Liberal lefties are not right-wing

Left-wing liberals who are opposed to the identity politics developments on the left increasingly find ourselves accused of being right wing, referred to as “right wing” and scornfully urged to admit that we are right wing by identitarian lefties.”

Came across this article, from 2018, today (HT: @jon_tennant). All quotes in this post come from this article (highlights in bold are mine).

“More recently, we have seen a rise of the identitarian lefties who hold very different ideas about objective truth, evidence, reason and language and who view society as structured by discourse (ways of talking about things) which perpetuates systems of power and privilege. As they often fit the definition of “radical” but have little in common with the older radical leftism and seldom address economics or class issues coherently, preferring to focus on identity groups like race, gender and sexuality, things have become much more messy, and communication and compromise much more difficult. These are the individuals who frequently insist that the liberal lefties are actually right-wing.

“Left-wing liberals […] are motivated by values which are left-wing. [W]e largely support the freedom of markets but there is also a strong focus on supporting the most vulnerable in society. […] This focus on supporting the most vulnerable in society is a primary one and has historically been for the benefit of the working class but also, when warranted, for women and for racial and sexual minorities.

"We are liberal lefties. And being liberal, we’ll be happy to discuss […] with you and consider other perspectives."

“[Identitarian] left-wing academics and activists saw identity politics as politically empowering and were critical of liberal leftism which sought to make identity categories socially irrelevant. […] [T]hey see racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia everywhere because of their intense focus on language which they read through an ideologically problematizing lens. […] There is little support for white, working class men and they frequently deny that straight, white men can face any disadvantages at all or speak in ways which assume this.

“Because of the belief that power in society is constructed by language, they are also prone to authoritarian censoriousness about what language can and cannot be used and which ideas may or may not be discussed.”

“Liberal lefties receive most of the identitarian rage because we cannot support the postmodern rejection of an objective truth nor their science-denying cultural constructivism.”

"Identitarian lefties come from an intellectual development which took place on the left and the left must take responsibility for that and fix it. […] The only way for the liberal left to fix this problem is to engage with it. For too long, too many of us have minimized the problem due to a perceived need to maintain solidarity against the rise of the populist right, alt-right and far right. […] Others are afraid of being called racist, sexist or homophobic and associated with the right which is, in fact, what is happening."

There is also that problem inherent to liberalism: an excess of tolerance, a willingness to compromise and a desire not to impose on other people. Because the liberal left is the least radical, least authoritarian branch of the left, it is vulnerable to being shouted over by more radical voices who come to define the left for waverers.”

“The liberal left has been hindered in its aims to oppose the identitarian left by misguided loyalty, by incomprehension, by denial, by fear, by despair, by complacency and by excessive tolerance. This gives the impression that there are few of us left and that the left is now defined by the identitarian, authoritarian ideologues. This gives strength to the right. We need to get more visible, more unified and braver. We need to accept that the problem exists, understand how it works and speak out against it calmly, civilly and reasonably […]”

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I would argue that identitarian left is the politics that e.g. SIPS follows. Which is fine with me, but it’s not the politics I stand for, and I do think they could be a bit more transparent to members and potential members about actually being political. For those who don’t know what I’m referring to here: a blog post I wrote the other day got us into this discussion (again). SIPS is, however, only one small part of the whole discussion on the identitarian left in academia.

Interesting article! I was not aware of such distinction between left-wing oriented positions. I presume this applies especially to the US (surely not to the troubled and carnivalesque political landscape in Italy…). The article, but also the comments below, bring some thoughts to my mind.

Given that we are relating this issue strictly to the academic environment (otherwise, I would move the thread elsewhere):

  1. What is described as “identitarian left” is definitely pervading academia (especially anglosaxon institutions), with good and bad outcomes. I agree with the article’s author that the inchorently intollerant attitude and messages conveyed by some in this movement should be addressed urgently.

But for me, it would have to begin with a recognition of the long slide of the liberal left toward conservative economic views.

I agree very much with this comment to the article. Neoliberal economic approaches are pervading academia to a much higher degree than the “identitarian leftism” and with much more devastating outcomes. This is what, in my opinion, we should all stand against. Not because of personal political views, but as defenders of scientific integrity.

