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 Social Currency of Victimhood

 

Much has been made in recent months of the so-called “generation snowflake”. This is hardly surprising given the disproportionate role of millennials in re-shaping social and political norms in frankly sinister ways; the destruction of free expression and open conversation on university campuses; the championing of censorship, the anti-science impulses that run through gender-identity movements; and the segregationist attitude to identity in general. To be clear from the outset, I am always against the demonization of people just for the membership of a generation or age-group – I always found the stereotyping of Generation X as feckless and nihilistic or Generation X’s own loathing of baby-boomers distasteful. I was disgusted by the hatred directed at the elderly following the Brexit vote and I recognise that there are many millennials who are extremely frustrated by the attitudes of their peers. Be that as it may, generation snowflake, as a description of an attitudinal subset of millennials, is somewhat apt and warrants further analysis. Read More…

What it means to be a Freethinker

After a period in the sun, during the heyday of the Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins (among others) New Atheist uprising, terms like freethinker, sceptic and the more specific atheist seem to have lost their popular allure. This is understandable among their obvious targets, the religious and superstitious, among whom they were unlikely to find a fan-base in the first place but, peculiarly, those to whom such terms (either in actuality or in potentia) could be applied have often sought to distance themselves from being associated with them.

In the early days of this website I spent many happy pages dismantling the superficially simpering but ultimately sinister certainties of the religious, yet over the years I have had to turn my spotlight increasingly to the ideological myths and superstitions of academia and journalism. These fields have become increasingly tainted by a commitment to narrative over truth, to a priori framing, rather than reasoned conclusions subject to revision on the basis of new evidence – i.e. the central scientific criticism of religion. Read More…

Identity Politics Is Poison

Earlier this week a deeply unpleasant video emerged, which showed a group of white nationalists praising Donald Trump whilst throwing nazi salutes.

It serves as an ugly reminder of just how awful racialised politics is. We live in an era in which identity politics is ascendant. It dominates public discourse. From both ends of the political spectrum we get victimhood narratives and identity obsession, with one side fuelling the other.

It is very important that we move beyond the divisive and damaging politics of polarization.

When you try to play the game of identity politics, no one wins. You just leave a toxic legacy for future generations to have to deal with.

For those of us who are opposed to political correctness, language policing and identity politics, we cannot – in the words of Christopher Hitchens – allow the extremist tail to wag the whole dog.

The solution to poisonous identity politics is not more identity politics.

Let’s hope, instead, for an outbreak of common sense.

In this week’s Imagine Athena podcast Candice Holdsworth spoke to Robin Gilbert-Jones, contributing editor to Imagine Athena, about the identity politics of the Regressive Left in the time of Donald Trump, and she also reflects on the identity politics of the far right.

 

 

Is Charlie Hebdo Racist?

Listen to this really illuminating podcast that’s been widely shared on social media this week.

It features a discussion between John Semley, a high profile Canadian critic of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and his fellow Canadian, the cartoonist “Eiynah”, pseudonymous author of the blog Nice Mangos.

It’s fascinating to observe the dynamic between the moderately progressive Eiynah, an ex-Muslim atheist who writes a blog on Islam and sexuality, and Semley who also self-identifies as a “progressive”.

As a former Muslim, who turns a wry eye on conservative Islamic culture and its attitudes to sex, Eiynah argues for solidarity with publications, such as Charlie Hebdo, who do the same; whilst Semley, the consummate western liberal progressive, believes it to be a racist monstrosity, unworthy of support from his political kin.

Eiynah argues that Islam is not a race; after all, she considers herself to be “ex-Muslim”.

He describes Charlie Hebdo as “pudgy French intellectuals drawing Mohammed’s asshole.”

You would not think that their positions would diverge so wildly on this subject, but they do.