All posts filed under: Must Reads

Demoted and Placed on Probation

It all started in June 2018, when Quillette published my article, “Why Women Don’t Code,” and things picked up steam when Jordan Peterson shared a link to the article on his Twitter account. A burst of outrage and press coverage followed which I discussed in a follow-up piece. The original article was one of the ten most read pieces published by Quillette in 2018, and continues to generate interest. A recent YouTube video about it has been viewed over 120,000 times, as of this writing: In his tweet promoting my article, Peterson took issue with one of my claims. I had written that I thought I could survive at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering where I work. Peterson disagreed: Make no mistake about it: the Damore incident has already established a precedent. Watch what you say. Or else. https://t.co/3Zzg1g2y9C — Dr Jordan B Peterson (@jordanbpeterson) June 19, 2018 As it turns out, Peterson was right. My position is not tenured and when my current three-year appointment came up for review …

Lessons from Australia’s Bushfires: We Need More Science, Less Rhetoric

Over the last two weeks, the Royal Australian Navy has been evacuating thousands of residents fleeing uncontrollable bushfires in the south-eastern part of my country. Amid scenes of desperate Australians being rescued from beaches, national-security writer Craig Hooper has called the operation a “mini-Dunkirk.” HMAS Adelaide conducting flight operations operating off Eden. @Australian_Navy #AustralianBushfire pic.twitter.com/XREgyctFv7 — Commander Australian Fleet (@COMAUSFLT) January 6, 2020 At least 24 lives have been lost, and many others are missing. Hundreds of homes and businesses have been incinerated, as have more than 60,000 square kilometres of bushland. The Premier of my home state of New South Wales, the region that’s been worst affected, describes the crisis as “uncharted territory,” with some towns at risk of being completely wiped out. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who took a brief holiday at the start of the crisis, has been accused of poor leadership. And critics have taken the opportunity to demand that Australia’s climate policy be immediately overhauled to reflect this national disaster. But what exactly is causing this year’s extreme fire season? …

Iran’s Fawning Western Apologists

The last Shah of Iran, ousted by revolution in 1979, often warned of “the accursed alliance of the red and the black” that threatened his country. By this he meant the union between the radical left and Islamist reactionaries, two ideological camps that, in theory, should have little common ground. My family, which had leftist leanings and opposed the monarchy, left Iran when I was young. I have never had a taste for monarchy, neither in my native Iran nor my adopted country of Canada, and am not usually fond of quoting the Shah, a monarch who ruled Iran as an imperial state. But in recent days, as I’ve observed reactions to the assassination of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) leader Qassem Soleimani, I must admit that, when it came to red and black, the Shah was quite astute. And it will be interesting to see which side Western leftists support now that there is a real threat of regional war. Soleimani was killed in Baghdad by a U.S. drone strike on January 3. Since …

Bloody Harvest—How Everyone Ignored the Crime of the Century

In June of this year the China Tribunal delivered its Final Judgement and Summary Report.1 An independent committee composed of lawyers, human rights experts, and a transplant surgeon, the Tribunal was established to investigate forced organ harvesting on the Chinese mainland. These rumours have haunted the country for years—lurid tales of the fate suffered by members of the banned Falun Gong religion after being taken into police custody. Their organs, so the rumours go, are cut from their bodies while they are still alive, and then transplanted into waiting patients. The Tribunal examined these claims, extending the group of victims to include Uyghur Muslims (among others), and its findings were unambiguous. “On the basis of all direct and indirect evidence, the Tribunal concludes with certainty that forced organ harvesting has happened in multiple places in the PRC [People’s Republic of China] and on multiple occasions for a period of at least twenty years and continues to this day.”2 Further to this, “the PRC and its leaders actively incited the persecution, the imprisonment, murder, torture, and …

When Disruptive Students Are Coddled, the Whole Class Suffers

Last month, NBC Nightly News aired a segment on the latest classroom-management technique to sweep America’s schools: “room clears”: When a child throws a tantrum that could physically endanger his peers, teachers evacuate all of the other students from the classroom until the troublemaker has vented his rage upon empty desks, tables and chairs. The technique was virtually unheard of five years ago. But 56 percent of surveyed teachers and parents in Oregon now report having experienced a room clear in their or their child’s classroom over the last year. Surrendering the classroom to a single student: The average reader might well ask why anyone thinks this would be a good idea. Yet the policies that make this approach inevitable have been applauded by a wide range of authorities, from the Southern Poverty Law Center to the Trump-administration’s Department of Education. The emergence of room clears is a product of several fashionable education-policy trends designed to protect the rights of troubled students, often with little regard for the rights of their classmates. These include the …

