All posts filed under: Activism

Gamers are the Easy—But Wrong—Target After Mass Violence

The recent shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, have resurrected old panic over violence in video games. President Trump, among others, used language linking games to mass shootings and other violence. Such links have long ago been disproven and, fortunately, most people kept their heads and pushed back against these nonsensical claims. But despite this, a more subtle narrative has developed. Is gamer culture itself toxic, catering to misogynists, racists and angry, mostly white, males? As the moral panic over violent content ebbs, I’ve witnessed a wave of comments either disparaging gamers as a group, or insinuating that while certain types of games might not directly cause violent individuals, they do cultivate negative attitudes, such as sexism, militarism or white supremacy. From an empirical standpoint, such claims tend to be long on anecdote and speculation and short on hard data. The latest such argument comes from Brianna Wu in the Washington Post, where she argues that gamer culture is inherently angry, racist and sexist, and “encourages hate.” Video games don’t cause mass shootings, …

How the Hong Kong Protestors’ Tactical Brilliance Backed Beijing into a Corner

Since Hong Kong’s momentous anti-extradition bill protest on June 9th, tensions between the protesters and the authorities have continued to escalate. The demonstration on August 12th which forced the closure of the Hong Kong International Airport suggests that the protesters are unlikely to back down anytime soon, even as the People’s Armed Police of the mainland Chinese government gathers forces in Shenzhen, preparing to possibly use violence to end the protests. The current conflict arose from the introduction of a bill allowing alleged criminals in Hong Kong to be extradited to China which is widely seen as a brash attempt to erode the “one country, two systems” principle. While the Hong Kong government has refused to meet the protesters’ 5 demands, likely under pressure from Beijing, the protesters have successfully forced Carrie Lam to suspend the extradition bill. Effectively killing the bill is a significant achievement, particularly considering the fact that Carrie Lam, at least to a significant degree, represents the interest of Beijing, which is firmly against legitimizing any kind of political opposition. One …

The Campaign to Destroy Equal Voice

Even during Question Period, it’s unusual for every seat in the Canadian House of Commons to be occupied. But, over four days in April, a not-for-profit organization called Equal Voice Canada held its second annual conference there and filled the chamber with politically active young women from every region of Canada. The taxpayer-funded event, entitled Daughters of the Vote (DotV), was intended to encourage women’s participation in electoral politics. After the youthful delegates took their places in the handsome chamber-room, with its ornate wooden panelling and stained glass windows, they were welcomed by the Hon. Kim Campbell, Canada’s first and only female prime minister. (Campbell, a Conservative, served briefly in 1993 when she inherited a faltering administration from Brian Mulroney.) The National Observer reported that, of the 338 young attendees, 146 “identified as a visible minority” and 39 were Indigenous. “Many of you,” Campbell acknowledged, “are activists…for issues about which you feel passionately…who want to make changes…to fulfill your vision for the country.” But, she warned, anyone serving in Ottawa must remember that everyone else …

The Bigotry of Environmental Pessimism

Democratic Presidential candidates and the New York Times rightly condemned the use of inflammatory words like “invasion” by President Donald Trump and Fox News hosts to describe the desperate people coming from Latin America to seek a better life in the U.S. Such language is irresponsible and may very well have contributed to the motivation of a man suspected to have killed 13 Americans, eight Mexicans, and one German in El Paso last week. In a manifesto he posted online before the attack, the suspect also used the word “invasion.” While they are at it, they should condemn the inflammatory rhetoric used by environmentalists, which also may have contributed to the motivations of the El Paso shooting suspect. The suspect justified his mass shooting of people in a Walmart by arguing that “our lifestyle is destroying the environment of our country.” The suspect writes, “y’all are just too stubborn to change your lifestyle. So the next logical step is to decrease the number of people in America using resources. If we can get rid of …

The Rise of ‘Drag Kids’—and the Death of Gay Culture

Last month, the CBC—Canada’s public television network—ran a lavishly publicized documentary about “four kid drag queens as they prepare to slay on Montreal stage.” This was marketed as child-friendly content. Indeed, the CBC promoted the documentary, titled Drag Kids, on its “CBC Kids News” channel as a fun look at children who “sashay their way into the spotlight.” For me, as a gay man, watching the documentary was traumatic. The interviewed parents defend themselves against accusations they are abusing their children by encouraging them to dress up in drag. But to do so, the parents must purport to separate drag from sex and sexuality, which is simply ahistorical. They define drag as “a way of expression,” and assure everyone that “there’s nothing sexual to it” (a premise that the CBC clearly embedded in the marketing around the documentary). The kids themselves are very much on message. One remarks, “I was called gay-boy, but I did nothing but dress up.” That last remark actually brought tears to my eyes—though not for the reasons you might think. …

