Saturday, June 30, 2018

Matthew Blackwell reviews Haidt, Sowell and Pinker in examining left-wing combativeness in Quilette article

Matthew Blackwell has a booklet-length article from March 2018 on Quillette, “The Psychology of Progressive Hostility”, link here

Blackwell covers the combativeness of the Left in academia, and the tendency of some “Progressives” to label people with conservative counter-speech as enemies who must be kept at bay.  He notes that economists and mathematicians tend to become conservative (at least in fiscal issues, though not on social issues) or somewhat libertarian, leaving teaching college, from softer social sciences, to the classical Leftists.

There is also a division in whether people should be viewed first as individuals, or as members of groups, possibly intersected. Conservatives tend to use reason more and respond to emotion less.  Conservatism, of the kind Andrew Sullivan espouses, for example, looks at the world as complex, needing pragmatic, well though out and analyzed solutions to issues like health care and immigration. Ultra-progressives demand utopia immediately, which does not exist.

Progressives may feel daunted by conservative obliviousness to some emotion.  For example, James Damore's Google article angered many people yet the article says nothing personally offensive when read closely; it does challenge some superficial beliefs on what equality should mean. Damore, who says "I see things differently" and says he is mildly autistic (Asperger) simply presents the research and the logical implications of what he finds, without regard to how people will react. The same could be said about Milo Yiannopoulos's book "Dangerous" when read carefully (and separated from the emotions). 
Progressives are also more dependent on the mechanics of conventional activism, which demands aggressive recruiting, loyalty and solidarity.  When a large number of libertarian-leaning conservatives become conspicuous writing and acting alone, it is much harder to organize a base.  But the aggregation of content by social media according to the consumer may make individualized writing less effective than it used to be, and therefore less of a distraction for activists.

Blackwell mentions and briefly reviews three books:

Jonathan Haidt: “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion” (2013, Vintage).

Thomas Sowell: “A Conflict of Visions” (2017, Basic).
Steven Pinker: “The Blank Slate” (2003, Penguin).

No comments: