The Diversity Industry: Guilt-Leveraging at America’s UniversitiesStephen Paul Foster
At the invitation of a student group at Michigan State University, George Lincoln Rockwell, head of the American Nazi Party, came to the campus in East Lansing to address the students in 1967. No reported incidents. It was just another typical day on a typical American university campus. Imagine today the violence and vandalism that would explode with the announcement of a university administration anywhere in the country that it had permitted a real, self-affirming Nazi to address its students. Think of the tumult that would ensue if he attempted to come and speak. It is a terrifying thought experiment, one which captures the staggering magnitude of the success of the Left in its march through our social institutions, particularly the one supposedly dedicated to the “life of the mind” and “the pursuit of truth.”
Let’s assume you survive this terror of imagination. Knee-slapping humor follows when you listen to GLR’s opening remarks. “Let me first thank the school [MSU], administration, and the committee that invited me and tell you how grateful I am for this opportunity. The only chance I have left in this country to speak is in the academic community. . . . This is the only chance where I have to present ideas for your judgment.”
Rockwell’s invitation, speech, and its relatively courteous reception at MSU occurred in a historical period to be designated as “BD,” “Before-Diversity.” BD was a time when men were men and women still seemed to like them. Back then, “African-Americans” were politely called “colored people” — not to be confused with “people of color.” What a difference a preposition can make. Life, BD, was also a bit more carefree and relaxed, before the widespread installation of professional scolds to regulate our conversations and enforce their enlightened norms of sensitivity. At American universities in the 1960s “diversity” had not yet become the prime mover in the “mandatory chapel” sessions conducted by cult-Marxist appointees following a liturgical script of egalitarian devotion.
“Diversity” back then was just a word that aroused no particular emotion and with none of today’s odious ideological trappings. “Diversity” was merely the opposite of “sameness” or “uniformity.” In some cases, diversity was a good thing, as in a “diversity of options.” In other cases, sameness or uniformity was the desideratum, as in “same high quality,” or a “uniform” approach. There were no Vice-Presidents for Diversity and Inclusion, no diversity conferences to go to, no mandatory diversity workshops and seminars you were forced to attend, no entertaining spectacles of desperate, frantic university administrators climbing up over each other’s backs to vehemently proclaim their “commitment to diversity.” Real, self-proclaimed Nazis could be invited to campuses. Polite and well-spoken, they were viewed as “interesting,” regarded more with curiosity than as threats; half the country was not said to be in the grip of fascism.
In 1905, the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce announced that “pragmaticism” would be the best, single word to capture his work, saying that it was “ugly enough to be safe from kidnappers.” “Diversity,” like “gay,” unfortunately, was not ugly enough to save it from the multicultural kidnappers, who made it into a tool to help them, as the historian Leonard Shapiro once described Soviet propaganda, “produce a uniform pattern of public utterance in which the first trace of unorthodox thought reveals itself as jarring dissonance.” Universities must now, above all, be about “diversity.” Utterance of that word is the unmistakable, rigorously uniform signal that tightly scripted rituals of moral affirmation and admonition are about to begin. Everyone present must nod vigorously in unanimous approval to avoid falling under suspicion. Failure means expulsion, or worse.
These rituals and their enforcement, however, unintendedly expose the ugly protrusion of an unsatisfiable, desperate, and ruthless form of neediness — the need to feel superior. Of course, there are boundless ways in which someone can feel superior to someone else — some obvious and basic, such as intelligence, looks, talent; some trivial, like your marathon finishing time or your kid’s ACT scores. However, the best way, the one that will trump any other form of superiority, is to feel morally superior. The lust for moral superiority is what the “diversity” chatterboxes are all about. Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables . . . irredeemables” must surely be the most memorable words of the 2016 Presidential election campaign. They illustrate the basic logic in play. Morally superior people need, indeed demand, morally inferior people to feel superior to; lots of them, it seems. The tricky part with this is that being morally inferior to someone else is not the sort of permanent deformity that the inferior party in this most invidious of all invidious comparisons is likely to embrace happily or easily. This we may recall from the reaction to Mrs. Clinton’s remark and its galvanizing effects on the targets. Being branded with this kind of inferiority makes for seriously unpleasant practical outcomes, and one should always be suspicious of prospectors mining for this sort of gold. Most people, I believe, will strenuously resist wearing the mantle of moral inferiority. But, there are ways.
