All posts filed under: Features

The Soviets and the JFK Conspiracy Theorists

Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from Fred Litwin’s new book, I Was a Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak. For further information, please visit www.conspiracyfreak.com. It’s an open question whether the Russians successfully tilted the 2016 American election to Donald Trump. We know they did their best, but we’ll probably never know if their attempts really shifted the vote. What is certain is that Russian attempts to influence American politics and public opinion are not new. Back in the 1960s and the 1970s, the Soviets tried to convince people that the CIA was behind the JFK assassination. 45 years later, we are still learning about the full extent of these efforts. In the following extract from my new book, I look at just three of these Soviet disinformation campaigns. They have had a demonstrable effect on the thinking and arguments of conspiracy theorists, and these, in turn, have gradually seeped into the wider popular culture and helped shape public misperceptions about the assassination. The Mark Lane Connection Some of the evidence of Soviet interference comes from …

Effective vs. Pathological Altruism

The effective altruism movement grew out of an understanding that sometimes charitable giving doesn’t achieve its desired effects. Even when aid works, effective altruists argue that aid can be given more efficiently through the application of cost-benefit analysis. Effective altruism enjoys widespread support, including among Quillette readers ranging from Sam Harris to Geoffrey Miller. In fact, it’s hard to deny that if we’re inclined to act charitably, we should follow our head as much as our heart. We should subject charity to scrutiny. When Helping Hurts The problem comes when the view we take of what we’re trying to achieve becomes too myopic. For example, we all agree that if we’re going to relieve a famine, we should find the cheapest way to feed the famished. But what if feeding the hungry creates more hungry people to feed? What if it indirectly contributes to more civil conflict, enriches warlords, or interferes with agricultural markets in ways that drive domestic farmers out of business? Recent studies suggest that food aid to African countries has done all …

Amidst the YouTube Junkies of MythCon, I Witnessed a New Kind of Radical Centrism

Late Saturday afternoon, police ordered the evacuation of the historic Pabst Theater in downtown Milwaukee because of a bomb threat. Along with hundreds of other MythCon attendees, I filed out in orderly fashion. While most of the crowd milled around City Hall, I went up to my hotel room at the neighbouring Intercontinental. But that building, too, was evacuated by police, because it sits adjacent to the Pabst. Across the street, a bride in white shuffled around nervously with her family. Her wedding reception was scheduled to begin shortly in the Intercontinental ballroom. These are the ordinary people who suffer when idiots phone in bomb threats. Eventually, we were all let back into the Pabst, and our conference resumed, amidst much gossip about what had motivated the bomb hoax. It says a lot about the ideologically heterodox nature of MythCon—a secular humanist and atheist meet-up organized by self-described “mythicists” seeking “to promote dialogue about culture, religion and freedom of thought”—that no one could be quite sure. The headliner was a popular YouTuber named Sargon of …

Suffragists Fought for the Female Sex

It is not so much the cause of feminism to provide a shining walkway for a female leader, as… to arrive at a governance that takes issues that affect women seriously. ~Rae Story In the quote above, writer and activist Rae Story offers a stark warning of the dangers of tokenism and co-optation in an era where ‘feminism’ has become part of many a politician’s personal brand. Story’s statement also functions as a timely reminder of the suffragists’ objective: governance that takes women’s issues seriously. This is why I included the quote in a recent poster campaign I started in Wellington, New Zealand as a way to be heard in the current climate that has become increasingly hostile and repressive towards women’s views. I created three posters: one featured Story, another featured Iranian activist Masih Alinejad stating, “In all religions and in all societies, first they come for the women.” A third featured local feminist Chelsea Geddes asking, “If you think women are wrong, how do you know the only way to win the argument is to silence …

Narrow Roads of Bozo Land: How We Came to Be Governed by Online Mobs

We all know the routine: an academic publishes some data that are incompatible with left-wing ideology, or maybe even just makes a non-PC joke, as in the case of the Nobel laureate Tim Hunt. They are then targeted by an online mob, the university administrators side with the mob and the thought-criminal is duly defenestrated. The firing of James Damore shows that a similar routine operates in tech giants such as Google. It’s not the first time intellectuals have enforced extreme left-wing views — just think of the U.S.S.R. during Stalin’s reign. But one can at least understand such behavior because failure to implement political correctness on campus in 1930s Russia would lead to a 4 a.m. date in the Kurapaty forest with a leather-aproned N.K.V.D. executioner. But the situation is different in today’s universities, tech giants and government departments – the administrators aren’t going to be executed if they ignore a cis-heteronormative microaggression by one of their employees and the demands for PC enforcement aren’t coming from a paranoid tyrant and his pistol-wielding henchmen. …

