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Interview

Fearless Thinking in an Age of Conformity

Heather Mac Donald Thomas W. Smith Fellow, Manhattan Institute; Contributing Editor, City Journal
Brian C. Anderson Editor, City Journal
Thu, Sep 10, 2020 EVENTCAST

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Fearless Thinking in an Age of Conformity

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SEE ALL EVENTS
Thursday September 10
Thursday September 10 2020
PAST EVENT Thursday September 10 2020

America is in the midst of a cultural crisis. Protests over police shootings have led to civil unrest, major corporations are proclaiming their social and political commitments, and the press and social media companies sometimes seem to be tipping the scales of our national conversation. In this atmosphere, Heather Mac Donald, Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, has carried the standard of free—and fearless—thinking, and City Journal, edited by Brian C. Anderson, has been a home for such independent thought.

Mac Donald has criticized the pernicious argument that bedrock American institutions, especially its police departments, are irredeemably racist. Her recent piece in City Journal, “Conformity to a Lie,” identified elite academic institutions as a source of this argument, not to mention a place of stifling intellectual conformity. This conformity is not confined to college campuses, as Mac Donald discovered when a talk she delivered defending law enforcement was pulled from YouTube, only to be restored under age-appropriate content restriction.

Join Mac Donald and Anderson for a conversation about Mac Donald’s recent work, her experience with the new social-media speech codes, and more.

Event Transcript

Brian Anderson:

Good afternoon and welcome to our virtual event, Fearless Thinking in an Age of Conformity. I'm Brian Anderson, the editor of City Journal, and I'm excited to talk today with Heather Mac Donald, the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Brian Anderson:

Our country is in the midst of a cultural crisis. Protests over police shootings have led to civil unrest and calls from activists, academics, and celebrities and journalists to defund police departments. Social media companies and the mainstream press are increasingly unwilling to give a fair hearing to arguments that they disagree with. In this atmosphere, free and fearless thinking is especially valuable.

Brian Anderson:

Heather Mac Donald has carried that standard in city journal's pages and beyond. She's criticized the pernicious argument the key American institutions, including the nation's police departments are irredeemably racist. Her essay in the summer issue of City Journal, Conformity to Ally, identified elite academic institutions as a source of this argument in places of stifling intellectual conformity. This conformity is not confined to college campuses, however. As Heather recently discovered, when a talk she delivered defending law enforcement was pulled from YouTube, only to be restored under age appropriate content restriction.

Brian Anderson:

In short, Heather Mac Donald's been doing invaluable work and again, we're glad to have the opportunity to talk about it with her today. Now, throughout the conversation, please feel free to submit your questions on whatever platform you're watching us on and we'll try to work in as many as feasible. So, Heather, thanks very much for joining me today.

Heather Mac Donald:

Thank you so much, Brian. It's an honor to be with you.

Brian Anderson:

Now, in your essay, which I just mentioned for City Journal's summer issue, you detail the academic response to the death at police hands of George Floyd, in Minneapolis in late May, an awful incident that has set off months of urban protests, many of which have become extremely violent. How has higher education addressed this period of crisis in American history?

Heather Mac Donald:

It's approached the crisis with a combination of utterly unhinged rhetoric, Brian, and very dangerous plans. College presidents competed to issue the most sweeping indictment they could possibly muster of the American polity and the American people claiming that blacks are everywhere, and at all times under lethal threat of their lives. Let me give you a few examples, just briefly. Ted Ruger who is the Dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, immediately announced that we are again reminded that this country's 400 year history of racism continues to produce a clear and present danger to the bodies and lives of black people in every part of the US.

Heather Mac Donald:

Now, astute listeners will hear in this echoes of Ta-Nehisi Coates, probably the most read author on an American campus today. Amherst College President announced that virulent anti-black racism has never not been obvious, and yet there are some people who continue to deny it. The chancellor of University of California at Los Angeles, Eugene Block announced that racism permeates every sector of society.

Heather Mac Donald:

Now, it would be a mistake Brian to brush this off as mere boilerplate. College presidents have enormous authority, they set the intellectual tone for our country and they're supposed to represent our best effort at truth and disinterested knowledge, not political partisanship. These are highly partisan statements. They better damn well have empirical evidence to back up such utterly delegitimating claims about the American polity. I have argued that they do not.

