Author: Matthew Lesh

The Moral Panic Behind Internet Regulation

This is a contribution to “Who Controls the Platform?”—a multi-part Quillette series. Submissions related to this series may be directed to pitch@quillette.com. In the present era of growing polarization, one thing that people from across the political spectrum now agree on is their dislike of Big Tech. The political Left complains that Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Amazon have become “monopolies.” They also blame global technology platforms for Brexit, the rise of Donald Trump, and white nationalism. It is much easier, after all, to blame online manipulation for the downfall of the center-left than acknowledge the disconnect between the intelligentsia and the working-class voters that the Left once represented. Meanwhile, critics on the Right blame Big Tech for a comparable shopping list of evils, including being biased against conservatives, giving a platform to terrorists, enabling pedophiles to groom children and distribute indecent images, and boosting populist figures on the Left and Right who threaten the center-right’s own electoral base. This is mixed, particularly in the U.K., with a traditional conservative refrain of “Please, won’t someone think of the …

Politics and the Practice of Warm-Heartedness

A review of Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt by Arthur C. Brooks. Broadside e-books (March 2019). “While politics is like the weather, ideas are like the climate,” Arthur Brooks explains. “However, even a climate scientist has to think about the weather when a hurricane comes ashore… Political differences are ripping our country apart, rendering my big, fancy policy ideas largely superfluous.” Brooks, outgoing president of the American Enterprise Institute and author of a shopping list of bestselling books, is now taking on the challenging question of how to bring together a divided country. In his latest book, Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt, he makes the case that Americans are sick of bitter, personal fighting and want a more united nation. The challenge is to work out how to get there. Brooks blames America’s bitter politics on the “outrage industrial complex”: the media, politicians and commentators who entice voters, attract television viewers, and sell books and event tickets …

Is Safetyism Destroying a Generation?

A review of The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, Penguin Press (September 4, 2018) 352 pages. In recent years behaviours on university campuses have created widespread unease. Safe spaces, trigger warnings, and speech codes. Demands for speakers to be disinvited. Words construed as violence and liberalism described as ‘white supremacy’. Students walking on eggshells, too scared to speak their minds. Controversial speakers violently rebuked – from conservative provocateurs such as Milo Yiannopoulos to serious sociologists such as Charles Murray, to left-leaning academics such as Bret Weinstein. Historically, campus censorship was enacted by zealous university administrators. Students were radicals who pushed the boundaries of acceptability, like during the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley in the 1960s. Today, however, students work in tandem with administrators to make their campus ‘safe’ from threatening ideas. Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff’s new book, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for …