Can The “Intellectual Dark Web” Survive Becoming A Thing?

I have been wondering out loud a great deal recently about the effect of the mass proliferation of new terminology that seem to arise from the back and forth of the culture wars. Some of it seems more organic, the naming of an emergent phenomenon or interest group, some less so, like the attempt to create a desired phenomenon by naming it into existence. Very often, these terms are pejorative; one of the more effective strategies in recent years in the necessary pushback against retrograde identity politics (primarily but not exclusively from the left) has been to identify and name their tactics and patterns of delusional behaviour. Of course, the identitarian left fired the opening vernacular salvo with their attempt to being terms like “micro-aggression”, “whiteness”, “cultural appropriation” and “trigger warning” among others into common parlance, thus attempting to make the non-existent or absurd more tangible. They have certainly entered the public square but I am hoping in a context that will remain of a moment – historical terms associated with a stalled and misguided social movement. Read More…

The Old Censors Used To Be Religious Bigots Now They Flourish On Campus

Way back in 2012 I wrote a piece to mark the annual Banned Book Week. As the occasion fell on us again 6 years later, I perused it again and it was a sobering reminder of how the discourse around censorship and free speech has changed.

I wrote it at a time just prior to the intellectual suicide of campus culture and the mass-cloistering of the young that currently threatens our culture. Back then I was far more concerned about the demands made by religion, particularly but not exclusively Islam, for our right to freely express ourselves and indulge in the expression of others to be creepily curated in the name of a complete misunderstanding of “sensitivity” and “respect”. I could not have predicted at the time, that what I thought was a death rattle of the old order, a last gasp of establishment orthodoxy, would become a rallying call for youth movements purporting to be “anti-establishment”. Read More…

South Africa Gets Caught Up In The Partisan Divide

A few weeks ago, Trump caused a media furore when he tweeted that he was going to instruct his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to look into “land and farm seizures” and “the large-scale killing of farmers” in South Africa, seemingly after he had watched a segment the previous night on Tucker Carlson Tonight about Expropriation Without Compensation in South Africa.

The tweet immediately ignited a fierce partisan debate. Political figures from all over the world and opposite ends of the ideological spectrum weighed in on the subject, their opinions predictably biased by their pre-existing view of Trump, whether negative or positive.

And, sadly, as a result, much of the nuance in the discourse around EWC was lost. There is a more complex discussion going on in South Africa,  but much of that is unknown to international commentators who probably knew very little about SA politics before Trump’s rash tweet. Scrambling to appear knowledgeable on the subject, opponents of Trump leapt to glib defences of EWC as a good policy designed to correct past injustices in SA (there is, in fact, robust opposition to EWC by South Africans of all races and political persuasions) and his supporters were quick to characterise South Africa as just another hellish foreign shithole. Read More…

Undermining Property Rights Has Never Worked And Will Not Work

Last week the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation and announced that the ANC would be pressing ahead with the policy of expropriation without compensation. This would mean changing the South African constitution to allow the confiscation of private property without monetary restitution (EWC). It wasn’t an entirely shock move by Ramaphosa, he had been making statements to this effect for some time now. In June he said:

One of those is to expropriate without compensation to unlock the wealth of this land, which has been held in few hands from the days of colonialism. That alone should be able to add an injection to the growth of our country.”

Readers of Imagine Athena will not need convincing that undermining property rights is a disastrous move by the ANC and augurs ill for the South African economy. It has never worked and there are numerous historical examples of how disastrous it can be. What is the definition of madness again? Read More…

The Goodwill Ambassador of the Intellectual Dark Web

A quick Google search for “Intellectual Dark Web”, the term for a loose affiliation of dissident academics and public figures coined by mathematician Eric Weinstein and brought into the mainstream by Bari Weiss in a New York Times article reliably yields a torrent of angry leftist hit-pieces behind which seems to lurk some combination of rage, disdain and panic. Evidently, the guardians of hermetic orthodoxies don’t like it when the resistance against them begins to sound far too reasonable to simply label it as tacit Nazism. Of course, that doesn’t stop them from trying.

Given that the group to which the IDW refers is anything but homogenous (its heterogeneity being largely the basis of both its appeal and legitimacy), it is inevitable that some targets will be easier than others. I have noticed that many of the shrillest attempts to discredit it tend to focus on the comedian, interviewer and host of the Rubin Report, Dave Rubin. Read More…

Don’t Blame Theresa May. Brexit Was Never Going To Be A Romantic Adventure

I haven’t written much about Brexit, lately. I’ve been adopting a wait and see approach.

I realised pretty quickly how technical and complex the process of exiting the European Union actually was and I thought it would be wise to read and learn from people who were experts in trade and regulation. Much of the discourse around Brexit focuses on ideological and theoretical matters, with the minutiae of actual EU legal code rarely discussed. Very few people are knowledgeable in such matters and we didn’t hear from them at all during the referendum campaign, which, in hindsight, was woefully short on substance. The single market and the customs union were hardly mentioned and Leave (with some exceptions) never put forward a model for leaving the EU. No one had any clear idea of what the UK would look like post-Brexit. It really was a leap in the dark. Read More…