The main idea of this book is that American culture is under siege by the Leftist barbarians who captured institutions of education, press, entertainment, and to somewhat lesser extent political power. They are in process of establishing anti-scientific, racist, and bigoted ideological framework and, if not stopped, will destroy democracy and Western civilization. Author suggests that everybody who wants to save Western civilization should participate in ideological resistance to this attack and speak out.
Here author present his main thesis that:” The West is currently suffering from such a devastating pandemic, a collective malady that destroys people’s capacity to think rationally. Unlike other pandemics where biological pathogens are to blame, the current culprit is composed of a collection of bad ideas, spawned on university campuses, that chip away at our edifices of reason, freedom, and individual dignity.”
Author then briefly describes ideas and structure of the book.
Chapter One: From Civil War to the Battle of Ideas
This chapter is somewhat biographical where author presents his background and “ideals of seeking freedom and truth”. He narrates his history of growing up Jewish in Lebanon during civil war of 1970s when his family narrowly escaped annihilation. He discusses how he developed love for freedom and truth, while rejecting stifling religious traditions. Author makes a very interesting point about relations between truth and humility:” The quest for truth should always supersede one’s ego-defensive desire to be proven right. This is not an easy task because for most people it is difficult to admit to being wrong. This is precisely why science is so liberating. It offers a framework for auto-correction because scientific knowledge is always provisional. An accepted scientific fact today might be refuted tomorrow. As such, the scientific method engenders epistemic humility.”
After that author discusses quite a few contemporary ideas popular in miseducated circles of Western Universities characterizing them as “Parasites of Human Mind”, concluding that these ideas could lead to the death of the West by thousand cuts. Author provides a nice graphic representation of this process:
Chapter Two: Thinking versus Feeling, Truth versus Hurt Feelings
This chapter is about thinking versus feelings. Author actually against dichotomy approach:” The desire to divide the world into binary forms is at the root of the thinking versus feeling dichotomy, and this creates a false either-or mindset. We are both thinking and feeling animals. The challenge is to know when to activate the cognitive (thinking) versus the affective (feeling) systems.” However, he takes clear position on truth being more important than hurt feelings and provides examples when people’s behavior denies such approach: media against Trump, attempt of the left to destroy Kavanaugh, story with Larry Summers, and others.
Chapter Three: Non-Negotiable Elements of a Free and Modern Society
In this chapter author:” posit that freedom of speech, the scientific method, intellectual diversity, and a meritocratic ethos rooted in individual dignity rather than adherence to the ideology of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (DIE) are nonnegotiable elements of a truly enlightened society.” He then proceeds to demonstrate that these enlightenment values are under attack in contemporary western society via: Social media companies’ restriction on free speech, bullying that leads to self-censorship, promotion of identity politics in all areas of live, even rejecting science when it contradicts ideology. He also stresses that all this came from leftists capture of institution in academia, mass media, and big companies. Some examples are not just interesting, but somewhat threatening such as physician’s selection of treatment based on ideology.
Chapter Four: Anti-Science, Anti-Reason, and Illiberal Movements
Here author:” addresses several anti-science, anti-reason, and illiberal idea pathogens including postmodernism, radical feminism, and transgender activism, the latter two of which are rooted in a deeply hysterical form of biophobia (fear of biology).” He reviews specific anti-science trends and present the story of parodies accepted for publishing as serious work by pseudo-scientific publications.
Chapter Five: Campus Lunacy: The Rise of the Social Justice Warrior
In this chapter author:” examines how the mindset of social justice warriors gave rise to universities that prioritize minimizing hurt feelings over pursuing truth (a continuation of the theme first addressed in Chapter Two), the Oppression Olympics (intersectionality), Collective Munchausen and the homeostasis of victimology (I’m a victim therefore I am), and pious self-flagellating at the altar of progressivism.” Author looks at movement for safe spaces, promotion of victimhood, growing leftist bigotry, and other maladaptive trends.
