All posts filed under: Politics

Against the Militancy of the French ‘Decolonial’ Movement

The following statement was published in Le Point on 28 November, 2018 and is reprinted here with their kind permission. Translation by Holly Haahr. The militant initiatives of the “decolonial” movement and its related associations1 are multiplying at the rate of several university and cultural events per month. These different groups are hosted in the most prestigious academic institutions,2 theatres and museums.3 One such example was the seminar “Gender, Nation, and Secularism,” hosted by the Maison des sciences de l’Homme at the beginning of October, which was presented with the racialist references “gender coloniality,” “white feminism,” “racialization,” and “gendered racial power” (i.e: the power exercised by “whites,” which is systematically prejudicial to the individuals they call “racialized”). However, while presenting themselves as progressive (anti-racists, decolonizers, feminists…), for the last several years these movements have been diverting their efforts away from individual emancipation and freedom in favor of objectives that are completely at odds with republican universalism: racialism, differentialism, and segregationism (according to skin color, sex, and religious practice). They go so far as to invoke feminism to legitimize …

The White Privilege of Being Black

On Tuesday, January 15, radio host David Webb interviewed civil rights attorney and CNN analyst Areva Martin on his Sirius XM show. Towards the end of their exchange, Martin accused Webb of having white privilege. Confused, Webb asked Martin to explain how he had come to have this privilege. “By virtue of being a white male,” Martin informed him irritably, “you have white privilege.” To which Webb replied, “I hate to break it to you, but I’m black.” . @SIRIUSXM Patriot Host @davidwebbshow mistakenly accused for his "White Privilege" by @CNN Analyst @ArevaMartin. pic.twitter.com/WPh6bXPbgy — SiriusXM Patriot (@SiriusXMPatriot) January 15, 2019 Much of the reaction to this incident has come from conservative outlets gleefully mocking the double jackpot of a prominent liberal embarrassing herself while attempting to espouse a political ideology they find absurd. I agree that it was funny, and I’m actually disappointed Webb didn’t allow Martin to dig herself an even deeper hole before revealing his hand. But the interview also reveals an obnoxious moral outlook that seems to be alarmingly widely held; not …

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. * …

The Case Against a Second EU Referendum

The possibility of a second referendum offers, to many, a tantalizing prospect of rescue from political deadlock. Since Parliament cannot decide on a deal and largely refuses to contemplate “No Deal,” this argument goes, we should allow the people to “choose” once more. Barrister Oliver Conolly has offered a well-written and thoughtful case for a second referendum here on Quillette, which acknowledges some of the flaws that advocates of this plan often ignore. Yet his analysis, in my view, suffers several major drawbacks. I will discuss these in loose categories, starting with the least important before broadening my analysis out to more substantive complaints. Bias The first category consists of examples of bias. To his credit, Conolly restricts his discussion to the official campaign groups in the 2016 referendum, rather than appealing to the excesses of the unofficial campaign groups. Yet he still maintains that the Leave campaign was more deceitful than Remain—a debatable proposition. Conolly also uses the loaded term “People’s Vote” throughout the article—not always in inverted commas. As numerous objectors have pointed …

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 West’s Betrayal of Iranian Dissidents

Next month, Ayatollah Khamenei’s theocracy will stage celebrations commemorating 40 years of revolutionary power. It will do so amidst widespread acts of civil disobedience, street protests, labor strikes, and ubiquitous resentment produced by a collapsed economy and grotesque corruption. Even prominent regime insiders are now openly proclaiming the emptiness of the regime’s authority, with critiques resembling late analysis from the Soviet nomenklatura as it was confronted by cascading legitimacy crises manifested by the primordial contradictions of an ideological state. When the Iranian people rose up against an authoritarian dictator four decades ago, they were rewarded with one of the most politically ruthless and socially backward totalitarian regimes the world has known. Falling for the siren song of populist Islamist rule, they failed to win the justice or the freedoms they had been demanding, and instead lost everything they had taken for granted under secular, modernizing rule: personal liberties, social progress, and economic opportunities that had birthed a middle class. South Korea and other countries economically inferior to Iran before the revolution are now towering over it, despite …

Glenn Greenwald’s Bad History

In a January 14 featured article at the Intercept, co-founder and radical journalist Glenn Greenwald rehearsed a stale leftwing talking point, most recently revived by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick in their Showtime documentary series, The Untold Story of the United States. For over 3500 laborious words, Greenwald recounts a shopworn tale of an allegedly illegitimate FBI investigation of a sitting U.S. government official. The FBI’s secret investigation of Vice-President Henry A. Wallace began during FDR’s third term, continued when Truman became president and made Wallace Secretary of Commerce, and throughout Wallace’s campaign for president on the pro-Communist ticket of the Progressive Party. And why did the Bureau decide to carry out this secret counter-intelligence operation? According to Greenwald: The FBI long suspected that Wallace harbored allegiances to the Kremlin and used his government positions to undermine what the FBI determined were “U.S. interests” for the benefit of Moscow and, as a result, subjected Wallace to extensive investigation and surveillance. Greenwald has brought all this up again in response to reports that the Bureau was investigating …

Gillette’s Progressive Politics: ‘Corinthian Leather’ for the Progressive Soul

My father was never a big fan of television—in part because his attention span always has been shorter than your average late-20th-century commercial break. He also would become exasperated by the nonsense claims made by advertisers. We now live in separate cities, so we don’t watch television together. But I can only imagine what his reaction would be to Gillette’s new commercial calling out toxic masculinity. Being a metallurgical engineer (as I, too, would later become), my father was especially irritated by ads for razors. In one well-known spot for the Vintage Stainless Steel Doubled-Edged Blade (this was before my time, but he often talked about it), an actor would be asked to compare a “Personna Stainless, seven shaves old” with another “well-known blade, brand new”—shaving half his face with each. The actor, of course, identifies the Personna as being the more comfortable of the pair. The announcer then hammers home the fact that the Personna prevailed despite being seven shaves old. But that fact was meaningless, my father would tell me (and others), because …

Enlightenment Wars: Some Reflections on ‘Enlightenment Now,’ One Year Later

You wouldn’t think that a defense of reason, science, and humanism would be particularly controversial in an era in which those ideals would seem to need all the help they can get. But in the words of a colleague, “You’ve made people’s heads explode!” Many people who have written to me about my 2018 book Enlightenment Now say they’ve been taken aback by the irate attacks from critics on both the right and the left. Far from embracing the beleaguered ideals of the Enlightenment, critics have blamed it for racism, imperialism, existential threats, and epidemics of loneliness, depression, and suicide. They have insisted that human progress can only be an illusion of cherry-picked data. They have proclaimed, with barely concealed schadenfreude, that the Enlightenment is an idea whose time has passed, soon to be killed off by authoritarian populism, social media, or artificial intelligence. This month’s publication of the paperback edition of EN in the US and UK is an occasion for me to weigh in on the controversies that have flared up in the year since …