Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Conservatives Can't Handle the Truth

When the truth is not on your side one thing you can do is to try to change it, and when that doesn't work, outlaw it:

Under the culture war rallying cry of combating “critical race theory” — an academic framework centered on the idea that racism is systemic, not just a collection of individual prejudices — [Republican] lawmakers have endorsed an extraordinary intervention in classrooms across Texas.

Their plans would impose restrictions on how teachers discuss current events, bar students from receiving course credit for civic engagement and, in the words of advocates, restore the role of “traditional history” to its rightful place of primacy by emphasizing the nation’s noble ideals, rather than its centuries-long record of failing to live up to them.

So much for freedom of speech.

Now, I am sure some pseudonymous troll will point out that liberals support restrictions on teaching creationism, but that is not true.  What we oppose is teaching creationism as science because it isn't.  I'm sure most liberals would be more than happy to have creationism taught as part of a class on comparative mythology or comparative religion.  I certainly would.

Conservatives can't handle the truth.  Conservatives fear the truth.  So they have to stamp out the truth because the truth is not on their side.

Unfortunately, it is far from clear that they won't succeed.


Don Geddis said...

Politics is the Mind-Killer. Of course Republicans are at a particularly low point of rationality just now, that is true, as personified by Trump and his influence.

But if you think this is just a conservative problem, I would submit that you're not especially introspective. It's an inherent feature of human politics. Liberals also "can't handle the truth", when the truth happens to be at odds with liberal tribal beliefs (e.g. minimum wages, non-market failures, regulatory capture, climate change, nuclear power, identity politics, anti-racism, police violence, etc.).

Ron said...

You listed 8 topic areas in which liberals allegedly "can't handle the truth." I'll bet you can't give me even one example of a case where liberals tried to pass a law that restricted the teaching of some alleged non-fact in one of these topic areas, let alone all 8. There is no moral equivalence here.

Don Geddis said...

I agree that the two sides are using slightly different tactics. But the conservative justification is pretty easy to guess: liberals are using taxpayer funds to push their false and dangerous propaganda onto an audience of captive and vulnerable children. (One might consider it as similar to German laws prohibiting holocaust denial.)

Meanwhile, liberals in California passed a law (CHYA) requiring sex education in schools that is mandated to include "information on ... gender identity, and ... must be inclusive of same-sex couples."

I don't think either side refrains from using education in the schools as part of their toolkit, with the poor children themselves as mere pawns in this adult culture war.

Ron said...

And which of the things that that CHYA requires be taught do you consider to be untrue?

Ron said...

I have adopted a general policy if not publishing anonymous and pseudonymous comments, but one thing came in over the transom that I do want to respond to:

> You Don't Believe In Free Speech: You're A Censor

I am not a censor, I am an editor. There's a difference. I have no power to stop anyone from publishing whatever they want in any venue *except* this one. To put it in terms that even someone who has drunk the alt-right kool-aid should be able to understand: this blog is private property, and pseudoonymous wingnuts are no longer welcome here. You are doing too much damage to the fabric of civilization, and so you're not getting a seat at my table until you learn to behave like a grown up and demonstrate that you have a basic grasp on facts and reality, to wit: the earth is round, man has walked on the moon, the earth is significantly older than 6000 years, the holocaust happened, the Civil War was fought to defend negro slavery, and Donald Trump lost the 2020 election and Joe Biden is now the legitimate president of the United States.

Also, just for the record:

> > So much for freedom of speech.

> So you'd be OK, then, with a teacher presenting Hamas propaganda from anti-Israel activists on "delegitimizing Zionism", including showing videos featuring pro-terrorist and Israel-bashers such as Bassem Tamimi and Ariel Gold?

The intent of propaganda is generally to obscure the truth, so no, I would not be OK with a teachers presenting propaganda, Hamas or otherwise.

I do, however, believe that Israel's conduct is open to a great deal of legitimate criticism, and I have absolutely no problem with teachers talking about that (assuming they're doing it in an appropriate context, like a class on international politics or something like that).

Ron said...

