But in the age of Trump, it’s hard not to suspect that a seemingly deranged hate criminal is actually channeling something more universal than his own inner demons. In a plaintive Washington Post column entitled What Is Happening To Our Country?, Max Boot argues that while “extremism has been present in America for a …