All posts filed under: Regressive Left

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. The former Philadelphia poet laureate had recently admitted on Facebook that he’d played in a racist skinhead band as a poor and misguided teenager back in the late 1980s, after he was outed by another poet. Sherlock 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 …

Prescriptive Racialism and Racial Exclusion

The crowd outside the auditorium was growing larger and louder. Controversy had arisen over the “Panel on Religious Extremism in the Middle East” that I had organized at my University. A petition to cancel the event in the wake of the horrific New Zealand massacre had been circulated among the student body during the previous week, forcing my co-organizers and me to defend ourselves against accusations of Islamophobia. Months of work had gone into the event, and I had even managed to secure funding for the speakers, on the condition that the event went ahead. At that moment, it looked like I was going to fail. The Students for Democratic Society were protesting and they spooked the president of College Republicans who was now considering cancelling it. Finally, one of our panellists—an Imam—managed to persuade the College Republican president to go ahead. Despite the constant heckling during the speakers’ remarks and the Q&A session that followed, the event did finally proceed more or less as planned. The panel and I addressed the New Zealand atrocity and explicitly …

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 …

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 …

Resolving the Venezuela Crisis: Is There a Case for Outside Military Intervention?

For the past four years, in plain sight of the world’s media, and just a few hours by plane from the world’s most powerful democracy, a criminal regime has been inflicting a humanitarian catastrophe on its own people, provoking widespread hunger and impoverishment, the spread of disease and death, and an exodus of Biblical proportions to neighboring countries that threatens regional stability. The national health system has collapsed, fostering the outbreak of infectious diseases, which, given the flight of millions of the country’s citizens abroad, poses a growing health risk to the continent. (Polio, long ago eradicated in the country, has returned.)  The same regime’s most senior members (as well as those of lower rank) have been credibly accused of narcotics trafficking and personally profiting therefrom. Even relatives of the president have been involved and given long prison sentences. The regime also commands a police force implicated not only in the drug trade, but in kidnapping, extortion, and corruption. Not surprisingly, the population it is supposed to protect is left subject to the highest homicide …

Suspicion and the Corruption of the Liberal Mind

What is the difference between leftists and cannibals? Cannibals don’t eat their friends. ~attributed to Lyndon Johnson I am liberal to my core and like many liberals I’ve become increasingly disturbed by the escalation of totalitarian impulses on the Left. For the past six years I’ve been exploring the phenomenon and teasing out its underlying dynamics. While many writers and thinkers have been going head-to-head with extremists and confronting their ideological inconsistencies, the book I’ve found most helpful is Rita Felski’s The Limits of Critique (University of Chicago Press, 2015). Unlike other writers, Felski approaches the dynamic obliquely and her foundational point is more subtle. How we feel is almost always the first signal we have about the nature of our surroundings. For example, all of us have had the experience of walking into restaurant with a friend; all of us engage in some form of the following when we do: We stop just inside, pause a moment, and get a feel for the place. And every one of us has, at one time or another, …

Devastation and Denial: Cambodia and the Academic Left

Looking out across the yellow-washed angular buildings that clutter the inner city of Phnom Penh in 2016, hindsight fills me with anxiety. Imagining myself here in 1975, I recall the jubilant and cheering crowds in the spring of that year who weren’t privy to that hindsight as they welcomed Khmer Rouge communists into Cambodia’s capital city after months of siege. On the morning of 17 April, word had arrived that the Khmer Rouge had captured the government’s last beleaguered military stronghold on the outskirts of the city. Prime Minister Long Boret could hardly believe the news. He demanded to be driven to the riverside to see it with his own eyes. By the time he arrived, order had already collapsed in the streets and men wearing the black shirts of the Khmer Rouge surrounded his small entourage and demanded his guards put down their guns. Managing to slip away in the chaos, Boret reported back to his cabinet at the Defence Ministry that the enemy was already in the streets. The rush then began to …

Weighing the Threats to American Democracy

In recent years, there has been a tendency among many to present liberal democracy in the United States as being under threat from the actions of the right, yet little or no attention is given to the actions of the regressive left, which has also engaged in behavior hostile to democratic norms such as free speech, due process, and equal rights. One prominent intellectual who is an exception is Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, who in his new book Enlightenment Now recognizes that “a faction of academic culture composed of hard-left faculty, student activists, and an autonomous diversity bureaucracy (pejoratively called social justice warriors) has become aggressively illiberal.”1 However, Pinker goes on to claim that the regressive left is a lesser threat because it does not hold power in government, apparently viewing it as largely contained to academia: Of the two forms of politicization that are subverting reason today, the political is far more dangerous than the academic, for an obvious reason. It’s often quipped (no one knows who said it first) that academic debates are …

In Defence of Jordan B. Peterson

A few days ago, Canadian author and English professor Ira Wells published an essay expressing concern about popular Canadian psychology professor and social critic Jordan B. Peterson. The essay was written in the wake of an incident at Canadian university Wilfred Laurier, where a teaching assistant was reprimanded for playing a short clip of a televised Peterson debate over the compelled use of gender pronouns. (I analysed the incident in Quillette last week.) Regrettably, Wells’s essay is littered with inaccuracies and casual insults, accompanied by a moralistic undertone that is sure to turn off Peterson’s supporters, and perhaps even neutral observers. Nevertheless, I think he succeeds in condensing many of the common criticisms of Peterson, which makes the essay worth responding to as the foundation for a genuine debate of these issues. I suggest reading it if you haven’t already done so. Wells’s main criticisms, as I understand them, are as follows: Peterson is celebrated in the news media as a champion of free speech and liberal, democratic values, while in fact promoting a far-right …

Wilfrid Laurier and the Creep of Critical Theory

The social justice movement is known for routinely staging demonstrations, shouting down (and shutting down) speakers, and issuing demands. More significantly, however, its ideas and terminology have become part of the fabric of university culture. As psychologist Jonathan Haidt said in an interview earlier this year: This is all so new. There’s been, I believe, a kind of a moral revolution, a new moral culture emerging on campus but it really is only in the last two years. If any of your viewers graduated from college in 2013, they probably haven’t seen it. … [I]t’s organized around victims of oppression, it’s a vertical metaphor of privileged and oppressor people, and victims. This idea that everything is power. To make way for this moral revolution, values that historically have defined secular universities are increasingly being swept aside. The most recent example is perhaps the most chilling. Lindsay Shepherd, a young teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, was reprimanded for screening a five-minute clip from a televised debate on public education channel TVOntario between …