Journalism, science, & the academy have become so uniformly left-wing that they now they’re mired in their own ideological monoculture, marinating in their own confirmation bias.
From National Review:
Every now and then, you read a statement that makes you realize just how vast the gulf is between the Right and the Left in this country.
Earlier this morning, I read two.
Here’s the first, from Vox’s Ezra Klein:
.@drvox has written eloquently of America’s “epistemic crisis,” which is driven by the GOP’s rejection of transpartisan institutions like academia, journalism, etc. https://t.co/vXf9xRWxnu This is how it happens.
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) December 12, 2017
Did you catch what he said? He called academia and mainstream journalism “transpartisan.”
Curious to read the full piece that Klein summarized, I clicked the link, read David Roberts’s argument that America is in an “deep epistemic breach” — where a large percentage of Americans reject facts that counter conservative narratives — and came across this statement:
The primary source of this breach, to make a long story short, is the US conservative movement’s rejection of the mainstream institutions devoted to gathering and disseminating knowledge (journalism, science, the academy) — the ones society has appointed as referees in matters of factual dispute.
The conservative movement didn’t “reject” journalism, science, and the academy. Those institutions (especially journalism and the academy) became so astonishingly, uniformly left-wing that they rejected the conservative movement. Now they’re mired in their own ideological monoculture, marinating in their own confirmation bias.
It’s especially odd to read Roberts’s and Klein’s argument in a week that featured a stunning number of media missteps — all pointed against Trump. ABC, CNN, and Bloomberg were each forced to walk back big “scoops” that damaged the Trump administration. And sadly, this week was unusual only in the frequency of mistakes, not their direction. In a devastating piece for The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald outlines story after story that had to be modified, corrected, or retracted — all of them hyping Russian influence in America and many of them including unverified or debunked links between Russia and Trump officials. The sheer number of “mistakes” has multiplied to the point where the fear that Roberts expresses — that Mueller could produce direct evidence of Russian collusion and conservatives wouldn’t believe it — is entirely justified, but journalists will have made decisive contributions to our culture of disbelief.
It’s a fact that our mainstream-media newsrooms, our nation’s faculties, and even the elite college student bodies that disproportionately produce the newsrooms and faculties are overwhelmingly left-wing. The result is an ideological monoculture so narrow and so uniform that its members often view much of the rest of the country like an anthropologist visiting an obscure tribe in the Amazon rain forest.
None of this means that there aren’t good progressive reporters who do outstanding work. And none of this means that a person should automatically discount any scoop that comes out of the Washington Post or any study that comes out of Harvard. But what it does mean is that conscientious Americans should not believe that the “referee” has spoken. I’d even say that Ronald Reagan’s famous admonition in arms-control talks to “trust, but verify” should be changed to simply, “Verify.”
When you peek beneath the black-and-white stripes of the referee’s uniform, you too often see the blue jersey underneath. It’s progressives all the way down. Progressive professors teach progressive students who join progressive newsrooms and then marry progressive spouses who land jobs in progressive think tanks and join progressive congressional staffs. In that circumstance, no one should presume that you’re a referee simply because you work for the New York Times or because you teach part time at Yale. You have to earn that title, and you have to earn it in part by showing you can escape your own confirmation bias.
The academy and media are prone to lament the decline in trust in the academy and media. Yet, at the exact same time, many of these same elites tell Americans (with a straight face) that they can exclude essentially half the country from the halls of power and still call balls and strikes with the utmost fairness.
This is completely absurd, and if the progressive world ever encountered a universally conservative elite institution, they would quite rightly and fairly be suspicious of its biases and conclusions. (And, by the way, the closest thing to a conservative elite that this country possesses — the military’s officer corps — is far more politically diverse than the academy or mainstream journalism.)
Moreover, spend much time in places like the academy, and you start to wonder if these institutions even want to be true “referees.” Instead, they want the respect and authority that comes with referee status, but then they wish to use that status to engineer specific cultural, political, and social outcomes. Increasingly, conservative Americans see through the con.
There are blindingly obvious methods of dealing with this crisis of confidence. Most important among them: Diversify. Stop selling Americans the false bill of goods of modern campus and newsroom “tolerance” — where people from a variety of races, genders, and sexual orientations all think alike. It’s not that hard, honestly. If elite universities and media outlets truly wanted to become referees, they’d be raiding the ranks of conservative think tanks and press outlets right now — engaging in exactly the kind of “aggressive recruitment” they use to increase ethnic and gender diversity.
I’ve been the only conservative in the room more times than I can count — whether I was a student in law school, an associate in a Manhattan law firm, or a faculty member in an Ivy League law school — and I’ve always been surprised by the extent to which these institutions were blind to their own bias. They don’t even know what they don’t know. Their web of progressive relationships influence everything from who they decide is an expert to which stories they think are interesting. And there’s simply no way out of it — no way but to introduce contrary voices. If the elite wants to be great again, its progressive ideological monopoly has to end.
— David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and an attorney.