The Commissars In STEM
In doing reporting for my forthcoming book about the coming soft totalitarianism, I interviewed a Soviet-born physician now working in the US. He told me about the entirely ideological constraints doctors today face (at least within his medical institution) regarding health care for the gender dysphoric. He said that today, physicians are under order to give trans patients whatever they want, even if, in the physician’s judgment, it is not in the best interest of the dysphoric patient. For example, if they want to be on cross-sex hormones, the doctor is obliged to prescribe them, no questions asked. This physician told me that everyone has to be very, very careful not even to air a contrary opinion, for fear of being reprimanded for bigotry.
This cannot last forever, he said, any more than the Soviet Union could have lasted forever. Structures built on lies eventually fall down. You can’t make something fundamentally flawed stand up on the power of belief alone. But a lot of people are going to be hurt, and hurt badly, before people admit their mistake.
Not long ago I heard from a friend who works in a STEM field. He is an emigre from a communist country, and one of those people who says that something totalitarian is on its way. To protect his privacy, I’m not going to give you the details of the story he told me. It has to do with being present for a job interview at his firm in which a particular candidate — a white guy — did extremely well. My friend said this man was easily the best candidate they interviewed, in a field where it is difficult to hire for that particular specialty. But later, a super-woke colleague on the interview team crossed him out, because the wokester had a feeling that the guy might be a bigot — this, because of the way he cast his eyes across the room when he sat down for the interview.
Completely absurd, but of course no one will challenge this woke person, who belongs to an official Victim demographic. So this applicant, a man who, in the professional judgment of my friend, proved that he deserved the job, will not receive an offer, based on an entirely subjective whim by a progressive. That man will never know why he didn’t receive an offer. Meanwhile, the division of the firm for which my friend works will have to make do with someone of lesser quality in this high-tech field, who passes this woke nitwit’s diversity test.
This is another reminder that science, technology, and engineering are not immune to this ideological insanity. Jerry Coyne is an evolutionary biologist who has been extremely nasty over the years in his spite towards religious believers. He is not a conservative in any way. But a couple of weeks ago, he wrote a piece on his blog denouncing the diversity and inclusion loyalty oaths that Berkeley imposes on applicants for life science jobs. Coyne shows, citing material from the university, that this is nothing but a political loyalty test designed to weed out dissidents, no matter how excellent their scholarship and laboratory work. Excerpt:
It’s clear from the document that diversity was regarded at least as important as scholarship in these hires, though having a cutoff for diversity from the outset indicates that it was actually the most important criterion for a search to proceed further. No matter how good your scholarship, if you didn’t pass the diversity cutoff (a score of 11 in the second search), you were toast. Here are some statements from the document:
In its first year, the Initiative to Advance Faculty Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Life Sciences made a strong impact on our campus and was a successful catalyst for positive change. It has been a high profile “proof of concept” that changing faculty search practices can result in successful recruitment of candidates that are both excellent researchers and committed advocates for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) through their research, teaching, and/or service.
. . .The Initiative established a group of allies across campus who are valuable resources for support and encouragement, and above all are committed to changing the status quo. With support from the campus leadership, the Life Sciences are now at a cultural and procedural tipping point in advancing faculty diversity, equity and inclusion.
. . . Ultimately, the “cluster search” was one of the most successful interventions of the initiative. It will result in an increase in faculty committed to advancing faculty diversity, equity and inclusion on the campus
I find this process chilling in its commitment to a specific form of social engineering. While I favor affirmative action (many readers here don’t), I think it should be enacted not through eliminating candidates because of insufficient diversity statements, but through departmental initiatives to identify and hire good minority candidates. You might respond that, well, this is one kind of such initiative. But these hires involve initiatives meant to assure that every person hired is committed to diversity in precise accord with the ranking system. In other words, it enforces not just diversity, which I favor, but ideology, which I don’t. Further, only race and gender were involved here as aspects of “diversity”—not things like class, political viewpoint, background independent of race and sex, and so on.
Nobody should ever be automatically eliminated because their “diversity score” is below 11. If you do that, you will eliminate all those who are good scholars but don’t have a track record in promoting racial and gender diversity, even though they may have been involved in other valued social activities that don’t affect diversity (I’ve mentioned writing about your field for the public and giving talks to high school students to educate and interest them in your field).
But make no mistake about it: the Berkeley Diversity Mavens have won. By hiring large numbers of deans and administrators whose job is to promote initiatives like the above, colleges like Berkeley have guaranteed that this kind of process will only get more onerous and more invidious. After all, those people have to keep ratcheting up the process to keep their jobs going. In reality, their goal should be to ultimately make their own jobs obsolete.
Yale’s Nicholas Christakis — a man who knows something about the tyranny of diversity mobs — comments:
Reading such accounts makes me think @Maratosflier is right: an industry will emerge to help applicants write the right statements. Universities will hire consultants to teach PhD students what to say and how to say it. How does any of this help the cause of social justice? 2/
— Nicholas A. Christakis (@NAChristakis) January 2, 2020
These people are commissars — political officers assigned to politicize institutions and groups that should operate independent of politics. This is how they use identity politics to divide, demoralize, and ultimately destroy. Spending this past year reading about how Stalinism corrupted Soviet science makes it crystal clear what is happening here among us, today. My STEM source, who was trained under a communist regime, and who escaped it, writes, “The darkness is setting. I do not mean to be poetic. I feel it with every pore of my body.”
