Heretics are rarely thanked. This fact, combined with the difficulty of arriving at, and developing, heretical viewpoints, means that inviting people to participate in heresy can be a difficult sell. Still, we'd like to extend an open invitation to all readers - even, or especially, those at the centre of the current orthodoxy - to take the opportunity to read our posts, consider them, and post comments on them (even rude ones - we won't be deleting any).
We're starting this blog because we believe that there is, in effect, a new intellectual establishment, that this intellectual establishment has repressive tendencies, and that many of its core beliefs need to be questioned. They need to be questioned partly because all ideas should be questioned, and partly because many of the core beliefs of the new establishment are wrong.
Of course, the intellectual establishment that we're facing now is hardly the Spanish Inquisition. But it is dominant in certain key centres of ideological power (in the universities, especially, but also in the media and the arts). And it does incorporate certain beliefs (that knowledge is power, for instance, and speech violence) that make it indifferent, and sometimes hostile, to free expression.
That explains why many of us have chosen to write anonymously. This is something we regret. We'd rather be able to use our names, just as we'd rather be able to to put our actual views honestly to our friends and colleagues. But we've found through bitter experience that this is, in the current intellectual climate, impossible (or, at least, that it can have very high costs). We didn't create this situation; we're only reacting to it in the only way we know how to.
So what is this new ideological hegemony that we're trying to combat? Anyone who's set foot in a Western university campus has experienced it; students have probably been taught it as the gospel truth. More lately it's leaped, with alarming rapidity, over the walls of academe into public broadcasters, arts institutions, and public discourse. It has a few key strands, but they are all tangled together in a way that just makes the whole knot harder to unpick.
One key strand is the notion of privilege. The central idea is that the reason people's lives turn out differently can be explained pretty much entirely by unfairness of various sorts. People don't make choices, or strive to do things - they get what the system has designed for them, a system which everyone else is somehow conspiring to perpetuate (excepting, perhaps, those who oppose it).
There are various sorts of privilege (racial, sexual, gender-based, economic), although white men are always the most privileged (even in countries like the US, where Asian men actually earn higher wages). This means that we have a duty to level things out, and if white men (and white women, sometimes) are treated unjustly as a result, that's not racism or sexism, or even injustice (even when the white men in question aren't actually wealthier than some of their non-white peers).
All this, of course, is due to imperialism, or European and US imperialism (we're asked to forget at this point that most of human history is the story of empires, most of them non-European). The model of history that most university students now imbibe (and it's a beautifully simplistic one) is: some countries are poorer than others because at some point, the Europeans beat everyone else up and took their stuff. Nobody mentions that most nations throughout history have been trying to beat up other countries and take their stuff, or asks the complex historical question of why it was that some countries somehow, and quite suddenly, got much better at it than everybody else.
Nor does anybody ask how much stuff the imperial powers really took, and how much stuff they generated themselves. There's a general ignorance of the state that we're living in, of unprecedented wealth, health, longevity, and happiness. There's a refusal to acknowledge the vast strides that have been made in the rights of women, minorities, and pretty much everyone, over the last few hundred years.
Indeed, the idea that countries like Canada and the UK are racist, sexist, and homophobic places with a 'rape culture' is another of the strands of the currently privileged set of beliefs. In fact, of course, these countries are some of the least racist and sexist places in history, and are some of the only societies to have openly embraced homosexuality; they're also countries in which rape is heavily punished and very rare (extremely rare by historical standards). But this idea is necessary to the current orthodoxy, because without it the idea that white men are privileged might seem under threat.
And privilege is, in man ways, the key idea of the whole system. It's so essential, in fact, that it serves a kind of gatekeeper function, explaining why it is that certain people should be able to speak less than others. Based on a certain amount of fairly dubious social science, and a lot of repetition, the belief has taken hold that some people (men) always get more of a hearing than others, and that therefore we should 'balance' their advantage by privileging 'other voices.' An interesting view, considering well-established findings such as that most people respond more positively to women than to men.
A corollary is that some views should be elevated above others. More than that, in fact: some view don't deserve to be heard at all, because they prop up or exacerbate privilege, which, as university students all know (despite never having heard any real discussion of the issue) is an all-important fact. The idea that speech is violence, and that ideas can traumatise, only serves to strengthen this strand in the current thinking.
A final strand I'll mention today is tightly bound up with the last one. Since some ideas are known a priori to be better than others, and some people are more worthy than others (because they've previously been oppressed, or their ancestors were - or they're still being oppressed subconsciously), democracy is rarely a good idea. It's a good idea in certain circumstances, of course - when favoured candidates or causes win a vote. When they lose, though, it's clearly because the media have manipulated people, favouring the bad views rather then the worthy, deserving ones. The current orthodoxy is against the elite, but that doesn't mean that it's for the people - the people, you see, are too easily swayed.
That should do as a brief tour of the reigning orthodoxy. You may disagree with all of it, as most of us do, or you may think some of these ideas have more to say for themselves than others. Different readers will also disagree with the current orthodoxy for very different reasons. Liberals ('classical liberals'), libertarians, religious people, conservatives, even traditional left-wingers - all these sorts of people will find the current orthodoxy distasteful. That's not surprising, because the current orthodoxy has no room for heresy. Remember - doubting the current order means not that you have a different conception of the good or how to arrive at it. It means that you're an oppressor.
Combatting these conceptions is the whole point of this blog; though, since these ideas can be combatted in many different ways, and since freedom of speech is one of our main ideals, we don't aim for any ideological uniformity of our own. The people who contribute to this blog are academics and intellectuals united only by their impatience with the current orthodoxy, and the harm that it is doing. In universities in countries like the US and Australia, it's going to take a generation of sustained effort just to get things back to where views from both sides of the political spectrum are on a level playing field. We think that freedom of speech, democracy, and basic fairness are worth fighting for. We hope that you think so too.
Sam Butler is an English settler in New Zealand, a writer and an anti-intellectual.