All posts filed under: Politics

The Impassable Road to Redemption

Oops! That page can’t be found. This is what I find when I click on the author link that says “Frank Sherlock—Bloof Books.” Before clicking, I catch a preview in my search results of what was once there. A photograph of the short-haired, bearded poet, wearing a white collared shirt and black blazer, pink background behind him, a partial bio: “Frank Sherlock is the author of Life Is to Blame for Everything, Space Between These Lines, Not Dedicated, Over Here, The City Real & Imagined (w/CA Conrad), and a collaboration with Brett—“ Nothing was found at this location. Try searching or check the links below. Nothing may be found, but surely, something has been lost. When the former Philadelphia poet laureate confessed on Facebook recently that he’d played in a racist skinhead band as a poor and misguided teenager back in the late 1980s, he was probably nervous about the risk he was taking. Would his followers understand? Was an artist required to disclose everything about his past to the world? Why put himself through it? Why …

Marx Deserves Better Critics

The most shocking moment of the Žižek-Peterson debate occurred during the first five minutes. In Jordan Peterson’s opening statement, he mentioned that he’d re-read The Communist Manifesto in preparation for the debate. This, in itself, wasn’t especially surprising. One of many reasons the event was so hotly anticipated—as Dr. Peterson mentioned, Toronto scalpers were charging more for seats than they were charging for Maple Leafs tickets—was that one of the most important Marxist intellectuals in the world would be debating one of the fiercest critics of Marxism. So, one would expect Žižek’s opponent to brush up on some Marxist classics in preparation for their encounter. The shocking part came a few seconds later when the 56-year-old Peterson casually added that he hadn’t read the Manifesto since he was 18. Peterson has a deep and long-standing interest in totalitarianism. He’s filled his house with art from the Soviet Union in order to remind himself of the evils of that system. Oddly enough, something similar is true of his Marxist sparring partner. Žižek was a dissident Communist …

Timely Return to Battle for a Veteran of the Culture Wars

A review of The Case For Trump by Victor Davis Hanson. Basic Books, Hard Cover (March 2019). “I too grew up, and still live, outside a small town in California’s Central Valley,” Victor Davis Hanson writes, in his new book The Case For Trump. “For a century (1880–1980) it was a prosperous multiethnic and multiracial community of working- and middle-class families. By 2010, high unemployment was chronic, drug addiction was endemic, crime commonplace. In 1970, we did not have keys for our outside doors; in 2018, I have six guard dogs.” Hanson remains one of the rare prominent writers and theorists to throw his intellectual weight behind the new conservatism that is taking shape across the Anglosphere and broader West since the twin victories of Brexit and Trump in 2016. While there have been recent attempts from both conservative (Legutko, Hazony, Mearsheimer) and liberal(ish) perspectives (Deneen, Goodwin and Eatwell, Walt) to explain what went wrong, Hanson’s latest refers more specifically to the social conditions in the United States. It is also very different from the works of …

The Twilight of Liberalism?

The place and the object gave ample scope for moralizing on the vicissitudes of fortune, which spares neither man nor the proudest of his works, which buries empires and cities in a common grave; and it was agreed, that in proportion to her former greatness, the fall of Rome was the more awful and deplorable. ~Edward Gibbon Is liberalism dying? Thirty years ago, those words would have provoked hearty laughter. Its chief ideological competitor, communism, had just collapsed, leaving it without serious rival. Some optimistic thinkers asserted that we had reached an ideological “end of history” and that, having triumphed over all viable alternatives, liberalism would govern “the material world for the long run.” Today, however, few are so optimistic. The rise of populism, of Trump, of opiate epidemics, of bitter polarization, and of yawning economic inequality have tempered the triumphalism of those who once celebrated the inevitable victory of markets and democracy. The good news is that this growing pessimism has compelled reflection and reanalysis; the bad news is that plausible solutions remain out of …

Cowardice at Columbia

On Thursday, April 11, shortly after 11pm, a black Columbia student named Alexander McNab walked through the gates of Barnard college—the undergraduate all-women’s school at Columbia University—after ignoring a security guard’s request to show his student ID. In search of a midnight snack, McNab got all the way to the library canteen before a public safety officer confronted him and asked for his ID a second time, a request McNab once again refused. Several more officers had arrived on the scene and were continuing to request ID when McNab began yelling. What happened next, depicted in the video below, has become the subject of a national scandal: two officers pushed McNab’s upper body onto the countertop, at which point McNab finally handed over his ID. Public safety proceeded to verify that he was indeed an active Columbia student, at which point they left him alone. Administrators reacted to the incident by placing the six public safety officers involved on paid leave until outside investigators reach a conclusion about their conduct. In the meantime, administrators have …

Is the ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ Politically Diverse?

