This week on Unsupervised Learning Razib catches up with Leighton Woodhouse, a documentarian and journalist (with a Substack!), to discuss the rise of political polarization and the disintegration of traditional parties and coalitions on both the left and the right. Leighton, whose activism began in 1999 at the WTO protests in Seattle, reflects on the financial, geopolitical and social shocks of the last twenty years, how they’ve transformed the movements he came up in, and the new elitist vs. populist dichotomy he sees developing around him.
Originally a labor organizer and Marxist, he argues that the decline in rigorous debate in favor of moralistic platitudes and ideological conformity is both a symptom and cause of America’s current listless cultural malaise. As someone with an academic background, Leighton also bemoans universities now sacrificing difficult intellectual discourse on the altar of easy performativity.