Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Problem with Social Justice Warriors

To what end, to what purpose are today’s college students being trained to be social justice warriors?

Jonathan Haidt raises the issue by introducing the concept of telos, the purpose or goal of an action. Allow me to distort it slightly and ask this question: what will happen when these college students take their social justice training and apply it to real world situations? What will happen when they go off on their first job interviews?

If a student has a resume or a social media footprint that shows a marked dedication to advancing a cause, and thus, to disrupting the established order… how far do you think he will get on his job interviews? Do companies want to hire a student who announces from the beginning that he will not feel any special loyalty to the company? Will they be inclined or disinclined to hire a student who will be spending his time critiquing instances of racism and sexism or who will be militating for transgendered restrooms and locker rooms?

It seems to come down to this: social justice warriors are excluding themselves from good jobs. It will provide them with endless grievances. They seem to be sacrificing their future economic success for a dumb idea. Perhaps it’s just a way to help corporations to have an easier time making hiring decisions.

Haidt argues that pursuing social justice is not the same as pursuing the truth. He is saying that an extremist pursuit of an unattainable ideal will compromise your ability to work through a problem in order to find the truth.

Whereas Karl Marx—remember him?—said that philosophers should go beyond their impulse to understand and interpret the world… in order to change it, John Stuart Mill, Haidt says, had a basic understanding of the way that the marketplace of ideas—what Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes called “free trade in ideas”-- would help us to arrive at the truth.

In Mill’s words:

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion.

One might say that Mill is a modern Thomist. Consider his and Marx’s point in terms of its goal or purpose. Let’s say that a young staffer at a company is attending a meeting. A group is debating strategy or devising a plan or updating current projects. Let’s say that different members of the group have different opinions. 

Do you want  to be the employee who grants credence to the different opinions and attempts to integrate them into the final decision or do you want to be the social justice warrior who is going to dismiss differing opinions as bigotry and who will be inclined to fight to the death for his own ideas? In other words, do you want to be the person in charge or the impudent brat who is making it more difficult for others to participate?

In principle, students should be learning these skills in college. When students participate in a seminar should they be trying to suss out instances of bigotry in the other students or should they be learning how to respect differences of opinion? Are they learning how to fight a culture war over ideas or are they learning how to work together?

Haidt points out that those who want to protect students from ideas they might find offensive are doing them no favors. Treating them like children does not help them to become adults:

Haidt outlines the point:

Instead they [students] are enmeshed in a “safety culture” that begins when they are young and that is now carried all the way through college. Books and words and visiting speakers are seen as “dangerous” and even as forms of “violence.” Trigger warnings and safe spaces are necessary to protect fragile young people from danger and violence. But such a culture is incompatible with political diversity, since many conservative ideas and speakers are labeled as threatening and banned from campus and the curriculum. Students who question the dominant political ethos are worn down by hostile reactions in the classroom. This is one of the core reasons why universities must choose one telos. Any institution that embraces safety culture cannot have the kind of viewpoint diversity that Mill advocated as essential in the search for truth.

Should colleges be infantilizing students? Should they make them more socially dysfunctional? Have the social justice warriors considered that an adult will naturally be exposed to a variety of different ideas and points of view?

An adult who cannot sustain a civil discussion with someone who has a differing point of view—because he has learned that anyone who holds such an opinion is a bigot— will have difficulty getting along with different kinds of people and will barely be able to function and succeed in the real world.

Infantilizing students by protecting them from alternative points of view will ultimately make them hypersensitive. They will not merely be attuned to instances of transphobia but they will be on the lookout for the most minimal sign of prejudice or discrimination—like a dedicated ladies’ room. And they will believe that they need to go to culture war over all such instances of injustice.

Becoming hypersensitive to adult realities will not improve your chances to get or to keep a job. What will you do when your business takes you to nations and cultures that do not hold to your high ideals and your delusional beliefs? Will you be trying to do business or will you be declaring culture war?

Haidt correctly sees the will to censor as a revival of blasphemy laws. If one believes that students in universities should be learning skills that will serve them in the real world and on the job, they should get over the reactionary mindset that undergirds blasphemy rules.

