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E-Pluribus | February 18, 2022
The blindness of tribalism, the rapid rise of DEI at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and a resignation over 'garbage therapy' from the American Psychological Association.
A round up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Cliff Smith: How Tribalism Keeps People From Conceding Reality
Wishful thinking is no way to run an ideology, but too many of us, Cliff Smith writes at The Dispatch, are guilty of hanging on what we want to be true about “our side” rather than facing reality. With all the talk about pronouns these days, perhaps the ones we should be most concerned about are “us” and “them.”
In censuring Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, the RNC put out what has to be one of the least defensible resolutions in the history of American politics, accusing two of its own elected representatives of engaging in “persecution” of “ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse,” by serving along with their Democratic colleagues on the January 6th Congressional Committee.
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Why, then, did the RNC take this stance?
Partly, it's groupthink. But it’s more than that. Another part of it is the belief, as one political operative told me, “They (Democrats) are trying to use the events of January 6 to delegitimize the Republican party,” or even “delegitimize all dissent.”
In other words: This stance is being taken not because it is true, but because if we concede the obvious—specifically, that it was, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wisely said, a “violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election from one administration to the next”—that it will be used by “them,” against “us.”
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Least you think this is a purely right-wing phenomenon, perhaps the most toxic stance taken by any movement in the last five years is the so-called “defund the police,” movement, which, in the wake of the Floyd murder, sought to fix problematic policing by literally removing funds from, or abolishing, the police.
While many Democratic politicians embraced this wildly unpopular movement (as did many in the media and academia) the latest polling shows that an overwhelming majority of black Americans, whom the movement is supposedly in service of, oppose defunding the police. South Carolina Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking African -American Democrat in Congress, rebuffed many on his own side, taking the entire project to the woodshed, specifically blaming it for Democratic losses in moderate districts.
Yet why was this slogan embraced by many on the left and echoed daily in the media for months? Some actually believed it. This is where the “echo chamber” part comes in. Too many in elite institutions, media, universities, progressive think tanks, and so on, listen only to themselves. Social media makes this problem worse. When many smart people on the left tried to make the argument that “defund” or “abolish the police” was really just a stand-in for defensible reforms, true believers published an op-ed in the New York Times, headlined “Yes, We Literally Mean Abolish The Police.” Many opposing voices kept quiet, fearing any criticism of this maximalist slogan would be seen as denying there was a problem at all. A concession to “racists,” is how they might put it.
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Prof. Robert Talisse of Vanderbilt University recently explained, “People radicalize in concert with like-minded others due to the mutual affirmation of a shared identity.” In other words people become more radical than they started when the joined the group, and become more skeptical of outsiders. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when remaining a part of the group not only requires us to pay homage to ideas we think are false, but to refuse to take into account ideas we think are true. This dynamic turns away potential converts and actually makes progress more difficult.
Read the whole thing.
Scott Yenor: Rocky Top Goes Woke
In spite of efforts by the Tennessee legislature to rein in the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s DEI initiatives, Scott Yenor at City Journal reports the programs there are running full steam ahead.
Diversity action plans rolled in from each college and department, all built according to the model Small’s office had suggested. As per those plans, all of UTK’s colleges have either hired an associate dean-level official dedicated to DEI or will do so soon. Those associate deans will oversee the implementation of the colleges’ plans and will demand to see departmental plans. Each department has submitted diversity action plans, nearly all of which detail the same aspirations, methods, and policies. Among the most common features of these plans are aggressive affirmative action for student and faculty recruitment, requirements for DEI statements from all job candidates, extensive faculty and student training, implicit-bias training, anonymous departmental bias-reporting systems, and speakers and mandatory reading groups dedicated to DEI. These DEI efforts are now fully implemented at the department level.
Though UTK had zero administrators dedicated to DEI at the beginning of 2018, it now has at least 26. Though the budget for DEI was zeroed out in 2018, raw salaries for DEI officials, a very conservative estimate of costs, exceeded $1.8 million in 2021. Just as striking as these personnel and budget numbers is the transformation of academic life. UTK revised its General Education curriculum to emphasize “service learning” and “global citizenship,” indicating that the school is weaving progressive political activism into the curriculum.
UTK’s diversity plans put many academic disciplines in a bind. The physics and astronomy department, the faculty of which is entirely white and mostly male, had to invent a “diversity plan” knowing that 80 percent of physics Ph.D.s nationwide are men and that the discipline produced only 22 black Ph.D.s out of nearly 2,000 awarded in 2017, the last year for which we have reliable data. In light of this difficulty, the department promised to “provide a clear set of guidelines” about “expected behaviors” with respect to “diversity and inclusion” and to develop an anti-bias reporting mechanism. The department’s plan envisions no curricular or partnership changes; it aims merely to reflect the racial and sexual makeup of the “American physics community and, eventually, our nation.” Something has to give: either the school will stop devoting resources to a department that cannot deliver “diversity” for the foreseeable future, or the department will sacrifice professional standards in the name of those goals. Similar dilemmas confront the biological and engineering sciences.
Read it all here.
Daniel Nuccio: Professor resigns from APA, says woke ideology drives organization to harmful policies, ‘garbage therapy’
On January 3, we linked (item #2) to an article about Stetson University professor Christopher Ferguson’s decision to resign his position at the American Psychological Association. The College Fix recently interviewed Ferguson about that decision and what led him to this drastic step.
There wasn’t necessarily one single incident or policy that tainted Ferguson’s view of the APA, but a pattern over the decades that became more prominent in recent years.
A while back, it was the violent video games and spanking debate. In both of these areas in which he has conducted research, Ferguson said he believes the APA “screwed up” by exaggerating alleged harms.
“Neither of those areas are do or die areas,” Ferguson said. “If the APA screws up video games, that’s not life or death. … Generally speaking, nobody’s going to die because their parent took their video game away.”
“The same thing with spanking,” Ferguson continued. “I’m not an advocate for spanking. … I’m just saying [parents] should be given impartial advice about what happens when they do [spank their children].”
More recently, Ferguson took issue with the APA’s 2018 clinical guidelines for the treatment of men and boys. Although Ferguson describes himself as being on the left and an “Obama progressive,” he added: “The guidelines were pretty disparaging towards traditional men.”
“I’m not anybody’s poster of a traditional man myself,” he said with self-deprecating good-humor. “But I thought, ‘Wow this is approaching sexism.’”
“It’s sexism from the opposite view of what we kind of think of sexism as being. But if you’re going to take out-of-work coal miners trying to support their family of five and don’t have any money and they don’t have health insurance and you’re going to talk to them about their male privilege and patriarchy, this is not what they need. This is going to hurt them.”
Read it all.
In a version of Dear Younger Me, Glenn Loury debates… Glenn Loury. In an age when past comments can be resurrected to undermine (and even be used to cancel!) public or even semi-public figures, Loury uses a 22 year old speech to demonstrate some of the areas where he has changed his mind over time (subscription required, but 7 day free trial available):
This North Carolina school parent finds his own experience at odds with the conventional wisdom on race in America:
Sheena Mason responds to a long thread from Ibram X. Kendi on kids and race:
And finally, this summer brings more from the recently launched (see Around Twitter) University of Austin: