Australian writer Claire Lehmann recently turned to Twitter “protagonist“by posting bizarre comments about black athletes Sha’Carri Richardson and Florence Griffith” Flo-Jo “Joyner.” Richardson’s strong hair and nails, she suggested, were a side effect of steroids. Flo-Jo, she falsely addedHe also “had fingernails” and died of drug abuse. In fact, Sha’Carri Richardson’s huge nails and flowing ginger wig are a side effect of salon wear, not steroid use, and Flo-Jo died of an epileptic seizure likely triggered by the congenital anomaly of the brain discovered during his autopsy.
Lehmann’s disoriented vulgarity was such that even right-wingers were embarrassed by his tweets. The New York Times’ Jamelle Bouie, certainly not among them, commented that it had been a while since she had seen “Twitter rally against one person as it has rallied against the Australian lady of caliber magazine.”
However, she had an advocate, commentator Dave Rubin, who (though careful to distance himself from her) suggested that she should sue someone who had called her website, Quillette, a “white supremacist blog.” While Rubin’s proposal is legally illiterate, I was surprised that the casual invocation of “supremacist” obscures what Quillette is about, the culture eating his strategy for breakfast. It is not only the distinction hinted by Bouie, between the Caliper racists and the Bells racists, but rather the peculiar culture of middle-class British media people who constantly make fun of themselves and think things are just absurd.
I started writing a post the last time a Quillette thing made news like this, in 2019 or so, but it seemed to me that the media was staring at my belly button. But this last new thing made me realize that Americans, especially, might appreciate some subjective thoughts on the consensus reality sheets of British (or at least British / Australian Commonwealth) nonsense. Don’t expect a master elimination essay here, y’all, it’s just another list on the internet.
In no particular order:
• Quillette poses as a (classically) liberal magazine interested in inconvenient scientific topics. Their goals are generally progressive and left of center. But the scandals (he published shoddy research on journalists and fell victim to a Sokal-style hoax) show it as a blog to post anything with a blind spot for reactionary pseudoscience. Clings to condition.
• Quillette’s view of scientific affairs reflects an attitude that has long lurked in UK and Commonwealth newspapers and magazines: “scientismThis is the flavor of science without the rigor of its method. It is “science” as a materialistic worldview decoupled from the contingencies of scientific practice. Hitting social sciences over the head with “hard” science is its cheapest joy, but it justifies all the expensive ones, too. It hides the assumption that experience in one area of science makes one an expert in all of them (and perhaps everything), which grants infinite license to, say, retired engineers and physicists to weigh in on complexes. medical aspects. and social issues. This is a familiar feature of American journalism, too, but in the Commonwealth, from Vancouver to Auckland, it is a dominant secular religion. (Although, as Purplecat points out in the comments, that’s not to say that the decision makers are themselves secular or respectful of science)
• This point of view (if not necessarily Quillette himself) reflects a fine window that exposes a peculiar British spectrum of political positions, superficially to the left. Y right, which aligns well with that media culture. From the center-right, a disdainful but tolerant Toryism and its jocular, insulting belletrists. From the center-left, the Grauniad cult of crypto-blairists, mattachines and transexclusive feminists.
• All of this is loosely consistent with the American tradition of “scientific racism,” of the kind sublimated by The bell curve, but arriving at points of shared interest from opposite directions. And it must be said that Quillette is interested in things that go far beyond race; It is not a compliment to admit Quillette’s universal interest in science and culture.
• A hidden flurry in Quillette’s sails (at least for American readers, I think) is the anti-religious “skeptic movement” whose admirable work discrediting psychics, aliens, the papacy, etc., once helped make the internet go fun. This movement ossified as the perceived public influence of their traditional religious enemies faded, and their scolding attitude toward religious authority was reflected in other less established enemies. This made the movement, as it stood, fertile ground for young reactionaries. A place where old religions are absent but new enemies are shared.
• Hypocrisy is tolerated as praxis. The “intellectual dark web“Of the absolutists of free speech, as it was called counterproductive, it is a habitual source of legal threats and covert support (although perhaps naive) of authoritarian personalities and institutions. complain it often amounts to mere criticism, experienced by their giant egos like a wound. But the formal, state-backed censorship they threaten to use themselves is all too real. Lehmann herself once threatened to sue someone for “defaming” Quillette because “it’s going to be fun.”
• Quillette reeks of insecurity and paranoia. This is partially rooted in the marginalized Galilean society around which he imagines himself to revolve. But it’s more deeply about the fear that civil society hosts are being dethroned by guests who don’t really belong. In a broad sense, this is the truth at the heart of the rhetorical hyperbole asserted by calling Quillette a “white supremacist.” Consider the current panic on the right, that tolerating discussion of historic racism gives authority to victims who pursue illiberal goals. The same thing.
• Can’t stop inserting clichés that stop thinking. Quillette allows a lot of work to be done with her own voice (and her terrible reputation may even deny her best articles the audience they deserve), but anything that comes close to the pitcher plant of her obsessions ends up peppered with the same words. key, snubs and ideal arrangements with which we are familiar for years. “SJWs,” from downvoted reddit comments six years ago via tabloid columnists on Trump’s presidency to God’s ears.
• Conspiratorial thinking. To be fair, Quillette is often scientifically reliable; for example, it has been thorough and robust with vaccines, but the further it gets away from the overwhelming consensus more likely to fall in love with a madman with the right message and a lot of numbers.
• Good vaccine coverage aside, it makes “climate change is real, but everyone who complains about it is a complaining fraud, shut up, shut up, shut up” from time to time. Yelling at the environmentalists like Arnold Vosloo in The Mummy yelling at cats always makes me think of wealthy libertarian donors, for some reason.
• The accusation of crypto-fascism, made by a critic of Quillette, masks a better point by noting that they simply do not accept that fascism exists in any meaningful way at all. This allows them to explore the old shelters without all the luggage, without anyone telling them what to do or think. South Park for skull gauges.
• I think it’s significant that Quillette has a hard time impressing nerds: people with a highly technical background and, stereotypically, an aversion to identity politics. You’d think this would be a key audience (cf. libertarians and techbros and all that) but they seem to be able to smell Quillette’s delusional self-esteem even if they agree with whatever point she’s currently making. Quillette desperately wants people she considers serious to take her seriously. But they can only be flattered once. Such are the vicissitudes of “identity politics.”
• So, with Quillette and likeminded minds, we find a tangle of contemporary beliefs and assumptions that make them (in their own perception) the standard-bearers of a historical scientific tradition in desperate need of defense and revival. The best term to understand Quilette, then, might be “reactionary humanism.” He appeals to the “real” and offers “realism” about things, a “realism” obvious to himself but whose roots could not be less obvious to himself. Gender realism and racial realism, realism about all the things people feel bad about thinking about, all in desperate ignorance of the tired and tragic ideas that still animate their tired and tragic politics.
Well, there you go.