Quotulatiousness

January 7, 2018

QotD: The Whiskey Rebellion

Filed under: History, Liberty, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Ninescore and fifteen years ago, with the ink only just sanded on the United States Constitution, President George Washington and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton decided it was time to try out their shiny brand-new powers of taxation.

Their first victims would be certain western Pennsylvania agricultural types long accustomed to converting their crops into a less perishable, more profitable high-octane liquid form. Unfortunately for the President and the Secretary, many of these rustics, especially near the frontier municipality of Pittsburgh, placed a slightly different emphasis than high school teachers do today on the Revolutionary slogan regarding “taxation without representation”. In their view, they’d fought the British in 1776 to abolish taxes and they weren’t interested in having representation imposed on them by that gaggle of fops in Philadelphia, the nation’s capital. They made this manifestly clear by tarring-and-feathering tax collectors, burning their homes to the ground, and filling the stills of those who willingly paid the hated tribute with large-caliber bullet holes.

Feeling their authority challenged, George and Alex dispatched westward a body of armed conscripts equal to half the population of America’s largest city (Philadelphia once again, later famous for air-dropping explosives on miscreants charged with disturbing the peace). Four hundred whiskey rebels, duly impressed by this army of fifteen thousand, subsided. The miraculous process by which the private act of thievery is transubstantiated into public virtue was firmly established in history. The results — chronic poverty and unemployment, endless foreign wars, and reruns on television — are with us even today.

L. Neil Smith, “Introduction: A Brief History of the North American Confederacy”, The Spirit of Exmas Sideways: a “novelito” by L. Neil Smith.

December 24, 2017

Hilarious History: That Time Cadets at West Point Rioted Over Eggnog

Filed under: Education, History, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Today I Found Out
Published on 6 Dec 2017

In this video:

From the beginning, heavy drinking was fairly commonplace among the cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point (founded in 1802). In an attempt to stem this in 1826, the academy’s strict superintendent and the “Father of West Point,” General Sylvanus Thayer, began a crackdown by prohibiting alcohol on campus. As Christmas approached and the cadets realized that the prohibition would put a damper on their traditional Christmas Eve festivities that included consumption of a fair amount of eggnog, a bold few began to plan away around the problem.

Want the text version?: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.p…

December 14, 2017

Cognitive dissonance in action – Net Neutrality partisans want TRUMP to control the internet

Filed under: Government, Politics, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Jon Gabriel on the weird position Net Neutrality fans find themselves in … demanding that Il Donalduce himself, the most hated politician in Liberal America since Richard Nixon be the one to dictate how the internet is run:

If President Trump is some kind of digital facist, he sure has a funny way of going about it.

His FCC chairman is trying to remove government from the Internet, returning it to those dark, authoritarian days of 30 months ago — you know, when pretty much every website, app and online service we use was created.

Bizarrely, these net neutrality alarmists are demanding that Trump maintain control of the Internet, planting his administration firmly between citizens and whatever content they want to view or create.

Even if Democrats were running the show in Washington, how could federal meddling improve the Internet? Do they want the Web run by the bureaucrats who spent $2 billion to build a health care website that didn’t work? Do they want our privacy assured by those behind the National Security Agency?

Nevertheless, progressives insist that Trump regulate the Internet in the name of free speech. Perhaps he can do this between his tweets bashing the press.

[…]

If the FCC approves this new proposal, the worst of federal meddling online will be retired. Instead, the commission will simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their service offerings. That way, tech innovators will have the information they need and consumers will know which plan works best for them.

In other words, Web users and creators will be back in control of the Internet instead of lawyers and bureaucrats. Just as they were for all but the past couple of years.

To ensure transparency, Pai made all his proposals public before the FCC vote Thursday. A big departure from the Obama administration’s methods, which kept its net neutrality rules secret until after they were approved.

Before the FCC’s heavy-handed intervention, we saw the creation of Amazon, Google and Twitter. If Washington removes these unnecessary regulations as expected, we’ll see the Internet continue to blossom.

And my daughters will get to watch their favorite YouTube celebrities complain about net neutrality for years to come.

