Beware the Voice of Saruman: Free Speech and Good Faith in the Age of American Fascism

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

“Suddenly another voice spoke, low and melodious, its very sound an enchantment. Those who listened unwarily to that voice could seldom report the words that they heard; and if they did, they wondered, for little power remained in them. Mostly they remembered only that it was a delight to hear the voice speaking, all that it said seemed wise and reasonable, and desire awoke in them by swift agreement to seem wise themselves. When others spoke they seemed harsh and uncouth by contrast; and if they gainsaid the voice, anger was kindled in the hearts of those under the spell.”

– “The Voice of Saruman,” The Two Towers

“Freedom of speech” is a topic American society frequently invokes. Indeed, it is a core foundational principle of the Republic and our university system (the primary rationale behind tenure, which you may be surprised to learn is in deep decline). With…

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On Elf-Friends and Sanctuary; or, On Allyship and Safe Space


Not All Who Wander Are Lost


Rivendell (Imladris), as portrayed in the Peter Jackson films.

Not long ago I posted on social media comparing allyship to the concept of Elf-friends in The Lord of the Rings:

Becoming an ally is like becoming an Elf-friend. It is a status neither sought nor self-declared, but bestowed. And certainly not boasted of.

The post was very popular, and many people went on to share it with their friends. However, I want to expand upon what I meant by the statement, and work in the larger conversation about ‘safe space.’

The core meaning is quite simple: ‘ally’ is not something that you call yourself. It is a title given to you by a marginalized group to use among themselves, to recognize you as someone who is capable of helping them. Likewise in The Lord of the Rings, the Elves use the term to refer to non-Elves whom they recognize…

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Party at the Pen: The Masquerade – Eastern State Penitentiary Entertains and Educates


Pop Culture Uncovered

Music and dancing. Wine and dining. Mystery and mayhem. A historic prison partially in ruins. These are what awaited attendees of Terror Behind the Walls’ 6th annual “Party at the Pen” masquerade ball.

Held on May 12th and 13th, this annual fundraising event has helped maintain the “living ruin” at Eastern State Penitentiary, a famous prison in Philadelphia. Ballgoers wore their best outfits and masks, explored the same corridors that held convicted criminals for over a century, and danced the night away… possibly alongside ghosts of those who never left.


For those unaware, Eastern State Penitentiary (or ESP), is the world’s oldest penitentiary and the model for many future prisons. The sprawling network of buildings is situated on 11 acres in the midst of northern Philadelphia, separated from the city by a castle-like wall and turret-like guard towers. The prison was in use from 1829 to 1971…

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