Cassandra: Purges and Pogroms

Some ranting and raving on intolerance – July, 2020

In Greek storytelling, Cassandra was a Trojan princess who made a deal with the god Apollo to be blessed with the ability to foretell the future. But Cassandra did not fulfill her side of the bargain, so Apollo accompanied the blessing with a curse. Her Trojan people would not heed her warnings.

In the search for social justice, I foresee a trend toward purges and pogroms. In particular, I fear Left on Left purges. Liberal Democrats will be purged from the press, university faculties, and entertainment – or they will purge the radicals. Most Americans are unaware that self-described radicals reject liberalism. A house divided cannot stand.

And, I fear pogroms against Asians, Jews, and relatively recent immigrant Blacks. Most Americans are unaware that self-described radicals assume that differences in measured group averages must be due to systemic racism. The burden is on others to demonstrate how differences in observed average social data are not unjust. Asians, Jews, and recently immigrated Blacks have higher than average group statistics on some categories. Some reformers are already singling them out.

Unlike Cassandra, (1) I am wrong often, and (2) readers are free to heed my warnings.

Triggered by Harvard Business School

The immediate cause of this rant is a list of proposals put forward by Steven Rogers to Harvard Business School. (1) Professor Rogers has the laudable goal of redressing a history of racism at Harvard Business School. He offers many specific proposals, each of which deserves thoughtful deliberation. I’m sure several will be adopted for the betterment of HBS and other universities.

However, Professor Roger’s list also illustrates the approaching purge of liberals and the approaching pogrom against Asians, Jews, and recently immigrated Blacks. In order to eradicate anti-Black racism, Professor Rogers wants to limit the role of SouthEast Asians on hiring committees. Professor Rogers also wants to screen deserving Blacks Americans (those who give back to the community as he defines it) from opportunistic Blacks Americans.

The list of twelve suggestions is copied below. Here are excerpts from two that triggered me.

  • HBS should increase the number of Black American MBA students to match the 14.3% of Harvard College’s undergraduate class. But that increase should include 90% who have evidence in their background of caring for and helping the Black community.
  • The school should never permit a group of all-white and/or Southeast Asian faculty to interview Black Americans for any job opening or promotion.

Professor Rogers’s letter has triggered my visions of censorship, discrimination, and re-education camps. Notice that in order to fight white supremacy at Harvard Business School, Professor Rogers distinguishes immigrant Blacks from Black Americans. Notice also that Professor Rogers has singled out SouthEast Asians. These distinctions are completely predictable once the focus shifts from individuals to groups.

In fairness to Professor Rogers, nothing in his letter calls for purges or pogroms. This rant is not directed at him personally; it is possible, even likely, that he would be a victim of a purge rather than a perpetrator. But his very predictable singling out of SouthEast Asians and immigrant Blacks as suspect classes raises a central issue.

If activists negotiate new content, hiring, and training policies with decision-makers in order to end protests against the organization, how are those standards established and upheld? What content is racist? Who is white? Do all non-whites count as non-whites? What if some non-whites have high incomes or high occupational presence in the industry? What about non-whites who dissent or are not sufficiently orthodox?

One predictable answer to all of these questions is to formalize acceptability. Publish orthodoxy.

Censor Codes – Cue the anti-racist content codes! Newspaper editors, faculty hiring committees, movie producers need a standard of what will be acceptable. They will seek censors who can provide a safe harbor. In the 1930s, the motion picture industry adopted the Hays code to end religious boycotts against controversial movies. Very few consider the Hays code a victory for tolerance.

Person of Color Certification – SouthEast Asians are suspect in the eyes of Steven Rogers. Blacks who are not American, or who do not appear to Steven Rogers to give back are suspect. Non-whites will seek someone who can certify that their enrollment or hiring satisfies anti-discriminatory standards.

Re-education camps – mandatory anti-bias training for all employees is a common demand. What happens if there are relapses? Someone needs to report violations, and once reported, someone needs to provide training on a large scale.

Committee of Anti-Racism – Who can write a safe harbor content code for producers that will hold off protests? Who can certify a person’s status or a group’s status as sufficiently ‘of color’ that will hold off protests during hiring decisions? Who can provide acceptable training on a large scale? There is a niche for a committee that credibly label content, people, and groups in ways that can credibly prevent the likelihood of protest.

But formalizing the reform agenda is the path to purges and pogroms. Traditional liberals will balk at content codes for universities, news organizations, and the entertainment industry. Traditional liberals will clash with the organizations that establish and supervise reform standards.