  1. Where does IGDORE stand? Does it stand anywhere politically? I would say no, but it is undeniable that our ethics, structure and mission have the aim to establish an alternative to traditional academia and hence as a solution to the issues that affect it.

P.S. talking about left and right wings looks very anachronistic to me, but maybe it is different in some countries. And what about countries from which some of IGDORE affiliates are from, such as African and south-east Asian regions?

I think the distinction works pretty well here in Sweden. With the possible exception that the identitarian left here in Swedish academia may not have forgot about the working class as much as they seem to have done in e.g. US. Not very surprising if considering that the Swedish society is rather socialistic if compared with US: liberal views in US that would be considered leftist views there can sometimes be considered rather right-wing in Sweden.

Or what would my fellow Swedes say, eg @rickcarlsson?

I thought about this too earlier today. In the Global Board we have libertarians (i.e. right-wing) as well as leftists (personally would I identify as a liberal leftie), but what unites us is probably our high tolerance for opinions we don’t like or agree with. Thus, what unites us in the Global Board could perhaps be defined as liberalism (i.e. high tolerance for diverse thinking/opinions & discourse).

Or what would @Gavin and @dbernt say?

What individuals in the IGDORE Global Board stand for is probably the only way, currently, to say anything about what IGDORE stands for, since IGDORE is still a project under development. On the other hand, the Global Board has basically zero to say about what our researchers do or don’t do as long as they follow our scientific code of conduct. Thus, our growing number of 70+ individual researchers, who define IGDORE much more than the Global Board ever will, may not necessarily agree with opinions or values the Global Board stands for. Which again, I guess, probably reflects the high tolerance practiced by the founder (i.e. me) and these early members of the Global Board. And this high tolerance could probably be called liberalism (and as mentioned in the article above, liberalism can be practiced and valued by right-wing as well as left-wing people).

But we haven’t had any ideological discussions in the IGDORE Global Board yet, I think, so I may be wrong. The vision and strategy documents we aim to put together (hopefully during 2020) will perhaps bring some clarity to these issues.

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Would you mind extending your reasoning here, perhaps with some clarifying examples?

Some examples in “public” institutions:

  • Drastic increase of university fees, cuts to public budget and scholarships, dramatic increase of the semi-private “student loan” business (especially, but not only, in US, UK, Australia).

  • Universities business plans oriented towards expansion, opening to global markets, competitive assets and investments.

  • Pressure on researchers, from the institution, to focus on regular and competitive productivity with the aid of economic incentives and continuous evaluations.

In the broader scientific environment:

  • Funding bodies granting fundings based on foreseen return in terms of visibility (or other outcomes) in a competitive market.

  • Funding bodies expecting research to develop in a way that is in line with other competitive markets.

  • Journals. Well, no need to say anything about the corporations running them, except this: in a free market the creation of monopolies is highly probable.

I’d like to add that the reality of neoliberal economy is that the influence of the public in the private sector is far from being absent (this should be one of the main values of neoliberalism). On the opposite, monopolies and economic power are maintained by corporations, which advocate free market, by the means of aggressive lobbying the public sector. This is true also for scientific publishers.

@Enrico.Fucci, the neoliberal features you mention for public institutions and the scientific environment closely match to what is described as a ‘post-academic’ science by Ziman in the book Real Science. It’s a long but fairly interesting read on the sociology of science from a naturalistic perspective. It was written in 2002, which shows quite a lot of foresight as I felt it was a good description of modern academic practice (from what I saw in Australia and Sweden). Although it’s not all bad, post-academic science seemed to be quite well described as the transition from the rigorous pursuit of knowledge to applications focused real-world issues.

Some highlights about post-academia I made while reading (I attached the rest of my Kindle highlights in case anybody is interested, I also have a full pdf of the book I can send privately):

In general, therefore, post-academic natural scientists can usually be trusted to tell `nothing but the truth’, on matters about which they are knowledgeable… unlike academic scientists, they are not bound to tell ,the whole truth’. They are often prevented, in the interests of their employers, clients or patrons, from revealing discoveries or expressing doubts that would put a very different complexion on their testimony.

