I have been receiving congratulations this week from friends who are thrilled on my behalf to learn that my alma mater, the University of Texas, is now up there with the Ivy League institutions on the list of places that will inspire rich weasels to pay bribes to ensure the admission of their children.
Some of you may even remember that a University of Texas regent attempted to expose that scandal, and that my reporting was heavily cited . . . in the effort to impeach that regent for embarrassing the powers-that-be in Austin.
I don’t always agree with British philosopher John Gray, but even when I disagree, he makes me re-examine my own thinking, no bad thing.
The same is true of his new article in the New Statesman on Brexit, a project bedeviled both by the romanticism and sometimes willful delusion of some of its devotees and the smug technocratic disdain (the latter made worse by snobbery) of some of its opponents, a number of whom have also become detached from reason.
As Gray puts it:
For uber-Remainers, there has never been any question of compromise. For them the EU is a higher form of government, which it could never be rational to leave. They think of themselves as embodiments of reason, facing down the ignorant passions of the unwashed rabble. But their rationalism is a vehicle for a dangerous myth, in which the EU is a semi-sacred institution rather than a failing political experiment.
I have no firm view on how the forever shifting Brexit drama will unfold in the next week or so, but it’s worth remembering that if nothing is agreed (and agreed in a manner acceptable to the EU) then Britain will (unless an extension is agreed with the EU) crash out of the union on March 29. If it does, the British economy won’t collapse (although Gray is right to note the fragility of some of the foundations on which that assumption rests), but a sustained period of disruption will ensue. And, even if that’s all that happens, those disruptions—big and small— will enter British political memory in such a way as to ensure (in my view; Gray has an intriguingly different take) that Britain’s next government will be dominated by a Labour Party controlled by the hard left. And if Americans don’t think that matters, they should consider what that will mean for NATO.
Contrary to the jeers of centrists, the soft left and the irredeemably complacent Tories, Labour’s hard left (led nominally by Corbyn, a useful idol, but controlled by an infinitely smarter coterie) has played the Brexit mess to something close to perfection.
The trouble with rationalism in politics is that it consistently misreads political realities. Consider the outrage that surrounds Jeremy Corbyn’s continuing equivocations on a second referendum. There is nothing surprising in his ambivalence. Aside from his well-known Eurosceptic leanings, Labour’s ambiguities have been highly effective as an electoral strategy. In 2017, the party pulled off the trick of standing on a manifesto promising to honour the referendum result that kept its working-class Leave supporters on side while encouraging legions of middle-class graduates to believe that the party endorsed Remain. Close observers have long recognised this as an exercise in what Russians call vranyo – the practice of telling lies that no one will believe. In this case, however, large numbers – citing a procedural motion passed at the last party conference – were eager to swallow the deception.
My guess is that this strategy will continue to work (Gray seems more skeptical).
Towards the end of Gray’s piece, in which I was pleased to see his recognition (however grudging) that a “Norway-style relationship…may, at this point, be the most reasonable way forward”, he returns to the topic of the “Uber-Remainers”:
[Those]who seek shelter in the imagined safety of the EU are not living in the real world. In this they are like the established political classes in every Western country. There is nothing singularly British in the failure to understand the present. Screening out the continuing disintegration of the post-Cold War order is the response of liberal elites everywhere. All of them act on the assumption that the turn to authoritarianism is an anomaly, which must eventually be followed by reversion to liberal normalcy.
In fact, as John Maynard Keynes noted… it is a liberal order that is historically anomalous. Addressing a Bloomsbury audience in 1938, he mocked the faith in human rationality that he shared with much of his generation at Cambridge in the years before the First World War. “This pseudo-rational view of human nature,” Keynes declared “led to a thinness, a superficiality, not only of judgement, but also of feeling… The attribution of rationality to human nature, instead of enriching it, now seems to me to have impoverished it.”
There’s a reason that we are, as a species, so susceptible to illusion.
Keynes renounced his youthful faith in reason after watching Europe’s slide into chaos and barbarism following the botched Versailles peace conference in 1919. Securing a decent modicum of civilisation today requires an unflinchingly realist view of the deciding forces of politics, not blind faith in floundering liberal utopias.