Headline Rhymes

On social so many so-called progressives will loudly proclaim their virtue Then comes the next tweet, a shocking message, the sole goal of which is to hurt you Views on the news, delivered in twos. This week’s inspired by: Politics Are Not the Sum of a Person Why They Hate Margaret Atwood Click for last week’s edition. 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 Preachers of the Great Awokening

“Yea, on the contrary, Justice calls aloud for an infinite Punishment of their Sins.” Jonathan Edwards From the sun-blanched beaches of California to the snow-covered cities of New England, a religious fervor is sweeping the United States. PhD-toting preachers spread the faith with righteous zeal, denouncing those who violate its sacred principles. Sinners are threatened not by an angry god, but by a righteous mob. The impenitent among them are condemned to be outcasts, while the contrite, if they properly mortify themselves and pledge everlasting fealty to the faith, can secure enough lost status to rejoin society, perhaps forever marked by a scarlet epithet. Racist. Sexist. Ableist. This is the religion of Wokeness, and this is the era of the Great Awokening. In the following article, we will explore this quasi-religion, Wokeness, as a status system that functions predominantly to distinguish white elites from the white masses (whom we will call hoi polloi). It does this by offering a rich signalling vocabulary for traits and possessions such as education, intelligence, openness, leisure, wealth, and cosmopolitanism, all …

Believe (Some) Women

“Believe women” is a central tenet of #MeToo, the media movement that has become the de facto path to justice for anyone who claims to have been victimised by a public figure. Given, however that presumption of innocence is one of the most fundamental principles of a democratic society, “believe women” is, or at least ought to be, a controversial demand (and as the slogan’s imperative suggests, it is indeed a demand). For despite, in some ways, being an understandable response to what many perceive to be decades of abusive and sexual misbehaviour in the entertainment and media industries, “believe women” is a request that explicitly undermines the presumption of innocence. Despite this inconvenient fact, the movement has become a cause celebre among those very factions of society who claim to care most deeply about democracy. How to square that? Particularly when it appears “believe women” may not actually apply to all women judging from the media cycle this week following a rare interview with Woody Allen’s wife Soon-Yi Previn published in New York Magazine last …

The Customer Is Not Always Right: A Reply to Elliot Berkman

It’s a disheartening time for academia. Our cloistered world is beset by a number of existential challenges. Many of our once-venerable institutions are suffering from mission drift, saddled with administrators who have no idea how to navigate interfering voices on all points of the political spectrum. At the same time, the university’s business model has been under pressure from disruptive online competitors whose products are becoming more sophisticated, more attractive to students, and cheaper, making the high cost of a university education increasingly difficult to justify. Wide swathes of the general public are losing faith in higher education, both for partisan and practical reasons. Here at Quillette, University of Oregon psychology professor Elliot Berkman recently offered an intriguing analysis of some of the self-defeating actions taken by academics. Berkman argues that academics need to take the social impact of scholarship more seriously, step out of our ivory towers with greater frequency, and otherwise work harder to earn the trust and respect of the broader world. We need to craft research that is more accessible and …

The Hysterical Campus

Editor’s note: The following text is excerpted with permission from The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture, by Heather Mac Donald, published by St. Martin’s Press. © 2018 Heather Mac Donald. Where are the faculty? American college students are increasingly resorting to brute force, and sometimes criminal violence, to shut down ideas that they don’t like. Yet when such travesties occur, the faculty are, with few exceptions, missing in action, though they have themselves been given the extraordinary privilege of tenure to protect their own liberties of thought and speech. It is time for them to take their heads out of the sand. I was the target of such silencing tactics two days in a row in 2017, the more serious incident at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, and a less virulent one at UCLA. The Rose Institute for State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna had invited me to meet with students and to give a talk in April about my book The War on …