Carol Manigault, RIP

I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing a few days ago of Carol Manigault, Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Felician University. Carol was a dear friend, and one of the very few people I would see in Kirby Hall either “after hours” or on the weekend–there for the same reason as I was, out of a preference for working at the office rather than working at home. I sometimes wondered whether the explanation for that preference was the same in Carol’s case as in mine–a reluctance to go home from the sense that home was better avoided than inhabited. Continue reading

What’s Wrong with “Cancel Culture,” Again? “A Case Study”

“Case study” is a bit grand for what follows, but this post was originally a comment I wrote a few days ago on an article in The New York Times. It was buried in the comments of the discussion about Kevin Vallier’s views on cancel culture, but I thought I’d pluck it out and post it here for better visibility. I’ve re-written the comment a bit, partly for clarity and partly for explicitness.

I guess my questions for critics of cancellation/cancel culture are these:

  • Is Thompson’s action objectionable? If so, how?
  • Is Thompson’s action a cancellation? If not, why not?

As far as I’m concerned, Thompson’s action is unobjectionable. I don’t like the term “cancellation,” but if we stipulate that we must use it, I feel no compunction (given the imprecision of the concept) in using it here. Since things like Thompson’s quit happen all the time, I regard such “cancellations” as entirely justified. I don’t know if this story is representative of what anti-cancellation types regard as a real cancellation, but part of the problem is that they haven’t explained themselves very well on that score. And considering the ridiculous-idiosyncratic-obscure origins of the concept, I would say that they owe us some precision before warning us against the supposed activity to which it refers. Continue reading

Imagine All the People

When Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election, there were people out there who were absolutely certain that the explanation was sexism: the American people couldn’t (they insisted) handle the idea of a female president, and voted accordingly. You couldn’t get such people to consider the possibility that maybe Hillary Clinton lost the election because she was a complacent, uninspiring candidate. Continue reading

Cancel Culture Blues: The Strange Case of Steven Wilson

I need to stop reading stories like this, because if I do, I’m in danger of lapsing into Michael Young’s running dog reactionary views on cancel culture.* I’m still a big fan of cancellation as an idea, but if this is what “cancel culture” is going to be, then my thought is: leave me the hell out of it. But this isn’t what cancel culture has to be. We have a choice about what form it will take.

[Steven] Wilson was the chief executive of Ascend, the consortium of central Brooklyn charter schools he built, beginning with plans devised on his dining room table in 2007.

But Mr. Wilson was effectively barred from celebrating with his students.

Several weeks earlier, he had written a blog post embracing the values of a classical education; some younger members of his staff perceived it as racially traumatizing. Others found it simply tone-deaf. He was in a kind of purgatory, still employed by Ascend but taken out of its day-to-day operation.

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MLK: “Believe Women,” Rape, and the Worst-Case Scenario

Yesterday, I wrote a post arguing that the supposedly woke slogan “Believe Women” has some odd implications for the recent Sanders-Warren controversy. It implies that we should believe Elizabeth Warren’s accusation that Sanders is a sexist, or at least presume his guilt until he can conclusively prove his innocence. Because I take this consequence to be a reductio, I take “Believe Women” to be an absurdity. Put charitably, the original, unqualified version of the slogan has to be modified. Put uncharitably, it has to be rejected. To split the difference, it requires a bit of both. Continue reading

Notes on the Jersey City Shooting (2)

In an earlier post, I took issue with the widespread but premature tendency to “link” the recent Jersey City shooting to the Black Hebrew Israelite (or Black Israelite) movement. From what I’ve read, the tendency takes the form of inflating the shooters’ interest in the group into a “link to” the group (suggesting something like membership), the implication being that the group’s ideology helps explain the shooters’ motivations, hence explains the shooting (suggesting something like complicity by the group itself).

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Reparations Revisited

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post arguing that Nozickian libertarianism entails reparations.* The reparations in question follow from Nozick’s “principle of compensation,” which offers compensation for what Nozick calls “preventive restraints,” that is, coercive restrictions on individuals imposed in order to lessen the risk that they will violate others’ rights. So-called Terry stops are a paradigmatic example of a preventive restraint in Nozick’s sense (I argued), so that those on the receiving end of them would on Nozick’s view be owed compensation. If we assume (ex hypothesi, but still plausibly) that young black men (or black people generally) are disproportionately on the receiving end of preventive restraints, then young black men (or blacks generally) would disproportionately receive Nozickian compensation. That compensation, I suggested, is a form of what’s commonly called “reparations.” Continue reading

The More You Suppress Him, the Larger He Get

I have in the past criticized the U.S. government’s decision to bar Tariq Ramadan’s entry into this country on ideological grounds (26 page PDF). This isn’t because I have any admiration for Ramadan, to put it mildly, but because I don’t think that decisions to allow entry into a country should be made on ideological grounds. Genuine security concerns are one thing; ideological objections are another. The distinction isn’t that hard to draw, and shouldn’t be that hard to respect. In Ramadan’s case, we neither drew nor respected it. We managed in the process to make a martyr of him and take a crap on our own principles. Continue reading

Brown-Faced Man

As someone who unapologetically wears brownface every day, I find the hysterical front-page revelation of Justin Trudeau’s 2001 experiment with brownface pretty underwhelming. I also find the reaction to it on the part of various brown-faced Canadian politicians to be a transparent instance (so to speak) of grandstanding. If ever there was a case where policy ought to trump a supposed matter of character in politics, this is it–not so much because policy always trumps character in political matters, but because the supposed matter of character involved here is so morally inconsequential that just about anything trumps it. Continue reading