There is no right side of history.
Gray concludes by observing how Keynes compared his generation to “water-spiders, gracefully skimming, as light and reasonable as air, the surface of the stream without any contact at all with the eddies and currents beneath”. “Today”, writes Gray, “a new generation of water-spiders is skimming the surface, and it cannot be long before it is clear where the currents beneath are flowing.”
The words jumped off my phone Friday morning from Psalm 35. It was one of the prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours that many pray and once again I couldn’t help but recognize the hand of God in the prayers of the Church — that so many of us would be praying this early in the morning after 49 people were slaughtered overnight, having gone to their mosque to pray on the other side of the world. The words from the psalms captured the morning. The blood of those who were murdered cries out for our hearts to be poured out in love — including in prayer — wherever we are in the world.
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is the closest church to National Review. I confess that given what just happened in New Zealand, I gave a passing thought to going to another Mass at another place Friday morning — we have so many choices in Manhattan (and in the northeast in general).
A few months ago — United Nations general-assembly week — I was standing in line for Confession there as counterterrorism police were doing a sweep right past me, not an experience every sinner has on the way to encountering God’s mercy.
I’d like to say that the fact that I wound up at St. Patrick’s anyway Friday morning was because I got beyond my cowardice. It’s probably more due to convenience and remembering the martyrdom of Fr. Jacques Hamel in July 2016 in France. His throat was slit in a remote village, during a humble morning Mass. The center of it all isn’t the only target. Wherever there is goodness, innocence, Satan wants in.
While there, in the quiet after the church opens at 6:30, before the 7 a.m. Mass, it was impossible not to feel a closeness to those who had died. It seemed impossible not to weep to God in love for these people I have never met — for mercy on those who have died and consolation for those who love them, whose lives are devastated and forever changed by the loss of their loved ones. All the human questions arise. Why? God help them! Why does He allow it? The longer I live, the more I know what I don’t know. And Good Friday becomes so much clearer. God loves us and loves us so much that He had to take on our pain so that He could redeem it.
Reading some of the other prayers of the Church today, there was this from Saint Aelred about the Passion and death of Jesus:
. . . he was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb before the shearers he kept silent, and did not open his mouth.
Who could listen to that wonderful prayer, so full of warmth, of love, of unshakeable serenity—Father, forgive them—and hesitate to embrace his enemies with overflowing love? Father, he says, forgive them. Is any gentleness, any love, lacking in this prayer?
The more you read about the suffering of Christ, the more you read about the brutality of what happened in New Zealand, the most you see the need for gratuitous love in the world. From each and every one of us.
And, for the love of God, don’t let derisive “thoughts and prayers” tweeting and headlines keep you from calling on the power of God for a revolution of love. Enough with taking comfort in a mere feeling — and for goodness’s sake, the tweeting — take action, make a revolution of love begin with begging God for His continued mercy on our world with so much of its misery. Lift up the good, work for healing, and really, truly pray and trust in its power.
It seemed every time I looked up or around at Saint Patrick’s Friday morning — a day before the famous Fifth Avenue parade for the church’s namesake’s feast day — I noted what seemed a heightened police presence even in the early hours of Friday, I saw a dog sniffing the pews, the security guards seemed a little more cautious.
There are differences among us, but they didn’t seem all that important Friday morning. Love for God and the gift of life drew us nearer with the desire to alleviate some of the pain for those who suffer most.
When we talk about thoughts and prayers, it’s not meant to be a mere talking point for a press release or acceptable filler at a time when words fail, but an invitation to so much more — plunging the depths of faith, hope, and love to beg God to help us be instruments of His love to help raise all people out of misery.
For fair-minded observers, this has been a bad week for the credibility of the two most aggressive (and punitive) “watchdogs” of the right — Media Matters and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Thanks to Peter Hasson at the Daily Caller News Foundation, we discovered the stunning hypocrisy of Media Matters president Angelo Carusone. The man who helms an organization that combs through the past of every conservative public figure looking for evidence of hate and bigotry has his own history of hateful posts.