Earlier this month, popular author and podcaster Sam Harris tweeted out a graph titled, “A Visual Breakdown of Intellectual Dark Web (IDW) Positions.” The graph purports to compare the political positions of six prominent members of the IDW on the main issues that supposedly divide liberals and conservatives. The tweet links to a blog post by cybersecurity expert and writer Daniel Miessler, where he explains his motive for producing the graph. Miessler was frustrated that members of the IDW often are labelled conservative or even alt-right, so he set out to gather information on the positions of six prominent members—Harris, Eric Weinstein, Joe Rogan, Dave Rubin, Jordan Peterson, and Ben Shapiro—on some important political issues. The resulting graph indicates that all these people, with the partial exception of Ben Shapiro, are far more aligned with liberals than with conservatives on the issues that Miessler believes divide liberals and conservatives. The IDW members are not conservatives, Miessler argues, but “mostly a collection of disilliusioned liberals looking for a place to have honest conversation.” Now, this claim …

The Circular Firing Squad Is Destroying the Left’s Political Brand: A Case Study from Canada

On last week’s Quillette podcast, I asked Marginal Revolution host and Mercatus Center director Tyler Cowen whether socialism could become a mainstream political movement in the United States. Cowen answered in the affirmative, though only insofar as socialism was presented in a constrained form—as “extreme discontent with capitalism, more redistribution, much more government regulation, [and] nationalization [of] the health sector.” I believe Cowen is correct. As a Canadian who travels often to the United States, I often find myself shocked by the vast gulf between haves and have-nots in American society. Even here in Canada, where the class divisions are less stark, I’m a supporter of more aggressive measures aimed at helping people who are disabled, uneducated, mired in poverty, imprisoned (or recently released from prison), or burdened with care for the very old or very young. I believe income inequality is a real problem, and I’m troubled by the self-segregation of populations according to socioeconomic status, a phenomenon that has all sorts of toxic political repercussions. And at election time, I seek out parties …

Politics and the Practice of Warm-Heartedness

A review of Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt by Arthur C. Brooks. Broadside e-books (March 2019). “While politics is like the weather, ideas are like the climate,” Arthur Brooks explains. “However, even a climate scientist has to think about the weather when a hurricane comes ashore… Political differences are ripping our country apart, rendering my big, fancy policy ideas largely superfluous.” Brooks, outgoing president of the American Enterprise Institute and author of a shopping list of bestselling books, is now taking on the challenging question of how to bring together a divided country. In his latest book, Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt, he makes the case that Americans are sick of bitter, personal fighting and want a more united nation. The challenge is to work out how to get there. Brooks blames America’s bitter politics on the “outrage industrial complex”: the media, politicians and commentators who entice voters, attract television viewers, and sell books and event tickets …

Jordan Peterson, And the New Chivalry

In his recent appearance at Liberty University, Jordan Peterson delivered this verdict on the dominant attitude toward masculinity among our society’s elites: “I don’t think we do a very good job at the moment of encouraging men. We have this idea that there’s something intrinsically oppressive about the patriarchy and about masculinity in general. And I think that’s nonsense. I think that strong, honest, truthful, courageous men pursuing noble goals is of great benefit to everyone, male and female alike.” Members of the student audience applauded loudly, little knowing that not 10 minutes later, a scene would unfold in which Peterson would have an opportunity to match action to words. By now, tens of thousands of people have seen the clip of the desperate young man who slipped past security to rush the stage and appeal to Peterson for help. The high-definition video feed was cut, but amateur footage shows Peterson leaving his seat and following David Nasser, Liberty University’s Campus Pastor, to engage. Nasser assures the troubled boy that he is “in the right …

Europe’s New Beggars

Recently my wife and I walked along the fashionable shopping street Avenue Montaigne, situated between Place de l’Alma and Champs Elysées in one of the most affluent Parisian districts. Passing the elegant window fronts of Chanel, Givenchy, Jimmy Choo, Luis Vuitton, Prada, Valentino, and YSL, we noticed a woman and child half-lying on the pavement in tattered clothes, appealing to passersby for money. While it was a particularly appalling sight in this prosperous setting, it was not an anomaly in the urban fabric of Paris. Such expressions of extreme poverty and deprivation have, in fact, become sadly familiar features of most Western European cities of late. Indeed, as a result of the European Union’s eastward expansion during the previous decade, and the principle of free movement of persons within the E.U., thousands of rough sleepers, mostly ethnic Roma from the ex-socialist countries Bulgaria and Romania, have arrived in the streets, parks, and playgrounds of the E.U.-15 countries. Contrary to the purpose of free movement, most have not come to work or study, but to beg …