Response From A Conservative (guest post by Philippe Lemoine)
The following is a guest post* by Philippe Lemoine, a graduate student in philosophy at Cornell University. It’s a response to a post by Les Green (Oxford) published here yesterday, “Because They Are Universities” (originally published at Green’s blog under the title “Why it is hard to be a campus conservative“). Lemoine’s response, below, was first published at his blog, Nec Pluribus Impar.
It’s Not Hard For Conservatives To Be On Campus Because They’re Stupid, It’s Hard Because You Are
by Philippe Lemoine
Leslie Green, professor of philosophy at Oxford, recently published a post on his blog called “Why it is hard to be a campus conservative”. I said elsewhere that I have rarely come across anything that was both condescending and stupid to the extent this post is, but that’s not exactly true, because I have already heard the kind of things Green says in this post countless times in conversation. The only difference is that he lacked the good sense not to write it down. I could also have added that his post was incredibly tone-deaf, something that should be obvious to anyone who is familiar with the reasons conservatives have to complain about how they are being treated on campus, which Green evidently isn’t. It was also featured as a guest post on Daily Nous, where it drew a lot of criticism in the comments. (On Daily Nous, the post’s title was changed to “Because they are universities”, which somehow manages to make it even more condescending than it already was.) Given how much criticism this post has already received, if I were a better man, I may have just left it at that. But I’m not, so I won’t. Moreover, this will be the occasion to make a few points about the left-wing bias in academia, which I think are important.
Green claims that, when conservatives complain that universities have been taken over by “liberals” and that faculty/students of “conservative” opinion are afraid to speak up (I’ll come back to the significance of the fact that he put scare quotes around both “liberal” and “conservative”), what they mean is that universities are full of people who believe things like:
- Species arose through natural selection.
- No author of any gospel ever met Jesus.
- Homosexuality is a normal variant in human behaviour.
- The United States lost a war against Vietnam.
- Human activity is a significant cause of climate change.
- The United States has worse public health than do countries with nationalized health care.
Even more threatening to conservatives, according to Green, is that people at universities insist that belief should be proportionate to evidence and formed in a rational way. (Note that, at this point, there are no more scare quotes around the word “conservative”.) This is a pretty common explanation of both why conservatives are underrepresented in academia and why they complain about the way they are being treated. It’s also remarkably ignorant and stupid.
First, although several of the examples Green mentions, such as the belief that species arose through natural selection, are indeed clearly true, not all of them are. Not only is the claim that the US has worse public health than countries with nationalized health care not a “banal truth”, as Green calls it on his blog, but it’s not a truth at all. For instance, healthcare in Russia is largely provided by the state and the Constitution states that every citizen has a right to free healthcare, but public health in Russia is definitely not better than in the US. Perhaps Green was just talking about countries that not only have nationalized healthcare, but are comparable to the US in terms of economic development. Although this may be true, it’s a rather uninteresting claim unless they have better public health than the US because they have nationalized health care, so I’m guessing that it’s what Green meant and it’s indeed a widely shared belief on American campuses. The problem is that it’s hardly obvious, because there are large differences in lifestyle between Americans and people in other developed countries where healthcare is nationalized, which could explain the difference in health outcomes.
I’m not even saying it’s not true that a nationalized healthcare system would improve public health in the US. (I’m personally agnostic on that question. Not because I’m not familiar with the evidence, but precisely because I am, which I’m afraid is more than I can say about Green. Moreover, as I explained a few months ago, public health is not the only consideration in this debate.) I’m just saying that, if you think reasonable people can’t disagree about that, it’s either because you’re a fool or because you’re not familiar with the evidence and the methodological difficulties that are involved in settling this question. I’ll let you decide which is the most likely explanation in Green’s case, but while you’re pondering this, keep in mind they are not mutually exclusive. Anyway, it’s bad enough that some of the things Green think are “banal truths” may not be true at all, but this is hardly the most important problem with his post.
Perhaps the most problematic aspect of Green’s post is that, despite what he believes, most conservatives do not complain about liberal bias on American campuses because they are full of people who believe that evolution is true or that the US lost a war against Vietnam. They complain about liberal bias on American campuses because they are full of people who think conservatives are just cretins who are incapable of forming their beliefs in a rational way and have no problem saying so on a regular basis. In short, they complain about liberal bias on American campuses because they are full of ignorant fools like Green, who know next to nothing about what conservatives actually believe. Green’s lazy rant is a perfect illustration of why it’s hard to be a conservative on campus. Of course, he didn’t do it on purpose, but that doesn’t make his post any less valuable.
Conservatives also complain because right-wing intellectuals are regularly prevented from speaking on American campuses by unhinged, illiberal left-wing thugs, who sometimes don’t hesitate to resort to violence. They point out that large segments of academia have become hotbeds of activism posing as scholarly enterprises. In other words, far from complaining because universities are places where people are devoted to the rational search for the truth, they complain because universities increasingly are not. I should add that conservatives are right about that and that one doesn’t need to be a conservative to worry about that. I know plenty of liberals who find the politicization of universities extremely concerning. You have to live in a parallel universe to deny that it’s a problem.
If Green actually listened to what conservatives say when they complain about liberal bias on campuses, he would know that, but it’s clear that he has no idea what conservatives really think and that he is only familiar with a caricature. When I say that, people often retort that it’s because I’m a European conservative, who isn’t even religious and isn’t really familiar with American conservatism. So if that’s what you’re inclined to say, I’m going to stop you right there. I’m far more familiar with American conservatism than any American liberal I know. I read American conservative publications every day, know many American conservatives personally and have read countless books about American conservatism. (I also listen to Democracy Now and read plenty of left-wing sources.) I even watch Fox News on a regular basis, so I’m quite familiar with the kind of things American conservatives say when they complain about liberal bias on campuses, which is clearly more than I can say about Green and people who take his post seriously.
This bias is a real problem that should concern everyone and deserves better than Green’s idiotic post. I’m one of a handful of openly right-wing people in academia, so I’m in a particularly good position to talk about it. In my experience, people who aren’t conservative have no idea what kind of shit those who are have to deal with in academia on a daily basis, which is part of the problem. Universities worry a lot about micro-aggressions, implicit bias, etc. against women and minorities. But there is nothing “micro” or “implicit” about the hostility conservatives have to face on campus. Nobody goes around campuses saying that women and black people are stupid, but not a day goes by on campus without people saying that about conservatives. In my field, conservatives are so afraid to speak up that some of them have created secret groups, where they can say what they think without fear of reprisal. Just think for a second about how toxic the environment must be in order for things to have come to that.
And don’t tell me that conservatives just need to grow a pair and speak up more often. I actually agree that conservatives in academia should speak up more often, but most people who say that have no idea how difficult it is, because they never had to face the kind of hostility that conservatives in academia have to deal with. Everyone is a war hero until they actually go to war. Moreover, conservatives aren’t the only ones who are afraid to say what they think in academia, the problem is far more widespread than that. One of the advantages of being so outspoken is that everyone tells me what they really think, because they know I don’t give a shit and don’t have to worry that I’m going to repeat it. You have no idea how many people have reached out to me privately to thank me for saying things nobody else will. Most of them are conservatives, but many are liberals, who have views that are at odds with the zeitgeist and don’t feel comfortable expressing them. Often, they don’t even agree with what I’m saying, but they’re just glad that someone is saying it so they can have another viewpoint. Which brings me to why the liberal bias on campuses is bad even for people who aren’t conservative.
The problem with political bias, no matter who it’s directed against, is that it makes people who share the dominant view stupid and uninformed. Most of the things liberal academics think are obvious really aren’t obvious at all, but they don’t know that, because they rarely get to hear the other side. And they rarely get to hear the other side not because conservatives have nothing to say against their arguments, but more often than not because they are just afraid to say what they think. As a result, intelligent conservatives in academia are typically in a much better epistemic position than similarly intelligent liberals, because they are familiar with the best arguments for the views they disagree with, whereas liberals are robbed of this opportunity by the fact that conservatives don’t feel comfortable speaking freely.
As people who read this blog know, I’m strongly in favor of restrictionism about immigration, a view that most academics think is not only misguided but obviously false and morally repugnant. The problem is that I have read and thought a lot about immigration. Moreover, because almost everyone around me thinks restrictionism is wrong, I’m very familiar with their arguments. But they’re not familiar with mine, because they have almost never met anyone who disagreed with them on that issue and wasn’t afraid to say it. So when I have a debate about someone about that, it usually becomes really embarrassing very quickly, but not for me. In almost every case, I know exactly what they’re going to say. I know what studies they’re going to cite and, since I have actually read them (which is rarely the case of my interlocutors), I can explain why they don’t show what they think they show.
To be clear, although I think I’m right about immigration, I’m not saying that I’m obviously right. Precisely because I have read and thought a lot about it, I know this debate involves many complicated issues, both empirical and philosophical. My point is that, because of the liberal bias on campuses, most academics don’t know that. They think it’s obviously true that restrictionism about immigration is both intellectually and morally bankrupt, which is why they typically look like fools when they have a debate about this with someone who actually has a grasp of how complex the issue really is. Of course, I’m not saying that nobody on the pro-immigration side of that debate knows what they’re talking about, I know some who do. But I don’t know many of them and that’s really not surprising given the abuse people who defend a restrictionist position are subjected to.
Nobody benefits from this state of affairs. This isn’t just bad because it makes academics politically uninformed. There is plenty of evidence that it actually affects their scholarship and make it worse than it would otherwise be. There has been a healthy conversation about this in social psychology, a field that heavily leans left, where some researchers have demonstrated that the lack of diversity harmed the field. This was the impetus for the creation of Heterodox Academy, which seeks to remedy this problem in academia. Unless you have a completely unrealistic view of human cognition, you have to realize that any environment that leans so heavily toward one side of the political spectrum, far from being a place where belief is proportionate to evidence, will be epistemically suboptimal. Echo chambers aren’t exactly ideal environments to discover the truth about anything. If you don’t want to take seriously the liberal bias on campuses, that’s fine with me, but then don’t complain when people elect a vulgarian like Trump or when Republicans defund universities.
Finally, I want to reply to one point some people have made in defense of Green’s post, because it adds insult to injury. Both he and other people have claimed that his critics were misguided because he wasn’t talking about conservatives in general but only about a specific type of conservative. It’s true that, in his post, he occasionally qualifies his claims with vague expressions such as “a certain kind of conservative”. But he doesn’t always do that and, in any case, this is largely beside the point. You don’t write a post called “Why it is hard to be a campus conservative” if all you want to do is point out that people who form their beliefs in a totally irrational way, which is the case of only a small proportion of the people who complain that it’s hard to be a conservative on campus (at least it’s not larger than the proportion of people who deny it’s a problem and form their beliefs in the same irrational way), are bound to be uncomfortable in places such as universities, which are supposed to be dedicated to the rational search for the truth.
Are there conservatives who complain that it’s hard to be conservative on campus for bad reasons? Well of course there are, plenty of them even. But that their reasons are bad is obvious, so when you write a post which you claim is about why it’s hard to be conservative on campus and only address those reasons, you are in effect suggesting that conservatives don’t also have plenty of good reasons to complain that it’s hard to be a conservative on campus. If that’s not what you think, then why not address the interesting reasons people have to complain that it’s hard to be a conservative on campus, instead of writing a post on reasons nobody intelligent cares about? Even if it were true that most conservatives complain about the liberal bias on campuses for the reasons Green seems to think, which it isn’t, it would still not be why most conservative academics, who aren’t typical of conservatives in general anymore than liberal academics are typical of liberals in general, complain about it. This defense of Green’s post is a classic case of gaslighting. It will only work against imbeciles, but despite what Green seems to think, most conservatives aren’t imbeciles.
This is a great post.Report
Does calling Green an “ignorant fool”, and those who protest right-wing speeches “unhinged, illiberal, left-wing thugs” exemplify the kind of free speech you yearn for? Those “illiberal thugs” are seeking to inhibit speech that tends to silence the speech of particular groups. This is simply in the American spirit of giving individuals and groups the greatest possible freedom up to the point at which that freedom threatens the freedom of others.Report
“inhibit speech that tends to silence the speech of particular groups”
This is the part where you lose us.Report
I would genuinely like to know why that is. Take the example of “redlining”, the practice of drawing boundaries on a map, and denying loans to people seeking to, for instance, buy a home in a, say, predominantly African-American neighborhood. This is a purely economical decision on the part of bank, and that is just to say that it is a practice that is rational within the institution of lending–as such, it is an example of institutionalized racism. We know how such explanations are met by the sorts of conservatives whose speech is objected to (Milo, Ann Coulter, etc.). The explanation is dismissed as “playing the race card”, and so on. So the observation itself is denied by the kind of silencing technique I’m talking about, and that is unacceptable.Report
It’s clear that malicious actors can hide bad intentions behind supposedly neutral language.
It’s also clear that (other) malicious actors are willing to use that fact to suppress moral and political messages with which they don’t agree, regardless of the legitimacy or well-groundedness of those messages.Report
That’s true. I chose to focus on the idea of “illiberal thugs” (as the author of the original post puts it) shouting down conservative pundits. But the main point, which I think the author himself distracts the reader from, is that conservative points of view (and their holders) tend to be immediately dismissed as illegitimate in a knee-jerk way on most university campuses. Part of the problem, I think, is that legitimate, interesting conservative ideas are rendered invisible by very public spokespersons who presume to speak on behalf of the conservative, and whose intentions really are malicious (misogynist, white supremacist, etc.)Report
Are you suggesting we all come together to banish the Ann Coulters of the world so that, afterward, the “acceptable” right-wing views are able to be heard without distraction?
No thanks. Left-wingers labor under no such restriction and I won’t either.Report
No, I’m suggesting that the conservative should join progressives in protesting the Ann Coulters of the world–assuming they as conservatives reject points of view that mask malicious intentions under the mantle of a conservative political identity.Report
Again, no thanks. Leftists don’t do that to left-wing speakers.
Nice try with guilt-by-association though. “Don’t you reject the liquidation of the Kulaks? Surely you don’t harbor that left-wing bloodlust in your heart!?!”Report
I made no suggestion of guilt-by-association. I’m simply saying that there are people who call themselves “conservatives” (e.g. Ann Coulter) who harbor malicious intentions and that those intentions ought to be reason enough for the non-Coulter conservative to explicitly reject those views. Furthermore, I cannot think of a left-wing analogy–which left-wing pundits should I protest, and what malicious actions are they guilty of? There is no current-day, American analogy to the treatment of the Kulaks that I know of, nor do I know of any self-described “progressive” or “liberal” who hijacks those labels for the purpose of tacitly promoting inequality or other social ills.Report
I’m just a hayseed dummy, so “conservatives must condemn Ann Coulter publicly, or else they’re guilty too” seems like guilt-by-association to me.