The Times has also learned that the organization, whose leadership is predominantly white, has been wrestling with complaints of workplace mistreatment of women and people of color. It was not immediately clear whether those issues were connected to the firing of Dees, who is 82.
Also Thursday, employees sent correspondence to management demanding reforms, expressing concerns about the resignation last week of a highly respected black attorney at the organization and criticizing the organization’s work culture.
A letter signed by about two dozen employees — and sent to management and the board of directors before news broke of Dees’ firing — said they were concerned that internal “allegations of mistreatment, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and racism threaten the moral authority of this organization and our integrity along with it.”
Today, the Alabama Political Reporter reported that multiple SPLC employees wrote a joint email after a senior attorney resigned and accused Dees of sexual harassment and the SPLC of cover-ups and retaliation (Dees denies the allegations):
[T]he employees’ email alleged multiple instances of sexual harassment by Dees, and it alleges that reports of his conduct were ignored or covered up by SPLC leadership. A subsequent letter from other SPLC employees demands an investigation into the alleged coverup of Dees’ alleged harassment.
The emails noted that multiple female SPLC employees had resigned over the years due to the harassment and/or the subsequent retaliation by SPLC leadership when they reported the incidents.
The SPLC, as readers may know, has lately busied itself with greatly expanding its definitions of hate groups and extremists. It recently paid a $3.4 million settlement and issued a formal apology for labeling British Muslim Maajid Nawaz an “anti-Muslim extremist.” It was forced to apologize for posting an “extremist file” on Dr. Ben Carson. It calls AEI’s Charles Murray a “white nationalist” and (like it did with Nawaz) has branded Ayaan Hirsi Ali — a former Muslim who fled terrible oppression in Somalia and even now faces jihadist threats on her life — an “anti-Muslim extremist.” It unconscionably calls my former employer, the Alliance Defending Freedom, “an anti-LGBT hate group.”
At the same time, the SPLC has amassed immense financial resources, using its exaggerated and alarmist rhetoric to raise immense sums of money from frightened, well-meaning progressive donors. Quoted in the L.A. Times, Yale professor Stephen Bright had some choice words for Dees and the SPLC:
“The chickens have had a very long trip, but they finally came home to roost,” Bright said.
“Morris is a flimflam man and he’s managed to flimflam his way along for many years raising money by telling people about the Ku Klux Klan and hate groups,” he said. “He sort of goes to whatever will sell and has, of course, brought in millions and millions and millions of dollars.”
The final paragraphs of the Times story are telling:
While the SPLC funded some good work, Bright said, he had long heard complaints about race discrimination and sexual harassment from the center’s former attorneys and interns.
“It’s remarkable,” he said, “how many people who have worked at the center have not spoken very well of the center after they left.”
No one disputes that the SPLC has done some good and valuable work, but it has squandered its position of trust with the public and the media. The SPLC’s internal problems highlight a truth that’s been plain for years — it’s time to stop treating the group with the credibility it no longer deserves.
The recent revelation concerning college admissions is disconcerting, but not any more than racial preferences in admissions.
As Roger Clegg notes below, the Left, never letting a scandal go to waste, immediately leapt on the admissions scandal as a justification for racial preferences. The disingenuousness of their argument is matched only by its incoherence.
Ever since Grutter v. Michigan, the lie about racial preferences is that a college applicant’s race is only considered as a flexible “plus” factor, a mere “feather on the scale,” in the admissions process. The truth, however, is that in nearly every case race is not a feather on the scale, but an anvil. At some universities race renders a black or Hispanic applicant not 10 percent more likely to be admitted over a similarly situated white or Asian comparative; not even 15 percent more likely to be admitted. Rather, at some selective schools the racial preference makes black and Hispanic applicants up to 500 times more likely to be admitted than similarly situated white and Asian applicants.
As Stuart Taylor notes, during the discovery process in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard (the pending complaint brought by Asian students alleging racial discrimination in Harvard’s admissions program) documents produced by Harvard showed that the average combined SAT scores of Asian students admitted between 2010 — 2015 were 218 points higher than those of black admittees.