Heather Mac Donald:

As far as the plans that are rolling out at record rates, sent them on a daily basis by various people out in the academic world. What we're seeing happening now is the rollout of a total revision of the curriculum. College after colleges is declaring that it's very [french 00:04:44] is to function as an anti-racist institution. How that overlaps with its mission to preserve and pass on our cultural inheritance or to generate new knowledge is a mystery to me.

Heather Mac Donald:

We have plans to inject issues of racial identity throughout the curriculum, the humanities, social sciences and the sciences. We have more pledges built on decades of pledges to hire by quota, to cast aside meritocratic standards and hire for professorships on the basis of skin color. Why does this matter, Brian? Because this stuff doesn't stay put, it leaks into the world at large. I would argue that the horrible, horrible anarchy, the riots that we've seen over this summer of tragedy, have been inspired in very large part by this sweeping academic indictment of the American polity.

Brian Anderson:

Yet wouldn't you assume that America's colleges, the campuses are already places of tolerance? What was the point really, of spending millions and millions and millions of dollars on diversity initiatives, if college administrators are now suggesting that, that previous work apparently had no real impact, and that universities of all places are still hotbeds of bigotry?

Heather Mac Donald:

Well, first of all, it is ludicrous. I have heard from so many students as I speak on college campuses before they walk out or surround me, that they are at threat of their lives from circumambient racism and sexism. There could not be anything that is further from the truth. Colleges are the most tolerant institution in human history, at least towards society's traditionally marginalized groups. We'll leave aside the plight of conservative students.

Heather Mac Donald:

The idea that there is any need for anti-racism measures are absurd. The point of it is to virtue signal, but there is a further paradox, Brian, these college presidents get up and they beat their chest and say, "I apologize, I apologize for my racist institution." Well, they should name some names. Who are the faculty that are discriminating against black students or against female students because females are just as energetic in adopting the victim mantle, because it confers enormous power and prestige.

Heather Mac Donald:

But if these college presidents are so convinced that their institutions are places of racism where students need allies, if you're black or female, you need an ally to survive. Why haven't they changed their admissions policies? Why haven't they gotten rid of these professors, and why don't they issue a warning to black students or to female students, that you're entering a scene of utterly lethal bigotry? Of course, the reason they don't, is because they know that is a lie. This is all part of this very bizarre charade that the country's elites are involved in, in which elite whites flagellate themselves for phantom racism. This is unprecedented in human history to have this degree of self hatred.

Brian Anderson:

We're learning that the anti-racism ideology isn't just limited to the humanities, you mentioned it's extending into other academic areas as well. This mindset is entering the sciences in your experience?

Heather Mac Donald:

Oh, absolutely. Thanks to the national government. Here's what Trump should do, he's reamed out the anti-whiteness trainings. He should ream out, more importantly, all the federal tax dollars that are pouring into science departments to fight intersectionality and engineering. The engineering school at the University of California, San Diego, this summer announced that it was going to become an anti-racist organization. Well, what anti-racism has to do with developing new nano technologies or understanding some of the engineering challenges of vaccines and viruses is another mystery.

Heather Mac Donald:

But Harvard science dean recently announced that he would be upping the number of black scientists hired. None of this has anything to do with our ability to solve the medical problems that face us. Yet, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, are funding diversity and intersectionality initiatives in Alzheimer's research on the theory that the only good science is diverse science.

Heather Mac Donald:

You also have campuses throughout the University of California that won't even look at a scientist who's applying for a job if his statement announcing his commitment to diversity is not sufficiently effusive. That scientists won't get through the first cut.

Heather Mac Donald:

I'm not sure that Albert Einstein would get hired today at the University of California and many other colleges, because he, oddly, for a scientist was absolutely obsessed with his pursuit of truth, and was not going to distract himself with a pseudo specious politics. But there's very few places today where he would get hired without having to jump through at least a whole set of diversity hoops.

Brian Anderson:

You spend a lot of time on campuses giving talks, sometimes controversially. What's your feel for how this kind of blanket ideology, in a way, is affecting students? How are students responding to these claims that the universities are hotbeds of bigotry and racism?

Heather Mac Donald:

Well, I would identify two poles Brian, the ones who are the true believers who have gone out now to colonize the HR departments of corporations, to colonize their very interstices. Google, the big tech companies are one big college campus writ large in Silicon Valley, and those who are demanding and protesting with the absolute encouragement of college administrators and many faculty, proclaiming their victimhood.

