The identarian attack on science: Postmodernism strikes back.

By its very nature Social Justice and in particular the activism that permeates throughout the movement is antithetical to science. These departments who cultivate such ideas are deridingly, but arguably fairly described as “grievance studies”, they underpin Social Justice and are heavily influenced by postmodernism. This philosophy is deeply critical of meta-narratives such as science, suggesting that subjective opinion has more value than empirical evidence. It is useful to view the onslaught on science via the social justice movement as a postmodern assault. Primarily, because numerous theories surrounding identity politics originate from postmodernism, examples being; intersectional feminism and critical race theory.

It is reasonable to imply that postmodernism perceives science as another tool for social control. Postmodern guru Jean-François Lyotard postulated that there was an “interlinkage between the kind of language called science and the kind called ethics and politics”. Lyotard used this idea to reject science’s claim to any objectivity, by coupling the knowledge science produces to politics and thereby power. This can be condensed into two postmodern critical statements against science;

  1. Science is unable to produce any objective or truthful statements about the physical reality, therefore, cannot lay any claim to universal applicability.
  2. Scientific enquiry is not a value or interest free pursuit of truth that is independent of local culture constraints, rather it is inspired by hidden ideological motivations.

The question must be asked; why is the social justice movement, using postmodernism as an blunt instrument, to pursue science so vigorously? Heather Heying, former evolutionary biology Professor at Evergreen College and wife of Bret Weinstein, simply explains that science seeks truth and truth isn’t always convenient for this movement. This siege on science manifests in two primary ways; firstly there is an external attack on the credibility of science, followed by a secondary insidious infiltration of science via feminist/social justice ‘researchers’.

heather heying
Heather Heying

The predictable first battle for identarians began in the arena of the social sciences. Given that the social sciences investigate areas of complexity such as human interaction and society, it would make perfect sense that this would be postmodernism’s first port of call. Science searches for objective truths, but this is decidedly more difficult given the unpredictability of humans. Nevertheless, the Scientific Method should still form the cornerstone of any social science. To complicate matters, social sciences often have to perform a balancing act between objective truths and interpretation. The more objectivity a research paper entails, the more trustworthy it will be considered. In contrast, if an over reliance on subjectivity is evident, this could inevitably lead to an increase in confirmation bias, with a very real danger of producing erroneous results and the potential to be harmful to society.

The erosion of social sciences due to a concerted postmodern tide started roughly in the mid 20th century. This was characterised by a shift on the see-saw from objectivity to subjective experiences. This change in approach ushered in the concept of multiple realities. In contrast, objectivity increasingly took a ‘back seat’ leading to social sciences being at odds with objective natural sciences. Postmodernism at one stage was only a small part of the social sciences and was primarily utilized as a differing lens in which to interpret the world from, such as from a feminist standpoint. In recent times postmodernism has been catapulted into the forefront, becoming one of the predominant methods in which to view society. This change has spawned whole departments deeply attached to a singular and myopic philosophy.

Postmodernism and by association identarian beliefs are detached from reality. In colleges around the western world Social Justice is purported to be a distinct academic field, presenting with a set of established truths. It could be argued that Social Justice is little more than postmodern speculation anchored by en vogue ‘theories’ such as Intersectionality. Worryingly, these ideas are being touted as a set of universal beliefs accounting for the entirety of the human experience. With this postmodern input Social Sciences appear increasingly interested in tearing down current ideas and objective truths, rather than understanding them. It is an ideology drowning in subjectivity, divorced from the Scientific Method and marooned on self absorbed intellectual islands.

Most of the blame must go to the teaching staff, who are exploiting their students in an effort to propel their own agendas. Many Social Science students will leave college without any firm grasp of the Scientific Method. Students are taught that ‘lived experience‘ is truth, whilst encouraging them to discover what is referred to as “my truth”, which to you and me is commonly known as an opinion. In these hotbeds of wild ideas, good grades are attained by mirroring back to the educator their favoured ideology, without any requirement to critically think. Students indoctrinated in “right think” are generally ill prepared for the outside world, as their entire education is chiefly formed from a particular perspective.

