All posts filed under: Politics

‘Against Democracy’—A Review

A Review of Against Democracy by Jason Brennan. Princeton University Press (September 2016) 304 pages.  Many voters can find democracy exasperating, particularly when watching the TV on the night of an election which hasn’t gone their way. But most would still likely endorse Winston Churchill’s observation that “democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” (Unlike most of the quotes attributed to Churchill he actually said this, in the House of Commons on November 11th, 1947, but he didn’t claim it was original to him.) Few citizens in a democracy want to delimit or do away with their democratic institutions entirely, and most are genuinely grateful that they do not live in an undemocratic state. Georgetown professor Jason Brennan dissents from this prevailing view. In Against Democracy, he argues in an engaging and witty fashion that we would, in fact, be better off ditching (or at least seriously curtailing) democracy. The book pre-dates the Brexit referendum and the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, so …

Christopher Hitchens, Anti-Identitarian

The Hitchens Prize is an annual award sponsored by the Dennis & Victoria Ross Foundation, named for the late polemicist and essayist Christopher Hitchens and presented to “an author or journalist whose work reflects a commitment to free expression and inquiry.” George Packer was this year’s recipient, and his acceptance speech examined a strange pathology of our time: “Writers are now expected to identify with a community and to write as its representatives.” While the community “might be a political faction, an ethnicity or a sexuality, a literary clique,” the effect is always the same: to enforce certain dogmas; to loudly declare your virtuous affiliations; to suppress independent thought. Hitchens, like Packer, was a great admirer of George Orwell (the former wrote a book in 2002 called Why Orwell Matters, while the latter edited two volumes of Orwell essays). In his 1946 essay “The Prevention of Literature,” Orwell observed: “To write in plain, vigorous language one has to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly one cannot be politically orthodox.” Hitchens thought fearlessly. As Martin Amis put it, he liked “the …

‘Systemic Racism’—An Unhelpful Concept

Is racism an individual or systemic problem? Traditionally, racism was broadly recognized as an interpersonal phenomenon: reflexive antipathy towards an identifiable “other,” supported by the negative cultural tropes and stereotypes used to inflame resentment and justify discrimination. This was the definition used by history’s most prominent anti-racist figures, from Frederick Douglass through W.E.B. Du Bois to James Baldwin, in their scathing critiques of slavery and Jim Crow. In this telling, racism is a disposition informing the beliefs and behavior of the people who operate society’s structures and institutions. It is a bottom-up process and ultimately exacts untold harms on both oppressor and oppressed. Yet this definition has undergone a phase transition in modern progressive discourse. Rather than an emergent psycho-social phenomenon, racism today is usually understood by theorists, analysts, and activists in structural and institutional terms that don’t require the prevalence of individual racist attitudes to explain recurrent disparities between racial groups. Bestselling author Ibram X Kendi is one of a number of contemporary writers who exemplifies this outlook: “‘Racist policy’ says exactly what the …

Trailblazing Pete Buttigieg Revealed the Extent of ‘Progressive’ Homophobia

On Sunday evening, Pete Buttigieg announced that he was ending his campaign to become the Democratic nominee for the U.S. presidency. The former South Bend, Indiana mayor made history as the country’s first openly gay politician to become a legitimate presidential contender. In the Iowa caucuses last month, he bested every other candidate, and came a close second to frontrunner Bernie Sanders in the subsequent New Hampshire primary. As a gay conservative journalist covering the 2020 campaign from Washington, D.C., I’ve followed Buttigieg’s campaign with special interest. Over my lifetime, I’ve certainly seen my share of traditional right-wing homophobia. And so I never imagined that when a gay man finally had a legitimate shot at becoming president, the loudest attacks on his identity would come not from the Right, but from the Left. While Buttigieg’s politics, qualifications, record and platform all were open to good-faith criticism, many of the “woke” progressive journalists and activists who opposed his candidacy went beyond this, and resorted to personal attacks that blurred into outright bigotry. Yes, there were some …

As Erdoğan Weaponizes Turkey’s Migrants, Greece Pays the Price

Thousands of migrants and refugees have massed at the Greek-Turkish border, attempting to pass into Europe. Europe got a first test of what it would look like if Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan makes good on his February 28th declaration to open the floodgates and deluge the EU with a new wave of asylum seekers. Last week, Turkish forces suffered heavy military losses in Syria, where Erdoğan has been pursuing an increasingly aggressive policy. He now is looking for a ceasefire in Idlib, site of the latest Turkish intervention and the last significant outpost of resistance to Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime. Erdoğan’s announcement regarding asylum-seekers seemed aimed not only at pressuring other countries to support his shifting war aims, but also at diverting attention away from a Syrian military quagmire into which Erdoğan recently poured 7,000 fresh troops. In a brazen attempt to weaponize the migrant crisis, the country’s officials have begun providing free transport to thousands of refugees seeking entry into Greece. Lest anyone miss the message, Friday’s mini-exodus was broadcast live on Turkish …

