Explicit Designation: A Solution for PC College Campuses, Fake News, and #MeToo

Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist and professor at the NYU school of business, is an outspoken free speech and viewpoint diversity advocate, and is the founder of Heterodox Academy, a website dedicated to studying and promoting viewpoint diversity on college campuses.

I consider Haidt, a hero of mine, to be a Classical Liberal politically. He believes in equal rights and views capitalism favorably, although he is not a proponent of the extreme free market solutions that Libertarians such as myself prefer. Haidt’s signature issue, though, is viewpoint diversity.

The word diversity seems to captivate left-wingers like few others. The problem is that many on the left believe that varied skin pigmentation, genitalia, sexual preferences, and gender identity constitute meaningful diversity. But this is not so. An individual’s sexuality and appearance tell you nothing about their beliefs, ideas, fears, experiences, feelings, talents, or much else of importance.

Real diversity comes from the inside. Those who have different concepts of God, different family backgrounds, different innate gifts, different tastes in art and culture, and different opinions on social and political matters generate real diversity regardless of their ethnicities and sexual proclivities.

In a must-watch presentation filmed at Duke University in October 2016, Professor Haidt highlights the social justice wave that has invaded college campuses across America, and argues that social justice values are incompatible with the pursuit of truth that academe has historically waged.

Haidt concludes that there is nothing inherently wrong with a university making social justice its mission. The actual problem is that professors, universities, and programs that focus on social justice have become entwined in institutions that have typically made Veritas (Greek for truth) their actual mission, and that this blurs the lines between the pursuit of the ideal and the recognition of the real.

His solution to this problem is for universities to more explicitly state their overlying objectives. If a university is committed to truth, science, and reason, it should call itself a Veritas university. If its mission is social justice, it should call itself a social justice university. And if its purpose is to serve God’s glory, it should call itself a Christ university.

There are other institutions in which variations of Haidt’s solution, which I will refer to as explicit designation, can be useful in fostering and preserving diversity to serve the most people in the best possible ways. The media and the workplace are two places that could benefit most from explicit designation.

Possibly the most popular term of 2017 is Fake News. While initially used by the media and Hillary Clinton to refer to websites that intentionally publish certifiably false stories, the phrase has since been coopted by Donald Trump and conservative-leaning members of the public to describe biased and sensationalized reporting from mainstream media outlets.

Examples of the former, which typically emerge from the dark alleyways of the internet, are Hillary Clinton and Jonathan Podesta attending human flesh cooking parties and Barack Obama being born in Kenya. Examples of the latter are Trump’s CDC “word ban” and Mike Pence supporting electroshock therapy to reverse homosexuality.

To solve the fake news problem, newspapers, websites, and magazines should explicitly designate themselves according to their biases.

Prager University, which releases 5-minute video clips about social and political issues, makes their conservative biases clear in their mission statement:

Prager Mission Statement

Two larger media organizations that could lead the way in explicit designation are MSNBC and Fox News. Whereas I believe it is generally well-known that MSNBC leans left while Fox leans right, these outlets could enhance their credibility and the public’s level of awareness by outright saying it. MSNBC’s and Fox’s leanings are so obvious that simply labeling themselves left/progressive or right/conservative respectively could be an easy fix.

More supposedly objective organizations like CNN, Reuters, ABC, and The Washington Post could refrain from labeling themselves, but instead provide a score based on their staff’s leanings. If News Channel A has 30 journalists on their payroll, and 16 are liberal-leaning, 8 are centrists or apolitical, and 6 are conservative-leaning, News Channel A could say they are L 33. Here is how a Left 33 score could be determined:

30 Reporters – 8 Centrists = 22 Biased Reporters

16 Liberals – 6 Conservatives = 10 Liberals

10 Liberals / 30 Journalists = 33% Liberal

33% Liberal = L 33 Score

Scores could be given to staff journalists, columnists, and editorial boards separately.

By displaying this score on their website’s about page, within paper publications, and during a broadcast’s title sequence, the media outlet will assist the public in leveling their skepticism and locating a diverse array of viewpoints and interpretations.

Over the past several months, the #MeToo movement has brought abusive treatment of women and children, especially in the workplace, to the forefront of American discourse. Revelations about Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, and many more have caused tensions and suspicions to rise. Here, explicit designation can encourage diversity too.

Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street depicts a brokerage firm filled with debauchery like sex, profanity, substance abuse, and testosterone-fueled competition. To many in the #MeToo movement, this kind of office culture would be lightyears beyond the pale.

