All posts filed under: Interview

‘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 …

Camille Paglia: It’s Time for a New Map of the Gender World

I discovered Camille Paglia’s work when I was pursuing my undergraduate arts education at The University of Adelaide, South Australia, in the early 2000s. I was deeply disillusioned with the courses in my arts degree and their monomaniacal focus on social constructionism, and was looking for criticism of Michel Foucault on the internet. I stumbled across a 1991 op-ed written by Paglia for The New York Times, in which she described the followers of Lacan, Derrida and Foucault, as “fossilized reactionaries,” and “the perfect prophets for the weak, anxious academic personality.” I was hooked. It wasn’t long before I discovered that my university’s library contained each of her books, including the essay collections Vamps and Tramps and Sex, Art and American Culture. For the final year of my arts degree, (before pursuing my studies in psychology) I spent the bulk of my time at the university reading Paglia in the library. She was like a revelation. Her work was subversive but erudite, and she synthesized insights made in the realm of the arts, ancient history and folk biology—something that no other scholar …

A New Kind of Economy—An Interview with Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang is a 43-year-old American entrepreneur who is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in 2020. His campaign focuses on solving the problem of job losses to automation—an issue many politicians seem happy to ignore. Starting right now, Yang wants to create a whole new kind of economy from the ground up, in which automation is transformed from a threat into the foundation for widespread human flourishing. Briefly, his policy proposals include implementing a form of Universal Basic Income (also known as UBI, or what he calls the “Freedom Dividend”), universal healthcare, a “digital social currency,” and a redefinition of GDP that more accurately reflect the health of the nation. If this sounds like socialism then, according to Yang, your thinking about the economy might be antiquated. He contends that the capitalism/socialism spectrum is no longer relevant or useful if we take an honest look at the modern world. The following is a transcription of my phone conversation with Andrew Yang, lightly edited for length and clarity. *     *     * Peter …

Writers Behind ‘Grievance Studies Scandal’ Address Criticisms

Do you remember the article on dog rape culture by Helen Wilson that was published in a feminist geography journal earlier this year? What about the paper on challenging male homophobia through using anal sex toys? On October 2, the Wall Street Journal broke the news that the feminist academics behind these articles don’t actually exist. They’re pseudonyms adopted by three intellectuals in an elaborate hoax designed to expose alleged shoddy scholarship in activist disciplines they dub “grievance studies.” Mathematician James A. Lindsay, British writer Helen Pluckrose, and Portland State philosophy professor Peter Boghossian have become an overnight sensation. They’ve earned recognition from academics all around the world including high-profile figures like Jordan Peterson and Steven Pinker. But their detractors have also stepped out in full force. Lindsay, Pluckrose, and Boghossian have agreed to an exclusive interview with Quillette to address the issues raised by their critics. For the record, I know the three writers but had no prior knowledge of their year-long project before the story broke. The following text has been transcribed from an …

“Liberals Have Compromised on Their Own Values”: An Interview with Ali A. Rizvi

The Pakistani-Canadian writer Ali Rizvi is a fierce critic of Islam, the religion in which he grew up. But unlike many other critics who maintain that Islam is inherently incapable of modernization, and that the Muslim world is sliding ever further into backwardness and fundamentalism, Rizvi is refreshingly optimistic about the future. The seed of a new Enlightenment has been planted in the Arabic world, he told me in Antwerp, and there’s no way to eradicate it. In his book The Atheist Muslim, Rizvi speaks directly to the many closeted atheists, agnostics, and secularists in the Muslim world. These people are obliged by the societies in which they live to present themselves outwardly as Muslims, but in private, they harbor different ideas. Rizvi’s book is often polemical in tone, but also humane and sympathetic to the plight of Muslims around the world. He is keenly aware of the consolations which faith provide to some, and he never stoops to condescension. If Rizvi is right, freethinkers in the Muslim world are more numerous than most of us suspect. Not only are their numbers growing, but …

Understanding Victimhood Culture: An Interview with Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning

