The alt-lite and Rituals of Provocation

Landing in Australia last week, I found to my chagrin that Canadian alt right-adjacent internet personalities Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux were 'touring' with a predictable response of protests, wall-to-wall media coverage and conservative concern trolling over 'free speech' [paywall]. Meanwhile, in the US, the Proud Boys are marching and rioting in famously progressive Portland, and well-funded conservative trolls Milo Yiannopolis, Ben Shapiro, Charles Murray and Christina Hoff-Summers are routinely invited onto university campuses by right-wing student groups in order to get media attention and a rise out of their opponents. These provocateurs form an essential tactical bridge between classical (i.e. conservative) liberals, whose anxieties about freedom of speech they prey on, and the fascist alt-right, who rely on the violence these events generate to radicalise and 'blood' their foot soldiers. 

These modern agitators are working in an established tradition. Street violence between fascists and anti-fascists has a long history, dating back to the demise of the Bavarian Soviet in 1920, the Spanish Civil War and the street battles of 1930s Europe. This violence succeeded in convincing many liberal moderates that authoritarianism was a necessary palliative to restore order. The left was more successful in the aftermath of the war, with anti-fascists in the UK and Germany stamping down hard (cf. The Battle of Lewisham) on neo-Nazis and rendering them a (mostly) harmless political joke until Richard Spencer and friends came along and rebranded the alt-right. While political violence is often read as either instrumental, and therefore a product or elite manipulation, or irrational and therefore chaotic and anarchical, the truth is that the alt-lite's trolling shares a strategic form with contests fought along ethnic and religious lines: "Rituals of Provocation" that serve to sharpen and antagonise group identities.

Rituals of Provocation

In the 1990s, anthropologists including Stanley Tambiah, Allen Feldmann and Peter van der Veer undertook detailed studies of pre-conflict tensions between ethnic and religious communities in Northern Ireland, mainland India and Sri Lanka. Their accounts disclose a universal ritual, a shared type of performance common across diverse political and ethnic contexts. In short, processions through disputed territory (think the Orange marches in Northern Ireland) commonly led to riots, which in turn increased the salience of group identities and encouraged armed aggression between them. 

In these marches, the provocateur moves outside the environment of their own community and crosses a boundary demarcating the sacred territory of an opposing group. Marches "transform the [opposing] community into an involuntary audience" for one's own beliefs, and defile the opponent's territory through the aggressive display of political symbols, stereotyped and boastful rhetoric and triumphal music. A key component of such a performance, according to Tambiah, is an "array of triggering actions that are publicly recognised as challenges, slights, insults and desecrations inviting reprisal". In an Indian context, for example, such a procession may conclude with the slaughter of a sacred (or profane) animal in a public space holy to the other side. 

In other words, rituals of provocation are not about advocating for one's beliefs, or even addressing those beliefs to an audience that disagrees with them. Rather, they are an intentional violation of the sacred - a defilement of the 'safe spaces' of the target community with ritual words and phrases ("there are only two genders") specifically chosen to trigger an emotive and potentially violent defensive response (I've written about Jonathan Haidt's work on the sanctity trigger previously). We all recognise this strategy, whether in the form of al-Qaeda attacking the heart of US financial and military power, ISIS-inspired gunmen shooting up gay nightclubs, or Jesus attacking the moneylenders in the Temple at Jerusalem. The defilement of the sacred sharpens contradictions: the performance forces the 'audience' to choose one identity and take a side, where previously ambiguity and co-existence might have prevailed. Tambiah writes that many mixed communities manage to co-exist peacefully until provocateurs activate the latent fault-lines beneath them. 

In the West, we are used to thinking of ethnic and religious conflict as being in some sense irrational, emotional and performative, and political conflict as a separate sphere that is rational and instrumental, but this is a false dichotomy. The lines between religion, philosophy and political ideology are blurry, and each rely on a universal human psychological substrate to operate their social 'code'. In the Muslim and Christian worlds for example, one might identify with the majority religion while also offering gifts to the ancestors - up until some fundamentalist comes to town and starts tearing down your shrines. But politically too, we may happily profess both our commitment to freedom of speech and opposition to racism until some Nazis show up and use their freedom of expression to advocate the ethnic cleansing of your neighbourhood. 

