The New Book Burners: Academic Tribalism

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In this chapter, we review evidence and examples reflecting an embrace of modern manifestations of book burning among academics. We use the term “book burning” as did Bradbury: both descriptively and metaphorically to include burning of actual books, but, especially within academia, to calls to retract, remove, and memory-hole published papers. In the present chapter, we focus on factors that have undergirded book burning for thousands of years: a sense of righteous victimization and a desire by the book burners to impose their values and norms on others. This chapter contains three main sections. The first reviews some of the common manifestations of tribal or politically sectarian psychology. The second reviews evidence regarding equalitarianism, a form of extreme egalitarianism (Winegard & Winegard, 2018) on the political far left, which likely drives much of the support for book burning among academics. The final section reviews both scientific evidence and real world events involving academic tribal demonization and book burning.
Ryan Watkins