A superior kind of troglodyte


By D. J. Webb

This is a brief note on a relatively new phrase. The word “troll” literally means a cave-dwelling giant or dwarf, but its use has been extended to people who inhabit Internet discussion boards and post deliberately provocative opinions. The idea is that such people are just trouble makers and should be ignored: don’t feed the troll. However, a much more recent term has come to my attention: a high-functioning troll. This phrase is new enough to have only 226 instances on Google. Continue reading

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The Culture War in America (1999)


A Speech delivered to the NRA by the late Charlton Heston in February 1999

Thank you very much, both for that warm response to the introduction and the introduction.

You know, very often people with public faces are introduced with the simple phrase, “Now, ladies and gentlemen, a man who needs no introduction.” Believe me, you could always use a good introduction. No, no, no, you laugh, you laugh, but it’s true. I have a story that proves it, true story — didn’t happen to me, happened to a friend of mine: Kirk Douglas. This was when Ben Hur was in release, more or less all over.

And Kirk said he was walking on a street near his home in Beverly Hills one evening after dinner when he was approached very politely by a stranger who said, “Excuse me, sir, I don’t like interfering in the private lives of public people but I cannot let pass this opportunity to tell you what a deeply moving and enormously creative performance you gave in Ben Hur.” And Kirk said, “Well thanks very much but that wasn’t me; that was another fellow.” And the man stood back amazed. He said, “Well if you aren’t Burt Lancaster, who the hell are you?” Continue reading

On Boring Conformists and Right-Wing Recusants


On Boring Conformists and Right-Wing Recusants
The Backbencher (2nd November 2016)
By Keir Martland 

James Delingpole’s recent article in The Spectator about the Right’s minority-status at Cambridge is absolutely correct. Yet the Left’s worst trait is its tendency to see itself as an embattled minority when in fact leftists are the new Establishment. Since the Left is the Establishment, the Left “sets the culture” – a particularly authoritarian phrase used by the Women’s Officer at Clare (according to ‘The Tab’) when talking about compulsory sessions at the start of Fresher’s Week. Dissent from the leftist Groupthink is not punished by throwing people out of helicopters, but by ostracism and other forms of non-violent opprobrium whose aims are to shut down debate and narrow the Overton Window. Continue reading

Arguments for Freedom of Speech (2016), by Sean Gabb


Arguments for Freedom of Speech:
A Talk Given at the London School of Economics
to the Hayek Society
on Tuesday the 16th February 2016

On Tuesday the 16th February 2016, Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance, travelled to the London School of Economics, to talk to the Hayek Society about freedom of speech.

The London School of Economics is developing a scheme to police all speeches to student societies. This is partly to comply with the British Government’s “anti-radicalisation” laws. The academic who sat in on this meeting was an entirely friendly presence. Even so, Dr Gabb decided at the last minute to give a speech of studied moderation.

He argued:

  • That freedom of speech means the right to publish without legal hindrance on anything that does not breach some private right or involve an act of treason – both of which conditions are to be tightly drawn and continuously monitored;
  • That our only confidence in the truth of propositions outside our immediate knowledge rests on a scholarly consensus, openly reached and openly maintained in the face of open challenge;
  • Without open consensus, knowledge becomes a matter of prudential faith, attended by some degree of private doubt;
  • That the exceptions made for the various kinds of “hate speech” are both arbitrary and inconsistent;
  • That anyone who wants universities to be a “safe space” for the sensitive is arguing not for a university as traditionally known in our civilisation, but for a nursery school.

There was a lively set of questions and answers.

Liberty as a National Proposition


By D. J. Webb

Can there be such a thing as a proposition nation? This is an interesting question, raised in the US context, but also more widely applicable to other Western countries that claim to be fostering a civic nationalism that is not based on one racial or ethnic group. The issue is also directly relevant to libertarians: the “left libertarians” support open borders, presumably in the expectation that incomers will embrace a libertarian culture as the propositional basis for the society, whereas conservative libertarians (palaeo-libertarians) see little reason to expect ethnic engulfing to support socioeconomic liberty. Continue reading