Let me simply repeat the relevant point, with which you haven’t engaged at all:
“It’s also clear that (other) malicious actors are willing to use that fact to suppress moral and political messages with which they don’t agree, regardless of the legitimacy or well-groundedness of those messages.”Report
“Leftists don’t do that [condemn extremism] to left-wing speakers.”
“But the other side does it” is not a very good defense of bad behavior.Report
No it’s not, but I’m under no obligation to disavow a list of right-wingers if I’m to get a fair hearing in the Academy. My claims and arguments should be judged on their merits.Report
I should have said:
“I *should* be under no obligation to disavow … if I’m to get a fair hearing…”Report
“This is a purely economical decision on the part of bank”
That’s just factually wrong.Report
Those “illiberal thugs” are seeking to inhibit speech that tends to silence the speech of particular groups
= = =
The lack of self-awareness in this comment just says everything.Report
By “lack of self-awareness” I assume you mean that I have tried to justify the silencing of individuals in the same sentence in which I decried silencing as such. If so, then answer this question. If I disrupt a speaking appearance by a self-described conservative who promotes views that deny the existence of, say, institutional racism–thus making talk of institutional racism sound crazy or confused (i.e. silencing such talk)–have I promoted the ideal of freedom of expression or have I hindered it?Report
(Claiming “P doesn’t exist” doesn’t silence someone who says “here are some examples of P”. It just marks a disagreement.)Report
That logic doesn’t work in the pragmatics of political speech. If x is presented as a paradigm case of a P (say, x = my example of redlining, above), then the denial of Ps (instances of institutional racism)–as an intention to deceive and thus maintain power–ought to be inhibited.Report
Who decides whether it’s deception or earnest? There’s a lot of power in that guy’s hands….Report
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?Report
Ok…rather than saying, “ought to be inhibited”, I should say “ought to be challenged”–but I think this equally applies to the conservative who rejects the deceptive and/or malicious speech of the Ann Coulters of the world.Report
Then you’re changing your entire argument. “Challenged” is not the same as disrupting a speaker and preventing them from speaking.Report
If I disrupt a speaking appearance by a self-styled nominalist who promotes views that deny the existence of, say, numbers–thus making talk of numbers sound crazy or confused (i.e., silencing such talk)-have I promoted the ideal of freedom of expression or have I hindered it?Report
See above. That’s not political speech, where deception has a pragmatic effect on social power-relations.Report
I’d try further parodies involving political speech (e.g., utlitarians denying the existence of rights, making talk of rights sound crazy or confused, thus “silencing” rights-talk), but I worry that you’d just bite the bullets.Report
Does expression exclude disruptive expression? Why can’t expression be disruptive? Nobody said an expression of a belief has to be neat and tidy, or friendly, or rational, or expressed in a formal argument.Report
Assaulting a speaker “silences” him. The speaker saying something doesn’t “silence” anyone.
You can engage in Orwellian manipulations all you want. That doesn’t mean we are going to buy it.Report
I do not understand why Daily Nous has taken on itself to turn itself into yet another venue for people to shout ill-spirited and one-eyed nonsense at each other. The internet is massively oversupplied with such venues, and nobody is benefited by any of them. The headline (I will charitably suppose it’s the editors that supplied this idiotic nonsense, and not the author) is as bad an example as any you’ll find on the internet. This is roundly an embarrassment for all involved.
Regarding the pernicious rubbish that *the single example* of Russia shows that public healthcare isn’t more efficient (even though all the most efficient providers of healthcare are public systems), the fact that the editors of this blog allowed fit to publish something that said ‘the claim that X tends to do better at Y is false, because Z is X and not Y’ reflects badly not only on the content of the piece but also the content of their increasingly misguided editorial policy. At our philosophy we teach first-year general education students that this is paradigmatically bad critical thinking, and the editors shouldn’t give it any better treatment.Report
At our philosophy department, we also learn about the importance of reading comprehension and putting the argument in the context it is given. If you wish to practice these skills, perhaps you should respond to the rest of his point rather than attacking an argument out of the context it was given. Here is the remainder of his point if you need a reminder:
“Perhaps Green was just talking about countries that not only have nationalized healthcare, but are comparable to the US in terms of economic development. Although this may be true, it’s a rather uninteresting claim unless they have better public health than the US because they have nationalized health care, so I’m guessing that it’s what Green meant and it’s indeed a widely shared belief on American campuses. The problem is that it’s hardly obvious, because there are large differences in lifestyle between Americans and people in other developed countries where healthcare is nationalized, which could explain the difference in health outcomes.”Report
This attempted recontextualisation doesn’t help in the slightest. The claim ‘the analogy between X and Y can’t be made because there is a difference Z between X and Y’ is a mistake of the same kind as the first one I surveyed, and similarly the kind of thing that should make this kind of screed unpublishable.
The claim is that we can’t compare the health outcomes of the US with countries like Australia or Britain or France or New Zealand because of lifestyles differences. Two points. Firstly, it’s unclear why differences between the US and especially Australia, the UK, and NZ, are meant to entirely wash away what we may learn by the comparison: in many of the relevant respects (obesity, extent of activity, diet, etc.) these are very close comparisons. If the only comparison class here was with nations like Singapore, then maybe, but of course Singapore isn’t the only nation to compare to. Secondly, the impact of lifestyle differences is itself an intensely studied topic: it’s not the kind of thing we just throw our hands up into the air and say ‘well, there’s this confounding factor, who knows what the real answer is?!’ This is a lamentable and disingenuous tactic of pretending you know less than you do in order to avoid uncomfortable truths. It has no place in this or any other discussion which has at least pretensions of being informed and considered.Report
I never claimed that it was impossible to separate the effects of differences between healthcare systems from the effect of differences in lifestyles, so you’re just making that up. I only said that it was extremely complicated and that; in part because of that, what kind of healthcare system would have what kind of effects in such and such a context is a question about which reasonable people can disagree.
It’s not my fault if you can’t read what I wrote and ascribe to me things I never said by summarizing my view as “well, there’s this confounding factor, who knows what the real answer is?!”
I also said that, if you don’t think reasonable people can disagree about that, then you clearly aren’t familiar with the evidence and the methodological challenges involved in adjudicating this question. And I pointed out that the effect of the healthcare system on public health wasn’t the only relevant consideration in deciding what kind of healthcare system to have. This is all true.Report
That was a response to the previous commentor’s attempted recontextualisation. I don’t think your claim was that the one that the other commentor made. I think you are also guilty of what-about-ism, but not the kind which that commentor is guilty of.
The point is that these methodological difficulties you mention, which are all there, are explicitly and extensively discussed by people in that debate, and after having discussed these the conclusion is that at they very least it is highly probably that public systems are more efficient. The reasons for that conclusion are straightforward: despite the confounders, there are very clear indications that public systems tend to be more efficient at the provision of healthcare: not least of all, all the most efficient providers are publicly funded, and none are privately funded. In cases where nations are relatively similar to each other, like US/Britain/Australia/NZ, the comparison between privately and publicly funded systems . Even within the same system, the privately funded bits often are less efficient than the publically funded bits, e.g. the publically funded segments of the US healthcare system are more efficient than the rest, and in places like NZ where some healthcare is privately provided, it is less efficiently provided than the publically funded bits. Your mention of *a single example* does nothing to undermine this conclusion, because the conclusion is made already in recognition of the kinds of difficulties you gesture towards. You’re not telling anybody anything they don’t already know.Report
Sorry, I left one sentence incomplete. I meant:
“In cases where nations are relatively similar to each other, like US/Britain/Australia/NZ, the comparison between privately and publicly funded systems typically indicates the greater efficiency of the publicly funded systems’.Report
The US is not comparable to any other developed countries, because it’s much richer. This is an underappreciated point that makes the kind of comparisons you are alluding to very difficult. See for instance this post and the analysis by Random Critical Analysis I briefly discuss in it for what I mean by that. Now look at the kind of international comparisons you were talking about and tell me how many of them adequately deals with the conclusions of this analysis, such as the inadequacy of GDP per capita as a control, the strength of the relationship between AIC and both the volume and price of healthcare, as well as the fact that it’s probably not linear. I can guarantee you that not many of them do and that few people know that. As for the claim that the publicly-funded healthcare part of the US healthcare system is more efficient than the private part, it’s absolutely not true that there is a consensus on this. I don’t say that because I’m unfamiliar with the arguments you have in mind, I’m quite familiar with them. On the other hand, I don’t think you are familiar with the fact that many people disagree with them, for reasons that aren’t obviously ridiculous. See for example this very short piece by Avik Roy, on the claim that Medicare’s administrative costs are much lower than in the private insurance sector. To be clear, I’m not citing that article as if it was the final word on this. We aren’t going to solve that issue here, precisely because it’s very complicated, which is all I’m trying to say. (I haven’t even gotten into the difficult issue of the various ways in which efficiency can be defined and how difficult it is to decide which is the relevant one to use for this debate, assuming there is even a unique best metric for this.) Even if it were true that Medicare is more efficient than private insurance, it doesn’t follow that public health would improve if the US switched to a Medicare-for-all system, because such a change would have large systemic effects on the healthcare industry that involve all sorts of additional complications. Again, if you think there is no room for rational disagreement on that issue, you really are fooling yourself. I’m not even a declared opponent of a single-payer system. Like I say in the post, I’m genuinely agnostic on that issue, precisely because even though I have read quite a bit about it, I feel that I would need to read and think a lore more about it before I’m comfortable have a firm opinion on that.Report
I don’t seem able to respond to your post directly, but since I don’t have any interest in having a discussion with you, that’s fine. My first complain is to the Daily Nous, for fanning on your and Green’s ill-tempered and one-eyed screeds: a pox on both your houses, as far as I am concerned, and a double load of pox on the Daily Nous for making your problems ours.
Your post is lengthy and detailed, and doesn’t answer the concerns at all. Again, you list a series of confounders. Again, all of this is well-known. Again, the general view that public systems are more efficient than private holds *in explicit recognition of these confounders*. Your argument here seems to be explicitly ‘there are all these confounders, who knows what the right answer is meant to be’, the argument you tried to explicitly disavow earlier. But these confounders are well known and already taken into consideration by the people in the debate. This is wilful ignorance masquerading as wisdom.
Some of the things you say is so bizarre that they deserve to be challenged. You complain that the US being rich is a problem, but Norway, one country which is richer than the US, also has a public system, and one that is dramatically more efficient than the US. It’s true that Medicare may or may not have lower administrative costs than the rest of the system, but it has dramatically lower treatment costs, and that is surely more to the point. It is perfectly possible for it to both be true that ‘public healthcare would likely be more efficient in the US’ and ‘it is not feasible for the US to transition to a public healthcare system now’. What is feasible (politically, economically, etc.) simply isn’t to the point when we evaluate the desirability of those outcomes.
I have no interest in continuing this. Believe whatever you want, that is your issue and not mine. Why the editors of the blog has sought to burden us with your and Green’s petty resentments is beyond my understanding.Report
No, it’s not the case that all I did was listing confounders, and it’s definitely not the case that what I talked about was well-known and accounted for in the literature.
You evidently haven’t read the analysis I told you about. When I say that the relationship between AIC and healthcare expenditures may not be linear, this is not a question about which covariates should be included in the analysis. It’s a question about what kind of model should be used, which is not the same thing.
Similarly, when I point out that, as Random Critical Analysis argues in his post, GDP per capita is a defective measure and should be replaced with AIC, this fact is not well-known. In fact, you involuntary demonstrate this, when you bring up Norway. Norway has a very high GDP per capita, but GDP per capita is a very poor measure to make international comparisons of standards of living, because it’s a high exporter and therefore consumption in Norway is much lower than you would think based on its GDP per capita. In fact, the US has a much higher AIC, which is a good measure of consumption, than Norway and AIC explains healthcare expenditure much better than GDP per capita. Unless you take that into account, which again most people don’t, the comparison you make will be deeply flawed.
This problem is made even more serious by the fact that, as I mentioned above, the relationship between AIC and healthcare expenditure doesn’t seem to be linear.
I also never talked about political feasibility. Once again, you’re just making that up. (As for economic feasibility, I don’t see how you can think that it’s irrelevant. Surely if a single-payer system isn’t economical viable, then it won’t improve public health, at least not in the long-run.) When I’m talking about the disruption of the healthcare industry that switching to a Medicare-for-all system could have, I’m talking about the effects it could have on public health, not about the political feasibility of such a plan. For instance, as you point out yourself without quite realizing the significance of this fact, Medicare pays healthcare providers significantly less than private insurance. If it were to be generalized, it’s not clear what effects it would have on them. If enough of them have to close because their revenues are no longer sufficient to cover their costs, you may not actually improve public health, even if we grant for the sake of the argument that Medicare is currently more efficient than private insurance.
This discussion is a perfect illustration of what I was talking about in my post. You think that something is obvious which really isn’t obvious at all, because you’re unfamiliar with the arguments from the other side. You think you know the debate quite well, but you don’t.Report
The evidence of outcome isn’t clear just by looking at simple data about outcomes:
Consider cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the five-year cancer survival rates for breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, and prostate cancer are significantly higher in the US than in the UK, France, and Canada. Britain’s NHS has particularly embarrassing outcomes for cancer patients when compared to the US. The rates are 88.6% to 81.1% for female breast cancer; 64.7% to 53.8% for colon cancer; 18.7% to 9.6% for lung cancer; and 97.2% to 83.2% for prostate cancer. If, God forbid, you get diagnosed with cancer at some point in your life, you should be very grateful indeed that you don’t have to be treated in the NHS.
Now consider outcomes of cardiovascular disease care. According to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), the 30 day in-hospital mortality rate per 100 hospital discharges is lower in the US than in Britain and France for heart attacks and both haemorrhagic and ischemic strokes. (Wikipedia has a helpful table compiling the data here.) The rate is lower in the US than in Canada for heart attacks and ischemic strokes and is about the same for haemorrhagic strokes. Here’s the data: the death rate for heart attacks is 5.5 in the US, 5.7 in Canada, 6.2 in France, and 7.8 in the UK. The death rate for ischemic stroke is 4.3 in the US, 8.5 in France, 9.7 in Canada, and 10.4 in the UK. The death rate for haemorrhagic stroke is 22.2 in Canada, 22.3 in the US, 24 in France, and 29.6 in the UK.Report
> Consider cancer.
