All posts filed under: Activism

The Search to Explain Our Anxiety and Depression: Will ‘Long COVID’ Become the Next Gender Ideology?

In December, I wrote a detailed report for Quillette about the race-based social panic that had recently erupted at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. One of the reasons why the meltdown seemed so surreal, I noted, is that this elite school appears to the outside world as picturesque and serene. The average annual cost of attendance is about US$76,000. And most of these students live extremely privileged lives, insulated (physically and otherwise) from what any normal person would regard as suffering. Nor is there much in the way of substantive political discord on campus. According to survey results released in late 2019, 79 percent of Haverford students self-identify as politically liberal, while only 3.5 percent self-identify as conservative. It’s as close to an ideological monoculture as you can find outside of a monastery or cult. On paper, it resembles one of those utopian micro-societies conceived by science-fiction writers or 19th-century social theorists. The survey results I’m alluding to originate with Haverford’s “Clearness Committee,” an excellent resource for anyone seeking to understand the attitudes of students at …

When Sons Become Daughters, Part III: Parents of Transitioning Boys Speak Out on Their Own Suffering

What follows is the third instalment of When Sons Become Daughters, a multi-part Quillette series that explores how parents react when a son announces he wants to be a girl—and explains why so many of these mothers and fathers believe they can’t discuss their fears and concerns with their own children, therapists, doctors, friends, and relatives. To find out more about how the author collected and reported information, please refer to his introductory essay in this series.   Coral’s story starts earlier than those of the other parents I’ve profiled, even if it contains familiar themes. While her prodigiously intelligent, literal-minded son wanted to talk about the science of black holes, his friends were still playing with Lego. Once he hit age 12, things got rough: All his friends left his school in one hit; the remaining kids took to bullying him; a close family member died. He was just beginning to realize how different he was, but not how he was different. He’d also just been given his first computer. The first declaration that …

Black Lives Matter, So Refund the Police

During the summer of 2020, following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, it was easier to count how many cities didn’t have Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests than to count the ones that did. Metropolitan areas across the United States, and the world, saw massive turnouts protesting police violence against African Americans, and the movement received endorsements from a number of corporations, all pledging to do their part to combat racism. It didn’t take long for BLM activists and supporters to capitalize on this newfound popularity, quickly adopting what former President Obama called a “snappy” but “counterproductive” slogan for their supporters to shout in the streets and on social media: “Defund the Police.” This new rallying cry became the subject of much debate, and the source of much confusion. Many observers remain unsure what the practical application of defunding the police entails. Although some hope that one day the police will be completely abolished, the majority of those calling to defund the police say they want to reallocate police funding to social programs …

When Sons Become Daughters, Part II: Parents of Transitioning Boys Speak Out on Their Own Suffering

What follows is the second instalment of When Sons Become Daughters, a multi-part Quillette series that explores how parents react when a son announces he wants to be a girl—and explains why so many of these mothers and fathers believe they can’t discuss their fears and concerns with their own children, therapists, doctors, friends, and relatives. To find out more about how the author collected and reported information, please refer to his introductory essay in this series.   Blindsided You don’t have to spend long with Christine to get an idea of the kind of woman she is. She’s modest—perhaps even diffident—at first, and when we get to talking, I realize I interrupt her too much. But then, you begin to understand: this woman is a serious success story. She loves her work, and it’s pretty exciting work, too. I’m envious. She wouldn’t volunteer the information, but I bet she has a few people she could fire, if she wanted to. I could be wrong, but I’ll never know, because she wouldn’t let on if …

Facts Don’t Care About Your Diversity Training Certificate—A Critique of Credentialism

One of the most commonly heard debater’s challenges, online and in real life, is: “Are YOU an expert in (X)?” The obvious if generally unspoken corollary is: “If not, then shut up.” However, very often, you don’t need to. There is little evidence that a smart normal citizen, capable of effective analysis of empirical data, cannot criticize the work of academic or journalistic “experts” in most fields—or any reason that he or she should be intimidated by these title-holders. Obviously, some professional background in a topic that one is discussing or researching is a good thing. However, no credential can substitute for a relatively unbiased and non-partisan approach to data, or for what can bluntly be called intelligence. Whether due to political motivation or plain incorrect statistical assumptions, credentialed experts have a long and entertaining history of wildly false predictions—like the recent predictions of between 1,000,000 and 10,000,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States before the end of 2020.1, 2 This sort of thing is likely to become even more common in the politicized academy …

When Sons Become Daughters: Parents of Transitioning Boys Speak Out on Their Own Suffering