It is no good telling post-academic scientists that they should adopt a ‘scientific attitude’ in their work. They have neither examples of disinterested behaviour to emulate, nor formal standards of social objectivity to live up to.

One of the major characteristics of post-academic science is this structural convergence between the academic and industrial research traditions

Post-academic science is not merely transdisciplinary. It is defiantly post-modern in its pluralism. It welcomes wide definitions of knowledge, and decentred diversity, without fear of possible inconsistencies.

Paradoxically, post-academic science could become so obsessed with accountability, performance monitoring, contractual scrutiny and other forms of `quality control’that it sacrifices the quality of the procedures themselves to their sheer quantity.

Mode 2 [synonym for post-academic] downplays the role of systematic intellectual criticism, which is the key to the validity of academic science.

In its post-academic mode, science can no longer evade all social responsibility by pretending that the production of universally valid, value-neutral knowledge is its only goal and only achievement

post-academic scientists still formulate and try to solve practical and conceptual problems on the basis of their shared belief in an intelligibly regular, not disjoint, world outside themselves.

Real Science_ What it Is and What it Means-Notebook.pdf (152.6 KB)

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This is a great discussion, thanks for starting it with the link and quotes @rebecca. I hadn’t heard the term Identerian Left before, but I agree that the description fits a lot of what I’ve seen during my (brief) observation of the open-science community (particularly on twitter). I found the following two paragraphs were particularly thought-provoking:

Identitarian lefties also share the care/harm foundation of liberalism with this drive to end inequality and prioritize groups seen as marginalized, but this is accompanied by a rage at groups seen as privileged. The result is a highly illiberal practice of evaluating the worth of individuals by their gender, race or sexuality. Because of the belief that power in society is constructed by language, they are also prone to authoritarian censoriousness about what language can and cannot be used and which ideas may or may not be discussed.

This bent to control is in profound contrast to the traditionally liberal support of the “marketplace of ideas.” The concept of the marketplace also placed a high value on the power of language in the sense that ideas could be presented by all, discussed by all and, in this way, the best ones would be revealed and this has been remarkably successful. This cannot work in a postmodern worldview because the latter assumes a standpoint epistemology, which holds that different groups have different knowledge and all are equally valid but that the ideas of dominant groups are falsely given more credibility than those of marginalized groups, necessitating dominant groups to be quiet and listen.

I would say that I am a liberal thinker and positioned centre-left politically, so maybe close to the liberal left as described in the Aero article. I agree that the IGDORE board seems to be characterised by liberal and open-minded values, and think that this is something we need more of in academia and society at large.

This all brings to mind Tim Urban’s current series of posts, ‘The story of us’. I’m hesitant to recommend getting into this as the series is very long (and dangerously engaging), but ‘Politics in 2D’ section of the current article is particularly relevant. It’s argued that a 2nd dimension needs to be added to politics, essentially to represent how ‘liberal’ people are, in addition to the normal left-right political distinction. In Tim’s terms, most people in the liberal left would probably be considered high-rung political thinkers, while those in the Identerian Left, and many in the Radial Left, sound like they are low-rung on the liberal spectrum.

In high-rung political culture, people are micro-divided in their viewpoints and macro-united, in a broader sense, in their values.

They’re macro-united because they’re almost all liberals. Not “liberal” the way it’s often used in the U.S., as a synonym with “Left”—liberal the way the Enlightenment thinkers used it. Liberal meaning “committed to liberal values”—values like truth, human rights, freedom of expression, and equality of opportunity.

They’re macro-united because they share a common notion of reality. Their opinions will differ wildly, but they’ll usually agree on facts or the lack thereof.

The identitarian terminology also brings to mind one of Paul Graham’s essays, which suggest that it’s good to keep your political views outside of your core identity if you want to be able to have a productive discussion about politics. So even though I identify as centre-left, I assume that this political can’t be something central to my identity as I still take a liberal and open-minded perspective on politics.

More generally, you can have a fruitful discussion about a topic only if it doesn’t engage the identities of any of the participants. What makes politics and religion such minefields is that they engage so many people’s identities. But you could in principle have a useful conversation about them with some people. And there are other topics that might seem harmless, like the relative merits of Ford and Chevy pickup trucks, that you couldn’t safely talk about with others.