Try child mortality.Report
That isn’t cherry-picking. I identified several different forms of cancer, heart attacks, and strokes. Lots of very specific diseases. A far less meaningful comparison is child mortality, which is defined differently in different countries and is influenced by lots of factors that have nothing whatever to do with health care quality (such as rate of abortion for problem pregnancies, successful deliveries of diseased foetuses (which tens to be more common in the US), etc.). Cancer survival rates, heart attack death rates, etc. are a much better indication of quality and our system almost invariably produces better outcomes for these diseases, which constitute many more deaths.Report
> I identified several different forms of cancer, heart attacks, and strokes. Lots of very specific diseases.
I too prefer to look for my lost car keys near the lampost.
Cancer and strokes are the only tables we see over there:
Which is strange, since it cites the OECD data, which covers quite a bit more:
The long and the short of it is that the US of A spends more as a percentage of GDP than any other country:
Please, tell me more Sikora.Report
1. It is a bit strange to call a quotation of the next sentences in the same paragraph an “attempted recontextualization.” I think the word that you are looking for is “contextualization.”
2. I agree with you about the underlying healthcare claims in substance, but I do not think the other side has to be unreasonable to disagree. Given that Green was arguing that the claim was so obvious that no reasonable person could disagree, you don’t seem to acknowledging that you have to show your position beyond any reasonable doubt. Otherwise, Green’s argument and your objection are unsuccessful in this context.Report
To you I say the same as I told Philippe: the fact that this issue is complicated is news to nobody, but the general opinion that public systems is more efficient that private holds in the explicit recognition of these difficulties. The issues he raises is simply, to use a useful bit of current vernacular, concern-trolling.
I have no interest in defending Green. What I have an interest in is not responding to stupidity and stupidity, and what I am especially interested in is that Daily Nous stops publishing this rubbishReport
To you I say that the fact that it is complicated is why we should listen to people we disagree with, rather than attempting to dunk on them by pulling their positions out of context and calling them “logical fallacies.”Report
Do get rid of the ridiculous suggestion that anybody thinks this isn’t complicated, though. Something can be complicated and yet have a clearly correct answer. The standing of Fermat’s last theorem, or of climate change, for example.
I want to say ‘physician, heal thyself’, but you probably want to say the same. Let’s leave it at that.Report
There’s an obvious difference between nationalized health care in a corrupt country suffering from economic collapse after the fall of the USSR, and the national heath systems of other modern liberal democracies like the UK, France and Canada. This makes it a less appropriate analogy.Report
Anyone who is tired of all this is invited to check out the following proposal: https://www.academia.edu/34599504/A_proposalReport
“I do not understand why Daily Nous has taken on itself to turn itself into yet another venue for people to shout ill-spirited and one-eyed nonsense at each other. The internet is massively oversupplied with such venues, and nobody is benefited by any of them.”
Exactly one sentence later:
“(I will charitably suppose it’s the editors that supplied this idiotic nonsense),”
“Regarding the pernicious rubbish…”
No further comment necessary, I think.Report
Perhaps I tried too much to be charitable, because while the blog’s headline ‘A Response from a Conservative’ is respectable, the piece’s own title should itself disqualify it as blowhard idiocy.Report
Except there’s nothing idiotic in it. You’re being uncharitable and don’t seem to raise any serious objections to anything in the post. there probably are some but you’re not even pointing them out. You’re failing as a critical commentator and if anything are only making me more sympathetic to the post that are only serving to further prove its point.Report
Yes, you do not appear to be trying to be charitable at all.Report
In case there is any doubt, I think little better of the previous entry in this exchange, none of which can do any identifiable good to any identifiable individual.Report
I would definitely like to hear more about the “violence” conservatives speak of. Is it real or imaginary violence? (Real violence is what refugees and immigrants face, when threatened with rejection or detention and deportation; imaginary violence is what homophobes face when being criticised and refuted with irrefutable evidence.)Report
Does getting bashed in the head with a bike lock count as real violence?Report
If you’re concerned with imaginary violence that *the other side* (i.e. conservatives) might be making up, you might do well to first consider how *your own side* (the left, from the looks of it) speaks of imaginary violence. If I recall, there were a bunch of people on the left shouting up and down, left and right that Rebecca Tuvel’s article was violent. …Really?
Let’s not throw stones. Better yet, perhaps we’d do well to not even sling mud at “the other side” or even pick sides at all. Conversation might actually become a lot more genuine and productive instead of the incoherent mudslinging and refusal to understand that we have now.Report
The only reference to ‘violence’ in the OP was to violence carried out by protesters. He did not say, or even insinuate, that conservatives face violence in the normal course of their everyday lives. So there is no reason whatsoever to think that the ‘violence’ he was referring to was that of being presented with evidence against one’s views.Report
On a spectrum, it’s not as bad as violence refugees suffer but worse than suffering “metaphysical violence.” The latter was enough to make many philosophers tear their cloaks, so the violence at issue here definitely makes the cut.Report
I thought this was a really insightful, though somewhat too aggressive at points, post until the author reached a certain conclusion, which seemed to come out of nowhere. I agree that conservatives are often unfairly biased against in the academy, and feel their speech stifled because of this. Yet, for all the defense the author gives for a well-meaning and nuanced conservative, he then says the following:
“If you don’t want to take seriously the liberal bias on campuses, that’s fine with me, but then don’t complain when people elect a vulgarian like Trump or when Republicans defund universities.”
If conservatives in fact voted for “a vulgarian” because liberals wouldn’t acknowledge the liberal bias on campuses, then they deserve the derision Green laid upon them. Throwing a tantrum is not a well-meaning and nuanced political position to take.Report
Right. Most of the points in the article are well-taken, but at the same time American conservatism has given the world President Trump. When was the last time the left anywhere in the developed world elected a figure that evil and incompetent as a national leader? Combine that with the fact that actually existing conservatism in the US really is full of no-nothing homophobic creationists (not necessarily amongst academics), and it’s no wonder American liberals resent conservatism, and they’re totally right to do so. The problem is that this gets tangled up with left/right issues about the size of the welfare state and the amount of government intervention in the economy, which really are complicated and technical, and on which I suspect Lemoine is right that many American liberals are massively overconfident on. But this is partly because the know-nothing religiosity and frankly, anti-Black sentiment for which ordinary American conservative citizens richly deserve their bad reputation, have tarred right-leaning economic idea with an unfair guilt by association. (Only partly though; even in my own home country-the UK-where the right is somewhat less bigoted and a lot more sane and secular-left-wingers still often behave in the kneejerk way about complicated economic questions that Lemoine is complaining about.)Report
I think you misunderstood my point, but to be fair, it’s my fault since this passage was admittedly ambiguous. My point was not that there wasn’t good reasons to vote for Trump, but only that, if liberals refuse to take seriously the kind of issues I discuss in my post, they make it more likely that someone like Trump will be elected. Whether they are liberal or conservative, most people don’t vote for carefully considered reasons, this claim was just a recognition of this fact. Now, to be clear, although I think he is a vulgarian and a narcissistic clown, I also think there was nevertheless excellent reasons to vote for him. Of course, I know that many liberals think it was obviously wrong to vote for Trump, but this can only be explained by their ignorance. I can totally understand that someone thinks there was a very good case against voting for Trump, but that’s not the same thing as saying it’s obvious that one shouldn’t have voted for Trump. If someone makes that stronger claim, I know he is not familiar with the argument from the other side and that he will look like a fool if he debates with someone who is, because nobody who is familiar with the arguments on the other side and is reasonably intelligent would make such a strong claim.Report
Phillippe, can you give some examples of the ‘excellent reasons’ you believe people had for voting for Trump? Here’s two I’ve heard: the belief that he was less likely to go to war, and the belief that he was more likely to support policies that benefit American workers. But neither of those seemed plausible given the available evidence at the time, and certainly don’t seem plausible now.Report
The fact that he was less likely to start a war with Russia, which is by far the most serious threat to world peace right now, is probably the most important reason for me. Of course, I know that many people share your view that it was implausible then and is even more implausible now, but I think they are just confused. In my experience, they are typically people who spent the past year trying to make sure Bannon would be out of the White House because they have somehow been convinced he was a white supremacist, not realizing that, no matter how distasteful you might find him, he was without a doubt the strongest obstacle to neoconservatives in the administration. (To be clear, I don’t know who you are, so I’m not saying this accurately describes you.) But I have already written several dozens of thousands of words on these issues already, so I’m not going to rehash them here.
If I were American, which God forbid, his stance on immigration would also have counted in his favor. Again, most liberals also think restrictionism is morally wrong, but except for a very small number of them, they are far too uninformed about this for their view to be of any interest. If you are wondering what my view on immigration is and why I’m saying that most liberals are utterly confused about this issue, I plan to publish a series of very detailed posts about it on my blog, where I will criticize at length some of the commonly accepted claims about immigration which I think are false and defend my own position. I hope to publish the first part by the end of the year, but who knows if I will be able to do so. It will focus on Europe, but I think there will also be plenty of interest for Americans, since many of the methodological issues I want to raise are not specific to any country or region in particular.Report
“Of course, I know that many people share your view that it was implausible then and is even more implausible now, but I think they are just confused.”
While I agree with many of the points raised by you, the idea that we would go to war with Russia under any circumstance is actually far less than merely implausible; the chances are possibly slightly INCREASED with Trump as compared to Hillary Clinton because of his irrationality and lack of understanding of the world at large. The immigration restrictionism is simply a moral evil.Report
I agree that the chances of a war with Russia are extremely small, but given how incredibly high the stakes are, even very small chances would freak people out if they were rational. Moreover, while the chances are extremely small, they are much higher than most people imagine, or at least they were before the election. Most people simply didn’t realize how tense the situation was in Syria at the time and how relatively easily an incident over there could have started a very dangerous chain reaction, because they didn’t follow very closely what was going on over there. I also think you are wrong about the fact that Trump makes that more likely than Clinton, because she and her advisers were much more likely to support policies that would make the kind of incidents I was just talking about more likely. But again I don’t expect most people to agree with that, because most people have never heard of Morrell, Flournoy, etc. It may be true that immigration restrictionism is a moral evil, but if you think that’s obvious (to be clear, I’m not sure you do), then I know that you are not in a position to know that, because nobody who knows enough about this debate would make such a strong claim. Only people who haven’t read and/or thought enough about this think it’s obvious that restrictionism is a moral evil. But anyway we aren’t going to settle any of that here. I was just replying to someone who asked me for examples of what I think were good reasons to vote for Trump.Report
I wasn’t addressing immigration restrictionism in general, I was referring to Trump’s confused and spite-driven version of it advertised during the campaign,.
The chances of going to war with Russia over Syria was miniscule; Syria is just not worth it either to the US or Russia to go to war. Clinton’s purported hawkishness has always been overstated on both the right and the left.
But yes, we’re probably not going to hash that out here.Report
Pretty thin reasons.
I agree with you that the threat of US/Russia war is very serious (still is–the news has been quiet for a few months, but I don’t see how Trump being president has reduced the risk much, especially since his missile attacks and deployments of ground troops to Syria, and since he went back on his plan to re-normalize relations).
In general, I think you underestimate the extent to which what’s protected us from nuclear war, thus far, is the intelligence and expertise of the foreign policy elite, including previous commanders in chief. Clinton would have pursued unwise policies in Syria, but at least she would have had the experience and intelligence to negotiate a crisis if one had occurred. So while the odds of a major US/Russia crisis arising may be slightly lower with Trump as president (although I doubt this, given his behavior in Syria as president), the odds of surviving a crisis if one were to occur strike me as obviously much worse under Trump.
At least he has not backed out of NATO obligations as he was threatening to–but what were your grounds for confidence, before the election, that he wouldn’t do so? Or do you think US withdrawal from NATO would increase stability?Report
DC, the relevant issue is not whether Syria is worth going to war over for the US or Russia. The issue is whether events in Syria could precipitate an escalation ultimately leading to a war of misunderstanding or miscalculation.
It was equally true that Soviet short-range missiles in Cuba were not worth going to war over in 1962 for either the US or Russia (Kennedy later remarked that he would not have drawn a line at missiles in Cuba if he had known there were missiles in Cuba). But yet a war almost occurred then.Report
Dave, I am familiar with the dynamics involved — a fair chunk of my academic work has been on international relations — and it’s a “war of misunderstanding or miscalculation” is what I’m saying is very, very implausible. This is not the 1962s; the power disparity between the US and Russia is significantly larger, global interconnections make large-scale wars far more disruptive domestically,
and information availability is exponentially better on both sides leading to both less chance of “misunderstanding” and a far quicker resolution of “misunderstandings” than previously. When Turkey shot down Russia’s Su-24, that didn’t drag those countries to anywhere close to war; you had an escalation of fringe hostilities but no overt war — even though the incident was initiated by the weaker, non-nuclear power.Report
Good points, for sure.
At the same time, there are some countervailing causes for worry, namely Russia’s pretty dramatic move towards a military posture that rests on early use of nuclear weapons (“escalate to de-escalate”) and the degeneration of their early-warning systems since the late Cold War, as well as the reduced size of the Russian ballistic missile submarine fleet and their de facto violation of the INF treaty.
On the whole, of course, this is not 1962 or even 1982 in terms of overall risk. But things are quite a bit worse in that regard now than they were 5 years ago, and it’s not impossible that they will worsen further.
Still, for the reasons you point out, I am much more worried about the situation with N Korea and Iran.Report
Knowing Philippe personally, I think he might object to being called a “conservative” in the title of this post. I assume that was an editorial decision. While he might defend ideas defended by conservatives, and in this post defend conservatives themselves, he has told me personally that, though being right wing, he is not conservative.
