All posts filed under: Culture Wars

Charles Murray’s ‘Facing Reality’—A Review

A review of Facing Reality: Two Truths about Race in America by Charles Murray. Encounter Books, 168 pages. (June, 2021) I’ve known about Charles Murray since 1994, when I was a voracious and unsupervised teen reader in rural Oregon grabbing the library’s latest issue of the New Republic the instant it was shelved. It was here that I stumbled upon the shocking views Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein expressed in The Bell Curve about race, class, and inequality in America. I didn’t give those views much deep thought at the time, and so my perception of Murray and his ideas hewed more or less to the dismissive conventional wisdom. It wasn’t until I read a 1998 essay in Commentary magazine by Christopher Chabris that I began to reconsider. Chabris argued that the media furor around The Bell Curve obscured more than it illuminated, and that the consensus among psychologists on the importance of intelligence to life outcomes was indeed close to what Murray and Herrnstein had asserted. To my surprise, in the 21st century, my relationship …

Vaccines and the Coronavirus Crank Crisis

When I last wrote about the rise of the coronavirus cranks for Quillette on January 16th, there were 37,000 people in British hospitals with COVID-19, and 1,411 COVID-related deaths on that day alone. The story that self-described sceptics had been telling themselves since the summer was a smoking ruin. As far back as June 2020, they had been announcing that the virus had run its course, that herd immunity had been achieved, and that there would be no second wave. They then dismissed a resurgence of the infection rate in August and September as a “casedemic”—a fraudulent illusion built on a glut of false positives produced by unreliable over-testing. The founder of the Lockdown Sceptics blog, Toby Young, claimed in June that the “virus has melted into thin air,” and predicted that “there will be no ‘second spike’—not now, and not in the autumn either.” In September, YouTube personality and low-carb entrepreneur Ivor Cummins declared that “the epidemic is over.” Asked what it would take to prove him wrong, he tweeted: “Simple. Excess mortality this …

The Faith of Systemic Racism

We hear constantly about the systemic racism coursing through America. Everything, we’re told, is shot through with hate. It does not matter if no white person ever has actually thought a hateful thought. The structure, or system, these innocents inhabit and profit from was designed by those who hated with abandon; the hate is baked into the edifice and walls and rooftops. It constitutes an architecture of oppression, and the persistence of that architecture amounts to an indictment of its beneficiaries. They’re fools or, more likely, willing participants who go to inordinate lengths to camouflage their complicity—Dean Armitage of Get Out declaring he would have voted for Barack Obama a third time while living on a latter-day plantation.  Of course, if a system is nefarious, it must be blown up, and the bricks and rubble must be redistributed to the politically favored, and anyone who opposes that—anyone who does not loudly and enthusiastically embrace the new dogma—must be a tool of white subjugation. This is the not so hermetic logic of most every blue-chip multinational, …

Should Critical Race Theory Be Banned in Public Schools?—a Conversation with Christopher F. Rufo

The creators and defenders of Critical Race Theory, or CRT is it’s often known, describe it as a legal and academic movement aimed at critically examining the many ways in which racism manifests, with a view toward pushing beyond traditionally liberal color-blind laws and solutions. It has been around since the 1970s, but in the wake of Black Lives Matter, CRT has suddenly become a lot more prominent in progressive activism and academia. And while many conservatives have pushed back on CRT throughout the years, basically accusing its champions of using postmodern language to justify reverse racism, no one has pushed back quite as hard as Christopher Rufo. As a speaker, media personality, web pundit, and now filmmaker, he has railed hard against CRT and called for efforts to ban its inclusion in public school curricula. Last year, when then President Donald Trump took action to block CRT-based training materials from being used in federal government agencies, it was because he’d seen Rufo appear on Fox News. Rufo has been so successful in getting his …

The Accomplishments of Black Conservative Thought

The line between moral and empirical claims is a tricky one for debaters. In his thoughtful Quillette essay, “The Limitations of Black Conservative Thought,” Aaron Hanna—like me, a professor of Political Science—critiques some of the more sweeping theoretical claims of America’s intellectual tradition of black conservatism. However, he does not rebut (or necessarily attempt to rebut) many more empirical points made recently by scholars like Thomas Sowell, Glenn Loury, and indeed myself. To a large extent, Hanna’s essay is a critical analysis of imperfect visions. He notes that the US black conservative tradition is often defined by two primary paradigms: Shelby Steele’s idea that an attraction to the idea of “victimhood” is thwarting black progress and Sowell’s idea that there are problems in “black culture” that limit competitiveness. Both men advocate personal responsibility and choice as the most reliable path to black advancement. In contrast to these visions, Hanna accurately notes, the dominant paradigm on the progressive Left is that oppression, or “systemic racism,” limits African American performance. Hanna’s essay identifies several flaws in all …

