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

5 thoughts on “Explicit Designation: A Solution for PC College Campuses, Fake News, and #MeToo

  1. The Prager U mission statement is a perfect example of bullshit to me. They should say “we endeavour to repeat and reinforce the myths about America”

    Of course, the idea has a huge problem. There is no such thing as a neutral viewpoint. So any rating will, by nature, be biased.

    Fact is, the whole idea of ratings, etc. are flawed. They put into the hands of someone else the responsibility for assessing sources, quality, etc. instead of in the hands it belongs – the consumer.

    And using works of fiction to demonstrate examples? Silliness.

    Shall we go so far as to say the behaviour that was displayed by Navy pilots in the Tailhook scandal was acceptable? That such was to be expected in the high-testosterone, aggressive culture of fighter pilots? Many made just those excuses – but excuses they were. The behaviour was not acceptable, of any member of the military, regardless of culture or labels.

    Ideas like this deserve one result. Being tossed in a trashcan. There is a complete failure to think through that this idea is just saying “you’re all dumbasses who need labels to figure shit out”. Maybe many people are dumbasses. But labels won’t change that and are so susceptible to misuse that they are a cure worse than the disease.

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    1. The PragerU statement admits bias quite explicitly. “What we call ‘Americanism'” and “conservative sound bites” is them taking full responsibility. They are pretty clearly admitting that they are activists and propagandists. They aren’t saying “fair and balanced” or “the most trusted name in news.”

      I agree that there is no such thing as a neutral viewpoint. But there is such a thing as activism or an established political view vs. apathy. Part of my scoring system (which is just a starter, not a finalized product) accounts for that. It’s not perfect. It’s not perfect, just more transparent. And there exists nothing to stop you from calling PragerU bullshit if they use my system.

      This system doesn’t take away the consumer’s ability or right to pass judgment. It’s not enforced by government. I suggest that it be done internally, but a private agency could do it too. Think of Michelin or Zagat.

      The Wolf of Wall Street is based on a true story, and I use that example because many people have seen it. It’s not central to the point. It’s an extreme version of an example of an “Aggressive” workplace.

      Talihook is as irrelevant as a fictional example. I’m talking about the private sector.

      So let’s say you have a diet restriction. Maybe you’re allergic to nuts or don’t eat pork. You don’t want labels to be up front? You wouldn’t rather have the company tell you what’s in their food?

      I don’t necessarily agree with it being illegal for a 16 year-old to watch an R-rated movie. But wouldn’t you prefer to know the content of a movie before choosing to bring your child to watch it? Would you prefer a company that advertised films with sexual content as explicit instead of family friendly?

      Your criticisms are weak here. I think you just got mad about the PragerU part and then nitpicked in a kind of obnoxious, non-productive, close-minded way.

      I expect better critiques from you, Al.

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  2. What makes you think that a private vs a government organization should have different standards?

    As to whether I want something labeled? I can make that choice in what I buy – not by having someone say “this should be!”.

    Fundamental flaw of grasping that the market rules. Not your idea of what is right or wrong.

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    1. Public schools can’t promote religion. Private schools can. Public sector does not have the freedom that private sector does. Weren’t we just talking about the need for police officers to be held to a higher standard than a private citizen? And what about a public official or employee’s freedom of speech? You’ve said that Trump’s tweets are a problem because of his position in government and that his freedom of speech is not equal to a private citizen’s.

      The rest of your criticism takes this a bit too seriously. This is not a be all end all or a totally specific proposal. I’m just throwing an idea out there. You have to start somewhere.

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