How The Left Killed Universities (And Everything Else)

Heather Mac Donald’s new book on diversity is untrustworthy, unfair, and deeply unpleasant…

If I’m dubious about the conservative portrayal of contemporary U.S. universities, one reason is that I’ve actually spent a lot of time in contemporary U.S. universities. And while it’s possible that I have just been totally blind to basic facts for the past 10 years, the campuses I’ve been on don’t in any way seem like dens of radical leftism. Most students are apolitical, and only a tiny minority engage in any form of activism. When the Harvard dining hall workers went on strike for better wages, the help they received from “radical” faculty was minimal. Students seemed most interested in their careers and relationships. Even when I was at Brandeis, a school that proudly embraces a “social justice” tradition, nearly everyone spent their time in very predictable ways: going to class, doing extracurriculars, and loafing around the dining halls and common areas. There was some drinking, some sport, some improv, some a cappella. The few lingering members of the Students for a Democratic Society mostly got high and groused about neoliberalism. (Nothing wrong with that.) I was one of the most “political” students, and I spent my time doing mock trial competitions, attending interminable student senate meetings on procedural questions about club funding, hosting a campus radio show that had about 8 listeners on a good night, and reading Bakunin in the library. They seem to have kept the radicalism hidden away on another part of the campus.

Heather Mac Donald’s book The Diversity Delusion is yet another book in the “the left is killing classical university education with radical identity politics” genre. This book gets released every few years, whether it is called The Closing of the American Mind, Illiberal Education, Indocrination U, Brainwashed, Tenured Radicalsor No Campus For White Men. Mac Donald’s entry comes with blurbs from Jordan Peterson, Charles Murray, Peggy Noonan, and Steven Pinker. Murray calls it his new “master reference for anything I write on these topics” while Christina Hoff Sommers says it is a “a beautifully written, hard-hitting expose of the madness that has seized hold of the American campus.”

Here is Heather Mac Donald’s picture of the American university: It is a place where affirmative action, “diversity” rhetoric, libertinism, and “identity politics” are threatening to destroy education altogether. “We are cultivating students who lack all understanding of the principles of the American Founding,” Mac Donald says. The “Western tradition” is under threat and  “American college students are increasingly resorting to brute force, and sometimes criminal violence, to shut down ideas they don’t like.” Female students and students of color act like “perpetual victims whose fragile egos are threatened by the ordinary give-and-take of life,” with their “demand for ‘safe spaces,’ reflexive allegations of racism and sexism, and contempt for Enlightenment values of reason and due process.”

It’s an ugly picture, and Mac Donald comes across as a truly unpleasant and unsympathetic person. She is constantly mocking various groups using gratuitous quotation marks (“Chicanos,” “trans,” “victims,” “underrepresented minorities,” “students of color”). She quotes young activists with the “like”s in their speech intact in order to make fun of them, and never misses an opportunity to chide them for “ungrammatical” statements.  There is zero nuance to her arguments, and her conclusions are always sweeping. Intergroup dialogue,” is a “content-free academic fraud” and thanks to diversity culture “civil peace may be in jeopardy.” She goes through the usual set of instances (the Milo-at-Berkeley incident, the Google memo guy, the Yale Halloween thing—the fact that the same examples are cited over and over should suggest to us that all of this may not be quite the epidemic conservatives imply.)  “Racism” itself is a “phlogiston,” she says, referring to the nonexistent substance used in the 18th century to explain mysterious phenomena. Venom oozes from every page of The Diversity Delusion, as Mac Donald condemns “victimologists” who are perpetrating a “fraud.”


To Mac Donald, for example, campus rape is a fictional problem pushed by “rape industrialists.” She is unmoved by the testimonies of women who have been assaulted, saying “there are no sympathetic victims in the campus sex wars.” She cites one from Harvard who says: “[I still have] nightmares, found myself panicking and detaching during sex for many months afterward, and spent more time looking into the abyss than any one person should.” Mac Donald’s reply:

She probably participated voluntarily in the usual prelude to intercourse, and probably even in the intercourse itself, however woozily… The effect of this “profound evil” on her sex life appears to have been minimal—she found herself “detaching” during sex for “many months afterwards,” but sex she most certainly had. Real rape victims, however, can fear physical intimacy for years… If a Harvard student doesn’t understand that that getting very drunk and becoming physically involved with a boy at a hookup party carries a serious probability of intercourse, she’s at the wrong university, if she should even be at college at all.

