by Mary Harrington
Friday, 10
January 2020

Conservatives, stop kidding yourselves about ‘viewpoint diversity’

It is an underdog argument deployed by the losing side
by Mary Harrington
The BBC wants to ‘include everyone whatever their background’, but this prompted comment from conservative quarters

June Sarpong writes in Huffington Post about her frustration over the course of her media career at entrenched attitudes to race within the industry:

Encounters from the very start of my career — being excluded from a photoshoot which had included all of my fellow female presenters, or being frustrated by a TV executive having concerns about putting two black presenters on a show — are just some early examples of how I experienced the world of the media.
- June Sarpong
Her article, and her appointment as Head of Creative Diversity at the BBC, has prompted comment from conservative quarters about the public focus on every kind of diversity except the political sort. But conservatives should stop kidding themselves.

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As Ben Cobley sets out in The Tribe, diversity is increasingly dominant both as a worldview and as a social, political and cultural system. To speak against any aspect of diversity can have disastrous social consequences, as tax consultant Maya Forstater discovered when she stated publicly that humans cannot change sex, and found herself fired from her NGO position.

But let’s imagine for a moment that some form of sociocultural conservatism was once more in the ascendant, privileging communitarian values, a resurgent religious faith of some sort and a stronger set of mores around sexual continence and family integrity.

These are commonly values being argued for by those calling for greater ‘viewpoint diversity’. But, once in control, would such a society be any more tolerant than the diversity-oriented one to — say — a dissenter from the dominant religion or someone advocating for non-traditional family structures? My hunch is they would not.

Viewpoint diversity is an underdog argument; it was deployed by the now-ascendant liberals, who, now victorious, seek to shut it down. Of course they do: if those advocating for viewpoint diversity ever in the future gain the upper hand, they will do the same. Ideological competition is not wholly zero-sum, in the sense that political viewpoints hybridise and evolve in the course of battling for top spot. But it is nearly so. Political pluralism cannot be conceived of as an end state, only as an enabling condition for our ongoing cultural and political evolution.

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