All posts filed under: Features

Headline Rhymes

Some insist we’re a blank slate on which we write what we want Others say we’re a Kindle book where all we can change is the font I’m not slate nor tablet I’m more hat and rabbit Views on the news, delivered so smooth. This week’s inspired by: I Am Not a Blank Page A Striking Similarity: The Revolutionary Findings of Twin Studies Click for last week’s edition. And for more Headline Rhymes, follow along on Twitter @grahamverdon Do you have a Headline Rhyme? Take a stab in the Comments Section below. Please try for PG 13.  Sentiments are not necessarily shared by everyone at Quillette.

Take It from Someone Who Has Suffered Real Physical Abuse: Words Aren’t Violence

Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burnt women. It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears. — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) For the fourth time in the space of 30 minutes, the sound of a cell-phone text alert interrupted my college class. The professor, a gifted educator with an infectious passion for his subject, had made his no-phones policy clear on many occasions. These repeated infractions were too much for him, and he lost his temper. He shouted at us about maturity, respect and the convenient proximity of our classroom’s two doors, through which anyone more interested in their phone than his lecture was welcome to depart. One of my classmates said later that the professor had activated his “angry-dad mode.” Back at home, this professor is raising a house full of boys. He’ll talk professional sports with anyone willing to listen. He regularly shows up with a splint, bandage, or brace—always some injury …

Academics’ Mobbing of a Young Scholar Must be Denounced

The latest victim of an academic mobbing is 28-year-old social scientist Noah Carl who has been awarded a Toby Jackman Newton Trust Research Fellowship at St Edmund’s College at the University of Cambridge. Rarely has the power asymmetry between the academic mob and its victim been so stark. Dr Carl is a young researcher, just starting out in his career, who is being mobbed for being awarded a prestigious research scholarship on the basis of his peer-reviewed research. While getting a position like this is normally a time for celebration for junior academics, Dr Carl has gone to ground, unable to defend his reputation from libellous attacks, as he has been instructed not to talk to the media. Three hundred academics from around the world, many of them professors, have signed an open letter denouncing Dr Carl and demanding that the University of Cambridge “immediately conduct an investigation into the appointment process” on the grounds that his work is “ethically suspect” and “methodologically flawed.” The letter states: “we are shocked that a body of work …

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 …

The New Patriarchy: How Trans Radicalism Hurts Women, Children—and Trans People Themselves

“I knew by the time I was eight that I didn’t want to be a boy,” says Melissa. “But I didn’t know what I wanted to be.” Born in a provincial English town in the early 1970s and brought up by evangelical Christians, the boy had never heard of a transsexual (a term that was widely used in the decades before “transgender” entered common usage in the 1990s). As for gay men, “they were all going to hell.” As soon as he could, he moved to London and “experimented,” presenting himself as a man at work and a woman in the evenings. In the early 2000s, his gender dysphoria—the distress caused by the feeling that your body is the wrong sex—came to a head. “The thought of being buried as an old man became simply unbearable.” But even as Melissa came to that bleak realization, a new future for her was opening up. Britain, like many other countries, was planning to grant gender-dysphoric people a route to legal recognition as members of the opposite sex. …

The Flawed History and Real Torment of Canada’s Residential Schools

Brian Tuesday was a little Ojibway boy when he was taken from his home at the Big Grassy River Indian reserve and moved to St. Margaret’s Indian Residential School at Fort Frances, Ontario, on the Canadian side of the Rainy River. Like many of Canada’s notorious residential schools, St. Margaret’s was situated in a large, imposing building. It was built at the edge of a river, adjacent to Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church. The boys and girls were separated in the yard by a wire fence. Brian, whose Ojibway spirit name was Tibishkopiness, wasn’t allowed to approach the fence to talk to his little sister. On more than one occasion, he stood helplessly on his side and watched as one of the nuns beat her for some real or imagined indiscretion. During the time he was at St. Margaret’s, Brian was sexually abused by a priest and beaten by a nun. Things got a bit better when they transferred him to St. Joseph’s Indian Residential School in Thunder Bay, Ontario—about 350 kilometres to …

The Unsafe Feminist: Rebecca West and the ‘Bitter Rapture’ of Truth

In an era when indulgent university administrators and professors treat students like spoiled children, one longs for intellectuals who address their audience as adults. The British novelist, biographer, literary critic, travel writer and political commentator Rebecca West (1892-1983) is the tonic we need. Like other great authors of the 20th century—including George Orwell and Doris Lessing—West never received a university education. That may help explain her intellectual non-conformism and free-wheeling spirit. West brushed against orthodoxy like barbed wire against chiffon. She was a suffragist who rejected pacifism in the First World War (and the Second); a leftist who fought communism; an internationalist who spoke up for small nations; an individualist who valued authority and tradition. West never crouched in one position. She was unflinchingly realistic. Human conflict, she said, is inescapable. It is as much a feature of art as it is of states. Eros, too, creates antagonism, for sex is dangerous. Yet human co-operation is ubiquitous. Women and men need each other, and can and do love each other. A feminism that treats women …

Headline Rhymes

Sad is the author who’s written a magnum opus About the moving spirit of Christmas Lamb to the slaughter if the kin of Mary and Joseph Are disapproving; enjoy the literary shit list Views on the news, delivered so smooth. This week’s inspired by: Writing For Quillette Ended My Theater Project If That’s What It Means to Be a Writer, I Quit Click for last week’s edition. And for more Headline Rhymes, follow along on Twitter @grahamverdon Do you have a Headline Rhyme? Take a stab in the Comments Section below. Please try for PG 13.  Sentiments are not necessarily shared by everyone at Quillette.

The New Evolution Deniers

Evolutionary biology has always been controversial. Not controversial among biologists, but controversial among the general public. This is largely because Darwin’s theory directly contradicted the supernatural accounts of human origins rooted in religious tradition and replaced them with fully natural ones. The philosopher Daniel Dennett has described evolution as a sort of “universal acid” that “eats through just about every traditional concept, and leaves in its wake a revolutionized world-view, with most of the old landmarks still recognizable, but transformed in fundamental ways.” Fearing this corrosive idea, opposition in the US to evolution mainly came from Right-wing evangelical Christians who believed God created life in its present form, as described in Genesis. In the 1990s and 2000s there were repeated attempts by evangelicals to ban evolution in public schools or teach the so-called “controversy” by including Intelligent Design—the belief that life is too complex to have evolved without the aid of some “Intelligent Designer” (i.e. God)—in the biology curriculum alongside evolution. But these attempts failed when scientists demonstrated in court that Intelligent Design was nothing …

‘Luciferina’: An Interview with Amanda Knox

Though the Republic of Italy has been secular since 1985, on the wall above the judge in the Perugia courtroom hung a giant black crucifix. The main prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini, thundered at the then 22-year-old American defendant, Amanda Knox, on trial in 2009 for the murder, two years earlier, of her British roommate in Perugia, Meredith Kercher, calling her, Knox remembers, a slut and an adulteress. A  lawyer involved with a related civil suit dubbed Knox “Luciferina” — a satanic slur that soon found its way into press coverage of the matter. And it stuck. Another Italian lawyer denounced Knox publicly as a “dirty-minded she-devil, a diabolical person focused on sex, drugs, and alcohol, living life to the extreme,” and “a witch of deception,” “Lucifer-like and Satanic,” yet who possesses the face of a saint. An Italian commentator declared that Knox had “the face of an angel but the eyes of a killer.” In reference to her looks and supposedly scheming character, British tabloids (soon followed by the Italian press) dubbed her “Foxy Knoxy”—though the moniker …