This guy says he’s a “progressive,” but I have to say I have my doubts.
Recently, I arrived at a moment of introspection about a curious aspect of my own behavior. When I disagree with a conservative friend or colleague on some political issue, I have no fear of speaking my mind. I talk, they listen, they respond, I talk some more, and at the end of it we get along just as we always have. But I’ve discovered that when a progressive friend says something with which I disagree or that I know to be incorrect, I’m hesitant to point it out. This hesitancy is a consequence of the different treatment one tends to receive from those on the Right and Left when expressing a difference of opinion. I am not, as it turns out, the only one who has noticed this.
“That’s a stupid fucking question,” answered a Socialist Alliance activist when I asked sincerely where they were getting what sounded like inflated poverty statistics. “If you don’t believe in gay marriage or gun control, unfriend me,” demand multiple Facebook statuses from those I know. “That’s gross and racist!” spluttered a red-faced Ben Affleck when the atheist and neuroscientist Sam Harris criticized Islamic doctrines on Bill Maher’s Real Time. Nobody blinks an eye when Harris criticizes Christianity, least of all Affleck, who starred in Kevin Smith’s irreverent religious satire Dogma. But Christians are not held to be a sacrosanct and protected minority on the political Left.
So how and why have these activists become so intolerant and horrible to deal with? Part of this hostility can be explained by a wilful ignorance and incuriosity about ideas with which they disagree. Every so often, a progressive friend will peruse my bookshelf in a thought-police sort of fashion. What happens next is fairly predictable. Once they realize that Malinowski’s Melanesian epic The Sexual Life of Savages doesn’t include any erotic pictures, they will turn their attention to the Ayn Rand collection. “Why do you have these?” they ask with an air of indignation, holding up a copy of Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. “Have you ever read her?” I will ask. “No,” they reliably respond.
Hm. Doesn’t believe in gay marriage or gun control. Reads Ayn Rand. Would seem to have at least some sympathy for the Christians relentlessly persecuted by the Left. Looking back over the piece again, I realize that he never actually says he’s a liberal or “progressive” at all, contrary to my opening assertion; it’s just an impression I somehow came up with on my own, and I would seem to have been in error. Oh well. If I inadvertently slandered the guy unjustly, I hereby offer my humble apologies. No one who isn’t one would want to be called a Progressivist, that’s for sure.
Be all that as it may, he makes a whole slew of most excellent points throughout—such as this one:
According to these academics and others like them, not only should people be punished for not conforming to the new politically correct consensus, but conservative opinions opposing punishment for non-conformity should also be punished. A 2012 study, conducted by Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers and published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, found that progressive faculty openly admit to discriminating against the conservative minority when it comes to job promotions and grant applications.
Given the current environment, conservatives would be advised to simply abandon academia if they know what’s good for them. On the other hand, it is a problem when a student goes through university where each and every course is taught by a left-leaning professor. For conservative students, the toxic and hostile university environment needn’t cripple their intellectual development. These students arrive at university with conservative ideas and will naturally seek out and read conservative authors in their own time to balance out the latest application of progressive doctrine to which they are subjected in class. The most ambitious will be familiar with both Rand and Marx, Keynes and Hayek, Galbraith and Friedman, Krugman and Sowell, Picketty and Peterson. But we ought to worry about the progressive student who arrives with progressive ideas, and is then showered in class with more of the same and reinforces them in their own time. Such students live in a much smaller cultural universe than the cosmopolitan intellectual world through which the conservative will be made to travel. This isn’t to deny that bigoted reactionaries on the opposite side of the spectrum also inhabit a tiny intellectual space. But that does not excuse the closing of the mind at a university.
Nothing can; intellectual curiosity and flexibility are the very heart and soul of a properly-functioning institution of higher learning. Unfortunately, that isn’t what our universities now are, and that isn’t by accident, either.
This article, of which you will want to read the all, is a deep and thoughtful one and covers a lot of ground. For me the big takeaway is probably this, most especially the part I put in boldface:
In his remarkable book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, Haidt recalls a telling experiment. He and his colleagues Brian Nosek and Jesse Graham sought to discover how well conservative and what Haidt terms ‘liberal’ (ie: progressive) students understood one another by having them answer moral questions as they thought their political opponents would answer them. “The results were clear and consistent,” remarks Haidt. “In all analyses, conservatives were more accurate than liberals.” Asked to think the way a liberal thinks, conservatives answered moral questions just as the liberal would answer them, but liberal students were unable to do the reverse. Rather, they seemed to put moral ideas into the mouths of conservatives that they don’t hold. To put it bluntly, Haidt and his colleagues found that progressives don’t understand conservatives the way conservatives understand progressives. This he calls the ‘conservative advantage,’ and it goes a long way in explaining the different ways each side deals with opinions unlike their own. People get angry at what they don’t understand, and an all-progressive education ensures that they don’t understand.
Indeed they don’t; they don’t understand much of anything, nor do they wish to, nor can they even conceive of any necessity for it. Neither do they consider such blockheaded, smug arrogance any kind of failing or flaw—something not to be proud of, but corrected. There’s no longer any reasoning, discussion, or honest debate to be had with them; the intellectual wall is complete, and cannot be breached or scaled.
They must be crushed. It’s almost certainly going to be bloody. And that’s all on them.