FAIR Weekly Roundup

October 31st, 2021

 

Around the Web

In a piece for The Bulwark, Cathy Young details “What Cancel Culture Is and Isn’t,” by first highlighting several prominent examples of cancel culture enacted by conservatives, such as past attempts to boycott Ellen DeGeneres and the Dixie Chicks. 

Young then hones in on her central thesis: that although there’s nothing new about people from across the political spectrum attempting to deplatform or “cancel” one another, “progressive cancel culture has a much broader reach.” According to Young, this is because “it does not simply punish opposition,” but frequently targets other progressives and even politically neutral individuals for “accidental transgressions against the new norms of identity-based social justice.” 

Young then cites recent examples of cancellations ordered by Left-wing progressives, pointing out that although the total number of cancellations may seem small, the damage they cause is disproportionate because “they add up to a social climate of intimidation.” Young believes that “the liberal and centrist pushback against the ‘new puritans’ is not only healthy but essential.”

 

Read the full article here.

 

For the Heterodox Academy blog, psychologist Dr. Nicole Barbaro wrote an article asking whether “the centrality of the peer-reviewed publication in the academy impact[s] the type of knowledge that is produced.” According to Barbaro, the answer is “yes,” and she cites the way academic incentive structures “shape what research questions scientists ask and the type of knowledge that is ultimately published in the world’s top science journals.”

One of these problematic incentive structures centers around grant funding. In short, the career advancement of scientists is often predicated on securing large and highly competitive research grants. However, the types of research questions that are typically funded are those that “align with the strategic goals of that agency, specific divisions, and programmatic initiatives.” Because of this, the questions studied are often narrow in scope.

Barbaro also believes the centrality of research within the academy also impacts knowledge production more generally. This is because in order for a grant to be deemed “successful,” grantees must publish their findings in academic journals and present their research at conferences. Barbaro believes that “this cycle of funding and publishing further entrenches priority areas of research and continues to constrain open inquiry of research areas that may not fall within the scope of funders and journal editors.” 

 

Read the full article here.

 

In a whistleblower report for City Journal, Christopher F. Rufo obtained a cache of internal documents on the latest Fortune 100 company to subject their employees to neo-racist diversity training. 

In the report, Rufo revealed that the AT&T Corporation has created a radical “racial reeducation program” called Listen Understand Act, which teaches AT&T employees that “American racism is a uniquely white trait” and that “Black people cannot be racist.” 

Resources in the program are overtly political, promoting causes such as reparations, defunding the police, and many controversial aspects of trans activism. The education materials also emphasize concepts such as “whiteness,” “white privilege,” and “white fragility.” According to Rufo, AT&T did not respond when asked for comment.

 

Read the full report here.

 

In Persuasion, Trent Colbert, the student at the center of a recent debacle at Yale, provides his behind-the-scenes perspective on what happened and why he refused to apologize to an angry activist mob. 

In the age of social media, even the most innocuous of comments is liable to trigger anonymous social media flash mobs fixated on ruining someone’s life, reputation, or career. Colbert believes that this phenomenon, which is becoming all-too-common, can only be halted by refusing to cave in to demands for an apology when there is truly nothing to apologize for. 

I don’t believe that the now-common ritual of compelled apology, complete with promises to “grow” and “do better” (their words, but ones I’m sure you’ve seen many times before) helps anyone, or is even intended to. If we continue to indulge this culture of performative denunciation, the very idea of an apology will lose its meaning.

 

Read the full article here.

For UnHerd, new contributing editor Tomiwa Owolade asks “What does it mean to be black?” and explains how “being reduced to a label deforms your humanity.”

Owolade highlighted the patterns that run throughout old poems, as well as recent books, that reveal the expectations that are placed upon people because of their skin color. From so-called “savages” once put on display in human zoos for European patrons, to the modern state of race-based tokenism where people of color are expected to perform to fulfill certain political narratives, Owolade believes that when one's group identity is given more importance than their individuality, they can never be fully free and seen for who they are. 

Labels should be used, if they are to be used, as the start of someone’s identity, not the full definition of it. They should be used to open the doors to a deeper understanding of who that person is, rather than perceived as the only thing that matters. The alternative is race representatives, people who are exhibited, or exhibit themselves, to a white audience, to be gawked at and cuddled, and are expected to possess a morality befitting a child.


Read the full article here.

 

FAIR Board of Advisors

In The New York Times, FAIR Advisor Zaid Jilani reviews FAIR Advisor John McWhorter’s new book Woke Racism. Jilani explained how his family, with his parents from Pakistan, had grown up with nothing but optimism for America. Though far from perfect, American society had, for the most part, accepted them with open arms.

But Jilani notes that in recent years a new narrative has been growing that denies progress and asserts that “nonwhites are little more than virtuous victims cast adrift on a plank in an ocean of white supremacy.” Jilani explains how McWhorter’s book aims to address how this pessimistic worldview has captivated so many and has become implanted within our major institutions.

According to McWhorter, this new ideology, which he calls “Third Wave Anti-racism,” has literally become a new religion, and that “the only story they want us to tell is one where whites are the villains and minorities are the victims.”

 

Read Jilani’s full review of McWhorter’s book here.

 

For Commentary, FAIR Advisor Wilfred Reilly wrote a piece pointing out that narratives portraying cultural conflict as being between white conservatives and progressive minorities are a gross distortion of reality. For example, data reveals that those most fervently championing a range of “progressive” issues, such as policing politically correct language, defunding the police, affirmative action, and limiting gun rights, are themselves disproportionately white. 

Reilly believes that this is caused by a form of political opportunism, where radicals are attempting “to use the genuine plight of poor minorities as a wedge to force through changes to American society—changes that most people of color do not ourselves want.”

Instead of being galvanized by oversimplified political narratives, Reilly believes that we should take time to consult the relevant data and actually ask people directly what they believe: “If you want to know what individual members of any particular group happen to think, ask them—not those who claim to speak and act in their best interest.”

 

Read the full article here.

 

FAIR Advisor Steven Pinker recently attended a speaking event for UnHerd, in London, to promote his new book, Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters.

In conversation with Freddie Sayers, Pinker answered questions on the prevailing trends of irrationality, intelligence, gut feelings, mythology, and conspiracy theories. Pinker argues that we are losing our ability as a society to think clearly and reason effectively. However, he believes hope is not lost so long as we’re able to maintain the mental “mechanisms of rationality” that help identify our irrational blind-spots and work to overcome them. 

If you’re not allowed to broach a hypothesis in the first place, then there are possible solutions that you could never discover, because even considering it might be criminalised. So cancel culture, abrogations of academic freedom and free speech are irrational because they disable mechanisms of rationality.


Watch the full event here.

 

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