Author: Zachary Snowdon Smith

When the Authorities Tell You to Dissent

The University of Melbourne advertises itself as Australia’s best university—the first and only member of the Australian Ivy League. This isn’t an unreasonable claim. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2019 put the University of Melbourne 32nd in the world, 17 spots ahead of Australian National University, its nearest Australian rival. Numerous other figures seem to demonstrate the school’s excellence at preparing students for prosperous employment and at developing their critical thinking skills. Naturally, I was pleased and even proud to have been accepted into the University of Melbourne’s 2017 Master of Journalism program. I believed, without really thinking about it, that I was in for a challenging year and a half at a school far more rigorous than the one from which I received my baccalaureate. (The University of Oklahoma consistently lands somewhere in the 400s on the Times Higher Education index.) Of course, I was aware of the complaints directed at Australian universities—that the integrity of their curricula had gradually been compromised to appease social justice activists. Ubiquitous Canadian psychologist Jordan …

The Fall of a Third-Rate Stalin

His Excellency the President, Sheikh Prof. Alhaji Dr. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh Babili Mansa, ruled the Gambia for 22 years. During those decades, he did everything to transform himself from an undistinguished army officer into a bona fide eccentric dictator, complete with an elaborate personal mythology and a list of honorifics longer than the presidential convoy. At no point did the US consider convening a coalition to invade the Gambia and depose Jammeh, despite plentiful evidence that he kept power through election-rigging and police thuggery. Why not? Because the Gambia is irrelevant to almost anyone who is not inside it. A country the size of Connecticut, whose main export is peanuts and whose main import is IMF loans, the Gambia is so puny that it evokes the contempt even of other West African nations. When Jammeh announced that he would behead any gay man caught in the Gambia, it elicited a flurry of Amnesty International press releases and not much else. Those outraged press releases were, of course, just what Jammeh was after—proof that he and …

Reading ‘Lolita’ in the West

In 1955, when a flushing toilet was still considered too offensive for the eyes of the movie-going public, it’s no surprise that a blackly comic novel about sex with children would cause a stir. Enter Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, the effusively written story of a 37-year-old literature professor who marries a widow in order to gain access to Lolita, her 12-year-old daughter. The star of Lolita is not Lolita herself, but Humbert Humbert, who hides his obsession with adolescent girls under a mask of tweedy old-world erudition. Humbert uses his position as narrator to lecture the reader on the many noble aspects of adult-on-child romance, and to extol his love for his adopted daughter/concubine. To many, Nabokov remains “the guy who wrote that book about pedophilia.” Following its publication, Lolita was ignored, and then banned. Britain led the way, confiscating all copies of the novel entering the country, and France followed suit. Only months after its release did Lolita receive its first positive review from a respectable paper, the Sunday Times. Responding to the Sunday Times, …