Haidt observes:

At Truth U, there is no such thing as blasphemy. Bad ideas get refuted, not punished. But at SJU, there are many blasphemy laws – there are ideas, theories, facts, and authors that one cannot use. This makes it difficult to do good social science about politically valenced topics. Social science is hard enough as it is, with big complicated problems resulting from many interacting causal forces. But at SJU, many of the most powerful tools are simply banned.

If you punish those who hold to bad ideas you are freed of the obligation to refute them. For those who are who are incapable of refuting bad ideas this is a godsend. Social justice warriors know what they believe, know which idol they worship and do not much care what happens when such ideas are put into practice.

Of course, the current debate about social justice rests on the notion that equal opportunity is not enough. If outcomes are not also equal, then that, in itself, is evidence of the existence of prejudice.

The notion makes no sense. Haidt explains why:

But what if there is a correlation between a demographic category (e.g., race or gender) and a real world outcome (e.g., employment in tech companies, or on the faculty of STEM departments)? At SJU, they teach you to infer causality: systemic racism or sexism…. At Truth U, in contrast, they teach you that “disparate outcomes do not imply disparate treatment.” (Disparate outcomes are an invitation to look closely for disparate treatment, which is sometimes the cause of the disparity).

In tech companies white and Asian males are overrepresented. Members of minority groups are clearly underrepresented. Does it mean that the nation is racist and sexist or does it show that some people work harder or have more aptitude for certain kinds of work?

After all, Facebook has been offering bonuses to recruiters who hire  qualified minority applicants. As of now, they have not been successful. The group was not being overlooked. It simply does not exist. You can run to the barricades and declare culture war on racism, but would it not be better to encourage minority youth who want a career at Facebook to work harder on their studies and to spend less time militating for social justice.


Trigger Warning said...

Good, straightforward read: SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police by Vox Day.

David Foster said...

Years ago, I was in a meeting in which there was pretty heated discussion between me and another guy. I started playing back his arguments, viz "so you're making the point that X" and at least giving the appearance of considering them contemplatively before responding to them. The senior executive in the room later mentioned to me that he had been very impressed with my approach to the debate...'stepping back a little before advancing'...and it did me a lot of good, I think.

Sam L. said...

Their side is RIGHT. The other side is WRONG, and all are the "...ists" it the universe.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Just make sure you don't display any of that "toxic masculinity."

I love these people, and I love these terms.

What it's going to take to bring down this whole fraud is women demanding an end to this stuff because there are fewer and fewer real men anymore. As more and more young men are taught that women want the "sensitive guy," there's a great betrayal. Because it's nonsense. Women want to respect a man, and that man gains respect for being his word, protecting his family and standing for something. And I believe most men gain confidence from these same traits. So men and women ultimately want that same thing, so there is great possibility for alignment. Masculinity does not have to be destroyed so femininity will be respected.

This pastel-colored fairy metrosexual stuff is just silly. You look at what happens when a gaggle of girls sees a man in military uniform walk in a room and tell me that 95% of the women in this world want pretty men. It's self-evident. At some point in America, men are going to have to tell all the angry cackling hens to shut up so more men can get their dignity back!

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

As an aside, I just have to find a place to mention on this blog today...

Did anyone else see the story about the Iranian Revolutionary Guards sending elite fighters into the U.S. and Europe?

Well, given out porous southern border, infiltration can't be difficult.

This is the respect we gain by doing agreements with -- and sending massive amounts of cash to -- our greatest enemy in the world. This is the fruit of our Obama diplomacy.

Good thing we have an armed citizenry in America, and people with concealed carry. I have no doubt whatsoever that these Iranians are serious, that they're here, that they've been here, and they mean us harm. They're waiting to be unleashed. Intelligence circles have known this for a long time. This is the leverage the Iranians have over us. They love death.

What a disgrace this Administration is. Hillary = more of the same.

Trigger Warning said...

