Quillette lecture on the “religion” of social justice by John McWhorter: Sept. 25 or 26

Thanks to Quillette, you’ll be able to watch a free lecture by John McWhorter in a bit more than three weeks. The reason I’m announcing this early is that you have to reserve a spot, which is free for the talk and the afterparty (if you want to attend the virtual salon and ask McWhorter questions, it’ll cost you 200 Australian dollars). The dates and times vary because Australia is on the other side of the International Date Line. In the US, McWhorter’s talk will start at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 25, as noted below.

More info from the email I got:

While acknowledging that some aspects of modern social justice movements are vital and necessary, John McWhorter has likened some progressive activism to a new expression of ancient religious impulse – with its own versions of Original Sin, rituals, dogma, and even excommunication—often in the form of “cancel culture.”
As an associate professor of linguistics and comparative literature at Columbia University for over 25 years, and a popular writer penning pieces for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico and The New Yorker (just to name a few), John is well-versed in the dangers and pitfalls of radical social justice.
At a time when emotions are heightened and divisions seem intractable, McWhorter’s moderating voice is more valuable than ever. Join him in conversation with political satirist and television presenter Josh Szeps on September 26

The main event is this:

A free presentation where John will explore ideas around radical social justice and its place in today’s society. You will have the opportunity to debate and ask questions during the show via the Event Chat.

I’m not sure why one must reserve a spot for the free lecture, but I’ve done it anyway, and I suppose you should, too. To do that, go to the “reserve page” here, click “get tickets” on the upper right, and fill in the blanks. If you’re “going,” put it on your calendar now.



  1. Historian
    Posted September 3, 2020 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Even if McWhorter presents a convincing case that racial social justice has taken on many attributes of a religion, we must keep in mind that such phenomena is hardly unique. These attributes are a function of extremism. History provides many examples, both on the left and right. For example, we have the KKK on the right and the American Communist Party on the left. The country’s tradition of free speech and association allows such groups the opportunity to flourish because the government will not attempt to suppress them, at least in theory (in practice it is sometimes a different story), unless they take illegal actions, often of the violent variety.

    Thus, for the United States and perhaps other democracies, this question is always present, although sometimes under the surface: can the center hold? In other words, in periods of extraordinary polarization such as now, can democratic norms convince enough people to reject the extremists and, instead, to work for solutions that allow all citizens to thrive in a polity that respects the rights of all people, socially, politically, and economically? Social justice extremism is but one piece in a large puzzle. The next few months will provide the latest answer to whether the center can hold.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 3, 2020 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      “the American Communist Party” — that’s the Communist Party USA, buddy; those old reds were nothing if not finicky about their nomenclature. 🙂

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 3, 2020 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Got my ticket. I’d appreciate if you’d post a reminder a day or two before the lecture, boss. The whole international-date-line thing always puts the whammy on me.

    • Posted September 3, 2020 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      There was an “add to calendar” link as part of the checkout process. Surely that will get the date and time right so you don’t have to calculate or remember.

  3. Posted September 3, 2020 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    An important question is whether Quillette will give people access to a video of the lecture later. Anyone know?

  4. colnago01
    Posted September 3, 2020 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Quillette is a somewhat uncertain source of information. They have recently combined with a division of the Discovery Institute, propagators of anti-evolution propaganda and pusher of the Dover trial, and published s response to an article by Jerry Coyne, which was in rebuttal to an article by David Gelernter in that publication. Gelernter is a noted evolution denialist. One of the co-authors of the response was David Berlinski, an infamous faux mathematician and noted anti-evolution propaganda source.

    The bottom line here is that Quillette may not be the best source of information.

    • Posted September 3, 2020 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      But this piece is about McWhorter’s lecture, not the reliability of Quillette. Or are you saying that we shouldn’t trust what McWhorter says?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 3, 2020 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        Maybe he’s saying they’re fibbing about the date and time?

      • Posted September 3, 2020 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

        Given the very expensive outlay for the tickets, I’ll be very angry if this event is messed with.

        • dd
          Posted September 3, 2020 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

          Rowena, the tickets are free…….if you paid for them, it’s because you will get access to a salon and much more.

  5. Lee
    Posted September 3, 2020 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    I applied for a ticket and added the event to my calendar. Now, how do I know the URL to click on to attend? Was there supposed to be some kind of follow-up email or something like that?

    • Posted September 3, 2020 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      I would assume that we’ll get an email just before the event. Usually with streaming events they don’t know what the URL will be until just before.

  6. C.
    Posted September 3, 2020 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    On a related note, McWhorter was on Glenn Loury’s podcast recently and mentioned that he has been working furiously on a book about this cult of Wokeness. No doubt this will be a must-read and no doubt it will piss a bunch of people off. I look forward to it.

    • dd
      Posted September 3, 2020 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

      He is such a clear and elegant writer.

      Did you know that he has no tenure at Columbia?

  7. tjeales
    Posted September 3, 2020 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    I think the framing should be “Social justice activism culture can sometimes be as bad and harmful as religion”

    • savage
      Posted September 4, 2020 at 5:50 am | Permalink

      Or the other way around? Almost all religious Americans do at least accept that you can disagree with them. And they largely leave me alone.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 4, 2020 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        Reckon that means you’re not a woman who’s ever tried to enter a Planned Parenthood clinic.

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