In Defense of Political Hypocrisy

Bernie Sanders’ campaign has come under fire for not paying staffers the $15 minimum wage he promotes—and for using the private health-care system he often criticizes as immoral. Similar scorn is being hurled at environmentalist-minded celebrities who recently traveled to a Google climate-change conference via private jets, and even yachts. I am far from being ideologically aligned with Sanders or most Hollywood stars. But I will use the occasion to make a broader point about those who insist we all practice what we preach politically. Simply put: It’s petty to weaponize the spectacle of political hypocrisy to score points and avoid taking the other side seriously. As George Orwell put it in his essay about Rudyard Kipling, “a humanitarian is always a hypocrite”—since his or her standard of living is dependent on practices that he or she deems criminal. But that doesn’t mean we can simply ignore their arguments. The first and most obvious problem with targeting a political opponent’s hypocrisy is that the practice always is applied selectively. Libertarians—and I’m including myself—sometimes scoff casually …

China and the Difficulties of Dissent

Over the last couple of weeks, a small but dedicated band of free speech advocates at the University of Queensland (UQ) have managed to catch the attention of the international media with their protests against the Chinese government. The struggles of the protest organisers have a significance far beyond university campuses, as the recent media attention devoted to China’s influence over our politicians, technology, infrastructure, and educational programs demonstrates. The recent campus protests provide a timely reminder of the difficulties of dissenting from the entrenched orthodoxy that China’s rise is benign or even beneficial for Australia and the wider West. The Rise of Fascist China It is important to understand that China is a fascist dictatorship. The term “fascist” is now thrown around with such carelessness that it has lost most of its meaning outside the offices of a few historians or political science professors. But fascism, in its original early twentieth century incarnation, meant a political system defined by three attributes—authoritarianism, ethnonationalism, and an economic model in which capitalism co-existed with large state-directed industries …

Why I Set Up the Oregon Branch of the National Association of Scholars

I first turned to the aid of the National Association of Scholars (NAS) in 2016 after a “woke mob” of my students accused me of using the wrong gender pronoun for a student in a class. Peter Wood, the NAS president, stood ready to make the organization’s voice heard on the matter, privately to my university at first but publicly if the nonsense carried on. Fortunately it did not. But the experience left me profoundly aware of the importance of solidarity for scholars who still value pluralism and reason in the face of an increasingly intolerant and arrogant Left in the academy. I wanted to do what Peter had done for scholars and scholarship in my home state of Oregon. As a result, we agreed that I would build an Oregon chapter of the NAS. In any large country, national organizations work best with local chapters. If for no other reason, members of local chapters are more likely to meet and get to know one another—little platoons firing fusillades against the revolutionary armies attacking their …

How Feminism Paved the Way for Transgenderism

In the last decade, in many parts of the English-speaking world, transgender advocacy has made substantial, and at times, expansive gains, with trans rights becoming embedded in institutions and enforced by the state. Like any significant historical event, this gender revolution has multiple causes. One is digital technology, providing virtual worlds which transcend physical reality and online networks for spreading activism. Another is academic theory: postmodernism and queer theory. I want to make the less obvious argument that transgenderism has been promoted by feminism. Not all feminism, of course. From the start of the second wave, some radical feminists opposed the inclusion of male-to-female transsexuals under the general heading of “women.” Their argument culminated in Janice Raymond’s Transsexual Empire (1979): “All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact.” Transsexualism, she observed, was the creation of medical men like John Money and Harry Benjamin. As the current wave of transgenderism was building at the beginning of the 21st century, a handful of radical lesbian feminists warned that it was detrimental …

Who Needs Democracy Anyway?

On June 18 this year, climate change demonstrators glued themselves to a main street in the centre of Brisbane, Australia, protesting what they regard as a climate emergency and voicing their objection to the recent approval of the Adani coal mine in Australia’s Galilee basin. Their protest caused major disruptions to business distric traffic and has continued with a series of deliberate actions to block inner city streets and cause as much congestion and disruption as possible. Their moves started almost a month to the day since the national “climate change election” clearly resolved that the mood of the Australian electorate was not on the side of the climate protestors—at least not to the extent proposed by the more radical elements. (In fairness, there were other significant election issues, but having claimed this as “the climate change election,” those same political groups now need to stand by the results). The Australian Labor Party, which promised a sweeping range of climate initiatives, recorded its worst showing in decades with just one in three votes.  In the …