The Master of Political Spin: Arthur C. Brooks and “Academia’s Rejection of Diversity” – The New York Times

Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute (a conservative think tank), claims that “[m]any academics and intellectuals are biased against conservative viewpoints.” But Brooks’ claim is built on rhetorical trickery.

And it’s important to note that Brooks works for a political think tank that has no interest in diversity in personnel or ideas. The goal of the AEI is not the pursuit of knowledge or truth, but the promotion of their ideology.

Brooks uses the language of liberalism (“diversity” and “open-mindedness”) to portray conservatives as victims of liberal bias. To pull this off, he takes advantage of the progressive affinity for “diversity.” However, it soon becomes clear that Brooks is not talking about  diversity of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc., he is referring to the diversity of ideas (something that is very important to academia). This sounds like a good thing, but what Brooks is asking for is the acceptance of certain ideas (his) in the academic world based on something other than merit.

The acquisition of knowledge in the academic world is the result of a brutal competition of ideas. Only those ideas that survive this process are generally accepted as knowledge, and then only provisionally. If new evidence comes in, we must revise what we know. Academia is committed to the pursuit of knowledge (something that AEI is not because they believe they already have the truth). The process has its flaws, but over time it brings us closer to the truth. So if Brooks wants his ideas accepted they have to the same rigorous process that all ideas are subjected to.

So, for example, in my own field of history the conservative claim that the Civil War was over states’ rights because the evidence does not support it.  In science, biologists don’t reject creationism (or its newer form ID) because they are biased, but because the evidence doesn’t support it! Climate scientists claim that the climate is changing not because they have a liberal bias, but because the evidence supports this conclusion!

Not all ideas are equally valid! The ideas that become accepted as knowledge win through merit not through appeals to fairness. Open mindedness requires only that the idea be given a fair hearing. If an idea is to be accepted, it must stand up to the rigorous standards of logic and evidence. Truth is not about fairness, although there should be fairness (based on relevant qualifications rather than irrelevant factors such as race, gender, etc.) in who participates.

Source: Academia’s Rejection of Diversity – The New York Times

“The Gingrich Revolution and the Roots of Republican Dysfunction” | History News Network

“The person most responsible for injecting that virulent strain of partisanship into the Republican party was another dethroned House Speaker — Newt Gingrich. The firebrand conservative leaders today are Gingrich’s children. Gingrich rose to power in the 1980s as the pied piper of a new assertive conservatism that merged the moralistic rhetoric of the New Right, and the mystical conservative faith in tax cuts, into a powerful ideological message. It was Gingrich who manufactured the hyper-partisanship that defines modern politics.”

I remember the Gingrich Revolution all too well! It happened just as I became interested in politics. It made me so sick that I came very close to swearing off politics forever. Luckily, I realized that cynicism was not the answer. To this day I feel sick every time I see Newt. While I don’t think Newt is solely responsible for the nasty and dysfunctional state of politics today, but I agree with Steven M. Gillon that he bears a large share of the responsibility.

Read the entire article here: History News Network | The Gingrich Revolution and the Roots of Republican Dysfunction

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The Reign of ‘Terror’ – NYTimes.com

In today’s The New York Times, Tomis Kapitan very persuasively argues that:

“[b]y effectively placing designated individuals or groups outside the norms of acceptable social and political behavior, the rhetoric of “terror” has had these effects:
1) It erases any incentive the public might have to understand the nature and origins of their grievances so that the possible legitimacy of their demands will not be raised.
2) It deflects attention away from one’s own policies that might have contributed to their grievances.
3) It repudiates any calls for negotiation.
4) It obliterates the distinction between national liberation movements and fringe fanatics (for example, during the 1990s, the “terrorist” label was applied to Nelson Mandela and Timothy McVeigh alike);
5) It paves the way for the use of force by making it easier for a government to exploit the fears of its citizens and ignore objections to the manner in which it responds to terrorist violence.”

I hope that you will all read Kapitan’s article and consider his argument. For too long we have been captive to the rhetoric of terrorism. While it has been an incredibly effective tool for politicians and ideologues, it has hurt our ability to deal effectively with terrorism. Fear mongering dismantles our ability to think rationally. We too easily accept emotionally gratifying solutions that feel right but in reality may not be. Any real solution will not be easy, and it will require that we give up the quick-fix, emotionally gratifying responses that we keep turning to. It will also require humility and a willingness to confront our own role in creating and exacerbating the situation.

The Reign of ‘Terror’ – NYTimes.com.

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