Lionel Shriver removed as judge of literary competition for questioning a diversity algorithm

Four days ago I reported on a piece author Lionel Shriver published in the Spectator: a criticism of UK Penguin/Random House’s (PRH) striving for diversity in its authors and employees in the form of a questionnaire. The piece, called “When Diversity Means Uniformity,” accused PRH of being “drunk on virtue”, and pointing out two problems with this quest for diversity (granted, the questionnaire was bizarre):

I see two issues here. First: diversity, both the word and the concept, has crimped. It serves a strict, narrow agenda that has little or nothing to do with the productive dynamism of living and working alongside people with widely different upbringings and beliefs. Only particular and, if you will, privileged backgrounds count. Which is why Apple’s African-American diversity tsar, Denise Young Smith, got hammered last October after submitting, ‘There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blond men in a room and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.’ She hadn’t bowed to the newly shackled definition of the word, which has now been effectively removed from the language as a general-purpose noun.

Second: dazzled by this very highest of social goods, many of our institutions have ceased to understand what they are for. Drunk on virtue, Penguin Random House no longer regards the company’s raison d’être as the acquisition and dissemination of good books. Rather, the organisation aims to mirror the percentages of minorities in the UK population with statistical precision. Thus from now until 2025, literary excellence will be secondary to ticking all those ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual preference and crap-education boxes. We can safely infer from that email that if an agent submits a manuscript written by a gay transgender Caribbean who dropped out of school at seven and powers around town on a mobility scooter, it will be published, whether or not said manuscript is an incoherent, tedious, meandering and insensible pile of mixed-paper recycling. Good luck with that business model. Publishers may eschew standards, but readers will still have some.

I wouldn’t have written it exactly that way, partciularly the antepenultimate sentence. But it’s a fair point, and worthy of discussion. Are we striving for equal representation or equal opportunity? That is the most important question that progressive liberals need to answer for themselves, along with “does unequal representation mean unequal opportunity?”

Well, there are always professional consequences to bucking the tropes of Control Leftism, and Shriver is about to pay one—not that it’s going to hurt her much. Mslexia, a British magazine aimed at women authors, is holding a short story competition for women from any country with a £5,000 top prize. Shriver was going to be a judge.

Not any longer:

Translation: Mslexia has to have a safe space for authors, and by questioning a “proportional representation” view of diversity, Shriver has violated that. So she’s out.

Somehow I suspect that the strong-minded Ms. Shriver won’t mind; in fact, she’ll probably write a snarky piece about it. But this just goes to show how those who are Ideologically Impure get punished. Shriver is now is a non person, or rather a person who doesn’t create a “safe space for all women writers.”

Of course Mslexia can choose whomever they want as a judge. But removing Shriver as a judge isn’t going to improve the quality of the entries and winners; Shriver, I suspect, would judge submissions on their merit. Why would she not? No, this is, pure and simple, a form of virtue signaling by Mslexia.  It’s not as if some women weren’t going to submit their stories because they’d be judged by Shriver.

h/t: BJ

51 Comments

  1. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    The pivotal sentence in Lionel’s piece is
    “It serves a strict, narrow agenda that has little or nothing to do with the productive dynamism of living and working alongside people with widely different upbringings and beliefs.”

    I enjoy learning new words from this website. I had not heard “antepenultimate” before. And I agree more with the perspectives here than I do with William F. Buckley, who was marvelous tool for vocabulary expansion.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 13, 2018 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, Ol’ WFB was quite the sesquipedalianist. 🙂

    • Derek Freyberg
      Posted June 13, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      For “antepenultimate”, see Flanders and Swann’s “Madeira, M’Dear”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OW_zi8n4HDQ

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 13, 2018 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

        I can’t even begin to count the ways in which that clip offends political correctness.

        Not even Flanders’ (or is it Swann’s?) wheelchair can redeem it.

        😉

        cr

        • Posted June 14, 2018 at 6:39 am | Permalink

          Michael Flanders contracted polio in 1943.

          If you want political incorrectness, look no further than the Song of Patriotic Prejudice.

    • Posted June 13, 2018 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      “I enjoy learning new words from this website. I had not heard ‘antepenultimate’ before.”

      I had not heard “partciularly.” 😉

    • Filippo
      Posted June 13, 2018 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

      I learned “invigilate” from Hitch.

      • Posted June 13, 2018 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

        I learnt it from doing it!

        At uni, when I was a grad student. On one occasion, I invigilated Michael Heseltine’s daughter, Annabel.

