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On Quillette and the Engaged Left

The online magazine Quillette recently found itself at the center of a heated controversy concerning free speech, academic integrity and journalistic ethics. In response to a tweet castigating the magazine and those who write for it, University of British Columbia Professor Katja Thieme responded with “YES. If you’re an academic and you publish with Quillette we see you. We fucking see you. And we are looking right at you.” These comments provoked a firestorm of anger—individuals and outlets accused Thieme of everything from suppressing academic diversity to not caring about free speech. Quillettes founder, Claire Lehman, responded by emphasizing that the magazine was created to combat the institutional dominance of certain forms of left-wing analysis in universities, whether called grievance studies, identity politics or postmodern neo-Marxism. Professor Thieme later responded with a nuanced rebuttal. She observed that no one endorsed blacklisting authors and that, while she didn’t want to silence academics, she was personally critical of Quillette for a number of reasons. Amongst the most prominent accusations made by Thieme and/or her followers were that the outlet presents itself as centrist when it is actually conservative leaning: that is, it publishes allegedly scientific articles that exacerbate harmful stereotypes and practices that affect marginalized groups, and relentlessly attacks the academic left and established scholarly practices without nuance or care.

One of the most interesting questions to come out of this debate regards the extent to which one’s viewpoints can be inferred from writing for a given outlet with a well-known political slant. The discussion has raised some intriguing issues. In particular: can one be an academic and write for an outlet that is known for attacking various academic practices? And, more relevant to our purposes, should anyone who does not share the political beliefs of certain (perhaps most) authors at Quillette write articles for the magazine? In other words: is a leftist who writes for a conservative-leaning magazine granting legitimacy to conservative perspectives?

We both consider ourselves staunch leftist academics, who defend multiculturalism and endorse the concepts and aims of social justice; and criticize nationalist postmodern conservatism and promote internationalism and egalitarianism, respectively. Nonetheless, we both feel that it is important to engage with conservative-leaning outlets like Quillette, and have therefore each written for the site. We regard these efforts as part of a trend towards engaged leftism, which has gathered momentum in many developed countries. Engaged leftism differs from the kind of politics associated with the New Left in eschewing critical ironism and declaratory statements of opposition. Instead, it is characterized by a move towards understanding, argument and persuasion, approached in a spirit of civility. As such, we see it as a necessary task of the engaged left to grapple with conservative ideas and outlets, in order to advance the cause of progressivism by convincing non-leftists that leftist ideas have something to offer them. And, where persuasion is not possible, the engaged left is committed to meeting bad arguments with good ones, rather than lapsing into ad hominem attacks or polemical slander. We believe there are a number of reasons why engaged leftists can (and arguably should) write for outlets like Quillette.

1) The New Left and Postmodern Irony

The New Left accomplished a great deal for progressive causes, particularly by advancing the political participation of previously marginalized groups. But it has also become associated with a deconstructive ironism. The limitations of this approach are now becoming apparent, not only because it seems to serve individual postmodern debaters far better than it does any actual progressive causes, but also because it undercuts the very idea of progress, which is central to progressivism itself. Indeed, as leftists, we view the gradual (and hard won) inclusion of previously disenfranchised identities into the democratic polis as clear evidence of moral and social progress, but such a view cannot be coherently advanced through a strict adherence to deconstructive relativism and postmodern irony. Thus, we fear recent developments on the Left have undercut the very foundations of the progressive project, allowing conservatives to claim the mantle of progress. This is well exhibited by polemicists like Ben Shapiro, who castigate leftists for neither caring about facts nor advancing the cause of reason. One motivation, then, behind our writing for Quillette was to make clear to the magazine’s readership that this ironic distancing is not constitutive of the Left, and that there are other varieties of leftism on offer.

2) Avoiding the Politics of Denunciation

The New Left not only comprises a postmodern relativistic strand, but also one that is quite morally puritanical (interestingly, these logically opposed strands are sometimes endorsed by the same individuals). Nina Eliasoph calls the style of politics that attends the New Left’s moral puritanism the “politics of denunciation.” This is a wholly negative politics, obsessed with radical critique, which attacks and reprimands from a position of supposed epistemic and moral superiority. The New Left’s embrace of the politics of denunciation has not only made it incredibly unpopular but, we argue, blind to its own shortcomings. Consumed by the need to denounce, it offers little of substance upon which to build a sustainable and positive political project. This is why we find the work of political theorists such as John Rawls, Jürgen Habermas, Martha Nussbaum, Roberto Unger, Michael Walzer, Will Kymlicka and Seyla Benhabib much more appealing. While diverse in their views, these thinkers are equally engaged in what we might call a politics of commitment. That is, not only do these scholars provide normative frameworks with which to criticize the status quo, but they also offer comprehensive and coherent visions of what a good and just society might look like.

3) Learning from Those with Whom We Disagree

We are living through an era of intense political polarization. As engaged leftists, we feel quite disoriented; we are generally unwelcome on the New Left, yet unconvinced by most aspects of libertarian and conservative thought. One of the reasons why we might feel out of step intellectually with many today is because we have learned much from reading and wrestling with both progressive and conservative ideas. We are not the only ones: figures such as Cornell West have recently found a great deal of value in the work of conservatives such as Patrick Deneen. In these polarizing times, it seems out of fashion to read one’s intellectual opponents’ invectives, but we both admit to having benefitted greatly from engaging with the writings of those on the other side of the political aisle. Indeed, while we remain committed leftists, we believe strongly that there are lessons that progressives and conservatives can learn from each other. Of course, this does not mean we give credence to all conservative ideas—we acknowledge that there exists quite real and vitriolic racism, sexism, bigotry and hatred among certain factions of the Right (as is also true of the Left). But we think it wise to interrogate the ideas of those with whom we disagree in order to determine, for ourselves, whether there is anything worthy of consideration. Moreover, we endorse this principle not simply for intellectual reasons. In order to survive, a democratic and pluralistic society requires some degree of solidarity across axes of identity, and, for this reason, attempting to understand one’s opponents’ positions (even if one disagrees) demonstrates a level of respect that we think is crucial to repairing some of today’s social and moral fissures. Conservatism is, as Ian Shapiro put it, as much of an outlook as it is a political philosophy. This means that conservatives are not going to go away anytime soon, so a genuinely democratic orientation by leftists requires accepting this and finding a way to advance progressive causes in spite of contestation.

4) The Need to Win Converts and Political Optics

At the moment, so-called political correctness has become extremely unpopular, including amongst youth and people of color. Whether fair or not, the left has become associated with this, and conservative opponents delight in taking every opportunity to castigate the left as anti-free speech and unwilling to debate its positions. Instead, leftists are perceived as using moral condemnation and invoking radicalism in lieu of making persuasive arguments. One of the only ways to counter these accusations is to argue against conservative positions and persuade people that left-wing positions are better. This will obviously not work every time—indeed, many people will never be swayed by argumentation, since their political positions have already hardened. But a few will, and that is the demographic we must seek to convince. What’s more, demonstrating a genuine willingness to engage in public debate is powerful, insofar as it can have impressive knock-on effects. The Left today has a serious image problem. By showing up and offering, in a civil manner, lucid arguments in favor of leftist ideas, engaged leftists can chip away at, and ultimately change, public perception. In short, it matters not merely what we do, but also how we do it. Adopting a more argumentative and engaged style does not mean that we will achieve success in every instance. The impact of political polarization means that many will never give ideas a fair hearing if they do not coincide with their ideological presuppositions. But we may influence some to shift their viewpoint leftwards, or at least moderate the extreme edges of reactionary positions. This is a valuable enterprise.