Note that the original speaker said she found herself “detaching and panicking” during sex, but Mac Donald quotes only “detaching” in order to trivialize it. (Also note the strange phrase “probability of intercourse” which seems to leave choice out of the matter entirely.) The woman should quit complaining, and the most Mac Donald can bring herself to say in the woman’s favor is that if the “male willfully exploited the narrator’s self-inflicted incapacitation,” he “deserves censure.” A stern talking-to, perhaps. She admits that boys may be boorish, though they have a biological excuse and women are equally to blame: “Do the boys, riding the testosterone wave, act thuggishly towards the girls? Yes! Do the girls try to match their insensitivity? Indisputably.”

But Mac Donald doesn’t think this thuggishness is much to get exercised about, because she disputes the statistics showing significant numbers of women experiencing sexual violence at college. There are, she says, “few actual rape victims on college campuses.” How does she know the statistics are bunk? Well, in one survey, most of the women who said they experienced forced penetration said they didn’t think it had been serious enough to go to the police. Says Mac Donald: “This outcome is inconceivable in the case of real rape. No woman who has actually been raped would think the rape was not serious enough to report.” Another reason these weren’t “real rapes”: “Though it is inconceivable that a raped woman would voluntarily have sex again with the fiend who attacked her… 42 percent of Koss’s supposed victims had intercourse again with their alleged assailants.” I can’t remember the last time I heard something this naive; the history of marital rape is enough to show that these fact patterns are hardly “inconceivable.” Women hesitate to think of what happened to them as “serious” all the time, even when it was; this is what domestic abuse victims do. Likewise, women find themselves returning to abusive partners. This is a very common part of the abuse cycle, and Mac Donald doesn’t understand the very basics of how abuse works in the real world.

For Mac Donald, to the extent that there is misconduct, in order to solve it we should be doing more to slut-shame women. “Sluts should be shamed as far as I am concerned,” she has said elsewhere. “‘Promiscuity’ is a word you will never see in the pages of a campus rape center publication,” Mac Donald tuts, and if women are being assaulted it’s due to “a booze-fueled hookup culture of one-night, or sometimes just partial-night, stands” and the post-1960s consensus that there is a “right to be promiscuous.” The attempt to formulate clear consent guidelines, however, she views as “neo-Victorianism.” She thinks it is unworkable to have a rule that there should be “clear and unambiguous communication about what is desired.” “So much for seduction and romance,” she comments. The idea of men and women communicating with one another is evidently a pipe dream.

She has almost nothing good to say about the MeToo movement, suggesting it will “unleash a new wave of gender quotas throughout the economy [and] mystify further the actual differences between men and women.” She seems to feel sorrier for Matt Damon, who was publicly criticized for his unsolicited opinions on the movement’s problems, than for women who have actually been attacked, groped, or harassed. She says that charges of harassment against artist Chuck Close were “phony” (I can’t find any evidence that they were, and even Close’s lawyer admitted that Close “uttered some words—some of which were sexually frank—which are alleged to have offended the sensibilities of these adult individuals”). She even describes Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer as “casualties” of the movement, and suggests female “victims” were conniving: “Is it so unimaginable that actresses have used sex as currency to gain access to roles?” (No, she does not pause to wonder why men control access to all the roles in the first place.)

Besides, Mac Donald says, this all still the fault of the goddamn 1960s anyway:

This situation would have been unthinkable sixty years ago. Then, there was no cultural compulsion to have ‘sex with boys you didn’t want to have sex with.’ The assumption was that of course you would not, and that assumption gave females power to control the outcome. Now, however, females have to go mano a mano with male lust…

It will, I would imagine, come as news to many women from the entirety of human history that before the sexual revolution, “females had power to control the outcome” and did not have to resist aggressive “male lust.” The countless slaves who were raped and impregnated by their masters might have been particularly surprised.

Those who enjoy Mac Donald’s observations on gender will undoubtedly relish her disquisitions on race. She has, as you might expect, a lot to say about affirmative action. She says that “black high schoolers’ inadequate academics skills [are the] sole reason that blacks are underrepresented in the college student body.” Those inadequacies are nothing to do with the underfunded schools many of these students attend, or inherited intergenerational resource disparities, or working parents who don’t have time or money to give children as much support as well-off white parents do. No, instead,  “A culture of underachievement—truancy, failure to do homework, indifference to learning” is impeding their advancement.

