More Madness Of Crowds
A review of The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine our Culture, by Heather Mac Donald, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2018
By Barton Cockey
September 20, 2018
Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one. —Charles Mackay
The diversity obsession that now possesses our universities and large businesses has reached such a level of insanity that it deserves its own volume in a new edition of Charles Mackay’s 1841 classic Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, to join such famous follies as the tulip mania, the South Sea bubble, the witch hunts, and the Crusades. Fortunately, Heather Mac Donald has written such a volume.
The central, inspiriting dogma of the secular religion of American leftism is equality. We are to believe (or worse, pretend to believe for the sake of our careers) that everyone can be whatever he wants to be, as the religion’s prophet Barack Obama himself proclaimed. Race and sex (which we now have to call gender) are social constructs. After centuries of advancement, we have arrived at the point where a bald, bearded, effeminate professor of Transgender Studies can say with a straight face (if that’s the right expression) that there is now a scientific consensus that there is no biological difference between men and women. And of course, it is unthinkable that human breeds separated by 50,000 years of divergent evolution could possibly differ in behavior, intelligence, and personality (BIP) traits.
These dogmas are so rigidly held by the academic establishment and the captains of industry that the smallest sign of heresy brings down the wrath of the Inquisition. Heather Mac Donald examines the enforcement of diversocratic doctrine on race and gender in the first two parts of her book. An interesting feature of the case histories that she cites is that the targets of the diversity enforcers are usually committed liberals. In particular, she discusses the well-publicized case of Yale master Nicholas Christakis, who was hounded out of his teaching post because his wife had the temerity to suggest in an email that Halloween costumes were harmless fun and should not concern the university’s multicultural thought police. “Erika and Nicholas Christakis’s careers have been devoted to social-justice concerns. Nevertheless, Erika Christakis resigned from teaching at Yale and Nicholas Christakis canceled his spring 2016 courses, after students marched on their home and chalked hostile messages outside their bedroom window,” Mac Donald relates. Being good liberals, the Christakises groveled before their persecutors. The authorities at the university, far from standing up for these decent people, validated the claims of the mob instead, with the revolting sycophancy that observers of academe have come to expect: “You have offered me the opportunity to listen to and learn from you.”
Unfortunately, the campus leftists never return the favor of listening or learning, as Mac Donald shows by recounting her own harrowing experiences as an invited speaker besieged by chanting, drumming mobs of foul-mouthed student rioters. The same scene repeats itself everywhere. The speaker could be as flashy as Milo Yiannopoulos or as staid and cerebral as Jordan Peterson or John Derbyshire. The maddened hordes respond with the predictable chants of “racist, sexist, homophobe, xenophobe, white supremacist.” The whole spectacle has the appearance of a bizarre, profane liturgy, an orgiastic ritual of self-righteousness. It has that appearance because that’s exactly what it is: the ritual affirmation of beliefs that are completely unhinged from reality and can be sustained only by fomenting mass hysteria and silencing the unbelievers.
As Mac Donald shows in her discussion of the multicultural bureaucracy (and she concentrates on only a fraction of it, mostly the bloated administrative apparatus of the University of California), there is a lot of money at stake. Quarter-million-dollar starting salaries for diversity managers are common. Millions of dollars go to fund the remedial instruction of unprepared “underrepresented minority” pupils, many of whom abandon their intended majors and waste their precious four years on race and gender studies. For the sake of the bureaucrats’ comfortable sinecures, no one must know that, as Mac Donald points out, women are naturally underrepresented at both ends of the mathematical ability spectrum or that blacks applying to college are dramatically scarce in the upper range of SAT scores. Any discussion of the harmful effects of racial preferences on black law-school and college students must be suppressed. The fact that Mac Donald chronicles the data on these and other subjects so effectively is sure to turn up the heat the next time she appears on campus.
In Chapter 13, “The Humanities and Us,” Mac Donald is at her most impassioned. The abandonment of western civilization by our supposed cognitive elite is one of the greatest scandals of our time. The baseness of this trahison des clercs is cast in sharp contrast by Mac Donald’s vignettes of Renaissance scholars retrieving the crumbling vestiges of classical knowledge from obscure monastic libraries. Surely it is no wonder that students are coming out of major universities knowing less than when they went in, according to a study from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in 2007. For example, less than half the participants in the survey of 14,000 graduates could identify “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” as a quote from the Declaration of Independence.
I have only the smallest of criticisms of this book. The writing is graceful, with only one badly mixed metaphor (page 202: “play the race card to the hilt.”) The limited statistical focus on California’s public university system may leave the reader wondering about the rest of the country, but anyone who knows a few reality-based college faculty and administrators will already be aware that the madness at UCLA is just as virulent in Baltimore County, Williamstown, and your own alma mater. Besides, a wider survey could easily bog down in numbers. Considering the frequency with which Mac Donald’s inquiries were deflected by college bureaucrats invoking “confidentiality,” reliable information about private universities may be impossible to gather.
Although unabashedly sex-realist in her discussions of women’s aptitude and interest in advanced mathematics and engineering, Mac Donald avoids any suggestion of biological determinism with regard to race. On page 198, she states, “When it comes to underrepresented minorities, math deficits show up at the earliest ages. It is only there where the achievement gap can be overcome, through more rigorous, structured classrooms and through a change in family culture to put a high premium on academic achievement.” For this confident assertion, she offers no evidence. I’d like to believe that there is truth to the claim in that the proposed changes might increase the number of blacks and Hispanics with basic math proficiency, but the disappointing record of Head Start programs does not support much optimism; and if an effective program could be applied across the whole racial and social spectrum, so that every child achieved his full potential, how do we know that the gap wouldn’t actually widen? Moreover, there is no reason to believe that such interventions would change the distributions at the upper tail of the performance curves, which is where the real stars reside.
A certain amount of reserve on such matters may be prudent for a best-selling author in the age of electronic censorship by the likes of Google and Amazon, but Mac Donald has ably demonstrated that even a moderate “cultural analysis,” is “punishable ‘hate speech,’” as exemplified by the furor over Professor Amy Wax’s gentle advocacy of bourgeois values. The delirious communicants of the temple of multiculturalism have coined no worse pejoratives for Jared Taylor than they have hurled at Amy Wax. We all have a stake in honest evaluation of this critical issue. Whether the underperforming “minorities” are held back by their cultural or their genetic endowment, any mention of the fact will be an equally outrageous affront to the cult of victimhood. Either way, the priestesses of outrage will denounce the mortal sin of blaming the victim. After all, the point is that in their religion, the white man is the devil, a racist, literally Hitler! Doesn’t this litany of abuse get boring after a few million repetitions? If liberal Nicholas Christakis and alt-right Richard Spencer face the same fiery retribution, how long will it be before thoughtful analysts of the racial performance gap decide that they might as well follow the evidence and report accordingly?