Rather than considering certain ideas such as “Intersectionality” and “White Privilege” as opinions they are purported to be objective truths. Once in contact with the real world, students find that these beliefs can be met with strong opinions that run counter to the 21st century teachings of Social Science. This lack of preparedness is played out on Social Media everyday, as these identarian disciples are ill equipped to debate in a logical manner. Suddenly they discover that people are dismantling their firmly held beliefs, that were obtained in a safe college echo chamber. This for them will feel like personal abuse, these exchanges often culminate in ad hominem attacks in return, such as “Nazi”, “Alt-Right” and “Misogynist”. None of this partisan anger helps to encourage dialogue or an exploration for “the truth”, but in fairness exponents of “grievance studies” are clearly not interested in objectivity or discourse.

For now, we will make our departure from the Social Sciences and look at how the Social Justice movement has attempted to make inroads into the Natural Sciences. Increasingly, the attack on the Natural Sciences has been performed from the inside, rather like a virus attacking the host cell. As Heather Heying stated, identarians are compelled to attack science, purely because it is in conflict with their own belief system. SJW’s including feminist lobbies have spent decades trying to increase the amount of women taking part in STEM. Not only that, but it would appear that there has been a concerted effort from the identarians to change the way science is conducted and moreover the value in which we place upon it.

Once you delve into the murky waters of postmodernism you will discover that many ideas or theories appear to lose value. In this universe you can pick and choose your ‘truths’ as you see fit. An area that ‘gender feminists’ fight to the death on is, the concept of gender being a social construct. This is despite mountains of evidence on the contrary, which I have discussed in depth in previous ramblings. In an attempt to strengthen the feminist claim, ‘feminist scientists’ have tried, with some success to add scientific weight to their ideology. The paper that I will highlight is Daphna Joel’s article published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America. This in summary asserts that the differences between men and women’s brains are negligible.

Daphna joel
Daphna Joel

I’ll start, by stating that this paper was taken on face value by the New York Times, The New Scientist and most liberal media outlets. Joel was even invited to talk at TEDx Jaffa. You’ll be pleased to know that this paper has since been thoroughly reviewed by her peers. To begin, let’s make it clear what Joel claims in this paper.

  • Brains of individual males and females show very little internal consistency in their combination of “male-typical” and “female-typical” features.
  • Overlap between male and females in the distribution of anatomical traits in specific brain regions is so large, that it calls into question the very idea of gender differences in brain structure.

Firstly, let us keep these findings in perspective, the study only suggests that the structure of the brain is “mosaic”, nothing pertaining to functional differences between men and women. In response to these claims Giudice et al starts off by drawing attention to the questionable methodology. Giudice states that the paper employs an unduly strict criteria for “internal consistency” (brain differences) but a lax criteria for “substantial variability” (brain similarities).

To demonstrate Giudice offers an example using a fictional male, who we’ll call Bob. Bob is tested on a number of sex typical preferences for leisure activities, these are; boxing, construction, golf, scrapbooking, using cosmetics and playing video games. He has no interest in scrapbooking and cosmetics, but is passionate about boxing, construction and golf, however, Bob also does not care for playing video games. Using Joel’s guidelines Bob’s profile would be classed as “substantially variable”, therefore, offered as evidence to display Bob’s brain as a “mosaic” of male-typical and female-typical features.

With regards to the second claim in Joel’s paper, it was noted that the original study did not test how well varying brain features predict a participants sex. Giudice did complete the testing using Joel’s original data, finding that an individual’s sex was predicted through brain features between 69-77% of the time. Furthermore, the multivariate overlap of male and female features based on Joel’s data was a moderate 42% on average, which was considered not high enough to invalidate the idea of overall brain structure differences. Another study by Chekroud et al conducted a multivariate analysis of structural MRI’s for 1566 participants, concluding that “whole brain patterns in brain morphology (structure) can reliably discriminate sex”.

At this juncture it would be fair to mention that despite Joel’s heavily publicised paper, discrepancies between male and female brain morphologies have been comprehensively demonstrated and published in a 2014 meta study. This list is long, so I will leave the finer details of the study here. The point I’m trying to make is Joel’s paper was founded on ‘cherry picked’ data and more than questionable research methods. Not only did it receive a pass from the media, but it was championed by them and declared as a breakthrough in science. It has been thoroughly demonstrated, although contentious in ‘gender feminist’ circles, that biological sex differences do exist. These findings could be used in a positive way to improve health and public policy. Regrettably, politics and ingrained ideology repeatedly obstruct useful science.