Feel free to publish this reply or not, but you might check with him.Report
I appreciate the concern, but I honestly don’t care. It’s true that, for reasons I don’t have time to explain, I often don’t think it’s accurate to describe my views as conservative and prefer to be self-identify as right-wing. But I also find that, in some contexts, calling myself a “conservative” is the easiest way to characterize my position. And I think this is probably such a context, so I have no problem with Justin’s description.Report
If Prof Green misidentified conservative positions, this essay did next to nothing to positively identify genuine conservative thought.Report
How about we start with something like “bourgeois values are not tantamount to white supremacism.”Report
This at least is an articulated position. Since Lemoine objects to Les Green’s list and repeats the claim that non-conservatives are clueless about what conservatives actually believe, he might respond concretely, with his own list. Instead, after longueurs repeatedly making the unhelpful point that those who don’t know what he has in mind are idiots, he gestures in the direction of certain positions (on immigration and health care), and refers to a paper by Haidt et all. But this stops well short of enumeration. Which of the points does Haidt et al make does Lemoine believe fairly represent conservative views? How is the clueless non-conservative reader supposed to know which points Lemoine would oppose to those of Les Green?Report
Why did you expect me to explain what conservatism is? Neither I nor Green wrote a post about what conservatism was, we wrote a post about why conservatives often complain about the liberal bias on campus. I believe I have explained in some details why, according to me, they complain about that. If I ever write a post about what beliefs I think characterize American conservatism, it will probably include a list of beliefs I think characterize American conservatism, but this would be another post.Report
I don’t expect you to do that — I expect you, as an educator, to articulate the positions that you oppose to those of Les Green. You yourself claim that conservatives are misunderstood on account of liberal bias on campus. Read what you wrote. If you care about your readers, you might enumerate a list — which need not amount to an explanation of what conservatism is. A philosopher ought to know the difference.Report
I read what I wrote, thank you very much. I even wrote it. Again, neither I nor Green wrote a post about beliefs that we think characterize American conservatives, we wrote a post about why conservatives often complain about the existence of a liberal bias on campuses. Green claimed that it was because universities are full of people who accept beliefs such as that species arose through natural selection or that the US lost a war in Vietnam. I denied that it was why and offered a different explanation. It seems to me that you just want me to write another post on a different topic, but that’s not what I chose to write this post about, since it was a reply to Green’s post, which itself wasn’t about that. If you want to know what sort of things conservatives believe, you can read conservative publications and talk to conservatives around you. That’s what I do.Report
“Again, neither I nor Green wrote a post about beliefs that we think characterize American conservatives…” this is, I must say it, either disingenuous or intellectually dishonest. You simply refuse to admit that my point is that of course neither of you characterized conservatives–I never once said that–but that Green provided a list, which was not intended as a “characterization of conservatives.” In contrast to Green, you did not provide anything comparable. I even say in my previous comment that such a list, were you to deign to provide one, need not be exhaustive or characterize conservatism.
The point that you missed was that you made a claim, which I believe is correct, that conservatives are misinterpreted on campuses because of liberal bias. Fine. A conscientious writer with some sense would provide some concrete examples. But insisting that a providing a few examples, given the stakes involved amounts to “characterizing conservatism” can fairly be called fatuous.Report
I really don’t know what more to say at this point, except to repeat what I have already said.
It really doesn’t matter whether you’re asking me to provide a list of beliefs that characterize American conservatism or just a list of beliefs that are widely shared among conservatives. And the fact that Green provided a list of beliefs is neither here nor there either. The only reason he provided a list of beliefs is to explain why, according to him, conservatives often complain about liberal bias on American campuses.
That’s what I was responding to, which is why I provided a list, not of beliefs typical of the American right, but of reasons why American conservatives often complain about liberal bias on campus. Again, it just seems to me that you wanted me to write a different post, or one that would address more issues than the ones I chose to address.
I agree that liberals tend to misunderstand both what conservatives believe and, even more importantly, why they believe. But if I wanted to address that issue in even a remotely satisfactory manner, it would take a whole separate post, even if I didn’t try to be exhaustive, which I obviously couldn’t anyway. (See for instance my exchange with Marinus on healthcare above to get a sense of how long it would be just to explain why liberals who think it’s obvious that single-payer healthcare would improve public health.)Report
In order to establish that conservatives are right to complain about liberal bias in the university, it is insufficient to deny Les Green’s observation that many conservatives complain about opinions that do not withstand disciplinary scrutiny, or assert without argument, or without sufficient argument, that Les Green has mischaracterized conservatives and their thought. The burden is to establish, constructively, that at least some conservatives maintain some positions that either do withstand such scrutiny, but are misunderstood on account of liberal bias, or else are spuriously and unfairly rejected by the university on account of liberal bias. If conservatives complain that their ideas aren’t getting a fair hearing, then we have to know which ideas they are, how they have been received, and whether they would meet disciplinary standards were it not for liberal bias in the university.
But this isn’t the article you wanted to write.Report
If that’s what you’re looking for, I have a blog on which I wrote several hundreds of thousands of words since January, which I think demonstrate that quite well.Report
(I also have a blog where I discuss various issues and often take a conservative position. Perhaps it could be useful.)Report
U Penn Law Prof Amy Wax’s defense of “bourgeois values,” for which she has been smeared as promoting “white supremacy” by fellow Penn law faculty and others, would be fairly representative of views held by all kinds of conservatives and which are now considered beyond the pale in some academic environments. So the case of Amy Wax is like a stress test for determining the soundness of the big schooling institutions.Report
We can also have a look at the left-wing meltdown that has been happening due to Trump. Trump has obvious faults but their rhetoric has been all out of proportion to the evidence, and every other phrase out of their mouth in connection with Trump being “white supremacist!” isn’t constructive, either.Report
Why isn’t it constructive to call Trump a “white supremacist” repeatedly? To quote Ta-Nehisi Coates:
““I think if you own a business that attempts to keep black people from renting from you, if you are reported to say that you don’t want black people counting your money; if you say — and not even reported, just come out and say — that someone can’t judge your case because they are Mexican; if your response to the first black president is that they weren’t born in this country, despite all proof; if you say they weren’t smart enough to go to Harvard Law School, and demand to see their grades; if that’s the essence of your entire political identity you might be a white supremacist, it’s just possible.””
And I would add, if your response to a white supremacist demonstration in which a white supremacist murdered someone and another white supremacist shot a gun at someone is to issue a stronger condemnation of the counterprotesters (who did not murder anyone, or fire any guns, and who were not white supremacists), well, it’s pretty clear where your sympathies lie. It just looks like you haven’t backed up your assertion here.Report
Ah, the good old complaint that the topic of the essay was not the topic that you wanted to read about.Report
Exactly: one that would have been responsive to Les Green’s post, not what Prof Leiter correctly points out is a non-response http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2017/09/les-green-conservatives.html.Report
I did respond to Green’s post and the suggestion that I didn’t is preposterous. I already made that point several times here, but since apparently that wasn’t enough, here am I making the same point again in my reply to Prof. Leiter.Report
> I did respond to Green’s post and the suggestion that I didn’t is preposterous.
Minimizing Les’ point with “why not address the interesting reasons people have to complain that it’s hard to be a conservative on campus, instead of writing a post on reasons nobody intelligent cares about” doesn’t indicate responsiveness. If that’s correct, then the “preposterous!” dismissal may be a tad premature.
However, hinting that Les is not intelligent (and now perhaps BrianL) provides a nice touch.Report
Have you even read the post I just published? The passage you quote is not the only or even main point I make against Green’s post. The main point is that he wrote a post that purported to explain why conservatives complain about liberal bias on campus and totally missed the actual reasons why they do. As I pointed out repeatedly, the fact that e. g. many American conservatives don’t believe in evolution is neither here nor there, because it doesn’t mean that it’s on that ground they complain about liberal bias on campus.Report
> The main point is that he wrote a post that purported to explain why conservatives complain about liberal bias on campus
Les did no such thing. He simply explained why troglodytes cannot be welcome at universities. (Because, universities.) How many words will you write until you get Wiedersehen’s hint that maybe, just maybe, you still conflate Les’ “conservatives” with the “conservatives” you self-identify with except when you don’t?
Perhaps you also need to concede that your “liberal bias” switches to your own topic, one you deem more “interesting.” De gustibus and all that jazz, but I do note that you use “liberal” in a way that may not cohere with your description of Dave Rubin as a very mild classical liberal in an episode where you’re suggesting that teh Google may sooner or later lead us to another Civil War. Not only you’ still need to pay due diligence to “conservative” you still need to pay due diligence to “liberal” too.
Maybe it’s a vocabulary thing. Next time you read Les’ post, replace “conservatives” with “troglodytes.” You should see the difference.Report
I see that you still don’t get it. I understand quite well that Green wasn’t talking about sophisticated conservatives, but he did purport to explain why the mass of unsophisticated conservatives complain about liberal bias on campus. I acknowledged that explicit in my latest post and pointed out that, even if you’re talking about the mass of unsophisticated conservatives (which again I never doubted was the people Green had in mind, I just pointed out that it was a totally uninteresting target), this is false. Don’t project your lack of reading comprehension skill on me.Report
> he did purport to explain why the mass of unsophisticated conservatives complain about liberal bias on campus.
A quote might be nice. Here’s one:
Again, not conservatives. More conservatives.
Care to answer Les’ question? Christopher did not. As a part-time conservative, I bet you can respond.
> I see that you still don’t get it.
In return, please rest assured that if you don’t get that what you portray as a specific claim is a freaking figure of speech, then you ought to think twice before taking the gloves off.
That being said, don’t ever change, dear Philippe. Your likeability does wonder.Report
This is not a quote from his post, it’s a quote from a comment he posted after he started receiving criticism. On the other hand, here is how his post actually started:
He is explicitly telling us that he is going to explain what the right, not “the more conservative on campus” (which in any case is way too vague a description to be useful), mean when they say that universities have been taken over by “liberals” and that faculty/students of “conservative” opinion are afraid to speak up. Immediately after the list that follows the passage I just quote, he describes rational thinking as threatening to “conservatives”, again not “the more conservative on campus” or anything like that.
In any case, as I noted on my blog, even the most right-wing people in the US don’t typically complain about liberal bias on campuses because e. g. people in universities refuse to take seriously the view that the US didn’t lose a war in Vietnam. Not even Breitbart, which qualifies as very conservative on any reasonable construal of that expression, complains about that. Again, I have made that point repeatedly, but you just won’t understand.
I’m also appalled by the way in which you try to draw the hostility of people in the profession against me by quoting my tweets, because you think my comment about “taking the gloves off” will somehow make me look bad (as if I hadn’t said worse about Green in my post), or above when you’re trying to suggest that I’m saying Brian Leiter is stupid (in case you haven’t noticed, when I think someone is stupid, I have no problem saying so), no doubt because you’re hoping that you can manipulate him into lashing out at me. Do you think people don’t see what you’re trying to do? It’s transparent to everyone. (I hope you’re also sending anonymous emails to Brian Leiter to let him know what a bad boy I am!)
You are just a cowardly piece of shit who hides behind a pseudonym to try and get me in trouble, naively thinking I care at this point what people in the profession think of me, because you somehow feel invested of a mission to reveal to the world the wickedness of people you disagree with and get them in trouble. At least have the balls to use your own name if you want to go after people like that.Report
In Philippe Lemoine’s defense, Les Green (who, full disclosure, is a friend and former colleague) does begin his post with:
“When the right claims that US universities have been taken over by ‘liberals’, and that faculty and students of ‘conservative’ opinions are afraid to speak up, they do not mean that its campuses are now swamped by people who think we should restrict liberty only to prevent harm to others, or who demand that social inequalities benefit the worst-off. They mean American universities are full of people who believe things like this: [the list we’ve discussed]”
Setting aside a lot of back-and-forth rhetoric, I agree with Lemoine that this doesn’t characterize the sorts of objection to campus bias that at least the more thoughtful conservative critics advance. (I’m thinking of National Review or the Weekly Standard, not Fox News.) Here’s a couple of fairly-recent articles by David French at National Review, for instance:
If I were to attempt (as a non-conservative outsider) to summarise these sorts of objections, it would be something like:
– there is much too much tolerance of objectively poor scholarship when it has a left-wing bias and/or comes from groups that the left likes;
– universities (especially administrators) don’t consistently defend free speech, which is bad in itself but is also used asymmetrically to shut down conservative voices;
– politically contentious left-of-center positions (on, e.g., intersectionality, sex/gender, religion) get presented as truisms by faculty and even more so by administrators;
– current approaches to Title IX violate due process.
There has always also been a strand of conservative criticism of universities that’s more along the lines Green discusses. (There’s also a non-trivial strand that attacks free-speech and academic-freedom issues from the right, notably over critics of Israel – cf the Steven Salaita fiasco.) But at least in what I read, the very substantial *increase* in conservative criticism in the last few years hasn’t been an increase of that strand of criticism; it’s been more along the lines that French advances.Report
Yes, I quoted the beginning of Green’s post in my previous comment, it was just held up by a weird glitch so Justin had to approve it manually. It’s really infuriating when people suggest I haven’t read his post and make points that I explicitly addressed in my posts and several comments here and elsewhere.
I think your reconstruction of the kind of things conservatives say when they complain about liberal bias on campuses is pretty good, though I would add another, which is quite possibly the most important: the open hostility that conservatives regularly encounter, including from authority figures, in American universities. As I explained in my post, I’m not talking about subtle anti-conservative innuendos, I’m talking about people openly mocking conservatives and/or their views. In my experience, this really drives them insane. I don’t know a single conservative who, even years after they left college, isn’t incensed just by being reminded of that kind of stuff. (Although I know quite a few who would never admit it publicly because they’re afraid.) The experience of blatant injustice is not easily forgotten, or forgiven, especially when nobody else seems to care about it or when people even deny that it’s happening. I can tell you that, judging by how many people reached out to me in one way or another after I published this post, there are a lot of people who are really outraged by this. And so am I.
As for the point you make about what explains the recent increase of conservative hostility toward universities, if you read my response to Brian Leiter, you will see that I also make it by citing a series of polls by Pew that were conducted between 2015 and now and show a very rapid degradation of the image of universities among Republicans. But I actually think that, even before that, even unsophisticated conservatives were not complaining about liberal bias on campus for the kind of reasons Green claims or at least not only or even primarily for these reasons. That’s just not what comes up most often when you talk to them or read their publications, even ones like Breitbart. Of course, it’s not that many conservatives don’t also have weird/stupid ideas about academics, but I don’t think those are the primary causes of their animus. I think that for the most part they are just reacting to injustice and/or responding to the contempt academics obviously have for people like them with contempt of their own.