Why We’ve Written This

Thieme’s tweet and the subsequent discussion brought a number of issues to the fore that have been simmering amongst leftists for some time. There are genuine strategic and moral questions to be asked about the legitimacy of engaging with one’s political opponents in media that present contrary views. Writing for outlets like Quillette and other right wing media can have value for advancing progressive causes. Doing so allows us to move constructively beyond the limitations of postmodern ironism and reclaim the mantle of progress. There are benefits to moving past the politics of denunciation and towards a politics of commitment. We need to learn from those with whom we disagree, since thoughtful conservatives often make good points, even when the insights they are working with aren’t fully realized. Finally, leftists need to win converts by engaging with media that aren’t typically associated with progressive causes. This includes outlets like Quillette and others that have a reputation for criticizing certain strands of leftism.

We would like to end this piece on a more positive note, demonstrating why these positions may not seem as far-fetched as first appears. Many engaged leftists have begun to emerge, taking seriously the ideas of conservatives while still subjecting them to (often scathing) criticism. More importantly still, engaged leftists have gained traction by presenting constructive and inspiring visions of a more egalitarian and just future. Figures like Contrapoints, outlets like Zero Books, writers like Aisling McCrea and even comedians like Trevor Noah are all pioneers of this shift. Our hope is that more progressives will draw inspiration from their examples, and that this will encourage conservatives and independents to give leftism another serious look. The current era is one of great political discontent, but also real opportunity to change society for the better. We can gain a lot of ground by reaching out to those willing to listen.


Edit—A previous version of this essay included the mention of tweets advocating a list of Canadian academics who write for Quillette, so that their colleagues could know who had gone to the “dark side.” The writer of the tweets objected to McManus referring to this as a “blacklist.” We have removed the reference as it was not central to our argument.

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90 comments

  1. ”Is wanting universal health care bad?”
    I really wish people on the left wouldn’t resort so often to the misuse of language for political purposes.
    You know that all western countries have universal health care. No-one misses out on medical treatment if they need it. You are either willfully or ineptly conflating health care with health care funding. It is that mangling of the language for political ends that annoys me. I’m sure you will now tell me that we on the right also manipulate language for political ends. To that prospective bit of whataboutery I cock the proverbial snook and shout ”tu quoque”.

  2. Ultimately it is a question of the lessons to be learned from the horrors of the twentieth century. For most progressives and large parts of academia the moral of the story is clear: Fascism is the ultimate evil and must be averted at all costs; and since fascism is a problem of the right, those who position themselves to the right of center, including most traditional conservatives, are essentially protofascists motivated by bigotry and a belief in their own racial superiority. Engaging with them – even just to rebut them – is therefore out of the question. They must instead be shamed into silence or excluded from public discourse altogether.
    The lessons that others, including myself, have learned are not quite as clear cut and have less to do with the specific identity of the twentieth century’s worst perpetrators than with how their loss of moral compass came about. Especially troubling to me, therefore, is the way we are once again seeing one particular group being singled out as uniquely and unfairly “privileged” and consequently to blame for holding back others more deserving and preventing them from accruing the wealth and status that should rightfully be theirs. The markers by which this new out-group is identified may have changed, but the underlying dynamic has not.
    Thus it is once again socially acceptable to disparage a whole group based on no more than skin color and chromosomes. Those with the offending attributes who are successful can now be openly derided, while those who are less fortunate can be sneered at or ignored. And that any ills or injustices they are now suffering are merely a long overdue payback for past wrongs (not necessarily of their doing) – well that probably rings a bell, too.
    Another worrying, and worryingly familiar, sign is the wanton disregard for key legal precepts that we are currently witnessing. Presumption of innocence and the impartiality of the law are being dangerously undermined by the attention and credence given to allegations that can no longer be disproven and the attempts being made to skew the truth-finding process in favor of “victims,” once again on grounds of the historic injustices ostensibly suffered by their group.
    And perhaps most troubling of all is the selective suspension of those basic rules of civility, mutual respect, forgiveness, and above all the goodwill that is the bedrock of all constructive dialogue, without which we cannot hope to live at peace with one another. The downgrading of these to optional niceties that only really apply to our dealings with those in our own group has inevitably given rise in patterns of behavior that are as unpleasant as they are distressingly familiar: denunciation, stigmatization, public shaming, intolerance, and aggressive intimidation – as demonstrated here by Katja Thieme.

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    1. Fascism is the ultimate evil and must be averted at all costs; and since fascism is a problem of the right, those who position themselves to the right of center, including most traditional conservatives, are essentially protofascists motivated by bigotry and a belief in their own racial superiority.

      Project much?

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  3. If we look at the word choice and subtext of Watts and McManus in this piece we detect, and recognise, a striking similarity to the word choice and subtext of the proselytiser.
    Para 3 – “staunch leftist academics” – followed by a series of attributes that they think denote that label, but otherwise represent a series of dogmatic simplistic positions purporting to solve problems of lesser or greater validity. And why do they write? To advance “progressivism” (as if anyone knows which direction will be deemed to have been “progress” in the fullness of time) and to convince conservatives of the correctness of leftist thinking.
    The rest of the piece offers several further examples of this entitled presumption of correctness, typical of the religious and the bigot.
    This approach is entirely different to that of the true academic, in Popper’s tradition, who forwards hypotheses and theories with varying degrees of evidence, and then challenges for their falsification. It is entirely different to the truth-seeker who will pursue truth wherever that path may lead. A scientist will accept, as a working theory, a model supported adequately by verifications whilst not falsified, even if that model might give rise to socially undesirable conclusions. So – the fact we do not like atom bombs does not mean we retrospectively conclude atoms do not exist. Extrapolate.
    Please note – whilst Watts and McManus generously and magnaminously proclaim their openness to admitting *some* point to *some* conservative thought, they are blissfully ignorant of the dogmatic quality to their declared thought, and naively closed to any hint that their perspective may prove, in time, substantially incorrect.
    It takes merely to turn the paradigmatic doubting of Kuhn and the pseudo-archaeology of Foucault back onto the left religion, of either “new” or “engaged” denominations, for that religion to fall, too, as the Gaian pseudoscience it is.

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    1. There are more articles coming out analysing the left as the New Woke Religion.

      The Sokol2 scandal’s James Lindsay has done some interesting work in this regard, even finding a mainstream church (Lutheran, I believe) which has actually integrated pomo, rabbit-hole, SJW Grievance Studies scripture into their existing written holy text. He says it fits seamlessly. His Sokal2 collegue, of course is undergoing a Portland State U witch trial.

      Looked at the way you do, the authors do come across as theologians in a liberal denomination of the New Woke Church.

      But like most members of post WWII Christian denominations in the west, they are on a path away from religious true belief but can still recite the liturgy.

      To paraphrase Jordan Peterson, they may not believe in God but they act like they do.

      Katja-fa Thieme and commenter Jennifer however aren’t just old-style true believers in the New Woke Church, they’re Spanish Inquisition/Jonestown level acolytes, eager to do the modern equivalent of stacking and lighting the faggots at the feet of heretics who write for Quillette.

