Sunday, May 29, 2016

Illiberal Liberalism on Campus

I don’t why this comes as news to anyone. Everyone knows that college campuses have become hotbeds of radical thought, and that radical thinkers do not allow free expression or free speech.

Extolling radical thinkers like Martin Heidegger, Slavoj Zizek, Judith Butler, and Alain Badiou, praising the great accomplishments of national and radical socialism, students end up behaving like Brown Shirts and Red Guards.

Some elder academics like to consider themselves to be liberal and Nicholas Kristof is still willing to call them thus, but the truth is, on campus, in many academic departments have become more about indoctrination than thought.

A few weeks ago Kristof wrote a column denouncing his “fellow progressives” for favoring every kind of diversity, except the diversity of thought. To his shock and dismay, he discovered, while reading the comments posted on the Times website, that his liberal readers disagreed entirely with what he was saying. They insisted that conservatives had no right to free speech on college campuses. And that they ought not to be allowed to speak or to teach there.

Intolerance does not seem to be quite the right word. Oppression feels better. By all appearances, liberalism is dead.

Kristof returns to the issue today:

In a column a few weeks ago, I offered “a confession of liberal intolerance,” criticizing my fellow progressives for promoting all kinds of diversity on campuses — except ideological. I argued that universities risk becoming liberal echo chambers and hostile environments for conservatives, and especially for evangelical Christians.

As I see it, we are hypocritical: We welcome people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.

Readers were outraged. Kristof describes the reaction, a stunning instance of groupthink:

Almost every liberal agreed that I was dead wrong.

“You don’t diversify with idiots,” asserted the reader comment on The Times’s website that was most recommended by readers (1,099 of them). Another: Conservatives “are narrow-minded and are sure they have the right answers.”

Finally, this one recommended by readers: “I am grossly disappointed in you for this essay, Mr. Kristof. You have spent so much time in troubled places seemingly calling out misogyny and bigotry. And yet here you are, scolding and shaming progressives for not mindlessly accepting patriarchy, misogyny, complementarianism, and hateful, hateful bigotry against the LGBTQ community into the academy.”

Now, today’s so-called liberals refuse to consider opposing points of view. They are paragons of virtue and anyone who disagrees with them is vicious. They live in an echo chamber—narcissism is the other word for it—and have turned education into indoctrination.

In Kristof’s words:

But as I see it, the bigger problem is not that conservatives are infiltrating social science departments to spread hatred, but rather that liberals have turned departments into enclaves of ideological homogeneity.

Sure, there are dumb or dogmatic conservatives, just as there are dumb and dogmatic liberals. So let’s avoid those who are dumb and dogmatic, without using politics or faith as a shorthand for mental acuity.

College teaching, and all teaching for that matter manifests rank hypocrisy:

But liberals claim to be champions of inclusiveness — so why, in the academic turf that we control, aren’t we ourselves more inclusive? If we are alert to bias in other domains, why don’t we tackle our own liberal blind spot?

And yet, as the nation has policy debates, leftist academics are often left out of the conversation: because their ideas smack of ideology and have nothing to do with the real problems. Professors of economics, who are just as likely to be Republicans or Democrats, have honed their positions in the crucible of debate. They are respected as contributing to public conversation:

We desperately need academics like sociologists and anthropologists influencing American public policy on issues like poverty, yet when they are in an outer-left orbit, their wisdom often goes untapped.

In contrast, economists remain influential. I wonder if that isn’t partly because there is a critical mass of Republican economists who battle the Democratic economists and thus tether the discipline to the American mainstream.

It isn’t so difficult to understand how this happened. These campus radicals, who now hold august chairs in university departments, seem to have been hired more for their ideological commitments than for their grasp of their subjects. If they were forced to debate with people who disagreed with them, the imposture would immediately be evident to all.

Kristof is wistful about this point:

We liberals should have the self-confidence to believe that our values can triumph in a fair contest in the marketplace of ideas.

He adds:

Can’t we be a bit more self-aware when we dismiss conservatives as so cocky and narrow-minded that they should be excluded from large swaths of higher education?

Cocky? Narrow-minded? I suggest that we look in the mirror.


Dennis said...