That’s Harvard, which attracts applications from, ostensibly, the most gifted high school students, regardless of race, in the country. At other prestigious schools the admissions preferences for black and Hispanic students are the equivalent of adding a full 400 points to their respective SAT scores. The weight added to black and Hispanic GPAs often is just as profound.
How does someone with a 1100 combined SAT score and a 3.0 GPA compete against someone with a 1500 SAT and 3.86 GPA? Not very well. That’s a major reason why black and Hispanic students are far more likely to cluster in the bottom quartile of their respective classes and far more likely not to graduate. This, despite rampant grade inflation and watered down curricula.
The fraud and corruption revealed by the recent admissions scandal is only a very small part of the problem with college admissions. A major correction is necessary, beginning with transparency.
I was surprised that the Republican count went so high (but David French pretty much nailed it in his prediction on the Editors podcast a couple of weeks ago). As we said in our editorial earlier in the week, this wasn’t an easy vote. Evidence for that was Thom Tillis and Ben Sasse voting against. Tillis looks terrible, having written in opposition to the emergency declaration a couple of weeks ago and then changing at the last minute. He may avoid a primary problem but now probably has added to his general-election problem. I can see Sasse thinking he’s already given at the office in terms of his opposition to Trump, and consequentially feeling justified in deciding to duck-and-cover. Still, this is a pretty big vote for a vocal, self-described constitutional conservative to take a pass on. But, hey, as William Rusher said, politicians always let you down. Two exceptions to that very reliable rule are Mike Lee and Pat Toomey, who are both thoughtful, constructive, and principled, and demonstrated it yet again yesterday.
Longtime Hillary Clinton aide Philippe Reines argues in the New York Times that the conventional wisdom about the Republicans’ drive to impeach Bill Clinton in 1998-99 is wrong: It didn’t do great harm to the Republicans. He is, of course, trying to make Democrats less fearful of the prospect of impeaching President Trump. Whether or not you share his aim, though, his basic point seems to me correct.
I also think the political downside of impeachment may be lower now than it was then. In the late 1990s, voters were basically happy with the state of the country (in August 1998, Gallup found 60 percent of the public was “satisfied” and only 36 percent “dissatisfied”) and didn’t want to see political turmoil. These days, voters are not happy with the state of the country (last month Gallup found 69 percent “dissatisfied” and 29 percent “satisfied”) and are used to a great deal of political turmoil.
Today, March 15 2019, marks eight years since the war in Syria began. The war was cataclysmic not only for the small, ancient Levantine country, but for the world surrounding it: People who’d never heard of Syria would learn of its whereabouts, and a refugee crisis would ensue. The Syrian crisis would become a talking point for presidential nominees in American elections. The war became so turbulent and complex, human-rights groups would find it impossible to keep count of the number of Syrians who’d been killed. ISIS would destroy Syria’s most beloved historical relics in Palmyra, or sell them for money to fund their terrorism.
The war is extremely convoluted and difficult for Syrians themselves to even delineate. Even the language we use to describe the actors in the war is complicated. Who are the bad guys, and who are the good? Who do we refer to as “moderate,” and who do we refer to as “terrorists”? ISIS and al-Nusra (an al-Qaeda affiliate) were the only groups that received unanimous condemnation from civilians. As Syria slowly improves, Syrians are returning to their old homes or finding new ones in their hometowns — my family’s village on the outskirts of Homs was evacuated in 2012 when ISIS raided it, but my family returned to their village about two years ago when conditions boded a return to normalcy (as normal as a place can be following street warfare and regular car bombings).
Syrians and those who have followed the war don’t even agree on how to describe the war itself — The Syrian War, or The Syrian Civil War?
In the last two years, Syrians have begun returning to their cities from wherever they sought refuge, often from Australia or Germany. When I visited in October 2017, life hadn’t changed much in my father’s west-coast village near the Lebanese border, besides the increased security at the borders. Other locations, of course, weren’t as fortunate — in July 2018, 200 Syrians were killed by ISIS in home raids and suicide bombings in Sweida, a city in the southwest. The fear of air strikes always looms, and those living in the West and planning to visit their family have to follow the news extremely closely to make sure they won’t be caught in the middle of warfare.
