Dr. Who, mermaids, elves, and the "go woke, go broke" phenomenon
“Wokeness” often invokes a more ostensible allegiance to sociopolitical narratives on the left and implied moral criticism of audiences who may disagree. Thus, the political sermonizing that came to typify shows like Law and Order: SVU are arguably “woke,” but simply casting different races for fictional characters isn’t necessarily so—although I do think creators need to be wary of double standards when it comes to cultural material. If it’s bad to cast white actors in culturally non-white roles, it should be just as taboo to cast non-whites in culturally European stories. Double standards breed resentment. Definitions of “wokeness” also often speak to motives: Did showrunners make their choices because they made artistic sense, or to scold those with more conservative worldviews and show off their own moral bona fides to progressives?
Can Civic Jazz Resolve the American Dilemma?
For Free Black Thought, FAIR Advisor Greg Thomas explores the ways “an American art form such as jazz” can “model American experience and potential” as well as serve as the basis for our democratic and social engagement with one another.
Of course, the democratic pattern of experience and way of life as demonstrated in the art of jazz is far from easy. To play jazz well, one has to go deep in the shed of practice and performance with others; to be an American citizen living and embodying the constitutional principles laid out in our founding documents, we have to allow for the shedding of limiting identities such as racial essentialism and an embrace of a rooted cosmopolitanism. The pluralistic tensions of democratic life in a multi-ethnic open society, where one has to be willing to risk changes in identity as we engage with each other in linguistic, artistic, and political communication, is an obvious source of division in the United States.
The Problem for Trump’s Intellectual Heirs
For The Atlantic, FAIR Advisor Shadi Hamid discusses Donald Trump’s unique effect on our politics and institutions, but argues that his impact “may prove more distinctive and perhaps even more lasting on an intellectual level.”
As president, Trump demonstrated remarkable flexibility and little regard for ideology. Self-interest trumped all. And it was his self-interest to draw a stark contrast with a Republican Party that was long oriented around the ideas of limited government, free trade, comprehensive immigration reform, and neo-imperial adventures abroad. Through bumper-sticker slogans, such as “America First” and “Make America great again,” Trump elevated the nation as a sort of transcendent political community. In doing so, he gave conservatives permission to think beyond the bipartisan assumptions—prioritizing the individual at home and globalization abroad—that had structured postwar American politics. And that consensus, if it wasn’t already dead, was clearly dying.
For her blog Reality Bites, FAIR Advisor Monica Harris writes that a “phenomenon is unfolding with our language” wherein “the words we use to create a shared understanding of our world” are being “re-defined in real time,” and discusses how this is affecting our ability to communicate on a variety of important issues.
For more than a century, a “recession” has been widely recognized as “two consecutive quarters of decline in gross domestic product (GDP).” But as inflation has torn through the U.S. economy, this definition has changed. Now experts tell us that a decline in GDP, alone, isn’t sufficient to pull an economy into recession; “other factors” need to be taken into account, such as personal income, payrolls, manufacturing and trade sales and industrial production (bear in mind that all these factors contribute to GDP, which is why GDP has been the rule of thumb for determining a recession). But when half the country thinks the economy is doing well enough to escape recession while the other half thinks danger is imminent, they’re living in different realities. Division is guaranteed.
The 'Allyship' Double Standard
For Newsweek Opinion, FAIR Advisor Erec Smith explores the double standard that “when far-left black antiracists…work with white people, those white people are known as allies,” but “when black activists…work with whites, those whites are not seen as allies. They are seen as handlers, puppet masters secretly calling the shots behind the scenes.”
As president of Free Black Thought, a website and journal that celebrates viewpoint diversity within the black diaspora, I am held to that double standard. Some of the members of Free Black Thought's executive board are white, and this has attracted criticism, sometimes quite vitriolic, from those who either don't believe in our message or feel that message is tainted by the mere presence of whites on the staff. We are accused of inauthenticity and deception. Yet, even though I express that the black people running Free Black Thought are free thinkers who come to their own conclusions and make their own decisions, even though the organization's president and vice president are black, and even though we show a multiracial group of co-founders on our website, the consensus among the black radical Left and their white allies remains the same: Free Black Thought is a front for white supremacy.
A requiem for Black Lives Matter
For Spiked, FAIR Advisor Wilfred Reilly offers what he calls “a summation in print” of Black Lives Matter, detailing “how well Black Lives Matter met its initial goals: reducing the police violence that was invariably presented as ‘epidemic’ or ‘genocidal’ and reducing crime more broadly, as brothers and others came to trust a fairer criminal justice system.”