The most intriguing thing about this theory, if it’s right, is that it explains not merely which kinds of discussions to avoid, but how to have better ideas. If people can’t think clearly about anything that has become part of their identity, then all other things being equal, the best plan is to let as few things into your identity as possible.

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Yes, this is a great and really important discussion, thanks for posting the initial article @rebecca. I really enjoyed reading all of the above posts!

In this episode of the "Two psychologists and four beers" podcast, Yoel and Mickey point out a problem with discussions about power and privilege that I recognize in the description of identerian left above: Talk about privilege blames people for things they aren’t responsible for themselves (like being white, male, cis-gender). It’s no surprise people don’t like being judged based on their identity, become defensive, and judge the left for blaming them. Instead (as Yoel and Mickey suggest in the podcast) we could focus on the challenges less privileged people face. This is much more likely to lead to empathic responses, and gratitude and awareness for the privileges you have. Much more promising for getting people motivated to actually work against inequalities.

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A Swedish lecturer in psychology at University of Lund has been forced to leave after protests from a small group of five students against a course he led. The course had been running since the 1980’s & encouraged students to confront themselves with uncomfortable opinions and argue against them.

https://www.lundagard.se/2020/01/27/hatet-mot-externatet/

From the linked article (translated by Google with minor edits by myself):

In a course evaluation from the spring semester 2017, 18 of 19 students responded that the course “a lot” or “very much” contributed to the student’s learning or development as a future psychologist.

“I think this has been the best course on the whole program,” writes a student in the course evaluation.

“It is one of the few courses we have had where I feel respectfully treated, considered competent and where I have experienced that the teachers have actually been keen on my learning”.

“I’ve had a whole new level of contact with my emotional life that gives me energy and courage to be heartfelt,” writes another.

But the course also has critics. Each semester, a group of students describe discomfort, shame, sexism, and resentment on the part of teachers. In the course evaluation from 2017, one student wrote: “Language strongly colored by sexism and linguistic exclusion of minority groups, such as gender non-binary persons, lowered my confidence in the management and made the collaboration more difficult”.

In an internal Facebook thread from the fall of 2019, a student invites other students “who also experienced the course as problematic or unpleasant” to contact the study director to bring about a change.

When Max Kaymak [took the course] in 2015, he felt that the atmosphere in the class changed. He remembers that it became more relaxed and he started talking to people he had not talked to before.

"At the [clinical] psychology program you are expected to be a third wave feminist and leftist. I put no value in it, but there must be room to express other opinions", he says and continues:

"During this course, for the first time, we were forced to confront other perspectives. I realized that you can feel different but still meet and I think it is useful, especially for psychologists who treat people with sometimes disgusting opinions", he says.

[A student we may call Sofia] was on the program’s Equality Committee and heard how other students experienced panic attacks, depression and suicidal thoughts in connection with the [course]. Now she feels the same.

“To me as a lesbian, the [course] was extremely stressful. The perspectives presented were sexist and homophobic and I reacted physically in a way I had never experienced before”, she says.

She gets panic attacks that last for months afterwards.

[Sofia] and four classmates went to the study director Jonas Bjärehed.

Thomas Nilsson, who is currently studying semester ten on the [clinical] psychology program, also went to the study director, but to show his support for the course. He does not believe that the criticism of the [course] is based on violations or sexism from the lecturers, but has ideological reasons.

“The reason why there will be such a fuss every time the [course] is running is primarily that it challenges an ideology about how to be and how to think, which is very strong in the [clinical] psychology program”, he says.

He talks about a repressive conversation climate and a small group with leftist political identity ideology that sets the norm for what one might think. They act as moral guardians, condemn and verbally attack students and teachers they disagree with.

“There are many who are Christian, right, liberal or conservative on the program but who dare not say it. They do not want to participate in discussions, because they cannot cope with the hatred”, he says and continues:

"It is extremely important that you can have a conversation about sensitive things, such as discussing the psychologically symbolic father or the father’s function. Claiming it as abusive makes learning impossible. The university must protect the discussions, and [this course] is the only course on the program that does so.

Jonas Bjärehed thinks […] that the students’ stories were reasonable.