Heather Mac Donald:

But then there are the students who are cynical about this, and who don't necessarily buy into it. But they are terrified. There is an enormous amount of self-censorship happening on the part of both students and on the part of faculty. It's the opposite of if you believe that the purpose of higher education is freewheeling discourse and debate of ideas, an idea that I am not fully committed to. I think the real purpose is transmission of knowledge, and debate of opinion is part of that, but in some cases tangential.

Heather Mac Donald:

But if you see universities as primarily about the free exchange of ideas, then they are a travesty, they are a complete failure in that because students are so terrified. One thing I noted with extreme alarm over this last year, was that several of the nominees to the federal bench that had been put forward by the Trump administration either saw their nominations sidelined entirely, derailed entirely, or had a very, very hard time getting through because of undergraduate writing in conservative student newspapers.

Heather Mac Donald:

A nominee for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the western states, Ryan Bounds as a Stanford undergraduate had written some sardonic essays about Stanford's obsession with identity politics and multiculturalism. Well, his nomination was torpedoed, thanks, unfortunately, I'm sad to say by Tim Scott, the Senator Tim Scott, with the assist from Marco Rubio.

Heather Mac Donald:

Then another nominee, Neomi Rao barely squeaked on because as a Yale undergraduate she had written some undergraduate essays in Yale's conservative student paper, disputing the idea that there's an epidemic of campus rape. Well, those were essays written in the 1990s by undergraduates which had the effect of torpedoing judicial nominations.

Heather Mac Donald:

Any undergraduate today thinking of challenging campus orthodoxies, who is aware of the current climate of hostility and suppression would be, frankly, reckless to speak out against this because given social media, to get the early student newspaper things you had to dig through the archives. Today, everything's on the web. I fear for the future of conservative, anti-dogmatic student newspapers, of which I have benefited enormously.

Heather Mac Donald:

My shout down blockade a year or two ago at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, the only decent coverage of that was from the Claremont Independent, a conservative student newspaper. But as I say, those voices are going to be very few on the ground in the future.

Brian Anderson:

Well, maybe that leads into this question. This is not the first period of left-wing activism on campus, there was an earlier period in the '60s, into the '70s, really that was very pronounced, had political influence in the country. I wonder how these periods compare in your view.

Heather Mac Donald:

They compare because the campus radicals in the 1960s did not have a phalanx of thousands of diversity bureaucrats cheering them on, of college presidents kowtowing before them, bending the knee. Weeping in shame at their own racial sins. You now have an utter codependency between these left-wing college bureaucrats, and these self-involved, narcissistic students who put on little psychodramas of oppression before an appreciative audience of diversity deanlets, and vice chancellors of equity and inclusion that amplify this, that give it institutional credibility in a way that the '60s protests never had.

Heather Mac Donald:

As I say, the transmission belt into the world at large, is much, much faster. These I think, are more consequential, simply because they have been so institutionalized and there is virtually no voice on campus that is pushing back against them. The '60s, there were not enough voices. The faculty we learned back then were largely supine, were largely cowards and were willing to have administration offices and in most cases taken over with machine guns. But still, there were some people who fought back. Today, that virtually never happens.

Brian Anderson:

We have a related question from an audience member, Craig [inaudible 00:16:43] If you were a counseling a high school senior, he asks, looking for a traditional non-woke education, are there any colleges you could recommend? Hillsdale, he says comes to mind, but are there other institutions that are resisting these trends you're describing?

Heather Mac Donald:

Unfortunately, they're very few, and obviously the first that always comes to mind is Hillsdale. There are, I assume some Catholic colleges out there. I would ordinarily have recommended the St. John's colleges which are dedicated to a great books tradition, and yet I have heard a rumor and I have not confirmed this myself that they have become woke in their education. If that's not true, I apologize to those campuses, but I would do due diligence before sending your child there.

Heather Mac Donald:

I think what we need... I have been very reluctant to pull the plug on academia because there's nothing I believe in with greater conviction and passion than the privilege of studying the great works, and of passing our legacy on to students, of trying to educate them to understand why students should be down on their knees in gratitude for the sublimity and beauty and humor and irony that is the Western tradition.

Heather Mac Donald:

But after this summer, I've decided it is utterly unredeemable. We've heard you mentioned, Brian, in the beginning, the defund the police movement, forget that, that is utterly reckless and will result in thousands more black lives being taken.