Clashes will lead to purges. Radicals will purge liberal faculty who defend academic research that makes some people uncomfortable, purge liberal newspapers editors who publish articles that could arguably defend the status quo, and purge screenwriters and authors whose subjects could arguably provide a platform for critics of reform.

Redistribution will lead to pogroms. Currently, radicals attempt to use the concept of intersectionality to unite disparate groups against white Christian supremacy. But it is a fact that some non-Europeans and some non-Christians have higher average incomes and higher educational and occupational attainment than other groups. It is entirely predictable that asking radicals to address those facts is considered a micro-aggression, but it doesn’t make the facts untrue. Perhaps the issue can be finessed while it is just a proposal, but eventually radicals will have to explain to immigrant Blacks, Asians, and Jews why their relative material success is being confiscated for redistribution, or explain to other radicals why exceptions are being made. The only reason to suggest that this could lead to pogroms is that it has in the past.

Rant over – and now the ravings.

Is This Rant just to Protect the Privilege of Straight Republican White Christian Males?

In surveys, professional journalists identify themselves as Democrats at a much higher rate than the general public. Editorial boards are generally liberal. There are some notable exceptions, such as the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, but those organizations are not currently dealing with some radical staff. In surveys, university and law school faculties overwhelmingly identify themselves as Democrats, and many in the humanities are radicals, not liberal Democrats. This post is not a warning to protect all those Republicans teaching in college English Departments or making New York Times editorial decisions.

Group averages tell a complicated story. Although many Jewish individuals are poor and although anti-Semitism has not been eradicated, the measured group average for Jews is higher than many other group averages for income, educational attainment, and for advancement in many occupations. Similarly, the measured group average for Asians is higher than for other groups in many social categories even though anti-Asian bigotry persists, many individual Asians are poor, and Asians are underrepresented in some occupational leadership positions. What may not be more widely known is that Blacks from families more recently immigrated to the United States have higher group averages in many categories than averages for Blacks whose families extend back further – even if slavery was common in country of origin such as Blacks from the Caribbean. This post is not a warning to protect Irish Catholics from “reverse discrimination.”

Left on Left? What do Radicals think is Wrong with Liberals?

Liberals and Radicals have a different focus. Liberals focus on individuals. Liberalism in the world history sense (not Democrats and Republicans) accepts the possibility of some inequality, even if it embraces government insurance programs to mitigate its effects.

Although there are many definitions of liberal, one concept is consistent. A liberal government seeks to secure each individual’s pursuit of their own goals as each person sees fit, consistent with the same freedom for other individuals. The result could be a small government protecting self-reliant individuals, or a large government that insures health, education, and welfare. But large government or small, unequal outcomes among individuals are possible as long as each person is free to pursue different goals, or to pursue similar goals in different ways.

Because the unit of action in a liberal society is the individual, rights are typically cast in individual terms. Individuals have a right to speak or be silent – including the right to be wrong. Individuals may choose their own faith, or be agnostic. Individuals have a right to quiet enjoyment of their property, or the right to fair compensation if society requires the property for collective use.

Focusing on individuals, the liberal tradition does not assume inequality is unjust. Some individuals are tall, some are overweight, some are fast, some are charismatic, and some have physical challenges. Whether the issue is attracting mates or gathering food, the physical world has always rewarded and punished personal characteristics differently. Yet the liberal may promise these physically unequal individuals that they will be treated equally before the law when there are disputes. Or the liberal may seek equality of opportunity by providing a baseline of education and healthcare for children. Equal protection does not guarantee equal result among individuals but it can attempt to provide equal treatment.

What about groups in the liberal tradition? In the liberal view, treating people differently because of group membership is highly suspect. Neither equality before the law nor equality of opportunity guarantees equality of result between groups, if only because groups are not spread evenly geographically. For example, natural disasters affect individuals in some regions and not others, so if a group is disproportionately in a region hit by a hurricane, group averages will be unequal. On the positive side, a new way of doing things could be tried in one region and only slowly disperse elsewhere. Therefore, a group disproportionately in New York City, or in Kansas City, could have higher group averages than other groups if someone in that city innovates.

Because of geography, innovation, luck, and a host of other non-policy factors, inequalities between groups are likely to emerge even if each individual of each group is treated fairly before the law and provided similar opportunities, and if the concept of race is socially constructed on meaningless characteristics.