Back to the free speech wars

The fact that the modern free speech wars centre around public universities is not, therefore, a function of the fact that educational institutions have become uniquely intolerant of divergent opinions. Universities have always been, and remain, some of the most vibrant centres of debate in any society and the idea that they have become Leninist training grounds for "Cultural Marxist warriors is, and always has been, empirically absurd. Rather, universities are being chosen specifically as sites for these rituals of provocations precisely because they are the territory of the young, political active and progressive. In the same vein, kids these days aren't special snowflakes who need protecting from opposing viewpoints: rather, they are being actively and consciously 'triggered' by political provocateurs who know precisely what words and phrases will provoke an emotive and media-friendly backlash. We find it easy to see religious believers as being uniquely vulnerable to manipulation of their sacred symbols, but should recognise it everywhere and amongst everyone. 

Lauren Southern, Stephan Molyneux and their ilk are therefore performing for two audiences simultaneously: on the one hand, they carry out acts of daring transgression that make their opponents appear weak and encourage their own base to engage in more risky and violent behaviour. But for the neutral observer who is not activated by their defilement of the sacred in the same way or to the same degree, their actions stripped of their symbolic meaning can seem reasonable or even defensible, and the emotive and defensive reaction of the target community in turn irrational and unreasonable. Lauren has the 'right' to speak, much as the Orange Order has the 'right to march' or Muslims in India have the 'right' to slaughter and eat beef. A wedge is thereby created between the norms of one community (the liberal moderate) and the norms of another (students who don't want Nazis at their university). 

As far as I can tell, there are few good defences against this strategy. Terrorism and extremism work because it only takes a few radicals in a community to sharpen contradictions and force a majority of citizens, who were formerly happy to ambiguously co-exist, into overt conflict. The history of political, ethnic and religious violence suggests that once activated, conflict is very difficult to damp down absent heavy investment in norm-building, de-escalation and co-existence. Yet I see little sign that the alt-right and their agents want to de-escalate current political tensions - quite the contrary. Perhaps the best we can do, right now, is for both socialists and liberals to recognise the tactics being used against us for what they are, and to consciously work to avoid being manipulated by charlatans, trolls and other bad faith actors. 

Myths of the Old Order: The Tyranny of the Majority

Chapter VI of my book, "Politics for the New Dark Age: Staying Positive Amidst Disorder" puts forward the leftist case for the central and radical importance of democracy. Democratic socialism is neither a reforming variety of socialist, nor merely a particularly progressive-minded liberal, but rather an ideology that treats both democracy and socialism as equally serious modes of analysis. "Liberal democracy", I write, "is the best set of institutions we've yet created to facilitate cooperative solutions to social problems. . . . If they didn't exist, the left would have to invent them." Liberal democracy represents a stable, if far from ideal, quasi-equilibrium which has proven successful in delivering growth, basic egalitarianism and military security in a diverse range of cultural and strategic environments. 

Yet the association between the philosophy of liberalism and democracy, as a form and structure of government, is neither unproblematic nor automatic. Democracies pre-date liberalism by several millennia, and have employed diverse legitimising belief systems (c.f. for example, the Islamic Republic of Iran). Totalitarian autocracies, including Nazi Germany, the USSR and North Korea, hold elections and elect parliaments. And even if we enforce a stricter definition of democracy focusing on the peaceful transfer of power between competing elites, then the slave-holding and imperialist European limited monarchies of the 18th and 19th century would qualify as democracies despite restricting the franchise to a tiny fraction of property-holding males. The People's Republic of China is no democracy, but upholds the rule of law and market institutions With a fervour that would make American conservatives blush. 

As the 19th century oligarchies (and the hypocrisy of the liberal philosophers who supported them) demonstrate, there is an underlying tension between liberals and the expectations of universal, participatory democracy. I've written before about elites' irrational fear of 'populism', unleashed by the rising tide of right-wring authoritarians and the return of socialists who seek to roll fascism back. Across the world, self-identified liberal centrists are more sceptical of democracy, less likely to support elections, and more supportive of authoritarianism than either the self-identified left or right. Centrist politics - often self-avowedly liberal - has an underlying distrust of public opinion in a way that is only being amplified by the ever-increasing popularity of behavioural economics, evolutionary psychology and social media. This blog is about the myth(s) which undergirds that scepticism: the 'tyranny of the majority'. Why do liberals mistrust democracy, what does it lead to, and should we be concerned?