Heather Mac Donald:

What we have to do is defund academia. Do not give them another cent. The problem is that parents... I spoke to a parent several months ago, this is before the troubles, and urging her not to give any more money to Harvard. She said, "I'm sorry I have to, until my child gets in." That is a very hard thing to break, because the parents that are desperate for the status and credentials that these colleges can convey, are very reluctant to pull the plug on alumni donations, but it has to happen.

Heather Mac Donald:

We have to have creative thinking backed up with large philanthropy, to create alternative institutions. I would like to see a revival of the 18th century tradition of the private tutor who would take the sons and daughters of British aristocracy on the grand tour on the continent to Rome, to Vienna, and one that was filled with learning. But, there is absolutely no reason to keep these institutions going anymore. They do not deserve it.

Brian Anderson:

Well, that's a good article idea, actually.

Heather Mac Donald:

We'll see.

Brian Anderson:

Here's another audience question and it gets back to some of the comments you made earlier. The audience member says, "There's been a spate of college style struggle sessions in non-university settings, from the retraction of Tom Cotton's op-ed in the New York Times, to the Google employees protesting their company's collaboration with the Defense Department. Do you think university activism risks infecting other institutions?" I think you've started to answer that. "If so, which institutions are at the highest risk, do you think, of being infected?"

Heather Mac Donald:

It's not a risk, it's a reality. It has happened. Of course, Google, that protest was fueled by college graduates. We have also got to stop the idea that social uplift programs should be measured by the rate of college going no, no, no, no, we have got to decouple this. But every institution that the new york times, the press, it's all college graduates.

Heather Mac Donald:

These are people who have bearing with them the virus, a virus that is far more dangerous in the long term than the coronavirus ever could be. It is the virus of racial hatred and division based on no facts whatsoever. The press has been taken over, government is taken over, big Banks are taken over. We've seen this summer, that every corporation in the country putting out almost indistinguishable statements about America's endemic racism, as if college presidents were dictating to them.

Heather Mac Donald:

When Google fired the computer engineer, James Damore in August of 2017, or 2018, excuse me, for having written a very moderate 10 page fact based memo suggesting that it was not discrimination against highly qualified female engineers that was responsible for the fact that Google did not have 50-50 male to female engineering. James Damore said, it may have something to do with the average career predilections of males and females. Average, he was talking about distributions, he was not talking about the females at Google, he was talking about the females not at Google, and mentioning the fact that females on average. Again, I'm not talking about your daughters who will be the next Nobel Prize in Physics, I know. But, on average, females gravitate towards hands on relational work, males towards abstract ideas based work.

Heather Mac Donald:

Google fired him for that memo, because it said it made females feel unsafe at work. Google CEO, Pichai mimicked verbatim, the pathetic language of academic victimhood in explaining why he had to fire Damore. But on one of the Google chat boards, somebody posted anonymously, the statement, "We have to nip this diversity thing in the bud," which it's too late. But we have to try and at least retard its march. Because right now, what Google calls its human resources department, which is its typical Googly, precious name of people analytics. People analytics is now just an outpost of women's studies and Black studies. That is true in every major corporation.

Brian Anderson:

Well, that relates to a question asked by Pablo, who's in our audience, "Is there any truth to the claims that diverse organizations actually make more money, have greater revenue or is that a correlation without necessary causation?"

Heather Mac Donald:

I am so skeptical. I have not looked myself at those studies but I simply cannot believe it because at this point, given the academic skills gaps that are vast between whites and Asians on the one hand, and so called underrepresented minorities, that is blacks and Hispanics on the other exist as well, to a lesser extent between males and females. Any institution that is affirmatively engineering diversity is doing so by setting aside its color and sex blind meritocratic standards.

Heather Mac Donald:

It is provable that when you set those standards aside and substitute something else, you're going to get a less qualified workforce. We've also had counter evidence of research that's come out that says that this anti-white training produces more dissension... Of course, it does. Of course, it does. Your brow beating people with a false premise that they are all bearers of lethal anti-black bias, when in fact, this country is so ready to be post racial.

Heather Mac Donald:

In my experience, you go across the country, the vast majority of whites are well meaning, they just want to get along. We want to move beyond this but we're being browbeaten, bludgeoned into this racial consciousness. I'm skeptical of those arguments that say diverse organizations do better. We've also seen, I believe, that the social impact funds that probably also take into account now, the gender and race ratios on incorporations, they don't outperform others. We do have evidence as well that all the diversity training backfires.