Furthermore, the liberal can even conceive of a group having higher than average group outcomes despite facing overt and harmful social discrimination. For example, the liberal will not assume that Jews must have benefited from social systems just because Jews as a group have higher averages than other groups in a number of categories. For example, one third of current Supreme Court positions are held by Jews which is out of proportion to the population. To a liberal, this unequal outcome poses no puzzle and requires no explanation, nor would it if there were only one Jewish person or none on the Supreme Court.

Self-described radicals reject this liberal approach in several respects. Radicals are comfortable focusing on groups instead of individuals. Radicals demand that equality of group average result form the baseline, not equality before the law. Radicals assume that groups treated unjustly will have lower than average group outcomes. Radicals assume that higher than group averages must have resulted from unjust social systems. Systemic racism is defined as the set of laws, practices, habits and norms that cause and perpetuate observed group inequalities.

Radicals note that inequalities between groups persist under the practices of liberal governments. Whatever the intent of principles like equality before the law, equality of opportunity, free speech, private property, etc., they have resulted in systemic racism as the term is defined by radicals.

Individual rights are not paramount for radicals. If justice is defined as a society that generates equal outcomes as measured by group averages, but liberal societies have perpetuated inequalities, then liberal governments are unjust.

Speech that makes marginalized people uncomfortable are microaggressions and therefore racist, even if seemingly factual. Arguments that might delay or thwart adoption of policies intended to redress systemic racism are racist, even if seemingly valid logically. So-called color-blind law that is part of a system that perpetuates inequalities is racist, even if each individual case seems to have been administered fairly.

If one adopts the group perspective, then individual accuracy, logic, and fairness are not sufficient defenses against charges of systemic racism.

Why Predict a Left on Left Purge?

Even if radicals and liberals disagree about some important things, why all the drama about an impending purge? Isn’t there common ground in pursuing equality of opportunity and enhancing the social safety net? Haven’t representative governments in the U.S. and elsewhere accommodated multiple political philosophies without purges?

Radicals need to control public discourse. It is not sufficient for radicals to express themselves, they must suppress opposing views. Dissenters are to be “de-platformed.”

Speech that is a micro-aggression gets no deference. To be a micro-aggression, a statement need not be false, it merely needs to make a person from a marginalized group feel uncomfortable. Similarly, arguments that could be interpreted as supporting the status quo are racist because the status quo has inequality. Radicals not only need to redefine terms such as racist to express their assumptions about the status quo, they need to suppress traditional usage of those terms – yet retain negative connotations. Because radicals are redefining terms, they must control the ability to clarify themselves, and to prevent critics from clarifying themselves.

The radical agenda is leading to a Left on Left purge because public discourse is generally controlled by the political left in the United States. With few exceptions, print media, broadcast media, university faculty, law school faculty are staffed by people who self identify left of center. The exceptions are notable – the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, OAN – but surveys of the journalism profession, aggregate circulation, and aggregate audience ratings all report that right of center staffs are in the minority. Young radical journalists rising through the ranks at mainstream news organizations are generally confronted with left of center managers and editors.

Other institutions which frame public discourse are left of center. University and law school faculties are overwhelmingly liberal or radical. Even disciplines like economics and institutions like the University of Chicago that are considered more conservative in the American political sense are strictly liberal in the methodological sense. The unit of analysis in economics is the individual, and aggregation to groups is the sum of individual purchases. Individuals consume what each consumes, not their group average. Meanwhile, other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences are overwhelmingly leftist. The question is the proportion of the humanities that is liberal Democrat and the proportion that is radical, not the few adherent Republicans. University settings see the attempt to impose radical assumptions about equality of result on disciplines whose methodology claimed to be a-political, like the hard sciences.

The entertainment industry helps frame public discourse. The phrase “Liberal Hollywood” is almost redundant. Traditionally, liberal creatives complained of editorial choices of bean counters, penny-pinchers, and profit mongers, as summarized in the phrase Corporate America. Because the bean counters wanted to sell to mass audiences, and churches began telling Congregations to avoid some films, Hollywood adopted the Hays Code in the 1930s. Having shed the studio system and the Hays Code, older Hollywood liberals are not necessarily eager for a new code.

Why talk of a Left on Left Purge? Aren’t Liberals Merely Losing in the Marketplace for Ideas?

Tactics matter. One litigation strategy is to raise the cost of defending rights so high for an opponent that settlement is preferred even if she believes she would win on the merits. De-platforming is not winning in the marketplace for ideas; it is raising the costs of dissent high enough that vetting ideas is not worthwhile.

