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Is This Social Justice?

It began with a puff piece featuring a small, local restaurant, and ended with acrimony and Yelp’s team stepping in to stem a tide of abusive reviews. To put it mildly, I have some misgivings about stepping into this issue. There are plenty of reasons I shouldn’t, but I also feel compelled to speak up because I think this entire situation has spun out of control. Food magazine Bon Appetit ran a profile a few days ago of a restaurant in Philadelphia called Stock.

The Hypocrisy of Labor Day

Today is supposed to be a celebration of American labor. Instead, it’s a crass spectacle of commercialism. The first thing that sets our Labor Day apart is when it’s held. Over 80 countries around the world celebrate their workers on May 1st, otherwise known as May Day. The American equivalent is set four months later. This was a deliberate choice made to undermine labor movements, especially those with socialist or anarchist elements.

Identity: Descriptive vs. Prescriptive

We live in an age dominated by identity. Progressive politics revolve around identity concepts, on the precept that all politics are identity politics. This piece is in no way a denouncement of identity politics. Instead, it’s meant as an examination and possibly clarification of certain ideas and problems I have noticed. At their best, identities are descriptive. That is, a person adopts an identity–by which I mean a specific word–because they believe it describes them well.

Jill Stein: Bested by a Dead Gorilla

Green Party Presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein is hoping that, by appealing to as wide a variety of cranks and edgelords as possible, she might somehow make herself and the Green Party relevant. (Note: some content in this post may be NSFW.) This led to the somewhat surreal situation we have now: Jill Stein tweeting about Harambe, the 17-year-old gorilla killed several months ago at the Cincinnati Zoo, and that same deceased primate polling ahead of Stein in some states.

French Secularism and the Burkini Ban

France made headlines this past week when a small town decided to ban body-covering swimwear known as “burkinis” from its beaches under the guise of security concerns. The measure was already struck down by France’s highest administrative court, but it highlights an ongoing debate in the country, and indeed in the rest of the Western world. To what extent is a government permitted to regulate what its citizens wear? Does that authority also extend to clothing that is overtly religious in nature?

Progressivism, Sexual Violence, and Restorative Justice

Is the progressive movement to reform our criminal justice system and make it more humane at odds with the equally progressive desire to more aggressively punish rapists? The story that served as the impetus for bringing this topic to wider attention involves filmmaker Nate Parker, a black man who was once accused of sexual assault and later acquitted. There has been some debate over how to approach the work of someone who may be a rapist, even if a court of law didn’t hold them accountable.

Trolls and Internet Hate Culture

When TIME magazine notices that online hatred and trolling are serious problems, you know they’ve hit the mainstream. I don’t expect to break any new ground here given my past posts on this topic. However, I find it noteworthy that TIME magazine–one of the most milquetoast publications that could grace one’s coffee table–finally had a cover story about online trolling and hateful behavior. Joel Stein wrote it, who is as decent enough a person as any to have tackle it.

Police Body Cameras: A Failed Policy

Around the time the Black Lives Matter movement began in earnest, so too did a national discussion on ways to monitor police officers and moderate their behavior. One of those measures was to develop widespread use of body cameras by police. Thus far, this policy has been largely a failure. Common Dreams analyzed body camera programs in 50 US cities to determine how those policies were put in place, whether they held police officers properly accountable, and to what extent they protected the civil rights of citizens.

Video Game Elitism

What’s the deal with people who play video games fighting and arguing over what makes a “real” game or not? I’ve seen this argument play out most recently with regard to the game No Man’s Sky. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a game in which you are encouraged to survive and explore, hopping from planet to planet on your little spaceship. Planets and life forms on those planets are all procedurally generated, a bit like Spore.

Cynics, True Believers, and Everyone Else

A common topic of discussion I’ve encountered is whether politicians really believe the things they say and advocate for. Are they cynical, or are they for real? Taking this question at face value, I would argue that, in the end, it doesn’t matter. It is impossible to know what’s really in a person’s mind–what they truly believe versus what they pretend to believe for some selfish purpose. A policy supported on either basis is still just as real in terms of its effects.