      1. Actually, it’s not any kind of stretch at all to connect modern-day progressivism to genuine religion, because the Progressive movement is a direct consequence of the slow secularization of the New England Protestant Ascendancy. See the following:

        Book Review of Joseph Bottum, ‘An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America’, by Todd Zywicki, Washington Post, December 2, 2014

        “Religion and Evolution in Progressive Era Political Economy: Adversaries or Allies? by Thomas C. Leonard (look for the Princeton link which will let you download this paper as a .pdf)

        From the first reference, you will find this: “Bottum points to the key moment as the emergence of the Social Gospel movement in the early 20th Century. Led by Walter Rauschenbusch, the Social Gospel movement reached beyond the traditional view that Christianity spoke to personal failings such as sin, but instead reached “the social sin of all mankind, to which all who ever lived have contributed, and under which all who ever lived have suffered.”

        From the second reference, you will find this: “The Social Gospel was erected upon a version of Protestant postmillennialism, the Christian doctrine that prophesizes that a Kingdom of God–reigning for one thousand years of peace and love–would be realized on Earth by the good works of Christian men and women. Opposed to premillennialism, which imagined that the Kingdom of God would be accomplished only by the triumphal bodily return of Jesus Christ, post millennialism taught that the world could be redeemed by human beings, using the providential gifts of science [progressivists justified eugenics and “race science” on Darwin’s ideas, and transitioning children to the other gender is just the latest form of eugenics] and acting in the spirit of Christ (Quandt 1973)”

        Leftists are hoping we don’t notice the man behind the curtain. But sooner or later, the curtain will be pulled back.

        1. “The Ministry of Progress” was proposed by a radical socialist (today of course he would be called a “progressive socialist”), a prominent figure at the time, in the constituent assembly after the 1848 revolution in France.

          Nobody knew what he meant and according to the author of this Master’s thesis, he didn’t even know what he meant. So he was more or less laughed off the rostrum.

          In our post-truth, feelings>facts era of course, neither of those would stop it from being seriously considered because it would be described in impressive-sounding, dense, impenatrable, meaningless, pomo-jargon scripture that litters the Humanities, Grievance Studies, academic journals and, of course, @RealPeerReview and which Sokol2 satirised so brilliantly.

          The truth is in fact you could argue that govt’s actually have such ministries today, they’re just not called that.

          It’s Ch 3 (short).

          https://ecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2533&context=luc_theses

  4. Quillette published a piece about a lit professor at UBC who was forced to resign because of sexual misconduct allegations. The article was presented like a piece of investigative journalism but halfway through readers learn its author is, in fact, a close acquaintance of the guy he is defending. That’s a pretty big oversight for an outfit that claims to be all about objectivity and truth, but no clarification or acknowledgement was ever published. Quillette, like most magazines on the internet, caters to an audience. Truth and all that lofty stuff is something they all claim to care deeply about, but in practice it’s all about tribalism and flogging advertising.

    People on the right or “classically liberal” side of the spectrum do themselves no favors by ranting about “cultural Marxists”, “the far-left” the “pomo rabbit hole” and other virtue signalling snarl terms they deploy in their quest for a “free and open exchange of ideas.” Read the comments at Quillette and even Areo and they are often full of “fu*k the pomo cultural Marxist far-left feminist scum!” “amen to that..i hate pomo Marxists too!” type remarks. This is the other side of the identity politics coin. On one side is the libfem SJW Twitter mob and on the other side are the alt-lite/libertarian/classical liberals/whatever they call themselves crowd. Both are convinced of their own infallibility and inherent rightness..and both throw facts inconvenient to their respective ideologies under the bus. One coin, two sides. They feed off each other in a symbiotic relationship and one could not survive without the other. Both are shrill and annoying and their own worst enemies. They should just accept their illicit lust for each other and get a room in a hotel on an isolated island far away from the rest of us.

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    1. Eric, I don’t disagree with your main argument about what passes for much of online discourse. As a matter of fact, I myself took issue with a commentor on one of my posts here, to prevent people misconstruing what I said.

      Two points if I may. One, Aero and Quillette can’t be held responsible for the tone or content of reader comments, at least not without succumbing to censorship which, I’m pretty sure, and hope, they won’t.

      And two, the average level of comment vituperation I’ve seen on both is far, far lower than what you normally see on other media platforms. Not to mention the sheer, cautelous, barren-spirited ratsbane that Twitter can be, among all the great article links you can find. I found both Quillette and Aero on Twitter. But I’m guessing you don’t hang out there much?

      Now, a point of linguistic order if I may, as the writer of one of the “virtue-signaling snarl terms” you refer to. How, might I inquire without snarling, does “pomo rabbit hole” qualify as that exactly, as opposed to merely being descriptive?

      One other point of clarification, I presume the “UBC lit prof” situation you point to was in fact, the infamous Galloway Creative Writing Head scandal. I think it only fair to mention what you did not. That is, after botching the situation, as unis invariably do, they brought in a retired judge who COMPLETELY exonerated Galloway.

      He received a settlement from UBC and is now suing his false accuser, who was basically put up to the fraud by a collection of pomo virtue signalers.

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    2. “The article was presented like a piece of investigative journalism but halfway through readers learn its author is, in fact, a close acquaintance of the guy he is defending.”

      “Close acquaintance”? That doesn’t tell me anything. Did they work in the same department?

      If you have ever spoken to someone, does that mean you have a conflict of interest when you defend him?

  5. This post lost me when it started by declaring Quillette as a “conservative-leaning magazine” as if that was not at issue. As I see it, this is exactly the kind of bin-slotting that Quillette fights against. It is hard to know the true goals of the authors of this post but it has me wondering if their main message was to firmly assign Quillette to its designated bin and the rest serves only to firm up that assignment. If so, then I don’t care at all for what it has to say. If not, then it is simply bad writing.

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    1. This post lost me when it started by declaring Quillette as a “conservative-leaning magazine” as if that was not at issue.

      So because you don’t agree with the author’s opinion that it is a “conservative-leaning” magazine you assume he’s not worth taking seriously and don’t even bother to finish reading the article? The meaning behind labels like conservative, liberal, right/left and so forth is not fixed and changes all the time. Hell, people on the same ideological team often argue about who is the “real” conservative, libertarian, anarchist or whatever. If a trivial difference of opinion over an ideological label is enough to trigger you to the point where you can’t even finish reading an article….how is that different from SJWs who say they can’t read Huckleberry Finn without fainting because it includes some objectionable words?

      You look like you are old enough, like me, to remember the heady pre-web 2.0 days when people could strongly disagree with one another but still conduct a civilized, and even amicable, discussion about contentious issues. What happened? I find it very ominous how so many people have become insufferably narrow minded and intolerant about the most inconsequential things without noticing how they have changed. The idealogical polarization of the west, and the rejection of reason as a basis for sound decision making that goes along with it, are the symptoms of a much greater crisis…and we are so busy being righteously offended by minor differences of opinion and words in books that we are sleepwalking into a catastrophe.

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      1. I would agrree that web 2.0 has contributed ideological polarization but I’m not so sure about it being the cause of the rejection of reason. Many (most, maybe) people simply *can’t* think in a reasoned way, beyond what it takes to organize the shopping and picking up the kids. The ready availability of so many people’s inner thoughts via web 2.0 might be an indication of that lack of ability to think and argue rationally, rather than a cause.

        1. “The ready availability of so many people’s inner thoughts via web 2.0 might be an indication of that lack of ability to think and argue rationally, rather than a cause.”

