Kirsten Powers: The Age Of Un-Enlightenment

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When people are afraid to express their opinions because they’ve seen other people treated as deviants deserving of public shaming or worse, they will be less likely to speak freely

The following is an edited excerpt from Kirsten Powers’ new book, The Silencing.

The illiberal left isn’t just ruining reputations and lives with their campaigns of delegitimization and disparagement. They are harming all of society by silencing important debates, denying people the right to draw their own conclusions, and derailing reporting and research that is important to our understanding of the world. They are robbing culture of the diversity of thought that is so central to learning and discovery.

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“Open-minded inquiry into the problems of the Black family was shut down for decades, precisely the decades in which it was most urgently needed,” Haidt said. “Only in the last few years have sociologists begun to acknowledge that Moynihan was right all along.”

 — Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt

It’s sadly ironic that so many of the illiberal left view themselves as rational, intellectual, fact-based thinkers and yet have fully embraced a dogmatic form of un-enlightenment. Deviating from lefty ideology is equated to heresy and academic inquiry is too often secondary to ideological agendas.

[Jason L. Riley: Will Liberals Ever Forgive Daniel Patrick Moynihan for Being Right?]

The illiberal left insert ideologically driven statistics into the media and academic bloodstream and then accuse anyone who questions them of silencingdiabolical motives. When researchers make discoveries supporting the wrong ideological conclusion, the character assassination and intimidation begin.

[Order Kirsten Powers book The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech” from Amazon.com]

In a 2011 speech, then-University of Virginia social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who describes himself politically as a “liberal turned centrist,” explained, “If a group circles around sacred values, they’ll evolve into a tribal-moral community. They’ll embrace science whenever it supports their sacred values, but they’ll ditch it or distort it as soon as it threatens a sacred value.”

“Sacralizing distorts thinking. Sacred values bind teams together, and then blind them to the truth. That’s fine if you are a religious community… but this is not fine for scientists.”

The illiberal left likes to accuse conservatives and religious people of doing this, but ignores the central role it plays in their own determination to reinforce their ideological beliefs. Haidt pointed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was labeled a racist for a 1965 report he produced as assistant secretary of Labor in the Kennedy administration.

[Read more here, at The Daily Caller]

The report rang alarm bells about the rise of unmarried parenthood among African Americans, and called for government policies to address the issue. “Open-minded inquiry into the problems of the Black family was shut down for decades, precisely the decades in which it was most urgently needed,” Haidt said. “Only in the last few years have sociologists begun to acknowledge that Moynihan was right all along. Sacralizing distorts thinking. Sacred values bind teams together, and then blind them to the truth. That’s fine if you are a religious community… but this is not fine for scientists.”

“We are hurting ourselves when we deprive ourselves of critics, of people who are as committed to science as we are, but who ask different questions, and make different background assumptions.”

Haidt believes that the fact that conservatives are underrepresented by “a ratio of two or three hundred to one” in social psychology “is evidence that we are a tribal moral community that actively discourages conservatives from entering.” Allowing for more diversity of ideological thought would lead to “better science and freer thinking,” concluded Haidt. This argument doesn’t just apply to academia. It applies to any facet of society where non-liberal views are deemed out of bounds.

When people are afraid to express their opinions because they’ve seen other people treated as deviants deserving of public shaming or worse, they will be less likely to speak freely. This already happens in newsrooms and academia, where people hide their religious or political views in water cooler conversation for fear of discrimination, or ultimately just opt out of the hostile work environments altogether….(read more)

The Daily Caller



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