23 January 2024


Quillette is an instrument for credibility-washing evil far right pseudo-intellectual bullshit. One should never share anything they publish.

I am sympathetic to people who get fooled by an article from them. They publish a lot of genuinely intriguing contrarian articles, often by left-leaning commentators, to create an impression that they are a venue for smart, serious, adventurous ideas. But this is a ploy, to create a good impression so that one becomes open to entertaining one of their articles arguing Oh So Reasonably for reactionary bullshit.

It is a very effective method; the Wall Street Journal has done something similar for decades, maintaining a right-leaning but rigorous news operation which provides cover for their editorial page’s lying propaganda.

The Journal holds a peculiar position in the American press. Murdoch, who acquired the paper along with Dow Jones in 2007 for five billion dollars, is perhaps the most hated executive in media, yet the Journal has managed to maintain a serious news operation, providing a training ground for excellent journalists for decades. The Journal has a distinctly conservative, finance-focused sensibility; it also belongs squarely among the New York media elite. It is not where many reporters aspire to land, however, in large part because its reputation is so tainted by incendiary op-eds. For decades, the Journal newsroom has grumbled about leaps of logic and reckless ideology on the opinion side. During Trump’s presidency, the grumbling grew into a roar.

In July 2020, more than two hundred and eighty newsroom employees signed a letter addressed to Almar Latour, the CEO of Dow Jones & Company and the Journal’s publisher, complaining about a “lack of fact-checking and transparency” on the editorial page, which they believed was undercutting the paper’s credibility

Quillette’s influence is not confined to weird corners of the internet. Former Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers cites them:

I hope that university presidents will defend academic freedom by echoing these sentiments. Leading journals like Nature gatekeep tenure for young scholars and publications in them can determine career paths for older scholars.

The Fall of ‘Nature’

One must reject the fruit of the poisoned tree.

Quillette’s far right mission becomes plain if you look at reporting on them at RationalWiki, the Columbia Journalism Review, Jacobin, The New Republic, The Nation, or Pinkerite detailing them promoting racist & sexist pseudoscience, nonsense about “censorship” by the Left, and even doxxing “antifa” journalists knowing that the violent fascist cult Atomwaffen used their article as a “Kill List”.

David Neiwert, one of the best journalists covering the far right in the US, responds to Quillette founder & editor Claire Lehmann about that last:

Activists such as Robert Evans <@IwriteOK> continue to lie about the authorship of our article published back in May in order to target Andy Ngo.

I wonder why they hate the article so much. Is it because it cuts close too close to the bone? šŸ¤”

Actually, Claire, the reason every working journalist who has been covering these events loathes these stories with a white-hot passion is that it reveals that you all literally have no idea how journalism works. It conflates sourcing with ideology, info-gathering with activism. Throughout the piece, it works from the assumption that if a journalist is talking to antifascists and getting info from them, then they must be sympathetic with them. It doesn't reach a similar conclusion when these journalists also do the same with the other side as well.

But that’s how journalism -- done properly -- has always worked. You seem to think that overt bias -- the kind Andy Ngo regularly displays in who he talks to and the kinds of questions he asks, not to mention his on-scene behavior -- is OK if it’s on your side.

Here’s your tweet attacking Jason Wilson <@jason_a_w> because of who he was standing next to while covering one of these events.

Here is @guardian journalist @jason_a_w (left) next to Portland Antifa organiser Luis Enrique Marquez. Note that Marquez is wearing the same assault gloves that injured Andy Ngo, standard practice for Antifa activists.

But as I pointed out, Jason can easily be found in photographs talking to peopler on both sides of the divide.

Hey, Claire, here are some shots of @jason_a_w interviewing alt-righters at a similar rally in Portland -- the one immediately following two murders on a commuter train by a man who had marched with Patriot Prayer. Have you ever been a reporter? Any idea how all this works?

This is simply standard reportorial practice, and you simply don’t get it.

So yeah, the colleagues of all the journalists who wound up on that Atomwaffen list (and your disingenuousness on the subject of its existence is running thin, BTW) are fucking pissed about it. You're endangering our lives simply for doing our jobs professionally.