Heather Mac Donald:

No, a corporation should look exclusively at merit. It is for other institutions to try to close the academic skills gap. By the time you get to employment, it's simply too late.

Brian Anderson:

Here's an audience question from Alita Cass, "Given what corporations like Google are doing to employees who speak out, as you just described. Can anything be done from a public policy standpoint to restore equitable treatment for employees across the ideological spectrum?"

Heather Mac Donald:

Boy, that's a tough question. I know that a friend of mine is suing her school who fired her. She taught at the French [Lycee 00:26:48] in Los Angeles. It fired her for having, in a completely unrelated speech, not on school time, said that we should be grateful for Western civilization. I kid you not, that was the firing offense. She's suing the school under a California statute that says that employers cannot discriminate on the basis of political viewpoint.

Heather Mac Donald:

The problem I have, the fear I have is that we're creating a precedent, and one that you always have to worry what happens if that precedent gets in the hands of the left? If a corporation does not want to engage in politics, could it be sued by say, a Biden administration for not having affirmative outreach for certain leftist points of view or certain diversity hires? I'm not sure, the idea of employment at will, that employers should be able to fire for most reasons is also a zone of freedom.

Heather Mac Donald:

One has to be very careful in how you restrict that and make sure that you're not setting a precedent that in the wrong hands could have the exact unintended consequences that we want to avoid. I don't have an answer to that, frankly. The easy answer would be public shaming. But as the world becomes more and more infused with college graduates, there is no more shame. We're in a race against time, we're in a race against changing demography, and we know things are at a very critical urgent state right now, and we have not much time remaining to try and preserve the principles of Western civilization, which are both commitment to fairness, to impartiality, to due process, and also to a legacy of literature and art and beauty that is almost unmatched.

Brian Anderson:

I wonder, and this is obviously a speculative question, how much the pandemic has had an effect on all of these developments? From the unrest to the way that universities are thinking about their financial flows, because you have a lot of students who are not going back to campus and we're still being asked to pay full tuition. I just wonder if that could change some of the mindset here?

Heather Mac Donald:

One hopes. As far as leaving aside the question of the riot, please don't call it unrest riot, call it riots, call it looting, call it anarchy. Unrest is like what I have every night with restless leg syndrome. Let's be honest. But addressing the colleges first, it's hilarious because the colleges are the ones that are promoting this therapeutic culture of unsafety and wellness initiatives and what I call the college woke spa with its massages and essential oils and petting dogs and aroma therapy. I kid you not, I wrote about this for the City Journal.

Heather Mac Donald:

They've created these hysterical students. On the one hand, if they followed that wellness ethic, they would all be shutting down, but they are also, at the same time, greedy capitalist bastards that are desperate for tuition dollars and they have an entire industry of enrollments managers both in house and contracted out to try and get as many warm bodies in freshman year seats as they can just to get those deposits in their accounts, so that they can pay for more $400,000 diversity chancellor's.

Heather Mac Donald:

They're in a very paradoxical situation of wanting the bodies in and yet, being responsible for the safetism ideology that is destroying our economy right now. One would hope that parents would say enough of this, I'm not giving you tuition. But again, speaking just anecdotally, I met a woman this summer, who has a daughter who was admitted to Pitzer College, one of the Claremont Colleges, and they're all offline, but she's still paying the $60,000 or $70,000 tuition simply because she's not willing to give up that spot, because Pitzer is credentializing.

Heather Mac Donald:

We'll see... I think there will be a shake out at the lower reaches, one hopes, because we should cut the college student body population by 90%. College should be something for the academic elites, it is not a program to learn how to market. To do marketing or sports management. Colleges have to get back towards a high demand, high intellectual demand set of requirements.

Heather Mac Donald:

One would hope that it is going to have massive shake outs, but I don't know. These are protein institutions. They have managed to keep tuition climbing way above the rates of inflation. Thanks to student loans, Trump should be doing far more to cut off the tap. If you pay out of pocket that would bring some rationality to this. Taxpayers should not be underwriting these grotesquely, obscenely inflated tuitions. Cut it off.