Many Syrians are hopeful, though. Rumors are spreading that Palmyra will be opening for tourism this summer, and a recent report from Aleppo describes the efforts of Syrian architects to rebuild Aleppo, erasing the scars of the war as much as they can in an effort to reclaim one of Syria’s many jewels. Architect Bassel al-Daher describes covering charred building surfaces with white paint to rehabilitate the Saqatiya market, which dates back to the Ottoman period.
There’s a desire, I’ve gathered, from Syrians to reclaim their identity; to communicate Damascus as the oldest inhabited city in the world, rich with culture, rather than the capital of a devastated country; to both accept the baggage of the calamity while not allowing it to color the universal perception of their people as broken or resigned; to honor the innocents killed at the hands of several different belligerents on the soil their forebears lived on for centuries.
During the Great Embryonic Stem Cell Debate, circa 2001-2008, I watched “the scientists” blatantly lie about the supposedly low potential for adult stem cells and the CURES! CURES! CURES that were just around the corner from embryonic stem cells. You remember: Children would soon be out of their wheelchairs and Uncle Ernie’s Parkinson’s would soon be a disease of the past.
The pro-ESCR campaign was filled with so much disinformation and hype — willingly swallowed by an in-the-tank media — all in a corrupt attempt to overturn the minor federal funding restrictions over ESCR imposed by the president, and to hurt President Bush politically.
After the Bush presidency, the issue became quiescent. And now, it turns out that the clinical advances that have been made are not from embryonic stem cells.
During the debate, David A. Prentice — a stem-cell researcher and my good friend — took a sabbatical from his Indiana State University professorship to tout the great potential of adult stem cells (and to oppose human cloning) around the world. He became quite prominent in the debate — for which he was punished by his university’s administration. For example, despite receiving teaching awards, he was moved from graduate classes and his lab privileges were curtailed.
Prentice eventually headed for The Swamp to continue his advocacy. He is now with the Charlotte Lozier Institute, where he has continued to track and educate about stem-cell science and engage policy controversies.
Prentice just published a major peer-reviewed article in the science journal Circulation Research, in which he details the amazing successes of adult stem-cell research — demonstrating that the ESCR hypers had it wrong and he had it right.
Prentice outlines the many problems that make embryonic stem cells “ill suited for clinical use,” including the difficulty of “differentiating and integrating” ES cells into the body, the problem that these cells “have shown evidence of causing arrhythmia,” the potential to cause tumors, and “immunogenicity,” in real people’s language, rejection caused by triggering the body’s immune response.
In contrast, ethical stem cells have had excellent successes. For example, “induced pluripotent stem cells,” which can be made from normal skin cells, are splendid for use in cell modeling and drug testing.
But Prentice’s primary focus is on adult stem cells, often taken from donor bone marrow or a patient’s own body. They have also not advanced as fast as was hoped, but they are progressing into clinical uses and human studies. From, “Adult Stem Cells:”
Not only do adult stem cells carry no ethical baggage regarding their isolation, their practical advantages over pluripotent stem cells have led to many current clinical trials, as well as some therapies approved through all phases of Food and Drug Administration testing.
Peer-reviewed, published successful results abound, with numerous papers now documenting therapeutic benefit in clinical trials and progress toward fully tested and approved treatments. Phase I/II trials suggest potential cardiovascular benefit from bone marrow–derived adult stem cells and umbilical cord blood–derived cells.
Striking results have been reported using adult stem cells to treat neurological conditions, including chronic stroke. Positive long-term progression-free outcomes have been seen, including some remission, for multiple sclerosis, as well as benefits in early trials for patients with type I diabetes mellitus and spinal cord injury. And adult stem cells are starting to be used as vehicles for genetic therapies, such as for epidermolysis bullosa.
If this progress had been derived from embryonic stem cells, the headlines would have been deafening. The cheering from the media would include anchors dancing with pom-poms!
But the media isn’t much interested in reporting adult stem-cell successes prominently because doing so doesn’t promote favored ideological agendas. That’s not good journalism.
The superiority of adult stem cells in the clinic and the mounting evidence supporting their effectiveness in regeneration and repair make adult stem cells the gold standard of stem cells for patients.