November 1, 2017

Spain versus Catalonia

Filed under: Europe, History, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Tim Black on the situation in Catalonia after the abortive declaration of independence:

L’Estelada Blava, the “blue-starred flag” of the Catalonian independence movement
(Via Wikimedia)

An excessive focus on history can obscure the real dynamic informing the Catalonia autonomous community’s push for independence from Spain. It makes it look as if what we’re seeing now is a revival of a longstanding strain of Catalan nationalism, drawing on its 12th-century legacy as a principality, fired up by the divided union of Aragon and Catalonia during the early modern era, and burnished with the left-wing romance of Catalonia’s stand-alone, red-and-black resistance to General Franco during the 1930s. It makes it look, ultimately, as if Catalonia is not only an entity distinct from the rest of Spain, it is also a victim of, if not Spain, than certainly the Spanish state.

Not that matters have been helped by the Spanish government’s brutal, anti-democratic response to Catalonia’s independence referendum, as unconstitutional and therefore illegal as it was. It merely reinforced the impression that this is a conflict between an oppressive state and an oppressed people. After all, such is the defensiveness and weakness of the Spanish political class, we saw armed units of Guardia Civil assaulting Catalan voters, forcibly shutting polling stations and confiscating ballot boxes, and now we see charges of rebellion and sedition being laid at the doors of the leading pro-independence Catalan politicians, which has even prompted the Catalan president Carles Puigdemont to flee to Brussels. This really does look like a conflict rooted in some longstanding desire of the Spanish state to bend the Catalans to its will.

But to think that misses the real catalyst for the Spanish crisis, which lies less in Madrid or Barcelona, than in the European Union’s HQ in Brussels. That’s because, in the EU’s flight, manned by Western Europe’s political classes, from the democratic accountability of national peoples, in its demonisation of the very idea of national sovereignty as a species of 1930s-style nationalism, indeed in its essential anti-national elitism, it has created a transnational, technocratic set of institutions that necessarily weakens national state structures, depriving nations of numerous lawmaking powers, border controls and economic independence. Admittedly, the Spanish nation state has never been particularly strong. In common with the rest of Europe, its party-political system is in disarray, with its two traditional behemoths, the Socialist and Popular parties, hollowed out, and populist rivals exploding on to the scene. And, specific to Spain, the state has failed properly to cohere itself as a state, with suppressed regional antagonisms re-emerging in the post-Franco era. But the EU has not only exacerbated the internal weaknesses of the Spanish state; it has also fundamentally undermined even the possibility of a functioning nation state.

[…]

Yes, the cultural distinction between Catalonia and the rest of Spain has come to the fore in recent decades, with the red-yellow-and-blue Estelada a familiar sight hanging from buildings, and Catalan a familiar sound on the streets. But it’s clear that the driving force is less cultural difference, no matter how divisive, than the experience of EU-driven austerity as an unnecessary drain on an economically rich region. This is why support for Catalan independence has only risen dramatically since the economic crisis. As the Financial Times puts it: ‘After decades during which Catalan support for independence hovered between 15 and 20 per cent, secessionist sentiment started climbing rapidly in 2009. By 2011, according to the closely followed survey by the Catalan Centre for Opinion Studies (CEO), support for independence was above 30 per cent. Two years later, it reached an all-time high of 48.5 per cent.’

This is not a uniquely Spanish phenomenon, either. In other EU member states, the same dynamic is at work, with richer regions or areas with a sufficiently distinct cultural identity seeking to unfasten themselves from the rest of their respective nations. You can see it in the desire for greater economic autonomy of the rich Lombardy and Veneto regions in northern Italy. And you can see it again in Belgium, with the wealthy northern region of Flanders continually seeking to decouple itself from the de-industrialised, relatively impoverished southern region of Wallonia.

October 14, 2017

Brexit hangover – a proposed deal for the “Remoaners”

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In Spiked, Brendan O’Neill offers an olive branch to the Remoaners:

I propose a deal with Remoaners: Leavers will stop calling you enemies of democracy when you stop behaving like enemies of democracy. Sound good?

By Remoaners, I don’t mean the 16.1million who voted Remain, the vast majority of whom are not part of any elite, and a huge chunk of whom now accept Brexit must happen. I don’t even mean those sad people who traipse through the streets shouting ‘Brex-shit!’ and who agitate, or at least tweet, for Britain to stay in the EU: the rights to protest and speak are essential to democracy and these people must be free to fulminate for as long as they like against the democratic will. No, I mean those sections of the elite who have sworn their financial, political and institutional clout to the cause of preventing or diluting Brexit. You guys: we’ll stop calling you destroyers of democracy when you stop trying to destroy democracy, cool?