Thus, the big question: how do you get someone to admit that he is morally inferior to someone else? The quick answer: guilt that can be leveraged ideologically. But it’s somewhat complicated, historically speaking. The best place to start is with Bertrand Russell and his “doctrine of the superior virtue of the oppressed.”
“Oppression” in this doctrine must be collective. To be “oppressed,” you had to be a member of a collective entity sharing grievances that you could leverage against the members from a collective-oppressor. The leverage that being “oppressed” gives you is “superior virtue,” the “moral superiority” I’m talking about. Russell was certainly aware that Karl Marx had invented this seductive scheme with his two hostile camps, the oppressed working class, “the proletariat,” and the capitalists who exploited and oppressed them. Crudely put, with Marx you had the good guys (morally superior-wise) who did all the hard work, and the bad guys who were bad (morally inferior-wise) because of how they treated the good guys, i.e. stealing the profits from their hard work. Even worse, they fooled them into thinking that this was normal and appropriate.
The best part of being in the good guy camp is that it gives you a carte blanche to do whatever you like to the bad guys. The euphemism for this carte blanche was “Revolution.” Revolutionary thinking, planning, action, anything “revolutionary,” in fact, is good, because it always aims at getting rid of the bad guys. As Marx technically put it, “expropriating the expropriators.” This nicely captures the moral asymmetry of the equation — the good guys use the methods of the bad guys to even things up. The methods are only good or bad relative to which group of guys are using them, illustrating Lenin’s “Who-Whom” dictum. Think of it as morally justified revenge acted out on the world-historical stage. A gripping drama, it appeals to the sophisticates and the high-minded as well as the underclass, the ones up for breaking heads. And, who doesn’t like revenge, even though we’re not supposed to admit it?
At some point, everyone pretty much realized that the “proletariat overthrowing the capitalists” lingo didn’t make all that much sense anymore. Who actually were members of the proletariat? Are the lowly clerks who process applications, forms, and push paper around in the Ohio DMV members of the proletariat? Are the unionized college professors (average annual salary $90,000 a year with summers off) on strike at Central Michigan University members of the proletariat? The “good guy worker” — “bad guy factory owner” division of society was a tired, sloppy, useless anachronism that no one paid attention to anymore. Still, Marx’s seductive appeal of viewing society as an escalating duel of morally inferior-superior camps with the inferiors beating up on the growing ranks of the superiors was firmly in place. It’s locked in actually. And post-WWII, this template was retained but retrofitted with two different sets of inferior/oppressors-superior/oppressed players.
The new players put a more promising, powerful dynamic into place: race. This would be the fulcrum upon which moral distinctions were pivoted. “Racism” would be the key to unlocking the dark history that revealed the real divide between the good guys and the bad ones, morally speaking. It would be more complicated and far-reaching than the proletariat-capitalist version, which didn’t make sense anymore. Most importantly, the race angle had staying power. Racism is “in our DNA,” as President Obama put it. That is, “our” as in white peoples’ DNA. The good guys were no longer the lunch bucket proletariat; it was black Americans, victims of racism. The bad guys, of course, white American racists. These two groups are now locked in eternal struggle, the oppressed and their oppressors.
“Racism” got “re-engineered” with load-bearing walls for the weight of the grievances it would have to bear as the moral underpinning for the impregnable “good guy” status of black-minority America. The eternal, unforgivable wickedness of white America is where we are at. Thus, move to guilt-leveraging. Guilt as a means for taking and exerting power over others is more effective and efficient, less messy than the overt violence deployed by the likes of Lenin and Castro. Guilt would be the engine of “cultural revolution” courtesy of some folks from a certain tribe — Adorno, Horkheimer, and Marcuse — who helped the Americans occupying defeated Germany achieve maximum guilt-leveraging with Entnazifizierung, denazification. Twenty-first century Germany may be the most guilt-ridden place on the planet, run by nasty, self-hating, white women.