Two origins, two myths

There are essentially two variants of the 'tyranny of the majority' myth (one individualist, one group-centred or utilitarian), which serve different purposes in the overall canon of liberalism depending on the outlook of the audience. Each represents a point where liberals limit their enthusiasm for popular, nationalist or revolutionary projects: yes, emancipation from feudalism and empire is great, but popular democracy cannot be allowed to go too far, else we end up in Revolutionary France or the Soviet Union. The mythological tyranny of the majority *is* for all intents and purposes the Terror: the repression of individuals and minorities by 'democratic' governments that embody the will of the people. This potential for abuse existed in classical liberalism because neither Hobbes' Leviathan state, Locke's universal 'human nature', nor Rousseau's 'general will' conceived of the diversity of the modern democratic electorate. 

For John Stuart Mill, the tyranny of the majority was "tendency of society to impose  . . . its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own." In order to limit this threat, it is necessary that the only "the only purpose for which [democratic] power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." Mill, in other words, was advancing a social theory of individual rights (rather than a natural or divine law theory like many of his predecessors): liberal rights are necessary when individuals contract with a democratic government because that government poses a threat to their interests which does not exist in a state of nature. In order to protect the freedom of individuals, the entire liberal democratic apparatus of the separations of powers, the independence of the judiciary and human rights necessarily follows.

Chapter VII of my book essentially endorses Mills' individualist viewpoint. But there is a second (chronologically older) take on the tyranny of majority, which is more utilitarian and consequentialist in character. In Federalist No. 10, future US President James Madison wrote about the origins of inequality as arising "[f]rom the  . . .different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, [such that] the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results." Since inequality is the "most common and durable" driver of class conflict, a democratic majority might give in to the temptations of a "a rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project." Liberal institutions, therefore, are a necessary check on democracy in order to preserve the 'exacting impartiality' required of proper economic governance, the priorities of which are [obviously?] the solvency of the national debt and the protection of private wealth. 

The pro-market consequentialism inherent in Madison's argument - that the contentious nature of democracy impairs good governance and that liberal institutions are a necessary check on the passion and self-interest of the mob - is found in almost all utilitarian and capitalist screeds against democracy. It underlies the appeal of authoritarian governance to centrist politicians and big business alike. Democracy, in this view, is unnecessary in a liberal society so long as it's well governed and protects property rights. It is this Madisonian fear of majority rule, particularly influential among the American right, that lies at the faultline between liberals and democracy. It is why independent, technocratic institutions - at both the national and international level - are seen as an ideal bulwark in defense of the status quo order. 

Illiberal Democracies and Liberal Undemocracies

The partnership between liberalism and democracy, therefore, is dynamic and potentially vulnerable to changing environmental circumstances. Under pressure from anaemic global growth and authoritarian challenger states, we start to see slippage, the tectonic plates on which our governments rest sliding past one another. Whereas we’re used to thinking of liberal democracy as a unitary concept, now there are mutations: illiberal democracy and liberal undemocracy (which we'll just call liberal oligarchy for the sake of clarity). As the inheritor of the Madisonian argument, neoliberalism served as the handmaiden of the current crisis of democracy: self-avowedly apolitical and technocratic, liberal oligarchy aimed to place the levers of economic and social power beyond the reach of the mob. Expanding the reach and privilege of property rights was seen as the keystone unlocking economic growth. 

The neoliberals were wrong. Not only were they incapable of sustaining economic growth for more than a few years at a time without recurrent financial crises, but their indifference towards the interests of those in the electorate who missed out on the boom times bred a crisis of legitimacy in government itself that we are now seeing play out all over the capitalist world. In response, social movements on both the right and left are arguing that a more democracy would be a necessary corrective: more accountability, more responsiveness and a greater willingness to get our hands dirty to bring the market back into line. These movements differ *vastly* and significantly in what democracy means to them: for the left, democracy means fulfilment of the liberal promise of the equal dignity of all humanity, for the right, more democracy means satisfaction of conservative and nationalist grievances. But both are committed to the position that liberal oligarchy is neither desirable nor sustainable. 

Left-wing populism demonstrates that there is no necessary conflict between liberalism and more democracy - depending, of course, on what variant of liberalism we want. But Cas Mudde, amongst others, has made the argument that more populism means a society *must* move in an illiberal direction. But this oppositional understanding is only true if either a) liberalism means, in the strictly Madisonian sense, capitalist economic governance, or b) more democracy threatens individual rights and the corrosion of liberal institutions that protect those rights. All 'populisms' are not the same: it is right-wing populism that threatens the rights of individuals and minorities, that seeks to weaken the independence of the judiciary and other checks on the power of the executive (sense (b)). Anyone (right or left) who supports of Mills' account of individual liberty can see how right wing populism can lead to illiberal politics. However, in order to see an equivalent threat from the left, your understanding of liberalism must be strictly (sense (a)) Madisonian, pro-capitalist and utilitarian. 