That’s excellent news for everyone, and may it continue.
But as we benefit from these ethical treatments, the next time ideologically driven scientists, bioethicists, and their media water carriers seek to drive public opinion on scientific issues in a partisan direction by deploying the propaganda tools of hype, exaggeration, and castigation of those who espouse heterodox views, remember how the Great Stem Cell Debate turned out.
Chiara, Jesse, and Helena are three young women who formerly identified as transgender. Now they think it’s a false and dangerous ideology. Here they talk to National Review.
Chiara was raised by a single mom. She wanted to start hormonal treatment, followed by surgical intervention, but her mom said no. “It was very much a desperate thing for me. I wanted it right now. . . [I] wasn’t looking forward to the future. It was all about ‘if I don’t transition, I’m gonna die.’” Now she is so glad that she wasn’t allowed to go through with it.
Like Chiara, Jesse’s parents were against her going on hormonal treatment. She explains how she got involved in transgenderism:
As a teenager, I was really involved in online activism and the rise of what people now call social justice warriors. I thought that was a very righteous cause to be a part of as a young person. So that eventually lead to me adopting more and more facets of gender ideology into how I perceived myself and others in the world.
Helena had a history of not fitting in and feeling uncomfortable with her body. She had been badly bullied and was feeling very low when she turned to transgenderism. She explains:
When I found this trans stuff online I felt it explained everything: why I didn’t like my body, why I was bullied, why I didn’t fit in. Just every question and problem that I had I just felt it was automatically answered. Explained by this trans thing. But not only was it explained it also offered me a solution.
Helena had hormonal treatment for seventeen months. She took high doses of testosterone, which has altered her voice. At the age of 18, she wasn’t thinking about her long-term future. She wasn’t thinking about the serious risks and possible infertility. She has some advice for other young people who might think they’re transgender:
Step back from the activism, the ideology, the community – think about the reasons why you might feel this way about your body. Because there’s just a lot of people with just glaringly obvious reasons why they don’t like their body…
Listen to these brave young women in their own words.
David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, asked staff writer Lawrence Wright to “explain Texas.” He made this request because he was mistakenly under the impression that Wright lives in Texas, which he does not: He lives in Austin — you can see Texas from there, but Austin isn’t quite it.
It is not, as it proposes to be, a meditation on the culture and politics of Texas and their influence on the wider American scene. It is an overflowing slop-bucket of ignorance, laziness, and snobbery in the shape of a book.
One of my least favorite things in this world is that aw-shucks, phony, cornpone Texan-ism adopted by so many people associated with my state. I admire George W. Bush a great deal, but I do not know where that weird accent comes from; it isn’t Midland. Molly Ivins was a great offender on the ersatz Texan-ism score: She knew a lot more about yachts than she did about cotton fields, but she created a ridiculous down-home persona. (She once tried to launch a television talk show, and her set was done up like a back porch, with a swing.) Rick Perry seems to have outgrown this, blessedly: He’s a cowboy the way Elizabeth Warren is an Indian. (I remain convinced that if Rick Perry had gone on the campaign trail speaking the ordinary literate English I know him to be capable of, he would be president.) Natalie Maines, as close as you will get to a champagne radical in Lubbock, has a bit of it, too.
None of these advantages in the admissions process typically attract as much attention and outrage as the most notorious admissions preference: race-based affirmative action. That outrage rarely considers that, legally, affirmative action cannot exist merely to help individual students overcome discrimination. Colleges, according to the Supreme Court, can consider race in admissions only to educationally benefit all students on campus by creating a racially diverse environment, and only if considering race is the only way to create that environment.
There is no similar requirement to justify the admission of legacy students, donors’ children, or athletes. It does not matter if Jared Kushner — who got into college on the back of a $2.5 million gift — added anything to his classmates’ time at Harvard. It is enough that it was in Harvard’s interest to admit him.
I think this passage takes the Supreme Court’s reasoning on affirmative action more seriously than colleges do, or the Court itself does. It is not as though the justices have ever insisted on rigorous evidence that racial discrimination in admissions delivers educational benefits. Leaving this issue aside, though, why should we find it problematic or even noteworthy that government regulates discrimination on the basis of race more tightly than it does discrimination on the basis of other characteristics?