But what if there are people who feel happier and work more productively in an aggressive and high-energy environment? What if there are people who revel in the midst of sexual tension and an emotionally-charged climate? Should these people be prevented from pursuing their happiness and career potential because others place a higher value on respect and dignity at work?

In another attempt to cater to diversity, places of employment should advertise and offer jobs that explicitly designate their office environments. Designations could work like this:

Designation Speech Code Flirtation Dress Code Humor
Zero Tolerance No foul or suggestive language Forbidden Formal, non-revealing Non-suggestive, politically correct
Playful Some off-color language tolerated Not recommended, but permitted if not-aggressive Respectable, but not particularly formal Some off-color humor tolerated
Politically Incorrect None Not recommended, but permitted if not overly aggressive Individuals have freedom to dress as they please within reason No holds barred
Aggressive None Common None No holds barred

Of course, an aggressive or politically incorrect workplace would still be required to follow the law and respect human rights.

The diversity would come from specialized and varied definitions of certain human interactions. For example, in a zero tolerance workplace, saying “you look nice today” or asking a co-worker out on a date would be treated as sexual harassment. In an aggressive workplace, one would have to be told to stop making advances explicitly before the possibility of sexual harassment could even be broached.

If institutions like higher education, the media, and the private sector do not begin to regulate themselves, the government may seek to. Hate speech laws already exist in Canada and much of Europe. Mayor Bill DeBlasio of New York has expressed interest in city-owned media outlets to filter information in NYC. And sexual misconduct regulations are being pushed by some US lawmakers.

While I certainly have my own personal preferences, I would not want others to be forced into a one-size-fits all scenario. Diversity is our strength. And explicit designation will make us stronger through greater diversity, transparency, and freedom of choice.

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Explicit Designation: A Solution for PC College Campuses, Fake News, and #MeToo

The Democrats are Doing Their Darndest to Elect Roy Moore

I have a theory that right-wingers can fool people into believing they are left-wingers, but left-wingers can’t fool people into believing they are right-wingers.

This is because left-wing views are so ingrained in our media, education system, and entertainment that no right-winger could possibly escape them. The same is not true of right-wing ideas. Many left-wingers have never engaged with right-wing ideas, so they cannot empathize with people who believe in them.

This is on display in the Alabama senate race between Roy Moore and Doug Jones. Democrats are idiotically using celebrities and cries of racism to attempt to persuade Republicans to vote for Doug Jones. This is idiotic because Republicans expect to be smeared as racists by celebrities. The populist uprising that got Trump elected is a response to that more than just about anything else.

If Democrats took the time to hear right-wingers out, they would be able to win their votes easily in this senate race and probably in politics in general. But their commitment to upholding their “everyone is racist except me” delusions makes it impossible.

The following is all Doug Jones would have to do to beat Roy Moore: walk out on stage with a cowboy hat and a shotgun, say something like “no child molester is gonna get his sinful hands on Alabama’s senate seat,” then walk off stage slowly. That’s all it would take. Telling Planned Parenthood to shut down their Twitter feed wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

But instead, Alyssa Milano and Charles Barkley are telling Alabamans who to vote for and everyone on Twitter is calling them dumb and racist. This will make what should be easy (defeating a child molester in a general election) extremely difficult.

The left’s year-long failure to take a look in the mirror and admit that they lost the 2016 election because they sucked (not because of Russia or Nazis or gerrymandering or whatever) is a gift that will keep on giving to Republicans.

If Roy Moore loses tomorrow, it’ll be because a large portion of Alabama Republicans would rather be governed by people who despise them than side with a sinful man despite the fact that he loves them. It will not be a result of the Democrats’ campaign tactics. But the delusional Democrats will go with that narrative anyway.

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The Democrats are Doing Their Darndest to Elect Roy Moore

My Libertarian Classroom

For the past six years, I have been teaching high school English in Thailand. I love what I do, and I’m good at it. My classroom, for the most part, reflects my Libertarian worldview, and it works.

I certainly don’t preach my politics to my students. This is because the level of respect I receive from most of my classes leads them to treat me as a trusted and benevolent authority figure. And it is against my pedagogical creed to use my authoritative position to inculcate my students. Anytime my views slip out of my mouth, which are rare occurrences, I take responsibility for them rather than allow my students to understand them as fact.