Mac Donald does not consider the justifications for affirmative action compelling, because she believes that racism is almost a nonexistent force. It is a solution to a non-problem, because “underrepresentation” (which she puts in quotes) could be solved instantly if nonwhite children weren’t so dysfunctional. But she also argues (of course) that she is only looking out for their interests. UCLA professor Richard Sander’s “mismatch” theory “empirically exploded the argument that affirmative action benefits its recipient,” by showing that affirmative action beneficiaries did comparatively poorly in college and were therefore ill-suited to the schools they attended. Yet “for the preference lobby, a failing diversity student is better than no diversity student.” The left, she says, is hurting people of color (I’m sorry, “people of color”) by maintaining that “admitting affirmative action beneficiaries to schools where their academic skills are below the norm is in their interest.” She cites statistics showing that when affirmative action has been eliminated, schools have fewer black and Hispanic students, but their graduation rates are higher. She delights in recounting the story of a young man named Kashawn who struggled in all of his college courses except his Black Studies class—to Mac Donald it proves both that he didn’t deserve to be there and that the studies of nonwhite people are “BS majors” (a phrase she favorably quotes from John Searle).

This section of the book reveals Mac Donald to be dishonest and unscholarly in addition to her other off-putting qualities. In fact, any serious presentation of the studies on affirmative action has to reckon with the fact that the data are highly inconclusive about whether its benefits are worth it, though there are clear benefits. Mac Donald picks the study that she likes, the one showing reduced grades and graduation rates. But she doesn’t look at any of the ones that show this effect being counteracted by the benefits of attending better-resourced schools. Matthew Chingos of the Brookings Institution has commented that “not a single credible study has found evidence that students are harmed by attending a more selective college” and that “students were most likely to graduate by attending the most selective institution that would admit them” whether they were “better or worse prepared, black or white, rich or poor” and that going to a more challenging school can be helpful.

To Mac Donald, the wealth of research on the effects of affirmative action might as well not exist. Chapter Three, Affirmative Disaster, which concludes that affirmative action is “discredited,” has exactly six footnotes. Two are to the same study, one is to a local newspaper article reacting to the study, one is to a tweet, one is to a man named Mike Klonsky’s Blogspot, and one is to a message board. Thomas Aquinas’ famous phrase “beware the man of one book” has been updated as “beware the man of one study.” On affirmative action, Heather Mac Donald has about two studies. They both show that affirmative action students are weaker. But she picks these studies because they are the studies that show that. She actually ignores studies by the same scholars that yield results she doesn’t like.

For instance, she happily quotes Duke economist Peter Arcidiacono, who found that affirmative action beneficiaries tended to switch their majors in order to keep their grades afloat. For Mac Donald, this shows that the policy is hurting students. But Arcidiacono has made it clear in his research that this is not the full conclusion, because affirmative action may still help students’ ultimate lifetime earnings. “To the extent that minority students who attend more highly selective schools owing to affirmative action reap any benefits that accrue from college quality, there will be a positive externality associated with race-based admissions preferences.” Arcidiacono et al. “find the research rather clear in showing that, on average, there is a positive return to college quality in terms of the likelihood of graduation as well as of subsequent earnings.” though the “literature is much less clear about how the match between the school and students affects these outcomes more generally and how affirmative action impacts these outcomes specifically.” This is far from “exploding” the case for affirmative action, though Arcidiacono does “explode” one of Mac Donald’s own claims, which is that when affirmative action bans are put in place, it helps black and Hispanic students graduate. In fact, while it does help them attend worse schools, the existing research “shows no effect of these bans on the likelihood of graduation.” The evidence doesn’t make Mac Donald any less cautious about throwing around denunciations and causal assertions, like calling the establishment of UC Merced an “ethnic entitlement,” asserting that black attrition from law firms occurs “because the preferences in their favor are so large,” and demeaning the “unintelligible rap” of the black UCLA students who recorded a viral video highlighting the school’s low black enrollment numbers.

Conservative writer Tamara Tabo has a good explanation of just why all of this is so hideous:

You can reject affirmative action on constitutional grounds, or because you think that, even if constitutional, such policies are unfair. You can oppose affirmative action because you believe that it harms black students in the long run. I’ve written about my opposition to race-based admissions policies and my support for holistic and alternative admissions. You can voice these views and still care deeply about social justice. You can be outspoken about these things and still care a whole hell of a lot about what black students at a majority-white law school think about their time on campus and whether they thrive. At the very least, you can listen. There is a difference between opposing race-based policies at state-funded institutions on constitutional grounds and simply not giving a sh*t what black students feel.

