Capitalism is a system in which “the vast majority of society’s wealth and resources is concentrated in the hands of a tiny few. This doesn’t happen because rich individuals are especially clever, hardworking or brilliant, but because of the way the society is organised”, Gareth Bromhall writing on behalf of Socialist Students UK.
When I applied to attend university seven years ago, I spent the summer preparing for what I thought would be the most intellectually stimulating time of my life. I watched Dead Poets Society, I watched Stand and Deliver — I prepared myself for the free exchange of academic ideas.
I was disappointed.
Within two weeks of arrival, we were taught that society is an oppressive patriarchy, that white men are responsible for everything that is wrong in the world, and that anyone who is successful is either corrupt or inherently privileged. There is no room for optimism in this world view.
It is by now no secret that modern universities have a left-leaning political agenda. A report by the Adam Smith Institute finds that nearly 8/10 lecturers are left-leaning and that right-wing views in academia are significantly underrepresented.
Although left-wing lecturers have been on the rise since the 1960’s, the true political bias of universities has only come into public view recently: this year in the UK, Cambridge University Student’s Union intervened to have Jordan Peterson’s visiting fellowship rescinded because his (non-left) political views violated their “principles”. In 2017, Sussex University was heavily criticised for hosting an academic workshop for lecturers in how to deal “with right-wing attitudes and politics in the classroom”.
Recent studies also indicate that 94% of universities now censor their students. This comes as no surprise, however, when we consider that non-left speakers — Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, Charles Murray, and Jacob Rees-Mogg,— have been banned from or protested on certain campuses in the past.
To study in the Humanities today is to study the global history of inequality and corruption. In defence of this, the left would no doubt argue that it is necessary, if we are to combat inequality, that students and young people are shown how and why their society is unequal. My biggest objection to this is that, ironically, in their attempts to educate young people about inequality, the left is creating one of the most unequal societies there has ever been.
Let me explain.
When 75% of lecturers are adhering to a left-wing political ideology — some radically so — then the narrative which emerges from university today is fundamentally a left-wing view of the world. It is not a coincidence that, just as our lecturers teach, students believe that:
- Society is an oppressive patriarchy
- It is easy for heterosexual white men born into wealth to succeed
- It is hard for anyone who is not a heterosexual white man born into wealth to succeed
- There is no such thing as equal opportunity
- The entire capitalist structure and everyone who engages in it is corrupt and immoral
- The 1% are hoarding their wealth and actively rigging the system against us
Graduates leaving university and entering the real world do so espousing the same generic beliefs. Perhaps in every century but our own, this would be described as institutional indoctrination. Today, we call this “victimhood culture”: the dominant attitude in our young people today who view themselves only as tragic victims, rendered weak and helpless by the corruption of our system.
What we call victimhood culture is in fact just an unbalanced education — the direct result of the politicisation of our universities. Young people are taught over and over that they are helpless victims who have inherited a corrupt and inflexible society. And so, believing that it cannot be changed for the better, what do young people do? They kick, and scream, and demand, and act out because they believe that this is the only way to change the system.
In contrast to their parents and grandparents, recent studies by YouGov now indicate that one third of millennials would prefer to live in a socialist society — with 7% going as far to say the same about communism. When we consider the political bias of Western universities, any sensible person can understand why our students are maintaining these views.
The university classroom (especially the Humanities) has now become a tool for advancing a political agenda. In my observations, this has created two very distinct types of students:
The acolyte — literally meaning religious follower — spends their time at university espousing, and being rewarded for, the same political beliefs and view of the world as the radical left. This person will graduate from university believing wholeheartedly the age-old idea that the only way to fix our decrepit society is to significantly raise taxes for the wealthy (or even better destroy it completely). Indeed, where else would support for people like Corbyn and Sanders come from, if not gullible students?
The more widely known term for this type of young person is “social justice warrior” — those who advance overly progressive ideas, preach the necessity of political correctness, and think that the capitalist world must be strangled. Much like their radical professors, these young people also enter the public sphere with unrealistic socialist demands.
In the UK, “Socialist Students” — the organisation which represents all socialist politics across British campuses — writes in their manifesto that Jeremy Corbyn should write off student debt and abolish tuition fees by taking the funds “from the pockets of the super-rich”. In 2018, Socialist Students organised protests — rightfully in their view — to “fight against capitalism and the 1% who control the world’s wealth”.
A “socialist alternative” to these horrors, they claim, is necessary because “capitalism is a system which prioritises the creation of profit above everything else in society, including the safety of working people. As such, Trump and the Tories both do the bidding of the capitalist class by making young people pay for their crisis, while the rich have their interests protected and are allowed to carry on making super-profits”.
In a 2018 edition of Socialist Students Magazine, Gareth Bromhall of Swansea Socialist Students argues that the “genuine communism envisaged by Marx” was simply given a bad name by the Soviet Union and is now “striking a chord with young people around the world”. In fact, Bromhall even points out that Mark Carney — Governor of the Bank of England — is quivering with fear at the reappearance of communist ideas because they offer a much fairer system in which the needs of “all of its citizens are met”.
Bromhall goes on to suggest that, in comparison to Socialism, Capitalism is defined as a system in which “the vast majority of society’s wealth and resources is concentrated in the hands of a tiny few. This doesn’t happen because rich individuals are especially clever, hardworking or brilliant, but because of the way the society is organised”.
