Americans canceled for exercising First Amendment rights, companies browbeating white workers about race privilege, shifting acronyms signifying the latest innovations in gender, constant evocations of victimhood—what’s driving the cultural ferment that threatens to transform the nation into something unrecognizable? As Martin Gurri argues in “The Identity Cult,” the radicalism is a kind of substitute religion, embraced by young leftists and, far more cynically, older corporate and media elites seeking to maintain power. But as a faith, it is internally contradictory—nothing can reconcile the demands of its proliferating identities—and bereft of a hopeful vision of the future. Gurri is thus skeptical that the identity cult can last, but the damage that its adherents can inflict in the meantime is considerable.
The museum world is a major site of that damage, Heather Mac Donald reports in “The Guardians in Retreat.” Mac Donald takes aim at the Art Institute of Chicago, once one of America’s great cultural institutions but now pursuing a new mission to expose racist oppression everywhere—including under its own roof. Striking a blow for that new mission, the Institute recently fired its 82 unpaid docent volunteers, who offered a wide variety of excellent educational programs for the public, for the sole reason that most were white, and will replace them with just six part-time paid employees, hired on identity-politics grounds. The Institute’s director, James Rondeau, wants to push the antiracist agenda even further. If racialist ideology spreads unchecked throughout the institutions of high culture, Mac Donald warns, the result will be the cancellation of a civilization.
Leor Sapir’s “Transgender Confusions” assesses the dubious judicial rulings that have required schools to defer to the self-chosen gender identity of students or face charges of discrimination. What he finds, through his penetrating assessment of “a badly misunderstood phenomenon,” is a striking example of how bad ideas with little public support can travel swiftly from the academic fringe to the heart of law and policy.
One bastion of resistance to the identity cult is Miami, “The Least Woke City in America,” as one resident enthused to Oliver Wiseman in his look at the Magic City’s lively, and increasingly conservative, political scene. A major group of Hispanic Republicans has emerged in Miami, many with direct experience of socialist dystopias in their family histories. That has helped push the city rightward. But these Miamians also offer a vision of American opportunity that Republicans can model to compete in other cities, Wiseman believes. Miami mayor Francis Suarez reflects that optimistic vision in his embrace of risk-taking tech innovation, says Daniel Tenreiro in “America’s Tomorrow City.” Thanks in part to Suarez’s efforts, a massive influx of venture capital money has poured in to the city. Allison Schrager’s “Bring Back Risk” maintains that the American economy as a whole needs an injection of that spirit of enterprise. The alternative is a more stagnant and less productive future.
Two stories in this issue explore the technological frontier. Bruno Maçães’s “Enter the Metaverse” explains how the new immersive platform will disrupt everything from commerce to work to geopolitics. In “The Medium Is the Menace,” Andrey Mir notes that the Internet has amplified our intellectual and social faculties far beyond our natural abilities. But there has been a significant cost, including atrophied attention spans and a desire for immediate gratification. Mir offers a suggestion for age-based media management that parents and educators should listen to.
Nicole Gelinas’s “The Other New York” revisits three defining books on the city’s poor. The books reflect the anxieties of their eras, from crime to gentrification, and generally call for more extensive government action to solve social problems. Yet what their reporting shows—though the authors rarely acknowledge it—is the role that self-destructive behavior plays in making poverty a multigenerational fate. Such misguided thinking—and not just in poverty policy—was a hallmark of New York’s just-ended Bill de Blasio years, which Tevi Troy anatomizes in “The de Blasio Debacle.”
—Brian C. Anderson