Fall is here! Let’s check out the new intellectual hemlines:

Although Mandelzis’s exact experience may seem rare, it exemplifies the way many people still view sports as a perfectly reasonable venue in which to enforce exclusion on the basis of sex. School sports are typically sex-segregated, and in America some of them have even come to be seen as either traditionally for boys or traditionally for girls: Think football, wrestling, field hockey, volleyball. However, it’s becoming more common for these lines to blur, especially as Gen Zers are more likely than members of previous generations to reject a strict gender binary altogether. Maintaining this binary in youth sports reinforces the idea that boys are inherently bigger, faster, and stronger than girls in a competitive setting—a notion that’s been challenged by scientists for years.

Decades of research have shown that sex is far more complex than we may think. And though sex differences in sports show advantages for men, researchers today still don’t know how much of this to attribute to biological difference versus the lack of support provided to women athletes to reach their highest potential.

Oooh, how risqué! See, this is what I mean when I say I want to know all about the new enthusiasms and infectious doctrines. Isn’t this glorious? We live in an age when many people publicly indulge in historical-fantasy role-playing. They’re sure that they would have been abolitionists in the Deep South; they would have fearlessly protected Jews in 1930s Germany. And yet, when historical circumstances present them with the equivalent of a slow softball pitch right over the plate, they watch it float past them without moving a muscle. How can you not be amused? One of the nation’s oldest general-interest periodicals publishes this kind of gender-Lysenkoism, and all the midwit invertebrates who take their intellectual cues from such outlets will gulp and perspire and affirm it nonetheless. “Cancel culture is a right-wing myth,” bleat the same people who wouldn’t dare scoff out loud at the idea that the only thing preventing a 200-lb. woman from becoming an NFL linebacker is the patriarchy’s lack of encouraging words.

Nobody believes this, of course. Mertens doesn’t believe it. The herd of independent minds who read the Atlantic don’t believe it. No one who has watched a team of 15-year-old boys trounce the U.S. women’s World Cup-winning soccer team believes it. This is a statement of faith, an extreme version of the progressive belief in the blank slate, the undying hope that life’s intractable unfairness can be ironed out by an enlightened vanguard of the correctly-educated. The Ironing Board of Procrustes, perhaps. But this is also a modern version of the same thing that the Marquis de Custine observed in Russia almost two centuries ago:

A Russian nobleman, Prince Peter Koslovsky, had warned Custine before his arrival in Russia that in his country “despotism not only counts ideas and sentiments for nothing, but remakes facts. It wages war on evidence and triumphs in the battle. . . . [The Emperor’s] power is more far-reaching than God’s, for God makes only the future, while the Czar remakes the past.” Custine’s experience repeatedly proved this insight true. No previous czar was ever mentioned in conversation, he learned, to avoid the suggestion that the present czar was not immortal. For this same reason, Custine noted that Russians did not dare look at the palace in which the czar’s father, the emperor Paul, was murdered: for “it is forbidden to recount, in the schools or elsewhere, the story of the death of the Emperor Paul.”

Custine appreciated only too well the violence that this remaking of history did to the minds of men, and the consequences it had for their character and behavior. In order not to look at the palace in which the emperor Paul was murdered, a person had to know that he was killed there; but his whole purpose in not looking at the palace was to demonstrate in public his ignorance of the murder. He thus had not only to assert a lie but also to deny that he knew it was a lie. And all officials—the emperor included—had likewise to pretend that they did not know they were being lied to, or else the whole edifice of falsehood would have come tumbling down.

An article like this serves as a similar test for progressives. It asserts a lie to the readers, and forces them to deny that they know they’re being lied to, lest they end up being treated the way they and their comrades have treated so many other apostates. They lash out at you for laughing because they hate themselves for their own cowardice. And when this particular type of lunacy becomes unfashionable, as it inevitably will, they’ll all slink away silently, pretending that they had always been outspoken against it.