Mac Donald makes it clear, over and over and over again, that she simply does not give a shit what black students feel. When she quotes pleas like “too often, many of our students of color feel isolated,” it is only to prove that the speakers are whiners, and never to inquire as to whether there is something about their experience she is unaware of.

In fact, Mac Donald actually goes beyond opposing considering race in admissions. She seems to oppose every attempt to pay attention to the interests and viewpoints of people of color. She scoffs at “color-coded programming” such as a “black student center, a black student recruiting weekend, and such bureaucratic sinecures as a vice provost for faculty diversity.” She feels for “the average student who thought he had enrolled in college to get an education, not to be enlisted in the alleged titanic struggles of black and Hispanic students against hostile academic forces.” (Note that the “average” student is obviously white.) She is indignant that these days, it is considered racist to say something like: “Of course he’ll get tenure, even though he hasn’t published much—he’s Black!” To criticize this means “pretending that preferences don’t exist.” And aside from a brief acknowledgment that there was racism in the past, she has no idea why any of this “identity politics” would even come about, or why women and African Americans even felt the need to form their own academic disciplines. Her idea of how black and feminist scholarship developed is downright bizarre: She says that in the 1980s, “The key deconstructive concept of linguistic différancebecame identity difference between the oppressed and their oppressors; the prime object of study became one’s own self and its victimization.” I spent four years in an African American Studies department and three in a Sociology department without ever hearing the word  “différance,” and besides, these fields of study developed well before the 1980s.

She is enraged by the very idea that people of color may experience any structural disadvantages whatsoever. Mac Donald sees racism as essentially nonexistent today. If anything, they have unfair advantages, which they squander through cultural dysfunction:

The most influential sectors of our economy today practice preferences in favor of blacks. The main obstacles to racial equality at present lie not in implicit bias but in culture and behavior… If American blacks acted en masse like Asian-Americans for ten years in all things relevant to economic success — if they had similar rates of school attendance, paying attention in class, doing homework and studying for exams, staying away from crime, persisting in a job, and avoiding out-of-wedlock childbearing — and we still saw racial differences in income, professional status, and incarceration rates, then it would be well justified to seek an explanation in unconscious prejudice.

Even in an explicit instance of racism, Mac Donald blames the victim. A UCLA student was left an anonymous note calling her the n-word, but Mac Donald concludes that “the chance that the hate-mail note was real is far lower than the chance that it was a hoax.” Why? Because “it would be an act of utter folly, contrary to the future orientation that landed them at UCLA, for [the sender] to jeopardize their future career by sending so crude and juvenile a note.” The expression of bigotry is all but impossible at UCLA, because the kids there are too sensible. (Except Kashawn, of course.) But even “in the unlikely event that the note was real, [the recipient’s] reaction was still excessive.” (That admonition makes it amusing that she later responds to an activist’s lament about those who “tell us to silence our voices” with the comment: “We are left to wonder… who is telling blacks to silence their voices.” You! You are! You told a woman she overreacted at being called the n-word!)

Mac Donald reiterates a lot of her angry anti-Black Lives Matter material from her previous book The War on Cops. She cites horrific examples of murders committed by African American perpetrators and says that “while Black Lives Matter protesters have, in fact, ignored all such mayhem, the people who have concerned themselves are the police.” She asks protesters “Do black children that are killed by other blacks matter to you?” As usual, “black on black crime” only ever seems to matter to conservatives when they are using it to accuse the left of hypocrisy, and the many anti-violence activists in black communities (like Delmonte Johnson) are nonexistent. And, of course, you won’t be surprised to find out that Mac Donald has—despite having seemingly never read a book on criminology—concluded that it is “the breakdown of family and bourgeois norms in inner-city areas that leads to so many young black men gang-banging in the streets.”

