In his book, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Terror and Tyranny, Russian dissident and gulag survivor Natan Sharansky, proposes a simple test to discern if you are living in, what he calls, a free society or a fear society. He calls it the Town Square Test: Can a person walk into the middle of the town square and express their views without fear of arrest, imprisonment or physical harm? Today, the “town square” exists virtually, on social media, on Twitter and Facebook and the answer is a resounding, no.
There have been numerous incidents in the UK of people being visited by the police and told to “check their thinking” after voicing dissent against reality denying ideologies. People today regularly run the gauntlet of being labelled a facist for stating unequivocal biological facts. The trend continues apace. Last year, feminine hygiene producer Tampax launched a marketing campaign on Twitter claiming their products are for “people who bleed” and not women who menstruate.
They clearly missed a woke marketing opportunity not sending a large shipment of tampons into the trigger happy Seattle Autonomous Zone to bung up the bullet holes.
In October 2020, as the lefist media constructed a Biden fire wall around the presidential presumptive’s son’s laptop; as Twitter and Facebook continued to curate the zeitgeist; I was left wondering if perhaps the first sign of serious
trouble was way back in 2006.
This was the year Larry Summers ‘resigned’ as president of Harvard University after a vote of no confidence by liberal arts faculty. The reason? He had suggested that innate, average sex differerences and not sexism, could be partly responsible for the under representation of women in some industries. This was, and still is, a perfectly reasonable hypothesis in the real world, but is haram in the church of critical social justice theory. Since then, many people have lost livelihoods – and even lives in the case of MIke Adams – after coming under progressively censorious and tyrannical scrutiny.
The First Socialist Revolution.
The excesses of progressive, leftist ideology are not new to human civilization. Writing about the French Revolution in 1790, Edmund Burke, warned against the revolutionary’s tendency to imbue themselves with false virtue, believing they are combating prejudice whilst actually declaring war on nature.
This describes the present situation well. Burke also predicted the subsequent French reign of terror, the first socialist revolution – in which well over ten thousand people were put on trial and executed for political ‘crimes’. Burke wisely noted that when people play God they soon begin to behave like devils. This is as true today as it was then and this is a chronically overlooked fact by self defining “liberal lefties”. As much as they dislike conservatives and republicans, the realism inherent to modern conservatism emerged from the same liberal enlightenment principles they support, in order to guard against the excesses of the Jacobin terror. Poltics is not the first principle in these matters. Human nature is. And leftist idealism is a dangerous naivety, as the horrors of Stalin and Mao well demonstrate. In fact, the idea that being a “liberal” or a “lefty” somehow imbues you with saintly goodness is a complete fantasy. In my opinion, the most robust signifier of being a dogmatic lefist is not that you are a good person but a hopelessly deluded one!
This blatant self evident truth still unfortunately doesn’t stop many intelligent people from falling for it like a Scientology get out of your shitty life free card.
As the US elections drew near in 2020, a gaggle of once heterodox intellectuals retreated from tricky, centrist ground to the comfort of the fallacy of the benign left.
“Give me six lines written by the most honest man in the world, and I will find enough in them to hang him” Attributed to Cardinal Richelieu (1585 – 1642)
Steven Pinker, Jon Haidt, Bret Weinstein, Sam Harris. Jesse Singal, Helen Pluckrose and more, abandoned their apparently rational centrist positions and all the people who followed them there, in some cases even throwing friends, collegues and co-authors under the bus.
Though Pluckrose stated in the above tweet that she would not denounce co-author and friend James Lindsay, Twitter’s centrists seemed to collectively agree on a strategy akin to Scientology’s fair game policy and rounded on him. She never defended him. He became a legitimate target for other ‘principled’ ‘centrist’ ‘humanists’ such as Quillete founding editor Claire Lehmann who led the charge for numerous sychophants. As I write, I believe Bret Weinsten has been forcibly ejected from the fold.
I think the fact that Pluckrose, Lehmann and Cathy Young, the people who have done the most to divide and weaken the anti-woke alliance over the past five years, idenitfy as feminist is highly significant. They are Potemkin centrists. But I’ll address that in another essay.
Lindsay’s crime was to annouce his intention to vote for Trump in the election. Every accusation thrown at him since is a direct result of this and nothing more. He is the same person now as before. Standing for the same principles. He did not forsake heterodoxy and centrism, they did him.