(Also, for what it’s worth, I agree that right-wing attempts to silence anti-Israel people at universities are unacceptable. But 1) I’m pretty much on Norman Finkelstein’s line when it comes to Israel-Palestine, so on that issue at least I’m hardly representative of conservatives and 2) to be fair with conservatives, while they often support these attempts to silence critics of Israel and should be harshly criticized for that, my impression is that those attempts are not infrequently carried out by Jewish groups and organizations that on other issues are relatively liberal. The ADL, for instance, has a pretty dismal track-record on freedom of speech, but on many issues tends to side with the left, even though the right typically supports its efforts to silence critics of Israel.)Report
> He is explicitly telling us that he is going to explain what the right, not “the more conservative on campus” (which in any case is way too vague a description to be useful), mean
As if “the right” was precise enough to be useful in that context, so precise in fact that Les “explicitely” tells us he’s going to “explain” what it really means when it rips off its shirt on its social networks.
Right. In the quote above, Les could advertize “the right” ur-argument to justify its daily victim bullying, or he could use it as a rhetorical device to hook his list of facts obtained through the intellectual standards which, according to him, should preclude troglodytes from expecting a false balance that would “mirror votes in the electoral college.”
One interpretation portrays Les as an idiot. The other reduces Philippe’s rant to an inflated ignoratio elenchi.
> this doesn’t characterize the sorts of objection to campus bias that at least the more thoughtful conservative critics advance
Les mentions propositions about which “denial would be false, silly and/or irrational,” to borrow Brian’s formulation. How is that supposed to represent the conservatives’ ur-argument?
> Setting aside a lot of back-and-forth rhetoric
I don’t always set aside stuff, but when I do, I use apophasis to do so.Report
This is an interesting post, and well worth thinking about for philosophy departments to grow intellectually. I only add that fighting tone deafness with more tone deafness does not help.
It may be tragic that disproportionate focus is put on micro-aggressions or implicit biases against women and minorities. But that it is tragic is not because conservatives face real bias and violence and women and minorities do not. People do go around campuses saying that women and black people are stupid and do so fairly regularly. Perhaps the reason that you don’t see this has to do with the fact that people who aren’t women or racial minorities have no idea what kind of shit those who are have to deal with in academia on a daily basis.
There are, in fact, groups and spaces created specifically for the purpose of female philosophers to anonymously say what they think without fear of reprisal. The “What it’s like” blog is one of them. The handful of philosophers of color do fight the same battles you mention by being in a majority white field, a field that gives a premium to some ideas and not others, that finds some philosophers worth paying attention and not others for less than legitimate reasons. In the same vein, there are lengthy back and forths by disabled philosophers and caretakers against us abled philosophers about how tiresome it is for them to have to constantly defend the value of their lives, against the still presumed “obviousness” of the lack of such value. It is one thing to have your political opinion be treated with ridicule as a starting point, it is another yet to have your life devalued as an axiom of ethical and metaphysical theorizing.
Some of us campus liberals, then, have thought for more than a second about how toxic such an environment must be. Perhaps you mean that we have not thought enough about how it must be for campus conservatives, and that does seem fair. But it is still plenty dangerous for many of us on the left to be heard on campus. It is disingenuous to pretend otherwise, and also unnecessary for the point you want to make.Report
“Nobody goes around campuses saying that women and black people are stupid, but not a day goes by on campus without people saying that about conservatives.”
Phillippe, do you know anything about the role that the terms ‘imbecile’ and ‘idiot’ have historically played in the social construction of disability and the subjugation of disabled people, including as rationale and justification for the forced institutionalization and sterilization of thousands of them? I would be happy to provide some references if you don’t. A growing number of people regard these terms as slurs, as they do the term ‘libtard’.Report
Shelley, apologies if I was offending anyone. ‘Libtard’ is indeed a slur, used by right-wing folks to deride liberals. That’s the only meaning I placed in it, obviously snarkily. But I acknowledge some other pragmatics might be at play here.
In Philippe’s defense—and even though defending him is not something I’m usually keen on doing!—I think he’s using those terms in something closer to their French usage, where they don’t exactly have the same connotations (literally and historically they do, for sure, but not so much). He basically means we’re stupid, period.Report
If you insist on defending the use of ableist slurs, both by yourself and others, you should at least become informed about their etymology. This book is an excellent resource with which you can begin to do so: http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?products_id=137813
I hope that we will not see that pernicious screen-name used here again.Report
Shelley, have you read my comment? The screenname has nothing to do with disability. Nor do Philippe’s terms in this context. In French, “imbécile” and “idiot” are used in plain language without any of the effects you attribute to them, really. And thanks for patronizing me, and everyone for that matter, but I know their etymology.Report
Pernicious Screen Name,
the term ‘libtard’ is a conjunction of the term ”liberal’ and the term ‘retard’ which is a slur. It is therefore incorrect to say that it has nothing to do with disability and disabled people. It is used as an insult against “liberals” precisely because it associates them with “retards,” a term as pernicious as other slurs that come to mind.
As the book I recommended explains, the terms ‘imbecile’ and ‘idiot’ were used to classify people in order that they could be institutionalized, sterilized, and manipulated in other ways. These and other such terms were introduced by Pinel, Goddard, and other French scientists and physicians and many of these terms were imported to the US, where additional terms such as ‘moron’ and ‘feebleminded’ were also used. That these terms have entered popular discourse (French and English) does not negate their sordid histories. Indeed, they can be used as insults precisely because of that history, because they are associated with certain groups of disabled people. In other words, they get their meaning and significance from the derogation of certain groups of people.Report
I know all of this, stop being condescending. You’re being the ableist one assuming everyone is ignorant about what you know so well. And of course the term’s construction has something to do with disability, just not its use in this context. As for French etymology, I could be even more patronizing then you are and refer you to Latin and Greek where “imbecile” and “idiot” stem from, respectively, and where they hardly have any of those connotations. Do you also want a bibliography or would that be ableist? Again, if pragmatics matter as they should (or else slurs just don’t exist), then pay attention to the pragmatics of the present context. When read in their proper context none of the words Philippe or I used work effectively as slurs.
To close it off, never did I mean to *endorse* the use of slurs like “libtard”. Quite the contrary, I meant to deride the use of the slur by right-wing call-them-what-you-want. It’s called irony. Many people, including on these two threads, might call me so. Is a descriptive list of ableist slurs, compiled by disability scholars, itself an ableist slur? No, because we need to name those terms. Is ironical use of a slur itself a slur? Maybe, maybe not, but I think we should give the locutor the benefit of the doubt, especially when they tell you how they meant to use it.Report
Most of this post seems to consist in ad hominem attacks on the supposed “idiocy” of Dr. Green’s post, and in empty assurances that the author has (trust him) sophisticated, deeply informed views. Most of that isn’t worth engaging. That said, I think the post raises other important issues, and I want to zero in on three of these.
First, both in this post and comments on Green’s, there were a number of complaints to the effect that there are other ways of defining ‘conservative’ than Green’s list of typical ‘certain sort of conservative’ beliefs. True enough, but we have loads of statistical data on what people who identify as conservative *typically* believe. And a striking majority of self-identified conservatives in the U.S. reject humans’ contribution to global warming  (although there have been slight improvements recently) and reject evolution by natural selection . More, many U.S. conservatives arguably take these views as partly definitive of their political identity. As well, many mainstream conservative outlets, from Fox “News” to Breitbart, routinely traffic in unfounded conspiracy theories, such as the canard that Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. And again, belief in these conspiracies is widely avowed by U.S. conservatives (including the GOP presidential nominee). So at the very least, Green is not attacking a strawman or a stereotype. More generally, it’s quite trivial, it seems to me, to suggest that one can stipulatively define the term ‘conservative’ differently. Of course one can but that doesn’t *show* anything. Data, on the other hand, does. It tells us what conservatives typically believe, and what they believe, among other things, are basically the views on Green’s list.
Second, the author seems to assume that doxastic diversity is something good in its own right, arguing that efforts to be more inclusive of conservative views would be a cognitive, not just a moral, good for Universities. I think that assumption is misleading in at least two respects. In the first instance, there are more to ‘two sides’ on any given political issue (liberal or conservative). I don’t see anyone clamoring for more syndicalists or communists, or for that matter, more Whigs, on U.S. campuses, or more inclusiveness for any of these groups. Yet to the extent the call for inclusiveness for conservative “view points” on campus is not just special pleading, we should be more inclusive of all possible political groups to more fully realize the supposed cognitive benefits of seeing different sides of the issue, if doxastic diversity is the boon it is claimed to be. But there is an evident problem with some broad-brush inclusion: Not all views are equal. We wouldn’t want flat-earthers in the astronomy department, or the philosophy department, simply to increase doxastic diversity—they add nothing to the conversation. For the same reasons, I don’t think global warming-deniers or evolution-deniers need any special consideration either–in *either* a biology or a philosophy department. We cannot conclude from the fact that a given view is underrepresented that it warrants greater inclusion—if it’s known to be factually false or otherwise epistemically defective, we know that it doesn’t.
Finally, the post complains about the supposed suppression of conservative speakers on college campuses. Here, with Green, I think we need to make a distinction between people like Charles Murray and people like Milo Yiannopoulos. The former has what strike me as mistaken views but these are open to discussion and debate. It is a mistake to try to suppress them—in my view, it’s bad for Universities, bad for students, bad for scholars. On the other hand, Milo doesn’t just traffic in conspiracy theories and nonsense; he uses his public platform to engage in vicious attacks individual students, such as transgender students. In my view, he has no place on a college campus devoted to norms of open debate and inquiry.
 E.g., see this Pew survey: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/06/16/ideological-divide-over-global-warming-as-wide-as-ever/
1) The fact that polls show a large proportion of American conservatives have e. g. ridiculous views about evolution is neither here nor there, because it doesn’t show that, when conservatives are complaining about liberal bias on campus, they are complaining about the fact that people who reject evolution theory are not well received in academia. This isn’t what most conservatives are complaining about when they talk about the liberal bias on campuses, or at least it’s not the only thing they are complaining about, and it’s certainly not the most interesting one. As I explain in the last part of my post, which you seem to have completely ignored, this kind of criticisms are obviously stupid, so I don’t see the point of writing a post that focuses exclusively on them. On the other hand, by doing so, one is suggesting that conservatives don’t also have very good reasons to complain about the liberal bias on campuses. But they have excellent reasons to do so and Green’s post didn’t address a single one of them, which suggests that he thinks they don’t exist or aren’t important.
2) Nothing I say implies or even suggests that I think doxastic diversity is a good in its own right. In particular, nothing I say implies or suggests that I think having more flat-earthers in astronomy departments or evolution-deniers in biology departments would improve universities. This is a beyond uncharitable reading of what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that many conservatives with perfectly reasonable views, even though some of them are regarded as repugnant by many — though not all — liberals, are currently excluded from many departments in a way that harms the scholarship they produce. I give the example of social psychology and cite a paper, which you apparently haven’t read, that discusses several examples in that field. I’m obviously not talking about views that are “known to be factually false or otherwise epistemically defective”, although many people in academia mistakenly think they are, precisely because of the lack of viewpoint diversity and exposure to other arguments. Finally, I also don’t know why you think I wouldn’t extend my plea for more ideological diversity to other, non-conservative views that currently aren’t represented in academia. So, to be clear, I absolutely do, unless of course they are provably false or irremediably epistemically deficient. For instance, anyone who knows me could tell you that I often lament the fact that there aren’t more Marxists on campuses. (I’m talking about real Marxist, who have actually read Marx, not the identity politicians who think they are Marxist.)
3) I’m happy that you agree with Green about the distinction between Murray and Yiannopolous, but i also don’t really care. While I’m personally no fan of Yiannopoulos, I think he is obviously no worse than many left-wing intellectuals who not only can speak at American universities, but often even are employed by them as professors. Which of course begs the question of who gets to decide who to invite on campus. If a group of students wants to invite someone to give a talk at the university, except in extraordinary circumstances that in practice almost never arise, I think we should allow them to do so if they follow the usual procedures. I’m sure many of them will often invite people I don’t find particularly interesting or even not at all, but nothing is forcing me to listen to them. In the case of Yiannopoulos, whose event was canceled at Berkeley (a public university), there is also the issue of the First Amendment, which I think is a very important right that must absolutely be protected.Report
On (1.), you’ve claimed that Green was attacking a stereotype, and you’ve taken your own view, that some conservative views are unfairly dismissed, to be inconsistent with Green’s point. But as Nommunist pointed out on the other thread for Green’s post, and Dave Wallace does here, it’s perfectly possible for it to be true *both* that there are powerful anti-intellectual currents in contemporary American conservativism that motivate animus against universities, and that some forms of potentially insightful dissent are ignored. You yourself now appear to concede (in your response to Dave) that there’s no incompatibility, but then, it’s perfectly relevant and apt for people respond to your post by saying that Green isn’t, in fact, attacking a stereotype. It just turns out you’re on a *different* hobby-horse than he, and your intended critique is actually about a completely different, albeit related, topic, interesting though it may be.
On those other hobby-horses, I’m not sure if we have a disagreement on (2.). I was objecting to the claim that certain conservative perspectives are unfairly marginalized. The reason is not because some views are unfairly dismissed. They are. It’s because this perfectly legitimate point commonly used to insinuate a subtly different one–namely, that conservative views need better representation, or more conservatives should be hired for ‘balance’. I don’t think the insinuation follows, even if some views are unfairly ignore because (again) a lot of political views aren’t very well represented in the academy–which you appear to concede–and which views should get a hearing depends on their merits, not the kind of view they happen to be (conservative, liberal, whatever).
Free speech at a public university is a separate issue from all of this, but I can’t think of anything productive to say to convince you that public speakers that incite violence and/or engage in smear campaigns against individual students (including using racial and other epithets) are not entitled to a university platform (even if they can say whatever they want on their blog or twitter).Report
That should say “David Wallace”, not “Dave”. My apologies to Prof. Wallace for the typo!Report
1) I never claimed that my explanation about why conservatives often complain about liberal bias on campuses was inconsistent with Green’s explanation of the same fact. I just said that my explanation was true and that his was false. It just isn’t true that, when conservatives complain about liberal bias on campus, they are lamenting that e. g. everyone on campus believes the US lost a war in Vietnam. As I already explained, even if many American conservatives believed that the US never lost a war in Vietnam, it would be completely irrelevant, because the issue is not whether they believe that the US never lost a war in Vietnam, but whether it’s because people on campus don’t take that view seriously that conservatives complain about liberal bias on campus. It isn’t and, even if you could show me dozens of polls that show a majority of Americans believe the US never lost a war in Vietnam, it would do absolutely nothing to show that Green’s explanation isn’t false.