Heather Mac Donald:

As for the riots that we've seen, that is a very frequent explanation that well, these pour people they've been all quarantined and cut off from social interactions. Of course, they have to go and loot. I'm not buying it. I do not buy any justification for anarchy. There's plenty of people who have been put into their stupid, unrealistic, unnecessary coronavirus shutdowns who are not looting. Looting is always a crime of opportunity, and it is a result, I would argue far more of the ideology that we're talking about today, Brian, which is the ideology that America is endemically racist. That gives justification.

Heather Mac Donald:

We have seen the op-eds pouring out of the pages of the New York Times, the books in favor, in defense of looting. This is an ideological phenomenon, not an economic one, for sure. We know the economy has nothing to do with crime. The most safe period in American history, the lowest crime was during the Great Depression. The economic recession of 2008, crime continued to drop.

Heather Mac Donald:

Nobody's out there taking pickup trucks and bashing into Gucci and Ferragamo because they cannot eat with their $600 a week unemployment check. That's not what's going on here. What's going on here is hatred and opportunism.

Brian Anderson:

Here is another anonymous audience question. This person says, "I teach writing at a large Canadian university and a small Catholic college. Do you have suggestions for how not to give in to the pressure to teach diversity delusional materials?"

Heather Mac Donald:

All I can say is if you have the institutional capacity to be brave, do so. Say that you are choosing works that by your lights are the most eloquent, they are the finest examples of the English language that you can find, and that you believe that all students are capable of absorbing all great literature. That the idea that the race or sex of an author is of relevance to what that other produces is extraordinarily narrowing.

Heather Mac Donald:

I don't think there's ever been a dumber idea out there than cultural appropriation, that we're now drawing boundaries on the human imagination. It is ludicrous. I recently read one of the most insightful explorations of female sexual competition that I've come across written by a male in 1947 Britain, The slaves of Solitude, Patrick Hamilton, it's astounding.

Heather Mac Donald:

But if I believed cultural appropriation ideology, as a male, he should not be writing about female psychology. This is absurd. The only thing that matters is the greatness of the works we're reading. I'm grateful that I went to college before multiculturalism hit. I got to read Chaucer, Spencer, Milton, William Wordsworth, Alexander Pope, without ever thinking to complain that they had the wrong gonads and the wrong melanin. Sadly, today's students are taught that, that is the first thing they should look at upon opening a book is whether that book conforms to their own narrowly defined, limiting gender and sex identity.

Brian Anderson:

Ron asks, "Could the new generation of college graduates and faculty hurt America in its competition with China in the future? Are they too preoccupied with diversity and critical race theory to participate in what are useful endeavors?" According to this, Ron, in our audience?

Heather Mac Donald:

Absolutely, we are putting our competitive edge at risk. Absolutely. Hundreds of millions of your taxpayer dollars are funding University mathematics departments, physics departments, chemistry departments, biology departments to study intersectionality, microaggressions, heteronormativity in math and engineering, ludicrous. Scientists just want to do their work. They are not discriminating.

Heather Mac Donald:

China is going full speed ahead. Obviously, China has its problems. It has its political problems. There is undoubtedly patronage there in it's science labs, but they are free of the scourge of diversity. I have said before, the best thing Trump could do if he wanted to level the playing field with China, it would be to dump a few cargo loads of gender theorists onto Beijing research labs because as long as we are spending any money promoting a diversity agenda in science, we are not doing basic science, and we are inevitably, with that, taking our eye off the ball, it will hinder our competitive edge.

Heather Mac Donald:

We already know that our science departments, graduate studies can't be filled with American students because our math teaching is so watered down now, thanks in very large part to diversity concerns that we have teachers of mathematics that are regularly, they'd been doing this for decades, putting out curricula, looking at multicultural math and ethnocentric math and whatnot.

Heather Mac Donald:

We're already behind. We are pathetic in our international competition scores on the PISA exams and others, as far as our science and math and reading capacity. But if you think things can never get worse, you're wrong, they can always get worse and they will get worse.

Brian Anderson:

Now, you recently had your own experience with this cultural conformity and describing on campus and in its spillovers to the broader culture. In a speech you gave this summer, you made the argument that US law enforcement isn't engaged in systematic violence against African Americans. The video was deemed by YouTube as insensitive initially. I wonder if you could just tell that story a little bit and what happened?

Heather Mac Donald:

Yes, this was a speech at the Center of the American Experiment in Minneapolis, and I used federal data, which is the gold standard in criminology for the truth about policing and crime, to show that we are not living through an epidemic of racially biased shootings of black men. To the contrary, when you take violent crime rates into account, whites are overshot. The bias would seem to be in the opposite direction.

