All posts filed under: Must Reads

“Stop Assuming that Everything You Feel or Think Is Right”—An Interview with Robert Greene

Robert Greene is the author of The 48 Laws of Power and most recently, The Laws of Human Nature. His books, which are popular with many world leaders, celebrities, professional athletes and hip hop stars like Drake, have sold more than 5 million copies and have been translated into over 30 languages. Robert’s raw, “amoral” look at history and the dynamics of power, seduction, and warfare have always been controversial—indeed, his books are banned in many prisons across the United States. This interview about political correctness, the bloody cost of the denial of human nature, and the inner-work required for rational thought was conducted for Quillette by Ryan Holiday, his former apprentice, over the phone from Austin, Texas while Robert recovers in Los Angeles from a near-fatal stroke he suffered in August, 2018. The text has been lightly edited for clarity. *     *     * Ryan Holiday: I thought we’d start with this idea of human nature itself. There are certain people who have almost come to believe that there’s no such thing as human nature. Maybe …

The 2018 Free Thought Awards

Quillette’s success comes from a group of writers compelled to express the truth as they see it. We couldn’t be prouder of our association with so many inspiring, talented free thinkers. From the dozens, we give a special nod to these five for their stellar contribution in 2018. STUART REGES Free Thought Award for Courage Stuart Reges, lecturer in computer science at the University of Washington, made headlines after his essay exploring the gender gap in computer science was published. The follow-up to his original essay documents the institutional blowback he endured for expressing his empirically validated opinion that, on average, men and women tend to have different occupational interests. Reges’ writing reflects a high level of intellectual integrity in the face of opposition. HIS WINNING WORK: Why Women Don’t Code Is It Sexual Harassment to Discuss this Article? URI HARRIS Free Thought Award for Original Contribution Using the analytical tools popular within the humanities and social sciences, Uri Harris has offered original insights on the social justice movement and critical theory itself. Taken together, …

From Astrology to Cult Politics—the Many Ways We Try (and Fail) to Replace Religion

If you count yourself among the secularists cheering for the demise of religion, it isn’t hard to find comforting statistics. Nearly every survey of the state of religion in my own country, the United States, presents a similar picture of faith in decline. Compared to their parents and grandparents, Americans are less likely to self-identify as religious, attend religious services, or engage in religious practices such as daily prayer. Full-blown atheism is still a minority position. But the ranks of the “non-religious”—a broad category made up of those who reject traditional conceptions of God and religious doctrines, or who express uncertainty about their beliefs—are growing. Even those who self-identify as Christians are less inclined to talk publicly about God and their faith than their predecessors. Indeed, many Americans are Christian in name only—using the term more as an indicator of their cultural background than as a declaration of a spiritual life committed to the teachings of Christ. And the rest of the Western world is even farther ahead on this same path. But secularism advocates …

PewDiePie’s Battle for the Soul of the Internet

This is a story about the question of who holds power over what we can say, hear, watch and read on the internet—an increasingly urgent issue that many ordinary people have cause to think about every day. And yet the protagonist in this story, the man whose fate symbolizes the future of social media and the corporate web that controls it, is unknown to the vast majority of educated readers. That man is PewDiePie, a Swedish comedian whose real name is Felix Kjellberg. With 77-million subscribers, he has the most popular YouTube channel in the world. Within YouTube’s video subculture, he is regarded as a true celebrity—a sort of Joe Rogan, Kanye West and Ben Shapiro all rolled into one. As of this writing, PewDiePie is closing in on 20-billion total views—roughly equivalent to three views for every human on the planet. Yet describing the actual content that Kjellberg delivers to his viewers can be challenging. When he dropped out of school and began seriously promoting his channel in 2010, his feed was largely devoted …

Confessions of a ‘Soulless Troglodyte’: How My Brooklyn Literary Friendships Fell Apart in the Age of Trump

I became friends with Jamie when I was 13, a few years after my family fled the Soviet Union and settled in what was then one of the most diverse neighborhoods of south Brooklyn. When we first met, Jamie (not his real name) told me that he was a genius—that his Catholic school teachers said so after he wrote a poem about vaginas and read it aloud in front of the whole class. He told me he wanted to be “an author.” In the 1990s, our street was a spontaneous symphony of the working poor, a place where kids bonded by trading ethnic insults in a dozen languages. I had mastered this crude local vernacular. Jamie’s ability to step outside of our street language, speak freely and dream about something larger was transfixing. Unlike Jamie, I churned through the city’s public schools without attracting much notice. My teachers did not seek genius. In high school, they were too busy keeping us from killing each other. I learned nothing and barely graduated. After Jamie went off …

Sad Radicals

When I became an anarchist I was 18, depressed, anxious, and ready to save the world. I moved in with other anarchists and worked at a vegetarian co-op cafe. I protested against student tuition, prison privatization, and pipeline extensions. I had lawyer’s numbers sharpied on my ankle and I assisted friends who were pepper-sprayed at demos. I tabled zines, lived with my “chosen family,” and performed slam poems about the end of the world. While my radical community was deconstructing gender, monogamy, and mental health, we lived and breathed concepts and tools like call-outs, intersectionality, cultural appropriation, trigger warnings, safe spaces, privilege theory, and rape culture. What is a radical community? For the purposes of this article, I will define it as a community that shares both an ideology of complete dissatisfaction with existing society due to its oppressive nature and a desire to radically alter or destroy that society because it cannot be redeemed by its own means. I eventually fell out with my own radical community. The ideology and the people within it …

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 …

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 …

Warning: Telling a Lame Joke in an Elevator can Endanger Your Career

I am a professor of international political theory at King’s College London and bye-fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge. I am a fellow of the British Academy and a member of the International Studies Association (ISA). Several years back the ISA voted me the “distinguished scholar of the year.” This year it censured me, not once but twice. I was guilty of saying “ladies lingerie” in a lift, and more disturbingly in their eyes, of writing a conciliatory email to the woman who had overheard me in the lift and filed a complaint. I appealed against this decision, but earlier this month was told my appeal had been rejected. During the second week of April 2018, the ISA had its annual meeting in San Francisco. It attracts many thousands of members from multiple disciplines who do research on international relations. The meeting consists mostly of panels at which scholarly papers are presented and discussed. I stayed in the San Francisco Hilton, the venue of the meeting. On the third afternoon, I was going up to my …

Writing for Quillette Ended My Theater Project

It was suggested that I apologize, and that an apology might help. This wasn’t an assurance, but an idea—if I walked back what I had written, there might be a way forward. I looked around the table at these four women who knew me too well to believe that I would apologize for something I had written. Before each of us sat the full length script on which we’d spent several months collaborating. I’d formed this theater collective precisely to make a play based on a killer idea I’d had, and I’d asked each of these talented, thoughtful, intelligent, creative women to work with me. We were only in the first few months of what was meant to be a year-long residency in a theater space in downtown Manhattan. What I wanted most of all was to develop this project. By the time it was suggested that I apologize, I knew full well that I wouldn’t, and that the project, the theater company, and the residency were all dead in the water. At issue was …