“It was clear to me what I needed to do when the students explained what they experienced. What the teachers had said in that situation had not changed the students’ experiences or my assessment”, he says and continues:

“When students feel as bad as these students did, whether they are in a minority, we must act.”

[Johan Grant, responsible for the course] believes that it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold courses that go against certain habitual thinking and mean introspection for the students.

"The institutional interest in having a course that addresses sensitive topics and questions strong ideologies does not exist. It is believed that this protects the students, but it is the opposite", says Johan Grant.

Instead, he feels that the conversation is silenced for ideological reasons, and that a small group of students who do not want to talk openly about sensitive issues, but put the lid on, give rise to an unreasonable, judgmental and closed conversation culture on the program.

"People assume that people are far more fragile than they are and develop an identity that is about protecting themselves and the environment from perspective. It is a major problem in the teaching of prospective psychologists", he says.

On December 17 [2019], Johan Grant receives a call in which the course examiner, as well as the head of the department, Robert Holmberg, announces that he lacks confidence in him as a teacher for the [course]. Instead, he is referred to Jonas Bjärehed for “agreeing on other duties”. The call is short and the atmosphere tense.

Now major changes are expected of the course - the teaching structure must be changed and the [course] made voluntary. What happens to the [course] this fall, if it still exists, remains to be seen.

What is certain, however, is that Johan Grant has held the course for the last time. When his employment expires in June, eight years at the Department of Psychology in Lund are over.

It seems to me that “Being able to spend time in a room with someone who holds different opinions to you, and discuss those differences”, is quite a reasonable one-line summary of the job description of a clinical psychologist.

I wonder what these people think the training of police officers ought to look like?

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Yup, I agree. It also made me think of something Jon Haidt said in the Safe Space episode of Sam Harris’ Making Sense podcast. His colleague, Greg, had reached out to Jon in 2014 and said that he worried about an increase of student complaints requiring to be protected from opinions they didn’t want to hear. Greg had suffered from depression and been in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for it, and in CBT he had learned the importance of desentivisation, avoiding catastrophising, avoiding black and white thinking, etc - crucial life skills that are in stark contrast to the students’ complaints.

What happens if clinical psychology students can’t themselves develop the skills they are supposed to teach their future (or current) clients?

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One of the things I learned during the year that I spent in a psychotherapy school (not especially “evidence-based” — the leaders of the school were a clinical psychologist and a psychiatrist, but they had lost a lot of their faith in the ability of science to explain human suffering — but not woo-woo either) was just how many non-psychologist therapists become therapists because either (a) therapy has really helped them get their shit together (yay!) or (b) they actually need a lot of therapy and shouldn’t be let anywhere near a client. Part of the training, and I think this is true for most forms of psychotherapy apart from clin psych, is having your own therapist, on an ongoing basis after you complete your formal training too.

Contrast that with clin psych, where AFAIK the assumption is that everyone going into the programme is entirely unfucked-up and doesn’t need any sort of intervention themselves. Yet a glance around the benches of a first-year psych lecture in any country that I’ve been in suggests that an awful lot of people didn’t join in order to learn about the subtleties of modelling cognitive processes in R. (This may be a bit of a caricature, but I don’t think clin psych training involves spending a lot of time questioning one’s own fucked-up-ness.)

More on this topic here: https://spectator.us/academics-get-paper-retracted-some-havent-read-nathan-cofnas/

‘You’re about to learn why people generally avoid fucking with me.’ Thus spake Nietzsche scholar and Macquarie University philosophy professor Mark Alfano in a tweet directed at me.

I’ll start from the beginning. In late December I published a paper in the academic journal Philosophical Psychology defending the study of race differences in intelligence. This topic arouses strong emotions. But I am a philosopher, and the job of philosophers is to confront issues dispassionately, guided only by reason and evidence. This activity may lead us to question orthodoxies and challenge taboos, but that is what philosophy is all about. Or at least it’s supposed to be.

Some philosophers were very unhappy that my paper had been published. They began attacking it, the journal and me on social media. In most cases, it was clear that these critics had not actually read what outraged them so much. They criticized me for ignoring issues that the paper discussed at length, and they attacked me for saying things I never said. Disappointing, but not surprising.