The first step on the way to guilt-leveraging “racism” was to make it (a) permanent, and (b) ubiquitous. Attached to the bad guys, it became a “moral” stain that, as you can clearly see now, never washes away, and is everywhere. Even the stone and marble in the Confederate monuments from an earlier era bear those stains. When is the last time you heard that “racism” was a thing of the past, or even that it was on the wane? When do you think that you will hear anyone around you who is sane, serious, and sober say anything like this?
Taking a huge breath, all of this brings us to the birth and expansion of what is called the “diversity industry.” Once you grasp the dynamics of “racism” and collective guilt, the emergence and explosive growth of the “diversity industry” will make perfect sense — even though over the last fifty years the past barriers of race by all objective measures have drastically fallen.
So, finally, here is what “diversity” is actually about. It’s a code word. When uttered it first signals that the utterer is positioned in the ranks of the morally superior. Second, what follows will be guilt-leveraging; “unmasking,” as they call it. Unmasked is the deep-structured unfairness of the status quo. Prepare yourself, white-privileged dude. It’s worse than ever. It’s worse than during the Jim Crow period because the unfairness perpetuated by the oppressors is glossed over or hidden by a false cover of “progress.”
“Diversity” is the trigger that “diversity professionals” rely on to keep the doctrine of the superior virtue of the oppressed front and center and further leverage the guilt by exposing new and recondite forms of oppression. Jim Crow, back of the bus, segregated drinking fountains and restrooms, etc. had been done away with. No more Bull Connors, “white only” signs, N-word for whites, anti-miscegenation laws. The problem is that with all of this one might be tempted to conclude that things, race-wise, were getting a bit better. Getting “better,” however, means losing that leverage. “Getting better” will never happen.
“Racism” is at the heart of the diversity industry and for it to be a “growth industry” there must be more rather than less “racism.” Sorry, there is no other way for it to prosper if you look at it both logically and sociologically. This leads us to the multiplier effect: from generic “racism,” ragged and worn from overuse, we move to a continuously updated and expanded thesaurus that includes covert and insidious forms of “racism.” Thus: “institutional racism,” “systemic racism,” “structural racism,” “covert racism,” “environmental racism,” “economic racism,” and more to follow — the flow of adjectives, Geritol for the flagging noun. The social pathology of “racism” becomes endemic, entrenched everywhere in American society. This means that there is a lot of heavy lifting and endless opportunities for those to carve out niches in the “anti-racism business.” The practice of “anti-racism” in America resembles a never-ending game of “whack-a-mole.” One of these pesky little critters pops up. You whack him down. Another immediately pops up somewhere else. A “diversity professional,” you might say, has a full-time job of playing whack-a-mole.
These pathologies rage in and out of control. Pathology-containment relies on pathologists who recognize the endless way in which racism permutates, identifying it, labeling it, and calling out its practitioners. Also needed are personnel to tend to the victims, the wounded, focused on promoting their threatened wellbeing and guarding their tender feelings, helping them grasp and appreciate their moral superiority, and energize and polish their grievances. Finally, the most challenging and intractable elements are the racists (the morally inferior) themselves. Many of them fail to understand that they are morally defective. At best, they remain insensitive to the continuing victimization they are responsible for; at worst, hostile to efforts to reeducate them. Hence, “diversity training,” a euphemism for the guilt-leveraging that unfolds in the “shaming” and “struggle sessions,” as this sort of re-education was called during the Cultural Revolution in China. Diversity-trained whites learn about “white privilege,” microaggressions, and, most importantly, how to grovel.
