Among the Intellectualoids

Among the Intellectualoids

Warriors Against Human Nature

By 3.24.15

She has blue hair and a pierced nose and her name is Michelle. During last year’s National Young Feminist Leadership Conference (NYFLC), Michelle was one of the attending college students who used social media to complain that the event was too normal. “Next year, less binary, more queer feminism,” Michelle urged on Twitter, and several other young feminists expressed similar sentiments about the annual D.C. conference sponsored by the Feminist Majority Foundation. Perhaps you don’t understand what Michelle meant by “binary” in this context, and maybe the phrase “queer feminism” strikes you as rather odd, but this is the language and ideology promoted in the academic bastions of Women’s Studies programs at colleges and universities across the country nowadays.

Among the Intellectualoids

Decoding the Left

By 1.30.15

IRS records will note that as a child I was the founder of two clubs, the first of which was an acronym of friends’ first names and the second of which was called the Junior Killers, later changed to Junior Spies after an intervention from an agitated Mrs. Purple. Half the point of these secret societies, of course, was devising a secret code. Like most young boys we reveled in this stuff, aided by monthly suggestions from the “Codemaster” section of Boys’ Life magazine. And woe to the member who suggested the shopworn “One means A, two means B” trick.

I bring this up because Jonathan Chait recently wrote a piece for New York magazine that suggests academic liberals have taken up my childhood diversion—and their codes are far more impenetrable than anything I ever invented.

Among the Intellectualoids

Popes versus Nuns?

By 9.12.14

In the unlikely event that administrative assistants behind the “For Dummies” book series are preparing galley proofs for a title called “Religion Reporting for Dummies,” complimentary copies of such a book ought to be shipped to the Washington, D.C. offices of U.S. News and World Report, which just this week published a thinly-disguised plea for help in that area.

Among the Intellectualoids

What ‘The Goldfinch’ and Commencement Speeches Have In Common

By 6.19.14

If you were following the great Commencement Speaker Bloodbath of 2014, you might have noticed that there were two stories happening. Here’s story number one: “hyper-sensitive college students suppress freedom of speech.” This was the story most people accepted at the time. The other story went like this: “college administrators and commencement speakers prove unable to handle freedom of speech.” This story, though less popular, fits the facts a little better.

Students, though loud and opinionated, have no real power; they can’t even suppress a mouse uprising in their dorm rooms without administrative help. As protests go, these were weak. Christine Lagarde, for instance, decided not to give an address at Smith’s commencement ceremony over a petition. When have you ever heard about a petition as anything other than the punchline to a joke?

Among the Intellectualoids

Satan and Man at Harvard

By 5.11.14

Plans for a Satanic black mass Monday evening in Memorial Hall at Harvard University recall conservative icon William Buckley's famous God and Man at Yale, which in 1951 chastised his Ivy League school for abandoning its Christian roots. His critique applied to nearly all of America's most prestigious, historically Protestant academies that shed their church affiliations in favor of a brash secularism. 

What would Buckley, a devout Catholic, say today about a black mass at Harvard, the nation's oldest university and founded by the Puritans to train Calvinist clergy?

The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston expressed its “deep sadness and strong opposition to the plan to stage a 'black mass' on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge.” Certainly Buckley would be sad too but not too surprised. He diagnosed the spiritual and intellectual trajectory over 60 years ago.

Among the Intellectualoids

Plato’s Stepchildren

By 5.1.14

Here’s a puzzle: Rebecca Newberg Goldstein has released a very solid and well-received book, Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away. Half-dialogue, half-explanatory essay, practically every page has a citation that goes to one Platonic dialogue or another. And yet, the further I read, the more I missed Plato. Sure, there was a Plato on the page. But I didn’t recognize him—or the Greeks, for that matter, who seem reduced to a set of ideological stereotypes.

Among the Intellectualoids

Junk Economics at the ‘Times’

By 3.8.14

The Great Divide” series of articles on inequality in the New York Times offers a textbook example of exaggerating the size of the hole and ignoring the donut. In “We Are Not All in This Together,” for instance, sociology professor Shamus Khan at Columbia paints a picture of the economy as a fixed pie: “Let’s be honest. If a few of us are better off, then many are not. If many are better off, then a few will be constrained. Which world would you rather live in? To me the answer is obvious.”

In fact, Khan’s assertion of how the world works is far from obvious.

Is he saying the rest of us became worse off when Steve Jobs and his top associates became better off? Is he claiming that we’ll somehow become worse off, automatically, if the stockholders of Merck or Bristol-Myers become better off because their investments succeed in producing a drug that can zap cancer tumors via the immune system?

Among the Intellectualoids

Jesuitical Confusion

By 2.13.14

There was a remarkable piece titled “What We Wrought” recently in America, a Jesuit publication, by a Catholic pacifist long active against the U.S. led overthrow of Saddam Hussein. It is remarkable primarily because even as it bewails how the U.S. “destroyed” Iraq, it omits all mention of Saddam and his own central role in Iraq’s destruction.

The Catholic anti-war activist recalls her own travel 12 years ago to Iraq under the unnamed dictator in solidarity against international sanctions and against the impending U.S. led invasion. She was active with “Voices in the Wilderness,” a now disbanded group militantly against Iraq war and sanctions, as well as U.S. nuclear weapons and Israeli policies.

Among the Intellectualoids

The Worst Idea in the World

By 2.5.14

Five years after the Bolshevik Revolution, Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises predicted that the Soviet project was doomed to fail. In his classic work Socialism, Mises explained that the attempt to replace the market system with central economic planning could not succeed, because the planners could not possibly have the information necessary to make all the decisions which, in a market economy, are made by individuals whose needs and desires are reflected in prices: "The problem of economic calculation is the fundamental problem of Socialism."

Among the Intellectualoids

The Inequality Bogeyman

By 1.28.14

During a recent lunch in a restaurant, someone complimented my wife on the perfume she was wearing. But I was wholly unaware that she was wearing perfume, even though we had been in a car together for about half an hour, driving to the restaurant.