Book Censorship, Swivel-Eyed Loons, and Declining Millennial Religion

Three items today.

  • Why book censorship doesn’t work, and how conservatives don’t learn this.
  • Cory Doctorow on how the objections to the “15-minute city” reflect a genuine concern about corporate influence over the government.
  • How the current generation (unlike past generations) is not becoming more conservative as it ages, and why.

Guardian, Emma Smith, 1 May 2023: The big idea: what if censoring books only makes them more popular?, subtitled “From Lady Chatterley’s Lover to novels about trans children, attempts to suppress works of literature tend to have the opposite effect”

With examples of censoring Shakespeare and Barbra Streisand.


The latest Cory Doctorow column from Locus Magazine:

Locus Online: Cory Doctorow, 1 May 2023: The Swivel-Eyed Loons Have a Point

This recalls the item, noted in this post, that some people think the idea of the “15-minute city” is a conspiracy by the government to suppress and control freedom lovers. Doctorow begins:

One of the more baffling events of the first quarter of 2023 was the mass protest in Oxford (England, not Mississippi) against the “15-minute city pledge,” a movement to get city councils to strive for cities where each neighborhood is a walkable place, with most amenities (groceries, schools, health care, employers, leisure activities) located within a pleasant 15-minute walk from your door.

The 15-minute city is an extremely inoffensive and commonsense idea, and moreover, Oxford is basically already a 15-minute city, because it is a medieval city, with a streetplan to match, anchored around a massive university campus (university campuses everywhere are pretty much all 15-minute cities).

So it’s weird that a bunch of people showed up to protest it, chanting slogans and waving signs decrying the World Economic Forum, the Great Reset, imaginary “climate lockdowns,” and “eating bugs.”

In America, this is called “the paranoid style in Ameri­can politics.” In the UK, they have a far more colorful epithet: “swivel-eyed loons.”

Here’s the thing: the swivel-eyed loons have a point.

Quite a long piece, that goes in unexpected directions. His point is that the “swivel-eyed loons” are wrong about 15-minute cities, but not wrong how the proponents of them, like so many other government functionaries, *might* use them unscrupulously to, for example, track people at the expense of various minorities, at least in the UK, from which he gives various examples. He goes on with examples of all sorts of other issues…

When the swivel-eyed loons claim that multinational corporations use crises like COVID or the climate emergency to screw them over, they’re not wrong. They’re very, very right.

That is, his target isn’t conspiracies by the government to control peoples’ lives, it’s the outsized influence of corporations over government affairs. File this under: abuses of capitalism.


Over at OpenSky, Adam Lee notes an interesting, surprising trend. It’s long been a cliche that young people are idealistic (and liberal) and the older and more settled they get, the more conservative they become. (I’m an exception I suppose because I care more about intellectual things — what is true — over acquiring and protecting my property.)

OnlySky, Adam Lee, 20 Apr 2023: Millennials: your liberal atheist elders

You get more conservative as you get older. Everyone knows that.

As you age, you settle into the world. Your youthful passions cool, and the fire of rebellion fizzles out. You get a corporate job, a steady paycheck, a pension, and a house in the suburbs. The reckless fantasies of your younger self become fond memories of the good old days. As old age creeps up, you get used to things as they are, and you instinctively become suspicious of change.

It happened to the Boomers. Those rebellious beatniks and peace-loving hippies became retirees, churchgoers, Trump supporters. It happened to Gen X too. Now, as the Millennials approach middle age, it’s their turn. It’s the way of things, as natural and inevitable as the seasons.

There’s just one problem. It’s not happening this time.


This is a looming apocalypse for the religious right. Until recently, their voter pool was steadily replenished as people joined the ranks of the elderly. But if Millennials aren’t aging into conservatism, that means their voters are dying off with no replacement. It’s no wonder that Republicans are resorting to increasingly aggressive gerrymandering, vote suppression, legislating from the bench by far-right judges, and other anti-democratic measures. Once they lose their grip on power, they may never get it back.

Why is this happening?

Millennials have been growing less religious with time.

Are these trends related? It’s very likely. Frequent church attendance and self-reported religiosity both map to political conservatism. You can debate which direction the arrow of causality points, but the connection is there. Since the Millennials are less religious than older generations, it’s to be expected that we’d also be less conservative.

(Of course, my understanding for why people are becoming less religious is that as the world becomes more ‘global’ and fully integrated, the obvious provincialism of the origins of religion, or simply the ways people acquire them, becomes more and more obvious, thus undermining religions’ claims to eternal truth. Not to mention the success of science and technology in building, despite religion, our modern world.)

There’s another explanation that Burn-Murdoch’s article suggests. Conservatism often accompanies wealth, stability, and a sense of security—in short, the things that make you feel like your life is going well and you’d like to keep it that way. However, younger generations haven’t had that same opportunity to build wealth.

In the U.S., the post-war generation enjoyed unprecedented prosperity. Rather than pass on those opportunities to the young, they’ve done their best to pull up the ladder behind them. Over the last few decades, conservative legislators have crippled union power, kept the minimum wage frozen at a pittance, taken a chainsaw to tax rates at the top, allowed college tuition to skyrocket, stonewalled the construction of affordable housing, and done their utmost to block universal health care.

So Republicans are undermining their own cause? Well, we see this every day in news from Texas and Florida.

Needless to say, these results have occasioned hand-wringing among the American right. However, they’ve got no one to blame for it but themselves.

For decades, conservatives have sought to weld both religion and patriotism to their own brand of politics. They wanted to convince people that the only way of being patriotic was to be a right-wing Christian. Arguably, they succeeded. But instead of forcing everyone into their mold, as they intended, all they achieved was to turn off everyone who didn’t identify with their brand and send them rushing for the exits.

That’s a major factor behind the decline of Christianity, and the same thing is happening with patriotism. Younger Americans are less inclined to identify with a country that ignores their desires and devalues their lives, just as they’re less inclined to identify with a religion that ignores their views on LGBTQ rights, climate change, gun control, and racial justice. It’s the ultimate reaping-the-whirlwind moment for the religious right.

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