“Bias-driven police killings of black men,” Mac Donald says, are “a problem that does not even exist.” (“Bias-driven” is the key phrase here. Police killings of black men are definitely a problem that exists—just ask Philando Castile or Oscar Grant—but Mac Donald contends that “implicit bias” is junk science. This can be debated but, importantly, whether or not the empirical foundations of implicit bias are sound does not change the fact that there are a large number of people dead who shouldn’t be dead.)  In fact, there is nothing racist at all about American criminal justice. She admits that blacks receive “longer sentences than whites for the same crime” but says that “sentences are equal once criminal history is taken into account.” This is, in fact, a highly debatable assertion and the U.S. Sentencing Commission has found that “violence in an offender’s criminal history does not appear to account for any of the demographic differences in sentencing.” But even among criminologists who are critical of the “new Jim Crow” narrative, there is acknowledgment that race is extremely important. (See John Pfaff’s measured and cautious Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration.)

Mac Donald even thinks holding negative stereotypes about black people as a whole is completely justified: “Street crime today is almost exclusively the province of ‘people of color.’… Until those realities of crime change, any allegedly ‘stereotypical’ associations between blacks and crime in the public mind will remain justified and psychologically unavoidable.” It’s worth rereading that statement, because it’s shocking to me that it made it past an editor. I don’t think even The Bell Curve says stereotyping all black people as criminals is good and proper.

I know Mac Donald really wants me to call her a “racist” or “white supremacist,” because it will prove just how hysterical the name-calling left is. I will not fall into this trap. But she ignores all the quantitative sociological literature that counters her belief and misstates the facts about criminal justice, all in the direction of blaming people of color for their misfortune and exonerating white people. I will leave it to the reader to find a name for this.

Mac Donald’s prescription for American universities is a good dose of classical Western education.“Victim ideology encourages ignorant young adults to hate the monuments of Western civilization without even bothering to study them,” but a “humanistic” education allow one to “escape one’s narrow, petty self” by immersing oneself in different lives.

The irony here is considerable. (Can’t imagine who might have a narrow, petty self!)  Mac Donald makes it clear that when she talks about “humanistic” education’s “imaginative empathy and curiosity” and its “encounter with diversity and difference,” she does not mean studying indigenous artwork, African sculpture, or jazz. Instead, when she talks about the “bedrock of core facts and ideas” she means things like the “contributions and foibles of the Renaissance popes,” and experiencing through literature “society on a nineteenth-century Russian feudal estate, … mossy shades of pastoral poetry, or the exquisite languor of a Chopin nocturne.” She lists examples of what she feels like students ought to know:

The events that led to the creation of the nation-state in Europe, the achievements of Greco-Roman civilization, familiarity with key works of Shakespeare, the Greek tragedians, Twain, Dickens, Wordsworth, and Swift, among others; an understanding of genetics and the function of neurons; and the philosophical basis of constitutional democracy, among hundreds of other essential strata of human geology.

Note: absolutely nothing non-white. In fact, Mac Donald mocks all of the attempts that have been made to expand and diversify the canon so that it reflects the full range of human experience. Commenting on a student who complained that the musical education she received focused entirely on white men, Mac Donald says: “The charge of Eurocentrism is preposterously leveled at Mozart, who makes a Muslim pasha the only truly noble character in his opera The Abduction from the Seraglio.” Very generous of old Wolfgang to include a non-barbaric Muslim in an opera. How preposterous to grumble!

Personally, I don’t recognize the whole “decline of the Western tradition” thing. In college, I was a joint major in African American Studies and Politics. In the Politics department I read the classic works of political theory from Plato to Rousseau. In African American Studies I supplemented these readings by studying Du Bois, Fanon, Ida Wells, and Hubert Harrison. The combination of the two, the expansion of the canon to incorporate both European thought and the thought of the many billions of other people who are not European, made me a more cultured and intelligent person. I still feel significantly weakened, though, by the curriculum’s lack of cultural variety: Because Chinese, Arab, and Indian political philosophy was not taught, I have serious gaps in my knowledge of theory. A bit more diversity would have served me well.

But Mac Donald is a purist. She complains that directors “mutilate” classic plays and operas by updating them with modern elements, when “the only thing that matters is what Handel, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky wanted.” (She gives no persuasive reason why this should be the only thing that matters.) She praises those who perfectly “recreate how music from the baroque and classical eras was originally performed” without adding novelty or variation. “In an era of twerking and drunken hookups,” she says, there is value in experiencing “a courtly ethic.” One can laugh at the stuffiness, whiteness, and provincialism of Mac Donald’s cultural intake, but personally I just pity someone who reads Chaucer but misses out on Du Bois, Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, and James Booker.