When we look at a research paper, it’s important that we note any biases from either the individual or any associated professional ties the author may have. Joel announced that she had no conflicts of interest in her 2015 paper, however, this declaration considering her area of study, appears a little disingenuous. Daphna Joel is heavily influenced by feminism and observing science through this lens. For example she regularly discusses the prospect of feminist neuroscience. Further to this, contrary to having no vested interest, Joel is a member of ‘The neurogenderings network‘. This group states;

“Neurogenderings Network is a transdisciplinary network of neurofeminist scholars, who aim to critically examine neuroscientific knowledge and to develop differentiated approaches for a more gender adequate neuroscientific research. Feminist neuroscientists generally seek to elaborate the relation between gender and the brain beyond biological determinism, but still engaging with materiality of the brain”.

Clearly (cue sarcasm) Daphna Joel and colleagues had no pre-conceived agenda while conducting their studies or critiquing the current body of knowledge. Once recognised, her affiliations begin to shed light on to why it appears she commenced her research with the conclusion and worked backwards. For me, one of the tell tale signs was her uncharacteristically (for a scientist) bold claims. The headline in the New York Times read, “Can we finally stop talking about ‘male and ‘female’ brains”? The answer I suspect is, probably not. These are not the words of an objective scientist diligently following the evidence. The general point of science is, you start with a hypothesis and proceed to disprove this idea, not manipulate the study to bolster a closely held belief.

Recently, medicine has also been on the receiving end of criticism. It has often been accused of being a hegemonic structure of power, while no more valid than Reiki or Homeopathy, implying that all therapeutic methods are equally valid. A postmodern paper by Holmes et al argued that evidence based medicine (EBM) was an example of “microfascism” and proved that health sciences are colonised by a specific research paradigm, which in turn prevents alternative forms of knowledge to surface. In this paper their central criticism is the legitimacy of randomised controlled trials (RCT’s), which are internationally accepted as the highest level of evidence. Alternative forms of ‘knowing’ that the authors allude to, generally manifest in an area called ‘Complementary and Alternative Medicine’ (CAM).

Many enthusiasts of CAM are openly anti-science, they claim that the Scientific Method misses the point of CAM and doesn’t account for cultural diversity. Another claim is that scientific testing is only one of the many ways of knowing and is not necessarily the best. Contrary to this assertion, clinical effectiveness is a falsifiable hypothesis applicable to all interventions. In other words, it simply aims to ascertain whether a particular treatment works or not.

Alternative research methods have their uses, concentrating on anthropological and sociological aspects using for example; intuition or somatic perception. These ideas may well help us understand patients’ beliefs about health, illness and the body, but they cannot inform us which treatment is the most effective for a given condition. The most conclusive evidence available proves that a modality such as ‘spiritual healing’ works as a placebo response. A placebo response essentially is fine and can be powerful, however, all treatments conventional or unconventional possess some form of a placebo affect. It is surely logical to suggest that having a treatment that possesses a physiological effect would be more beneficial than relying solely on a placebo. Forgive me if I appear to be stating the obvious here.

Science is continually under attack and closely regulated by identarians, but they rarely claim that targeted studies are poorly conceived or that the results are questionable. The objections are mainly concerned with the subject matter studied or the identity of the people performing the research. One such contentious area is the ‘Greater Male Variability Hypothesis’. In simple terms, this suggests that more men occupy the outer reaches of intellect on either end of a distribution ‘bell curve’ than women. Darwin observed these traits in many species throughout the animal kingdom, with reasonably consistent evidence being reported in species as diverse as; wasps, orangutans and humans. As a basic observation, there are significant differences in the number of men compared to women in; Nobel laureates, music composers and chess champions, but on the flip side, men make up the majority of homeless people, suicide victims and prison inmates.

Theodore Hill, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Georgia Tech University sought to discover why this variability occurs. His paper was written with Sergei Tabachnikoff, Professor of Mathematics at Penn State University and was due to be published early 2018 in the Mathematical Intelligencer.  Margaret Wikler, the editor, was untroubled by this potential controversial topic and proceeded to give it her blessing. However, almost immediately after posting a preprint on their website, the duo encountered the Women in Mathematics group (WIM), who warned them that this paper could be damaging to aspiring young women. All efforts by Professor Hill to discuss the content with WIM were ignored.

Following this, the National Science Foundation (NSF) requested that the authors removed any acknowledgement of funding from NSF. This was prompted by two Professors at Penn State University claiming that the paper was “promoting pseudoscientific ideas detrimental to the advancement of women in science”. Later on the same day editor-in-chief of Mathematical Intelligencer Marjorie Senechal withdrew her acceptance of the paper after being challenged by “several colleagues” stating that this paper would provoke “strong reactions”. She clarified that the research had received no scientific objections, but her decision was based on the response the article may elicit.