          Yes, I agree. It is a form of laziness. Whether they have the ability to think and argue rationally, or not, they choose not to do so and, instead, rely on community-assigned labels to determine their opinion. Of course, those doing the labelling are often not just lazy but are indulging in virtue signalling. By labelling someone as a member of some spurned group, they don’t need to think very much and, at the same time, declare themselves as not being a member of the spurned group. One one commenter does this then other follow their lead. No rational discussion occurs and they all go home thinking they’ve won a battle and worn the appropriate hat for all their friends to see.

      2. Eric. I stopped reading the post after declaring Quillette as a “conservative-leaning magazine” because (a) it isn’t true and (b) it is exactly the kind of binning of ideas that Quillette was created to fight. I wholeheartedly agree with your second paragraph but an “amicable, discussion about contentious issues” should not start with assigning some label to those having the discussion in order to sway readers solely on the basis of that category assignment. Unfortunately, this is done on Twitter and in post comments all the time. Someone responds to a position by calling the author “right-wing”, “left-wing”, “conservative-leaning”, etc, explicitly calling for everyone to ignore the author based on that assignment. IMHO, this is the antithesis of “amicable, discussion about contentious issues”.

  6. Who knew the Stasi had opened a branch amongst Canadian academics, but Comrade Thieme appears to be a natural at rooting out thoughtcriminals.

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  7. I seems to me that the fundamental problem is allowing tweets, and similar artifacts of social media, to dominate discourse. That seems crazy to me, albeit almost universal. One irrelevant person makes a silly wisecrack, and millions of people immediately become obsessed with it? How the hell did this happen?

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    1. Agree. There seems to be a strong correlation between the current state of insanity, where a difference of opinion or a minor slight is enough to trigger hysteria and virtual pogroms, and the rise of “social” media as the dominant means of communication. Rather ironic given all the talk of information setting us free and liberating the human spirit and all that guff. Instead of using information technology to improve and complement their lives, people are actively dumbing down to the level of the glorified calculators that run their Facebook and Twitter apps.

      Last autumn a bunch of former Facebook engineers came out and said the entire system was explicitly designed to manipulate human psychology and they are sorry for unleashing a monster that is destroying the fabric of society. It was all over the news and people yakked about it for a day… and then promptly forgot about it.

      Anecdotally, I can say the people I know who don’t, or rarely, use social media seem to be more emotionally stable and in touch with themselves than the heavy Twitter/Facebook users. It’s also rather amusing that many, if not most, of these people have no idea how companies that produce no tangible products have become among the wealthiest and most powerful entities that have ever existed. The same people will cluck about censorship in China or wherever but soft censorship by Facebook, Alphabet et al at the behest of the intelligence agencies is passively accepted. But I digress.

      1. I find myself defending Twitter quite often. (Not so much Facebook though.) When someone says something like, “Twitter is a cesspool so I don’t go there”, I tell them there are good and informative uses of Twitter which they miss by not participating. I think the real problem is that certain mainstream topics attract strong, nasty opinions and it is hard to avoid them. I see them and sometimes even respond but more often I show restraint by avoiding the fray. I believe some people find that hard to do.

  8. On or about March 16, 2019, Thieme made a public post on social media via twitter. In it, she said, “If you’re an academic and you publish in Quillette, we see you. We fucking see you. And we are looking right at you.” I personally took this to be a warning to all academics to not publish in Quillette and a definite threat of ambiguous but serious consequences for any academic that does not heed Thieme’s warning.

    I am of the strong opinion that my interpretation of Thieme’s tweet is reasonable even were it only informed on its face and without further context. Furthermore and more importantly, I am of the strong opinion that my interpretation of Thieme’s tweet is reasonable and, indeed, gains credibility when informed by the broad context in which it was issued. I read well over 1000 of Thieme’s 40,200+ public tweets (some issued before and others after her offending tweet); I also read all 1448 public responses to her offending tweet, and an estimated 500 others directly relating to this matter but which occurred in entirely different or new threads on twitter. Finally, several dozen people responding to Thieme’s offending tweet, including academics and people with whom Thieme had previously demonstrated respect for, made public statements suggesting they interpreted her offending tweet in a way the same as or very similar to my interpretation.

    Please know that I regard free speech to be the lifeblood of all democratic societies, and it is the indispensable virtue of all universities. I want to give all people, including Thieme, the greatest birth possible of freedom to speak, and my position includes a strong defence for Thieme to make any critical or even hateful statement she wishes, regardless of its truth or importance or pertinence or offensiveness, and to do so in public and with passion, all with only a few limits, but limits nonetheless – nothing good is manifest unfettered: free speech is one of several critical values, each and all of which can and do come into conflict and so need a mechanism for balancing them, which is a limitation.

    With respect to the reasonable (if not necessary) limits on freedom of speech, Thieme’s offending tweet runs terribly afoul: her purpose is made clear in the tweet and is made clearer still and entirely unambiguous through the tremendous volume of her comments: she wants to silence academics she believes ‘peddle hate’, and she intends them to suffer punishment if they violate her dictate. Thieme provides dozens of examples of her intolerance, but one in particular encapsulates her entire view: on March 18th of this year, and in response to the backlash Thieme was experiencing to her offending statements, Thieme tweeted, “Let’s make it clear: Yes, I am for shaming/ostracising/discrediting white supremacists and proponents of debunked race science out of academic work.” Both before and after this tweet, she identifies academics ‘on the list’. Sian Echard, whom asked me to file this complaint, likewise also asked me to keep the complaint short and not attempt to build a case but rather just set forth enough detail to communicate the charge so that it might be investigated by UBC as a violation of your Respectful Environment Policy. In that spirit, I will not go through the list of accredited academics charged as racist by Thieme but will simply state that she is wrong on all counts.

    For clarity, I do not believe Thieme has said anything she believes is false; indeed, she has convinced me and others that she believes everything she has publicly said in this matter. The problem is, her views are false and, far worse and more disturbing, completely unreasonable. Nazis killed about 6 million Jews because they thought Jews were vermin. If Jews were vermin, most everything the Nazis did to Jews would be reasonable. But, of course, Jews are people and not vermin. Thieme believes a large and growing number of her fellow academics are vermin. If you take the time to investigate the matter fully, you will see that she is not the only academic suffering this destructive tendency for grave misidentification.

    In the broader context in which Thieme’s offensive statement was issued, Thieme is known as a UBC professor. She makes frequent reference to her roll as a professor. She uses language that suggests she speaks for academia, and she seems utterly convinced that she has both the right and the duty to stifle this group of academics with which she disagrees, and she is very obviously confident in her power to promise adverse consequences to any academic that doesn’t obey her directive. It is plain and obvious that Thieme believes she is speaking for the moral majority of her profession. It is not clear she is doing so on behalf of the UBC, but it is difficult to see how she can speak for the moral majority of academia without also intending to speak for the UBC.

    I believe Thieme deserves a serious, unambiguous censure for her offensive tweet, and her career path at UBC should be reconsidered. Her behaviour is chillingly serious even if not significantly impactful. Understand that the more people that regard certain ideas as filth and certain academics as ‘vermin’, the closer we get to firing up the ovens: yes, it IS that serious.

    Also, as Thieme made these comments in public and so could be reasonably construed as representing the UBC culture, it is incumbent on UBC to make a public statement that disavows at least Thieme’s sentiment if not her offensive statements. She need not be named though it would be curious that her name be absent in any refutation of or dissociation with her ugly intolerance.