Scandinavian Airlines: Get Woke, Cry Wolf

What is truly Scandinavian? Absolutely nothing. Everything is copied.  This was the slogan contained in a bizarre ad campaign broadcast earlier this month by Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), the largest airline in Scandinavia and the flag carrier of Norway, Denmark and Sweden. The ad was posted on YouTube, but was quickly edited and reposted after being flooded with bad reviews. The message, in short: Nothing is genuinely Scandinavian. Be it meatballs or paternity leave, everything comes from other countries. While the Dutch, Germans and Americans have all made innovations, ours is “nada, niente,” the ad emphasizes. Then follows the unobjectionable cliché message that Scandinavian culture has been enriched by travel and cross-cultural influences. The edited ad. The original version is no longer available online.  For the past two weeks, SAS has faced a wave of criticism, ranging from ordinary Twitter users and opinion writers to leading politicians. Social media has been full of comments from people who vow never to fly with the company again—their own flag-carrier, 29 percent of which is owned by the Danish …

How the Trans Pledge Damaged the Labour Party

Is political correctness just a storm in a campus teacup? Not if its effects ripple through the concrete structures of society, leading to major consequences. Consider PC’s effect on the electoral fortunes of the mainstream Left. Centre-left parties are struggling across the West, and one reason is their “cultural turn” away from economic issues toward the politics of identity. Yet their inability to adapt to electoral realities is not just ideological, but exacerbated by a political correctness which hands radical activists the ability to silence dissent. This stymies efforts to move to the centre on cultural issues, leads to a doubling down on progressive stances, and powers ideological purity spirals. The result, as we shall see, leaves swing voters feeling cold. In the US, centre-left commentator Noah Smith argues that the “woke” Democratic candidates–Beto O’Rourke, Kirsten Gillibrand, Julian Castro, even Kamala Harris–did poorly in the primary, flaming out relatively early. Only Elizabeth Warren remains, and her performance in the polls has been lacklustre. Whether wokeness is strong enough to shackle frontrunners like Bernie Sanders, and …

The Two Middle Classes

Politicians across the Western world like to speak fondly of the “middle class” as if it is one large constituency with common interests and aspirations. But, as Karl Marx observed, the middle class has always been divided by sources of wealth and worldview. Today, it is split into two distinct, and often opposing, middle classes. First there is the yeomanry or the traditional middle class, which consists of small business owners, minor landowners, craftspeople, and artisans, or what we would define historically as the bourgeoisie, or the old French Third Estate, deeply embedded in the private economy. The other middle class, now in ascendency, is the clerisy, a group that makes its living largely in quasi-public institutions, notably universities, media, the non-profit world, and the upper bureaucracy. Standing between the oligarchs, who now own as much as 50 percent of the world’s assets, and the growing population of propertyless serfs, the traditional middle class increasingly struggles for survival against those with the greatest access to capital and political power. The power of this modern-day equivalent …

An Alternative Feminist Perspective on Abortion

Having studied law and worked on the U.S. east coast for three years, I was well prepared for the long-delayed debate about abortion in my native country, Argentina, when it began in March 2018. However, it did not unfold as I expected. Abortion is a crime under Argentine law, except in cases of rape or life/health threatening pregnancies (See Section 86 of the Argentine Criminal Code). Nevertheless, in practice, there are significant differences in how abortion is treated across the country—in some jurisdictions, a woman may find it hard to undergo an abortion in those circumstances exempted by the Criminal Code, while in others, any woman asking for help with an unwanted pregnancy at a public hospital will be advised to declare that it was the result of non-consensual sex or to submit a doctor’s certificate stating that it threatens her mental or “social” health, thereby making her eligible for a free abortion provided by the state. In Argentina, the debate about abortion divides the population, so I expected the discussion to address its philosophical …

How Anonymous, Unproven Accusations Turned Mike Tunison’s Career Into MeToo Road Kill

Mike Tunison has become the latest writer to go public with details of life among The Canceled. In a newly published essay, the Washington-Post-journalist-turned-restaurant-janitor explains what it’s like to go through the #MeToo false-accusation meat grinder and come out the other side with your career reduced to tiny shards. His friends and colleagues abandoned him, and he was unable to earn an income in his field—all thanks to writer Moira Donegan’s “Shitty Men in Media” list, a crowdsourced database that became a forum for anonymous, unproven allegations in 2017: Almost immediately after its release, a close friend of 10 years cut me off and hasn’t spoken to me since, even after I reached out to him. Day after day, I’m tortured by the thought that even more people will learn of the allegations or that I’ll be unexpectedly attacked for them online. Too often, I’ve found myself hanging out with friends as the discussion turned to celebrities being MeToo’d, and been incapable of revealing what happened to me. Sooner or later, I’ve feared, they’ll know, …