All posts filed under: Culture Wars

The Plight of Pitch Wars

Allow me to preface this by saying I’m not a journalist, nor have I ever aspired to be one. I’ve always wanted to write fiction, which is what I currently do. I won’t get specific about genre and category or my publication status. For the purposes of this story, it doesn’t matter. I also won’t go into the difficulties an aspiring writer must face on the road to publication: there’s nothing you haven’t heard before. Yes, agents’ inboxes are flooded with manuscripts of varying levels of mediocrity, yes, getting noticed is nigh-impossible, yes, you’re competing for the attention of what used to be the reading public but is now the Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/YouTube/Netflix public. Writing fiction isn’t a domain you go to for easy cash. With that in mind, you’d be crazy to even try—and yet try we do, continuously, sometimes for decades, sometimes without ever seeing results. So it’s no wonder that, in order to vent, commiserate, and share experiences, fiction writers tend to gather in online communities. Back in the LiveJournal days, I used to …

Twelve Scholars Respond to the APA’s Guidance for Treating Men and Boys

Introduction — John P. Wright, Ph.D. John Paul Wright is a professor of criminal justice at the University of Cincinnati. He has published widely on the causes and correlates of human violence. His current work examines how ideology affects scholarship. Follow him on Twitter @cjprofman. Thirteen years in the making, the American Psychological Association (APA) released the newly drafted “Guidelines for Psychological Practice for Boys and Men.” Backed by 40 years of science, the APA claims, the guidelines boldly pronounce that “traditional masculinity” is the cause and consequence of men’s mental health concerns. Masculine stoicism, the APA tells us, prevents men from seeking treatment when in need, while beliefs rooted in “masculine ideology” perpetuate men’s worst behaviors—including sexual harassment and rape. Masculine ideology, itself a byproduct of the “patriarchy,” benefits men and simultaneously victimizes them, the guidelines explain. Thus, the APA committee advises therapists that men need to become allies to feminism. “Change men,” an author of the report stated, “and we can change the world.” But if the reaction to the APA’s guidelines is …

The Dangers of Defining Deviancy Up

In 1993, then-Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan published an essay entitled “Defining Deviancy Down,” in which he argued that understanding the shift towards more permissive attitudes regarding crime and violence is crucial to their reduction. Specifically, he asserted that the redefinition of norms around deviant behavior (or “defining deviancy down”) had collectively shaped society in unintended ways, resulting in a desensitization to what might have once been considered shocking. By way of illustration, Moynihan referenced the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago—the notorious gangland execution of seven men committed during the prohibition era. He reminded his readers that those killings had elicited universal public outrage, and then contrasted that reaction with a contemporary example: “On the morning after the close of the [1992] Democratic National Convention in New York City in July,” he wrote, a headline reported “3 Slain in Bronx Apartment, but a Baby is Saved…A mother’s last act was to hide her little girl under the bed.” These were also execution-style killings, but they were greeted with only a barely discernible nod of …

Quand le ‘Bye Bye’ Éloigne les Deux Solitudes

The French language article that follows, co-published with La Presse, has been adapted by the author from his January 17 Quillette essay, Why Quebec Isn’t Interested in Anglo Lectures About Cultural Appropriation.  * * * “What does Quebec want?” La question a hanté le Canada pendant des décennies, particulièrement durant la période d’effervescence nationaliste des années 60. La population anglophone du pays cherchait alors à comprendre la “différence québécoise,” à percer le mystère de ces curieux francophones qui ne voulaient plus se faire appeler Canadiens français. Une cinquantaine d’années plus tard, le contexte a complètement changé. La souveraineté a été laissée de côté. Les grandes revendications constitutionnelles ont disparu des manchettes. Et le gouvernement est dirigé par un parti fédéraliste…qui fait face à une opposition officielle fédéraliste. Et pourtant, le Québec continue malgré tout de faire entendre sa différence haut et fort. On pourrait même dire que certains débats actuels font ressortir avec encore plus d’acuité le caractère véritablement distinct du Québec, à commencer par celui qui fait régulièrement les manchettes ces temps-ci : l’appropriation culturelle. * …

Truth and Disfavored Identities

In public discourse, an opponent’s identity and experience can matter more than their arguments. For instance, if you are a philosopher who supports the use of torture in a narrow set of circumstances on utilitarian grounds, you would not want to find yourself debating the ethics of such a position with a victim of torture. The optics of such a debate would be horrible, and in the minds of many observers they would place the philosopher at a decisive disadvantage no matter how careful or well defended his arguments happened to be. In the same way, whole groups of people consigned to the bottom of the identity politics grievance hierarchy are saddled with a similar handicap, often in situations far less contentious than the debate over torture. On Saturday in Washington DC, a group of Catholic school kids fell victim to this presumptive logic. The progressive media ran with a story that confirmed their intersectional priors and, in the process, damaged their credibility, established an unsustainable precedent, and unwittingly affirmed President Trump’s demagogic “Fake News” …