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  9. To whom it may concern;

    Please accept this letter as my formal complaint against Dr. Katja Thieme, Professor, UBC, Department of English Language & Literature, for violating the Respectful Environment Policy. This complaint is being issued after discussing the matter via telephone with Sian Echard and is in fulfillment of her recommended course of action.

    On or about March 16, 2019, Thieme made a public post on social media via twitter. In it, she said, “If you’re an academic and you publish in Quillette, we see you. We fucking see you. And we are looking right at you.” I personally took this to be a warning to all academics to not publish in Quillette and a definite threat of ambiguous but serious consequences for any academic that does not heed Thieme’s warning.

    I am of the strong opinion that my interpretation of Thieme’s tweet is reasonable even were it only informed on its face and without further context. Furthermore and more importantly, I am of the strong opinion that my interpretation of Thieme’s tweet is reasonable and, indeed, gains credibility when informed by the broad context in which it was issued. I read well over 1000 of Thieme’s 40,200+ public tweets (some issued before and others after her offending tweet); I also read all 1448 public responses to her offending tweet, and an estimated 500 others directly relating to this matter but which occurred in entirely different or new threads on twitter. Finally, several dozen people responding to Thieme’s offending tweet, including academics and people with whom Thieme had previously demonstrated respect for, made public statements suggesting they interpreted her offending tweet in a way the same as or very similar to my interpretation.

    Please know that I regard free speech to be the lifeblood of all democratic societies, and it is the indispensable virtue of all universities. I want to give all people, including Thieme, the greatest birth possible of freedom to speak, and my position includes a strong defence for Thieme to make any critical or even hateful statement she wishes, regardless of its truth or importance or pertinence or offensiveness, and to do so in public and with passion, all with only a few limits, but limits nonetheless – nothing good is manifest unfettered: free speech is one of several critical values, each and all of which can and do come into conflict and so need a mechanism for balancing them, which is a limitation.

    With respect to the reasonable (if not necessary) limits on freedom of speech, Thieme’s offending tweet runs terribly afoul: her purpose is made clear in the tweet and is made clearer still and entirely unambiguous through the tremendous volume of her comments: she wants to silence academics she believes ‘peddle hate’, and she intends them to suffer punishment if they violate her dictate. Thieme provides dozens of examples of her intolerance, but one in particular encapsulates her entire view: on March 18th of this year, and in response to the backlash Thieme was experiencing to her offending statements, Thieme tweeted, “Let’s make it clear: Yes, I am for shaming/ostracising/discrediting white supremacists and proponents of debunked race science out of academic work.” Both before and after this tweet, she identifies academics ‘on the list’. Sian Echard, whom asked me to file this complaint, likewise also asked me to keep the complaint short and not attempt to build a case but rather just set forth enough detail to communicate the charge so that it might be investigated by UBC as a violation of your Respectful Environment Policy. In that spirit, I will not go through the list of accredited academics charged as racist by Thieme but will simply state that she is wrong on all counts.

    For clarity, I do not believe Thieme has said anything she believes is false; indeed, she has convinced me and others that she believes everything she has publicly said in this matter. The problem is, her views are false and, far worse and more disturbing, completely unreasonable. Nazis killed about 6 million Jews because they thought Jews were vermin. If Jews were vermin, most everything the Nazis did to Jews would be reasonable. But, of course, Jews are people and not vermin. Thieme believes a large and growing number of her fellow academics are vermin. If you take the time to investigate the matter fully, you will see that she is not the only academic suffering this destructive tendency for grave misidentification.

    In the broader context in which Thieme’s offensive statement was issued, Thieme is known as a UBC professor. She makes frequent reference to her roll as a professor. She uses language that suggests she speaks for academia, and she seems utterly convinced that she has both the right and the duty to stifle this group of academics with which she disagrees, and she is very obviously confident in her power to promise adverse consequences to any academic that doesn’t obey her directive. It is plain and obvious that Thieme believes she is speaking for the moral majority of her profession. It is not clear she is doing so on behalf of the UBC, but it is difficult to see how she can speak for the moral majority of academia without also intending to speak for the UBC.

    I believe Thieme deserves a serious, unambiguous censure for her offensive tweet, and her career path at UBC should be reconsidered. Her behaviour is chillingly serious even if not significantly impactful. Understand that the more people that regard certain ideas and certain academics as ‘vermin’, the closer we get to firing up the ovens: yes, it IS that serious.

    Also, as Thieme made these comments in public and so could be reasonably construed as representing the UBC culture, it is incumbent on UBC to make a public statement that disavows at least Thieme’s sentiment if not her offensive statements. She need not be named though it would be curious that her name be absent in any refutation of or dissociation with her ugly intolerance.

    In closing, please acknowledge receipt of this complaint and demonstrate your understanding of its subject. Also, I ask that you adjudicate this matter in a way that is as transparent as presiding rules and good governance allows, keeping me informed of the process and especially the conclusion.

    Lastly, it might be worth asking larger questions: What role did UBC culture play in causing Thieme to believe she is right to speak for all [good] academics and to tell [bad] academics to not publish their work or suffer punishment if they do? There are numerous academics in support of Thieme’s position – how many UBC professors suffer Thieme’s dangerous world view? How can future students that have conservative world views ever enter Thieme’s classroom and expect to be treated fairly by her given her publicly stated hatred for a large a growing group of people?

    I have taken the time to screen capture a significant amount of Thieme’s online conversation for fear she will delete it once an investigation starts. I have also captured the concerns of people responding to her threats. If you need these in the course of your investigation, please let me know.

    Regards,

    Kirk Kelln

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  10. “She observed that no one endorsed blacklisting authors and that, while she didn’t want to silence academics, she was personally critical of Quillette for a number of reasons.” Uhhh, Matthew McAnus, are you a lying piece of shit or just bad at understanding English? I only ask because you know perfectly well that a Katja supporter and fellow academic clearly stated he wished there was a list of Canadian academics that have published on Quillette. She did not deny nor did she condemn the idea or its implications. And the idea that ‘she didn’t want to silence academics’ – my fucking God man! You know what, no need for you to respond. You are both lying piece of shit AND bad at understanding English – you must be. There’s no other explanation.

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    1. As soon as a person resorts to foul language, they demonstrate the intrinsic weakness of their argument, and their impoverished vocabulary

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      1. Some people use profanities with ability enough to communicate their intended point or to articulate their argument.

        That you think a profanity undermines the argument says more about your unwillingness to address the argument or claims being made.

  11. People who threaten academics who write for Quillette or other center-right publications are not progressives, whatever claim they might make to that description of their political views. Some of the stances taken by people on the left, especially concerning race and gender issues, should alarm those of us who want to contribute to the discussion of current affairs. I am concerned that other issues such as climate change health care, and wealth inequality which affect everyone are in danger of being shoved off center stage by talk about gender identity and who is or is not a racist.

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    1. Marian, sounds like you just have a different strategy. How do you justify taking people’s money if you can’t vilify them as racist? How can you assume enough government control of industry to stop CO2 emissions if you haven’t crushed the conservative opposition?

      Not only are these people progressives, they’re better progressives than you because they understand what must be done to achieve the aims you share.

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      1. For ‘crushing conservative opposition’ reading ‘silencing anyone who thinks differently, particularly those of the left from a universalist humanist ethical perspective’.
        They only ‘understand what must be done’ in the same way anyone of an authoritarian bent always thinks like that.
        The world these people would create isn’t a just one, the fact their appeal is supposed based in ‘fighting oppression’ doesn’t change that.

