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. Read the rest of this entry »


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

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Still Right on the Black Family After All These Years 

Jason L. RileyJason L. Riley writes: Next month marks the 50th anniversary of the future senator’s report on the black family, the controversial document issued while he served as an assistant secretary in President Lyndon Johnson’s Labor Department. Moynihan highlighted troubling cultural trends among inner-city blacks, with a special focus on the increasing number of fatherless homes.

“History has proved that Moynihan was onto something. When the report was released, about 25% of black children and 5% of white children lived in a household headed by a single mother. During the next 20 years the black percentage would double and the racial gap would widen. Today more than 70% of all black births are to unmarried women, twice the white percentage.”

“The fundamental problem is that of family structure,” wrote Moynihan, who had a doctorate in sociology. “The evidence—not final but powerfully persuasive—is that the Negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling.”

[Check out Jason Riley’s book Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed” at Amazon]

For his troubles, Moynihan was denounced as a victim-blaming racist bent on undermining the civil-rights movement. Even worse, writes Harvard’s Paul Peterson in the current issue of the journal Education Next, Moynihan’s “findings were totally ignored by those who designed public policies at the time.” The Great Society architects would go on to expand old programs or formulate new ones that exacerbated the problems Moynihan identified. Marriage was penalized and single parenting was subsidized. In effect, the government paid mothers to keep fathers out of the home—and paid them well.

“Economists and policy analysts of the day worried about the negative incentives that had been created,” writes Mr. Peterson. “Analysts estimated that in 1975 a household head would have to earn $20,000”—or an inflation-adjusted $88,000 today—“to have more resources than what could be obtained from Great Society programs.”

“The most critical factor affecting the prospect that a male youth will encounter the criminal justice system is the presence of his father in the home.”

— William Comanor and Llad Phillips

History has proved that Moynihan was onto something. When the report was released, about 25% of black children and 5% of white children lived in a household headed by a single mother. During the next 20 years the black percentage would double and the racial gap would widen. Today more than 70% of all black births are to unmarried women, twice the white percentage.

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Daniel Patrick Moynihan, right, an urban affairs adviser to President Richard M. Nixon, left, in 1970.

For decades research has shown that the likelihood of teen pregnancy, drug abuse, dropping out of school and many other social problems grew dramatically when fathers were absent. One of the most comprehensive studies ever done on juvenile delinquency—by William Comanor and Llad Phillips of the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2002—concluded that “the most critical factor affecting the prospect that a male youth will encounter the criminal justice system is the presence of his father in the home.”

[Also see – Moynihan in His Own Words New York Times, September 19, 2010]

Ultimately, the Moynihan report was an attempt to have an honest conversation about family breakdown and black pathology, one that most liberals still refuse to join. Read the rest of this entry »