Fascism - right-wing populism - is a form of cancer that preys on the body of liberal oligarchies which face a crisis of legitimacy and loss of faith in democratic institutions. In seeking a more authentic nationalist democracy, fascists are more than happy to sweep away the 'decadent' liberal order; all too often, liberal oligarchies facilitate this process by deliberately courting illiberal politics in order to enhance their legitimacy and stave off decline. Elites falsely believe that in order to make their rule more democratic, it needs to become more illiberal. It's straightforward to indulge in the chauvinistic tyrannies of the majority for an election cycle or two, particularly if those tyrannies can be directed at migrants, non-citizens, minorities and other marginalised groups. Why not pay that price in order to preserve the liberal economic order? 

Looking to the future by working with the past

As a democratic or libertarian socialist, I see no fatal conflict between the institutions of liberal governance and the quest for a more just social and economic order. But historically, I must admit, left wing populism is not immune to an illiberal impulse. Marx & Engels were famously dismissive of 'bourgeois' democracy, and the temptation to 'cheat' the system and press for faster, more radical change is always present. Modern monetary theory, I suspect, gains much of its appeal from seeming like an end-run around the existing economic order. But the revolutionary appeal of doing away with liberal institutions at will is illusory and dangerous: change must be made, and rules and norms can be bent to do so. But we would break them at our peril. Globally, the Left has been down that road and did not like where it took us. I would encourage, therefore, populists of the left-wing variety to be willing and able to argue the case why more equality and more democracy is consistent with (and in fact, reinforces and defends) a free and open liberal society. That, more than any other, is the central theme of my book. 

Politics for the New Dark Age on the David Pakman Show

On 11 July, David Pakman invited me on his internationally syndicated radio show to talk about my book, "Politics for the New Dark Age: Staying Positive Amdist Disorder", and the Intellectual Dark Web. David came across my article "On Reputation: Or, how and why bad ideas need rebranding" and wanted to discuss my hypothesis that Harris, Peterson & Co. are more interested in protecting their personal reputations than in promoting free speech. It was a good conversation, and went in some interesting directions. You can find the podcast here (interview starts at at the 29:45 mark). The YouTube version of the clip is embedded here:

Are the Intellectual Dark Web snake oil salesmen?

During the show, David advanced the thesis that the Intellectual Dark Web are akin to charlatans who inflate their social reputations during eras of uncertainty in order to spread ideas of dubious value. I actually wrote a piece advancing a similar metaphor a few months back, which you can find here: "The Omnivore's Dilemma Redux: Understanding Anti-Vaxxers". For the record, the IDW seem to me to be the inverse of that phenonmenon: they're not promoting new, bad ideas by exploiting uncertainty about their personal reputation, but rather propagating old, bad ideas by defending the reputation they already have as a result of their high social status. If we're looking at a nineteenth century medical paradigm, the IDW are not snake oil salesman selling miracle cures in fake lab coats, they're the existing establishment getting huffy when new science shows that bloodletting and treating the humours were never effective in the first place.

Myths of the Old Order: The Kirk/Spock Dialectic and Toxic Rationality

Nerd culture is ascendant: video games are mainstream entertainment; bland superhero movies top the box office with depressing regularity; and everyone binge-watches TV in order to earn social capital and remain part of the cultural elite. But nerd culture is also fundamentally broken: an ageing generation reacts with rage to almost every attempt to modernise their childhood myths, and yet can't but help but reproduce them through its social behaviour. As I've written before, the counter-culture of yesterday is becoming the hegemonic conservative culture of tomorrow, and that transition is fraught with danger for women and other minorities that were historically marginalised within that culture. The modern white, male 30- or 40-something sees their cultural ascendency as a triumph over the stultifying, Cold War environment of their childhood, and has difficulty seeing themself as subjects of critique. 