Chapter Six: Departures from Reason: Ostrich Parasitic Syndrome
Here author:” explores Ostrich Parasitic Syndrome (OPS), a malady of disordered thinking that robs people of their ability to recognize truths that are as obvious as the existence of the sun. Science denialism is one manifestation of OPS but there are many others.” Author discusses here Faux-Causality when people make weird causal connection like “climate change” to Islamic terrorism, unsupported by neither by reality nor by logic ideas like “Diversity is strength”, Islamic terrorism being not connected to Islam, and other strange ideas.
Chapter Seven: How to Seek Truth: Nomological Networks of Cumulative Evidence
In this chapter author:” examines how to seek truth via the assiduous and careful erecting of nomological networks of cumulative evidence.” He refers to Dan Sperber, Hugo Mercier and their argumentative theory of reasoning, which demonstrated difficulty of changing people’s believe and suggest that it could be done via Nomological Networks of Cumulative Evidence and provides “how to” example: ”Suppose that you wish to demonstrate that men’s universal preference for the hourglass figure was shaped by evolution. How would you go about achieving such a task? The objective would be to build a network of cumulative evidence stemming from widely different sources, all of which serve to construct the final jigsaw puzzle (undoubtedly of a beautiful woman possessing the hourglass figure). Here are some compelling findings: 1) the hourglass figure has been associated with greater fertility and superior health; 2) across a broad range of cultures, online female escorts advertise the hourglass figure to prospective patrons— whether they are lying about said measurements is immaterial; 3) online escorts who possess the hourglass figure command larger fees; 4) statues and figures spanning varied cultures across several millennia exhibit the desired hourglass figure; 5) Playboy centerfolds and Miss America winners throughout the twentieth century possess the preferred hourglass figure; 6) men’s preference for the hourglass figure has been documented across diverse cultures and races using many methods including brain imaging and eye tracking; and 7) men who have never had the gift of sight are also drawn to the hourglass figure (using touch to establish the preference). This constitutes an unassailable body of evidence.” Author then provide Nomological Networks of Cumulative Evidence rejecting leftist ideas for Toy Preferences, Sex Differences, Islam and Terrorism, Infection diseases, and Anti-Semitism.
Chapter Eight Call to Action
In the final chapter author:” propose reasons that cause people to remain passive bystanders in the battle of ideas, and I suggest a course of action to turn the tide. Do not underestimate the power of your voice. Seismic changes start off as small rumbles. Get engaged in the battle for reason and freedom of thought and speech.
Author’s recommendations also include:
- Believe in power of your voice
- Do not be afraid of Judging others and giving offence
- Do not Virtue-Signal
- Be the Penalty Kicker
- Activate your Inner Honey Badger
At the end author provides recommendation on fixing Universities and calls on everybody to get engaged.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I think that author adequately describes the current situation and massive attack by leftists against all Western Values. However, he somewhat misses reasons for this attack and consequently his recommendations are not sufficient to repulse this attack. In my views it is not coincidental that after more than hundred years of socialist and national-socialist propaganda it only now seems to be achieving its objectives in English speaking Western societies. It was successful in Central and Easter Europe in early and middle of XX century after destruction of WWI and Great Depression leading to establishment of Soviet and Nazi regimes in Russian and German Empires with their traditional dominance of governmental hierarchies, but failed in more stable UK and USA where such hierarchy was relatively weak and majority of population led economic and intellectual live only slightly impacted by governments. It is not the case anymore so it is no wonder that economic destruction of Western lower middle and working classes caused by globalization would greatly weaken resistance to socialist ideology that promises if not prosperity, then at least safety and stability, however miserable because it deprives people of opportunity for independent economic live. The only way to succeed is to find a place in hierarchy and struggle for such place has to proceed around some normally meaningless ideological markers. The only way out now is to develop alternative economic safety net that would not substitute freedom with place in governmental hierarchy, then use it to regain political power, then eventually use this power to protect freedom on campus and elsewhere. Alternative is to wait until mass frustration caused by living at the bottom of hierarchy will mature enough to explode system similarly to events of 1990s in former USSR. I believe that on the long run people will choose freedom, but it could be very long run indeed.