        /@

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted June 13, 2018 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

          I learned it by being subjected to it via invigilators. I like to pronounce it with a hard g.

        • Diane G
          Posted June 21, 2018 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

          That sounds so nasty. 😉

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted June 21, 2018 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

            We just have to accept it. Our dear Ant was once an invigilator.

            • Diane G
              Posted June 21, 2018 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

              Even worse!

              😀

            • Posted June 21, 2018 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

              & got paid for it!

              /@

              • Diane G
                Posted June 21, 2018 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

                Aargh!!!

                I’ll…I’ll never think of you the same way, again… *sob*

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted June 21, 2018 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

                Haha. I like him better for it.

  2. Christopher
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    What, might I ask, is a “safe space for all women writers”? Heavily patrolled and enforced ideological boundaries followed by swift and unrepentant punishment for violating those boundaries doesn’t sound too safe to me.

    • Fat Bastard
      Posted June 13, 2018 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      Good point, well made.

    • Posted June 13, 2018 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      Why do women writers need a safe space?

      Being in a safe space is likely not conducive to good writing, I’d think. “To write about humans is to write about conflict.” — Harlan Ellison (quoting from memory)

      /@

    • BJ
      Posted June 13, 2018 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

      Yes, “all” is a very strange word to use if you mean “except for anyone who disagrees with us.”

  3. Jon Gallant
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    For a classic account of the diversity/equity hustle in recent operation, see:
    https://quillette.com/2018/06/05/portland-bakery-white-guilt-poisons-batter/ .

    • BJ
      Posted June 13, 2018 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      I’m not sure if that article mentions it, but the owners of that bakery admit that their own surveillance camera footage shows the “equity activist” who said two white people were served before her was lying. The white people who came in two minutes before her were also refused service. The owners’ excuse for still firing the employee was that “impact is more important than intent.”

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 13, 2018 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

        The article does mention it. It was after closing time.

        The owners were faced with the choice of shitting on their employees or being witch-hunted. So they shat on their employees and then got witch-hunted anyway.

        Not entirely their fault, but that’s one bakery I just wouldn’t patronise.

        cr

        • BJ
          Posted June 13, 2018 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

          The owner’s are true believers. Their statement and previous facebook posts and events demonstrate that. They believe it’s better to fire the employee for something they didn’t do. That it’s the fair thing.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    … there are always professional consequences to bucking the tropes of Control Leftism …

    And there’s nobility in bucking them only if one is willing to pay the price.

    Hey, it’d be cool by me if Mslexia had kept Ms. Shriver on as a judge — but then, I’m not a minority writer in the running for a prize. I can understand why the magazine might opt for a judge who hadn’t recently made an immoderate statement — why it might wish to hold its judges to the standards of Caesar’s wife.

    • Craw
      Posted June 13, 2018 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      These are more the standards of Macbeth’s wife, not Caesar’s.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted June 13, 2018 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

        Or maybe the standards of the Queen in the play-within-a-play in Hamlet, the one Gertrude thinks protests too much?

        • Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:32 am | Permalink

          A propos of nothing in particular, I wonder if anyone has every extracted out _The Mousetrap_ and put it on by itself.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted June 15, 2018 at 4:13 am | Permalink

            I dunno, but Tom Stoppard would seem like the fella to do it, given his great success in extracting an entire play out of minor characters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. 🙂

  5. DrBrydon
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    As this latest demonstrates, the cry of diversity is really a demand for ideological conformity.

  6. Posted June 13, 2018 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    “Although we welcome open debate …”

    But not with open arms, it seems.

    /@

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 13, 2018 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      We welcome open debate, but we ask that you close your mouths while you do it.

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    And then there is diversity reported by the Chicago Tribune regarding White House in judge appointment/nominations. The score – 91% white and 81% male.

    • tomh
      Posted June 13, 2018 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      Haven’t you heard? They’re all the best, most qualified people. Just ask Trump.

    • Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      And 100% Republican?

  8. notsecurelyanchored
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    On the contrary, Mr. Kukec. Had Mslexia kept Shriver on as a judge a writer might be confident her prose was judged on its merit alone.

  9. jellen
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Jerry Coyne writes,”Are we striving for equal representation or equal opportunity? That is the most important question that progressive liberals need to answer for themselves, along with does unequal representation mean unequal opportunity?”

