Searching for Heterodoxy

M.Latham/The Phillipian

When professor at Georgetown Law School, former senior adviser to Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, and Fox News commentator Nicholas Rosenkranz visited Andover two weeks ago, one thing he brought up repeatedly was his pet project “Heterodox Academy.” He was insistent that the audience should check it out after the conversation.

Intrigued, I visited its home page. I was welcomed with a clean interface and a professionally written introductory paragraph that concisely explained the goal of their website: to reverse the growing loss of “viewpoint diversity,” where “dissent is discouraged, and errors can go unchallenged.” I immediately noticed that although Heterodox is a conservative website, nowhere on the page did it mention the words “conservatism” or “Republican.” Just an interesting observation.

Looking across the home page, I decided to click on the first link at the top of the website which was titled “Jennifer Earl on Internet Activism and Fake News: Half Hour of Heterodoxy #18.” It turns out that this was one of an ongoing series of short podcasts.

The first part of the recording is just mumbo jumbo. The juicy portion comes when the host asks sociology professor Jennifer Earl, their esteemed guest, “when it comes to the left and right… has there [been] any evidence really that either of the parties… have been using the Internet, whether it’s social media or some other type of Internet activity, in a malicious way?”

Earl answers by referring to her belief that the “media assumes that Twitter accounts equal people” — meaning that the media does not check if a person or a bot is actually behind an account. She believes these bots are being used to manipulate the images of public figures. She then proposes the solution that we should be more skeptical when doing Google searches and should type “x isn’t true” of “x is a myth” into the search bar instead of just searching “x” to prevent our biases from distorting information.

The proposed search method seemed interesting and harmless enough to try out, so I eagerly entered into Google: “climate change is not real,” “Barack Obama is not a good president,” and “the alt-right is not racist” — the opposite of all things I believed were factual and sound. Of course, Heterodox Academy refers to these as “entrenched yet questionable orthodoxies.”

Surprisingly, I learned a few things that opened my mind (even though they did not change my beliefs), such as how “Fewer immigrants are being deported under Trump than under Obama” and how members of the alt-right believe they are just identitarians who wish to “[preserve their] identity — the cultural and genetic heritage that makes [them] who [they] are.”

When I dug deeper into the pages of Google results, I found that even Google itself cannot escape its creator’s political agendas. According to “The Daily Wire,” the search engine “had begun to target conservative media sites… by showing fact checks of those sites by particular left-wing media fact checking [sources]” but failed to reciprocate its actions when it came to sites like “The Huffington Post.” I checked this myself and found that it was indeed true, until google abruptly removed the feature sometime in the last week or so.

Sure, the “liberal-minded ‘Andover Bubble’ ” may have somewhat curbed intellectual diversity on campus. In my opinion, however, it is simply unfair for Mr. Rosenkranz to say that, unless an incarnation of “Heterodox Academy” is somehow implemented, Andover students will be so closed-minded that they would not even consider or research information from a divergent political viewpoint. We do not just blindly equate libertarianism with neo-nazism with or without this website. Enough of me rambling; here, I am urging you, dear reader, to prove Mr. Rosenkranz wrong by researching these issues yourself. In any case, we can all take away something by trying this search style that Dr. Earl proposed to keep our intrinsic human biases in check.

Andy Zeng is a new Lower from Palo Alto, Calif.

Feb 1, 2018