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:
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.