The U-turn was performed by the journal following a complaint by a senior professor of mathematics at the University of Chicago, Amie Wilkinson. After some back and forth with Senechal, Wilkinson recruited her father, a famous psychometrician and statistician to add academic weight to her disapproval. Long after the Mathematical Intelligencer rescinded the paper, Wilkinson continued to trash the journal and the editor-in-chief through social media. Due to mounting pressure co-author Sergei Tabachnikoff withdrew his name from the research paper, in order to protect his job.

WilkinsonIASWynne2019
Amie Wilkinson

Professor Hill eventually had the paper published via the New York Journal of Mathematics (NYJM), only for it to vanish from the online journal three days later. As it turns out, one of the editorial board members was Benson Farb, who is married to, yep Amie Wilkinson. It transpired that Editor-in Chief Mark Steinberger was effectively blackmailed into pulling the paper by half of the journal’s board led by Farb. Not satisfied, Professor Wilkinson continued her moral crusade, directing her vitriol at the NYJM and the editorial board, threatening to ‘unfriend’ them on Facebook if they did not sever ties with editor Igor Rivin. All this appears more like the insane actions of an angst ridden teenager, rather than a senior professor and yet it worked.

This isn’t the first or I suspect the last time that scientists have been professionally attacked for researching subject matters that identitarian’s consider ‘out of bounds‘. A published study at Brown University concluded that the “exceptionally rapid growth in cases of transgenderism among children and teens is very likely the result of a ‘social contagion'”. This outraged transgender activists, who attempted to discredit the author and the methodology, without really scientifically critiquing it. The article was subsequently pulled by Brown, with many academics since accusing the university of caving in to this group. Ensuring certain potentially uncomfortable areas of study are off limits and the fact identarians are monitoring the boundaries of acceptable academic inquiry is severely disturbing. If you would like to make your own mind up about the paper, feel free to click the link for the original article.

This directs me to my final area of discussion, which I acknowledge is at the more extreme end of science denial. The incident occurred at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. A young student there declared “science is a product of western modernity and should be scratched off”. She continued suggesting science needed to start again through an African perspective, which would include witchcraft.

It could be argued that this assault goes beyond colonialism, as these people seek to tear down universalism. It is true that the majority of scientists during the Enlightenment were white middle class men, but the knowledge that was uncovered goes far beyond identity. Mathematical equations and scientific principles are universal, theories only persist if the results hold, regardless of the place or person doing the testing. This desire to decolonise science is to dismiss all intellectual or social advances that have gone before. A relationship to truth, universal relevance, or intellectual worth are now considered secondary to the identity of the author, with the most oppressed carrying the greatest weight of opinion. Sadly, this movement is supported by lecturers in varying departments throughout the academy. No doubt, we are in the midst of a huge shift towards relativism, which ultimately will stifle any intellectual or scientific advances.

I am sure I will get a reasonable amount of pushback on this article, primarily because I will have been seen to ‘pick on’ the left, while giving the right some sort of critical immunity. Firstly, I will make the point that I have been deeply scathing of the right’s anti-science credentials in previous articles, principally with regards to climate change. We know that the right are just as wilfully blind when the science doesn’t match their ideology as much as this portion of the left are. Specific areas of science denial for the right include; climate change and the anti-vax campaign. However, it’s worth mentioning that this offensive on science by groups who proclaim to be on the left is seldom mentioned. I’m relatively sure that this is a comparatively small group who oppose science, but the problem, nevertheless, still persists.

It is duly noted that the right tend to become increasingly concerned when any scientific developments interfere with the rich making ever more money. This often results in aggressive lobbying, for example, the fossil fuel industry convincing democratically elected officials to follow the money, while turning a blind eye. The left in contrast get ‘hot under the collar’ when their pre-conceived societal ideologies are challenged by ‘inconvenient data’. Make no mistake science is facing a two pronged attack, with both sides more than willing to denounce empirical evidence to protect their ‘truths’. This erosion of the Scientific Method is a regressive measure, destined to transport society to pre-modern times, which effectively helps nobody.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Collective narcissism and identity politics: No empathy required.

