Author Archives: Jackson Doughart

Jackson Doughart: What’s different about this Gaza war?

From the beginning, there seemed to be something different about the present war between Israel and Hamas, at least in comparison to Israel’s response to Hamas rocket fire every couple of years in “mini wars”. The “backstory” of alleged ethnic killings and revenge killings, the length of the conflict, the changed landscape of the Middle East (including for Hamas a more hostile Egyptian regime than it found under President Morsi), and of course the eventual ground campaign by Israel are all factors in this sea change.

But what may in time emerge as a great consequence to the Middle East conflict in general is twofold. First, the nature of the international response—to say nothing of the local reaction from Arabs in the West Bank and within Israel proper—has blurred the distinction between anti-Semitism and “anti-Zionism”, the latter of which has long presented itself as a principled opposition to Israeli policy on the ground of alleged colonialism and apartheid. But the character of demonstrations over the past couple of weeks, including in such cities as Chicago, London, and Paris, have shown the two to be increasingly indistinguishable, with accusations of “human rights abuse” going hand in hand with the blockading of a Paris synagogue, ostentatious anti-Semitic caricatures, and Holocaust-praising chants. (One echoes Douglas Murray from Britain’s Spectator in noting that the thousands of European Muslims taking to the streets in rage over Gaza stayed home through the continuing carnage of the Syrian civil war and the present calamity in Iraq, suggesting that the taking of Muslim life is unimportant to them unless the enemy party is Jewish.)

Second, the willingness of liberal Jewish commentators to defend ideological co-thinkers who sympathize with Hamas seems to be diminishing. One of many examples is this article from the Forward by progressive writer Tova Ross, who describes how the present events have disabused her of the naïve pseudo-even-handedness which once animated her view of the conflict. She has been persuaded that her hawkish father was right all along.

Now there are surely gradations to this phenomenon and many a hold out, but it’s worth noting that the anti-Israel crowd’s desired legitimacy has long been aided by people such as Noam Chomsky and Norman Finklestein—leftist Jews who advance the rhetoric of apartheid and delegitimation. So if more progressives feel conflicted by lambasting Israel alongside the sordid types who praise Hamas, it must be good for Israel in the long run.

The Hustings

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Jackson Doughart: Zizek’s “plagiarism”

The hilarious Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek has been accused of plagiarism by two conservative authors: Steve Sailer and the blogger Deogowulf, as recounted in this Slate article by Rebecca Schuman.

Despite her evident disregard for Zizek’s sycophantic students, Schuman is sympathetic with what happened to Zizek in this case. He claims that a friend sent him a summary of another author’s work and gave him permission to use it verbatim. The problem was that his friend did not give him a summary, but rather lifted directly from the text which Zizek did not himself read. And so Zizek’s 1999 article in Critical Inquiry contained a plagiarized passage.

To his credit, Zizek has made a full account of what happened, insisted that the passage in question was not a theft of ideas but a mistake involving a summary, and apologized earnestly.

I’m neither a fan nor a hater of Zizek. As I suggested above, I find him to be generally funny to listen to. I don’t bother to read him—the prose is, as with all of the lefty deconstructionists, impenetrable. But I think this case shows the absurdity of today’s fetish of plagiarism-outing.

Her sympathy for Zizek notwithstanding, Schuman writes that, “Zizek’s defense—that lifting Hornbeck’s ‘purely informative’ summary does not count as real plagiarism—is not correct”. But isn’t it? Plagiarism is not such simple a crime as the theft of physical objects, as it is moreso a derivative of dishonesty, which is hardly an accusation that can be purely supported with legalisms. Schuman evidently sees a distinction between what Zizek did and the purposive thieving of someone else’s ideas. So why oughtn’t the definition of “real plagiarism” account for this?

The irony is that the circumstances of this case are nearly identical to that of Margaret Wente a couple of years ago, who was not shown nearly the sympathy that Zizek is now. One can’t help but think that ideological predilection has something to do with it. And in the Wente case, the public reaction and especially the fraternal backstabbing from other journalists was horrible and uncalled for. One should perhaps be thankful that the Zizek case hasn’t yet elicited such a reaction.

The upshot is that pursuing the “plagiarism” of Zizek evidently devalues the project of identifying legitimate thieves. Perhaps if we were more interested in reading in good faith to the end of improving the culture, instead of indulging in the “gotcha” custom of the Internet, fewer of these false alarms would be sounded.

The Hustings

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Jackson Doughart: A “native” solution to low birthrates?

Our newest contributor Grégory Kudish has written a piece here about Marine Le Pen and immigration, which stems in part from a debate we’ve been having in the Prince Arthur Herald about the legitimacy of the Madame Le Pen’s Front national party in France.

Le Pen advocates reducing immigration from 200,000 individuals per year to 10,000 per year. Grégory argued previously that the 10,000 figure is only “there for political correctness”, thus implying that if she had the choice, Le Pen would advocate zero immigration at all. But one wonders about this assertion, given the political incorrectness of espousing any view of immigration that does not amount to head-over-heels, 50-metre-headfirst-dive support.