The war on Brexit – which is a war on the largest democratic mandate in British history, on the very right of the masses to decide the fate of their nation – is getting serious. For too long Leavers have had a tendency to chortle at the myriad spittle-producing haters of Brexit in business, politics, the law. But it’s not funny anymore, because they’re in the ascendancy. Not courtesy of democracy; the people have rejected their preference for oligarchy over democracy, for technocracy over debate, for expertise over the public’s opinions and beliefs. No, their rise, their influence, is built on their economic supremacy and behind-closed-doors influence, on the fact that they are wealthier, better connected and – let’s be frank – more ruthless than us, the demos.

The seriousness of this bloodless coup d’etat against Brexit has been perfectly and brutally summed up this week in the elitists’ suggestion that we revoke Article 50. Not content with seeking to wound Brexit – by, for example, suggesting we stay under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, or institute a second referendum even before Brexit has become a reality – now they’re openly calling for the whole thing to be reversed. The Observer revealed on Sunday that, contrary to what some ministers have intimated, Article 50 is revocable. This is all the proof we needed, said a QC in the Guardian, that it is ‘not too late to step back from the Brexit brink’. Translation: the plebs, the unwashed throng, took us to a political cliff edge with their strange, prejudiced passions, and now it falls to the clever, the legally minded, the rational, to put Britain back on course.

September 1, 2017

“Antifa looks increasingly like the militant wing of Safe Space fanaticism”

Brendan O’Neill posting to Facebook a few days back:

People are shocked by images of antifa activists beating up normal, peaceful right-wing protesters in Berkeley or physically shoving right-wing people off Boston Common. Why? This is what happens when you tell an entire generation that other people’s ideas are dangerous, that their speech is toxic, that their words can wound you and traumatise you: you invite that generation to shut people down, to use any means necessary to ensure “dangerous” ideas are not expressed and do not cause injury to people’s self-esteem or sense of safety. We are starting to see what happens when speech is talked about as a form of violence: it green-lights actual violence against certain forms of speech. If speech is violence, shouldn’t it be met with violence? Antifa looks increasingly like the militant wing of Safe Space fanaticism, the bastard offspring of a culture that elevates mental safety over intellectual liberty, and people’s feelings over public freedom.

August 4, 2017

Short memories and willing self-deception over Venezuela

Filed under: Americas, Economics, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the Los Angeles Times, James Kirchick took the pundits to task for their adulation of Venezuela’s government as it plunged deliberately into a humanitarian disaster:

Shaded relief map of Venezuela, 1993 (via Wikimedia)

On Sunday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro claimed victory in a referendum designed to rewrite the country’s constitution and confer on him dictatorial powers. The sham vote, boycotted by the opposition, was but the latest stage in the “Bolivarian Revolution” launched by Maduro’s predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez. First elected in 1998 on a wave of popular goodwill, Chavez’s legacy is one of utter devastation.

Thanks to Chavismo’s vast social welfare schemes (initially buoyed by high oil prices), cronyism and corruption, a country that once boasted massive budget surpluses is today the world’s most indebted. Contraction in per capita GDP is so severe that “Venezuela’s economic catastrophe dwarfs any in the history of the U.S., Western Europe or the rest of Latin America” according to Ricardo Hausmann, former chief economist of the Inter-American Development Bank. Transparency International lists Venezuela as the only country in the Americas among the world’s 10 most corrupt.

Socialist economic policies — price controls, factory nationalizations, government takeovers of food distribution and the like — have real human costs. Eighty percent of Venezuelan bakeries don’t have flour. Eleven percent of children under 5 are malnourished, infant mortality has increased by 30% and maternal mortality is up 66%. The Maduro regime has met protests against its misrule with violence. More than 100 people have died in anti-government demonstrations and thousands have been arrested. Loyal police officers are rewarded with rolls of toilet paper.

The list of Western leftists who once sang the Venezuelan government’s praises is long, and Naomi Klein figures near the top.

In 2004, she signed a petition headlined, “We would vote for Hugo Chavez.” Three years later, she lauded Venezuela as a place where “citizens had renewed their faith in the power of democracy to improve their lives.” In her 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine, she portrayed capitalism as a sort of global conspiracy that instigates financial crises and exploits poor countries in the wake of natural disasters. But Klein declared that Venezuela had been rendered immune to the “shocks” administered by free market fundamentalists thanks to Chavez’s “21st Century Socialism,” which had created “a zone of relative economic calm and predictability.”