Did Black Lives Matter help any ‘Black folX’ live better black lives, a wit might ask? Setting aside some genuine good works by local chapters like Hawk Newsome’s, a cynical but real answer would seem to be that the movement certainly helped its original founders, current leaders, and their favourite charities. As The Economist pointed out, donations to BLM-related causes – the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation (BLMGNF) and other NGOs at the heart of international BLM – between May and December 2020 amounted to $10.6 billion. And most regular American black working men or anti-racist British punks would likely be a bit bemused to find out where most of that money has gone.
Free Speech: Truth’s Only Ally
For Areo, Iona Italia writes that “despite our keen intelligence and irrepressible curiosity about the nature of the world in which we live, we humans are not primarily truth-seekers.” This, she writes, underscores the importance of free speech and open discourse, and why defending it is of paramount importance.
Erroneous ideas and immoral practices can hold sway for a while; eloquent demagogues and populists can enthrall people temporarily, doing a great deal of damage in the short term, but over long enough periods of time, through the clash of ideas, we become less and less wrong. We no longer burn witches—though we still slice off the foreskins of newborns; we no longer sacrifice our children and llamas to the gods to prevent famine—though, in some parts of the world, we still kill people for violating ancient superstitions and taboos. But increasingly we fight using words, not weapons and we kill off bad ideas, not the people who hold them. As Karl Popper recommends, we try to let our theories die in our stead. Over the long sweep of history, we are gradually becoming less ignorant and less wicked.
But for this progress to continue, we need the freedom to think aloud, to explore every idea, including those that are offensive or outlawed.
Kids and gender — we have to (be able to) talk about it
For the Boston Globe, Lisa Selin Davis writes that “we on the left need to be able to scrutinize and talk about what schools and the broader culture are teaching our kids about sex and gender without being dismissed as hateful,” and that “silencing critiques, debate, and science…[is not] actually good for children, whether or not they are gender-atypical.”
I want liberals to help spread this message: There is no one right way to be a boy or a girl — and these are fundamentally biological, not social, categories of humans. It’s important for scientific and medical reasons to recognize sex differences. You can be as masculine or feminine as you want to be or naturally are. There is nothing wrong with your body if you behave more like members of the opposite sex than your own — and there are many ways to treat gender dysphoria if you feel that way. There is nothing wrong with same-sex attraction.
The American Psychological Association Is Waging War on Men and Boys
For Newsweek Opinion, Christopher Ferguson discusses the American Psychological Association’s “practice guidelines for therapy with men and boys,” which Ferguson argues indicate “an assault on traditional men and boys.”
I've just published what I believe is the first peer-reviewed assessment of the APA's guidelines for men and boys. What I found was a mess. Far from there being a slam dunk link between traditional masculinity and negative mental health or behavioral outcomes, the evidence was inconsistent and, across the board, methodologically very weak.
The authors of the guidelines are uniformly focused on the social construction of gender, ignoring biological inputs to both sex and gender identity. But even worse in my opinion, the APA's report is clearly disparaging of traditional men and their families, linking traditional, masculine values to an entire suite of negative mental and physical health outcomes—with no real scientific rationale.
A Mother Intent on Protecting Her Daughter Speaks Out
For his Substack, Year Zero, Wesley Yang discusses the recent protests outside of Boston Children’s Hospital, and one mother in particular who had a very measured, compassionate view of the other side. Yang notes that “the dozen or so protesters” he encountered there were “virtually all lifelong Democrats” and “none are ‘anti-trans.’” They are just “not persuaded that placing their children in the pipeline to lifelong medicalization is the right choice.”
The dozen or so protesters who joined Billboard Chris at Boston Children’s hospital were, like the woman speaking above, virtually all lifelong Democrats who until recently shared in all the progressive enthusiasms of the Blue Tribe of which they are a part. None are “anti-trans.” But having looked at the evidence around medical transition of children, and conscious of the stripping out of gatekeeping in gender practices that pioneering gender clinicians have publicly blown the whistle on — they are not persuaded that placing their children in the pipeline to lifelong medicalization is the right choice.
For this choice, based in evidence and consistent with the guidance recently adopted in Social Democratic Sweden and Finland, they have been branded members of the far-right by the mainstream media and their own political leadership, who speak in unison with the hundreds of counter-protesters who shouted at them, calling them Nazis, for hours.
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