Bradley Campbell, Associate Professor of Sociology at California State University, and Jason Manning, Associate Professor of Sociology at West Virginia University, have been described as “prophets of the academic world” by psychologist Jonathan Haidt, and their new collaborative work The Rise of Victimhood Culture: Microaggressions, Safe Spaces, and the New Culture Wars, “a book of revelations,” by the sociologist Donald Black. The two sociologists have aimed to supply us with an empirical sociological analysis of the recent moral conflicts that have erupted on U.S. college campuses—and the extent to which these conflicts are spreading outwards into mainstream society. After reading the book, I reached out to the American sociologists to interview them about some of the key themes of their book, and also to gain insight into some recent cultural trends that were not covered.  What follows is a transcript of our interview conducted via email. I. Three Moral Cultures Claire Lehmann: Just briefly for our readers who have not read your book, can you explain the main differences between the dignity, honor and victimhood cultures which you …

Steven Pinker: Counter-Enlightenment Convictions are ‘Surprisingly Resilient’

Steven Pinker is a cognitive scientist and is the author of several books including Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress published by Viking Press earlier this year. Editors at Quillette contacted Professor Pinker for a Q&A: what follows is a transcript of our Q&A, conducted via email. On Psychology Quillette: What are some of the classic experiments in psychology that you think an educated person should know about? Steven Pinker: Where to begin? I’d cite studies of illusions and biases, to remind people of the fallibility of our perceptual and cognitive faculties. These would include experiments on visual attention by the late Anne Treisman and others showing that people are unaware of visual material they don’t attend to, together with any experiment on memory showing how un-photographic our recollections are (for example, Elizabeth Loftus’s studies on the unreliability of eyewitness testimony, or even the low-tech study in which people are asked to draw a penny, an object they have seen thousands of times). Let’s add Slovic, Tversky, and Kahneman’s demonstrations of illusions in reasoning about …

The Skeptical Optimist: Interview with Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer is the founder of The Skeptics Society, and its associated magazine Skeptic. He is a science writer with a monthly column in Scientific American and the author of many books including The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom, and, most recently, Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia. I contacted Dr Shermer for an interview with Quillette: what follows is a transcript of our conversation, conducted via email.  *   *   * Q: Thank you for taking the time to talk to Quillette. You recently published Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, can you briefly describe what your new book is about, and the research you did for it? Michael Shermer: Since I just finished my book tour I can now do this while standing on one foot! Here are some take-home points: It’s a myth that people live twice as long today as in centuries past. People lived into their 80s and 90s historically, just not very many of them. What modern science, technology, medicine, and public health have done …

Speaking Out About Islam – Lubna Ahmed, Rebel With a Cause

Her voice broke with anguish and remembered fear at times as she told me her story. She is only twenty-six years old, yet the courage and conviction she has shown befit a war hero with years of battlefield experience. She has, in fact, found her life threatened, and on a battlefield of sorts – an ideological one on which she has been defending her rights, and specifically, her rights as a woman. In 2015, she decided that she could remain silent no longer, and came out internationally as an atheist on The Rubin Report (Dave Rubin’s popular Internet talk show) in a deeply Islamic society, knowing the mortal risks awaiting her, and had to flee her homeland. But even in her new life in California, she has to live concerned for her safety, as do all those ex-Muslims – and especially women – who publicly denounce Islam. Yet she remains undaunted. Her name is Lubna Ahmed and she hails originally from Baghdad. She is an engineer by education, a truth-telling rebel by character and vocation. I …

Nobody’s Victim: An Interview with Samantha Geimer

On the 9th of January, I noticed the French journalist Anne-Elizabeth Moutet report on Facebook that the open letter she had co-signed protesting the excesses of the #MeToo movement had received endorsement from an unexpected source. Samantha Geimer was the girl raped by Roman Polanski when she was 13 years old, and her experience is frequently cited by #MeToo activists and supporters as evidence of Hollywood’s moral turpitude and hypocrisy. Browsing Geimer’s Twitter timeline, I discovered that she is also one of a minority of voices expressing scepticism about the resurrection of child abuse allegations made by the Farrow family against Woody Allen. Intrigued, I read Geimer’s memoir The Girl: Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski. Her book is thoughtful, frank, refreshingly matter-of-fact, and offers a counter-narrative that sits uneasily with the use activists and journalists have routinely made of her story. I got in touch with Geimer through a mutual friend, and she kindly agreed to an interview with me to discuss her book, the Polanski case, #MeToo, Woody Allen, and the ongoing …