      2. Racism should not enter the debate at all regarding control of industry to reduce CO2 emissions. CO2 emissions are not a racial issue; all racial groups contribute to the problem. You are seriously misusing the word progressive, giving it a pejorative connotation that it does not deserve.

        1. Marian, progressives like Katja-fa are rapidy earning “progressive” its pejorative connotation.

          If they keep it up, the word’s going to do what it’s going to do. One day it could be the progressive to communist that fascist is to nazi.

        2. Could you please clarify what you mean by “does not deserve”, with respect to treating the term “progressive” as a pejorative.

          What other connotation does the term deserve in today’s political landscape?

          1. Why do you believe being progressive is a bad thing? Is wanting universal health care bad? Or free public education? Do you believe that clean water and clean air are things that only the rich are entitled to enjoy? Are you against organized labor? Do you believe that children should have to labor in factories or on farms rather than being able to attend school? Do you think it is great for corporate bosses to make hundreds of times more than their employees earn? Progressives believe in fair wages, universal health care, the right of workers to organize, free public education, laws which protect the environment from destruction by greedy corporations whose only thoughts are for their bank accounts. As I said above, I do not believe some of the people on the left who want to punish people who publish or speak ideas with which they disagree are progressives at all, but persons whom Maajid Nawaz has described as “the regressive left.” Robert LaFollette, Eugene Debs, Henry Wallace, Norman Thomas, and Bernie Sanders are examples of progressive people.

  12. “Writing for outlets like Quillette and other right wing media … “

    This can’t be allowed to pass without remark. To identify Quillette with “other right wing media” is nonsense, particularly from two authors who have previously published there.

    As noted in E. Olson’s comment below, most of the contributors to Quillette are writing from a left-leaning political position. In fact, this provokes considerable comment by readers, many of whom would like to see more right-leaning authors to achieve a better balance.

    Any regular Quillette reader who comes across this article is going to recognize your above comment as a tribal slur that is, on it’s face, quite obviously false.

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    1. Most impartial outlets, including Politifact, tend to rank it as center-right. This would be consonant with the generally classical liberal position adopted by many-though by no means all-of the authors.

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      1. Why is this distinction supposed to have any meaning? If we were talking of a fringe far right publication of no real value to public discourse fair enough, but we’re obviously not and so the only reasonable response is ‘so what’.
        Unless you’re of the view that even breathing the same air as something ‘right wing’ is beyond the pale, then each piece should be taken on the merits of the ideas and quality of the writing.
        That someone from the left would write for a publication that slants right should be welcomed, as should the reverse.
        That you equivocate in the face of someone basically screaming ‘burn the heretic’ does show you in a particularly good light.

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      2. Hi Matt,

        First off, I enjoyed your article and I’m glad to know that there are fellow left-leaning individuals who see the necessity for intellectual engagement. However, I agree with the OP in this thread that your use of “right wing” is a bit of a mis-characterization of Quillette’s leanings. You’re correct in that it is centre-right (on the whole), but I think it would be more honest to just call it centrist (I’ve seen centre-left articles as well). To call it right wing is to link it to things like Briebart and its ilk, which does a disservice to the otherwise reasonable positions taken most authors on that site. While I may not always agree with the author, I can at least respect where they’re coming from and concede the validity of their position; I cannot do that for Briebart or other far right publications. (to be fair, I can no longer do that for the Guardian or Vox, but that’s another story).

        Anyway, keep up the good fight, but do try to be more nuanced with your labels. Cheers.

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      3. Matt, PolitiFact is a left-leaning outlet. Virtually every single mention of Trump in Quillette articles is underhanded and disparaging. It is not reasonable to call such an outlet right-leaning.

    2. Mediabiasfactcheck.com has described Quillette as a center-right publication. I personally see the authors as only slightly right of center and the readers seem to be majority moderate conservatives with some liberals.

      1. @Matt & Marian

        Instead of relying upon Politifact and Mediabiasfactcheck.com, may I suggest that you read Quillette for a while – and then rely upon your own judgment to decide whether the majority of Quillette contributors are left or right of center?

        (I’m not going to presume that you both occupy the center, so please don’t use yourselves as markers.)

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        1. I was responding to the center-right assessment of Quillette by Politifact and Mediabiasfactcheck. I have been reading Quillette for several months now and have liked some articles enough to repost them on my own FB page. I consider myself to be considerably left of center, although I am no longer far left because the far left has adopted some positions with which I cannot agree (white privilege/fragility, inherited generational trauma, abolition of ICE rather than reform, BDS and a one-state solution for Israel/Palestine rather than two states, et al.). I am being pushed toward the center because the left has extended itself further out than I am prepared to move. My assessment of Quillette’s readers comes from the comments that are made on the articles published in Quillette Circle.

    3. After following it for some time, I would call Quillette rightist only to the extent that being libertarian and pro-free speech is rightist.

      The authors call for egalitarianism several times, but egalitarianism must somehow overcome the obvious objection that, in fact, no one is equal to anyone else. The way to do this is by embracing the sort of freedom we all possess simply by existing, freedom that cannot be delegated, and must be exercised thousands of times a day in complete ignorance and isolation. In that sense, the sense of existential freedom, everyone is equal — equally isolated and burdened — and egalitarianism as a moral system makes sense. But this (I am coming around to the point) requires libertarianism, for how could it be moral to acknowledge equality in existential freedom and then try to control it? Quillette is rightist to the extent that it embraces this deeper concept of freedom. I think it’s better, however, to call this non-leftist, as leftists united in their embrace of centralized control, and differ only in their account of why this is good.

    4. Just what i was going to say, having come here straight from Quillette on Camus.

      Most of the articles at Quillette are pretty much liberal (in the correct sense, not the US sense).

      However, they do certainly have more anti-loony-left articles than anti-rabid-right ones. Further, the commenters do seem on the whole more right-wing than the articles, which can retrospectively distort your impression of the articles if you are not careful.

      1. Bingo on the overall difference between the articles and the comments at Quillette. In there early days, the comments were more balanced, like the articles, but over time the right-leaning comments have gained in proportion (especially the frequent commenters).

        1. ” In there early days, the comments were more balanced, like the articles, but over time the right-leaning comments have gained in proportion (especially the frequent commenters).” I wonder what you’ll think about this idea: it seems to me that many of the comments simply state a position which they expect others in the community will agree with. What I would prefer is that people make a clear but limited argument, with stated premises and reasoned conclusions. Still free speech, but with the expectation of a willingness to follow and respond to other’s arguments. I don’t know if it’s possible to enforce such an approach in a comments section, but it should be possible to encourage it.

          1. Andrew, perhaps one reason you’ve noteced this shift is because many leftist refugee heretics are attracted to Quillette. Many will ditch the pomo cult language when they do so, and adopt the language of normal centrists. Who of course now immediately become classified by the left as rightists.

            Your solution seems a bit regimented. Normal people more or less do a version of what you suggent anyway. Trying to dictate civlility doesn’t seem practical and has the whiff of censorship. Let it play out, the crazies end up self-identifying anyway, and at a certain point will just be ignored by all except for other crazies and satirists. And the latter can be amusing.

  13. Central to the Judeo-Christian creation story (and many others) is the idea that Earth is the center of universe because humans were the entire point of the universe.