Furthermore, there is to be no dissent. Though the entire concept of the “Western canon” is irrational and crumbles under scrutiny, Mac Donald’s scholarly dogmas are absolute. She is even skeptical of the idea of “reasoned debate” because an “ignorant eighteen-year-old” has no right to an opinion on matters of fact. It’s a deeply authoritarian vision of education: You will learn the books I like, because they are the best books, and your books are objectively inferior, and there will be no discussion.

I should make it as clear as I can: Mac Donald cannot be trusted to report facts accurately, and if you are reading this book, you will need to do your own research to determine whether anything she says fairly represents the the truth. I have pointed this out before in the criminal justice context: When a black man killed a police officer after writing anti-police statements on social media, Mac Donald presented it as a straightforward case of Black Lives Matter making murderers. She buried the fact that the man had also killed his girlfriend and appeared seriously mentally ill, which if acknowledged would have undermined her contention that this was a straightforward political killing.

Because she is not interested in facts, she misunderstands causes. Mac Donald looks at the stagnation of research budgets and the bloat of university administrations and sees nothing but the crimes of the diversity police. When she talks about the dysfunction of contemporary universities, she does not talk about how they have lately been “run like corporations,” engorging their administrations at the expense of professors and students. Instead, she cites trends like putting a box for transgender people on forms and California’s choice to offer university workers 2 hours of paid leave for Native American Day.

She consistently speaks in ludicrous hyperbole, for example saying that “professors in all but the hardest of hard sciences… maintain that to challenge [the] claim of ubiquitous bigotry is to engage in ‘hate speech’ and that such speech is tantamount to a physical assault on minorities and females.” Do they? I am sure a few have, but Mac Donald consistently inflates minor tendencies into ubiquitous threats. Or this: “Were you planning to instruct your child on the value of hard work and civility? Not so fast! According to a recent uproar… advocacy of such bourgeois virtues is ‘hate speech.’” In reality, the uproar was less thanks to professor Amy Wax’s advocacy of “bourgeois virtues” than because she had said: “Not all cultures are created equal… I don’t shrink from the word, ‘superior,’… Everyone wants to go to countries ruled by white Europeans.” To some people, talking about the “superiority” of “white Europeans” sounded an awful lot like, well, white supremacy. But for Mac Donald it’s just more “victimology” and snowflake-ism.

Actually, I think I owe readers an apology for taking this book as seriously as I have taken it. It is a white supremacist work, and should be in the Daily Stormer’s bookstore rather than printed by a mainstream publisher. Mac Donald opposes efforts to introduce the study of nonwhite cultures into the standard academic curriculum, and trivializes the cultural and academic contributions of people of color. She says that racial prejudice is justified because of crime rates. She spends about a single sentence on the history of racism in the United States, and largely sees “oppression” as the fictional creation of screeching ideologues. She laughs at and trivializes the contributions of nonwhite people (“If one can describe ‘Chicana testimonials’ as a scholarly ‘method,’” and Critical Legal Theory is “A branch of legal theory contending that racism pervades nearly every category of the law and that writing about one’s personal experiences grappling with that racism is real legal scholarship.”) She never misses an opportunity to deride the intellectual capacities of activists of color (“mangling English idiom,” “reading skills are in short supply”). She finds course titles like “Lives of Struggle: Minorities in a Majority Culture” to be inherently risible. Disgusted that every undergraduate must take a class that addresses “theoretical or analytical issues relevant to understanding race, culture, and ethnicity in American society”. She has barely a generous, empathetic, or complimentary word to say about a person of color. It is no wonder Murray is so giddy about it; Mac Donald makes Charles Murray look like Kimberlé Crenshaw.

This is not, however, a random racist screed by a nobody. It is blurbed by some of today’s bestselling writers and is printed by a major publishing house. It isn’t fringe, much as any decent person might wish it to be, and it’s disturbing to see this kind of thing in the mainstream. Pinker’s endorsement is especially alarming; he is a prominent Harvard professor who considers himself a social progressive, yet evidently believes this is a thoughtful contribution to the national political conversation. But it can tell us a lot about where our discourse stands. Mac Donald believes that diversity activists have prohibited even the slightest dissent from the progressive position. The fact that this sort of vicious, bigoted work can find a mainstream publisher is enough to show that this thesis is false.

This essay is excerpted from our new book “The Current Affairs Rules for Life.” 

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