breaking news from the world of ideas

by Mary Harrington
Thursday, 20
January 2022

How to solve the cycle of decline? Print more babies!

Tech bros seem to believe that artificial wombs are better than the real thing

Have we reached Peak Everything? The great and the good are beginning to realise, nervously, that the illusion of never-ending growth can’t be sustained forever just by printing money. “Quantitative easing” has been deployed with staggering free-handedness since the Great Crash to ward off the unsettling prospect of the whole carousel crashing down. That accelerated again during the pandemic: City AM reported that one fifth of the entire world supply of US dollars was created in 2020 alone.

But a growing chorus of voices and economic papers now warns that a cycle of low fertility will drive not just faltering improvements in living standards but a vicious cycle of decline. In 2020, staggering global declines were reported in fertility rates, and these trends have worsened over the course of the pandemic...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Thursday, 13
January 2022

The vasectomy ‘movement’ is a front for eugenics

The self-gelding campaign has a dark motivation

Are men really getting themselves neutered to save the planet? A Guardian story yesterday quotes Lloyd Williamson, a 30-year-old childless man who underwent vasectomy last November, who explains that “I don’t want to bring a life into this world, because it’s pretty shitty as it is and it’s only going to get worse”.

This follows a spate of articles in December, reporting on young men self-gelding. Ground Zero appears to be this Washington Post article reports that one Texas vasectomy doctor has seen a 15% uptick in requests since the introduction of restrictions on abortion in Texas. Numerous other outlets picked up the story, including the New York Post and Jezebel...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Friday, 7
January 2022

The manufacturing of consensus

Bodies like Stonewall are falsely creating an imprimatur of civil demand

Just how nationalised is Stonewall? An eagle-eyed gender critical account recently spotted that the trans activist charity’s latest published accounts show that, of total grant income of £2,401,159 in the 18 months to March 2021 just over half — £1,207,615 — came from government departments.

The latest Stonewall accounts are out, showing their biggest funder to be,

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

They are followed by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Welsh Government. 👀

— gender is harmful (@genderisharmful) January 6, 2022 ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Thursday, 30
December 2021
Dark Web

The Online Right cancels one of its own

Masculinity influencer Jack Murphy has been brutally banished for being a 'cuck'

So-called ‘cancel culture’ is often conflated with the Left, as though mass online pile-ons are a moral failing of one worldview exclusively. But while it may be appealing to blame this phenomenon on The Other Guys (intersectional feminists, for example) the sad tale of ‘masculinity influencer’ Jack Murphy suggests something deeper is at work.

Murphy runs an online men-only membership group called The Liminal Order, whose remit is cultivating ‘positive masculinity’. He is (or was, until very recently) a prolific Twitter presence and regular guest on Right-wing and manosphere podcasts. ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Wednesday, 15
December 2021

Billie Eilish tells us what we already know about porn

The singer said that it destroyed her brain at a young age

Singer-songwriter Billie Eilish yesterday told interviewer Howard Stern that her exposure to violent porn from the age of 11 onwards “really destroyed my brain”.

Eilish, 19, isn’t unusual: a 2019 BBFC report said children as young as seven years old are ‘accidentally’ exposed to porn, and in the 11-13 group more than half reported they had viewed porn. A recent survey of frontline staff at Barnardo’s, a charity that works with at-risk children, reported a rise across the board in children being exposed to increasingly extreme pornography.

The Barnardo’s report notes viewing pornography effectively normalises abusive sexual behaviour in the minds of children — an effect that workers pointed out in practice aids adult sexual abuse of children. ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Friday, 10
December 2021

Feelings don’t care about your facts

Sporting achievement is now secondary to more subjective considerations

The ‘post-truth’ era has come for the principle of open competition. More than 40 camels have been banned from a beauty contest in Saudi Arabia after their owners were discovered to have used Botox, fillers and even facelifts to enhance their features. And if medical technology is complicating even the question of what constitutes a natural camel physiognomy, it’s creating worse ripples still in the field of elite sport.

At the University of Pennsylvania Lia Thomas, a college swimmer who competed for three seasons as male is causing uproar for since identifying as a woman and joining the women’s team. ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Friday, 3
December 2021

We are all turning into cyberpunks

Debates over 'xenobots' and abortion are making it harder to know what is human

“The future is already here”, the cyberpunk author William Gibson famously observed, “it’s just unevenly distributed”.

The ‘cyberpunk’ style of science fiction imagined the future as one of relentless convergence between the human and the technological. It was a world of digital enhancements to consciousness, mechanical prosthetics, flesh/robot hybrids, and visionary experiences inside virtual worlds, all against a background of an ecologically degraded, rubbish-filled and brutally socially stratified world.

Two recent stories about technology and reproduction reminded me of Gibson’s words: one about an American abortion debate, and another about ‘xenobots’. Taken together they hint at the emerging contours of a debate that we haven’t really started having yet: what it means to be human in a world where machine and man are difficult to disentangle. ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Friday, 26
November 2021

Why George Floyd was turned into performance art

The internet has radically re-shaped how we consume and create

This week came the announcement that the Catholic University of America had caused controversy among students by displaying Mama by Kelly Latimore, a painting that depicted George Floyd as Jesus. It was described as ‘heretical’ and ‘blasphemous’: a form of idolatry that embraced ‘a brazen form of progressive politics’.

Mama on its own is aesthetically insulting: flat, ugly and seemingly calculated only to offend. But hot on the heels of student protest at its presence in a Catholic university came news that the painting has now been stolen, adding several layers of crowdsourced complexity to its culture-war significance. ...  Continue reading

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