Oct. 19, 2018
If one party managed to accumulate 90 percent of our nation’s capital and used it to favor a political agenda, we would all be worried. But today, we see something similar in the social capital accumulated by the Left. On October 12, Justin Pinkerman joined Family Research Council’s Speaker Series to shed light on the institutions of social capital controlled by the Left.
Central to his research is the idea espoused by Antonio Gramsci that one cannot just look at the political sphere when looking at a nation; also critical is the cultural sphere. Pinkerman conducted a thoughtful look at our moral and intellectual authority in civil society. The cultural sphere or civil society includes areas of “consent, persuasion, the church, morality, freedom and self-discipline.”
Moral and intellectual authority comes from civil society. Alexis de Tocqueville, a French philosopher that studied the American political system, believed that you really needed to study America’s customs to be able to explain our democracy. Tocqueville used many institutions in his research, including religion, the legal field (respect for law), and the press. At the time in 1831, religion largely controlled the education system. Similarly, the press represented American literature. Clearly, this is no longer the case.
Highlighted by Pinkerman are several facets of civil society that shape the cultural sphere of our present moment. These include journalism, the universities, the tech industry, Hollywood, the legal profession, and religion. Because people “do not have the time to research every single topic, we are reliant on other intellectual and moral sources.” In other words, many in our culture today rely on others to form their moral opinions.
American journalism has a tendency to lean Left. All journalists are not alike, but it indicates the state of journalism to look at the strength of that lean. Between The Washington Post and The New York Times, 25 endorsements for presidential candidates were made since 1960—none have been for Republican candidates. Pinkerman pointed out that you would have to go back to 1956 to find the last time either one supported a Republican for president. Furthermore, only seven percent of journalists identify as Republican. Democrats outnumber Republicans 20 to one among journalists. This is very concerning, since intentional self-questioning is critical in order to prevent bias from filtering the news.
Colleges and universities are another sector in which a pronounced majority of faculty identify as being on the Left. In the field of social psychology, professors that favor the Left are 314 to one, though they self-identify as 36 liberal for every one conservative. There are similar breakdowns where a profession will skew greatly to one political party. Even the localities where top schools are located lean left. A person is likely to move left in their political ideology simply because of the environment that has been created in and around the top schools.
With so many people receiving their information from online sources, the tech sector is highly influential on American culture. Though companies like Google or Apple are not producing the majority of content, they do control what is seen. When looking at Google’s employees, 97 percent voted for Obama, while 91 percent of Apple’s employees did the same. Tech giants function as gatekeepers, the ones who decide what content is inappropriate or will even come up. Search algorithms of these companies have been called into question in recent years for the way they filter content.
Though difficult to find empirical evidence, Hollywood too leans left. Pinkerman cites a study that shows that for every dollar donated to Republicans, 115 were given to the Democratic presidential candidate. The elites shaping the entertainment industry and thus our thought use are clearly using their political voices to promote liberal views. One would simply need to watch some of the television and film awards shows during the 2016 election cycle to see these views on full display.
In the legal profession, around 80 percent of law school faculty members are liberal. The disparity among practicing attorneys is not quite as pronounced, with 35 percent having conservative views. This is important because the people that shape our understanding of the law, and thereby of justice, have a strong influence.
Going off of what Tocqueville studied, the only aspect that has not veered to the left is religion. Culturally and politically, religion remains diverse. Catholic clergy tend to be about 50-50, with Protestants leaning slightly left and Evangelicals to the right. There is much diversity of ideas in the religious field. However, when looking at religious studies in academia, faculty members on the left are about 70 to one.
Politically speaking, we have great protections and freedoms from the government in our current time. Our freedom seems secure from tyranny. But when looking at social tyranny, the outlook is not so reassuring. Social tyranny can easily devolve into factionalism, with one section of society needing protection from another section. James Madison warned against factionalism because it had historically led to the downfall of democracies. In his time, the expanding country made any singular ideology unlikely to take over.
Today, however, when we look at all of the main areas of our cultural establishment, there is one political sphere that is entrenched. Distressingly, many conservative voices are being squelched. College campuses are a perfect case study for this phenomenon. From speakers being disinvited to protestors disrupting events to student activists accosting conservatives on campus, there is a blatant lack of diversity of thought.
The danger of one political ideology controlling so many spheres of public influence is that this ideology can be imposed in a way that looks normalized. Voices of opposition can easily be silenced. This can lead to a spiral of silence in which the voices of opposition become fewer and fewer over time. It will take a concentrated effort from within these industries to prevent that from happening. All Americans should keep a close eye on these industries to see if they are telling the whole story, just as we ourselves should be fair and balanced in our own judgments. Most importantly, we should call out the lack of conservative voices in every major cultural establishment and use our own voices to call for an increase in diversity of thought. Be sure to view Justin Pinkerman’s full discussion of this important topic.