All posts filed under: News

Why Violence and Looting Have Exploded Across South Africa

The explosion of looting and destruction which has overtaken South Africa has left the government of President Cyril Ramaphosa shaken and dazed, its credibility and legitimacy undermined. Ramaphosa’s broadcasts to the nation, appealing for calm, full of cliches and generalities, have met with derision. Nobody doubts that South Africa has reached another Rubicon, one which the ANC (African National Congress) government may be unable to cross. The explosion of violence followed the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma on a charge of contempt for refusing to appear before the Commission of enquiry into the wholesale looting of the state which took place under his presidency. Nobody seriously doubts that Zuma stole millions, probably billions of Rands and he still faces a long list of charges for racketeering, money-laundering and sundry other crimes. But Zuma still has a large following among his Zulu followers and effectively threatened to make the country ungovernable if the government dared to jail him. Undoubtedly the rioting began as his followers sought to make good on this threat. Zandile Gumede, the …

Are Activists Protecting Asians from Hate—or Protecting Their Narrative of White Supremacy from Criticism?

Asia Society, the global NGO dedicated to “forging closer ties between Asia and the West through arts, education, policy and business,” recently shared a video in which activist Manjusha P. Kulkarni spoke about anti-Asian attacks in the United States. Kulkarni, whose own group self-describes as a “national coalition addressing anti-Asian hate amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” emphasised that anti-black bigotry was causing people to falsely attribute these anti-Asian attacks to African American perpetrators: And I will tell you that while we don’t collect ethnic specific data on perpetrators … we know that it is a very small minority that are African-American. And in fact, when we look at these broader types of discrimination, the ones that involve civil-rights violations, of course, we know that those are institutional actors, heads of businesses, et cetera, and that these are the folks who often, because of positions of power that they are in, are actually white. .@StopAAPIHate co-founder @KulkarniManju discusses the “white adjacency” of Asians and Asian Americans, anti-Blackness, and the misleading trope of the Black perpetrator. Watch the …

Making the Profane Sacred

“By making a statute and by defining blasphemy, the church sought to prevent discussion—sought to prevent argument—sought to prevent a man giving his honest opinion. Certainly a tenet, a dogma, a doctrine, is safe when hedged about by a statute that prevents your speaking against it. In the silence of slavery it exists. It lives because lips are locked. It lives because men are slaves.” Robert Ingersoll, 1837 The second (or third in some variants) commandment in the Old Testament is “Thou shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.” During the Hellenistic period, this commandment resulted in a taboo against pronouncing the name of God, Yahweh (translated as I am), replacing it with the word Adonai (my lords). In more modern times, for certain Islamic fundamentalists, misusing the name of the prophet Mohammed is deemed to be punishable by death. And even several Western countries still consider religious blasphemy as a punishable crime. Nevertheless, in most modern Western societies, blasphemy is not effectively prosecuted as a punishable taboo. Instead, we elevate secular …

How The Intercept Abandoned Its Truth-Seeking Mission—And Lost Its Best Journalist

Journalist Glenn Greenwald shocked his global readership on Thursday, when he abruptly announced his resignation from the Intercept, the six-year-old site that became famous after publishing documents released by Edward Snowden. The incident that sparked Greenwald’s departure was the Intercept’s refusal to publish in whole an article he’d written criticizing much of the US media for failing to seriously cover allegations by a former business associate of Hunter Biden—son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden—that the Biden family had used its name to profit from business deals in foreign countries where the United States has important foreign-policy interests. Since his early days at the Intercept, which Greenwald co-founded in 2014 with left-wing journalist Jeremy Scahill and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, he operated under an agreement stipulating that his columns would be published without the requirement that they be edited by colleagues. In a lengthy statement posted to his new Substack page, Greenwald argues that politically motivated Intercept editors violated this agreement in regard to his latest article, by “refusing to publish it unless I remove all …

