Is MIT’s atmosphere hostile to conservative opinions?

Yes. Unquestionably.

(If you’re going to be among the crowds of people who will now surmise based on that first line that I’m secretly conservative, I will just say that if among the things I have stated, claimed, and supported you have decided to come to the conclusion that I’m probably conservative, I don’t know how to help you and will refuse to address you.)

It would take a serious lack of capability to try others’ shoes to deny that the frequency with which people are presumed to have liberal thought, the visibility with which chatrooms exhibit users taking glee at the suffering of conservatives, and the degree to which statements jokingly or seriously promoting violence against right-wing thinkers are legitimized in general social circles at MIT makes for a community in which conservatives could feel, at the very least, out of place.

What is more of a question is whether or not it is okay or if it should be the case that MIT’s atmosphere is hostile to conservative opinions. To the first approximation, this is a question about whether conservative values interfere with MIT’s goals. This is a question for which neither a pure “yes” nor a pure “no” approximate the nuances of the situation enough. There exist some really important distinctions in forms of value clashing, centrality of values to MIT’s mission, and levels of indirection of effects that should be considered in an analysis of the issue; in fact, separate analyses are probably ideal for the various parts of what makes up the corpus of “conservative opinions”, some of which are really not that related or even that correlated.

But whatever the answer to this question is, MIT’s community should not don the pretense that we are friendly and open to all. It can often be the case that being open to one group of people necessitates being unopen to another group. We make a choice on the groups of people we will try to be friendly to. One might argue otherwise, but this typically involves being open only to thoughts pre-considered okay and thus a filter on the entire domain “openness” is applied to; pre-filtering defeats the point of openmindedness. A declaration that MIT is accepting of people regardless of their political stance is sugarcoating and dismissive.


One thought on “Is MIT’s atmosphere hostile to conservative opinions?

  1. This seems like a reasonable assessment to me. I tend to be of the opinion that we shouldn’t be nice to conservatives, because they’re evil. (I know this is an extreme position.) However, I do agree that we shouldn’t falsely claim to be respectful of them if we aren’t.

    (For the record, I do not consider myself part of the MIT Community and have no connection to MIT other than being a rather disgruntled alum.)

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