A group of philosophers led by Alfano decided to take their anger at the paper to the next level, and they set out to cancel its author (me). In Alfano’s words, he wanted to ‘ruin [Cofnas’s] reputation permanently and deservedly’. Soon after his ‘You’re about to learn…’ tweet, a change.org petition asking the editors of Philosophical Psychology for an ‘apology, retraction, or resignation (or some combination of these three)’ was posted on the philosophy blog Daily Nous. Daily Nous, run by University of South Carolina philosophy professor Justin Weinberg, is one of the two most high-profile philosophy blogs on the web. Weinberg did not explicitly endorse the petition, but presented it in a somewhat favorable light. He included a picture of tainted water from Flint, Michigan, apparently to illustrate the petition’s claim that I had ignored the major role played by lead poisoning in race differences in IQ.

Fortunately, the majority of philosophers who replied in the comments section thought that a petition making vague accusations and insinuations about a paper is the wrong way to express scholarly disagreement.

But Alfano enlisted some powerful allies in his jihad against me, including Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley. Stanley’s opening salvo came in the form of a tweet calling on people to ‘denounce’ my paper. He then commenced listing its supposedly egregious errors. Interestingly, however, he hadn’t read the paper .

I objected that Stanley’s arguments against me were ‘very weak’. He responded a couple hours after his initial tweet saying, ‘I just read your paper…it is even more vacuous than I imagined. No, twin studies do not prove something is hereditary [sic], as the environment might be relevantly similar among different families (e.g. racism is pervasive). Same mistakes.’

Note that Stanley claimed he had ‘just read’ the paper — after, that is, he had publicly called for it to be denounced. But even this was untrue.

Later Stanley admitted that he ‘read it in like 2 minutes’. In other words, he didn’t read it. This explains why he was unfamiliar with what it said. And, given his ignorance on the subject, he was struggling to formulate intelligible criticisms of what he guessed it said. He tried to repeat a generic argument against hereditarianism about race differences: high between-group heritability cannot be inferred from high within-group heritability because an environmental factor might be correlated with genetic differences between the populations. (‘Heritability’, a technical concept, refers to the proportion of the variance in a trait that is explained by genetic differences in a population.) Unbeknownst to Stanley, a long section of my paper addresses that issue in detail.

Stanley quickly blocked me and everyone else who defended me so we couldn’t directly reply to him, and carried on trash talking the paper and me in dozens of follow-up tweets.

Stanley is a tenured professor of philosophy at Yale. I am a graduate student at Oxford. But I don’t play the victim. If you’re in a position to dish it out — like I have done —you’re in a position to take it. I would never hide behind my status as a grad student to protect myself from criticism, even when it’s unfair. But Stanley farcically believes that he is the victim of a power imbalance.

Yale professor Nicholas Christakis — who, along with his wife, was himself the victim of mobbing after the Yale Halloween costume scandalgently criticized Stanley based on his ‘impression’ that he had ‘called for retraction more than once of papers you disagree with, sometimes allegedly…without even reading them’.

Power imbalance alert! Yale Chair Professor Stanley was criticized by Yale Chair Professor Christakis, who has a slightly fancier title! Stanley retorted: ‘given that you are the single most powerful faculty member at my university, maybe falsely suggesting that I [advocated retraction] is a bit problematic’.

The kerfuffle died down after a few days. The editors of Philosophical Psychology published a statement saying they would not be cowed. Then, last Monday, I noticed a headline on Daily Nous, ‘Countenancing Segregation Based on Imaginary Science’.

‘I wonder what that’s about’, I thought to myself. Surprise: it was about me! It was a guest post by two philosophers of science at the University of Pittsburgh claiming that my paper ‘countenanc[es] segregation’ and ‘includes arguments as to why we might have to consider reintroduction of apartheid schemes’. These are heinous lies. My paper says nothing about ‘segregation’ or ‘apartheid’. In fact, it considers ways to counteract racism and stereotyping.

