Author: James Livingston

Expression and Action, Money and Speech

Last Thursday night I went to an event co-sponsored by Spiked, the kinky British magazine, and the Institute for Humane Studies, an obscure institution domiciled at George Mason University, whose agenda, despite its title, does not include animal rights. It was hosted by the New York Law School in a spacious auditorium at 185 West Broadway, way downtown. 200 people were in the audience, everybody agitated by the issue of free speech. I’m sitting there in the bleacher section, ten rows back, and I’m asking myself, who paid for this? Whose speech was legitimated by this setting? And what voices were excluded? I’m thinking like an economist, asking, what was the “opportunity cost” of this event—in other words, what alternatives were forsaken so that these ideas would be heard? The event was entitled “Is the Left Eating Itself?” Translation: Is the Left destroying itself by relinquishing its aggressive, progressive claims on the First Amendment—by encouraging the “social justice warriors” who have tried to shut down hate speech on campus? The spontaneous, ungainly etymology that followed led, inevitably, to a larger question: what is the Left, after all? The four participants on the panel were Brendan O’Neill, Angus Johnston, Bret Weinstein, and Laura Kipnis. Their answers were intriguing, at the very least. What I heard was of course edifying. But it was nowhere near satisfying—if I could have run shrieking...

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Tin Star: Revenge, Renunciation and Desire

There’s great pleasure in the renunciation of desire. I know this because for thirty years I refused to eat dead mammals, I dressed like an impoverished graduate student, I acted as if the world were a juvenile detention facility—that’s what they call them, really—and I cut my own hair with scissors, mirrors, and electric razors. Meanwhile, I was the Ideal Dad, Mister Mom, the father who did all the cooking, went to every extracurricular event, and helped with the homework, too. I’m not like that anymore. I left my marriage ten years ago, moved to New York, got a...

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Tied to the Mast

I went to Montana last weekend, to address the Montana Education Association courtesy of James Bruggeman, and, outside of my official duties, I spent a lot of time with Jim on the road, in a big old red Toyota truck that seemed one story high, but with just enough horsepower to get us past the tractor trailers that crowded the passes, as he called them, those crevices in the mountains where you might sneak through to the other side. They’re actually named for the people who found them, and used them, God knows how or why. Now Jim is...

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Bateson in Yellowstone

I’m a fallen vegetarian—I’ve renounced my renunciation, I’ll eat anything—and I’m on the road in Yellowstone National Park with James Bruggeman, a friend who shoots deer, elk, sheep, whatever, with a high-powered rifle, and has since he was a kid.  But as we’re watching out for the animals we want to see (wolves, especially, but elk and buffalo will do), he’s the one who opens the inevitable conversation on hunting with a dissertation on sentience that would make Gregory Bateson proud, or James Lovelock blush. Herewith a transcript of that conversation. ____________ James Bruggeman: “These are moral beings. They...

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We are Live!

Politics/Letters Live is, well… live! This is where we’ll experiment with new formats and new voices, with podcasts, interviews, and plainly weird shit between the “official” editions of the quarterly magazine.  Who knows?  Maybe next year the podcast is old hat, and Chapo Trap House brays from the dustbin of history. We feature three new voices.  Mark Bray, the author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook(Melville House), talks with Bruce Robbins and me about the extreme politics of our time. Tune in to part two of our interview when it goes online on Saturday. Natalie Frazier, who was only last year a film student at Northwestern,...

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