While we’re on the subject of the college-admissions scandal: I’ve written about how it strengthens the hand of populists for Bloomberg Opinion. (The Sorting Hat from Hogwarts makes a cameo.)
ICYMI, Thursday’s links are here, and include Pi Day, secrets of the world’s greatest art thief, videos on making medieval manuscripts, and Einstein’s birthday (including the post-mortem travels of his brain).
cries from the heart to God for all those killed and lives forever changed by the terrorist attack in New Zealand. May He be their consolation and strength. May we be love to all. pic.twitter.com/CIK9bHZKOi
I had a striking experience Monday morning, that I write about here, and its making me more comfortable with the cross as home, I pray, this Lent.
Also at NRI, we send out a weekly compendium of some of what I’m up to in and around the Center for Religion, Culture, and Civil Society. Right now, among other things, I’m re-reading William F. Buckley’s Nearer, My God for Lent, with little snippets shared in the e-mail. If that sounds like something you want in on, it’s free and you can sign up here.
Arthur Brooks asked an expert marriage counselor what emotion is correlated with divorce. It’s not anger. Anger, according to Brooks, is a “hot emotion that says ‘I care.’ It might not be pleasant, but it doesn’t lead to divorce.” Instead of anger, eye rolling, dismissive humor, derision, and sarcasm are much better predictors of divorce. In a word, says Brooks: “contempt.”
In his latest book, Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt, Dr. Brooks — president of the American Enterprise Institute, and my boss — rejects the notion that incivility and intolerance are the core problems in America today. Instead, Brooks argues that “motive attribution asymmetry” leads people to assume that those with whom they disagree are motivated by hate. This shuts off the possibility of negotiation and compromise, and breeds contempt, which Brooks defines as a combination of anger and disgust. Contempt, not only for the ideas held by those with whom we disagree, but also, and more significantly, for the people who hold those ideas.
Contempt makes political compromise and progress impossible. It also makes us unhappy as people. According to the American Psychological Association, the feeling of rejection, so often experienced after being treated with contempt, increases anxiety, depression and sadness. It also damages the contemptuous person by stimulating two stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. In ways both public and personal, contempt causes us deep harm.
You might be tempted to say we need to find ways to disagree less, but that is incorrect. Disagreement is good because competition is good. Competition lies behind democracy in politics and markets in the economy, which — bounded by the rule of law and morality — bring about excellence. Just as in politics and economics, we need a robust “competition of ideas” — a.k.a. disagreement. Disagreement helps us innovate, improve and find the truth.
Instead, according to Brooks, we need to disagree better.
The Senate. The Electoral College. The First Amendment. The Second Amendment. The Supreme Court. Is there a part of our constitutional order that the Democrats have not pledged to destroy?
There are some Democrats out there in the sticks — a lot of them, in fact — who simply don’t understand the ...
Whitcoulls, New Zealand's largest bookstore franchise, pulled the work of Jordan Peterson from its shelves Wednesday in response to the mosque shootings that claimed 50 lives in Christchurch last week.
Peterson's book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, which contains a chapter addressing the particular ...
Last week, Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that the U.S. Department of Education will stop enforcing a provision in federal law that has long barred religious organizations from contracting with private schools to provide federally funded “equitable services,” such as tutoring and professional development. In ...
Today is the 16th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and Twitter is alive with condemnations of the conflict -- countered by precious few defenses. Yet I believed the Iraq War was just and proper in 2003, and I still believe that today. When Donald Trump condemned the war during the 2015 primary campaign and ...
On the substance of the defense of the Electoral College, consider me four-square behind our editorial today. This paragraph is key:
In our era of viciously divisive politics, the states are arguably more necessary than they have ever been. Critics of the Electoral College bristle at the insistence that it ...
Senator Elizabeth Warren has joined a growing chorus within the Democratic party in calling for the abolition of the Electoral College. Speaking at a forum in Mississippi on Monday night, Warren said that she hoped to ensure that “every vote matters” and proposed that “the way we can make that happen is ...