More from journalist Alexander Reid Ross:

Tweet by Alex Zielinski <@alex_zee>
This clip, shot right before Patriot Prayer arrived at Cider Riot on May Day, is the clearest evidence I’ve seen supporting the claim that PP & leader Joey Gibson were intent on instigating a fight that afternoon.

It’s now clear that, a few weeks before Quillette produced a dubious article attempting to link journalists to antifa (including yours truly), their editor Andy Ngo joined a group of far-right street brawlers as they planned out a surprise attack on a local pub.

You can see plain as day Andy hanging out with the group, leaving with an apparent scouting crew to investigate the unsuspecting bar patrons, and then returning to divulge information on the number of people and their potential capacity to defeat their own group

When they finally did attack (after being joined by leader Joey Gibson), the Quillette editor joined in to film the whole thing, obviously from the right-wing side. In the ensuing altercation, provoked entirely by the right, a fascist attacked a woman and broke her vertebrae.

Aside from Quillette getting totally hoaxed and their founding editor Claire Lehman apparently promoting phrenology, this is a major indication that their standards are nonexistent, their pose as “intellectuals” is bunk, and they are merely a far-right propaganda site.

Last point — Andy made a small fortune holding himself out as a victim of violence. Now that we get the whole picture, apparently implicating him in a surprise attack that left one woman seriously injured, will ppl finally recognize his pleas against violence are pure hypocrisy?

When Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote an article debunking racist crap about IQ, his article had an aside about them.

Note the online magazine Quillette seems to be a cover for a sinister eugenics program (with tendencies I’ve called “neo-Nazi” under the cover of “free thought”.)

This inspired a Twitter thread from Quillette founder & editor Claire Lehmann — who regularly gets up to shenanigans tipping her hand on Twitter — revealingly playing a familiar songbook of pseudo-science “just asking questions” to justify racism, sexism, and other reactionary themes.

I’m going to put a few things on the record.

I created Quillette in late 2015 after dropping out of a masters in forensic psychology. My aim was (and is) to provide a space for journalism that is informed by evidence. In particular, I wanted to provide a space where academics & others could challenge blank slate dogma.

In my view, blank slate dogma is pernicious. It exists on both the Left and the Right. Here is one example of us taking a look at it on the Right.

The Blank Slate-ism of the Right

My interest in countering blank slate dogma sprung from my profound disillusionment with contemporary feminism, which from my point of view was becoming increasingly anti-intellectual & anti-science. I wrote this in 2013.

How About Some Evidence-Based Feminism?

In 2017, I wrote an article for Commentary, about the price women pay because of the widespread denial of sex differences. The medical community’s avoidance of studying this topic has led to women overdosing on sleeping pills for decades.

The XX Factor

Yet gender is not the only area in which blank slate dogma operates. We’ve also published articles on heritability, and the counter-intuitive results of decades of twin-studies research.

Why Parenting May Not Matter and Why Most Social Science Research is Probably Wrong

But we have never hosted an argument which claims that genes or biology account for 100% of human behavioural or psychological outcomes. The argument is simply that genes and biology account for more than zero.

Giving Genes Their Due, But Not More

Have we published on intelligence? Yes. Admittedly, intelligence is an incredibly complex area of study, & technical discussion is best suited to journals. That being said, the denial of intelligence is not helpful in a society that is rapidly changing.

Dealing with the Reality That Not Everyone Can Succeed

People like to paint intelligence research as an exercise in vanity. Smart people like to prove how smart they are, etc. But who actually gets their IQ tested? Kids being screened for learning difficulties. Adults who’ve had brain injuries. Elderly suffering dementia. A good real world example of the utility of IQ testing is in army. When the army stopped screening for a certain level of cognitive functioning, it cost lives. The soldier's own lives.

The Dangers of Ignoring Cognitive Inequality

Have we published on race? Yes we have. The writing on this topic speaks for itself. We abhor racism and yet do not believe that race is merely a social construct, (another pernicious blank slate dogma that has repercussions in the real world).

Importantly: we have never argued that the science on these topics is settled or in any way complete. Science is always provisional. But our editorial position is that people should be allowed to hypothesise & research without having their lives destroyed by smear campaigns.