2) Even if it were true that people who promote more ideological diversity on campus were often using that as a way to force universities to hire people with ridiculous views, which I don’t think it is, it still wouldn’t explain why you responded to my post by making the totally obvious point that more ideological diversity isn’t always good and accusing me of assuming otherwise. The point I make is obviously not that we should include more conservative views just because they are conservative, but that we should include more conservative views because they can be rationally defended and would improve the debate, even though most liberals don’t know that because, through a lack of familiarity with the arguments from “the other side”, they often assume even perfectly reasonable conservative views are obviously wrong.
3) I don’t know that Yiannopoulos ever incited to violence. He did mock a transgender student once, which I agree was appalling, but that’s not ground to suggest that he engages in “smear campaigns against individual students”. This suggests that he does that all the time and in a sustained way, and that the mere fact of having him on campus poses a serious threat to the safety of students, which is false and ridiculous. Again, my view is that, as long as a speaker was invited by a group of students/faculty who followed all the rules, he should be allowed to come and to deliver his speech. Giving administrators or anyone else the power to veto a speaker based on the supposed content of his speech is a bad idea, because I don’t trust they will not veto people who have something valuable to say and, as Juvenal said and David Wallace pointed out above, quis custodiet ipsos custodes?Report
Philippe, I generally agree with a lot of what you say, but this is baffling:
“For instance, anyone who knows me could tell you that I often lament the fact that there aren’t more Marxists on campuses.”
Labor theory of value? False. Historical materialism? False. Attempts to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat all spectacular failures? Yup. From my POV Marx is fairly well discredited. How on earth do you see value in adding Marxist professors to the Academy?Report
I agree that Marxism is false, but I don’t think it’s as obvious as many people assume and, perhaps more importantly, it doesn’t follow that Marxist perspectives couldn’t improve universities. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that I think it would be nice if, in addition to the liberals, there were more Marxist in universities, but rather that I’d prefer if more liberals on campus were Marxist. One reason is that, while I disagree with their solutions, I think Marxist typically have a much better grasp of the causes of various phenomena, because unlike American liberals they aren’t obsessed with psychological explanations and care about socio-economic structures. Another reason is that I think Marx was often wrong in interesting ways or said things which everyone could benefit from. For instance, I definitely think his economy theory is false, but I also think that, in his economic writings, he sometimes anticipated good criticisms of neoclassical economic theory, even though of course it didn’t exist, or barely, at the time. I think in general that, in order to better understand the orthodoxy about X, one has to look at X through the lens of unorthodox view. This is perhaps especially important when, as in the case of neoclassical economic theory, the orthodoxy is false.Report
“Labor theory of value? False. Historical materialism? False. Attempts to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat all spectacular failures? Yup. From my POV Marx is fairly well discredited. How on earth do you see value in adding Marxist professors to the Academy?”
While I am not a Marxist, his work extended well beyond the issues you discuss.Report
Really? This use of ‘begs the question’ in a comment thread for philosophers? Yikes.Report
A modest observation: It is consistent to believe both that
(a) the American right has a serious problem with anti-intellectualism and a substantial part of its animus against universities relates to that problem; and
(b) American campuses are intolerant of even thoughtful dissent from various liberal and left orthodoxies.
(A slightly less modest observation: I suspect (a) and (b) are both true.)Report
For what it’s worth, I agree that the American right has a serious problem with anti-intellectualism, but I think it’s also true about the American left. Their respective brands of anti-intellectualism just don’t apply to the same issues.
For instance, if you randomly select a group of American liberals and explain to them that, once you control for various relevant variables, the gender pay gap largely disappears, I can assure you that you’re going to see a lot of reactions that are clearly anti-intellectual.
(To be clear, I don’t mean that a smart liberal can’t make a lot of interesting points in response to this observation, only that it’s not what most liberals will do. I have lost counts of how many times I made that kind of observations and people replied to me that it was just phony statistics, that statistics is just a tool to hide the truth, etc.)
Now, it’s true that the left doesn’t have the animus against universities that the right does, but I suspect it has a lot to do with the fact that American campuses are “intolerant of even thoughtful dissent from various liberal and left orthodoxies”. It’s not clear to me that, if American campuses were instead hotbeds of right-wing intolerance, the left wouldn’t have the same kind of animus against universities.Report
‘It’s not clear to me that, if American campuses were instead hotbeds of right-wing intolerance, the left wouldn’t have the same kind of animus against universities.’ I suspect there is a reason, however, that American campuses are *not* hotbeds of right-wing intolerance; in fact why universities, in general, tend not to be…Report
What is sad is that you seem to simultaneously think that you are intelligent and that your observation, even if one grants all the assumptions you’re implicitly making, bears on the point I was making.Report
The point you were making was that the American left has a serious problem with anti-intellectualism. In doing so, you try to preempt the response that ‘the left doesn’t have the animus against universities that the right does’ by suggesting that the left would have such an animus if universities espoused right-wing intolerance. Which, in my view, is a bit like saying that I would be quite angry indeed with my friend if my friend tried to kill me: almost certainly true, but it ignores the fact that, because he’s my friend, he wouldn’t try to kill me. And this was pretty much Green’s initial point, stripping away the rhetoric: because universities are universities, they will be favourable to certain styles of thought and inimical to others.
Now, does the left have a problem with anti-intellectualism? Sure. A serious one? It’s not impossible. One that is commensurate with the problem on the right? No, that’s idiotic. But anyway, I don’t see where you got the suspicion that I thought I was intelligent! Was it the ellipsis? Obviously I’m a moron, just like Green.Report
You’re assuming that, if universities are not hotbeds of right-wing intolerance, it’s because they are places where, as Green claims, rational modes of thought prevail. But they are not, otherwise they wouldn’t be hotbeds of left-wing intolerance, which is no more rational than right-wing intolerance. Obviously, rational modes of thought are more common in American universities today than in the rest of society, but this is largely irrelevant. It doesn’t mean that it’s why conservatives are hostile to universities. And this is why I was saying that, even if I grant you that left-wing anti-intellectualism is incommensurate with its right-wing counterpart (which to be clear I don’t believe for a second, I just think they are directed at very different things), this fact would still not show that Green was right, because it still wouldn’t show that conservatives complain about liberal bias on campus because of the prevalence of anti-intellectualism among them.Report
Look, there is another question here about why ‘political correctness’ is such a common talking point on Breitbart, Fox News and similar outlets (the ‘because’ behind the ‘because’, so to speak). Such outlets have waged a war of defamation against universities, painting them in the worst possible light. First one might wonder why these seeds of distaste for universities found such fertile soil amongst Republicans. But I also think that there is more behind the conservative media’s constant attacks on universities than simple public service: namely, that universities in general are essentially opposed to the stuff that many Republicans, Ted Cruz types, do believe. If you’re a Republican like that, there’s no peace to be had with them; it’s discrediting by any means necessary.
As Leiter and others have pointed out, Green’s post was about a certain kind of conservative, and definitely not your kind. Many of your comments seem a prolonged effort in missing that point.Report
Replying to Philippe Lemoine:
I agree with the specific observation about responses to wage-gap data. I think there are some important asymmetries in left/right attitudes to expertise, more at the institutional than the individual level, but I don’t think I can defend the point without getting further into US politics than I really want to on a philosophy blog!Report
You’re a philosopher of physics, and hence a scientific intellectual–the very sort of guy the “American right” has a problem with. If you would, supply us, say, ten photographs of the earth from space. You can link the images right here for everyone to see for themselves. That should be an easy thing for you to do since you wouldn’t base your beliefs without evidence, right? Thanks.Report
You mean like these? (click into the galleries for more). https://epic.gsfc.nasa.gov/galleriesReport
I would make some sarcastic response, but I actually have no idea what point you’re trying to make so I don’t know how to calibrate it.
(My best guess is that you think the space program is faked?)Report
Plato and other philosophers have pondered whether philosophy is an art or a science–perhaps it is neither or even both. But surely there can be no doubt that (whatever the case may be) science is science, and art is art. So I have to wonder why, when looking for photographic evidence of the earth from space, we only find CGI artist renderings, but no camera footage or real photographs.
I’ll leave it at that because anyone with an an honest and willing heart will be able to take things from there, do the research, and come to their own rational conclusions. If more people did so, maybe it might bring about one of those Kuhnian paradigm shifts philosophers of science are always talking about…Report
It would honestly be a lot simpler just to run a space program than to orchestrate a conspiracy to make people believe there’s a space program. There would have to be literally hundreds of thousands of conspirators; probably millions. GPS alone would require practically anyone with a physics or engineering qualification to be in on the conspiracy, since we’re all falsely claiming that there’s no non-satellite mechanism that could deliver GPS.
(And the International Space Station, and lots of low-orbit satellites, are naked-eye objects, and satellites in geostationary orbit can be seen with a good hobbyist’s telescope. If you really need first hand evidence, just look up.)Report
But David, I’m inside and its daytime!Report
@Alex: damn your fearless pursuit of truth. I admit it: it’s all a conspiracy. (The midnight lecture in the final year of any physics degree where you’re sworn to secrecy and made to sign in blood is the most memorable moment of most physicists’ careers.)Report
I’m not sure why I’m bothering to reply, but:
I am telling you, as a professionally trained theoretical physicist, that it is physically impossible for the GPS system to operate as it does without something fairly close to the satellite network that in fact provides it. This depends on fairly basic general principles of physics, not on any esoteric details of the technology.
1) I am lying to you; or
2) the entire basis of contemporary physics is false, and every experimentalist in the world is lying to me.
(or (3) you are in the grip of a ridiculous conspiracy theory.)Report
God help me, I watched parts of the video. The “evidence” is basically nonexistent things with arrows pointing to them. What I found kind of interesting is that when you focus on the tiny details in the space videos, you keep seeing evidence that it’s taking place in space. Stuff like the clothing and hair not moving due to zero gravity, the way small movements during spacewalk are clearly not being hindered by air (or water) resistance, etc.. Things that if I was faking a space video might not even think of.Report
I’m glad you responded, even though you think it is beneath you to do so.
Since this is likely my last opportunity to pick your professionally-trained physicist mind, I want to ask: could you explain to me (and everyone else who may be reading) how there are water bubbles rising outside the ISS space windows?
I want to assume that you at least took the time to watch the video NASA footage I linked to before responding. If you have, you must have a compelling explanation for why we’re seeing the anomalies we’re seeing.
No, I haven’t watched it; I have better things to do with my time.
Look, what is more likely:
1) that there is a conspiracy involving at least hundreds of thousands of people, including virtually everybody in the physics, astronomy and engineering communities and the top echelons of government in every putatively-space-capable government (many of whom are or were adversaries, more than one of which has gone through violent changes of government), that requires most of physics to be a fraud, that invalidates most of the basis of nuclear deterrence, and that has stayed secret for sixty years despite the huge amount of other material that has leaked out from those governments about sensitive matters; or
2) that there is some funny anomaly in the video that has an innocent explanation that you can’t think of.Report
Well, I know you’ll agree that there i’s no point in trying to continue the exchange if you won’t watch the NASA footage.
I can’t make you watch it, of course, but I hope that you will have a change of heart and so later on your own time. It will change your life. But you’ll have to decide to love the truth otherwise nothing will change.Report
That the internet produces exchanges (as here) between those encased in self-deceptive exercises of conspiracy theory and those engaged with the very best efforts of creativity and courageous exploration is not exactly a testimony to some egalitarian view of open access to world-wide communication, but just another demonstration of how this open access facilitates “fake news” and drives demographics to embrace the lowest common denominator of who gets in some sort of last loud word. It’s Trump’s Twitter strategy–and we should not buy in to it.
That said–I know someone–a good friend for over 40 years–who went into space on the Shuttle three times. Tell him to his face he didn’t do so. And brace yourself, as someone should have when Buzz Aldrin was asked to swear on the Bible he stepped on the moon. Or talk to the families of the Challenger or Columbia. But then again, some think that no children died in Sandy Hook.
In many ways I think blogs have no overall good use unless there is restraint from contributors or constraint by moderation. Guess where I think the best solution must come from–but that takes a lot of work.Report
I am going to pass by Alan White’s rather unproductive comment in silence, since, in all honesty, there really isn’t anything of substance to address in it anyway. Instead, in the interest of trying to elevate the discussion above the level of a bunch of empty rhetoric and evasive nonsense, I offer the following link, replete with the actual kind of evidence and facts that you guys purport to form your worldview upon. It shouldn’t be hard for you to engage with reality if you are really living in it, no?
If you wonder why the university is dying, you need only look yourselves in the mirror. Thirty minutes of Internet browsing dismantles the foolish myths you guys push on the kids.Report
I await an answer to my “what is more likely?” question.
Other than that, at this point I’ll start showing some of the restraint that Alan White wisely advocates.Report
Well David, there is no reason I should have to accept your false dichotomy, so I simply ignored it and tried to draw everyone’s attention back to the facts.
I have invited you to address basis questions that you as a philosopher of science should be able to easily answer, and I’ve asked you to view evidence that is easily accessible to anyone who is willing to view it, but you have refused. Instead, all you’ve done is respond with the same empty cliches and superficial mantras that everyone is beginning to realize characterizes professor speak. I can’t know whether you’re lying (personally I don’t believe that you are), but I do know that you are one very confused individual.
I’ve provided the links that I have, and I hope that everyone who has been following this exchange will look into these matters for themselves, even if you won’t.Report
You should assume that I am lying. If there is no space program, pretty much the whole scientific community is lying, very much including the philosophy of science community.
I won’t comment further on this nonsense. Apologies to DN’s intended readership for allowing my curiosity and boredom to derail the discussion.Report
There you go doubling-down with that same false dichotomy again.
It is interesting that, rather than simply watching the NASA footage and providing us with your expert commentary on it, you’ve decided repeatedly to resort to completely unsupported sweeping generalizations based on total conjecture.
Shouldn’t one of the preeminent university philosophers of science be able to watch the footage and explain it?
I understand that you have considerable interest in ignoring this material, since, if it proved correct, it would essentially mean that your entire life and identity has been predicated on a lie. That, I imagine, would be a deeply humiliating and humbling experience, especially for someone who prides himself on being very intelligent and rational.
