On this site, we strive to practice the philosophy of John Stuart Mill, who would eagerly read every side of an argument because he wanted to se that “no scattered particles of important truth are buried and lost in the ruins of exploded error”. That means we each have a fundamental, moral duty to openly fight against any censorship or suppression of ideas, regardless of if we think those ideas are good or not.
This goes hand in hand with the rule Charlie Munger constantly reminds us to follow: Our greatest duty is to attack our own, best, cherished ideas as ruthlessly and as intellectually as we can. Those ideas that stand up to the attack will have proven themselves even more valuable, while those that fail improve our cognition because we no longer believe falsehoods. It is a win-win situation that can only make your life better in the long-run if you are willing to give up the security and comfort of false dogma.
Tonight, I am going to share a counter example with you. The way these protestors are behaving is exactly the opposite of how you should strive to live your life. If someone wants to promote an idea, you don’t block the doors and keep people out (doing so only indicates you fear what they say). Instead, you throw open the doors, turn on the spotlights, turn up the microphone, and then invite the informed to debate, discuss, evaluate, weigh, measure, and work out whether there is truth in the idea. You do not demonize your opponent. You don’t attack him or her as a person. It’s about the ideas. Good people can have terrible ideas and bad people can have excellent ideas. To think otherwise is to suffer from the halo and horns effect mental model and the mere association mental model.
If you stray from that willingness to consider all evidence, especially evidence that is counter to your core beliefs, you are setting yourself up for foolishness. You will see the world how you think it is, and not how it actually is. That’s not ideal. To use an example we’ve discussed in the past, it is this mental tragedy that explains how you get entire civilizations of people who will murder their neighbors as heretics for daring to question the barbaric practice of sacrificing newborn infants to a harvest god so the wheat grows a little higher.
Prepare yourself. Here are the protestors at the University of Toronto late last month. This is the full, non-edited video of a group of students that blocked other students from hearing an on-campus speaker named Warren Farrell, bestselling author of The Myth of Male Power. Update: The protestors are trying to get YouTube to remove the video. It may disappear soon.
Wait until about halfway through the video. It’s short (less than 5 minutes). The protestors have no interest in hearing the other side, or engaging in a dialogue. It is absolute tyranny. This is the horseshoe political theory made manifest.
It doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree with Warren Farrell. It doesn’t matter if you think his ideas are good or bad, whether you think he walks on roses or throws puppies off overpasses, or whether you are convinced his concepts will help or hurt the world. Intellectual honesty means you do not censor speech (sans ad hominem attacks). You work to persuade your fellow citizens that your position is right based on reason and facts. You do not shut down their access to information.
These protestors just assured that several mental models are going to kick in that will ultimately help Warren Farrell. The forbidden fruit mental model, which causes people to want to know about and have access to what others are trying to keep them from discovering or enjoying, is powerful. The mere association mental model are going to result in people who were trying to attend the lecture out of curiosity ascribing a range of violent, hateful, anti-intellectual traits to feminism in general, much to the movement’s detriment. The reciprocity mental model means that some people may take actions against these protestors, perhaps even covertly, to undermine their cause as retaliation for the abuse they dished out to innocent passers-by.
It’s a self-defeating way to behave. Were I the protestors, I would have setup a booth, served free oversized chocolate chip cookies with hot chocolate or cold milk in branded cups leading to a website that had a series of videos refuting specific points in the speech. As I handed each attendee their free dessert and food (triggering reciprocity), I would have smiled, and gotten specific promises from people on a one-on-one basis to listen to our counter-arguments. My success rate would have been far higher. It’s basic psychology.
What Warren Farrell Was Discussing
This is besides the point of the post but as an addendum, many of you are going to be curious as to what the controversy entailed. The thesis of Warren Farrell’s speech was that men in the developed world, particularly the United States and Canada, are facing an unprecedented crisis in five key areas: education, jobs, emotional health, physical health, and fatherlessness. He points out several facts that should come as no surprise to those who keep up with the economic posts on this site and elsewhere:
- For the first time in history, our sons and brothers in the United States will have less education than their fathers.
- The current societal hierarchy ignores the mental health of boys as evidenced by the fact that the suicide risk for boys and girls are the same up through 10 years old. After that, when men begin being indoctrinated into the societal roles that are expected of them, suicide risk climbs 2x relative to girls between 11 and 14, 4x relative to girls between 15 and 19, and a staggering 5-6x girls between 20 and 24 years old.
- Addiction to media, including video games and other interactive content driven by the information revolution, is disproportionately hurting men. Men in general spend 3x the hours per week engrossed in these types of activities compared to women.
- For every 1 girl who drops out of high school in Canada, there are 2 boys who do the same.
- The reading and writing scores of boys throughout Canada are significantly below those of similarly situated girls.
- Unemployment rates are significantly higher for men than they are for women, especially African American men.
- This is causing a rise in extended adolescence as a coping mechanism for the failure of society’s institutions to address the emotional needs of boys. This extended adolescence ultimately hurts women.
- College graduation rates for boys are falling relative to girls. This has terrible economic consequences.
Farrell’s argument appears to be based on the idea that modern society indoctrinates young boys into thinking they are disposable. For example: Boys are taught their feelings don’t matter and to hide them (don’t cry); that when conflict arises, their lives don’t matter (drafting only men into war instead of both genders, like you see in many modern armies such as Israel); that their success is determined not by how much they love their work or feel fulfilled but by the total amount of cash they can bring home for their spouse and children to spend; that certain fields are unacceptable based on their gender (certain middle schools not requiring boys to take home economics, which includes baking, sewing, and household budgeting); that they are all potential rapists; that they are all violent by nature; that they are not given equal consideration for joint custody of children and alimony in the event of a divorce; that their natural hobbies and interests (golf or boating) are a waste of time; etc.
Farrell goes on to talk about the dangerous jobs men face. “Every day, almost as many men are killed at work as were killed during the average day in Vietnam. For men, there are, in essence, three male-only drafts: the draft of men to all the wars; the draft of Everyman to unpaid bodyguard; the draft of men to all the hazardous jobs—or ‘death professions.” Most women don’t allow their little girls to dream of fighting fires or becoming a police officer; yet, they encourage the same behavior in their boys.
Farrell talks about the role of evolutionary biology – that all of this made sense prior to World War II when the focus of life was survival. Now, with the abundance of material goods and long life spans, we have shifted so that marriages, careers, hobbies, and friendships should be about self-actualization yet boys are socialized and educated in a way that strips them of that power.
Here is the actual speech – it is 2.5 hours long – that they were trying to bar people from hearing.
To decide whether you think Warren Farrell is controversial or not, here is a long list of his quotes. Read them and come to your own conclusions. If you are going to support or criticize his positions, you must be intellectually honest about it and read his books to come to a fully formed decision about his facts and interpretation of those facts. I have not, yet, personally read any of Farrell’s books so I have no comment on them either way. However, I will buy some of his work(s) and put them on the reading list so that I am better prepared to comment on them in the future.
If you are interested in the “War Against Boys“, here is a speech by author Christina Hoff Sommers who discusses, in depth, the failure of the institutions to prepare males for the changes in the modern world. It’s an interesting speech if you are a student of sociology and, in the case of many people on this site, how cultural and demographic shifts will ultimately influence the economy. Her most powerful assertion is that the education system is increasingly run “by women for girls” and that the attempt to turn boys into girls is a system of oppression.