I’m not writing this to gain favour with a certain political tribe, or to provoke people, although I’m sure there will be a range of reactions to this. I’m chiefly trying to make sense of all this craziness that continues in the west particularly on college campuses. This thought initially permeated into my brain while watching a video of the Evergreen College collective breakdown and the witch-hunt of Bret Weinstein (Professor of Evolutional Biology) in 2017. For those of you who haven’t heard about this, I’ve shared a video below to give an example of the type of antics that are occurring regularly on college campuses around the ‘anglosphere’. This episode is much like the psychotic Yale university ‘Halloween costume’ incident. I still find it difficult to understand such behaviour, as well as acknowledging that it’s disturbingly interesting. It also boggles my mind why education facilities and government entities continue to listen to such idiocy. But they do and therein lies a major problem.

I’ve written numerous articles about social justice activism, but I continuously struggle to the grasp the mentality surrounding these collegiate outbursts. Recently it occurred to me, partly due to watching these social justice car crashes, along with reading about narcissism from people like Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell, plus my own experiences with narcissism (family member, ex-partners, ex-friends, yes I am a co-dependent), that there was something more to this lurking in the depths. While watching this video on Evergreen, I invite you to play a game called, spot the infantile, self absorbed, entitled, narcissist. Alright, so I’m possibly starting this article with a slight bias. Ooops!

Joking aside, it would be sensible at this juncture to define what a narcissist is, with a view to making sense of what collective narcissism means further into the article. Many people would possibly conclude that to explain what a narcissist is, all that would be required is a picture of Donald Trump. Alas, it’s slightly more complicated than that. Firstly I want to nail down the definition of narcissism. Slapping a tag on someone who may be displaying a lack of self doubt or overconfidence isn’t really the best way to proceed. Narcissism is only present in approximately 1% of people and characterised among other traits with a lack of empathy. On top of this, there is a permanent desire for constant appreciation, a belief of being special and a solid conviction that they are more deserving than others.

It’s worth noting, that not all narcissists are bombastic fools like Donald Trump. Narcissists come in two general flavours; covert and overt. They share many traits such as; conceit, self-indulgence and a complete disregard for others, ‘overts’ are linked to an extroverted personality type and ‘coverts’ to introverts. Overt narcissism is marked by arrogance, a preoccupation with fantasies of success particularly in; attractiveness, power, brilliance and wealth. They expect preferential treatment and have an insatiable need for admiration. If this fails to materialise, it will be viewed as a narcissistic injury, which regularly leads to an excessive action, usually in the form of rage and almost certain revenge. To overt narcissists, other people exist purely to be exploited, therefore, unsurprisingly they display a poor perception regarding their own functioning, primarily in self concept, relationships, social adaptations, ethics, standards and morals.

Covert narcissists also have overblown fantasies, but these are not realised and are unable to be achieved. They have unfulfilled expectations and a vulnerability to stress is also a primary characteristic. Covert narcissists are hypervigilant to humiliation and rejection, while searching for power and glory. Often they live life vicariously through their children, viewing family members as a way of attaining their own rights, desires and values. Covert’s are generally devoid of any respect for authority, while being prone to boredom and depression. These types can fit in with society better than overt narcissists, but will often have a distinct lack of interest for work, known as “narcissistic deficiency”. In a nutshell, ‘coverts’ have an unconscious feeling of grandeur, but these thoughts and emotions are not reciprocated by the outside world.

Narcissism is considered to be on a spectrum, a certain amount is thought to be healthy and required to function in daily life. At the extreme end of this is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Well known narcissists are; Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Ted Bundy and Elvis Pressley, plus modern day narcissists are notably; Simon Cowell, Kanye West, Madonna, Mariah Carey and Donald Trump. So what has this got to do with identity politics and social justice activism? The link is collective narcissism, this was a theory proposed by Theodore Adorno to explain how the Nazis gained and maintained support from the 1930’s to the end of World War II. No, I’m not implying that identarians resemble Nazis, but give them time (joke, sort of).

In a wonderfully ironic article posted in ‘The Conversation’, there are some fantastic examples regarding collective narcissism, rightly mentioning that the group in question fails to accept criticism and feel they deserve special treatment. The piece continues, suggesting collective narcissists are selective regarding their prejudices, while rejecting or attacking groups who do not share their grandiose image. Surmising that they use spin and conspiracy theories to attack competing groups. Noting that these ‘special’ groups also detect insult where nobody can see it (more narcissistic injury).

The ironic part is that the author only links collective narcissism with right wing endeavours, such as Brexit and Trump. Sure there’s plenty of collective narcissism on the right, just look at the US evangelical conservatives for suitable examples. However, social justice groups ticked just about every box in this article and yet there was no pause for reflection regarding their own team. Even though it mentioned that scoring high on the narcissist scale predicts an increase in prejudice, regardless of people’s age, gender or education.

