All posts filed under: Review

On Its 70th Anniversary, Nineteen Eighty-Four Still Feels Important and Inspiring

Nineteen Eighty-Four is divided into three parts, the second of which is structured around Winston Smith’s love affair with Julia, a co-worker at the Ministry of Truth. Their romance begins with Smith offering Julia the sort of smooth talk that would send any woman’s heart aflutter: “I’m thirty-nine years old. I’ve got a wife that I can’t get rid of. I’ve got varicose veins. I’ve got five false teeth.” Moments later, he seals the deal by telling Julia that she’d always been in his thoughts. “I hated the first sight of you,” he tells her. “I wanted to rape you and then murder you afterwards. Two weeks ago, I thought seriously of smashing your head in with a cobblestone.” Naturally, Julia is seduced. Several pages later, Winston “pressed her down upon the grass, among the fallen bluebells.” It is a symptom of George Orwell’s genius that, taken in context, this sequence makes perfect sense. In his life, Orwell seems to have been somewhat mortified by the sex act. And one can almost see him squirming …

A Modest Defence of the Missionary Position

In our culture of sexual permissiveness, of free and open pornography, it might do well to occasionally remind ourselves that the missionary position remains the go-to for the vast majority of us. At a time when sexuality and gender are being hotly debated in the media, across campuses, high schools, and even primary schools (my grade three daughter recently expressed anxiety about feeling pressured to decide whether or not she was bi, or rather “B. I.,” as she called it), we sometimes forget that sex is also about actually having it. And for most of us, having it means that we’re going to be in the very ordinary missionary position, at least for a good portion of the time. It’s true that vanilla is rarely anyone’s favourite flavour, but nobody dislikes it. There is of course much to be said for all the other flavours. But there is something comfortable, something honest and homely about vanilla. Comfort food. As a woman, this is especially meaningful to me. In the post-#MeToo, third wave feminist climate, it …

Superior: The Return of Race Science—A Review

A review of Superior: The Return of Race Science by Angela Saini, Beacon Press, 256 pages (May, 2019) The races differ also in constitution, in acclimatisation, and in liability to certain diseases. Their mental characteristics are likewise very distinct… ~Charles Darwin, 1871, The Descent of Man Angela Saini’s new book, Superior, is a cautionary tale about the historical legacy, and putative return, of what she calls “race science.” As far as we can determine, there are four main theses running through the book: ‘Race’ is not a meaningful biological category Genes can only contribute to population differences on certain “superficial” traits Studying whether genes might contribute to population differences on non-superficial traits is tantamount to “scientific racism” Almost everyone interested in whether genes might contribute to population differences on these other traits is a “scientific racist” To be blunt, we disagree with all four of Saini’s main theses, as we shall explain in this article. (Note that since the book is quite poorly structured, and in some places contradictory, it is not always easy to …

It’s Not Your Imagination: The Journalists Writing About Antifa Are Often Their Cheerleaders

On February 1, 2017, Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to give a talk about free speech at the University of California, Berkeley. But he was prevented from speaking by a group of 150 or so masked, black-clad members of a then-obscure movement calling itself “Antifa.” The protestors caused $100,000 worth of damage to the campus and injured six people as they threw rocks and Molotov cocktails. Nine months later, again at Berkeley, an “anti-Marxist” rally descended into violence as approximately 100 masked Antifa members harassed journalists and beat rally organizers and attendees. Berkeley was where Antifa rose to national attention, but it hasn’t been the only place where the group has engaged in sustained acts of violence. At a Washington, D.C. Unite the Right rally in August 2018, Antifa members hurled objects at police and assaulted journalists. In Portland, Oregon, violent street clashes involving Antifa have become regular events. Notwithstanding claims that Antifa is a peaceful, “anti-fascist community-defense group,” it has adopted tactics that often are more violent than those of the right-wing movements that the …

Bukowski: Recommended Reading for the Damned

There is enough treachery, hatred, violence, Absurdity in the average human being To supply any given army on any given day. So begins one of Charles Bukowski’s most iconic poems, “The Genius of the Crowd.” Even though it was first published in 1966, it seems particularly poignant in our era of outrage. BEWARE THE PREACHERS Beware The Knowers. […] BEWARE Those Quick To Censure: They Are Afraid Of What They Do Not Know Bukowski, born in 1920 in Andernach, Germany to a German-American father and German mother, moved to Los Angeles when he was two years old and would live there for the rest of his life. Although his novel Ham on Rye, an autobiographical account of his abusive childhood, is an American masterpiece, and his short story, “The Most Beautiful Woman in Town,” a sad tale about a woman who gashes her face to make herself less beautiful, is comparable to anything Hemingway or Cheever wrote, it was in poetry where Bukowski’s strength really lay. Bukowski died 25 years ago. Were he still alive, …