I would simply encourage everyone reading this exchange to look into the linked evidence David has refused to address. Life’s too short to go through it deceived.Report
This is correct and well-stated.Report
I assume “this” is my original “modest observation” rather than the completely surreal digression into flat-Earth conspiracy theories that it has somehow spawned?Report
Yes, Green’s post was condescending and stupid. And John Stuart Mill’s argument in On Liberty is powerful and important. I don’t understand why we needed such a long post to make what seem to be two obvious points. In the end, this seems to be a bit of an exercise in moral grandstanding, a display of how very thoughtful (and so virtuous) the author is compared to so many others in the university.
And then there is this: “Nobody goes around campuses saying that women and black people are stupid.” Said with the kind of casual, uninformed confidence that the author spends the rest of the post (rightly) railing against in Green and others.Report
I’m sure that sometimes you will hear a a few people here and there going around campuses saying that women and black people are stupid. But I would thought it was obvious that, given the context in which I say that, what I meant was that, unlike in the case of conservatives, this is extremely rare because people who say that on a campus face severe social exclusion. On the other hand, when people say that about conservatives, not only do they not have to worry about exclusion. On the contrary, they are often rewarded, because saying that is a way to signal they are part of the in-group.Report
But it is not *extremely rare*. It happens all the time. Maybe it’s not faculty saying these things (though a few of my colleagues come *very* close to saying such things, and I imagine they feel comfortable doing so because I am a white male and I am junior to them), but students do, both inside and especially outside of class, and I take it they count as members of a university community. I’m not questioning the claim that the dominant university culture takes claims denigrating conservatives less seriously than claims denigrating women or minorities (that’s certainly true), or that denigrating conservatives is used as a way to signal that one is part of the in-group.
But, your statement that “nobody goes around campuses saying that women and black people are stupid,” taken in context, is plausibly read to suggest that direct statements of racism and sexism are no longer much of a problem at all on campuses–and so universities now concern themselves (and the implication is that it’s overconcern) with micro-aggressions and implicit bias–and that seems to me to be clearly false.
And the statement seems to me to be an instance of the very kind of thoughtlessness that you rightly indict Green for.Report
I guess you’re right that I don’t think it’s much of a problem, because I have almost never heard that kind of things on campus and, given how incredibly stigmatized openly racist and sexist views are, I think it’s extremely unlikely that my experience is just atypical. We’re probably not going to agree on this, but I guess we can probably agree on a weaker claim, namely that openly anti-conservative claims are both far more frequent and far more incendiary on campus than openly sexist and racist claims. This is a purely comparative claim, so it doesn’t say anything about how frequent and incendiary openly sexist and racist claims are on campus.Report
That’s a remarkably weak justification for the judgment that it’s not much of a problem on campus. If that’s all you’ve got, I would have thought that, given your arguments above, you’d be agnostic on this question.
Claims about what does and doesn’t happen “on campus” generalize over a diverse range of institutions and populations. And talking generally about what is and isn’t stigmatized “on campus” obscures the diversity of social groups on each campus. What is stigmatized or not at a frat party may be very different than what’s stigmatized or not at a Women’s Resource Center support group, and the norms of such groups on a campus seem to me just as, if not more, relevant for understanding the extent of this problem “on campus” than the norms of the overall campus community.Report
For the record, I’ve never heard anyone say that women or black people are stupid on my campus, or on any other. I’m sure it’s been said on some campus at some time though. But without taking sides in the broader dispute, it seems obviously true–based on real life, Facebook, blogs, etc.–that on campuses conservatives are called ‘stupid’ vasty more often than that of women or blacks.Report
Another instance of a leftist being smug and snooty would be the way Marinus Ferreira replies to reasoned arguments above. He doesn’t *trust* the other side to provide unbiased arguments, see. Or some such nonsense. All I know is, his interlocutor has the last word and Ferreira refuses to engage any further. Is this some kind of evo-psych memetic defense mechanism going on?
Green’s article was stupid on its face when he brought up the 6 dumbest beliefs held by some non-insignificant fraction of self-styled conservatives, as if those were the totality of their or all conservatives’ beliefs. The tone-deafness is off the charts.Report
Kudos to Justin for inviting a conservative to give their view of things. I think that both the original article and this response have been too combatative in tone, to the point that it becomes hard for people to understand where those they disagree with are coming from.Report
You know what happens when a conservative *does* speak up? What happened here:
Checkmate, Green et al.Report
> You know what happens when a conservative *does* speak up?
Indeed, Chris. Wax armwaved about “bourgeois values,” half of her department rejected her thesis while supporting her right to promote it, an anthro department condemned her racist crap, and the Heterodox Academy worked out a proposition about marriage and coparenting that could appeal to any extreme centrist and improve the lives of people instead of following up on the finger pointing.
What was your point again, to whom this “et al” is supposed to refer in your “Checkmate, Green et al.”?Report
Fighting fire with fire is not the way.
You want to complain about how the extreme leftists aggressively marginalize any vaguely conservative ideas? I’m all for it. But don’t adopt the method of namecalling and rhetorical masturbation. These strategies are used by many of the people you’re complaining about, Phillipe, but they’re not good for your health, and they don’t advance the discussion. You have a lot of good things to say. Now say them, and dispense with the aggressive rhetoric.Report
Nice post. Yes, Lemoine seems angry and some parts of the post might seem like a rant. But this seems entirely justified given the post that Lemoine is responding to. If I identify as X, or some family resemblence of X, and someone writes that basically Xs are uncomfortable in academia because they aren’t rational enough, anger is the healthy response. In fact, Lemoine should be applauded for channeling that anger towards engaging in a rational debate.
Academia has a problem with the angry black male, or the angry feminist. Even many liberals don’t know how to acknowledge or respond to such anger. The same seems true of the angry conservative, especially the angry white conservative, where often such anger gets interpreted as nothing but racism.
But is it possible for us to reason together if we don’t acknowledge each other’s emotions can be justified? Here Lemoine is surely right: if liberal academics can’t even trust that intelligent, articulate conservative academics’ anger at feeling marginalized can be justified, they are just going to empower the anger of less reflective conservatives.Report
> But this seems entirely justified given the post that Lemoine is responding to
Les Made Philippe Do It. Golf clap.
Articulate anger by conservatives would indeed be a good idea. Scattered shots don’t look that articulate to me. Moreover, Philippe self-identifies as a conservative except when he’s not: “I often don’t think it’s accurate to describe my views as conservative and prefer to be self-identify as right-wing.”
Les already said that he wasn’t “trying to characterise conservatives, or even all American conservatives.”
To rebut that with “but that’s not what Les should talk about” can only be underwhelming however articulate it could have been.Report
Green was not trying to characterize conservatives, but he was certainly trying, and failing spectacularly, to identify the reasons why they are complaining about liberal bias in universities, which is what I was responding to in my post. I already made that point repeatedly here, but in case that wasn’t enough, here it is again in more detail in my reply to Brian Leiter.Report
> he was certainly trying […] to identify the reasons why they are complaining about liberal bias in universities
Saying, like Les does, that universities can never be comfortable for a certain kind of conservative. may not be the best way to try to characterize conservatives in general.
When Les starts his list with:
the “they” seem to refer to those who believe the usual litany of denial, not those who believe otherwise and, like Philippe, self-identify as conservatives except when they don’t.
Les’ point is related to a dominance of habits of thought, modes of inquiry, and sensibilities of outlook that make universities what they are. One could argue that conservatives too can show the same habits of thought, modes of inquiry, and sensibilities of outlook, pending clarification on what the hell Les might have meant by “sensibilities of outlook.” Philippe’s rant falls short of showing that, both as an example and as argument, assuming we can trust Philippe’s self-identification of the moment.
Showing that conservatives share the university ethos wouldn’t disprove Les’ point, but it would at the very least reinforce the common belief that universities ain’t for troglodytes. While Philippe has every right to find that common ground uninteresting, he can’t deny (or even remain agnostic regarding) the existence of what Brian called “Ted Cruz conservatives.” To spice things up, he could even try to minimize their number or their influence, just as Ted did with his Twitter likes, and like he usually does with his statistical parsomatics.Report
So the answer is no, you haven’t read my post.Report
> So the answer is no, you haven’t read my post.
Show me. Not only did I read your post, dear Philppe, but I read all your Top Posts, including those in French. And I also checked your last interactions over teh Tweeter. Those about immigration were quite fascinating.
Which part of “a certain kind of conservative” you do not get?Report
> the “they” seem to refer to those who believe the usual litany of denial,
I meant “disbelieve,” of course.Report
This is sickness:
This episode is nearing a month old now; if a comparable right-wing meltdown had happened we *know* (how we know we can get into if need be, but we know it – through common sense) that left-wing social media would be all over it within days. And so the slowness of transmission and uptake of information about this disgraceful episode at an Ivy League school also speaks volumes about the pro-left/anti-right bias. Haidt is proving with his research time and time again how many blind spots there are in “progressive” ways of viewing themselves and their opponents. It’s just that they don’t seem interested in listening all that intently, now, do they.Report
> This episode is nearing a month old now; if a comparable right-wing meltdown had happened
“This episode” being the same episode you just peddled in as a checkmate, Chris.
Your counterfactual provides a nice touch.
Pray tell more about not seeming interested in listening.Report
More evidence for Lemoine’s thesis:
Et Tu, Boise State? Professor Explains the Culture Wars, Campus Erupts
Students and administrators pile on political scientist Scott Yenor for his scholarship.Report
So Philippe Lemoine, are you planning to leave philosophy? You won’t be hirable now I wouldn’t think.
I hope you thought this through!Report
While it is better to remain anonymous if you are going to say something unpopular, especially if you are going on the market, I doubt that many philosophers will ever hear of his post, let alone remember it in six months time.Report
Does anyone hiring in philosophy *not* use Google, at this point?Report
I have been on two search committees in the last two years (one at Oxford, one at USC). In neither case did I ever google to find a candidate’s social-media activities (I probably googled some to find links to their publications). Nor do I recall anyone else on either committee mentioning having done so.Report
Why should we believe this? Everyone googles. It’s seriously hard to believe you wouldn’t.
My prediction is that Philippe Lemoine cannot get a job after this.
Hope he’s got a backup and understands the situation he’s now in.Report
I don’t have any obvious incentive to lie.
Beyond that, a lot of the point of posting under my own name is that people have some kind of baseline, from real life connection and past posting history, to assess whether or not I’m likely to be telling the truth when I make a claim that can’t readily be fact-checked.Report
Fair enough, I believe you when you say you haven’t. I’d be very surprised if your restraint turned out to be typical.Report
I would be to.
However, he can really only comment on what he’s done. It’s of course possible others on the committees googled, didn’t find much, and so didn’t mention anything.
Many (most?) are afraid to question left orthodoxy for fears of reprisal. We have too many examples of people being taken out for what they believe. The hostility towards out groups, especially conservatives, is too high.Report
That would ironically prove his point, now wouldn’t it?Report
“large segments of academia have become hotbeds of activism posing as scholarly enterprises.”
Indeed. We really do need to do something about business schools.Report
Both can be true, of course.Report
so what should we make of the claim that it’s hard to be a conservative in some parts of campus (implied: uniquely hard) if it’s arguably equally hard to be a liberal in other parts of campus?Report
Notice that “tone” and “editorial decisions” are always questioned when leftist orthodoxy is questioned.Report
Great post. As a doctor fairly actively involved in the Philosophy world I’m continually astounded at the rubbish that passes for argument in the field, when it comes to politics. Makes me wonder if we do need more welders after all.Report
I’d like to echo a minority of commenters and say that I don’t think that posts like these (and the one to which it responds) are the best use of this blog. I have rarely found debates in these sorts of threads to be illuminating; far, far more heat than light is generated.
I understand that many philosophers have things to say about politics, especially about politics vis-a-vis academia. But this being a *philosophy* news blog, I honestly would prefer that it stick to philosophy news and other philosophical goings-on in the world and online. The fact that the two posts in question here were written by philosophers doesn’t necessarily make them philosophical news; they are political endeavours by philosophers. Which is worthwhile, but I fail to see how anyone is edified by the debates on these issues that take place in the comment sections of blogs.
But maybe I’m just in an easily-annoyed mood. After all, I don’t have to read a post or thread if I don’t want to. But, when I think about the value of this site, and especially its advantages over others that have an equal focus on academic politics as philosophy, I don’t wonder if the worth of DN is being diluted. But I could be wrong.Report
Me watching this discussion:Report
I fundamentally disagree with the author’s diagnosis of the problem. The issue is not that there is too little political diversity on university campuses but rather too much. Left wing ideologues may currently dominate university faculty and their intolerance and dogmatism may be a problem. However, right-wing ideologues, such as the author and many of his fellow complainants, are equally bad and equally inclined to intolerance and dogmatism. What we need is campuses where those with strongly held political opinions and loud voices are absent. We need scholars who are willing to follow the empirical evidence wherever it leads, and who are humble about their ability to obtain moral knowledge because they recognize the shaky epistemic foundations of moral thinking. Scholars who are not convinced of their ability to intuit fundamental moral truths in first-order cases and thus who are more interested in consistency tests and other structural features of moral thinking. Ideologically left-wing and right-wing scholars spoil academia with their cultural wars and obsessive identity politics (strangely, the right loves to accuse the left of the latter when they just as obsessed with their political and social identities). University campuses would be best if left-wing and right-wing academics were pushed out and all that remained were modest scholars who are not in the grips of political ideologies.Report
Well-informed views are not identical with moderate views. Plenty of people have left- or right-wing politics for thoughtless reasons, but there are plenty of thoughtful liberals and thoughtful conservatives, who have a good nuanced understanding of the case and know how the counter-arguments go.Report
I think we disagree on many of these issues, but i wanted to note that I especially disagree with this section of the argument, and think that a much more reasonable set of claims could/should have been made: “Nobody goes around campuses saying that women and black people are stupid, but not a day goes by on campus without people saying that about conservatives.”
We have the former issues even at the University of California. It is irresponsible to simply claim that this doesn’t happen. Here are some numbers from an undergraduate student survey on feeling physically safe on campus (it does not directly address the issue of being called stupid): http://nsse.indiana.edu/NSSE_2016_Results/pdf/NSSE_2016_Annual_Results.pdf#page=9 and on children exposed to hate speech in schools: https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/victims-of-hate-speech/ . The issues that women, racial and ethnic minorities, and those who identify as on the LGBTQ spectrum are real and pressing issues that should not be swept aside like this, even if you are a conservative.