The Posthumous #MeToo-ing of J. D. Salinger

The first day of this year would have been the 100th birthday of J.D. Salinger, the American writer whose 1951 novel of teenage rebellion, The Catcher in the Rye, mesmerized generations and made him a cult figure. The Salinger legend was only enhanced by his reclusive life in rural New Hampshire, where he shunned interviewers and photographers and continued to write but published nothing from 1965 until his death in 2010. Given both Salinger’s literary stature and his mythic aura, the centennial should have been a big deal. And yet it went by almost unremarked—a startling fact that almost certainly has more to do with the cultural and sexual politics of this moment than with Salinger’s place in literature. It is telling that the most prominent essay on Salinger to appear in the American media so far in 2019 has been a Washington Post piece questioning whether the writer is still relevant, given that his best-known work focuses on “the anxieties of a white heterosexual young man expelled from an expensive prep school.” (By that …

A Glimpse Into the Ideological Monoculture of Literary New York

In the Spring of 2016, I fell into a conversation with my brother about how automation and artificial intelligence were making many forms of human labor obsolete. It wasn’t just an economic problem, I observed: Without meaningful work to do, a lot of us would fall victim to boredom and vice. My brother, an oncologist, countered that people would simply have to work harder to cultivate the diminishing number of jobs that machines couldn’t do. When he cited his own occupation as an example, I pointed out that in 20 years, AI-enabled computers might be able to make better medical decisions than he could. (In some areas of medicine, this is already happening.) He disagreed. But out of our discussion came my idea for a soon-to-published novel, set in 2036, about Henri, a wealthy doctor at risk of having his job taken by a robot. As Quillette writer Gabriel Scorgie noted recently, it’s become difficult for beginning writers to get book contracts. But I dove in, nonetheless. At the time, I was living in Albuquerque, …

Trans Activists’ Campaign Against ‘TERFs’ has Become an Attack on Science

In a recent article for Forbes, “The Vaccination Debacle,” I discussed the frightening rise in the number of European measles cases. The reason for the spike is simple: Fed a daily online diet of nonsense and ideologically motivated activism, many people have come to reject mainstream medical science—including the science behind vaccinations. You’d think that “get vaccinated” would be a relatively straightforward message. But in the days following the article’s publication, I received a good dozen emails from doctors thanking me for writing the piece, and describing how difficult it has become to convince some patients that their local paediatrician isn’t part of an international conspiracy. But at least the effort to push back against anti-vaccination conspiracy theories is seen as a respectable form of discourse. In other spheres, it’s not so easy to speak common sense. Consider, for instance, last year’s saga involving Rebecca Tuvel—who was hounded by trans activists and scholars after applying a theoretical application of transgender ideology to the idea of “trans-racialism.” Scandalously, the article in question was edited post facto …

How An Anonymous Accusation Derailed My Life

In early October, 2017, following the emergence of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, a writer and activist living in Brooklyn named Moira Donegan created a Google Doc entitled “Shitty Media Men.” She sent it to female friends working in media and encouraged them to add to it and forward it on. The idea was to spread the word about predatory men in the business so that women would be forewarned. Anyone with access to the link could edit and add to the list. At the top of the spreadsheet were the following instructions: “Log out of gmail in order to edit anonymously, never name an accuser, never share the document with any men.” In the first column was this disclaimer: “This document is only a collection of misconduct allegations and rumors. Take everything with a grain of salt.” Nobody did. The list had only been live for 12 hours when word reached Donegan that Buzzfeed were preparing to publish a story about it. She immediately closed it down. By that time, there were already 74 entries. …

“Dear Millennial….”

Dear Millennial, I am a 60-year-old white male without a college education. Make of that information what you will. I can lay no claim to be the least racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic person you’ve ever met, but I do try to treat people—regardless of their creed, color, gender, orientation, etc.—the way I’d like to be treated. And, to be honest, I probably deserve some of the scorn I often see heaped onto working-class white male Boomers without a college degree. I haven’t been smart with my money. I work in a low-paying service-sector job. I’ve eaten more red meat and rich desserts than is good for anyone, and I like things that every enlightened individual knows are awful: the Eagles, pork chops with mint jelly, the paintings of Bob Ross, Jerry Lewis movies, Billy Joel, cargo shorts, TV shows like Blue Bloods and Castle and Two and a Half Men. Nevertheless, I am writing to ask you to go easy on me and on my formative cultural influences. The reason for this letter is, …