The crux of this is the ‘old left’, as I would call it, have been correct on many occasions; writers from Marx to Sartre catalogued the problems with wealth and capital. They predicted the psychological damage, the profound effects on health and the dismantling of society, as we collectively immerse ourselves in mass vacuity and banality. The result is, the left are losing ground in just about every facet of society and in most geographical locations. The despairing truth is the left, what remains of it, is a shadow of its former self. It is unashamedly unrelated to the working class and hopelessly detached from global injustices. The new identarian left has fallen in love with its own reflection and has subsequently lost interest in the state of the planet, continual wars, free speech, democracy and even poverty.

The left of old created healthcare for all, pensions, economic safety nets, education and housing. These things were universal ventures, so people could have the basics in life, to live, prosper, participate and contribute in society. This now seems long ago, the new/identarian left are instead fixated on race, sexuality and gender. All the while as people on the streets of the world are starving, identarians get apoplectic with rage over the correct use of pronouns. It’s no wonder that people across the western world have banded together, often voting against their own best interests.

Democracies are failing and society is fragmenting, so these drastic, sometimes ill advised actions are a basic response to fear, in an effort to protect themselves. The needs of the many are being continually rejected in favour of supplying the demands of the ‘woke’ few, who are generally well off, educated and privileged. Surely valuing, fairness, truth, justice, democracy, morality and decency takes precedence over what is good for the self. Lets be honest what’s more important a starving child or validating your identity?

wierdo

If this group doesn’t acquire what they feel is rightfully theirs (narcissistic supply) then as repeatedly documented they will instinctively lash out. Narcissistic supply for identarians equates to people colluding with them (also known as allies) for causes such as cultural appropriation or deciding whatever they would like to be called that week. This isn’t the collective, universal vision of the left I once knew, this is pure self indulgent, infantile behaviour. These people should be challenged, rejected from the left and given no credence. They bear no resemblance to the great people who came before them, the likes of; Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Mikhail Bakunin, Bertrand Russell and Peter Kropotkin. Frankly, none of the identarian left would be fit to carry their books.

So lets explore why narcissists are attracted to identity politics and social justice activism in particular. It has been postulated that this arena allows young radicals to indulge their narcissistic urges, enjoying power, support and praise, regardless of their conduct. Their theories and beliefs are absent of any responsibility, the only concern is for their group, as they embark on a journey of hedonistic self-gratification. This insulation from reality rejects any acknowledgement of personal agency and plays out as an overgrown group of kids who have created the rules to feed their self-obsessed, infantile fantasy land. In a cult like fervour they are bound together as a collective, propelled by teenage infused hatred, aimed at all who refuse to agree with their every utterance.

All opposing narratives aimed at SJW’s are met with, anger, dismissal, derision and a desire to dismantle the perpetrators lives. Western colleges are littered with tales of destroyed reputations and careers, any hint of non-conformity is swiftly punished through a series of reprisals. The use of an opaque, malleable language, ensures that any individual caught in this web of lies is unable to escape these allegations of racism, sexism and the deadly accusation of being transphobic. Cultural appropriation, privilege theory, critical theory, intersectional feminism, micro-aggressions and the use of safe-spaces are all tools used to obfuscate the purpose of identity politics from the masses, while simultaneously justifying their beliefs. These incidentally are classic techniques used by narcissists, the end result is rather like 1984, you are left questioning your own name or indeed how many fingers are held up.

Control can certainly be found in the lexicon of the narcissist and the one region these constraints are held tightest is regarding the questioning of identity. Identity is used as a way of gaining respect. I regard myself as this, we are oppressed, therefore, you have no right to question or even discuss this with me. This purposeful stifling of dialogue is evident no more than in the arena of the trans debate. Many trans people state they have a right to be recognised for who they are (which they have), but proclaim obstacles are being put in their way and this is interpreted as questioning their right to exist. The phrase is often proclaimed as “you are invalidating my existence”. But this flamboyant fallacy alludes to a whole segment of society being wiped out. Alas genocide it is not, the real purpose of these grandiose declarations is to halt any debate, emphatically announcing that trans lives are clearly not up for discussion.