The Kirk/Spock Dialectic

To my mind, the Kirk/Spock dialectic is one of the foundational archetypes of nerd culture and at the root of one of its most toxic aspects. In the original Star Trek, the hot-headed cowboy Captain Kirk is defined by his humanity: confident, suave and capable of violence at a moment's notice, he represents the archetypal masculine hero of the mid-20th century. But for the nerds his First Officer, the half-Vulcan Spock, is the protagonist of the narrative: an outsider in the human-dominated Federation, he struggles to suppress his own emotions and solves problems using logic, reason and utilitarian calculus. Speaking as a member the nerd demographic, I can attest that the Spock archetype came to embody the ideal of masculinity for multiple generations of scientists, engineers, wonks and other social outcasts. And it was by-and-large a successful ideal: Gates, Jobs and Musk are the protagonists of the popular age, the Iowa farmboys of the American mid-west relics of a by-gone era. 

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The Kirk/Spock archetype dates from the sixties, but became culturally fixed because it suited the times. When the world poised on the edge of an irrational nuclear holocaust, the logical cool of the negotiator offered hope for the future of humanity. The "Next Generation" doubled down on the Kirk/Spock structure, with the erudite Captain Picard working in partnership with the android Data, whose literal incapacity to experience emotion made him the vital point-of-view character for many people with autism and autism-like personalities. As the Soviet Union disintegrated in the 1990s, and with seemingly incomprehensible ethnic and religious rivalries tearing societies apart, Data and Spock were role models of emotionless and disinterested technocratic expertise. The last of the original Star Trek films, the excellent "Undiscovered Country" makes this explicit with Spock the peace-maker convincing the Cold Warrior Kirk (who at one points literally shakes with grief and vengeance over the death of his son) to give peace a chance and save the Klingons from extinction.  

Toxic Rationality

Nerd culture, or 'wonk culture' if we're describing the variant that actually holds power, is not unemotional: in fact, it is often hyper-emotional when activated by a backlash bias towards those that challenge their social position. But it does prize rationality above perhaps all other values. We are a generation of critics, who can't simply say that we like or dislike a cultural product (or policy or social outcome) but must articulate the reasons why. Statistics and data are valued; subjective experiences and empathy are devalued. We can blame the technocratic utilitarianism of neoliberalism for this, in part, and we can also blame the values of the patriarchy - which teaches men, and particularly men in positions of authority, to distrust and suppress their emotions. But the Spock (and/or Data) character provides the role archetype that I believe a culturally significant group of smart, perhaps well-meaning men, are subconciously performing and reproducing because at the time they grew up the rationalist hero was the man they desired to be. 

My book, "Politics for the New Dark Age: Staying Positive Amidst Disorder" is in part a critique of the privileging of supposedly neutral logical of utilitarianism in the public sphere. The policy wonks and elites of my generation - the Obama-types, the centrists and neoliberals - do certainly offer an improved quality of governance over some of the alternatives and the world is certainly a better place because of it. But their instinctual distrust of emotion, including the dismissal of the rage and loss felt by those that have been made worse off by their policies and their inability to offer a positive, hopeful vision of the future of society, has led them to a political cul-de-sac and is arguably contributing to the fraying of liberal democratic societies. There are many (many!) good reasons to oppose Trump, but the way he makes his supporters *feel* positive and energised must be acknowledged as potent political technique.

The sceptical culture of the internet has birthed multiple manifestations of this cult of rationality, including the New Atheism movement, the so-called rationalist/effective altruist community and the Intellectual Dark Web. But all too often this is rationality without a moral compass: it's no coincidence that the same communities have become a treadmill pushing people towards Islamophobia, opposition to trans rights (muh chromosomes!), outright racism (the "human biodiversity" crowd) and the privileging of pseudo-scientism as an explanation of inequality rather than the real culprit (y'know: the capitalist order). The Kirk/Spock dialectic has produced a generation of wannabe Spocks who don't know how to govern real people and on a deep level don't want to. Ironically, this is because it was the underdog Spock they most empathised with as children, rather than the bullying Captain Kirk. But they've got it wrong. Spock is not the hero of the Original Series: the Federation is - a society that creates room for both Spock and Kirk to co-exist in leadership. 

