To look forward with clarity, we must sometimes glance backward. Friedrich Nietzsche, a 19th century philosopher, wrote: “The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.” If that was true in his day, it is doubly true in ours.
Modern media are corrupt, modern youth unfamiliar with logic, ignorant of American and world history, blind to critical thinking. Why? Because “group think” is rewarded, sameness and conformity enforced, independent thought increasingly condemned.
The media’s talking heads and too many modern educators – often unable to think logically themselves – are afraid of differentness. Like the Shakespearian lady who “doth protest too much,” they urge diversity as long as “differentness” is the same as what they think.
Modern media and organized educators promote those “different like them,” while seeking to silence anyone different “not like them.” The hypocrisy is, of course, transparent. It is also coercive, anti-democratic, anti-free speech, and pits the “collective” against the individual.
Sadly, suppression of independent thought is the hallmark of a sick, unthinking society – one increasingly underconfident in its underpinnings, ignorant of how it got to where it is, afraid of history and the future. Deep conversations get superficial, as citizens are unable to defend ideas.
In the case of American politics, media, and left-lurching educational institutions, such behavior suggests a society dangerously listing toward socialism, communism, fascism, and centralization of power – at the expense of independent thought and individual liberty.
Needed is more honest thinking, blunt (rational, even offensive) talk, restored capacity to listen, a desire to learn and seek truth – not suppress it. Needed is courage to accept that humans see the world differently – and that is good. By listening, reading, and thinking, we inform each other. That is rational thought. The opposite is dishonest thinking, and the end of integrity.
Today, irrationality is winning. The idea of promoting intolerance in the name of tolerance, conformity as diversity, violence in the name of peace, cancellation as open-minded, destroying history to preserve it, lack of intellectual curiosity as education is where we are.
The good news is that heartland America sees the slide – and wants to stop it. Examples are everywhere. Dozens of conservative writers, thinkers and speakers have been disinvited from campuses, after being invited by curious students. Leftist groups and administrators ban intellectual discourse, labeling traditional, historical, different, and diverse ideas as anti-social, unsafe, emotionally violent, triggering, or – sweet irony – intolerant. See, e.g., https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/intolerance-threatens-us-cancel-culture-blame-liz-peek.
Likewise, teachers’ unions – tip of a a left-lurching lobby – insist on idea suppression and socialism. Last week, the Los Angeles Teachers’ Union threatened to stop teaching unless socialist demands are met – “defunding” police (in a city with a 250 percent spike in homicides), “Medicare for all,” a “$10 billion dollar wealth tax,” and “moratorium” on charter schools (which encourage independent thought, reward merit, and offer upward mobility). See, e.g. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/la-teachers-union-demands-defunding-the-police-and-charter-moratorium-before-reopening-schools; https://www.cnsnews.com/article/national/andrew-davenport/la-teachers-union-opening-schools-medicare-all-defund-police-new.
Again, the irony is acute. Bad enough would a union holding public hostages, but children for socialist demands? Worse, the coercing union is composed of 35,000 teachers, who will teach these values to kids. Could anything be more offensive? One wonders why parents and leaders do not push non-political standards for teacher certification, insisting on no indoctrination.
The most recent example of media corruption is CNN – again. Nothing new, just emblematic. On July 15, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany offered a detailed recitation of prevailing science behind reopening the nation’s schools. She hit 19 issues, then took a question on Virginia using CDC numbers to stay remote.
Referring to case numbers, she said: “The science should not stand in the way of this, but as Dr. Scott Atlas said – I thought this was a good quote, ‘Of course, we can do it. Everyone else in the Western world, our peer nations are doing it. We are the outlier here.'” She quoted a former Stanford Medical Center neurology chief.
She expanded: “The science is very clear on this. For example, you look at the JAMA pediatric study of 46 pediatric hospitals in North America that said the risk of critical illness from COVID is far less for children than the seasonal flu. The science is on our side here. We encourage localities and states to just simply follow the science. Open our schools.”
Incredibly, CNN cast these remarks as “anti-science,” tweeting: “The White House Press Secretary on Trump’s push to reopen schools: ‘The science should not stand in the way of this.'” That CNN tweet got 30,000 retweets. Hours later, one adding context got 700. See: https://www.foxnews.com/media/cnn-jim-acosta-kayleigh-mcenany-science.
Integrity? Hardly. Pushing untruth. Obviously. MSNBC did the same. See, e.g., https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/white-house-science-shouldn-t-stand-way-school-openings-n1234138
So, what is the point? Integrity, liberty, and truth leak from a society that fails to defend them – and to keep government, educators, and media honest. Nietzsche was right: “The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.” We must teach respect for independent thought – or lose the chance.