“Diversity” offices or divisions in universities, if I may simplify a bit, are tasked with what I call “the racism watch.” There are no incentives for anyone who wanted to be successful in this industry to report that racism is in decline. A decline would mean fewer staff members, smaller offices, smaller paychecks, fewer perks, and fewer conferences to attend — less visibility. If whites were behaving themselves and needed no “tutoring,” there would be no need for an office of diversity. Remember: to flourish, the morally superior need the morally inferior. Diversity personnel must pretend they want racism to be eliminated because it’s the ultimate evil, but if that happens, they are working themselves out of their jobs. The material incentives are entirely in perverse opposition to the professed moral ideal, and when those two come into conflict, everybody knows which one is going to win.
The diversity industry got a huge boost because the “ism” piece of “racism,” its foundation and engine, went into franchise. “Racism” offered spinoffs: more “isms’ and “phobias,” menacing abstractions galore, using the morally superior-inferior template originated by Marx, thus swelling the ranks of the “morally superior” and enlarging the parameters of guilt. You do not argue with success. You can never defeat an abstraction. Once born, an “ism” lives forever, deepening and expanding the culpability of the oppressor. The virtuous victim classes (the good guys and gals) were rapidly multiplying: Latinos, women, gays, and the disabled — “sexism,” “homophobia,” “ableism.” “Transphobia” remained undiscovered for decades. Many nuances of victimhood to elucidate and morally superior people to attend to. It was also time for more intense concentration to bear down on the moral-inferiors and up the guilt-leveraging. “Whiteness” came into being, evil now ontologized in an abstracted form, making it ubiquitous and permanently illusive.
The “diversity industry” also mimics nouveau religion with its scriptures, rites, saints, and banishment rituals for heretics. And, as we all know, new religions are fertile ground for fakers, fanatics, and fools. What we also know is that a religion in its early, expansionist stage heavily tilts toward the heresy-banishment side of the ledger which means that there is no toleration for “deviation” from the established “truth.” Heretics are not just misguided, wrong, or mistaken. They are evil, morally defective, and have no place in the community of believers (as Hillary Clinton put it, the “deplorables” are “thankfully, not part of America”). The pursuit of heretics and their excommunication is not for timid personalities. BLM and Antifa are not timid folks.
The language that the “diversity industry” uses to discover and pounce upon the heretics — or if you incline toward Stalinism, “deviationists” — is the argot of Diversity-speak. Diversity-Speak unfolds with an insidious grammar, phrasing, and intonation used by the Moral-Elect to dominate the agendas, shape university policies, and put them in the institutional driver seat. For example: “In this meeting, we will be leading the conversation. . .” Or, “Our objective is to shape the narrative. . .” And, of course, they are constantly about “changing the culture.” “Conversation,” “the narrative,” and “the culture” are loosely interchangeable code words for “control.” Taking control and bossing people around is what they are about.
Look also for heavy use of the first-person plural pronouns “we,” “us,” and “our,” as in “our democracy.” These are all to camouflage the “we’re-all-in-it-together” head-fake that downplays the heavy-handed propaganda that they use to signal that deviation from their way of thinking, their “narrative,” is not allowed in the “conversation” (the terms they are dictating) that they are leading to “change the culture” (take over). But the four words terminating with a question mark, sternly uttered, that throws any university administrator from the President on down into a state of fecal incontinence are: “your commitment to diversity?” You see, “diversity” has become so vaguely ritualized and with no precise meaning that no one can begin to prove or demonstrate his “commitment” to it.
This is perfect.
The diversity inquisitor in the driver seat. She is the one who gets paid to peer into the “commitment” crystal ball, and what she sees is seldom good news for the poor administrator on the receiving end of the question. He is permanently mired in “commitment”-deficit mode, which meant that the diversity staff always get to be in the “collection” mode, resource and power-wise.