In the weeks prior to the 2020 election we saw the principle of political heterodoxy crash and burn with a good deal of accelerant provided by ‘centrists’. Steven Pinker posted a bizarre tweet arguing, of all things, the libertatian case to voting for Biden. Perhaps he still genuinely believed in his vision of benevolent liberalism; the “case for reason, science, humanism and progress” he made in Enlightenment Now. Or maybe those actions were an attempt to pay coin to his captors, to ward off future woke attack, as the ancient Britons paid danegeld to their Viking invaders in the hope of
staving off more rape and pillage. I’ve long admired Pinker as a man who has tried to straddle the left/right ideological divide all his life with intellectual integrity. He has long self identified as a social liberal but, as he is also an empirical
evolutionist, he cannot in good conscience deny the realities of biology. In 2006 Pinker actually defended Larry Summers’ heretical claims of average sex differences. This, and his failure to utterly submit to leftist ideology, has earned him a place on their hit list. To true believers of intersectionality and critical theory, Pinker is a symbol of the cis-white-hetero-capitalist-patriarchy. All roads lead to the distruction of these ‘institutions’. By any means necessary. Joyously dad dancing to Biden’s presidential win won’t save him. Today’s revolutionary leftists take no prisoners. Just like their Jacobin forebears.
This article is a lament, because Pinker is a writer I have admired for many decades and wrote one of the most important books of the 21st century in The Blank Slate. It’s been hard for me to understand the position of Pinker and his intellectual cadre, who have helped document the inexorable capture of our institutions by the illiberal left over the last 50 years. The Larry Summers putsch was a clear warning that we failed to respond to. Now we find ourselves today at a place where leftists do not even try to hide their agenda, but instead, as with the 1619 project brazenly bend reality out of shape to support it. Where the enslavement of dead people is condemned whilst a thriving contemporary slave trade in Africa and Asia is willfilly ignored.
In place of these hypocricies, liberals still try to claim that Trump’s four years in office was the biggest
threat to liberal democracy. Average intelligence is quite enough smarts to know that explanation stinks. Common sense and logic have been inverted by critical theory and intersectionality. The intellectual classes have fallen for it, but not the working classes.
Jon Haidt, author of numerous books including The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Religion and Politics, is another formidable self declared liberal defender of critical thinking. He published a paper in 2015 noting that the underrepresentation of non-liberals in social psychology was likely a consequence of self-selection, hostile climate, and discrimination. In response, Haidt created the Heterodox Academy, a group of four thousand
academics, administrators and graduate students who supposedly believe in academic viewpoint diversity.
He has, however, explicitly backpedaled from these principles this year, explaining his change from being a critic of critical theory to now “opening his heart” to it. His transformation happened, he said, after the death of George Floyd when he was invited to visit museums about slavery and lynching in Montgomery. He reported having a very powerful emotional experience and has since been trying to expose himself to “different webs of meaning”. Link below will take you to this moment;
All I can say is, good for him. I’ve never needed to visit a museum to empathise with humans in bondage, or understand the horrors of slavery. Slavery that is still ongoing in Africa and Asia. I felt the same about Anne Frank and the holocaust both before and after I visited the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam. If anything, the explicit lack of human empathy in the Black Lives Matter/critical race theory movement; the blatant attempt to capture wealth; the embedded Marxism; have done more to close my heart to it than open it. It was open before and it still is to people in need of help and compassion. The quality of my mercy isn’t ideologically strained.
Critical race theory is racism and I will never “take the knee” to it.
Becoming Woke on the Road to Montgomery.
This is not Haidt’s first inconsistency however. Two years before becoming woke on road to Montgomery, in a Sam Harris podcast, Haidt described a highly equivocal encounter as “unequivocally racist” and in that moment ruined an innocent, vulnerable person’s life. (Go to 36 mins on the timeline)
Harris is another of our public intellectuals who cannot seem to parse the difference between actual murderous authoritarianism around the world and Trump’s real – no bullshit – politik. Harris claimed that he found Trump more
reprehensible than Osama Bin Laden. He protested he was taken out of context, but so did the person both he and Haidt casually condemned, to no avail.
Known as the Yale, “napping while black” incident and widely reported as a racially charged boundary dispute, there was no attempt by the mainstream media to represent both sides of the story. The accused, Sarah Braasch, was thrown under the equality and diversity bus by everyone involved. Including our heterodox heroes.
Braasch is a working class woman like myself, who fought hard to resist a pre-ordained working class destiny. A vulnerable woman with a troubled childhood and a history of trauma. She is far from privledged. In fact, she is exactly the kind of woman the left ostensibly loves to help. Just the kind of women they would say is vulnerable to further victimisation. At the time of the incident she was a committed social justice warrior, devoting her life to the study of systemic and institutional racism. Funded by scholarship, she was living in the Yale dorm in very unusual circumstances, in that she was the only person living on her floor, which was rarely used by other students. The encounter Haidt describes as “unequivocally racist” occured in a dark room while the person was also covered in a blanket. As has been noted by other writers, Braasch could not have possibly known the person she found on her floor was either male or female, let alone black, until the escalation occured.
