Scott Adams is the creator of 'Dilbert' and the author of 'Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don't Matter.' He emerges guru-like just in time to help us synthesize the contradictory and confusing claims of CNN's Don Lemon and FOX News Channel's Tucker Carlson about the value of diversity.
This week, the CNN and FOX primetime hosts have been jousting on the question of diversity: Is racial and cultural diversity good for a country by default? Does that imply that homogeneous societies are somehow bad? Are you a racist for even thinking about these questions?
Last Friday, FNC 's Tucker Carlson started a conversation about diversity, challenging people to explain to him why diversity is a strength in response to comments from former President Obama. "How precisely is diversity our strength? ... Can you think, for example, of other institutions such as marriage or military units in which the less people have in common the more cohesive they are? Do you get along with your neighbors or co-workers if you can't understand each other or share no common values?" Tucker asked.
Monday night, the response came from CNN's Don Lemon, who hosted a panel discussion on what he called Tucker's "anti-diversity rant."
"Criticism was swift and scathing on social media... Twitter calling Tucker racist. He insists he's not a racist," Lemon reported.
CNN Panelist Bakari Sellers added: "There was a time in this country when individuals used to use bullhorns, waterhoses but now those same individuals wear Brooks Brothers suits and get late night cable T.V. shows... he's trafficking in the political currency -- the same political currency that the president uses, which is racism. Because what he just said was probably the most asinine, ignorant thing that I think that anybody gets actually paid to actually say."
In response, Tucker Carlson discussed a slightly wider view of current events on Tuesday night's show:
CARLSON: For more than two centuries, the motto of this country was E pluribus unum, out of many, one. That phrase is on the official seals of all three branches of our government, the Presidency, the Congress and the Supreme Court.
It's been engraved on our coins since the end of the Revolutionary War. Out of many, one, a country in which our differences mean less than our common identity as Americans.
For centuries, this was the source of our national strength. Then a few decades ago that changed. With no vote or even an acknowledgement, our elites jettisoned the old motto and adopted a new one, diversity is our strength.
The new slogan seem to have the opposite meaning from the ones the Founders wrote. Our differences, they began telling us, are now the single most important thing about us. The less alike we are the better.
Now, it's possible that is true. The disunity somehow makes us stronger. What's striking is that nobody has ever bothered to explain exactly how.
That's where Scott Adams comes in. After his morning coffee, the cartoonist explains where he sees the root of their disagreement.
SCOTT ADAMS: The folks on Don Lemon's show said the answer to the question of why is diversity a strength, here's their answer: Tucker Carlson is a White Supremacist.
Did that sound like an answer to the question of: "Can you explain to me why diversity is an advantage. I'm not saying it is not, but I just haven't heard the argument." And the argument was, from Don Lemon's crew and pundits were, "well, you're a racist, that's a racist question."
Now, did anything in that situation sound like an advantage? Did you feel like you were better off because Tucker Carlson was a white guy with one opinion, and Don Lemon had several people who weren't all white, three African Americans and one white pundit, and they disagreed? Were we better off having witnessed this? Probably not in that specific case, but here is what is illegitimate about both sides of this argument.
Both sides of this argument have implicitly in them that there is something about diversity that would either always be good or never be good, or at least never be a plus. I don't think that's anything near the truth. It seems to me like there would be situations where it makes a country worse. And there would be situations in which it would make things better. But nobody has actually expressed the positive argument. The argument that there is an advantage, and I'm going to do that for Tucker's benefit and yours as well.
Let us first admit there is not one answer that is just right all the time, it is going to be a little of both.
I think Tucker used the example if you were... trying to build a bridge across a river, and you didn't speak the same language. Would it be easier or would it be harder for the small group of you to work together given that your diversity has caused you to be so different that you don't even speak the same language? Well, in that artificial example, clearly it is worse. But does that little example describe our whole world? It does not. It doesn't even come close.
Let me give you an example where diversity would be a strength, let us say take [a startup I work with] blightauthority.com [to clear out urban blight]... so it is now empty ground. And we're trying to figure out what to do with it now.
Is it an advantage to have opinions from let's say billionaires who had money, and let's say African American residents who grew up there and still live there, who are completely different from the billionaire who has the money, the people in the inner cities have the knowledge the insight, the experience. You need both, you need the money, and you need the people who know if it is a good idea or a bad idea or why it won't work.
That is a clear example where having everybody involved gets you to a better place.
Now, I think embedded in Tucker's questions, maybe I'm projecting... But if you were to start from scratch. Let's say there was no planet, there was no world. And you were going to build a perfect little planet like God. Would it be better if the people are more alike or just completely different to the point where some of them want to kill the other ones? Well, I suppose it depends on what you were trying to accomplish, and nobody can figure out what God would have in mind, but it does seem to me that if you could start from scratch, having people who won't have a reason to fight about whose DNA is better than mine I have to kill you. You probably want less of that.
But that is not our current situation. In our current situation, diversity is a given. Meaning that we're different, we live in a world full of different people, so you don't get a choice of non-diversity, it just exists. it is like air.
What would be the point of asking if it would be better to have three kinds of air or one kind of air? It is not really a question, we just have the air we have, it is a given.
So are there situations where diversity is an advantage? The answer is absolutely yes. One of the ways it is an advantage is you can get more feel for more things than if you could if you have one sensor.
I tend to think of civilization as sort of like a living creature, the sum of all people is like a living creature that is evolving even as we speak. The point being, the centralized elements such as government and media and the internet are like the brains. The internet plus government are sort of like the brain of civilization.
And all the people are like the five senses. All the people are in different places doing different things at different ages, whatever. And if we didn't have all of those sensors feeding into the central government brain, we wouldn't be effective. We would be flying blind. We wouldn't know when to do this or that, because the sensors wouldn't be telling us what happens when we do things.
From that perspective, let us look at the United States. The U.S. has diversity. There is not any realistic real world situation where that is going to change. so how do you make it a plus instead of making it, if you didn't pay attention, a negative. One of the ways you make it a plus is you try to standardize the language so that at least you understand each other, you try to standardize on culture as much as possible, but that causes its own problems because there are some cultures who do not assimilate as easily.
For example, I would say the Mexican immigrants --legal or illegal-- they do assimilate fairly well. Maybe not as easily as an Australian who already speaks the the language, but in my experience Mexican immigrants assimilate really well. It might take one generation to really dial it in, but that is pretty quick.
Compare that to someone who is coming from a devout 100% Muslim nation and doesn't speak English, and if they had their choice they would like to see the American government changed to Sharia law. Are they going to assimilate at the same rate? Probably not... You've got the language challenge, plus a religion that you can't leave without big penalties.
So what do you do when you've got all of this diversity in all of these situations. I would argue that the United States has done an excellent job of selling the melting pot as a positive thing. What are some of the advantages of seling the melting pot as a plus?
Here's a real-world example... My startup WhenHub, the genius in my startup, the smartest person by far... came here from India and is now an American. So am I better off because I live in a country that was able to import a genius who just happened to have a completely different background? Well yeah! We built a company, he was the main mastermind behind it, the main idea guy, we all did our part... We're all very different people but we could have built this product without a bunch of different people coming together... Because the United States did a good job of making this a place where you could come, no matter who you were.
Adams also discusses how CNN is making a gigantic analytical error in their Trump approval analysis, how people’s opinions are assigned to them by the media they watch, and how the media creates opinions and then polls their own effectiveness.