Re-Discovering the Social Emotions

What fans tend to forget is that the Original Series is based around a leadership triad, not a duo: Doctor McCoy is the emotional and empathetic heart of the system, the balance to the hyper-rationality of Spock and the dominance drive of Captain Kirk. The Original Series makes it clear that heroic actions result when all three perspectives are taken into account; it's to the Abrams reboot's great discredit that this dynamic is wholly absent. Hell, multiple Star Trek films were devoted to the lesson that the needs of the one can outweigh the needs of the many, yet this lesson is anathema to the modern Spock archetype. The Southern gentleman McCoy represents the other-regarding outlook of traditional societies, and this might explain why it's a perspective that is devalued by an increasingly elite community that sees empathy (and demands for empathy) as a archaic characteristic of alien 'others'. The New Generation didn't help in this regard by making the McCoy archetype a female alien whose empathy was a literal superpower; Counsellor Troi was a neat concept whose character development and depth was sacrificed to focus on the Picard/Data dyad. 

What the cult of rationality misses, in its blanket dismissal of emotion, is that many emotions are a positive force in people's lives and that other-regarding preferences are actually necessary to make cooperative societies sustainable. One of the key insights of evolutionary game theory is that self-regarding rationality alone is insufficient to sustain large scale societies: emotions are not vestigial organs that lead to adverse results in modern conditions, as the Santa Barbara-style evolutionary psychologists believe, but refined tools that make it easier for humans to act in ways that maintain the integrity of their communities. Daniel Kahnemann and Johnathan Haidt are right in at least this sense: rationality is a better tool for post hoc justification of our actions than an a priori generator of moral behaviour.  So today we see rationality offered up as an exculpatory excuse for abhorrent opinions and social policies. 

It's ironic, then, that the most recent Star Trek Series ("Discovery") has received a fan backlash because to my mind it actually gets this right. In a fascinating reversal of the situation in "Undiscovered Country", the season one finale of Discovery has the Vulcans (in fact, Spock's father) and Starfleet willing to commit genocide against the Klingons in order to contain them as a threat, and it's up to the human character, who was raised by Vulcans, to reject that sort of utilitarian calculus and advocate the heroic position of hope and trust in the future. It's probably indicative of the times that the protagonist (Burnham) is both female and non-white, but the message would be and should be the same regardless of the character's identity. The writers of Discovery recognise, in a way that perhaps the writers of the Next Generation didn't appreciate, that emotion and empathy can have both positive and negative aspects, and that the privileging of rationality as paramount value lead to a society that can be morally monstrous. As a society, we need irrational optimism to survive and thrive. 

One Year Blogversary!

Well, it's official. This blog has existed for exactly one year. One year of blogging in support of my (first) book, "Politics for the New Dark Age: Staying Positive Amidst Disorder"; one year of commentating on politics, philosophy and the culture wars from Geneva and outside of the government mothership. Getting the chance to be interviewed on a podcast as a result of my piece on social media and social trust was definitely a highlight. In honour of the anniversary, today's post will be a little different, looking back at what worked, and what didn't. 

Over the last twelve months, this blog:

  • was visited by >2,700 unique individual readers;
  • roughly half of those visitors were from the United States. Australia, the UK, Canada and Switzerland made up most of the remainder;
  • one third of my readers came from Reddit, which explains the considerable increase in readership I got on posts that were posted there;
  • finally, 74 of my visitors clicked through a link to buy a copy of my book. Thank you to each and every one of you!

The top three posts from this year were:

Overall, the keys to success appear to have been a) wading into controversial areas, and b) making sure my work was seen on high profile sub-reddits. Oddly enough, my book reviews have also performed solidly, with my review of Yuval Noah Harari's "Sapiens" just barely missing out on the top three. 

What posts performed the worst?

  • Sadly, my holiday writings on the issue of a 'Voice' for Indigenous Australians received the lowest readership of all my posts, despite it being a touchy issue in Australian and me sharing the entries widely on Reddit. 
  • I'm more personally disappointed that some more philosophical writings on evolutionary ethics ("Three Duties") and the evolution of sex and gender categories ("The colour analogy") were both read less than ten times. I'm rather proud of both pieces: perhaps the abstract titles and topics were to blame?
  • Finally, it's odd that my follow-up to that podcast interview, "Climate Change Broke the Neoliberal Consensus Too" fared so poorly, despite being promoted by the "Connected and Disaffected" podcast crew and being clearly linked to that appearance.

So what's next? Expect the pace of new writing to slow down a bit over the next few months as I manage the return to Australia and gear up to write the first draft of my second book. That's right, there's a follow-up coming that I'm quite excited to get started on. Perhaps by the second blogversary, I'll be able to tell y'all a little more. Until then, thanks for reading!