Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Reading Ben Shapiro's Brainwashed

Honestly, I'm not sure I'm going to read all of this one. After three pages, I have already had my bait of Ben's strident screeching. But let's look at as much as we can stand.

For those of you who are blissfully ignorant of his existence, Ben Shapiro is the darling of the MAGA-American crowd. He is a former editor at Brietbart, and appears frequently on Fox News and posts his "discourse" on YouTube, explaining why trans people are mentally ill and Muslims are "radicalized" terrorists. In 2004, he published Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America's Youth, which I'm wondering if anyone read past the title.

It was published by that stellar press, World Net Daily.

Let's have a look.

Brainwashed has not one, but two forwards, one written by the editor of World Net Daily, and the other by David Limbaugh, Rush's little brother. Both are empty stuffing. Ben is a brilliant young genius, what a clever toddler he is, what an important book this is. We'll skip over these.

Chapter One

Ben lays out the case for "brainwashing" by liberal universities.

First he attempts to prove that universities are liberal. He declares,

The vast majority of the professoriate is leftist. This is an uncontested fact.

What's his evidence for this? Ben at least includes his sources (1/4 of the book is sources) so I turn to the back of the book and discover that his "uncontested fact" is based on a single survey, done by the think tank National Center for Policy Analysis.  This think tank (now defunct) was funded by the Koch brothers and among other things worked to deny global warming.

The survey the NCPA ran had 151 respondents, from (as they put it)

professors and administrators in social science and liberal arts faculties at Ivy League universities 
and found that of this small sample, almost none of them selected George Bush as the best president in the past 40 years. (I know, I can't believe it either!)

Also, 57 percent admitted to being Democrats, while only 3 percent said they were Republicans. 20 percent said they were independents.

This is Ben's sole evidence for his "uncontested fact." Frankly, anyone with sense would stop reading right now.

Let's take it apart, shall we? The sample size is too small, and furthermore it's a biased sample. They surveyed only professors and administrators in the social sciences and the liberal arts -- social sciences are in the liberals arts, by the way, so I assume they're selected out for their ability to scare Conservatives.

No survey was done of business schools, and probably none of economics professors (some people think of economics as a liberal art, but since NCPA doesn't define what they mean by "liberal arts," it's hard to know if economics counts). No survey of science professors or math professors.

Also, we have no sample questions, and no link to the actual survey. As those who design surveys know, how a question is worded often influences its answer.

Also, the "survey" ends with this:

Critics point out that academics are all for diversity in the student population, but are against diversity of opinion on campuses.

Who are these critics? On what are they basing this conclusion? Where's their actual statement?

This is very shoddy work, especially since Ben is going to build an entire book on this dubious claim.

I'm sorry: This "uncontested fact."

Ben moves on from here to spout several more unsupported or badly supported claims: that Leftist professors don't give a balanced point of view in the classroom, but simply spout propaganda; that the "brainwashing" of students is extremely effective.

His evidence for this last? Students who came into a single universities in 2001 were 29.9% liberal and 20.7% conservative. This is based on a national survey of all university students in the USA. When they graduated, Ben says, they were 71% liberal and only 20 percent conservative. This, on the other hand, is based on the voting patterns of students at one university (UCLA) for one election (Bush v. Gore), evidence collected in 2000 -- an entire year before the results collected in the survey he is comparing the voting records to.

I can't believe Ben honestly believes this is an appropriate way to use evidence. I guess he's hoping his audience is too gullible to care?

But Ben doesn't need this evidence, he says! All the surveys support him! (He doesn't cite any.) Talk radio supports him!

Also, he has personal experience. When he went to UCLA, everyone was mean to him and the newspaper fired him -- for exposing Muslims, he claims, but again he cites no evidence. I suspect they fire him because of his crap research skills and his fundamental dishonesty.

His final evidence in this first chapter? An anonymous email from a professor who supports his brave truth-telling.

That's right. His readers support him in emails.

Chapter Two

Ben starts this chapter with a scandalous claim from a geography professor -- his geography professor, I assume -- who pointed out that truth is subjective, since we are all subjective beings. This is bunk, Ben declares. Of course universal truth exists! Of course evil exists!

Only a tiny bit from the professor seems to be a direct quotation. And, of course, this is being reported by Ben years after the lecture took place. Given that this is a geography class, I suspect what was actually said had more to do with how maps were drawn than with whether babies are murdered (Ben's go-to example, always -- he's a fetus-fetishizer).

Ben goes on to claim that this moral relativism permeates universities. Again, he bases this claim on dubious evidence -- comments by a few professors, and a single poll which found that 73% of students think their professors are moral relativists. This poll is no longer available, so I can't check how many students it surveyed or what they were actually asked.

He goes on to cite another shocking example -- his source an editorial that cites the same survey Ben cited above (in the very same language; I wonder if plagiarism is a moral wrong?) -- that "10 to 20% of his students refused to say that the Holocaust was wrong."

I went to the source. Here's what the editorial actually says, in its 4th paragraph, one in which he is arguing that students are moral relativists, just like their teachers:

Several years ago, a college professor in upstate New York reported that 10 percent to 20 percent of his students could not bring themselves to criticize the Nazi extermination of Europe's Jews. Some students expressed personal distaste for what the Nazis did.

"A college professor" "several years ago" "reported."

Again, this is appallingly scholarship.

More nonsense follows. Ben cites Peter Singer, another favorite boogeyman for the Right, a philosopher famous for saying newborns have no more moral right to exist than piglets do. Evil! Ben shrieks. This is evil!

He cites Paul Erlich, for the horrible crime of comparing the bombing of Hiroshima with the Holocaust. Evil! Ben shrieks. The Jews were innocent, those civilians in Japan...had to be killed, to save American lives.


This is pretty much how Ben always argues, from what I know of his later work. He says something shocking, and usually ridiculous, and then supports it with "evidence" that has little or nothing to do with his claim.

I mean, let's look at that argument. The victims of the Holocaust were innocent. Okay, so far so good.

His claim that the civilians who died at Hiroshima are not equal to the victims of the Holocaust should, reason shows us, rest on the fact that those civilians were complicit some great crime: not innocent.

Instead, he says that they had to die, to protect the lives of American soldiers. Now this may or may not be true, but it doesn't work to refute his outrage over the comparison. In fact, the idea that the civilians "had to die" is exactly the argument that (pardon my Godwinning) Hitler used to murder six million Jews and another six million Poles, socialists, disabled people, Romani, and LGBT people (including trans people). Those 12 million had to be killed, to protect the Aryan nation.

Ben supplies several more, equally badly supported examples as "evidence" that professors are Leftist. For instance, in one of his classes, a professor played a rap song, and then tried to discuss whether censoring that song was a violation of the First Amendment.

(See, there's right and there's wrong, and if you disagree with MAGA Americans, obviously you're wrong. It's right to violate free speech, unless it's Ben's free speech you're violating, then it's wrong)

The Left, Ben concludes this chapter by stating, clearly exists in order to "debase morality."

That's all I can take for now. (This is another way Ben "wins" arguments. After you spend several hours refuting his first three sentences, you're really too exhausted to go on.)


Nicoleandmaggie said...

I had been hoping for the mueller report, TBH.

delagar said...

I may still do that!

nicoleandmaggie said...

It sounds like Mueller will be testifying before congress in July...