We have to put all of this in context: we live at a time where it is controversial to say that a woman is not the same as a man, where you're not allowed to notice that some people are naturally bright & others struggle, that some people are better at some sports than others. All we are doing is pushing back on the dogma which says:

“You are not allowed to ask this question”

“You are not allowed to study this topic”

“You are not allowed state observable facts”

Now Nassim Nicholas Taleb <@nntaleb> has weighed in with his characteristic belligerence. He doesn’t like IQ tests so he has attempted to “debunk” them using math. His debunking has convinced no-one in the relevant fields & has only impressed his gaggle of sycophants. I politely asked him to put forward some suggestions as to how psychology could improve its methodology and he flew off the handle. He’s now smearing me, Quillette & anyone who reads us as neo-Nazi.

If you think pushing back against blank slate dogma is easy, it’s not. It’s really not. But somebody has to do it. If you’ve read this far, please support the work we do.

Another little gem from Lehmann, found through a newspaper article suckered by Quillette into referring to it as a “liberal politics and philosophy website”:

Being anti-racist is not harmful. What is harmful is this notion that’s proposed by Ibram Kendi, that everything is either racist or anti-racist. That’s a really damaging idea because it doesn’t allow for neutrality.

“Neutrality” about racism. Hm.

If you know the scent, you recognize it all over what she is saying. If you don’t, a good place to start is looking for anyone who says the things she says there.

Ted McCormick <@mccormick_ted> breaks down an example of how it works:

This is a good example of Quillette’s and the IDW’s [“intellectual dark web”] style of engagement with ideas: rather than thinking, find the quickest way to a simplistic one-line dismissal, ideally putting a Nazi reference in your target’s mouth, naturally.

Tweet from Jonathan Kay <@Jonkay>
Editor, writer, & podcaster at Quillette. Book author. Substacker. @fairforall_org advisor. Ex-lawyer -engineer -coder. Lapsed Jew. Gamer. Problematic Canadian

So true. I saw an old woman tending to her petunias a little while back, and I immediately got her canceled. She told me that growing flowers is the only thing that gives her joy in life. and I was like, “tell it to your good friend, Joseph Goebbels, nazi bitch”
Quote-tweet from James Wong <@Botanygeek>

Absolutely U.K. gardening culture has racism baked into its DNA.

It’s so integral that when you point out it’s existence, people assume you are against gardening, not racism.

Epitomised, for example, by the fetishisation (and wild misuse) of words like ‘heritage’ and ‘native’.
Quote-tweet from Ed Wall <@eddwall>

Gardens are denied their political agency because ehty too often reveal uncomfortable politics of individual ownership, spatial inequity, & unsustainable practices. There needs to be more honest converstations about gardens in the UK!

Other arts are political, why not gardening?

All aspects of horticulture are based on political ideas. The reason why British-style gardens have been replicated around the planet – recreating the green lawns of Surrey in the deserts of Arizona, or introducing UK wildlife in places as far flung as Australia in order to mould entire landscapes into a “Beatrix Potter” ideal – is because of political beliefs. At flower shows, “tropical” gardens aren’t considered simply to be those using plants from a climate zone, but rather a distinctive style of gardening, usually set with colonial maps and explorers’ pith helmets. This may not seem political to many visitors, but they are, of course, deeply political statements.

That “native” or “heritage” are often used as a byword for “better” in UK gardening, even if the plants given this accolade aren’t actually either, reflects and reinforces inescapably political ideology. In fact, the very idea that politics should be kept out of gardening is itself a resoundingly political statement, as it dismisses the status quo as apolitical, objective reality and anything challenging it as inapposite “activism”.

Now, you may or may not agree with the point the article and tweets make about gardening; you may be unable to get past their language. But it’s not really controversial that gardening is and has been “political.” It is, after all, a matter of land and labor (or leisure). It’s also a matter of longstanding historical knowledge not only that gardening has been a form of elite display but also that botanical gardens (like Kew, with which the author of the piece is familiar) have been centrally in extracting wealth and knowledge through colonialism.

See virtually any work on Joseph Banks (of Kew) or the Comte de Buffon (of the Jardin Botanique) or on the network of botanical gardens set up by every European imperial power to transplant, domesticate, and commodify colonial flora. This is old hat. If you read.