A term that is ubiquitous with narcissism, is ‘gaslighting‘. Simply put, it is a process of making an individual question their perceptions and version of events, in order for the narcissist to exert power over them. An example of this would be turning an ordinary event, such as someone questioning their beliefs and then comparing it to an abusive relationship. This conversion of a mundane moment in time to a massive overreaction from the alleged ‘abused’, manifests in actions such as doxing or the popular activity of calling out on twitter and can be categorised as a further ‘narcissistic injury’. This response from the alleged ‘abused’ in this current cultural climate, can lead to a job loss, a removal from college or even a custodial sentence.

Which leads us to an obvious narcissistic trait as seen within Social Justice land, which is how nauseatingly public it all is. Live tweet Tinder dates are posted for all to see, this is coupled with a superficial casualness, in a vain attempt to display detachment. Relationships are increasingly talked about in a blasé manner, with advice webpages discussing issues such as, “not falling in love with someone you had casual sex with”. This behaviour is clearly a narcissistic trait, using avoidance particularly of emotions in an effort to maintain control. This inability to form authentic relationships, screams of fragility of the self. It is punctuated by further overreactions regarding any perceived transgressions by an individual. This is topped off with a distinct lack empathy for any other human being, typifying malignant narcissism.

The narcissistic group is held together by a need for external validation. This collective can be driven by a narcissistic individual, a core of narcissists or less prevalent due to the relative scarcity of narcissists (1 in a 100) a whole group. In the individual scenario, a single person idealises where the group belongs, in contrast this ideological  process can also take place at a group level. It is surmised that the more actively involved a group member is, the higher the opinion this individual will have of the group. An increased affinity towards their tribe is related to personal investment and a feeling of positive contributions connected to their success.

Personal narcissists will invariably see the group as a defining extension of themselves and will defend it as a form of protection against outsiders and also to strengthen their social standing within the group. A further potential adhesive is the charismatic leader creating the follower/leader dynamic. All members of the main group are narcissistic, but within this a charismatic leader emerges. It’s not uncommon for it to be a ‘grievance studies’ professor either, such as Suzanna Danuta Walters who wrote in the Washington Post, “why can’t we hate men“. This group consists of two types of narcissist; the ‘mirror hungry’ narcissist, seeking a constant flow of admiration from the followers and the ‘ideal narcissist’ who obtains comfort from the confidence, charisma and security provided by the leader. This is essentially a symbiotic relationship, but can be toxic.

Intergroup aggression is a hallmark of group narcissism. They are more sensitive to perceived criticism externally, often resulting in the out group being attacked with disproportionate force. Again, these are overblown responses, but they are a reaction to a narcissistic injury. Below is a good example of what epitomises group narcissism. We have a charismatic leader, with her followers, who feels suitably emboldened to yell at a Yale Professor, over an extremely minor event. This collective tantrum was ‘initiated’ by Mr & Mrs Christakis (both professors) for suggesting that if students had a problem with a Halloween costume, then maybe they could discuss it with the wearer, rather than expecting the university to adjudicate. Below is a shortened video of the fallout in response to these benign ‘grown up’ emails. Take note that Yale is supposedly one of top universities in the world.

You may ask with some validity why I have concentrated most of this piece on linking narcissism with Social Justice Warriors and identity politics. There is no doubt that the right wing of politics and capitalism itself is awash with narcissists, history proves this; Hitler, Mussolini and John D Rockefeller to name a few. More recently we could easily use the dynamic duo of Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump. Of course many CEO’s would have a range of narcissistic traits, some of these people who fit this criteria are; Bill Gates, the late Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos to name a few. But they are all relatively obvious, arrogant, overt narcissists. However, on the other side of political fence, there are scores of narcissists who go unchecked or are readily dismissed as “silly children” who will eventually mature. Unfortunately, they are growing up and changing the rules as they go, while destroying lives all to obtain their narcissistic supply.

The mainstream media doesn’t write about narcissism and the identarian left, because identity politics is the mainstream. There are no critiques of how identarians arrogantly perceive themselves as the gatekeepers of acceptable speech, thought, actions and morality on campus. But even more worryingly, this ideology is now spewing out into the real world. This, at a time when the left has a damn good counter argument to neoliberalism. One that focuses on the human costs of massive economic inequality which includes; sub-standard education, increased crime rates, poorer health outcomes, an elevated prevalence of armed conflict and an acceleration of climate change. Frustratingly this strong, coherent message has undoubtedly been diluted by the cult-like, intrusive, puritanical behaviour of the ‘identarian left’, led and populated by a strong narcissistic element. Without doubt the ‘real left’ will not reconnect with the people, until we reject and eject the ‘identarian left’.

