Author: Noah Carl

Bruce Gilley vs Cancel Culture

Professor Bruce Gilley of Portland State University is a man not unfamiliar with controversy. In 2017, he wrote an article titled “The Case for Colonialism,” which argued that Western colonialism was “both objectively beneficial and subjectively legitimate in most of the places where it was found.” Soon after the article appeared on the website for Third World Quarterly, the journal where it had been accepted for publication, two petitions were launched demanding its retraction. One of these, which got more than 7,000 signatures, claimed that sentiments expressed in the article “reek of colonial disdain for Indigenous peoples and ignore ongoing colonialism in white settler nations.” (The other petition, incidentally, got more than 11,000 signatures.) By the time the dust settled, Third World Quarterly’s editor had received “serious and credible threats of personal violence,” 15 members of the editorial board had resigned, and Gilley’s article had been retracted. For Gilley, however, things were just getting started. A group of current and former students from Portland State University wrote to his bosses to express their “collective outrage, …

The Lawrence Mead Affair

Lawrence Mead, a long-time proponent of welfare reform, is a professor of politics and public policy at New York University. On July 21st this year, an ill-advised article he had written, ‘Poverty and Culture’, appeared in the academic journal Society. The article began by asking, “Why do so many Americans remain destitute… even when jobs are available?” According to Mead, the answer is not “social barriers, such as racial discrimination or lack of jobs,” but rather “cultural difference.” Noting that “the seriously poor are mostly blacks and Hispanics,” he argued that such individuals have not internalised Western norms of individualism. As a consequence, he maintained, “they are at a disadvantage competing with the European groups—even if they face no mistreatment on racial grounds.” Regarding the claim that “black social problems” are due to “white oppression,” Mead argued, “By that logic, the problems should have been worst prior to the civil rights reforms in the 1960s.” Yet in his reading of events, “The collapse of the black family occurred mostly after civil rights rather than before.” …

Yes, There Is Such a Thing as Cancel Culture

On July 7th, 153 mostly left-leaning intellectuals wrote a letter to Harper’s Magazine, expressing their opposition to “a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate.” The Harper’s letter prompted a discussion about the scale, and indeed the existence, of what has become known as “cancel culture” (though the signatories did not explicitly use that term). While almost everyone on the Right is concerned about cancel culture, many left-wing commentators took issue with the letter, despite the palpable efforts the signatories made to show that they are really, really not right-wing. For example, they were at pains to remind readers that Donald Trump “represents a real threat to Democracy,” and—as both Tyler Cowen and Douglas Murray pointed out—their number were apparently hand-picked to ensure sufficient demographic diversity without including anyone too ideologically unpalatable. On July 10th, a counter-letter, signed by 164 journalists, writers, and academics, was published in The Objective. (Although it should be noted that 25 of the “signatories” did not actually disclose their names, …