I wouldn’t challenge any of his pure economic arguments, given that they already assume the Europeanists’ antinational line, which takes as a given that opposition to immigration is automatically unreasonable. I think this is a spurious assumption. For it is a simple fact that when a country with an established culture opens its borders over a generation to millions of immigrants of different cultures, this country will cease to have the culture it once had. One can of course argue, as many do, that this is a good thing, or that it constitutes a poor argument against immigration. But one can’t defeat Le Pen’s case by mere recourse to the number crunch: her case is not principally an economic, but a cultural and sovereigntist one.

There are nevertheless looming economic problems awaiting Western Europe’s demographic course, to which France is not exempt. One is right to point out that falling birthrates portend ominously for any society (France’s has just dipped below the significant benchmark of two children per woman), but especially for countries with an egalitarian model, which depend upon a vibrant taxpaying population to fund social programs, particularly for the elderly.

Yet the pro- immigration folks take as given not only that these trends are irreversible and settled, but that they are a good thing. How many times does one hear that small families are the mark of modernity? Yet this assumption only survives because the corollary is unsayable: namely, that this coming economic nightmare could be solved if more of the native population had children of its own in greater numbers, and naturally raised them within their own culture. Needless to say, it would take a confrontation with every fibre of today’s conventional wisdom, but making this point with strength and regularity would be a great service.

The Hustings

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Jackson Doughart: The problem with men’s rights advocacy

Geoffrey wrote yesterday about the men’s rights advocacy movement, which seeks to offset the misandric overtones of feminism’s contemporary wave. Given that I agree about these problems, my initial impression is to support any such counter-action. But there is nevertheless a fundamental problem, in my view, with the men’s rights mantra.

Namely, men’s rights advocacy is not so much a response to feminism but an appropriation of feminism—its posture as well as its modus operandi—to advance the interest of a population identified through its sex in opposition to the other. Accordingly, it adopts all of the disagreeable characteristics of feminist activism, including the rhetoric of victimhood and the claim of disadvantage at the hand of entrenched prejudice. And so men’s rights advocacy does not really challenge feminism but remake feminism for its own purposes.

I think this bears analogy to philo-Semitism, which in at least some of its manifestations becomes a minor-key variant of anti-Semitism. Saying that Jews are great because they’re good with money and are efficient at political action and lobbying isn’t exactly Judophobic, but it seems to assume or assimilate the very stereotypes that are the province of anti-Semitism. And so too does men’s rights activism internalize the misperceptions of its feminist adversary: i.e. a disposition that at once denies the natural distinctions between the sexes, thereby calling for gender-blindness and equality where it is impossible, while also touting sex as a primary source of political division when it is not so.

This is not to say that the men’s rights people don’t have a point. I know both Janice Fiamengo and Barbara Kay, who earnestly involve themselves in the movement and whose view of “gender politics” I share, with they—being women—having the bona fides to challenge in print feminism’s innate misandry. The way in which family-law courts discriminate systemically against men is an important subject, and if a liberation-style movement serves to push back against the status quo, it should be credited.

But that doesn’t jettison the trouble with liberationism in the first place, which in my view marries the worst forms of identity politics with the worst forms of political thought and ideology. (Quite often, too, it attends the most overwrought and self-aggrandizing of prose.) “As a male”—to use the calling card of identity-politic pronouncements—I don’t find myself in the least represented by these people. What is needed is a better review, deconstruction, and attack on feminism, not a mere re-appropriation of its methods for a good cause.

The Hustings

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Jackson Doughart: The dominion, not Dominion Day, please

My friend Tom Kott argued in the Prince Arthur Herald yesterday for restoring Dominion Day, previously celebrated on July 1st before the Trudeauvians unceremoniously did away with it, and in so doing swept yet another symbol of British Canada onto the proverbial ash heap of history. Geoffrey Wale made the same argument here at the Hustings. Both make a strong case, and Tom’s historical account is especially useful and germane. But I’d like to make a counter-argument, not because I like the symbolism of Canada Day, but because a return to Dominion Day would almost certainly not engender the kind of return to tradition that both Tom and Geoffrey would like. In fact, I think that far from engendering a new respect for Canadian history, it would revert to the placeholder national holiday that the current one represents.

My feelings about this rather mirror my opinion of the Canadian monarchy, which I find to be useless and silly. Not—as your average small-R republican believes—because it is outdated or anti-progressive or not sufficiently unique to Canada, but because the cultural ethos that it once represented no longer exists. In other words, I would happily have been a monarchist in the Canada of John Diefenbaker because monarchism then involved a serious and profound disposition toward culture and politics. Today’s monarchism is, so far as I can tell, a mere excuse for people to follow Prince William and his wife with the usual self-abasement of celebrity culture, and to revere the Queen as the country’s favourite granny. And it is telling that the foremost defenders of the monarchy today are Trudeau liberals such as Warren Kinsella—an irony given how it was Trudeau and his predecessor Pearson who butchered the Old Canada and everything that was great about it.

What Canada Day celebrates is the New Canada—multiculturalism, the Charter, official bilingualism, progressive politics of all stripes. If it weren’t that, I can’t see why it would command the reverence that it does today. If we were to be more accurate, we would call it Charter Day, which wouldn’t at all jive with the kind of ethic Tom and Geoffrey are suggesting.

So don’t give me Dominion Day back; give me the dominion back! But as the past is irrevocable and history having taken the path that is has, I think that even the simulacrum of the old national holiday would elicit confusion, not a newfound love of tradition. So count me voting against the motion.

The Hustings

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