Heather Mac Donald:

I talked about the vast support for proactive policing among the thousands of law abiding residents of inner city neighborhoods who beg for more police protection. As soon as I finished this livestream speech, YouTube wiped it off the web entirely. The Center of the American Experiment appealed, and YouTube grudgingly put it back on but slapped an age restriction on. Meaning that your child, your 12 year old boy cannot watch my speech in the privacy of his bedroom. But he can watch naked women spooning with naked men, or buxom naked women frolicking in Las Vegas hotel pools, or he can watch content about how to become an anti-fog warrior. All of these videos are available on YouTube without an age restriction.

Heather Mac Donald:

I went on Tucker Carlson to talk about this and as soon as that segment ended, YouTube slapped another warning saying this was offensive content on the speech. We are definitely in an ideological war here. The speech is available, I recommend people to watch. It's a fairly comprehensive treatment, I think of... As comprehensive as I could make it, of the lies and facts to rebut them about policing that is causing so much damage and so much loss of life in the country at this point. But I'm just one small part of the vast web of censorship that's going on now, by big tech.

Brian Anderson:

What, in your view, should we be doing about that? Is there a policy answer there, or is it really a matter of creating new tech institutions? Doesn't seem to be an easy response.

Heather Mac Donald:

Yeah. You know more about this than I do, Brian, as somebody who's been following web law for a long time. I don't know. We've got whether we regulate these as monopolies and require free speech again. Though, I run up against my usual hesitation of setting a precedent, that if the left... For instance, if the left says, "Well, in order to create an open environment, we have to censor hate speech." It's a preposterous argument, but they've made it before. So, I don't know.

Heather Mac Donald:

Creating alternative venues. We've got some that are in the works, that are operating now, parlay or parlor, as some people call it. But getting enough critical mass to lure people away from the big tech platforms is very challenging. I don't know. One would like to believe that simply sunshine and transparency is enough. It's not. My PragerU videos have been demonetized and age restricted. I know that some of Manhattan Institute's videos have been age restricted, which seems to be now, one of the tools of choice by YouTube.

Heather Mac Donald:

We can talk about it all we want, and we're like little gnats flying around a big oxen. It doesn't seem to work. So, I don't know. We had these hearings this summer, and the mainstream media was incensed that any Republican legislators dare to talk about big tech censorship as opposed to the antitrust issues. I don't know, but we need a solution fast because I fear... I've got a forthcoming piece in City Journal, saying that I think the next step in censorship is that data will no longer be available. I think we are going to lose access to data on the academic skills gap. I think that's why there's a war against SATs. They want to put the College Board out of existence so that we cannot have an alternative explanation for why there is not 13% black engineers at Google. We cannot talk about the math skills gap.

Heather Mac Donald:

I think we are going to also lose access to crime data. So, we need to move fast to make sure that humanity has the trove of knowledge and facts that it's necessary to move forward.

Brian Anderson:

Here is another audience question, this is from Carl Anderson. It overlaps with some of what you've already responded to, "Big picture, what do you think will happen in the long term as consequences of this obsession with identity politics, and censorship of free speech plays out? Where is the culmination heading?"

Heather Mac Donald:

Well, I'll tell you one logical squaring of the circle for the identity politics, and this is uncomfortable to say, but white identity politics. We're living through a period right now of everybody talking about white supremacy. We are really playing with fire here. Americans are naive about tribalism. They think they can play with tribal hatreds, and it'll be fine. Well, we've seen it, it's not fine. We are seeing the fires already. We are seeing the shooting and the looting. Things are getting very bad. We should not be turning our eyes away from this moment. The anarchy that we've seen should be the only thing people are talking about. It is not something happening in a few places. It is not something that will remain limited.

Heather Mac Donald:

We think we're not going to turn into an African Civil War, I'm not sure about that. These things... We are playing with hatreds that the founders understood that you scratch away the veneer of civilization, and you have some very base instincts. When we are delegitimating the institutions of law and order, that you see the New York Times and The Washington Post inevitably put law in order in scare quotes, claiming that it is merely some racist dog whistle, it is not.