Yet Haidt attributed explicit malign intent to a human being while robustly defending the institution it occurred in, on scant evidence. As years have passed, and the equivocal nature of the encounter has been established by numerous investigations, Haidt – and Yale – have singularly failed to apologise for the slander, which has compounded the difficulties Braasch has experienced as a vulnerable person with no family support or social safety net. She has spoken openly about suicidal tendencies (people have commited suicide under such stress) and regularly gets tweets like the following, encouraging her to do so.
Curioulsy, Haidt has refused to consider a more parsomonious expanation against the extraodinary ideological one; that a misunderstanding occured, then an overreaction, followed by a completely unnecessary escalation by Yale and then Haidt himself. Like it or not, he’s a cog in this wheel and she has a valid grievance. He might not like that Sarah’s angry, and has nothing good to say about him. But she’s not in a position to ruin his life as he has contributed to the ruination of hers.
I myself suspect the people who accused Braasch had singled her out for harrasment, having clocked her as a vulnerable and isolated woman. I suspect this is a case of malicious female bullying, fueled by a certain personality type and the current ideological miasma which feeds and facilitates narcissistic personalties. In the age of ‘social’ justice and weaponised empathy, bullies have never been more enabled to make their victims pay for the crime of simply crossing paths with them. Oh, did I mention, Sarah, forsaken by the humanist liberals, endorsed Trump. And just like Lindsay, became fair game for humanist sport.
As for Haidt, someone whose area of research is the study of morality, his inability to even consider an alternative scenario is not the act of a person who values heterodox approaches to complex human social phenomena.
Our public intellectuals today who by dint of writing about the real threat to freedom of speech, enjoy a wonderful quality of life, social standing, respect, pensions, life insurance and a faithful following of their own shock troops, now seem curiously deaf to their own warnings. They have instead joined the chorus of condemnation aimed at Trump supporters who can see the social justice emperor has no clothes, leaving us all high and dry.
Tragically, Braasch’s plight is ignored by business plans that claim to expliclty exist to help people in her situaltion. Supposedly non partisan organisations like Heterodox Academy, Fire and Counterweight refuse to help her. She’s fiesty in her self defense, she’s a fighter, her mental health has been affected and she doesn’t pretend it hasn’t (who’s wouldn’t be?!) These very human responses to her predicament make her a problematic client. Maybe if she would just stop being so psychologically traumatised by her continued ostracism and public free-for-all character assassination, she might make a more attractive client for these professional humanists.
A Dark Adaptation
Human physiology is a fascinating thing. If you sit in a dark place for long enough, your eyes go through a process called a dark adaptation, where the eye adjusts to the lack of light and clarity and can see much better than you did upon entering. Ourculture has gone through a similar process, a similar dark adaptation, where progressives have been sitting in the dark so long the light is now intolerable to them.
James Lindsay, as mentioned above, is a notable exception. He is co-author of Cynical Theories: How Activist
Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody. Unlike his co-authors, researching the book took him on a journey that changed him forever.
While writing the book he had a very different revelation to Haidt, and made the decision to publicly announce his intention to vote for Trump. His reason being he saw the real threat very clearly. In November he told me,
“I know how it works. It works by taking over administrative bureaucracies and twisting
them to its agenda. Trump can barely control it in his own administration but is actually
trying. Biden won’t just be permissive but also encouraging of it. It’s not liberal and cannot
be pushed back without standing up to it.”
Has this stood the test of time? I’d say so. But his friends and collegues have forsaken him.
In the gulag, Natan Sharansky noted that there were all kinds of political prisoners and though each was centred their own concerns, there was also a functional heterodoxy. They all agreed they wanted to live in a free society. And they all agreed on the definition of a free society, “A society is free if people have a right to express their views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm.”
There are many of us who are fighting for this today, but are ostracised by the newly anointed as well as the old.
In today’s digital age, that definition of a “free society” needs to be extended to include the right not to be stalked and cancelled on Stasi media, and pretend that this kind of relational aggression, typically favoured by women and older men, doesn’t lead to real harm, hardship and death.
This isn’t hyperbole. If it is, then the last 20 years of public intellectual engagement, from The Blank Slate onwards, is also hyperbole.
Where does it leave us when intellectuals such as Pinker and Haidt the very people who
taught us critical thinking, forsake it themselves? The only progressive thing about contemporary progressivism today, is its familiar creeping totalitarianism.
This is an updated version of an essay first published in The Post Millenial October 2020 under the title. “The saviours of critical thinking turn back on their ideals because they fear Trump’s impact”