One more thing: almost every day I hear a new account from a reader about the oppressive progressive political atmosphere in their workplace. It’s not just in colleges. It’s in corporations, it’s in hospitals, it’s in law offices, it’s in churches — it’s everywhere, and spreading. It’s certainly in the newsrooms, which is why so few journalists actually notice what’s happening, much less see a problem with it. Just today I heard from an accomplished professional who explained the situation they’re going through, and asked me not to say anything about it, because that is how scary the situation is. The person just wanted to say, yes, this is happening, and it’s happening with remarkable speed, and don’t let anybody gaslight you otherwise. Had a friendly argument today with someone who said all this stuff I bang on about on this blog sounds overblown. The only meaningful thing I could say is, “You should see my e-mail.” You can’t imagine how bad it is until it happens to you, or you see it with your own eyes, in your workplace, or to people you know.
People are afraid, and they are right to be afraid. We are talking about folks genuinely and legitimately afraid of losing their jobs, and their careers, because they might have crossed a left-wing political line. Michael Brendan Dougherty tweeted:
We could go the other way. I don’t know a single writer or artist who isn’t mindful of what an outrage storm can do to them financially and psychological and so finely calibrates what they say in light of this. https://t.co/VC72Gcl8Rz
— Michael Brendan Dougherty (@michaelbd) January 15, 2020
True, and further, I don’t know any white-collar professional who isn’t mindful of this. If I did, I would warn them. If you have someone in your life who grew up under communism, ask them what they think about the atmosphere in this country around these issues. Give them permission to be honest. I don’t know what it’s going to take to break the hold of this ideological madness on American life. Most people seem to hate it, but nobody is willing to be the first one to stop applauding Stalin.
UPDATE: Just after I hit “publish,” I checked my e-mail. A campus minister wrote:
The universities have become mirrors of the NKVD under Stalin, paralyzed by mutual hatred & distrust, where no one knows what word might be deemed a fatal lapse of etiquette. Grad students (especially Teaching Assistants) tell me they live in terror of some student’s taking offense at some verbal slip and ending, not their job, but their career.
UPDATE.2: A reader named “Wyoming Doc” — he is exactly that; I know his real name — comments:
For most of my adult life, I was a physician in medical education with a very large practice on the side. For most of my career life of decades now, I was on the faculty of one of the premier medical schools in this country. One by one over time, the old grey haired professors were dispatched. The teachers these kids need the most were taken out – because they refused to use correct pronouns, refused to acknowledge things related to transgender issues that are just patently absurd (things like disputing that “males” have periods), etc, etc, These faculty members were NOT endocrinologists – OB GYN or anything that had to do with trans issues – but out on their academic ass they went – banished from the clinics never to see a student again. A complete tragedy.
I am a primary care provider. My time to face the firing squad occurred because of the following story:
A patient who was a distraught mother of a teenage boy came to me to discuss the fact that her son at age 14 was being pressured by his school counselors to have gender transition surgery – asap which would have been at age 17 in that state. In the interim, they were trying to get him on hormone blockers and finasteride until the surgery could be done. She was absolutely distraught – and the dad was so upset that he could not even face his son – much less come to talk to me. She simply asked me what I thought . I have known this child all his life. I have known of his struggles with being on the autism spectrum and I have known all his myriad struggles throughout his life. I replied that I thought this would be a horrible tragedy to proceed with this until he was much older and make the decisions for himself as an adult. I told her that this plan was a setup for a lifetime of tragedy. I have unfortunately seen this tragedy unfold too many times in the past 10 years. It is my job and my sworn oath to do the correct thing – no matter what – I have yet to see a single person who has had a good outcome from the entire gender transition process. I have seen and known of suicides, and even worse – intense chronic unending pain in the groin area after these procedures – and I told her this – along with the fact that we have not a clue what strangling the hormones in a 14 year old body does to them – but none of it is good.
The mother went to the child psychiatrist pushing this treatment – and stopped it. The psychiatrist found out what had happened and immediately sent my name to the “diversity committee”. I was called before them – and things like bigotry, transphobia and poor judgement on my part were talked about openly – I was convicted before I could say a word. I could instantly tell that my career as I had known it was over.
I and my wife made the gut-wrenching decision to leave the big city and take our young children to the far away flyover country – we are 150 miles from the nearest interstate highway. I was absolutely horrified at first – but IT HAS BEEN THE BEST THING EVER FOR US – it has been a gift from God. He truly does work in mysterious ways. The kids are thriving – and free of drag queen story hour, video games, and the like. We live in a place that reminds me of the America that I grew up in. I just do not know how long this will last even here.
Thank you for everything you do – and giving people like myself at least some ability to tell their stories.
Also, a professor on a hiring search committee in a humanities department at a large university (I know the prof’s real name too, but have removed it as a condition for publishing this comment) writes to say:
There’s a lot of encouragement (at some places, outright pressure) to hire “diverse” candidates. But what I’ve seen happen is that the white male candidates are excelling more in terms of the quality and quantity of publications, and women candidates are not keeping up.Why? Here’s my theory.The white male candidates know that they will not be treated fairly, that a very good, but not better, woman or minority will get the job over them, since the departments that hire such folks are lavished with praise and perks by the administration. These white males realize that they have to be twice as good to beat their female and minority competition. But this, ironically, makes it difficult for people like me–who support diversity but not at the expense of excellence–to support the female or minority candidate, since the gap between them and the white male is so obvious that it becomes a matter of conscience.I think women candidates know subconsciously that they don’t have to try as hard. So, the irony is that some departments end up getting “less diversity” because the emphasis on diversity provides a perverse incentive for some candidates to double up and others (the preferred) to coast.