USC lecturer Leslie Berntsen argued on social media recently that the term “viewpoint diversity” is a racist dog whistle.
USC psychology lecturer Leslie Berntsen earned the criticism of some social media users in July when she argued that calls for free and open discussion on campus are secretly a cover for a desire to spread racism.
“I cannot emphasize this enough, but terms like ‘echo chamber,’ ‘viewpoint diversity,’ etc. are HUGE DOG WHISTLES for some unspeakably nefarious stuff,” Berntsen wrote in a series of tweets which were captured by The College Fix. “So many seemingly well-meaning academics are getting so played by these terms and you (honestly and truly) really hate to see it.”
Berntsen then argued that there is a “fine line…between understanding a perspective to refute it and understanding it on its merits…There are tons of folks who are drawn in by this idea of listening to ‘both sides’ (irrespective of content) as a Fair Thing To Do, and then end up going *FULL IDW* and it’s truly horrifying to watch happen in real time.”
After facing criticism from other Twitter users, Berntsen cited a 2017 study that claims that racism is the root driver of calls for free speech. The research concluded that “explicit racial prejudice” is often found in those who champion free speech causes.
“When people make appeals to democratic principles — like ‘freedom of speech’ — they don’t always represent a genuine interest in that principle,” the study’s author said in a comment. “We think of principles as ideas we use to guide behavior in our everyday lives. Our data show something different — that we tend to make up our mind on something based on our attitudes — in this case, racial attitudes — and then decide that the principle is relevant or irrelevant. People do whatever best fits their pre-existing attitudes.”
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