The bloom is off Big Tech’s rose. The past few years have borne witness to the downside of social media – especially for conservatives – as they spawn a host of awful tactics from doxing to online bullying to de-platforming individuals who fail to adhere to the bumptious, ever-fluid ethical norms of Silicon Valley tech tycoons. We have lost our privacy, grown increasingly distracted and stood by almost clueless as toxic emotions and poisonous ideas corrupt our public discourse. Glenn Reynolds, writing in the Spectator USA, likens Twitter to a “virus of the mind.” He joins the growing number of critics who argue that it is time for American regulators to invoke antitrust laws and break up the big tech behemoths.
The pro-choice faction in today’s abortion debate argues that a woman’s right to choose overrides all other considerations and must be fulfilled without restriction. In theory, then, the high abortion rates in black and other minority communities are a consequence of the free choice of individual women. But are they? Writing in the New York Times, Ross Douthat notes that the complex historical links between abortion and the eugenicist movements of the 20th century have never been wholly severed. Beneath the comforting rhetoric of female equality and individual choice, Douthat suggests that something more than just emancipation may be at work.
Happiness is frequently posited as the ultimate good, the summum bonum to which all humans aspire. The United Nations now measures the collective happiness of nations even to the third decimal point. But is individual contentment really the point of existence? And what happens to a society which believes the only goal of life is the pursuit of happiness? No people have pondered these questions more profoundly than the Russians, whose grim history has compelled a clear-eyed and honest appraisal of the human condition. Gary Saul Morson, writing in The Athenaeum Review, tells us how Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Solzhenitsyn captured the psychic impoverishment of those who neglect their soul and measure their lives merely by material comforts.
The fear that the Earth faces an unprecedented threat from “human-induced climate change” has become an article of faith among the chattering classes. Open dialogue has all-but disappeared, as even professional societies succumb to groupthink. Scientists who stray from the so-called “consensus” are subjected to professional censure. One is Alberta’s Allan MacRae, who had the temerity to write about the damage done to humanity and the environment by radical greens. “The takeover of environmental institutions by extremists is now almost complete,” write Tom Harris and Dr. Jay Lehr on PJ Media, and truth is only one of the victims.
Great news for Deadwood fans – a movie version’s out! The HBO TV series vividly traced the history of Deadwood, South Dakota, from a rough-and-ready 1870s mining camp into a thriving small town, bawdily showing how civil society and functioning politics can overtake a lawless state of nature. The May 31 release of the new Deadwood movie enabled Robert Herritt to reflect on its deeper themes in The New Atlantis. “Deadwood inverts a certain rationalist picture of the social and political — of top-down, technocratic deliberation as the ideal of proper action,” Herritt writes. In recognizing reason as subordinate to the exigencies of life, Deadwood subtly presents a Burkean philosophy. That’s certainly one explanation for the aptly named Swearengen’s continuous F-word eruptions.
In 1961 U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned of the “military-industrial complex,” an unholy alliance that would devour revenues, undermine democratic politics and commit America to endless wars. Early this century American man of letters Gore Vidal updated Eisenhower with his description of the “permanent war party,” one wing of which was called “Democrat” and the other “Republican.” In his presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised to extricate the United States from military adventurism and end America’s “forever wars.” Andrew Bacevich, writing in The American Conservative, was initially hopeful that Trump would follow through. The latest tensions with Iran, however, lead Bacevich to think Trump will likely not prevail against his generals and bellicose advisors.
New York Mayor Bill Deblasio jumped into the race for the Democratic presidential nomination this week, expanding the field to 21, and doubling down on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ Green New Deal by decreeing that another conventional glass and steel high-rise tower will never be built in the “Big Green Apple.” At times like this one needs a bracing dose of rational energy economics analysis from the Manhattan Institute.
Initially you had to look and listen hard to the news about the Easter massacre in Sri Lanka to learn that it was committed by Islamofanatics. In this it was unlike the recent mosque slaughter in New Zealand, for example, which immediately touched off a tsunami of news about the dreaded global menace of violent white extremism. But here and there you could find stories about western liberalism’s willful blindness to growing international violence against and persecution of Christians, among them this moving piece by Ross Douthat.
Like all things Trump-related, the release of the Mueller report was divisive. Even the Democrats are split over whether it should trigger impeachment proceedings. The evidence of amoral behaviour is certainly malodorous, as this piece from the never-Trump conservatives at The Bulwark make clear, but that’s hardly news, let alone a crime. Over at the left-leaning Intercept Glenn Greenwald painstakingly shows that Mueller found no actual proof of collusion with the Russians. Less clear is whether the White House tried to obstruct the investigation, but the Dems will be hard pressed to convince Americans the president should be impeached for covering up a crime that wasn’t proven.