Chavez’s untimely death from cancer in 2013 saw an outpouring of grief from the global left. The caudillo “demonstrated that it is possible to resist the neo-liberal dogma that holds sway over much of humanity,” wrote British journalist Owen Jones. “I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people,” said Oliver Stone, who would go on to replace Chavez with Vladimir Putin as the object of his twisted affection.

July 18, 2017

The upcoming Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War

Filed under: Asia, History, Military, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Stephen Sherman discusses some of the things that may or may not be given appropriate treatment in the new PBS documentary series to air this fall, covering American involvement in the former French colonies:

Indochina in 1954. Map prepared for the US Military Acadamy’s military atlas series. (Via Wikimedia).

Ken Burns correctly identifies the Vietnam War as being the point at which our society split into two diametrically opposed camps. He is also correct in identifying a need for us to discuss this aspect of our history in a civil and reflective manner. The problem is that the radical political and cultural divisions of that war have created alternate perceptions of reality, if not alternate universes of discourse. The myths and propaganda of each side make rational discourse based on intellectual honesty and goodwill difficult or impossible. The smoothly impressive visual story Burns will undoubtedly deliver will likely increase that difficulty. He has done many popular works in the past, some of which have been seriously criticized for inaccuracies and significant omissions, but we welcome the chance of a balanced treatment of the full history of that conflict. We can only wait and watch closely when it goes public.

The term “Vietnam War” itself, although accepted in common parlance, would more accurately be called “The American Phase of the Second Indochina War” (1965 to 1973). The U.S. strategic objectives in Vietnam must also be accurately defined. There were two inter-related goals: 1) to counter the Soviet and Red Chinese strategy of fostering and supporting “Wars of National Liberation” (i.e., violent Communist takeovers) in third-world nations, and 2) to defend the government of the Republic of (South) Vietnam from the military aggression directed by its Communist neighbor, the Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam.

Arguments offered by the so-called “anti-war” movement in the United States were predominantly derived from Communist propaganda. Most of them have been discredited by subsequent information, but they still influence the debate. They include the nonfactual claims that:

1) the war in South Vietnam was an indigenous civil war,

2) the U.S. effort in South Vietnam was a form of neo-colonialism, and

3) the real U.S. objective in South Vietnam was the economic exploitation of the region.

The antiwar movement was not at all monolithic. Supporters covered a wide range, from total pacifist Quakers at one end to passionate supporters of Communism at the other. There were many idealists in it who thought the war was unjust and our conduct of it objectionable, as well as students who were terrified of the draft, and some who just found it the cause of the day. But some of the primary figures leading the movement were not so much opposed to the war as they were in favor of Hanoi succeeding in the war it had started.

The key question is whether the U.S. opposition to Communism during the Cold War (1947 to 1989) was justifiable. The answer is that Communism (Marxism) on a national level is a utopian ideal that can function only with the enforcement of a police state (Leninism) or a genocidal criminal regime (Stalinism). It always requires an external enemy to justify the continuous hardships and repression of its population and always claims that its international duty is to spread Communism. When Ho Chi Minh established the Vietnam Communist Party in 1930, there was no intention of limiting its expansionist ambitions to Vietnam, and he subsequently changed the name to the Indochinese Communist Party at the request of the Comintern in Moscow.

From George L. MacGarrigle, The United States Army in Vietnam: Combat Operations, Taking the Offensive, October 1966-October 1967. Washington DC: Center of Military History, 1998. (Via Wikimedia)

July 15, 2017

The Canadian Red Ensign

Filed under: Cancon, History, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Elizabeth mentioned to me the other day that some idiots in the Canadian alt-right movement are attempting to hijack the Canadian Red Ensign as their version of the Confederate battle flag. Given how historically illiterate reporters tend to be, it’s not surprising that they appear to be buying this line in their coverage of protest groups like the “Proud Boys”. In the Edmonton Journal, Paula Simons tries to put in a good word for the flag Canada used up until 1965:

Canadian Red Ensign 1921-1957 (this is the version I’ve been flying outside my house for over a decade)

First they came for Pepe the Frog. And I said nothing because, to be honest, I didn’t much care that alt-right trolls and white supremacists had co-opted an innocent cartoon frog meme for their own foul purposes.