The modern day equivalent to "burning books." As I have stated before that eventually the tactics and actions one takes agains't others will be used agains't those who took those prior actions. A case in point:
I have to admit that this does not surprise me. Once one starts down the path of radicalism there comes a point when one cannot be radical enough for those who were indoctrinated by those who espoused the radical ideas in the first place.
The question here is what does one do about it considering that this amounts to an abnegation, for some people, of one's own ideas when viewed in the larger context of history. Tolerance turns into intolerance. Diversity turns into segregation. Free speech turns into hate speech. Liberalism turns into illiberalism. Eventually the mob mentality exceeds it bounds and an authoritarian will come to rule with the people's blessing. Not something I want to see, but suspect that if we don't start taking action to change the direction we are headed it will be our destiny.

JPL17 said...

The image of Nicholas Kristof this gives me is extremely sad. On the one hand, like Pauline Kael of 44 years ago, he probably personally only knows one person who actually voted for a Republican for President. On the other hand, until 2 weeks ago, he also probably didn't personally know anyone who actually advocated banning all conservatives from academia.

So I have to ask: Does Nicholas Kristof personally know anyone? Because nearly everyone I know either wants a Republican president or wants to ban all conservatives from campus. Makes you wonder.

AesopFan said...

Blogger JPL17 said...
The image of Nicholas Kristof this gives me is extremely sad. On the one hand, like Pauline Kael of 44 years ago, he probably personally only knows one person who actually voted for a Republican for President. On the other hand, until 2 weeks ago, he also probably didn't personally know anyone who actually advocated banning all conservatives from academia.


May 29, 2016 at 11:14 AM
I suspect there were many who desired to ban conservatives, but it wasn't until Obama's elections proved that any excesses of illiberalism were on the table that they began to openly advocate the position.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

"You don’t diversify with idiots" ... Conservatives “are narrow-minded and are sure they have the right answers.”

More like "Idiots can never have the right answers, therefore we must narrow our mindedness and keep Conservatives out." That's the correct answer.

One particular component of the Colbert Report I found particularly distasteful was his avatar/persona of the conservative figure on the subject of race. In this, Colbert would say "I don't see race," and it would always be a laugh because the mocking sub-context was universally acknowledged: conservatives are bigots who pretend not to be in words, but are in action.

This is patently disingenuous and deceptive because all the modern Democrat coalition sees is immutable characteristics it can exploit through a message of victimhood and doom. All it talks about are aggrieved groups, criticizing others while offering no viable solutions, save centralized control through one-size-fits-all government programs. And lo, these programs administered and propagandized by their true beneficiaries: politicians, bureaucrats, mainstream media outlets, and academics. I suppose one could call it "The Iron Square of Thought." These are the most reliable Democrat constituencies.

That is what I notice today as I look at the Left: everyone hollers, no one solves anything. The core solution to every imaginable problem is the Leftist equivalent of Santa Claus, Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy: state administration of everything imaginable a human person could possibly want, all from a magical stash of money supplied by "the rich," and then the printing press.

This is especially true of the centralization of thought. It is one thing to think yourself a serious thinker, and it is another to be one. Radicals think they are more intelligent and sophisticated than everyone. Yet they are deemed "radical" because they live in an imaginary, theoretical universe that sounds great but is dystopian and doomed from the start. That's why their solution to every problem they create is "more"... more of that which put us in the ditch in the first place. Look at Venezuela.

This is really the totalitarian impulse for thought control, fully expressed in this magical non-issue of "transgendered" nonsense and homosexual "marriage." It is the fullest, most coordinated attempt to make things that are not into reality. Because they know they're right, they know there's only one way, they are correct.

So who is it that is "diverse?" Who is the "idiot"? Who is "narrow-minded"? Who thinks they have all the "right answers"?

College campuses are the grand seminaries for adolescent thinkers to be fully programmed and unleashed on the world as weaponized idiots. At its core, the Left hates humanity.

Ares Olympus said...

Nicholas Kristof: Should universities offer affirmative action for conservatives and evangelicals? I don’t think so, partly because surveys find that conservative scholars themselves oppose the idea. But it’s important to have a frank discussion on campuses about ideological diversity. To me, this seems a liberal blind spot.

