Skip to content

Culture war games: unlearning liberty

After five years of ‘Unlearning Liberty,’ book’s prescriptions command urgent attention
By Alex Morey

“It may seem like a paradox,” Greg wrote, “but an environment that squelches debate and punishes the expression of opinions, in the very institution that is supposed to make us better thinkers, can lead quickly to the formation of polarized groups in which people harbor a comfortable, uncritical certainty that they are right.”

Indeed, “we live in certain times.”

Censorship on campus is, of course, nothing new. For most of FIRE’s history, campus censorship seemed to come primarily from the top down. Students complained about administrators selectively enforcing speech codes and ushering them into tiny, misleadingly-named “free speech zones.”

But in “Unlearning Liberty,” Greg noticed a shift: Many of the calls for censorship on campus were suddenly coming from students themselves.

But why?

Greg had a theory. It was starting in college, and spreading.

“I believe that an unsung culprit in this expansion of unwarranted certainty and group polarization,” he wrote, “is thirty years of college censorship.”


Posted in Games.

Culture war games: draw a larger circle

Tyranny’s new trick: in Hungary, a government wages war on liberalism
By Nick Cohen

When their enemies win, liberals ought to examine their faults, the better to avoid future defeats. During the attacks on the Central European University, Fidesz propagandists insisted that intellectual freedom was a mirage in a west where safe spaces, trigger warnings and the banning of speakers suppressed free speech and free inquiry. If western liberals censor universities, why can’t the Hungarian state? The question libelled Ignatieff, who has a principled and consistent commitment to intellectual freedom. Yet who can deny that the worst of the Anglo-American academic left is providing ammunition to, and justifications for, the far right? Now, as always, the similarities are as striking as the differences.


Posted in Games.

Culture war games: too good not to be true

Where Now for New Atheists?
By Helen Pluckrose

Western society had made good progress towards being able to criticize or mock sacred ideas and promote reason and evidence as a basis for knowledge over subjective belief and revelation. The consensus that religious ideas were entitled to a respectful deference not afforded other ideas had begun to be shaken. However, the last few years has seen something of a reversal. Skeptical, secularist liberals, by promoting skepticism and critical thinking and a respect for evidence over subjective experience and personal “truths,” are accused of a bullying intolerance and even bigotry even though religious privilege still dominates society. The balance is swinging back again against the skeptics, the empiricists, the rationalists and the universal liberals, but the pushback is not driven by the religious.

Western society’s resurgence of respect for subjective and unevidenced narratives and lived experience comes from a philosophical shift in the largely secular Left. The postmodern shift towards irrationalism, subjective truth and faith-based thinking opens the door again to religion, particularly those of minority groups, but also quasi-religious theories and movements within Social Justice. As science and reason and universal liberalism became associated with an oppressive, ruling, western, white, male elite in postmodern theory (thereby “erasing” the contributions of scientists, rationalists and liberals who do not fit the description), the demand to respect “alternative ways of knowing,” unscientific truth claims, irrational belief-systems and illiberal values intensified.


Posted in Games.

Culture war games: the young, the ignorant and the idle

Young Men Are Playing Video Games Instead of Getting Jobs. That’s OK. (For Now.)
By Peter Suderman

The sheer amount of time that many players put into games is stunning to consider. A relatively modest single-player game like The Last of Us might take 10 to 20 hours to complete. A game like Mass Effect: Andromeda might take 60 hours to play through once, and 100 hours for a careful player to encounter all the content. The branching nature of the gameplay encourages multiple playthroughs. Online multiplayer games can take even more time. In 2015, Activision CEO Eric Hirschberg reported that Destiny, a complex mass-multiplayer shooter that mixes role-paying elements with squad-based action, counted 16 million players, and that daily players put in an average of three hours a day.

One way of describing a game that has such pull on its players might be that it is fun. Another might be that it is addicting.

‘As addictive as gardening’: how dangerous is video gaming?
By Jordan Erica Webber

When Ferguson contacted the World Health Organisation to express concerns about the possible inclusion of gaming disorder in the eleventh revision of the ICD (ICD-11), he was told by one representative via email that the WHO has, “been under enormous pressure, especially from Asian countries, to include this”.

In an “open debate paper” on the subject, a group of 26 researchers from 24 departments across the west, including Ferguson and Markey, expressed their stark concerns:

“A diagnosis may be used to control and restrict children, which has already happened in parts of the world where children are forced into ‘gaming-addiction camps’ with military regimes designed to ‘treat’ them for their gaming problems, without any evidence of the efficacy of such treatment and followed by reports of physical and psychological abuse.”

The government in South Korea, for example, is so concerned about video game addiction that it has introduced laws to limit children’s access to online games, and government-sponsored medical practices offer treatments that can involve electric shocks.


Posted in Games.

Culture war games: the norming of performative intemperance

‘We told you so, you fucking fools’: the Euston Manifesto 10 years on
By Nick Cohen

When Robert Conquest published his history of Stalin’s crimes in 1968, leftish critics denounced him as a Cold War propagandist. When Conquest republished years later, no one could deny that he was telling the truth, however hard they tried. Conquest’s friend Kingsley Amis suggested he change his title from The Great Terror to I Told you so you F—king Fools.

The authors and signatories of the Euston Manifesto could say the same. We got much wrong, and were doubtless clumsy and rude on occasion, but we were telling the truth when we warned that dark movements were rising across the left, and not just on the far left where the darkness never lifts. For we did not confine ourselves to attacking the fringe. We said that the ideas we condemned could be found in the minds of people who regarded themselves as reasonable men and women of moderate temperament. We understood that ideas that begin on the extreme could take over the mainstream. We knew, too, that on other occasions, extremists merely magnified vices that already flourished in respectable society – as fairground mirrors distort the figures in front of them. We only had to look around us to see that those who thought themselves practical liberals and leftists had allowed their defences to moulder away.

Can a Former Islamist Make It Cool to Be Moderate?
By Thomas Chatterton Williams

A term that you will hear with frequency from Nawaz is “the regressive left,” as in purportedly progressive institutions like the S.P.L.C. that, often starting from a legitimate concern that Muslims en masse not be persecuted for the actions of a few, nonetheless embody a perplexingly backward mind-set when it comes to Islam. “It’s an Orientalist fetish,” Nawaz says, “a deeply socially conservative Muslim who is medieval in their outlook is a ‘real’ Muslim, and anyone who’s challenging that status quo is a sellout.” The left has, in Nawaz’s view, forfeited what’s best about the liberal project, entirely conceding the right to speak in moral absolutes and about universal values. “The problem is you can’t draw a line with that reasoning: Why is what ISIS is doing bad, then?”

ISIS Has Lost Sight Of What Our Founding Fathers Intended
By Dale Schott

What ISIS needs to realize is that there is no place in our Constitution that suggests that destroying property or endangering lives is a means to any civilized end. Would Thomas Jefferson approve of mass beheadings? And would George Washington condone using rape as a recruitment tool? ISIS should be ashamed.

Regardless of what they believe they are doing, one thing is clear to me: ISIS is not honoring the spirit of our Founding Fathers. And every time they pack a crude roadside bomb with chlorine gas, they only further pervert the vision of freedom defined by the Constitution. What would the brave men gathered in Philadelphia all those years ago think about a group like ISIS? I, for one, think they would not approve. Not at all.


Posted in Games.