    Galileo Galilei was one of very few academics to openly question the idea that Earth was at the center of the heavens, and for this he was ostracized and hounded persistently until their false assertions about Galileo resulted in his prosecution by the Roman Inquisition. Thanks to the work of Kepler through Hubble we now know that Earth is not the center of anything in the Universe. Interestingly however, we find ourselves, 400 years later, debating the other part of the Judeo-Christian creation story, and those few brave scientists and academics who question this entirely anthropocentric view of the Universe are being treated exactly by the rest of the profesoriate as Galileo was 400 years ago.

    But how could this be?

    We must look again to another event in history that took place at the same time: the landing of the Puritans in what is now the US in 1620. After the Great Awakening and the realization that science destroyed the Protestant view that the Christian Bible was an authoritative historical and scientific document, they (and other Protestant sects dominant in the northeastern US and the Anglophone world) began a process of making their religions more secular-appearing and redirecting their religious fervor towards changing society throup progressivism in accordance with the Social Gospel and guided by the Elect even as church attendance of adherents to Mainline Protestant sects crashed in the 20th century. The universities they built, the Anglophone world’s elite universities, have become their churches, cathedrals, monasteries, and convents. The professors in these institutions protect the secularly holy idea that humans are the entire purpose of the Universe by defending them against the findings of physics, chemistry, and evolutionary biology which tell us that we are interestingly organized collections of chemicals interacting in non-chemical ways. In fact, the social sciences (sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, political science) were developed under progressivism as a reaction to science and hence any social scientists who dares put an evolutionary foundation under his/her studies are seen as an apostates, and since much of what is discussed in Quillette is evolutionary in nature, it must be targeted. In these people’s minds, science is the enemy of their secular religion. Reason is acid to their dogma. Practice of the dialectic merits damnation.

    But I’m sure the people whose ideas appear in Quillette are relieved to know that the authors of this article and their base (the “good leftists” I guess 😉 are willIng to work with them if they feel there is good chance of “correcting” their wrongthink. Otherwise, I guess the choice would be hemlock or fire, so to speak.

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    1. Correction:

      …and for this he was ostracized and hounded persistently *by his fellow professors* until their false assertions…

    2. It’s important to note that the medievals did not think that the Earth was at the center of the universe; they thought it was at the bottom. Under the four elements theory, the purest of the elements, aether, rises to the highest regions of the cosmos, between the orbit of the moon and Heaven. The rest settle downwards and sorts out according to decreasing purity: fire (which always escapes upwards), air (atmosphere), water (oceans), rock (all that hard stuff we stand on). This means that rock, the most impure of the elements, covers the bottom of the cosmos, and we live on it.

      Remember your Dante. In Inferno, the element rock forms a shell around Hades. At the true center is the triple head of Satan, each mouth chewing on one of the three great traitors of mankind. So, at the true center of the universe sits the heads of the worst traitors that ever existed, the traitor of Heaven and the three traitors of Earth, trapped in horrifying torment. Hardly a privileged position.

      How could this be so different from our expectations? The medieval world view, a paradigm in Kuhn’s strictest (if broadest) sense, was hierarchical and cyclic. Like any Kuhnsian paradigm, the people of its time were as incapable of breaking out of it as we are of breaking out of a mechanically determined universe. We account for the differences by making up stories that explain its hierarchies and cycles in ways that make sense to us, translating them into random actions in a meaningless universe. Galileo marks the point in history when this transition started.

    3. Your representation of The trial of Galileo and its outcome are unhistorical. I suggest you look at History For Aethists for a balanced historically founded exposition.

  14. From my experience in reading and commenting at Quillette, there are very few Quillette articles by Right leaning authors, but many from reformed Leftists who seem to be moving to the center, but still can’t resist taking a crack at Trump, or trying to equate the extremist behavior of the Left with equally extremist behavior on the Right. The only consistent Right leaning element featured on Quillette are some of the regular commenters who are quick to point out the logical inconsistencies and weaknesses of the Leftist perspective of the article authors and Leftist commenters. I must also say from personal experience, that the Leftist commenters on Quillette are very quick to resort to name calling and personal attacks on content and commenters they consider insufficiently woke. Thus, if Thieme thinks Quillette is dangerously conservative, she doesn’t know what conservative is or she is a typical academic Leftist who doesn’t think any voice that isn’t far Left should have a platform to be heard.

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    1. Nice to see you here, E. It just goes to show you that all notions of left and right are relative. I call Quillette right of center, but the fact is that I don’t give a damn how anyone labels it, I find it excellent, and as centrist I find worthy disputants on both sides of my own views which is just how I like it.

      1. I agree Ray that good arguments from both sides are what make Quillette interesting, but unfortunately several of the Leftists too often resort to abusive behavior when they are losing an argument.

        1. @E. Olson

          Both lefties and righties are capable of being abusive, but the bell curve of abusiveness is surely bulging on the side of the lefties. I figure that’s to be expected since their minds are more emotional. Leftism is never far from St. John’s ‘Imagine’; it is an emotional utopian kind of thinking thus when it is disturbed the recourse will be to the emotions not to reason. As for me, I try to get close enough to the fire to warm up, but not get burned.

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    2. I second all that. Quillette is no Claremont Review of Books, National Affairs, or American Conservative.

      I’ll add that the more shocking aspect for me is not that Theime et al. are hardcore progressives (nothing new there), but how ignorant they are. Scholars have been replaced by know-nothing activists who dabble in academics when they’re not tweeting.

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      1. @X. Citoyen: I left a cushy job in academia a couple of years ago precisely for this reason. I couldn’t put my finger on it back then, but it started to make less and less sense to me. Subject-matter was being replaced by left-wing ideology and every time I spoke up about it I was made to feel like an old-fashioned authoritarian (despite only being in my 30s back then). I saw a lot of the older faculty who were retiring were being replaced by well-intentioned, but none-too-bright younger teachers who were all too happy to engage in left-wing idealism because it didn’t require much knowledge of subject-matter. I think therein lies the problem: many graduates go straight into college-teaching without having experienced the real world. Or they go into media and work for publications like the Guardian and NYT. Then they get outraged when they discover the world outside isn’t a college campus and different rules apply.

        1. @Kencathedrus,

          Your experience is similar to mine. The older generation could be grouped into Isiah Berlin’s hedgehogs and foxes. A typical hedgehog was a medieval historian who knew everything about medieval history and had good Latin and working knowledge of two or three other languages. He also specialized in a broad area, say, medieval science. The typical hedgehog was generalist in the discipline who could teach any course in the department. He also had a couple languages and a various levels of knowledge in disciplines outside his own. There were duds, of course, but a big department would break into large numbers of each type.

          These two types all but disappeared among the younger faculty. Hedgehogs regressed from scholars in medieval history who specialized in medieval science into what might be generously called subject matter experts in, say, late medieval biology, with little Latin and no other languages, let alone comprehensive knowledge of the period. The foxes were completely replaced, and I’m fairly sure I know why. Robert Conquest observed that people are conservative about what they know. Knowledgeable generalists are bound to be, or at least appear to be, more conservative than people who aren’t. With progressives dominating hiring committees and granting agencies, generalist were kept out and know-nothing activists hired in their place. So we get what you and I observed, people with shallow in learning but deep in ideological cant.

          It’s a hard phenomenon to show, however, because so much of the evidence is indirect or circumstantial. But it’s what I observed.