We see the same ideologies emerging in America, with students frequently making absurd claims on the news: in 2015 an organiser of the Million Student March demanded that “the 1% of people in society who are hoarding the wealth” should dip into their pockets to pay for free public college, cancellation of student debts, and a $15 minimum wage.
It is simple to see where such beliefs come from when we consider that, in 2017, socialist professor Caroline Heldman also called for taxing the rich — those who earn more than $470,000 a year — at least 80% or more because “rich people aren’t held to the same standards as other tax payers” and that it is only because of loopholes, lawyers, and estate planners that they are able to “hide their wealth”.
Imagine — if you dare — the political backlash there would be if conservative professors started (incorrectly) to teach their students that the 99% of society who aren’t ultra-wealthy are lazy, stupid, and demanding.
To subscribe to the worldview advanced by modern universities is to simultaneously acknowledge that you are a helpless victim and, genuinely believing this, young people are “offended” and outraged by the tiniest of things. Things which only provide evidence that society is dictated by the greedy 1%.
Although this particular rhetoric does provide a much needed element of humour in our political landscape, it is also a shame that these young people — who should be leaving university willing to take on the world and work hard — have been encouraged by their universities to denigrate the system before they make an effort to participate within it.
With our universities now becoming heavily politicised, students are now split into two categories: with us or against us. The problem this creates, in my experience, is that students who reject this political agenda find themselves socially and academically alienated.
The outcast is someone who, contrary to the acolyte, neglects to accept the narrow worldview advanced by their lecturers and doubts their university as a legitimate and unbiased source of knowledge. At odds with their lecturers and peers, this student is forced to find alternative means to educate themselves. The outcast is someone who realises that, to paraphrase Bret Weinstein, we live in a moment in which all of the things which have traditionally helped us “to make sense” of the world — universities, journalism, media etc. — have broken down.
Luckily for them, there is something which has been recently coined the “Intellectual Dark Web”: a network of scholars, thinkers, and podcasters willing to discuss issues deemed too toxic by mainstream academia and media, all of whom have their content freely available on YouTube. Weinstein describes the IDW as a group of thinkers who, amidst the decline of traditional education, “are trying to make sense in an alternative way”.
The IDW seems to be evidence of a wider trend in which many young people, rejecting the political rhetoric of the universities, are turning to YouTube and online platforms in search of the education denied to them by traditional institutions.
And make no mistake, those turning to the internet for what education has betrayed them will find no shortage of useful content. Regardless of your political view, the IDW is packed with intelligent and enlightening content:
Sam Harris, a mainstream thinker in the IDW, has a PhD in Neuroscience and has written five New York Times bestsellers. He frequently hosts his “Making Sense” podcast with others such as Stephen Fry, Robert Sapolsky, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, discussing issues ranging from human nature, morality, and medicine.
Jordan Peterson, also a mainstream thinker in the IDW, is a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. Peterson has risen to fame in the last few years for being an icon for young men — telling them, contrary to the universities, to take responsibility for themselves and the world around them. There are hundreds of hours of content freely available on his YouTube channel, including but not limited to psychology, religion, existentialism, and history.
Ben Shapiro, also regarded as a mainstream figure in the IDW, graduated from Harvard Law School and is now a political commentator in America. Former editor-in-large at Breitbart News and now editor-in-chief for The Daily Wire, Ben Shapiro is a New York Times bestselling author and rapid debater. He is well known for his show — The Ben Shapiro Show — in which he discusses politics, culture, and history.
Joe Rogan, the popular podcaster, is also considered part of the IDW. Fans of Rogan will know that there is a wealth of content freely available on his YouTube channel. He has had conversations with the likes of Steven Pinker (cognitive psychologist), Matthew Walker (sleep scientist), Brian Cox (physicist), and Elon Musk.
Dave Rubin, also considered part of the IDW, is the host of The Rubin Report. On his show, Rubin has hosted the likes of Richard Dawkins, Stephen Fry, and Eric Weinstein. Rubin’s podcast helps viewers to contextualise politics in a rational and clear way.
What impact is this having?
When pushing political agendas, universities of course forget that the goal of our capitalist world is to generate wealth. Today, we are teaching most young people that generating wealth is a corrupt endeavour and impossible unless you are willing to also become a corrupt person. These are the wrong rules to the game.
By allowing the politicisation of our universities, we have created the biggest intellectual divide there has ever been. We now have a situation in which most students today graduate from university with a narrowly pessimistic view of the world, taking moral offense at the most minor things, and calling for the entire capitalist system to be scrapped. This student is taught uncompromisingly that anything which challenges their left-leaning worldview is “offensive” and that their life will be miserable unless capitalism is destroyed — such a person has no enthusiasm for life or learning.
The irony in this situation is that, by politicising the university classroom in the name of “equality”, the left ensures that the minority of students who do not embody their political beliefs are pushed towards what is possibly the best educational tool in human history — the internet. In doing this, we reinforce the very same inequality we seek to ameliorate. We leave a vast portion of young people today ill-equipped to engage in the betterment of society and a small portion of individuals who have the bulk of the intellectual resources.
A large portion of students are graduating from university thinking that society is beyond repair, that the road to success is impossibly blocked by corrupt wealth-hoarders, and that the only solution is to just dismantle capitalism.
A very small portion of students are graduating who instead are both willing to take on contradictory viewpoints and engage readily in the world. If you owned a FTSE 100 company, which type of young person would you hire? Which portion will be the future “1%”?