Keeping up with the FITs, 11/26
Yascha Mounk and Michael Powell; Richard Hanania on Woke, Inc.; Robin Hanson predicts world totalitarianism; Michael Shermer: Substack > Scientific American; Matt Yglesias pans diversity training
Yascha Mounk talks with NYT reporter Michael Powell. Powell says,
Texas has—as is true in about eight or nine other states—enacted several laws that set lines for how public school teachers can talk about [issues]. Actually, it's a little more chilling than that. For instance, you can talk about the real history of the Alamo in Texas; you can talk about, theoretically, how the Texas Rangers lynched Mexicans, which happened with tragic frequency for quite a while. But the law basically says you can't make children feel uncomfortable. In this way, it's kind of a funhouse mirror of some of the stuff that you see on the left. You can't make children feel uncomfortable. In this case, say, white children.
Doesn’t reading that paragraph make you. . .uncomfortable?
I know many conservatives say that they have to use politics against progressivism, because all other avenues are closed, given progressive dominance of major cultural institutions. Barton Swaim makes this point, for example.
American conservatism is—and has been for the past 70 years—a response to a hegemonic liberalism. Conservatives dabble in irredentist tropes during elections, as if they might actually one day overpower their adversaries. But American conservatism doesn’t have the power, even if it wanted to, to sweep aside cobwebbed liberal institutions and remake them along the lines of a conservative philosophy.
I think that conservatives have a surplus of denunciations of the left and a shortage of alternative positive models. I don't think that the University of Austin goes anywhere by yelling at Woke U, and I don’t think that fighting CRT with laws ends well. We need to get the Golden Age better distributed. The old cultural hierarchies are ripe to be displaced, but it will take many experiments to arrive at better ones.
Richard Hanania is not enamored of the book Woke, Inc.
Ramaswamy proposes a theory of its origins that is somewhat bizarre. The author echoes many on the populist right when he argues that wokeness was created in response to Occupy Wall Street. To distract people from demanding economic redistribution, this argument goes, corporate fat cats promoted activism focused on race, gender, and sexual orientation.
Batya Ungar-Sargon, a self-proclaimed leftist who spoke at the NatCon conference, also takes the view that the Woke culture war is a distraction from her preferred class war. Again, I want to see less war talk, and more Golden Age distribution.
Somewhat along these lines, Hanania argues that it is time for conservatives to raise the priority of school choice.
School choice and stopping civil rights overreach should not simply be things leaders might get to once they’ve enacted the latest tax cut or launched a new war. If the American Right is actually motivated by cultural concerns, then conservatives need to pressure their leaders to reflect their own priorities, not those of the donor class, and develop coherent policy approaches to achieve them.
To date, this has for the most part not occurred, and the failure to connect cultural concerns to policy goals could be seen throughout the Trump presidency. In particular, how did the anti-PC president do so little on affirmative action, given the extent to which the entire system rests on executive orders? Moreover, the Covid-19 crisis, the behavior of teachers unions, and the demand for stimulus created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take money out of the hands of public education and give it to parents. Instead, GOP leaders and conservative pundits did little more than demand that public schools reopen, and although some Republicans did argue for school choice, President Trump ended up signing two stimulus bills worth over $3 trillion that did practically nothing to advance their causes.
our current era of roughly balanced forces on two sides of one main ideological axis is likely to be temporary. Eventually a single integrated elite culture will dominate the world, entrenching itself in mob opinion and via as many institutions as possible, especially global institutions. It may then focus more on further entrenching itself and on repressing dissent than on making the world better. As everyone becomes more similar, conformity pressures will become stronger, as in most small towns today. And the entrenched global institutions may then rot. After which our total human civilization might even decline, or commit suicide.
Have a nice day.
what has happened over at Scientific American, which historically focused primarily on science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM), but now appears to be turning to social justice issues. There is, for example, the August 12, 2021 article on how “Modern Mathematics Confronts its White Patriarchal Past,” which asserts prima facie that the reason there are so few women and blacks in academic mathematics is because of misogyny and racism.
I don’t think many on the left are actually super enthusiastic about these diversity trainings, but the general sense is also that only a bitter crank would actually complain about them. But there is real evidence that they are at least sometimes making things worse, which strikes me as a big deal. For example, Michelle Duguid and Melissa Thomas-Hunt find that when you tell people that stereotyping is widespread, they stereotype more.
This suggests to me that a very underrated step toward progress would be to eliminate the judicial and legal standards that suggest diversity training has litigation-protective effects.