Professor Weinberg had taken the extremely unusual move of preemptively disabling the Daily Nous comments section, so no one could correct the record. Many thousands of philosophers will now read and perhaps take as fact the claim that I argue for ‘apartheid schemes’. Only a small number will read the paper from beginning to end to see if it’s true. The petition to discredit me by forcing the journal editors to retract my paper, apologize or resign has failed, and even now has barely passed 100 signatories. Plan B appears to be canceling me by spreading outright lies.

As I observed in the paper that triggered this backlash, ‘philosophers are strongly disincentivized from pursuing lines of argument that lead to truly controversial conclusions’. Now we have seen just how far some defenders of the orthodoxy will go to punish taboo violators: if you cross the ideological line, one of the most high-profile news sites in the discipline will accuse you of supporting apartheid and deny you the opportunity to respond. It’s time to start pushing back against those who use underhanded tactics to enforce taboos — in philosophy and other fields.

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Like I told Rebecca privately, It is at my institution, but I am not at alll involved in the clinical education. I do sit in a leadership group where these issues have been discussed, but feel very reluctant to talk about what happens there. It also may not add much, since that would be very much second hand gossip.

First I heard of it was actually via the daily newspaper in Souther Sweden. The picture in that initial one was that this was this awful bordering on abusive course (and since long controversial - even before this teacher got involved). Students were upset, and comment from our chair was that it was not a good working climate for the students. It also mentioned that the course was based on the Tavistock method, which is grounded in Psychoanalysis. I found a description here: https://www.ilnodogroup.it/en/areas-of-activity/work-method/tavistock-method Claim is that it is not particularly evidence based, and based on old theories that have since been surpassed.

The teacher in question (who I don’t know - he is hired in specifically to teach this course and is otherwise a management consultant), went out in the same newspaper (Sydsvenskan) and claimed that his aim was to “cure” or “confront” the students from Political Correctness (ok, so that was grammatically awkward, but never mind). He has since both reported himself as well as the studierektor and chair of the program. Who knows what will happen.

In some channels there has also been claims that just like academic freedom there is a need for teacher freedom… Here I just can’t agree, because they are very different domains. Academic freedom is the freedom to ask whatever questions you please of the universe. In teaching your are tasked to convey information to other people, and there are some real limitations here. There is an art to teaching, but there are ways to teach badly that you may want to avoid. There is also a lot of regulation around this - we have learning goals that we need to teach towards, and we do get evaluated by the students (never mind all the issues surrounding that).

Of course, if you are going to be a clinician you need to be able to handle all sorts of other people, and you may need to be trained to do so. I’m not sure if being in a learning situation where you feel really horrible is the thing that will do it (which is what the students who opted out claimed, and the narratives were believeable enough that they were allowed).

I don’t know where this will go, and I think this is what I can divulge so far. We have nothing like that on the educational side where I’m involved, but we are not training clinicians.

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In The Atlantic yesterday:

“Next they were asked: If confronted with an especially objectionable viewpoint, how appropriate would it be to take a series of actions, such as asking a tough question, publishing a dissent, or more extreme measures? An alarming 25.5 percent of survey respondents said it would be appropriate to “create an obstruction, such that a campus speaker endorsing this idea could not address an audience.” This authoritarian view was held by about 19 percent of self-identifying liberals, 3 percent of moderates, and 3 percent of conservatives.”

Dear Researchers,

something from the Polish academia:

In 2019, the Polish press for the first time described the situation of students of sociology at the University of Silesia who appealed to the rector against the lectures of sociologist Ewa Budzyńska. During the classes “Intergenerational ties in world families”, the professor argued that the use of contraception is antisocial behavior, a normal, proper family always consists of a man and a woman, gender ideology is simmilar to communism, and sending a child to nursery is cruel and inappropriate. The university began an investigation. Then, it referred the matter to its disciplinary board. The spokesman said that the professor should be punished for imposing her own views on students. Before the disciplinary hearing, Budzyńska terminated the employment contract with the university by mutual agreement.

Her case inspired the Minister of Science and Education in Poland, Gowin, to propose amendments to the Act on Higher Education. Their aim is to limit the freedom of the rector to decide what lectures or meetings can take place at the university. Guests or lecturers dissatisfied with the cancellation of the meeting or protests against them will be able to appeal to a committee composed of specialists appointed by the minister.

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