"We can absorb a terrorist attack."
--- Barack Obama

"We", sez the guy behind a phalanx of guns...

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: Do companies want to hire a student who announces from the beginning that he will not feel any special loyalty to the company?

It is curious that loyalty is a social virtue, because it favors people and institutions you know over people and institutions you don't know, no matter what virtues or character those people or institutions contain. Should you show more loyalty to a company than it shows to you - and it can lay you off at-will, if market forces demand it. On the other hand, a company that does across the board pay cuts in hard times may have earned some loyalty by employees.

And Thomas Frank's article yesterday shows the consequences of loyalty - what is proposed to be meritocratic can be merely self-interested, using status capital to reward your friends, and exclude people who don't fit into the right sort of boxes, you know, even conservatives may not fit in this closed circle loyalty.

So to me the problem isn't disloyaly questioning superiors who are cutting legal or ethical corners to get ahead, but how to not stay quiet, when you're being well-rewarded for being quiet, like Upton Sinclair's "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.:

The failure of the SJW is what professor Jordan Peterson described as the
"PC game" that tries to identify winners and losers, and claim the losers are being oppressed by the winners, and take sides with the losers, and pretend to be self-righteous while you try to punish the winners, and never ask whether this causes a new oppression.

I think the Drama Triangle properly contains this failure, as soon as you divide the world to simplify it, you're part of the problem. And the "victim" stance is the most devious because it promotes self-pity and convinced you of your innocence to a situation.

So the solution to this problem is that SJW have to accept that any single narrative is too small to contain a full truth of any situation, and even dishonesty can be "honorable" if it is promoting social harmony - no one needs to know your deepest conviction on why they are wrong. And there's probably no right answer for when to be loyal, and when to stand alone.

I suppose I'd go with E.F.Schumacher if I could:
He says that the tasks of an individual can be summed up as follows:
1. Learn from society and tradition.
2. Interiorize this knowledge, learn to think for yourself and become self-directed.
3. Grow beyond the narrow concerns of the ego.

And if something like this is taught in schools, I think some of the excesses of the SJW can be self-correcting over time.

sestamibi said...

Do I have to remind this audience that all this started getting ramped up as our higher education became 60%+ cunt?

Not to mention that we are about to install one in The Oval Office.

Dennis said...


"What do women want?" and all the machinations of feminism is further defined by the SJWs. I think we are now into "fourth wave feminism" and all we have to show for it are increasingly unhappy women. One wonders if these unhappy women will finally figure out that feminism IS the reason for their unhappiness.
If one is truly a feminist then one has to be unhappy that the machinations and corruption of Hillary are only serving to make feminism look bad and weakening the cause of equality.
If one thinks this is going away after the election then one is "whistling past the grave yard." Between Hillary and Obama there is not a department/agency of the federal government that has not been tarnished by them. The DOJ has morphed into the Department of Injustice with more interest in power vice Justice. The US Marshall's service looks and acts more like stormtroopers. The FBI, which has been the "cleanup the mess crew for the BATF, et al," is fighting the DOInjustice to at least keep their honor intact despite Comey's actions whether good or bad. The IRS looks like a political agency in thrall to the DNC. I could go on, but I suspect the number of people who now trust the federal government is diminishing almost exponentially as each day passes. Once the distrust of the legal system and the government take hold we will have a country in crisis.
Again one has to ask just how much damage has been done to the legal system, which is losing credibility and trust, and the other agencies of government? How long is it before the government has such contempt for the American people and the people for it that it no longer thinks it is in service to those citizens?
I have to admit I cry at the thought of the people who have died to protect this nation. Have died for this!!!! Especially poignant given Veteran's Day. Is this the time when we sell our culture and nation for our addition to other people's money and not taking responsibility for our own lives?

Dennis said...

For your edification from one of the news letters I receive:

Ayn Rand declared a society doomed “when you see money flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors…when your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you.” A point I was trying to make in the above.

Sam L. said...

The real world will churn their guts. I won't sell them Tums.

Unknown said...

They work in the public service where there is an "institutionalisation of public discourse"?