    There is also the overlapping issue of equal outcome. Many school districts are under pressure to change curricula and teaching practices because certain student groups’ performance differs from that of other groups. Dumbing down education does not strike me as a productive response to this problem. One solution has been the addition of advanced placement courses for capable high school students, whatever their ethnicity or other background. Nevertheless, teachers are still being blamed for the failure of students.

    The pressure for “diversity” has resulted in other serious problems. Aviation attorney Michael Pearson is suing the FAA for altering its hiring criteria for air traffic controllers on the basis that that work force was too white. One of these measurements since 2014 is a biographical questionnaire that assigned points for “relevant criteria” to adjudge the prospects’ qualifications. The scoring of this test, Pearson says, penalized people who had actual experience in aviation: pilots, experienced air traffic controllers, and people with military experience. Applicants who scored low in science were favored over those whose science aptitude was excellent. People who had been unemployed for three years received higher points that licensed pilots.

    The list of applicants, Pearson says, was purged of students enrolled in air traffic control college courses. Moreover, some members of the National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees fed the high-point answers for the questionnaire to some applicants. Pearson says that he has documentary evidence of this claim.

    http://dailycaller.com/2018/06/06/faa-obama-diversity-hiring-air-traffic-controllers/

    (Yes, I do read some conservative websites and occasionally see Tucker Carlson Tonight because I don’t find such information as the hazard to American air safety anywhere else.)

    • Posted June 13, 2018 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      I mentioned this kind of positive discrimination in an earlier comment. Does anyone else remember, from several years ago, a white male student that successfully sued a university who denied him a place in favour of other candidates with less academic ability but more “diversity”? I wonder how he’d fare today.

      /@

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted June 13, 2018 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      I have a hard time understanding the logic or purpose of some of this. First – I would be very skeptical of anything involving this Carlson. Enough said there. But to create this biographical test and the questions reported. They do not seem to accomplish anything except dumbing down a work force but has nothing to do with diversity. I just don’t buy this.

      Not long ago some really unsafe practices were uncovered by CBS and journalist who found that the FAA was not properly fining airlines for poor maintenance and poor incidence reporting. That is real unsafe operations at certain airlines and it has nothing to do with diversity, it is just damn poor operations at the FAA.

      If we want to see unsafe conditions with air traffic control we only need to look at what Reagan did long ago.

  10. Posted June 13, 2018 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  11. Andy
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Every time I see stunts like this, I keep seeing the Social Justice Left become more and more, for lack of a better word, evangelical with their message. It’s the very same “conform to this dogma or else” attitude that I left the church to get away from. It’s the same way Ken Ham, the Phelpses, and Scientology operate. If you want to offend any of these people, tell them their BS stinks.

    (For bonus points, see how they react to someone who is ostensibly of a group they’re protecting, but does not adhere to the dogma. If you took those reactions out of context and without faces, you’d swear that they were old white racists and misogynists rather than progressive leaders.)

  12. BJ
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    “Although we welcome open debate, we don’t welcome totally open debate. You can debate, but you can only debate whether a specific cause or policy we believe in is great or the greatest thing ever, and whether it’s just right or not extreme enough. I mean, come on. We’re authors, not thinkers. Art is all about remaining in lockstep with a specific ideology.”

  13. eric
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    It’s like certain parts of the humanities looked at science and said “hmmm. That concept of blinding and double blinding? How can we abandon it in the worst way possible?”

  14. Richard Sanderson
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Reminds me of FreeThoughtBlogs.

    Various bloggers were forced to leave, under pressure from the FTB mob, after failing to conform on various issues.

    FTB has to be a “safe space” for SJW groupthink. Same with colleges, universities, public institutions, charities, etc. Diversity of thought is not allowed.

  15. Tim Harris
    Posted June 15, 2018 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    I recommend reading the article in the Guardian by that very good writer Hanif Kureishi on this issue. The headline & sub-headline are follows.

    Diversity in publishing is under attack. I hear the sound of knuckles dragging

    And here is a quotation:

    ‘The truth is, the conservative fear of other voices is not because of an anxiety that artists from outside the mainstream will be untalented, filling up galleries and bookshops with sludge: it’s that they will be outstanding and brilliant. Those conservatives will have to swallow the fact that, despite the success of British artists, real talent has been neglected and discouraged by those who dominate the culture, deliberately keeping schools, the media, universities and the cultural world closed to interesting people.’

    It puzzles me why the ready snideness of conservative writers is so attractive.


Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *
*
*

%d bloggers like this: