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

Free Speech on the Shoals of Ideology

This Op-Ed offers a cautionary tale for two apparently opposed sets of ideologues: right-wingers convinced that the Left has a monopoly on campus censorship, and left-wingers skeptical of the connection between government support for education and government suppression of educators. In Florida and New Jersey, the Right is censoring the supposed racism of the Left through pro-Israeli legislation; meanwhile, the Left, usually so eager to make accusations of racism, is caught off guard by the Right’s “anti-racist” resort to coercion and hysteria. Continue reading

The Weaponization of Anti-Semitism

Here’s an informative podcast interview with my friend Steve Shalom, a political scientist at William Paterson University (Wayne, New Jersey), and an active member of Jewish Voice for Peace of Northern New Jersey. You have to scroll down a few clicks past the bio and the Banksy visual for the podcast itself.

What Steve says in the interview about anti-Semitism strikes me as one instance of many of the over-emphasis on race in American political discourse–not only to the exclusion of other sorts of identity, like gender and class, but to the exclusion of a straightforward focus on ethico-political issues as such. In other words, we not only have a tendency to focus on race above all other things, but to use our focus on race to distract attention from equally important things. It becomes easy to forget that sometimes an issue is just an issue. Continue reading