“Your commitment to diversity?” is the combination that unlocks the university safe for the diversity office. The seriousness of the university’s “commitment to diversity” is directly proportional to a combination of factors in the diversity division: how many staff, the size of their salaries, the prestige of the titles, the size and prime location of the offices, and resources available for professional development and programming. The more and the higher the combination of these are, the more precise the measurement of the placement of “diversity” in the university’s firmament of priorities is. The “smart” administrators quickly grasp how critical these metrics are for predicting the course of their professional futures. The University of Michigan may be the Platonic Form of “Diversity Staff” perfection with its division of almost one hundred staff — including four “Assistant Vice Provosts” — and an annual payroll budget of over eleven million dollars.
Prestigious titles — Vice President, Associate Provost, etc. — are a critical element for the success of “diversity” as they signal importance and power and, of course, institutional commitment. The problem is that they attach themselves to the nebulous abstractions at the heart of the industry: e.g., Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion. This finally raises a question that brings us to the “the Emperor has no clothes” (EHNC) moment. What, exactly, does a VP for Diversity and Inclusion do?
The EHNC answer: The Chief Diversity Officer is the tip of a pyramid scheme.
Here is a workable definition:
A pyramid scheme is a way of making money that cannot continue very long. It involves promising people payment, services, or ideals, primarily for enrolling other people into the scheme or training them to take part. It does not supply any real investment or sale of products or services to the public.
A slight bit of tweaking shows the pyramid scheme essence of the “diversity industry.” Rather than “making money,” this version is about “ideals,” the making of racial harmony by promising people payment in the form of “fairness and equality” and ultimately the vanquishing of “racism.” To do this requires the continuous enrolling of yet more people into the “scheme” and/or training them to take part in the noble effort. However, for all of the elevated titles, bloated budgets, expansive staff, relentless propaganda sessions, and never-ending “diversity training,” they do not “supply any real investment or . . . services” to the university. There is no ROI. “Racism” still abounds and is even more pervasive and threatening. None of the fairness and equality in high demand ever seems to be in near reach; the payouts are always elusively somewhere way down the road. Only more staff, more resources, and, most importantly, more of that illusory “commitment” will put the unreachable within reach.
Pyramid schemes must expand or they eventually collapse, which explains why university diversity offices are always in “growth mode,” continuously adding staff to address the pressing need to correct the entrenched unfairness and move toward the equality that never materializes, to vanquish the “racism” that only seems to get worse: the more staff added, the more inequalities they seem to discover, which leads to ever more staff. The pyramid grows as it must.
Consider Parkinson’s Law in light of this: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” Then, a corollary, the “Diversity” Parkinson’s Law: “Diversity work expands to fill the time of the staff added to the diversity payroll.” “Diversity” work is comprised of talking about the importance of diversity, and since there is never enough diversity, and since no one can tell you if you’ve reached “peak diversity” or if you’re even close, ergo, you can never have enough people to talk about it, to remind everyone how monumental it really is. The supply can never meet the demand. So, are you beginning to grasp the vicious circularity in play? Because the language of “diversity” is so nebulous, abstract, and expansive, the “work” of “diversity” turns out to be neither more nor less than the praising of diversity, self-worship, a spectacular exercise of moral solipsism.
Let’s push this a bit further to draw the conclusion.
Consider the job of a different university employee. A math professor, for example. The math professor isn’t employed to talk about how important mathematics is. He teaches people how to do mathematics. How about the university custodian? Think what would happen to him if all he did was talk about how important it is to have tidy buildings, but never emptied the trash cans. The mathematician doesn’t need to talk about how important mathematics is because it is obvious. No one wants or needs oratorical praise of cleanliness from the custodial department. This should be a clue. An industry that exists and grows with its sole product simply being a continuous advertisement for itself is a pyramid scheme, a massive guilt-leveraging fraud built on the cult-Marxist doctrine of the superior virtue of the oppressed. The resources it takes to expand itself is theft. Its “professionals” are snake-oil vendors.
The administrators who employ them have joined the growing legions of useful idiots: tergiversators of the worst kind.
You can find Stephen Paul Foster’s newly published novel here.
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