The ideal of "ideological diversity" is obviously useful, but I can see how it falls down quickly in practice.

Atheists express this failing when I proudly call myself a fence-sitting agnostic. They say "We're all skeptical atheists on Russell's teapot", so I'm told I can't seriously accept arguments on things that I think are likely nonsense.

Or evolution is another problem, and since the past can't be touched, no one can prove it ever really existed, and that God created light from distant stars midflight so the night sky wouldn't be dark, and also plopped down some fossilized bones of animals that never existed, but we needed something to build on, right?

So if "Evangelical Christian" means "Young Earth Creationist" (YEC), someone who thinks the earth is 6000 years old because that's what some biblical scholar decided, that seems like someone I really don't want teaching science class.

But if a YEC wants to be a school librarian, someone who isn't concerned about science or a 4.5 billion year old earth, should I be prejustice, should I openly or secretly conspire against their "mostly harmless" job? Or should I worry he is going to skew the school library with creationist books?

Or maybe 95% of Evangelical Christians don't believe in young earth creationism? Or maybe they've never thought about it, and maybe they keep two compartmentalized world views, one for Sunday, and one for the rest of the week?

I've heard this is possible, and rather nature way of not dealing with questions beyond direct evidence, and perhaps its how I deal with my world, like my trust the economy as I know it will go on, while knowing it has to fail sooner or later. But since the future is unknown, why worry too much about it?

Anyway, I 100% agree "blind spots" is an important truth to consider. So instead of scapegoating your political opposite for being idiots, it seems wiser to be curious what they think, what their "blind spots" are, and how they can't see past them no matter how much you point and hint. And then you can assume you have your own blind spots that you can't see past no matter how many times someone lectures you, perhaps trying to suggest the possibility that evolution isn't just about science, but also about divine communication with something greater than ourselves?

I try to hint at the Atheists that they might be missing something, and I don't think I've converted any of them. But even with my fence-sitting, it must contain its own blind spots, my cognitive dissonances that I just don't want to deal with. Ultimately we all might see all of our blind spots are there intentionally, to protect us from being annoyed at our ignorance, but when contrary evidence somehow makes it past our filters, sometimes we should be curious what we don't want to see, and what the costs are in seeing it.

priss rules said...

I feel zero sympathy for the likes of Minow. By promoting PC, people like her created the climate of run-of-the-millennial lunacy of crybullying and virtue-signaling.

priss rules said...

Huge challenges ahead for Israel.

What is to be done?

Sam L. said...

“You don’t diversify with idiots,” asserted the reader comment on The Times’s website that was most recommended by readers (1,099 of them). Another: Conservatives “are narrow-minded and are sure they have the right answers.” Talk about proving his point!

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares Olympus @May 29, 2016 at 1:53 PM:

Ares, Creationism is not scientifically defensible because there is no verifiable hypothesis. Quit bringing this crap up as legitimate counter-argument.

These Lefty loonies stalking humanities departments have a veritable library of verifiably insane hypotheses, and yet they rule the roost... protected my tenure in the modern world's last vestige of feudalism. It is this phony spirit of "tolerance" and moral/ethical relativism that fuel their lifelong employment. They represent no truth, but wail with such certainty, lamenting humanity's injustice. What a rigged game! Like anthropomorphic climate change, it's "Heads, I win... tails, you lose!" Humanity sucks. Fun!

Creationism is this perennial horror fantasy for the Left to point to, yet it holds no Biblically literal bearing in most any respected university institution in the U.S. So what are the Lefties so scared of?

In the end, I suspect they are scared of the Genesis narrative, in that it isn't intended to explain literal scientific truths, but instead universal, eternal human Truths. The first amongst them: You cannot get something from/for nothing.

If all we have are scientific truths, we should abolish all theology departments, as well as studies of love and beauty, because they are materially indefensible intellectual positions, according to the dogmatic metaphysical materialists. Case closed, and rich wisdom lost concerning what it means to live a good life.

Alas. Let's just kill ourselves and move on, eh?

Ares Olympus said...

IAC: In the end, I suspect they are scared of the Genesis narrative, in that it isn't intended to explain literal scientific truths, but instead universal, eternal human Truths. The first amongst them: You cannot get something from/for nothing.