So much for imperial institutions. But “ordinary” gardening was also a way of pacifying and civilizing colonial places and people, at least by the English (I will limit myself here to what I know directly from my own archival research, but I would be surprised if it was unique). In Ireland, for example, Cromwell’s helper and early economic writer William Petty made the creation of English-style houses and gardens part of his project to subdue rebellious Irish Catholics. Forcing them to intermarry with English women was another part of his scheme. To the extent that the garden was part of the ideal English household, gardening was an aspect of the civility colonizers hoped to impose on colonial territory. It required, of course, the prior imposition of a suitable set of property arrangements. This is not hard. If you read.

Beyond and behind all this, of course, the argument that uncultivated land was vacant was (and remains) a major justification for imperial conquest. The absence of “recognizable” gardening had political consequences, just as its introduction had political requirements.

Anyway, this knowledge is not by any means new to readers of history. So Kay here is not making some clever point about the current hyperpoliticization of everything. He’s just showing his own ignorance of facts that are neither far to seek nor hard to grasp.

In no particular order, here are some works that deal with the political (especially colonial/imperial) history of gardening:

I could add more but I think the point is made. If you’re getting your history from Quillette, please stop before you hurt yourself. It really is just a machine that substitutes outrage (mostly faked, for its editors; apparently real, for its fans) for learning

In this, of course, it’s not alone. The replies are a masterclass in getting people who won’t read a whole tweet thread upset about what they imagine that thread might say.

Tweet from Stephen Knight <@GSpellchecker>
In case you’re wondering what’s racist today, it’s gardening.

The best response, though sadly it requires reading.

Tweet from James Wong <@Botanygeek>
There has indeed been a lively debate on my feed over the past 24 hours. Many people seem to be absolutely astonished at the idea gardening could reflect and reinforce the values of wider society. Well, I have written all about it here. Hope you enjoy.

Other arts are political, why not gardening?

I guess the real Nazis here are the ones who read, research, and think about their subjects.

And here are some entirely predictable examples of how further explanation by the author just meets with doubling down on the original, intentional misreading. Not one engagement with any specific point he makes. The only move they have is to amplify their own disinformation.

Tweet from Jonathan Kay <@Jonkay>
Gardening-is-so-racist guy is still at it
Tweet from Terry Newman <@TLNewmanMTL>
When academia becomes about finding the thing no one else has gotten angry and written about yet, for the purposes of publishing this is what you get.
Tweet from Delightful Dissident <@DissidentDelite>
I would like to projectile vomit across the world until it hits this guy. Seeing racism in gardening is whacked! Way to interrogate that rose bush genius!
Tweet from Jonathan Kay <@Jonkay>
They won’t stop until every single activity that brings people joy and fulfilment is decried as a racist sin. Puritanism in social justice garb.

This isn’t “satire”; it’s neither witty nor related to the specifics of the piece. It’s not criticism, either, because, again, none of the actual claims he makes enter into it at all. It’s just unintelligent disinformation, repeated in different tones for different audiences. The point isn’t to educate, or debate, or challenge on the merits; any of these requires engagement, not mischaracterization. It’s to demonize and dismiss academic work. It’s to keep the audience from reading or thinking about things, from engaging with unfamiliar or new ideas.

And here’s the entirely predictable (because so often repeated) result of the Quillette method of engagement.

Tweet from James Wong <@Botanygeek>
Back for a quick update:
As these comment appear to have started to turn into death threats on platforms like insta and dms, I will be reporting them to the police

One way of telling whether something is witty satire or rational critique or just mindless outrage is how quickly and directly it leads to threats against its target.

This way of misrepresenting, demonizing and dismissing academic work only ever results in making life and work harder for the researchers involved. And that is the point. It’s not about ideas, it’s not about truth, and it’s not about humour, either. It’s about shutting people up.

I have an example of my own from Kay, showing the logic of the transphobic “groomer” narrative equating support for kids closeted from their bigoted parents with molesting kids, in service of indicting all social justice efforts:

When your social justice movement requires you to say, “let’s not tell mommy and daddy our little secret, okay?”, it isn’t hard to know how it’s all going to end
New York Times| When Students Change Gender Identity, and Parents Don’t Know

Using misrepresentations to cultivate deadly harassment is the point.

Never give Quillette credibility by sharing something from them.

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