  15. Why is it that despite acting like Red Guards, some people still try to convince themselves these people are really on the side of the angels just a bit over zealous.
    Whether it’s left or right some people adhere to an authoritarian mindset that isn’t about any form of justice those committed to a human rights world view show get within a bulls roar of.
    I don’t care if they do it in the name of the marginalised and oppressed the world they would create is no better than the one they claim to oppose.
    A boot stamping on a human face for ever isn’t somehow admirable because it’s attached to the leg of a non binary women of colour.
    It’s time anyone committed to a version of justice that has anything to do with human wellbeing and freedom repudiates anything to do with people who if they ever got real power quickly get on with the purges.
    That they have the power to destroy careers and reputations for ‘wrong think’ is bad enough.

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  16. Campus free speech, academic free inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and the like are simply McGuffins, and those trading in such issues nothing more than grifters. https://www.gq.com/story/free-speech-grifting

    Offence has nothing to do with it. It’s about not empowering a terrorist ideology. There are real material consequences to legitimising right-wingers, that are far more serious than anybody being offended. The only people who complain about being called Nazis, are Nazis.

    Listen very carefully, educated people are better than people of walmart. Civil equality is our nation’s greatest weakness. Right wing ideas exert a kind of gravitational force on us, pulling the Overton Window closer toward racism and prejudice simply by being expressed. Therefore, the normalisation model demands that unsavoury views are never entertained by university platforms, because they are a mechanism through which society will come to embrace those ideas.

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    1. I think you’ve mistaken University for a re-education camp & learning for indoctrination but pleased for you that you’ come to know the truth, and so I guess now all that is left is to eliminate those who think differently.
      This can only lead to a better world, I can’t think of a single downside to this way of thinking.

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      1. It’s especially gratifying that Jennifer exposes the bankruptcy of the notion of ‘academic free enquiry’. If we don’t know what’s true by now, we should simply listen to those who do. Examine your conscience: if any reluctance to accept the truth remains, then you are a Nazi.

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        1. Yes. The woke have everything resolved, why should the noisemaking of the ignorant and the evil be tolerated any longer?

    2. The term is “MacGuffin”. If you’re going to copy, you should at least explore some of the ideas you’re copying before you paste. Cheers!

    3. As an educated person (39 certified college credits) who shops at WallyWorld I offer up my humble musings — WARNING! BLOG SPAM AHEAD! — to help bridge the divide between the educated elite of our society (those many folks with bachelors degrees in Psychology, Fine Arts, Drama and the like) and pathetic old farts like myself scraping by on fixed incomes that can’t even afford a single scoop of artisanal gelato sourced from local ingredients. The Fyoverland Crank (.com).

    4. Also, on that ‘grifting’ article the reason I and I’m sure many others express concern about the campus Maoists regardless of their numbers is the following.
      1. This form of authoritarian bullying needs to be opposed regardless of who’s doing it.
      2. These idea are no longer contained to campuses, they’re polluting the wider political discourse in particularly on the left.
      3. Academia, science and more broadly any kind of intellectual inquiry relies on free speech, free thought and free inquiry.
      4. Free speech, free inquiry and the idea of dissent implicit in it have been vital tools for all kinds of movements for social justice throughout history. The idea that it’s really just a tool of right wing power to silence the marginalised is arse backwards nonsense.
      5. Being able to speak and speak freely fucking matters for all sorts of people (ex Muslims, non Western feminists, campaigners for universal human rights) I and others care about, who the woke left have abandoned and who are more likely to denounce than support.

      Dismissing all that because it fits your narrative to pretend it’s just a bunch of powerful men trying to silence young people fighting for justice is a stinking pile of crap, and needs to be challenged for the dishonest bullshit it is.

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    5. And who will determine which views are unsavory? Dare I suspect that you’d be happy to nominate a censor for us and that that censor would share your own perfect understanding?

      1. I suspect Jennifer would think would-be maoist re-education camp Kommandant Katja Thiel would be an excellent choice for censor because she sees the truth👀, she fucking sees the light👀 and she stares right at the way👀

    6. You are aware that your position smacks of fascism, right? “educated people are better than people of walmart. Civil equality is our nation’s greatest weakness” That’s about as elitist a statement you can make. For what it’s worth, I know many “walmart” people who are vastly superior as human beings to some of the people I went to grad school with. I hear Goebbels and Lenin were rather well educated as well….

    7. @Jennifer: ‘Listen very carefully, educated people are better than people of walmart.’

      I’m an academic, and one thing I tell my students right from the get-go is that if they think having a degree makes them better than other people, then their education has failed them.

      I am concerned by how much bigotry and hatred is emanating from universities and media these days. It’s the worse kind too, because it believes itself to be on the side of ‘good’, while those who disagree with it are ‘evil’ and therefore deserve all the bad things that come their way.

      ‘The only people who complain about being called Nazis, are Nazis’ – this is just a tactic used to prevent unfavorable ideas from being spoken out loud. Much like ‘commie’ was back in the 50s.

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    8. A word salad comment full of meaningless jinogism if I’ve ever seen one – delightful that you’ve referenced GQ during your brief moment on the soapbox too, no doubt the pinnacle of journalism.

      Also, I imagine the only people who complain about being called pedophiles are pedophiles. You pedo.

      1. Nice coup de grace, M.W. And kind really, bet Jennifer never felt a thing. And for a feeling>fact SJW, that’s saying something.

        You won’t be allowed to do that for long though, given that the pedo peoplekind are trying to get a P inserted into the letter people list in order to go instantly from victimiser to victimhood status.

        Shortly after that, I suppose unis will be expanding Grievance Studies to incorporate Pedo Studies.

        Not to mention the trans pedos. Yep, that’s a thing.

        Q: Why do you rob banks?
        A: That’s where the money is.

        Q: Why did you become a priest?
        A: That’s where the children are.

        Q: Why did you transition, Madilyn?
        A: The little girls are no longer where the priests are. And the postmodern, IV Score payoff is like, huge.

        http://nationalpost.com/news/canada/our-justice-system-is-broken-serial-child-sex-offender-dumped-into-ontario-city

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        1. @ratherberidin: I believe that the transgender movement is a cover for criminally-minded men to enter women and children’s spaces as the article you linked to shows. The word ‘gender’ is a Trojan horse used by adults to promote and project a sexual agenda onto young children, that just a few decades ago would have gotten you fired by your employer and put on a citizen-watch list. Now we’re supposed to celebrate sexual dysfunction and teach children that it’s perfectly normal and healthy.

          1. Ken, to be fair, “some” trans people in the same way as “some” priests.

            But certainly, there are now enough incidences of it happening to show some predator’s use trans as a cover to access victims.

            1. @ratherberidin: You’re right. I shouldn’t fall victim to confirmation bias. I have nothing against transgenderism per se. I used to go to drag clubs with friends when I was younger and it was a lot of fun. I guess I preferred it much more before it became a political issue. However, I don’t agree with it being ‘taught’ to children as though it’s a normal part of identity forming. It seems strange to me that talking a child out of transitioning is seen as more invasive than letting them go through life-altering surgery at an age where they are too young to have sex.

              1. I agree with your point about indoctrinating children in the education system. But education is so far down the pomo rabbit hole, that’s going to be a tough one to turn around unless there’s a large-scale “revolt of the reasonable” in western society. It might happen if the populist rise in the west seizes the issue.

                1. “education is so far down the pomo rabbit hole” – This is one of several good reasons why I homeschool my child.

  17. Cornel West also teaches a course with Robert P. George with the express purpose of “crossing the political aisle”. However, their mutual commitment to Christianity probably enables them to do so effectively.

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