This does not mean my views are never a part of class discussions or activities. When we discuss and debate political and social issues, I sometimes ask questions that allude to the Libertarian thought process if my students do not invoke them on their own. For example, if we are discussing pollution or other environmental issues, my students generally want to ban certain practices or subsidize solutions. If the conversation comes to a standstill, I may try to get their brains going by asking if anything can be done without the government’s participation. This sometimes leads them to suggest privately-organized awareness campaigns, neighborhood cleanup efforts, or innovations that can lead to profitable and environmentally-friendly business ventures.

One chapter of the textbook I use with my 11th graders focuses on the topic of food concerns. Bangkok, where I currently teach, is famous for its delicious street food, which is often less than sanitary and unhealthy. The vendors who sell this food are usually low-income, so regulating their businesses could lead to them having to absorb crippling costs. This winds up being an excellent opportunity for Libertarian thinking.

As a brainstorming activity, I put my students in groups, and have them come up with several specific food concerns they are aware of in Bangkok. They must then choose one and find a solution to improve cleanliness or health.

Next, I use the Socratic Method to lead my students into proving that government laws and regulations do not always serve their intended purposes. I do this by asking them if drugs are legal in Thailand. They say no. I then ask whether drugs are still used and abused in Thailand. They say yes resoundingly, often accompanied by giggles. So, do laws always work as a means of solving problems?

I then explain our activity which is for each group to come up with a solution to their chosen food concern, but bar them from using laws or other governmental methods. This forces them to consider the profit motive, the foundational motivation of many businesses, and find ways to manipulate it so that people will do what makes the world a better place as a byproduct of their own rational self-interest. I am consistently amazed by the creative ideas my students generate when the easy way out, prohibiting unfavorable human activity, is not an option. Their ability for creative and critical thinking, even in an educational system as anti-intellectual and archaic as Thailand’s, blows me away.

In spirit of the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution, I explain the rules of my class on day one, many of which are a reflection of negative rights. And in honor of the First Amendment, all opinions are welcome, and all ideas expressed are subject to scrutiny (and that scrutiny is encouraged).

Students are allowed to exit the room to use the toilet at will. In fact, they are not even required to pay attention, and I make this explicit. These freedoms are retained under the condition that my students do not disrupt my teaching or their classmates’ learning. I explain to them on the first day of class that they are personally responsible for their individual selves and are prohibited from making decisions for others, such as drawing their classmates’ attention away from my lesson. This is essentially an expression of the non-aggression principle as only acts that victimize others are treated as transgressions. Going to the toilet and missing key parts of a lesson is allowed. Reentering the room noisily is not.

Fortunately, and I do not mean to toot my own horn here, I happen to be quite charismatic at the head of the classroom. The vast majority of my students find my lessons to be engaging, and they eventually respect me enough to behave highly politely (at least as far as teenagers go). I do not know how much of this is a result of my teaching and how much is a result of my Libertarian governance.

There are, of course, instances in which my students break the rules. Some of my pupils seem to lack the ability to remain quiet for more than a few moments during my interactions with the class or quiet work activities.

While my students are aware of my rule against audible disruptions, I enforce it within reason. My personal view, as a so-called poor student throughout middle and high school myself, is that not all children and teenagers are predisposed to the capability of learning and behaving in a traditional classroom setting. If I could go back to my childhood and be presented with the option of working a part-time, minimum wage job instead of going to school, I’d jump at the opportunity. I have learned more at work than at school throughout my life, and my main motivation for becoming a teacher was to provide an outlet for students who do not mesh with school like me.

So, I do not lose my rag as soon as a student causes a disruption. I let them get away with a few shushes before taking action. Fascism demands perfection; Libertarianism understands that’s impossible.

When shushes don’t work, I have no choice but to bring the gavel down. And this is when I do something that may seem anti-Libertarian at face value. When I lose control of the class, they lose points collectively. Rather than punishing the individuals who are causing disruptions, I deem all of them guilty by association and reduce all of their scores.

Punishing many for the actions of a few is sacrilege to an individualistic philosophy like Libertarianism. But the lesson learned, not the punishment itself, is the key. What I hope the well-behaved students learn (and I explain this to them if they don’t seem to) is that failing to police one’s neighborhood autonomously eventually leads to restrictions in freedom from a higher authority. If a society (or classroom) can keep itself in order, there is little risk for strict laws, rules, or interventions to be enacted. Peaceful populations are more likely to retain self-governance than chaotic and unruly ones.

It could easily be argued that a public school teacher arbitrating the way a classroom runs is a laughable attempt to illustrate Libertarianism. But as of now, I think I’m practicing what I preach.

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My Libertarian Classroom