I agree both extremes, the atheists and religious fundamentalists (like the young earthers), both get quickly stuck on biblical literalism, while biblical content is more mythical than historical, and I mean mythical in the Joseph Campbell sense of, rather than the untrue sense.

But if the "The bible is 100% true unerroring word of God" side is flawed, and the "The bible is rubbish" side is flawed, where is the middle ground? How do we use it? How do we use a book that can be interpreted in 1000 ways? And how do we debate Michele Bachmann when she prays on the State Capitol steps for God to lower our taxes?

Should the bible be used as a reference to deny things like Gay Marriage (or Civil Partnership)? Should we have biblical scholars acting as lawyers, ready to connect out all the arguments on both sides purely by a sacred text?

Myself, I'd find that interesting, if done in an honest way, but I admit my final opinion would be based on the libertarian standard of "evidence of harm", and after finding none, I'd have no will to stand in the way.

As to the "loonies stalking humanities departments", I do keep hoping Jonathan Haidt's arguments gain status over time and "ideological diversity" can be encouraged and purity tests banned in all fields of intellectual curiosity.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares Olympus @May 31, 2016 at 11:05 AM:

I'm glad you're bringing in the "Joseph Campbell sense," because I can totally align with that. The Genesis narrative is so powerful when properly understood. It allows us to see the magnificence of God, who creates what is "good," and we see man and his terrible fall. Such admonishments are important to discovering humility. Fundamentalists miss the spirit in everything.

I believe the Bible is True, but it has to be understood. Words reveal themselves in time, according to eternal Truths. When we say it's the "100% sure unerring word of God," and base that on our interpretation, we actually make faith, religion and spirituality static. Life is not static. If God doesn't live in the past, and God doesn't live in the future, then God must be with us in the present. That's what Creation is all about: the Alpha, Omega and always in between. Life is for the living, and the spirit for eternity.

In terms of the homosexual "marriage" stuff, I suspect we will have our comeuppance... and for a whole host of reasons. I think defiling the covenant God instituted in marriage -- starting with Adam and Eve -- is incredibly dangerous. I care about homosexuals as children of God, and that's why I always believed civil unions were a perfectly acceptable civil structure for domestic partnership between same-sex partners. But we know it was never about that... it was about social acceptance. I cannot accept that, and I feel like it is being dictated to me without true justice, but on the preferences of a small, insulated elite in the legal profession... people no longer wise, as they do not see the limits of their power.

The arguments based on "sacred text" -- against it, as I can tell in your case -- are must curious. Where do people get their marching orders? Atheists have faith, they just don't place it in a personal god. But they do have faith. We all learn ways, traditions and customs to live our lives. What I object to is freedom FROM religion, as though one can (or should be able to) remove religion from the public square. Where does one get this penumbra emanations from the Constitution? Where do these articles of faith reside? Where do they come from? What is their lineage? We must have good means to good ends. Roe v Wade was a disaster, and Obgerfell even worse.

The thing I'd like you to consider in the libertarian "evidence of harm" standard is to consider the real harm done. I was a libertarian for some time, and I came to discover that the vast majority of libertarians were dogmatic metaphysical materialists, as much as the atheists and communists. Therefore, a "victimless crime" like drugs or prostitution occurs in this theoretical vacuum where it only affects the participants. Tell that to Elliott Spitzer's wife. Tell that to Phillip Seymour Hoffman's family, or Heath Ledger's, for that matter. And those are just the notable instances in the popular media. They happen every day.

So, as far as the loonies stalking humanities departments (I assume I don't have to put my own material in quotes), I think the truly courageous approach with the greatest intellectual integrity would be to put a balance of conservative-minded intellectuals in positions of teaching power, tenure and administration at institutions of higher learning, particularly in humanities departments. If you want to look at counter-cultural or differing points of view in 2016 America, such professors would challenge young minds and get them out of this emotional fragility that is vigorously morphing into intellectual cowardice. If these are our "best and brightest" attending these top universities, invited based on merit and academic excellence, and they are this emotionally delicate and their spirit so easily broken, then I do fear for the future of our country. "Ideological diversity" does not fear truth.

Good exchange. Thank you.