When institutions abuse the trust placed in them, they become brittle and expose themselves to conspiracy theorists and demagogues
One thing I like to do on this blog is note the small and less spectacular effects of human rights violations on our democracy.
Too often, when we discuss government wrong-doing, or some power-grabbing piece of legislation, we speak in grand terms about how it could lead to the breakdown of democracy and the onset of totalitarianism. We always talk about the end state—Nineteen Eighty-Four, usually—which conveys the implicit message that the way-points in that journey are not terrible in-and-of themselves. Continue reading “Whitehouse wiretap smear: GCHQ has reaped what it has sown”
Some of his flaws are a threat to the people, and some of his flaws are a threat to the Republic. Americans must learn to tell the difference.
As even his supporters and those who voted for him know, President-Elect Donald Trump has many flaws. The election is still a recent event, and so we still consider each of these flaws as reasons why someone might decline to vote for him. Everything is mentally catalogued simply as Reasons Why He Should Not Be President.
However, now he is going to be president (I don’t think the recounts will stop this from happening) I think it is worth sketching out a slightly better taxonomy of the Terrible Things About Trump, because the different types of awfulness and wrong-doing he exhibits have different implications for politics and the country. America is the oldest modern democracy and the exemplar for the rest of the world, so what happens in the USA concerns the rest of the planet too. Continue reading “Trying To Taxonomize Trump’s Terribleness”
Free speech advocates need to acknowledge that our approach asks people to lay their identities on the table for dissection. If people balk at that suggestion, our response should not be to call them ‘thin skinned special snowflakes’
This is an edited transcript of my speech to the Leeds Beckett Festival of Politics and International Relations Festival, delivered on 15th November 2016. This first appeared on the Leeds Beckett University Politics and Applied Global Ethics (PAGE) blog. You can listen to the unalloyed version of the speech on SoundCloud or via the player below.
Some Arguments Against No Platform
I want to first set out my views on No Platform policies. In short, I think they’re bad for free speech and they’re bad for the people they seek to protect.
The idea of No Platform is that it seeks to avoid giving someone the credibility of speaking at a prestigious institution. Those who call for No Platform claim it is not a form of censorship, because the person is subjected to the No Platform rule can always take their words elsewhere. Moreover (they say), legal protections for free speech relate to the government, and since the government is not involved in choosing who speaks at a university there is no real issue. Why can’t we choose who does and does not speak on our campus? Continue reading “A Better Debate About No Platform? My Speech At the Leeds Beckett Festival of Politics and International Relations”
What, I wonder, does true Red State literature look like?
On 9th November, the morning after the U.S. Presidential election, my friend Mark posted this to Facebook.
This morning makes me understand what it must feel like for those people who look at the political landscape, look at the establishment, look at the leader and say, ‘I don’t recognise this; it doesn’t speak to me; it doesn’t represent my situation. It doesn’t represent anyone I know.’ It’s a feeling of despair and dislocation. It’s the same feeling that makes people crave something different. Choose anything that’s different. Even a man like Donald Trump.
In the week since the election there have been thousands of op-eds and ‘hot-takes’ published on why Trump won the electoral college and the mindset of his voters. But surprisingly, I have not seen this particular sentiment—empathising directly with how such people are feeling—anywhere else. At least, not expressed so clearly. Continue reading “Empathising With Trump Voters”
Americans would do well to remember that the surprise ‘Leave’ vote in the UK on 23 June was not the culmination of a chaotic political period, but the beginning of one.
The day before the U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump declared that the result would be poll-defying “Brexit Plus Plus” election upset.
He was sort of right, in that he pulled off a surprise electoral college victory (although, since Hillary Clinton won the popular vote Mr Trump’s ‘plus plus’ suffix might be said to be inaccurate).
Americans would do well to remember that the surprise ‘Leave’ vote in the UK on 23 June was not the culmination of a chaotic political period, but the beginning of one. Continue reading “Brexit Plus Plus? Here’s What Happen’s Next, America”
The incredible gravity of the U.S. Presidential election pulled all of our attention towards Donald Trump and his scandalous behaviour. His unexpected victory will have us reeling for weeks to come. His forthcoming presidency will probably be a permenant distraction. Just as his presidential primary rivals failed to get their message across, so other pressing issues will surely be crowded out by a general obsession and fascination with Mr Trump.
Here is one such issue that has not received the attention it deserves: the Republican-controlled Senate’s refusal to confirm, or even hold hearings on Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s choice for the United States Supreme Court.
Continue reading “The Disgraceful Behaviour of the Senate on the Supreme Court Opening”
Recent events elsewhere in the world have made me particularly appreciate the American system.
The 2016 US Election has been, as they would say, a ‘dumpster fire’. The media have graded one candidate on a curve, and the discussion has been almost entirely about personalities. There does not appear to have been any sustained news cycle dedicated to policy. Indeed, even the discussion of actual policies in the debates was atrocious.
It’s clear that the country is incredibly polarised. Nevertheless, I still admire the American political system.
One silver-lining of the Trump candidacy is that there has been plenty of discussion about the US system. I don’t mean admiration for the electoral college (although I’ve heard some good arguments for its retention recently) but more simply and fundamentally, the fact that everything is subordinate to the Rule of Law, and a Constitution which places and incredibly strong emphasis of individual rights and protections against government over-reach.
This may seem like a statement of the obvious, but recent events elsewhere in the world have made me particularly appreciate the American approach.
Continue reading “I Admire the American Political System”
What to do when people engage in incitement and hate speech? This is surely the toughest challenge facing free speech defenders
I’m bookmarking this Washington Post profile of Professor Susan Benesch, whose research looks at ‘dangerous speech’—that is, speech that can incite mass violence.
For Benesch, it’s important that people understand that the type of speech she wants to counter is different from hate speech, which she says is a broad category for which there is no agreed-upon definition. An advocate for free speech, she does not believe that hate speech can or should be silenced. In fact, it’s one of the central reasons she sought to differentiate dangerous speech.
Continue reading “A Framework for Countering Dangerous Speech”
There is an implication that Clinton is not winning on her own merits but because The Donald has thrown the election. Even as she prepares to become the first woman president, Hillary Clinton is still the victim of sexism
Despite having written very little on this blog about the United States Presidential election, I’ve been following it closely. My main source of news and commentary has been podcasts: The FiveThirtyEight weekly round-up in particular. But I’ve been reading mainstream news sites and blog commentary too.
Even as she makes history as the first woman to run for president, and even as she prepares to become the first woman to take the office, Hillary Clinton is still the victim of sexism. Most analyses attribute her lead to the to the failings of her opponent: Donald Trump is egotistical, misogynist, racist. He is under-prepared and has led a shambolic campaign. There is an implication that Clinton—a historically unpopular candidate—is not winning on her own merits but because The Donald has thrown the election to her. In another year (so goes the argument), against another candidate, she would lose. Continue reading “Why Hillary Clinton Will Win”
The keynote speeches at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia were a fantastic reminder of just how potent is the idea of ‘America’. The President and the First Lady are perhaps more comfortable speakers, but I thought Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech on Thursday evening (which I’ve only just watched) was actually the most persuasive analysis of what the country stands for and what it can be. Continue reading “Stronger Together: America is a Collaboration”