As Newspapers Fade, Journalists Are Finding New Ways to Cover Local News

Until January 2019, reporter Tim Swarens had devoted his entire 35-year career to journalism—the last 15 years spent as a reporter and editor at the Indianapolis Star. The end came as a shock. “I did not expect to end my career by being walked out the door by security,” he told me over coffee. His work had earned him awards from numerous prestigious bodies, including the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, and the Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship for Editorial Writing. He loved his job, and assumed that his reputation would allow him to do it until retirement: “For me, there was never any alternative to being a journalist.”  According to a recent Pew Research Center study, the number of newsroom employees at U.S. newspapers declined by nearly half between 2008 and 2018, from about 71,000 to 38,000. In some cases, contractions or shutdowns at major-market outlets (such as the Chicago Tribune) receive coverage in other publications. But the situation is even more troubling in smaller …

The Real Ballot Question in South Africa: How to Keep the Country from Falling Apart

South Africa’s sixth election since the introduction of universal suffrage in 1994 takes place on May 8. It has been 25 years since the country cast off the moral abomination of apartheid. But the noble and worthy dreams that took flight in the era of Nelson Mandela have been crushed by reality. Indeed, the dreadful irony is that Afrikaner nationalists’ dire predictions about majority rule seem to have come true. The country is in a parlous state: A recent Bloomberg report found that on a wide range of indicators, South Africa has done worse over the last five years than any other country in the world save those in a state of war. Corruption is rampant at every level, starting with the police. The power cuts that began in 2007 have gotten steadily worse. And although the government has managed to keep the lights on for the election campaign, the most optimistic forecast is another five years of intermittent supply. This in a country that, in 1994, had an oversupply of electricity at some of …

How Our Little Humanist Club Got Taken Over by Social Justice Dogmatists

I love living in this Canada of 2019. Just as it’s okay for my 20-year-old grandson to live with his girlfriend without being married, it’s okay for me to live with mine. No big deal, you say? Of course not. But such arrangements were unthinkable when I was 20 and living in South Africa. And in this Canada, I can hang with a gay friend and not think of him or her as “my gay friend,” but simply as my friend. And spend time with my other grandson and his girlfriend, who happens to be of South Asian ancestry, and not think of her as “a person of colour,” or “a Muslim,” but simply as the young woman who she is. And no one feels the tension and fear that such a relationship would have produced in the South Africa I inhabited as a young man—where interracial relationships of this type were prosecuted as crimes. And even though I’m an old white man, I feel at ease and at home in a society that’s moving …

Headline Rhymes

A Thanksgiving prayer for mercy As the family screamed, Jesus Murphy! Drank quite enough Told opponents: Get stuffed! Then claimed you just meant the turkey (Don’t be that political guy Have a slice of humble pie…) Views on the news, delivered so smooth. This week’s inspired by: Our Tribes and Tribulations Political Moderates Are Lying 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.

Headline Rhymes

News empires and Trump’s army arguing whose hands are redder Is like vampires fighting zombies over which one is deader Views on the news, delivered in twos. This week’s presented with no disrespect intended toward any victims of senseless violence. Inspired in part by recent articles about the growing political polarization: What Can Artificial Intelligence Teach Us About Political Polarization? Nazis: A Modern Field Guide 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.

Can Heterodoxy Save the Academy?

“When we decided to do a conference, we weren’t sure if we would get 25 people in the audience—and here we filled the Times Center,” says Debra Mashek, executive director of Heterodox Academy during an interview in midtown Manhattan. “There is broad consensus there is a problem on campus in terms of open inquiry and viewpoint diversity.” It’s understandable why Mashek was uncertain about attendance. Academic conferences usually are organized around particular areas of study or well-defined ideological viewpoints. But by its very nature, Heterodox Academy doesn’t provide any such organizing principle. Begun in 2015 as a blog, and now a network comprising over 1,800 academics, HA asks members to endorse the proposition that universities and colleges must uphold and protect political and ideological diversity. But the times we inhabit make championing viewpoint diversity an urgent project. And last Friday’s one-day inaugural conference near Times Square attracted a full house of about 350 academics, university administrators, students, and journalists. The event featured speeches and panel discussions from speakers who addressed the crowd from all points …