Heather Mac Donald:

Law and order, respect for police officers... The things that are happening to police officers on a daily basis is an attack on all of us. They go after police officers because they are the symbols of civilization. If this continues, American prosperity is over because you need stability, you need stability of expectations. The double whammy of the riots and the coronavirus lockdowns have dealt a blow to America unlike anything we've ever seen. We've lived through five months of unprecedented government malfeasance between the riots and the coronavirus lockdowns.

Heather Mac Donald:

I don't know if we've recovered. As far as free speech, I don't know. If we lose it, we lose the ability to self correct. Right now the only allowable explanation for racial disparities is white racism. What we're doing on that explanation is to retool all our institutions, to have even deeper and more inflexible hiring quotas based on skin color without regard to merit and qualifications.

Heather Mac Donald:

We are putting the caliber of our institutions at risk by... We're also putting the qualifications of those many qualified, competitive blacks under the false stigma, the unjustified stigma that they too are hired under racial preferences. That is very bad. If it turns out that this only allowable explanation for racial disparities, which is white racism is wrong, but we do not have the ability to talk about alternative explanations, which are cultural problems, behavioral decisions, individual decisions like dropping out of school, getting involved in gangs, having children out of wedlock, not having an academic culture. The pernicious culture that academic effort is somehow acting white, an idea that was put out no less than by the Smithsonian Institution, Museum of African American History this summer.

Heather Mac Donald:

If it turns out that those other explanations aren't right, but we cannot voice them, then we have no ability to self-correct. This vortex of racial hatred and resentment will only worsen.

Brian Anderson:

Another question and this comes from Kyle Wilkins. He wonders if the courts can be receptive to fighting back in some of these areas? Whether on free speech or on some of the more pernicious examples you've described of excessive pursuit of diversity norms?

Heather Mac Donald:

Well, I first was wondering whether he was going to ask whether the courts are susceptible, and I would say, "Yes, I'm terrified by the future of our jurisprudence." If we have sex and gender and race quotas for nominations to the federal bench, this is very bad. The courts have been very good on the travesty that has been the campus rape tribunals, which fortunately, the Department of Education under Donald Trump and Education Secretary DeVos got rid of the very destructive, Dear Colleague letter that was put out by the Obama administration that basically gutted due process on campus.

Heather Mac Donald:

I think the vast majority of challenges that have been brought by students who were convicted of campus rape through completely inadequate legal procedures on campus, the vast majority of courts have been open to those challenges.

Heather Mac Donald:

As far as free speech, yes, I would say so far, they probably have a pretty good record on free speech if one could figure out ways to bring it. Again, what I worry about is the academy. We saw during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh that devolved into this frenzy of feminists, self-pity and caterwauling. The Believe Survivors Movement had its strongest proponents on elite law schools.

Heather Mac Donald:

Let's think about what believe survivors means. It means that you do not have a presumption of innocence for the accused. It means that any female who accuses a male of rape or sexual assault is automatically entitled to belief, to credence. Well, you had the student body of the Harvard and Yale Law Schools walking out demanding that their classes be canceled under the banner of Believe Survivors.

Heather Mac Donald:

A disproportionate number of Harvard and Yale Law School graduates are going to be put on the federal bench. If they go on the bench, still embracing the Believe Survivors mantra, due process and fairness is over, and it is already spread from the area of sex and race into, as I write about in the upcoming City Journal, into race. We have an advocate telling the Wall Street Journal this summer that if a black person tells you, an employee tells you that he has been the subject of racism on work, believe him. He's automatically entitled to belief.

Heather Mac Donald:

You're not allowed to say, well, maybe there were other reasons why you weren't promoted. You're not allowed to say that. Believe Survivors now applies in the racial realm as well. Again, be very, very scared about what is coming out of our universities.

Brian Anderson:

Well, Heather, I think we're unfortunately reaching the end of our time for today. Thanks very much for joining me.

Heather Mac Donald:

Thank you.

Brian Anderson:

And for providing such a withering and excellent discussion of these extremely important issues. Thanks again.

Heather Mac Donald:

Thank you.

Brian Anderson:

Thanks for everyone for watching today, and for your many thoughtful questions. If you'd like to hear more about such conversations, or interested in supporting our mission, I'd encourage you to subscribe to the Manhattan Institute's newsletters or consider making a donation. There are links for doing so in the comments window on your screen. So, thanks again for watching, everyone, and thanks again, Heather, for your excellent discussion.

Heather Mac Donald:

Such an honor. Thank you, Brian.

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