It Was Naive Ever to Invest Too Much Hope in the Supreme Court

by Joseph Shieber I remember as a child watching the made-for-tv movie Gideon’s Trumpet, based on the Anthony Lewis book of the same name about the Gideon v. Wainright (1963) Supreme Court decision that cemented the right to legal representation for criminal defendants. At the time, I was inspired by the idea that the Supreme Court was an…

“When a Man is a Concept … He Will Tell You the Distance Between Heartbreak and Rage”

by Joseph Shieber One frustrating aspect of the problem of police-enforced repression of Black people in the United States is how timeless it can seem. Consider this real-life example: An up-and-coming musician, only days away from releasing his breakthrough album, was finishing a two-week engagement at a famous club in Midtown Manhattan. He was on…

The emptiness at the core of conspiracist thinking

by Joseph Shieber Recently I was reading one of Scott Alexander’s posts about fake news and conspiracist thinking. In that post he introduces what he dubs the “North Dakota Constant”. Alexander references a survey conducted by researchers at Chapman University, and mentioned a “control question” that the researchers included in the survey. Here’s how the…

Let’s Not Allow Our Renewing Trust in Science to Become the Latest Victim of Covid-19

by Joseph Shieber One of the heartening ramifications of the otherwise devastating Covid-19 pandemic has been the public’s high level of trust in science and expertise. As a March 19-24 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center indicates, over ⅔ even of low-trusting people surveyed trust public health officials to do an excellent or good…

Annals of Toxic Masculinity in the Academy: “The Nymphs Have Departed”

by Joseph Shieber There’s a well-established notion in film theory referred to as the “male gaze”. Here’s its description according to the theorist Laura Mulvey, who first introduced the concept in her 1975 essay, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”. Mulvey suggests that, in Hollywood films, “the determining male gaze projects its phantasy on to the…

We Can’t Let Meritocratic “Winners” Evade Responsibility for the System They Sustain

by Joseph Shieber One of the masterful conceits of Socrates’s discussion of tyranny in Plato’s Republic is a surprising claim that Socrates makes at the outset of the dialogues, and one that serves as a guiding thread throughout. You would expect that if someone is going to criticize tyranny, they would do so because of…

Learning from John Hope Franklin at the Cosmos Club: Do the Moral implications of a Belief Affect Our Justification for that Belief?

by Joseph Shieber In the most recent case of a white person’s discomfort resulting in the ejection of African Americans from public spaces, a young, black couple who were picnicking with their dog at a KOA campground in Mississippi were threatened at gunpoint by a white campground manager and forced to leave. This sort of…