Some more things that I want to respond to, because some people apparently Just Don't Get It:

> You assert to control and do what you want with your private property, but you demand Jack Phillips bake a cake for a gay couple:

That's right. The First Amendment protects not only my right to say what I want, but also my right not to say things that I don't want to say, and to prevent others from saying those things on my platform. It does not protect the rights of commercial bakers to discriminate against customers based on their personal prejudices about who they fall in love with.

This is the problem with conservatives: when *they* want to discriminate, it's perfectly fine because religious freedom, but when they are discriminated against suddenly they cry foul. The conservative position is: freedom for me but not for thee. (Actually it's more like: freedom for straight white rich fundamentalist Christians and to hell with everyone else.)

To which I say: fuck that.

> > The intent of propaganda is generally to obscure the truth, so no, I would not be OK with a teachers presenting propaganda, Hamas or otherwise.

> Therefore, are you going to revise your blog post, as you do not believe in unrestricted free speech of teachers in the classroom?

I never said I believed in unrestricted free speech in the classroom. (In fact, I am coming to think that unrestricted free speech is a bad idea in general.) It is *conservatives* who purport to believe in unrestricted free speech. But conservatives are shameless hypocrites who are apparently incapable of seeing the contradictions in their own positions, and calling them out on it is fair game.

> I beleive the earth is a oblate spheroid, the Apollo moon landings were a triumph of engineering and man's spirit to explore, the holocaust did happen (and I call out and report holocaust deniers every time I encounter them), the South did fight to defend slavery (the North ... to preserve the Union and end slavery), and that Joe Biden is the legal President of the United States.

Very happy to hear it. Now, start posting comments under your real name and I'll publish them.

Aside: I can't help but wonder at this point, why do you care so much about what I write? It's not like this blog has a huge audience, and what I say is going to move the needle on the fate of the world. And yet you put an inordinate amount of effort into not only posting comments here, but dredging through my old posts to find things that I've written in the past that contradict things that I'm writing today. Why???

(Just for the record, I do occasionally change my mind about things. I think that's a feature, not a bug.)

Luke said...

> You listed 8 topic areas in which liberals allegedly "can't handle the truth." I'll bet you can't give me even one example of a case where liberals tried to pass a law that restricted the teaching of some alleged non-fact in one of these topic areas, let alone all 8. There is no moral equivalence here.

Speech only needs to be restricted if there's enough chance it will have [judged-to-be] adverse social or political consequences which cannot be fought [without sufficiently high cost]. If you can get your way without restricting speech: all the better! As Steven Lukes writes: "power is at its most effective when least observable". (Power: A Radical View, 1)

At the turn of the 20th century, Christians still held considerable sway in universities and they were censorious. Sociologist Christian Smith writes:

>>     Perhaps foremost among the rising intellectuals’grievances with the Protestant establishment was its censorship of ideas considered dirty or dangerous. Censorship is a cardinal sin for knowledge elites, whose identities and livings are built around the free and imaginative production and expression of creative ideas. Censorship inherently violates who and what intellectuals are at heart. For this reason, Coser observes, “censorship, perhaps more than any other single factor, has been responsible for the typical alliance of so many intellectuals with the forces of liberalism and radical ism” (1997: 7). Victorian Protestant sensibilities, for example, exercised a censorship role in the acquisition of books for public libraries around the country. (The Secular Revolution, 48–49)

These days, the shoe is on the other foot. WP: Hypatia transracialism controversy is a nice example of censorship arising again in universities. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education tracks "speech codes" at universities which are arbitrarily censorious. For a concrete example, see Jonathan Haidt's The Yale Problem Begins in High School.

If you want an example of censoriousness wrt CRT, look at how often the question of, "Is the cause of that person's poor situation completely, or mostly, racism?" is itself considered racist. I can't say this is 100% wrong either, because the question can function as gaslighting. That works when the person asking it has a far more complex set of tools for making things seem like the reason is something other than racism. As long as you have a serious asymmetry like that*, you can win on grounds of "rationality", because it can be indistinguishable from "rationalizing" in the eyes of the [often less-educated] oppressed.

* For another fun example which explodes e.g. David Axelrod 1984 The Evolution of Cooperation, see William H. Press and Freeman J. Dyson 2012 Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma contains strategies that dominate any evolutionary opponent.