The modern radical left is built on Critical Theory, which was developed by the Frankfurt School after World War II. As the name implies, its adherents only ever criticize. Modern psychology has found that any human relationship which is based solely on criticism is highly detrimental.
The golden ratio between positive and negative interactions is five to one. Marriages, teams, and societies that can maintain this ratio are the most dynamic, productive, and harmonious.
While Sen. Joseph McCarthy was hounding Soviet spies in the government, the real communist threat to America’s future was plotting and brewing in the universities. The Frankfurt School consisted of radical leftists who had grown disillusioned with the prospects of winning over capitalism with economics.
Instead, they turned to culture warring, reinventing Marxism as identity politics where they pitted oppressed identities such as women, racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities against the racist capitalist patriarchy.
Critical theory gives its students a seductive super-power. They can wield enormous influence on their peers. All they need to do is criticize. They never have to make a positive contribution, and they never create or do anything valuable to others. They just criticize incessantly. In this way, mediocre almost-talents can feel morally superior to all the others who do the hard work of making the world a better place.
Five to One
People intuitively understand that a toxic environment of criticism is detrimental to human flourishing. Psychologists have measured and quantified the effect.
In the 1970s. Drs. John Gottman and Robert Levenson studied how to make marriages work and prosper, and they found the golden ratio of criticism to positive feedback to maintain a healthy marriage. For every critical remark, one should have five positive comments. This creates enough space for venting negative emotions and correcting flaws while avoiding creating a toxic relationship.
A similar result was found more recently by Drs. Emily Heaphy and Marcial Losada in a business setting. Teams are most productive, creative, and dynamic when the praise to criticism ratio is 5.6. The least fruitful ones are those dominated by criticism.
The Knitting Wars
One person who has pioneered the application of these findings in organizational settings to politics is Dr. Karlyn Borysenko, who gained fame recently when she published an article about how she, as a Democrat, attended a Trump rally and was cured of her Trump Derangement Syndrome (T.D.S.).
Borysenko is an organizational psychologist who has specialized in workplace bullying, which is precisely an environment dominated by criticism and negative interactions. Her path out of T.D.S. was to apply her knowledge from psychology to leftist bullying in the knitting community, which she frequented. She recognized that social justice warriors were creating a toxic environment through bullying, even in something as innocuous as garment pastime.
If you sweet-talk him, he praises you to the sky. If you bully him, he crushes you to the ground.
If we use the findings from psychology, we can predict the effect of critical theory on politics and society at large. The result is inevitably extreme polarization. In marriage, this means an abusive relationship with divorce as the best-case outcome. In a workplace, it means a complete collapse of productivity in teams and, ultimately, bankruptcy.
In politics, it means the kind of polarization that we observe today, with escalating rhetoric. Critical theory applied to society at large means a full-scale breakdown of social cohesion. If allowed to fester, the result is a civil war or revolution with millions of people murdered, as happened in Cambodia, Russia, and China under communism.
More importantly, the blame is not equally shared. Such a development is almost entirely the fault of those who peddle criticism as the coin of the realm.
President Donald Trump has been accused of being a polarizing figure. A more accurate description is that he is a mirror. If you sweet-talk him, he praises you to the sky. If you bully him, he crushes you to the ground. Thus, when his critics call him a rude, lying bully, they fail to realize that they only see themselves.
Words like “racist,” “white privilege,” “white supremacy,” “systemic racism,” “misogynist,” and “transphobic” are the linguistic equivalent of a baseball bat with which one bludgeons one’s opponent into submission. Just like any other racial or bigoted slurs, they do not belong in a civil debate.
In the British Parliament, the opposition party is referred to as “Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition.” Baked into this phrase are centuries of wisdom. The opposition is critical of the ruling party, but they are first and foremost in vivid agreement with the constitutional order.
The phrase embodies the notion that for every criticism, one must affirm one’s friendship with, loyalty to, and love for the nation. Wouldn’t it be great if both parties could debate within such a framework of goodwill?
Read more from Onar Åm.