What follows is the introductory instalment of When Sons Become Daughters, a multi-part Quillette series that explores how parents react when a son announces he wants to be a girl—and explains why so many of these mothers and fathers believe they can’t discuss their fears and concerns with their own children, therapists, doctors, friends, and relatives. A few months ago, I was allowed into an online group of American parents of young men who have decided that they are in fact young women. I am neither a parent, nor transgender, nor an American, and therefore a tourist: there was an understandable hesitation about letting me in. In a few cases, such parents have been harassed, as they’ve left comments online that dissent from the received wisdom on transgenderism; in all cases, they are deeply wary of rights activists. The parents are mainly, although not entirely, mothers. They and their spouses are nervous of losing their jobs, and below everything rumbles the threat that their sons might discover their communications. While most have expressed to their …

Weaponizing Social Justice to Protect School Administrators and Discredit Whistle-blowers: A Canadian Case Study

On March 6th, I published a Quillette article describing how Robyn Bourgeois, the newly installed vice-provost for Indigenous engagement at Canada’s Brock University, had been seeking to mobilize her peers against the anonymous operator of an obscure (and by then, defunct) Twitter account called @BrockCivis. On her social-media channels and at the university’s “Two Row Council” (a body tasked with managing Brock’s efforts at “Indigenization, reconciliation, and decolonization”), Bourgeois accused the account of operating a racist and “criminal” program of “cyber harassment” that targeted her in particular, and Indigenous people more generally. No one at Brock would feel “safe,” she said, in a world where @BrockCivis is still “allowed to dehumanize the highest-ranking Indigenous person at Brock” (by which she meant herself). At a February 22nd Council meeting, a recording of which was subsequently made available to me, school officials brainstormed with Bourgeois about how they might investigate the nefarious account. The contents of @BrockCivis, one participant suggested, were a threat not just to Brock, but to Indigenous people all over Canada. Later in the …

Houses of Horrors

In country after country, museums are now undergoing an épuration—a process of confession and penance. Until recently, debate about empire in European and other democratic countries was consigned to historians’ squabbles. Now, the West’s colonial past occupies a central place in the culture wars, roaring for belated recognition of its legacies. At the least, the demand now pressed upon the museums, mainly by their own radicalised staffs, is for greater sensitivity and respect in the display of the millions of artefacts taken from colonial possessions. At the most morally exacting extreme, they are exhorted to adopt a similar posture to that taken by Holocaust museums, acknowledging complicity in organised massacres. On this account, museums must bear witness to past events “where people are killed in their thousands and tens of thousands, when palaces, temples and villages are bombarded, when cultural treasures are looted and sold.” This is the uncompromising posture adopted by Dan Hicks, Professor of Contemporary Archaeology at Oxford University, curator of archaeology at the university’s Pitt Rivers Museum, and author of The Brutish …

Mailer and the Second Wavers

The March 1971 issue of Harper’s was one of the most famous—and notorious—that the magazine had published in its then-121-year history. Even now, 50 years later, it is still just as famous and just as notorious. The issue consisted almost entirely of a cover-story essay by Norman Mailer (then aged 48) entitled “The Prisoner of Sex,” that ran into tens of thousands of words and declared war on the movement then known as “women’s liberation.” Within two months, the essay appeared in slightly altered form as a book, also entitled The Prisoner of Sex, and shot to the top of the bestseller lists. Mailer was already infamous in feminist circles for such remarks during media interviews as “All women should be kept in cages” and “[T]he prime responsibility of a woman probably is to be on earth long enough to find the best possible mate for herself, and conceive children who will improve the species.” (He maintained that both statements were testimony to women’s powers.) At the time “The Prisoner of Sex” appeared, Mailer had …

Who Is the Real Threat to Autonomy and Flourishing Online?

Is the web out to get us, or is it a force for autonomy and flourishing? Is it another instrument for the governing elite to channel the masses for political or business purposes? Is it a means for our baser nature to entrench everlasting fake news stories, political narratives, and even whole ideologies? In her 2019 book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, Shoshana Zuboff details what she regards as the dangers of losing our freedom, dignity, and democratic control to business by being “conditioned,” “tuned,” “nudged,” and otherwise shaped in unconscious ways to serve Big Tech and its business associates. Echoing many of her fears, the popular Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma portrays algorithmic tracking of our behaviour by Facebook and Google as a Frankenstein’s monster. The documentary has the endorsement of the historian Yuval Noah Harari, best known for his Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. He argues that the web has become a tool to further reinforce the survival of fake news, to which he thinks humans already have a strong proclivity. Who …