Tolkien—A Review

Alas, poor Tolkien the movie. The adjective “tepid” most accurately describes the critical response to this biopic, reverently directed by Dome Karukoski, which explores the early years of the author of The Hobbit (1937), the Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954–1955), and countless other works of medievalist fantasy. The idea behind Tolkien is that nearly every key theme in these novels had its origins in some episode of the young John Ronald Reuel Tolkien’s life, first at the prestigious King Edward’s boys’ school in Birmingham (where, as the gifted son of a cultivated but impoverished widow, he had a scholarship), then at Oxford University (another scholarship), and above all, in the trenches of the Somme, where he was posted as a second lieutenant in 1916 and had ample opportunity to experience all the horrors of World War I before succumbing to trench fever carried by the lice that infested the cramped and filthy bunkers. Thus, Tolkien, presented as a series of flashbacks playing inside the brain of the fever-stricken junior officer, trades heavily in one-on-one …

What Does Teaching ‘White Privilege’ Actually Accomplish? Not What You Might Think (Or Hope)

I recently attended a Washington-D.C. event focused on community-building hosted by The Aspen Institute’s Weave project, which works to reduce social isolation and build bonds between Americans. During one portion of the event, various activists described how racism had impacted their lives and their communities. Following a number of such testimonials, a white woman from southeast Ohio named Sarah Adkins spoke about her own community work, which involves raising money to provide post-trauma support to individuals affected by tragedies. Perhaps because several speakers had discussed racism and issues related to white privilege, Adkins spoke about her own self-perceived racial privilege. “I followed the perfect mold…I did all the things, I went to college, and I keep thinking of white privilege in my head so forgive me, that’s what’s in my head right now, very much white privilege,” she said, while reflecting on her middle class life in an affluent neighborhood. But Adkins also went on to describe the reason she originally had become involved in community work—which is that her then-husband had killed both of …

Rethinking Abortion Advocacy

Last Tuesday, the Governor of Alabama signed the most restrictive anti-abortion bill in America into law. The new law bans abortions even in the case of rape and makes performing an abortion a Class A felony, punishable by up to 99 years in prison. Despite the low probability of this law going into effect, it has provoked a slew of commentary from both sides of the aisle. To call it “commentary,” however, suggests that people are engaging in thoughtful attempts to persuade one another. In reality, the abortion debate has had all the intellectual rigor and emotional maturity of a pissing contest. In an effort to be part of the solution, I’d like to explain why I’m pro-choice. Without doubt, my position will put me at odds with pro-lifers. But it will also put me at odds with many pro-choicers. Indeed, part of the reason I feel motivated to defend my position is because of how unpersuasive I find the central argument of the pro-choice movement. It’s painful to watch a movement use bad reasons …

At Australian Ballot Boxes, the Left’s Empathy Deficit Came Home to Roost

The result of Saturday’s federal election in Australia is being treated as the most staggering political shocker in my country since World War II. Scott Morrison, leading the Liberal Party, looks to have won a majority government—a result that defies three years of opinion polling, bookie’s odds and media commentary. In the aftermath, analysts on both sides are trying to explain what went wrong for the centre-left Australian Labor Party, and what went right for the centre-right Liberals. Some attribute the result to Morrison’s personal likeability, and his successful targeting of the “quiet Australian” demographic—the silent majority whose members feel they rarely have a voice, except at the ballot box. Others cast the result as Australia’s Hilary-Clinton moment: Bill Shorten, who resigned following Saturday’s loss, was, like Clinton, an unpopular political insider who generated little enthusiasm among his party’s traditional constituencies. In 2010 and again in 2013, he roiled the Labor Party by supporting two separate internal coups, machinations that cast him as a self-promoter instead of a team player. The swing against Labor was …

Identity, Islam, and the Twilight of Liberal Values—A Review

A review of Identity, Islam, and the Twilight of Liberal Values by Terri Murray, Cambridge Scholars, 212 pages (Dec. 2018) After the collapse of the totalitarian Communist regimes in 1989-91, Francis Fukuyama famously wrote in The End of History and the Last Man that “we may have reached the end of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of government.” Terri Murray begins Identity, Islam and the Twilight of Liberal Values by arguing that Fukuyama’s optimism was premature, because the rise of religious fundamentalism—especially radical Islam—has become a powerful bulwark against the spread of liberal democracy. Rather than exposing and opposing the damage done by Islamism in the West, soi disant liberals, leftists, and progressives have acted as its supporters and cheerleaders. Murray instead labels them as “pseudo-liberals” and the “regressive Left” as a result of their abandonment of bedrock liberal principles, and progressive and secular values. Murray aims to diagnose the ways in which European and American social liberalism has been eroded in the post-9/11 era, asserting …