The term tolerance has been used to describe “…the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.” One faction of social justice advocates seeks to redefine tolerance to mean the suppression of opinions or behaviors that constitute microaggressions against members of marginalized groups.

Silencing dissenters is not winning in the marketplace for ideas. Silencing dissenters is raising the costs

Here are the 12 suggestions in Professor Rogers’s letter.


If the Harvard Business School wants to make Black Lives Matter, it must include Black Americans in every fabric of the school including case studies, students, faculty, staff, leadership, hourly employees, operating expenses, philanthropy and investments.

Specifically, I recommend the following:

  1. HBS needs to mandate at least one case study with a Black American protagonist in each of the 10 first year, Required Courses (RC) for the 2020-21 class. None of the cases should be about Black athletes or entertainers or should make the protagonist the problem of the case. In other words, none of these cases should feed into negative stereotypes about the Black community.
  2. HBS should require the publication of at least 25 (13 female and 12 male) new case studies annually, with Black Americans as protagonists. At least 13 of those cases should include people from the 2,500 Black HBS alums.
  3. HBS admissions staff should annually visit and present at least 25 of the 101 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and at least 25 Black Student Union organizations at the country’s leading public and private universities, the same as it makes private visits to places like McKinsey & Co. and Blackstone.
  4. HBS should increase the number of Black American MBA students to match the 14.3% of Harvard College’s undergraduate class. But that increase should include 90% who have evidence in their background of caring for and helping the Black community. Last week I spoke to two black students who are members of the African American Student Union at HBS. I asked why the organization, and they individually, have not spoken out against the anti-Black practices at HBS? One student proudly told me “that his calling was not to be a Dr. King or Colin Kapernick. That HBS was his chance to make a lot of money, and he was not going to jeopardize that opportunity.” We do not need an increase in Black students like that, with an opportunistic mindset. We need Black students who “pay it forward” like the five Black MBA students at Harvard in 1968 who successfully pressured HBS to enroll more than handful of Black students.
  5. HBS needs to increase the number of Black American professors to match the percentage at Harvard College. The business school now trails every other professional school at the university in under-represented minority tenure and tenure-track faculty. But like the increase in Black students, we need Black faculty who are not simply opportunists, who benefit from the fight of other Black people but give nothing back by, for example, having no relationships with Black students and writing no case studies with Black protagonists.
  6. The school should never permit a group of all-white and/or Southeast Asian faculty to interview Black Americans for any job opening or promotion. While I do not intend to disparage the entire Southeast Asian community, I include the latter group because at HBS most have seemingly been as anti-Black as whites. Dean Nohria has done a wonderful job of appointing his own people to at least a third of all leadership positions on campus. But many of them, along with him, have practiced anti-black racism.

For example, when Bharat Anand, who I was told is Nohria’s brother-in-law, was promoted to the Vice Provost position at Harvard College in 2018, I sent a letter to Provost Alan Garber, informing him of Bharat’s stalling and unwillingness to meet with me to discuss the inclusion of Black case studies, faculty and programs targeting Black alums in the new HBX online program that he helped to create as a member of the HBS faculty. His inaction was the quintessential definition of passive-aggressiveness that excluded Blacks.

  1. Harvard should implement the NFL’s Rooney Rule for the hiring of all non-faculty leadership positions. A Black American candidate must be interviewed as part of the recruiting process.
  2. HBS needs to spend at least 8.46% (in memory of the eight minutes and 46 seconds that George Floyd had a cop’s knee on his neck) of its an annual operating budget with companies owned by Black Americans, many of whom could be alums.
  3. HBS needs to invest at least 8.46% of all investments in Black American financial services firms such as private equity firms, mutual funds, and investment banks, many of whom could be alums.
  4. HBS needs to donate at least 8.46% of all philanthropic donations, to organizations like HBCUs that service the Black American community.
  5. HBS should publish a note about the case for Reparations to Black Americans who are descendants of American slaves.
  6. Like the Confederate monuments, Nitin should be immediately removed as the Dean of Harvard Business School. He should be replaced by a Black female, who is not presently at the school.

Link to source – (1) How To Make Black Lives Matter At Harvard Business School, Poets & Quants, John Hendel Poets & Quants

Other links (2) (1) Online dictionary ( (2) (Stacy Anne Harwood, Ruby Mendenhall, Sang S. Lee, Cameron Riopelle & Margaret Browne Huntt (2018) Everyday Racism in Integrated Spaces: Mapping the Experiences of Students of Color at a Diversifying Predominantly White Institution, Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 108:5, 1245-1259, DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2017.1419122)

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