But now they’ve come for the Red Ensign.

On Canada Day, a small group of alt-right agitators who called themselves the Proud Boys disrupted a First Nations ceremonial event in Halifax. They arrived carrying a Red Ensign flag.

While the Red Ensign was never Canada’s official flag, different variations of it served as Canada’s de facto symbol from 1868 until 1965, when we adopted the red-and-white Maple Leaf flag.

The Proud Boys aren’t alone.

All kinds of conservative fringe groups have adopted the Red Ensign as their standard in recent years. They range from the pseudo-intellectual Northern Dawn movement to the more overtly neo-Nazi Aryan Guard. The idea is to somehow turn the Red Ensign into the Canadian version of the Confederate flag, a symbol of white supremacy. The flag, they believe, hearkens back to some mythical era of when Canada was “pure” and “white.”

This ahistorical appropriation of the Red Ensign isn’t new. It goes back to the early 2000s. But the Proud Boys, the anti-feminist, pro-white group started by journalist turned shock comic turned activist Gavin McInnes, have been getting much more attention. That’s because McInnes is such a canny public provocateur and a master media manipulator.

His racism, sexism and anti-Semitism are supposedly ironic and performative — he’s made hate-mongering into a kind of performance art.

[…]

The Red Ensign has been part of Canadian history since 1682 when the Hudson’s Bay Company flew a variation of the pennant over its forts and on its canoes. It followed Canadians into battle at Vimy Ridge and at Dieppe and Hong Kong and Normandy and Ortona. That’s the flag Canadians flew when they liberated Holland from the Nazis. It’s the flag Canadians flew when they defended South Korea at the Battle of Kapyong, the flag they flew when they went to keep peace in Cyprus.

July 1, 2017

Happy 150, Canada … now get back to work

Filed under: Cancon, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Chris Selley on the artificial sesquicentennial celebrations beginning today:

On Wednesday evening, indigenous protesters marched on to Parliament Hill and, after some back and forth with the local constabulary, erected a large white tepee. The group’s leaders told reporters they intended to “reoccupy” “unceded Algonquin territory,” and remind Canadians that “reconciliation” with the people who were here before them lies far down a bumpy road.

If nothing else, it was a welcome moment of coherence: big white tepee, Parliament Hill, three days before Canada Day — no one is going to wonder what that’s about. By contrast, I’m not sure what “Canada 150,” the officially branded and hash-tagged celebration of this country’s existence, is supposed to be. It certainly isn’t a focused reflection on Canada’s history, much less on Confederation. Passport2017.ca, the Canada 150 online portal, reads like an in-flight magazine’s Canada Day edition.

You can check in with the “Canada 150 Ambassadors.” Singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright appreciates Canada’s “civility, reasoning and compassion.” Sprinter Bruny Surin appreciates moving from Haiti to a country where, his mother told him, anyone can accomplish anything. Nobel laureate astrophysicist Art McDonald provides the obligatory shout-out to Lester Pearson’s role in the Suez Crisis.

[…]

Had Canada 150 been a thoughtful reflection of Canada’s history, it might have been worth defending against rhetorical excesses and disruptions. Instead we got a Molson commercial gone to seed — a facile, hackneyed celebration of our national superiority. Amidst all that, if Canadians and their big-talking government are forced to confront some of this country’s most notable failings, I would deem that a Canada 150 Essential.

Also in the National Post, Colby Cosh is not feeling the paroxysms of nationalistic fervour and joy he’s supposed to be feeling:

Could it be that going all-in on a 150th anniversary… was a mistake? One hundred and fifty is sort of an awkward number to be the occasion for a grand national celebration. That the word “sesquicentennial” exists, and that it is only ever used to describe contrived festivals of this sort, seems like a hint.

Me, I would probably be unenthusiastic over a rounder number anyway. My suspicion and resentment of any state-led hoo-rah or whoop-up is probably about half politics and half personality. No doubt in 1967 I would have been writing columns grumbling about Expo 67 being a showcase for high-modernist delusion, doomed hopes for national unity, and brutal industrialism.

