Robin DiAngelo and the next frontier of DEI
For FAIR’s Substack, FAIR’s Director of Media Production Jake Klein writes about the pitfalls of race-essentialist DEI initiatives and what he perceives to be recent movement in the right direction by institutions.
That ideologues like DiAngelo have had an imperfect relationship with corporations is not entirely surprising. Many DEI advocates have long complained that corporations mostly adopt DEI practices for appearance’s sake. But nonetheless, it is noteworthy that some companies are backing away from DEIJ programs once they learn what they truly do. Obscuring the true nature of these programs by using broadly agreeable words such as “inclusion,” “justice,” and “anti-racism”—a strategy often called a “motte-and-bailey”—has been essential to DEI advocates’ ability to market to mainstream America. The panelist’s account of their failures gives reason for opponents of race-essentialist DEI to be optimistic that our ongoing efforts to shed light on its divisive and impractical underpinnings is working.
You’re Better Off Not Knowing
For The Atlantic, FAIR Advisor Shadi Hamid writes about the problem with dwelling on news about things you can’t control.
Like taking a drug, learning about politics and following the news can become addictive, yet Americans are encouraged to do more of it, lest we become uninformed. Unless you have a job that requires you to know things, however, it’s unclear what the news—good or bad—actually does for you, beyond making you aware of things you have no real control over. Most of the things we could know are a distraction from the most important things that we already know: family, faith, friendship, and community. If our time on Earth is finite—on average, we have only about 4,000 weeks—we should choose wisely what to do with it.
What the writer Sarah Haider calls “information addiction” is nothing short of an epidemic. In a quite literal sense, politics is making Americans sick. But the sole way to contract the illness is by seeking out the news and consuming large amounts of it. And that’s a choice. Haider chose differently, deciding to go news free for six months in late 2021 and early 2022. Having missed out on stories that were speculative, overhyped, or irrelevant, she reported being “saner, happier, and (surprisingly) more informed.” But does it make sense for other Americans, perhaps millions of them, to completely rethink their relationship to political information and knowledge?
Why the Mental Health of Liberal Girls Sank First and Fastest
For his Substack, After Babel, FAIR Advisor Jonathan Haidt writes about the steep decline in the mental health of liberal girls.
In conclusion, I believe that Greg Lukianoff was exactly right in the diagnosis he shared with me in 2014. Many young people had suddenly—around 2013—embraced three great untruths:
They came to believe that they were fragile and would be harmed by books, speakers, and words, which they learned were forms of violence (Great Untruth #1).
They came to believe that their emotions—especially their anxieties—were reliable guides to reality (Great Untruth #2).
They came to see society as comprised of victims and oppressors—good people and bad people (Great Untruth #3).
Liberals embraced these beliefs more than conservatives. Young liberal women adopted them more than any other group due to their heavier use of social media and their participation in online communities that developed new disempowering ideas. These cognitive distortions then caused them to become more anxious and depressed than other groups. Just as Greg had feared, many universities and progressive institutions embraced these three untruths and implemented programs that performed reverse CBT on young people, in violation of their duty to care for them and educate them.
You Can’t Define Woke
For The Atlantic, FAIR Advisor Thomas Chatterton Williams writes about why he believes the word “woke” is not a viable descriptor for anyone who is critical of the many serious excesses of the left yet remains invested in reaching beyond their own echo chamber.
As I was preparing to go onstage for an event recently, the moderator warned my co-panelist and me that the very first prompt would be “Please define the word woke for the audience.” We all sighed and laughed. It’s a fraught task, requiring qualification and nuance, because woke has acquired what the French philosopher Raymond Aron termed “subtle,” or “esoteric,” and “literal,” or “vulgar,” interpretations. Put simply, social-justice-movement insiders have different associations and uses for the word than do those outside these progressive circles. Before you can attempt to define what “wokeness” is, you should acknowledge this basic fact. Going further, you should acknowledge that as with cancel culture, critical race theory, and even structural racism, the contested nature of the term imposes a preemptive barrier to productive disagreement.
A View of American History That Leads to One Conclusion
For The Atlantic, George Packer writes about how for many historians today, the present is forever trapped in the past and defined by the worst of it.
When I was in school, American history was taught as a series of triumphs over wrongs that belonged to the past. Slavery was evil, but the Civil War ended it; then the civil-rights movement ended segregation. The vote was extended to more and more Americans—starting with white men, then women, Black people, and finally even 18-year-olds—thus fulfilling the promise of democracy. There was no atoning for the near elimination of Native Americans, but somehow it didn’t invalidate the story of progress. Abroad, the U.S. led the cause of freedom against fascism and communism; Japanese internment, McCarthyism, and Vietnam were mistakes that didn’t erase the larger picture. It was an optimistic narrative, reassuring, shallow, and badly in need of a corrective.
We’re now living in a golden age of fatalism. American culture—movies and museums, fiction and journalism—is consumed with the most terrible subjects of the country’s history: slavery, Native American removal, continental conquest, the betrayal of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, colonialism, militarism. In scholarship, works whose objective is to puncture our hopeful but misguided myths dominate, and titles such as Unworthy Republic, The End of the Myth, Illusions of Emancipation, and Stamped From the Beginning claim prestigious prizes. This mode of analysis doesn’t just revise our understanding of American history, illuminating areas of darkness that most people don’t know and perhaps would rather not. It also draws a straight line from past to present.
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