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The opinion piece that appeared in The Daily Targum on Dec. 7 titled “Awareness of Cognitive Biases Can Empower Us” tapped into a fascinating conversation about human psychology. As its author Dilara Guvercin rightly notes, the study of cognitive biases (the “systematic ways in which the context and framing of information influence individuals’ judgment and decision-making”) is very hot in the field of social psychology right now.
Social constructionism has been one of the hottest topics in academia for several decades, as well as the topic that academia is best known for in the outside world. It is one of those rare concepts that has successfully escaped the academic journal and the lecture hall and found its way into everyday speech. Its ubiquity has even triggered a backlash from academics such as Jordan Peterson, Steven Pinker and their considerable social media followings that is growing in popularity daily.
In her column last week, Malaika Jawed, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, astutely outlined the situation now facing our aging nation-states. As detailed in that article, the global population is becoming increasingly mobile, meaning that more people are immigrants to the places where they now live. While advances in transportation technology made this mobility possible, advances in telecommunications technology have allowed people to remain virtually immersed in their native culture — or any other culture, for that matter — from afar, presenting an alternative to assimilation.
This past Sunday, Right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro beat his Left-wing opponent by a 10 percent margin to become Brazil’s next president. The similarities between Bolsonaro and President Donald J. Trump are glaringly obvious. Like Trump, his time in the public eye has featured an uninterrupted chain of outrages and controversies that continued right up through his presidential campaign. Like Trump, he has insulted opponents and advocated violence.
The fight over disinvitations, in which public figures are invited to speak on college campuses and then uninvited because of student backlash, is several years old now. There is nothing to be said about them that has not been said before, and that also goes for the recent disinvitation of journalist Lisa Daftari from Rutgers University. Andrea Vacchiano, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, wrote an op-ed for The Daily Targum entitled “Lisa Daftari is not Islamophobic, deserves to speak.”
During the Kavanagh hearings last week, one of my friend’s Facebook posts caught my eye. It read: “Men are bad,” followed by a comment that clarified, “Yes, all men.” After a few men left question marks, someone commented that their reluctance to shoulder collective responsibility for Kavanagh’s crimes made them “part of the problem.” This exchange seemed to sum up an argument that is becoming more and more popular in woke circles: Men, if they want to be viewed as politically enlightened, must admit that they belong to a wicked sex and carry themselves with the requisite amount of shame. Anything less than that, and they are the enemy.
It is no slur, nor do I believe that it is too much of a generalization, to say that avid consumers of The New York Times, The Washington Post and other organs of the liberal, cosmopolitan consensus tend to make up a large part of the managerial class that formulates and enacts policy in our nation. Ideally, these periodicals can serve as valuable tools for educating a governing class in public policy issues of the day. Unfortunately, our fonts of elite journalism have increasingly become the sights of elite conspiracy-theorizing, where respected journalists and political analysts debase themselves daily in pursuit of a narrative balm to soothe the scars that President Donald J. Trump’s election has inflicted on the managerial class’s psyche. I am talking, of course, about the Russian Meddling story.