The Strange Rehabilitation of the Black Panther Party

Isn’t it a little late for the rehabilitation of the Black Panther Party (BPP)? After all, the organization that first caught the public’s attention in 1969 was already in its death throes by the early 1970s, beset by internal splits, criminal prosecutions, and violent faction-fighting. Yet, five decades later, the BPP is being energetically romanticized, its legacy is being whitewashed, and its leaders are being valorized in murals, documentaries, and major Hollywood productions that portray the movement and its leaders as revolutionary icons of righteous struggle. The most recent attempt to rehabilitate the BPP began in 2015, when Stanley Nelson’s hagiographic documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution received theatrical distribution, followed by a nationwide PBS broadcast the following year. Notwithstanding a devastating critique by Michael Moynihan in the Daily Beast, the film received a generally favorable critical reception from a credulous media class and was duly followed by further revisionist histories. The most recent and popular of these is Shaka King’s 2021 feature film, Judas and the Black Messiah. Daniel Kaluuya plays Fred …

Almost Four Decades After Its Birth, The Diversity Industry Thrives on Its Own Failures

Campus diversity advocates have pulled off their greatest coup to date: They have declared “diversity” to be a freestanding academic discipline, thus injecting their bureaucracy-heavy apparatus into the very heart of the academic enterprise. As of this month, Bentley University, a business-oriented liberal arts school in Waltham, Mass., will offer a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Sciences degree in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). By all accounts, this is the first undergraduate major dedicated to churning out more diversity bureaucrats and consultants. It will not be the last. The BA track in DEI studies will prepare students for non-profit and community-based work by focusing on “theoretical approaches to social justice,” according to Bentley. The “sciences” track emphasizes the “importance of DEI in organizational strategy,” for students heading into the private sector. Designing the new major was relatively easy, and would be easily replicable at other schools, its architects said. Bentley created just one new “foundational” course, while repackaging Bentley’s existing social justice-themed offerings under the DEI banner. “You may be surprised to find …

On Victimhood and Culture—A Reply to Aaron Hanna

It was a pleasure to read Aaron Hanna’s recent essay, “The Limitations of Black Conservative Thought.” It is magnificently reasoned, informed, and fair. Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell have rarely been engaged so constructively. The Right can be too deferential and fails to subject their work to proper scrutiny, while the Left either pretends they don’t exist or dismisses them out of hand. I am, predictably, inclined towards the views of both writers, but have always considered them too often revered or despised, rather than truly considered. Hanna raises important questions and, notwithstanding my profound admiration for both Steele and Sowell (Steele was my inspiration and is the reason I am writing this response rather than a linguistics article right now), neither has been especially eager to respond to his respective critics. They have their stories and they stick to them, and both have been around too long to engage much in social media, which has a way of making a race writer get down to specifics. Nevertheless, I do question two of Hanna’s criticisms. …

The Bias Narrative versus the Development Narrative: Thinking About Persistent Racial Inequality in the United States

Quillette invited author and Brown University professor of economics Glenn Loury to respond to Aaron Hanna’s recent critique of black conservatives. He replied: I read Hanna’s long piece. It is very thoughtful and provocative. You are to be commended for publishing it. [Thomas] Sowell and [Shelby] Steele can speak for themselves. I hope one or both elects to do so. As for my part (as a fellow-traveller with those black conservatives) here is my answer. Attached was a transcript of a talk Professor Loury delivered at Pepperdine University on June 5th, 2021. It is not a direct reply to Hanna’s essay but we are reprinting Loury’s remarks below to further discussion of this important and timely topic. A video of the talk is embedded for those who prefer to watch the speech rather than read it. The text has been lightly edited. *     *     * The power of the narrative Let me be as provocative as I can. I want to talk about the power of narratives to shape racial politics in this …

Standing Up to the Gender Ideologues: a Quillette Editorial

On June 23rd, Britain’s Royal Academy of Arts put out a carefully worded five-paragraph media statement regarding German-born textile artist Jess de Wahls. “We have apologised to Jess de Wahls for the way we have treated her and do so again publicly now,” read the RA communiqué. “We had no right to judge her views … This betrayed our most important core value—the protection of free speech.” The controverted speech in question was contained in a 2019 blog post, in which de Wahls wrote that “a woman is an adult human female (not an identity or feeling),” and that trans women are “biological males [who] choose to live as a woman, or believe they actually are women.” These are statements that almost every person knows to be true, but which have become unfashionable to say out loud in highly progressive subcultures. And so, when a handful of people raised a fuss about de Wahls’ work being sold in the RA gift shop, Academy officials not only purged de Wahl from their inventory earlier this month, …