The Futility of Guilt-Based Advocacy

We like to believe that when it comes to the great global issues of our time—climate change, pollution, poverty, mass extinction—that we each can make a difference. A small one maybe, but a real and significant difference, nonetheless. If we don’t try, or don’t try hard enough, we should feel culpable, and we have a concomitant moral responsibility to shame our lazy neighbors who refuse to make an effort. That’s a mistake. It not only makes us guilt-ridden and worse off psychologically, but even more harmfully it also provides only the illusion of effective action, thereby allowing global problems to fester without a proper solution. Even professional ethicists are largely getting this wrong. I recently attended an international ethics conference, and the overwhelming take-away was the realization that philosophical ethics remains obsessed with individuals—trolley cases, what you should do, how you should act, who you should become. It is not appreciated that all the really serious moral issues of our time are collective action problems, and have nothing to do with you in the sense …

The Art of Mind Control

Everyone by a supreme law of nature is master of his own thoughts.1 ~Baruch Spinoza It’s the one thing they can’t do. They can make you say anything—anything—but they can’t make you believe it. They can’t get inside you.2 ~Julia, Nineteen Eighty-Four Those who have read Nineteen Eighty-Four will remember that Julia is proven wrong in the end—as it turns out, they can get inside you. Today the Chinese Communist Party is attempting the same feat, in defiance of Spinoza’s dictum. This is no secret. “We need to build a firewall in our brains,” as the country’s state media puts it bluntly. Brainwashing has always been associated with the Communist Party, but in the days of Mao Zedong it was a relatively crude affair. Now it is far more sophisticated, which makes it all the more dangerous—indeed, the idea of firewalls in brains might soon seem quite ordinary. This indoctrination is a vital weapon in the Communist Party’s fight for global dominance. Whenever the Party’s leaders take offence at public comments or political narratives anywhere …

Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class—A Status Update

I was bewildered when I encountered a new social class at Yale four years ago: the luxury belief class. My confusion wasn’t surprising given my unusual background. When I was two years old, my mother was addicted to drugs and my father abandoned us. I grew up in multiple foster homes, was then adopted into a series of broken homes, and then experienced a series of family tragedies. Later, after a few years in the military, I went to Yale on the GI Bill. On campus, I realized that luxury beliefs have become fashionable status symbols. Luxury beliefs are ideas and opinions that confer status on the rich at very little cost, while taking a toll on the lower class. In the past, people displayed their membership of the upper class with their material accoutrements. But today, luxury goods are more affordable than before. And people are less likely to receive validation for the material items they display. This is a problem for the affluent, who still want to broadcast their high social position. But …

It’s Time for ‘LGB’ and ‘T’ to Go Their Separate Ways

The growing rift between increasingly radicalized transgender-rights activists and the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) communities has finally come out into the open. This week, Europe’s biggest LGBT-rights organization, the London-based Stonewall charity, was publicly accused of subordinating LGB rights to the group’s increasingly single-minded goal of replacing sex with gender as a marker of identity. As Helen Joyce recently wrote in Standpoint, “Stonewall went all in for gender self-ID. Its online glossary now describes biological sex as ‘assigned at birth’ (presumably by a midwife with a Hogwarts-style Sorting Hat). ‘Gay’ and ‘lesbian’ now mean same-gender, not same-sex, attraction. ‘Transphobia’ is the ‘fear or dislike of someone based on the fact that they are trans, including the denial/refusal to accept their gender identity.’ At a stroke, anyone who declares themselves exclusively attracted to people of the same sex has become a bigot.” As a gay man who lives in the United States, I have no direct stake in Britain’s intra-LGBT politics. (“LGB/T” might now be a more apt term.) But I am surprised that it …

Rich Like Me: How Assortative Mating Is Driving Income Inequality

It may be useful to open this topic with an anecdote. Some ten years ago, I found myself in an after-dinner conversation, lubricated by wine, with an American who had been educated at an Ivy League college and was then teaching in Europe. As our conversation drifted toward matters of life, marriage and children, I was initially surprised by his statement that whoever he had married, the outcome in terms of where they lived, what type of house they owned, what kind of holidays and entertainment they would enjoy, and even what colleges their children would attend would be practically the same. His reasoning was as follows: “When I went to [Ivy League institution], I knew that I would marry a woman I met there. Women also knew the same thing. We all knew that our pool of desirable marriage candidates would never be as vast again. And then whomever I married would be a specimen of the same genre: They were all well-educated, smart women who came from the same social class, read the …