Episode 812: The New Puritanism

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3 Responses

  1. Ray (@RaySquirrel) says:

    How coincidental. I just finished reading a book by British Comedian Andrew Doyle, named “The New Puritans: How the Religion of Social Justice Captured The Western World.” And for a book written by a comedian, it is quite possibly the most detailed, well-researched, informative, and well-written book examining the history, philosophy, politics, and impact that social justice has had on society. And then I found out Doyle had a Ph.D. in literature from Oxford so maybe it isn’t that surprising.

    He was one of the writers for Johnathan Pie. You might have seen one of his videos on social media around the 2016 election. He is also the mind behind the Twitter account Titiana McGrath. There is one tweet from McGrath which perfectly summarizes the new puritanism:

    “I am the modern day Rosa Parks.

    Except I wouldn’t be seen dead on public transport, obvs.”


    It is the claim to high-minded humanistic ideals combined with just an absolute contempt for people.

    The book examines the parallels between social justice and religion down to the minutest detail. Individual chapters are dedicated to “Creed”, “Denominations”, “Genesis”, “Blasphemy”, “Exegesis”, “Dogma”, “Revelation”, and “Inquisition.” In one of the last chapters, “Transcendence”, he examines the impact of social justice on art and culture. He admits that growing up as a gay man at a time when gays were viewed with hostility, finding art that depicted gays had a life-changing effect. “Watching the comedian Julian Clary on television, or the overtly homoerotic films of Derek Jarman, at least gave me a sense that my natural instincts need not be a source of shame or a guarantee of social ostracism.” But he also sees how much the obsession with representation has killed art criticism. He even cites some of the same examples you guys did, “For all my efforts, I have been unable to find a single negative review of Quentin Tarantino’s film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) that does not favour tedious moralising over meaningful analysis.”

    He ends that segment of the chapter with a valuable statement that all artists and critics alike.

    “Art is the ultimate expression of individuality, the interpretation of life through a singular lens. Just as there is artistry in criticism, there is a critical component to all forms of art. This is why the critic deserves our respect as much as the artist does, but it is also why he or she should be held to account when failing to live up to the high standards of the craft. A critic who is driven primarily by their politics, who is blinded by their own sense of moral superiority, or who cannot temporarily surrender to the worldview of their subject, can barely be said to be a critic at all.”

    Doyle, Andrew. The New Puritans (p. 265). Little, Brown Book Group. Kindle Edition.

  2. Wonks Anonymous says:

    You’re still sheltered. Racial polarization has declined under Trump while educational polarization has gone up. You’re not bothered by Sarah Silverman’s routines because you’ve become aware of what the average Chinese person thinks of them, but instead because white people in your bubble have changed their views. As Matt Yglesias noted a while back, the “Great Awokening” involved white liberals having more left-wing views on race than racial minorities themselves. And as Jesse Singal has noted, many cases in which institutions are supposedly pivoting toward greater sensitivity toward minority groups involve ignoring survey data on what members of those groups actually think of the issues at hand. Those group members that people like you hear from tend to be unrepresentative. Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò’s essay on “Being-in-the-room Privilege” discusses how the truly marginalized are the ones that those in power are least likely to ever hear from:
    I would guess that you both know more women who are cinephiles than racial/ethnic minorities and thus if you hear of one person on twitter objecting to Phantom Thread because the protagonist is mean to Alma you realize that this is just that one person’s opinion and that plenty of women are able to enjoy the film, viewing Woodcock’s overblown complaints as a source of comedy.

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