 

Tall stories: Research, innovation and the private sector.

The theory that the private sector is uniquely suited to innovation is something I hear repeatedly from the right, particularly the (US) Libertarians. During any dialogue, one is often hastily directed towards examples of perceived success, such as; Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Google and so on. But, what do these corporate behemoths have in common? Go on, you can do it! Yep, you’ve guessed it, the internet. All of these companies rely heavily on this medium. But it turns out, the first incarnation of the internet was developed by the Advance Research Project Agency Network. ARPNET was originally funded by the US Department of Defence in the late 1960’s. Do I detect the smell of hypocrisy in the air.

Now, I am totally aware of how science works, it learns and builds on what has gone before, so there is never really one source of credit for a particular invention. The goal of this piece is not to condemn private research, but to merely temper the spin surrounding corporate innovation and to highlight the importance of public funding. Especially in light of Libertarian’s, who are constantly espousing the merits of smaller government. Rather than a reduced government for the sake of it, maybe we should focus on smarter government. What is crucial to recognise as exemplified by the internet is that it is often during the early ‘hard yards’ when projects are reliant on public money. At the very time when there is more risk and a greater potential loss of large sums of cash. When it appears likely something will make a profit, however, private backers and corporations suddenly start crawling out of the woodwork.

The private sector innovation tale is based upon the supposed efficiency of this sector. Which proclaims that leaving it to the government, research and innovation is commonly viewed as bureaucratic and sluggish. Yet, this ideology is not confirmed by any evidence, but is falsely perpetuated by, yes you’ve guessed it, the private sector. The unpredictability regarding the success of an innovation often provokes uncertainty from traditional banks and venture capitalists. Financial support for big picture research and development such as, tackling climate change or putting a man on the moon, is primarily secured via public channels. Research aside, many governments often provide ‘early stage’ funding too, from which Apple was a grateful recipient, to the tune of $500,000.

iphone

Furthermore, every bit of technology found on a smart phone owes a great debt of gratitude to state funding. These features include, GPS (developed by the CIA), touchscreen displays, the voice activated assistant ‘Siri’ and of course the internet. Evidently public funding extends way beyond the military. To demonstrate this, the US government funds approximately 75% of the most innovative drugs annually. Even Google’s algorithm was gained from US National Science Foundation funding. Brazil, China, the US, Singapore and Denmark are all examples of nations who have invested heavily in research and innovation, in arenas such as ‘green technology’.

The myth of the public sector being less innovative than the private sector, is promoted as mentioned by the private sector, in the form of powerful lobbyist and the mainstream propaganda machine. We are encouraged to believe that innovation is led by entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. While the leverage gained from this narrative has been used politically, such as, to lower capital gains and income tax, which in turn hampers the public sector to continue funding projects at a similar rate. The biggest ‘kick in the balls’ despite all this financial backing for varying tech corporations, such as Apple and Google, is they hardly pay any tax in relation to their profits.

It is important to recognise that the state is a primary risk taker and needs to be fairly rewarded for this role. This will in turn make the area of innovation and research stronger, while helping to spread profits more equally. These funds can simply be syphoned back into regions such as education, health and transport. Rather than continuing to swell the bank balances of a small posse of dubious characters who see themselves as the world’s wealth creators. This line of thinking isn’t difficult, remarkable or particularly ground-breaking. Finland chose this path when funding Nokia early on, retaining equity when investing. Another option could be, keeping a share of intellectual rights, which invariably is given away in this current neoliberal era.

Anyway, to finish here’s a varied list of items invented by NASA.

  • Memory foam
  • House insulation
  • Portable cordless vacuum cleaner
  • Water filters
  • Scratch resistant lenses
  • Freeze drying
  • Insulin pumps
  • Cat-scans
  • Cochlear implants
  • Solar energy
  • Smoke detectors
  • Artificial limbs

Solar Panel with green grass and beautiful blue sky

These are just a few examples from one organisation, provided purely to drive my point home. We need to remember, private companies are only about profit, nothing more nothing less. If we solely rely on corporations for innovation, in fields that may provide no obvious or discernible benefits or display too much potential risk, certain future developments will simply not occur. Can both private and public sectors work together in this area? Probably. But the private sector has to be honest regarding the significant contribution that is provided by government entities. Meanwhile, the state needs to recognise that they provide vital assistance for research and development on a multitude of levels. I would strongly suggest that they bargain accordingly with the corporate sector, which would inevitably enrich society as a whole.