Here are some numbers: in a nationwide student survey 21% of Republicans and 8% of Democrats say that they did not feel comfortable expressing their political views on campus (50% and 56% did, respectively): http://iop.harvard.edu/sites/default/files_new/pictures/151208_Harvard%20IOP%20Fall%202015%20Report.pdf . Compare those numbers to these: “57.6% of LGBTQ students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, and 43.3% because of their gender expression. 31.8% of LGBTQ students missed at least one entire day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable, and a tenth (10.0%) missed four or more days in the past month.” https://www.glsen.org/sites/default/files/GLSEN%202015%20National%20School%20Climate%20Survey%20%28NSCS%29%20-%20Executive%20Summary.pdfReport
It might also be worth noting that some have argued that conservatives are more sensitive to threat (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mind-in-the-machine/201612/fear-and-anxiety-drive-conservatives-political-attitudes). This could be a partial explanation of the relatively small reported differences in how comfortable republicans and democrats feel expressing their political views on campus. Here is a selection from that blog article: “A 2008 study published in the journal Science found that conservatives have a stronger physiological response to startling noises and graphic images. This adds to a growing body of research that indicates a hypersensitivity to threat—a hallmark of anxiety. ”
Here is a selection from one of the papers that blog cites (Dodd et al. 2012):
“Our core finding is that, compared with individuals on the political left, individuals on the right direct more of their attention to the aversive despite displaying greater physiological responsiveness to those stimuli. This combination of physiological and attentional data is worth considering further. Previous research on the broader bases of political ideology is often interpreted as suggesting that locations on the right of the political spectrum are a deviation from the norm (or even a pathology) in need of explanation [10,51]. For example, McClosky [52, p. 40] concludes those on the right are ‘distrustful of differences … fear change, dread disorder, are intolerant of nonconformity, and derogate reason’ while Block & Block [53, p. 395] find that those on the right are ‘easily victimized, easily offended, indecisive, fearful, rigid, inhibited, relatively over-controlled and vulnerable’.”Report
This is funny, because on the one hand you want to use self-reports of feelings from members of a group as evidence of disparate treatment. On the other hand, you cite studies purporting to show that conservatives are naturally more likely to experience negative feelings; and thus, their negative feelings can be, to some extent, ignored as evidence. This is rather convenient for leftists! “Heads I win, tails you lose.”
Let’s take a closer look, in particular this claim from your block quote:
“Block & Block [53, p. 395] find that those on the right are ‘easily victimized, easily offended, indecisive, fearful, rigid, inhibited, relatively over-controlled and vulnerable’.”
Now let’s go to the Block & Block paper and see what they say:
“The present study reports on the personality attributes of nursery school children who two decades later were reliably stratified along a liberal/conservative dimension. An unprecedented analytical opportunity existed to evaluate how the political views of these young adults related to assessments of them when in nursery school, prior to their having become political beings. Preschool children who 20 years later were relatively liberal were characterized as: developing close relationships, self-reliant, energetic, somewhat dominating, relatively under-controlled, and resilient. Preschool children subsequently relatively conservative at age 23 were described as: feeling easily victimized, easily offended, indecisive, fearful, rigid, inhibited, and relatively over-controlled and vulnerable. ”
So Dodd et al were perfectly happy to cite Block & Block selectively, leaving the impression that the conclusions held of right-wingers in general, rather than just children. This is the sort of dishonest (or sloppy) research that *reinforces* my sense that there is a left-wing bias in the Universities; I see this sort of thing all the time.
I’ve done about 2 minutes of digging in response to your post. (In fact, I did nothing more than look up the Block&Block quote. The first thing I looked up was misleading!) I bet if I spent more time I could find many more problems, and maybe I’ll do that this weekend when I have more time. But for now I’ll just suggest that you (and many other leftists) are far too credulous about such studies, particularly when they have political implications.
In any case, self-reports of feelings strike me as a particularly flimsy piece of evidence for disparate treatment. Maybe they’re a good reason to start looking for something more substantial, but nothing more.Report
1) “Children’s Behavioral Styles at Age 3 Are Linked to Their Adult Personality Traits at Age 26 ” http://www.education-consumers.com/oldsite/briefs/Behavioral%20Style%20Study.pdf
2) I don’t know of studies that claim that women, racial and ethnic minorities, and those on the LGBTQ spectrum are simply more likely to feel physically threatened. Yet, there is lots of evidence that women, for example, just are more physically threatened: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/Report
I’m really starting to think I should do the digging and write more soon on all these issues. For now I’m happy to see that you’re moving away from (1) using the misleading citation from Dodd et al as evidence (since B&B *didn’t* conclude what Dodd et al claims), and (2), that you’re moving away from your earlier apparent stance that self-reports of feelings are in and of themselves significant for determining whether there is disparate treatment of different groups.Report
FWIW it strikes me as very clear that women suffer more violence than men do in domestic settings.Report
On 2) I take self-reports to be defeasible evidence.Report
Follow-up on the study you cite (“Children’s Behavioral Styles at Age 3 Are Linked to Their Adult Personality Traits at Age 26 ”). The traits they track, AFAICT, only overlap with two of the traits apparently found in future conservative children by B&B: being “inhibited”, and “relatively over-controlled”. These traits aren’t particularly related to concerns of conservatives being oversensitive about disparate treatment. So I don’t see how this helps your case.Report
“in a nationwide student survey 21% of Republicans and 8% of Democrats say that they did not feel comfortable expressing their political views on campus (50% and 56% did, respectively): http://iop.harvard.edu/sites/default/files_new/pictures/151208_Harvard%20IOP%20Fall%202015%20Report.pdf . Compare those numbers to these: “57.6% of LGBTQ students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, and 43.3% because of their gender expression. 31.8% of LGBTQ students missed at least one entire day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable, and a tenth (10.0%) missed four or more days in the past month.”
The first of those is a survey of college students. The second is a survey of high-school students. You’re not comparing like with like.Report
For college students you would need to look at the first link. I couldn’t easily see the exact numbers, but something like 20% of “another gender identity” feel physically unsafe on campus (versus maybe 5% of men, maybe 10% of women). That is 14% for Black/African American students (5% for white/caucasian).Report
Here is another: https://www.aacu.org/publications-research/periodicals/lgbtq-campus-climate-good-and-still-very-bad
“Along the queer spectrum and the trans spectrum, 13 percent and 43 percent respectively feared for their physical safety, and 43 percent of queer spectrum and 63 percent of trans spectrum participants concealed their identities (stayed “in the closet”) in an attempt to avoid intimidation. These rates were significantly higher for queer and trans spectrum respondents of color.
These findings had significant consequences for participants’ educational experiences and even their ability to participate in higher education. Thirty-three percent of participants along the queer spectrum and 38 percent along the trans spectrum seriously considered leaving their campuses. ”
It would be interesting to compare this to conservative students, but I am not aware of reports that conservatives are so uncomfortable on campus that they seriously consider leaving college altogether.Report
I had decided not to reply to comments here anymore, because I have devoted all my time to this controversy in the past few days, and I really need to move on because I have a lot of other things to do.
(Since you have been involved in a few public controversies yourself, I’m sure you know how time-consuming it can be. Moreover, I — involuntary this time — got involved into another public controversy, after Jamelle Bouie criticized on Twitter a piece I recently wrote about police violence, so I’m now wasting a lot of time with that nonsense. Which to be fair is partly my fault, as I should learn to just ignore that kind of things.)
However, since despite our disagreements I’ve never had to complain about the way you engaged with me and I have to admit that I was a bit quick in the passage you quoted, I wanted to write a quick reply.
As I have acknowledged above, this passage could probably have been written a bit more carefully. My claim is that, compared to how often conservatives are openly called “stupid” and other things of the sort on campuses, this rarely happens to women or black people. So it’s not true that it never happens, but I think it’s very rare, if only because someone who goes around campus openly saying that women or black people are stupid would face severe social consequences and possibly disciplinary proceedings. On the other hand, people do that with conservatives all the time, because there are no adverse social consequences to doing so and, if anything, the opposite is true because it’s a way to signal one’s belonging to the in-group.
I really don’t have much to offer in terms of evidence to support this claim, other than my personal experience and that of other people I talked to about it (which is terrible evidence), but it’s something that strikes me as so obvious that I honestly can’t imagine that anyone would seriously deny it. I really don’t think, however, that the result of surveys about what proportion of students in such and such groups feel “threatened” or “unsafe” can disprove the claim I just made, for they don’t tell us that respondents feel “threatened” or “unsafe” because they people in the group they belong to are openly called “stupid” or something like that on a regular basis.
Finally, I don’t know anything about the literature you’re alluding to about how people in different groups may be more or less sensitive to hostility, so it’s possible that conservatives are more sensitive to it than liberals, but I have no idea since again I don’t know this literature. What I’m quite confident about though is that, even if that is true, the claim I made above (the weaker, comparative claim I made in response to your criticism, not the stronger, absolute claim in my post) is still correct.Report
Yes, I do have a sense of what that is like. My sympathies. We could probably hash these issues a bit more, but my primary concern was with saying or implying that there are not real, serious issues facing these other groups. It is enough simply to identify those facing conservatives and to make the point on those grounds.Report
Carolyn, I appreciate the effort to try and provide statistics that everyone can agree on to make your point, but I fear you’ve provided another example of the liberal bias regarding standards of argument Phillipe is precisely talking about. The fact that no-one seems to have pointed this out either is also telling.
Even if it’s true that 50+% of LGBTQI students don’t feel safe on campus, this wouldn’t undermine Phillipe’s point. This is because he was talking about what people say, not what people feel. There are far fewer LGBTQI people (~3.4%) than conservatives in the general population. I think you’re forgetting to take into account base rates.
e.g. if in a group of 100 people (50 hetero cis liberals, 10 LGBTQI liberals and 40 hetero cis conservatives), if 10 liberals say 1 mean thing to 1 conservative each about conservatives, and 5 conservatives say 1 mean thing about LGBTQI people to 1 LGBTQI person each, there will be twice as many mean things said about conservatives, but the LGBTQI people will report that 50% of them have been insulted whilst only 25% of the conservatives have been insulted. (It will also mean that 16.6% of the liberals were mean whilst only 12.5% of the conservatives were mean, yet someone with your reasoning could report “LGBTQI people get insulted 100% more than conservatives, and 450% more than hetero-cis people!” (((5/10) / (10/90))*100)
Of course, now realise that university students are generally a higher ratio of liberals:conservatives than my example and lower ratio of hetero cis:LGBTQI, so the number of people available to say mean things about the conservatives is higher than the general population, and the number of LGBTQI people who need to be insulted to get the 50% figure is lower, and his claim about more people insulting conservatives more than certain minorities seems much more plausible.
(Don’t mean to insinuate conservatives or liberals actually insult or abstain from insulting certain groups at these rates, was just easier for the example.
I’ll also just add that failing to take into account base rates gets used a lot in social justice debates e.g. gender representation, assaults, relative rates of depression, arrest rates, and has the effect of adding grist to the mill of people who doubt there’s any problem in these areas. To be clear I think there are issues in these areas, but inflating the figures helps no-one).Report
Yes, I was aware of that issue and that someone might raise it. I was responding to the idea that the severity of what conservatives face is more extreme, and using the type of report (lack of comfort discussing political views versus lack of physical safety) together with the difference between the groups (a difference from 5 to 15% in one case, and up to much higher, unknown percentage in the other) to claim that this is very likely false. Further, conservatives appear in many surveys just to be less comfortable with threat (and many people find talking about politics, religion, etc to be charged), so I am not sure that we can move from that evidence to the claim that conservatives are being called “stupid” more often, or anything like that. See the above, but also this: “Yet conservatives and liberals also are most likely to confine political conversations to those who share their views. Fully half of consistent conservatives (50%) and 35% of consistent liberals say it is important to them to live in a place where most people share their political views – the highest shares of any of the ideological groups.” http://www.people-press.org/2014/06/12/section-3-political-polarization-and-personal-life/ Conservatives seem to be less comfortable in a diverse political environment, like the university.Report
Can you cite a study showing that universities are “diverse political environments”?Report
I am thinking here of the student body, in contrast to the political diversity in, say, one’s high school. I didn’t have a study in mind.Report
Conservative complaints about universities mainly have to do with faculty and administration, not (primarily) the student body.Report
Is the claim that faculty and administrators are calling students “stupid”?Report
Yes. You’d first have to do a universal elimination on some version of “All conservatives are stupid,” which would be expressed with varying degrees of explicitness…Report
Ok, I would be surprised if that were true. I am not saying that it isn’t true, but I am going to want to see more evidence. I assumed we were talking about student interactions here.Report
As you can imagine, instances of this are disputed. I think one of Philippe’s points is that Leslie Green’s article can be understood as suggesting that conservatives in general just aren’t that smart (“look at these foolish things they believe”), and *that’s* supposedly why we don’t like universities. Of course Green doesn’t say this directly; hence the debate over the meaning of his post these last few days.
Furthermore, I’ll just tell you that I find it irritating when I try to talk about this stuff and people pull out studies that purport to show that conservatives are more likely to “derogate reason”, and that this in part explains conservative worries about universities. (This is not an uncommon thing for conservatives to hear.) A lot hinges on whether such studies are correct. If they are, then maybe conservatives as a whole really are (more likely to be) cognitively deficient. In which case, professors are right to teach some version of “we should discount conservative concerns on X because they (tend to) suffer from these cognitive deficiencies”. If those studies are wrong, then it looks like we’ve institutionalized political bias in the social sciences. In the latter case we have some neutral-sounding insults with all the authority that a published study carries.Report
I’m also yet to hear any calls by people who cite such studies for class changes to accommodate people who are easily threatened by different views, to raise awareness of students who may be easily threatened by different views, or having efforts to reduce the gap between threat disposed and non threat disposed students. Not saying we should, but I’d imagine if it was found that a different group of people who liberals consider to be our in-group had such dispositions, those studies would be used and understood in a very different way.Report
first time poster here.
i’d like to start off with… i have not been close to a philosophy university department.
after reading all the comments and other links.
this wouldn’t be the typical fashion of arguments used within the field, would it? (i don’t mean on a blog… i mean the way the author constructed and then proceeded to choose his response)
i am wondering because i’ve been thinking of paying for the structured learning, instead of choosing what i find interesting and digging in. this has put me off.
or is this substandard because of the obvious strong ideological links and the posting matter?Report