But, of course, there is much to be said for the grouchy view. From our vantage, we look back mostly on the fashions and design coups of Expo 67 and ignore the larger details. Any ordinary cultured person of 2017 whisked back to Expo 67 in a time machine would step out of the pod and recoil instantly at the sexism of signs blaring “Man And His World.” We would look askance at the abusive landscaping of the Montreal riverside. We would sprain our eyebrows raising them at the glorification of European explorers and the endorsement of an unjust world order.

[…]

So maybe the grouches are usually right in the long run, and particularly about moral enterprises of the state, which are so often born and planned in a frenzy of self-congratulation and political calculation. Celebrating a 150th anniversary is inherently weird, but when I have pointed this out I have usually been offered the justification that Gen X-ers like me missed out on Expo 67 by accident of birth, and probably will not make it to see Hadrien Trudeau preside over CanadaFest 2067.

He also posted something on Twitter that might well be a response to Chris Selley’s article:

May 4, 2017

Words & Numbers: In My Safe Space

Filed under: Education, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 3 May 2017

This week on Words & Numbers James and Ant talk about the “safe spaces” movement on college campuses. Spoiler Alert: they don’t think campuses should be all that safe…at least not for ideas. College is the one time in a person’s life when just about every idea is on the table, and we do no one a service by declaring certain topics settled or off limits in the name of making people feel “safe.”

Check out at their recent column on the topic: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/5905d8ade4b03b105b44b95c

April 1, 2017

Hello Angry Losers

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Government, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 31 Mar 2017

A Word To The Patronising Minority

March 18, 2017

Catherine the Great – IV: Reforms, Rebellion, and Greatness – Extra History

Filed under: Europe, Government, History, Law, Russia — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 18 Feb 2017

Catherine had great ambitions to reform Russia according to her own highest ideals, but she soon found that the reality of governance made those ideals difficult to achieve. She also found herself tangled in war, rebellion, and (scandalously) smallpox.

March 14, 2017

British India During World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History, India, Military, WW1 — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 13 Mar 2017

India was part of the British Empire during World War 1 and it was of vital importance to the war effort. Resources, manufacturing power and over 1.3 million men that served in the Army meant a great price for India to pay during the war. But even before the conflict, the call for independence grew louder and louder.

March 13, 2017

“Intersectionality” as an Orwellian “smelly little orthodoxy”

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Andrew Sullivan is still disturbed by the Middlebury College incident in Vermont, calling it “the latest in the assault on liberal democracy”:

But what grabbed me was the deeply disturbing 40-minute video of the event, posted on YouTube. It brings the incident to life in a way words cannot. At around the 19-minute mark, the students explained why they shut down the talk, and it helped clarify for me what exactly the meaning of “intersectionality” is.

“Intersectionality” is the latest academic craze sweeping the American academy. On the surface, it’s a recent neo-Marxist theory that argues that social oppression does not simply apply to single categories of identity — such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. — but to all of them in an interlocking system of hierarchy and power. At least, that’s my best attempt to define it briefly. But watching that video helps show how an otherwise challenging social theory can often operate in practice.

It is operating, in Orwell’s words, as a “smelly little orthodoxy,” and it manifests itself, it seems to me, almost as a religion. It posits a classic orthodoxy through which all of human experience is explained — and through which all speech must be filtered. Its version of original sin is the power of some identity groups over others. To overcome this sin, you need first to confess, i.e., “check your privilege,” and subsequently live your life and order your thoughts in a way that keeps this sin at bay. The sin goes so deep into your psyche, especially if you are white or male or straight, that a profound conversion is required.

Like the Puritanism once familiar in New England, intersectionality controls language and the very terms of discourse. It enforces manners. It has an idea of virtue — and is obsessed with upholding it. The saints are the most oppressed who nonetheless resist. The sinners are categorized in various ascending categories of demographic damnation, like something out of Dante. The only thing this religion lacks, of course, is salvation. Life is simply an interlocking drama of oppression and power and resistance, ending only in death. It’s Marx without the final total liberation.

It operates as a religion in one other critical dimension: If you happen to see the world in a different way, if you’re a liberal or libertarian or even, gasp, a conservative, if you believe that a university is a place where any idea, however loathsome, can be debated and refuted, you are not just wrong, you are immoral. If you think that arguments and ideas can have a life independent of “white supremacy,” you are complicit in evil. And you are not just complicit, your heresy is a direct threat to others, and therefore needs to be extinguished. You can’t reason with heresy. You have to ban it. It will contaminate others’ souls, and wound them irreparably.

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