In our current society, people are being discredited by institutions and the media for voicing opinions that go against the norm. The voicing of opinions — especially if they’re well-reasoned and in an appropriate forum — doesn’t justify such practices. Disparaging is one of the most destructive behaviors in our society — it impedes civil discourse and dissuades critical thinking, and these are cornerstones of our system of governance.
The Knife’s new series “With Prejudice” is aimed at increasing awareness of this phenomenon so society can cease condoning and supporting it.
Note: This series was previously titled “BLACKLISTED.” We received feedback from our primary advisor that the name was inappropriately spun and failed to include additional perspectives. Although our mission is clear, our application of it is sometimes faulty and we seek to rectify it. We decided to change the name of the series to “With Prejudice.” This title embodies our goal of exploring how prejudice affects critical thinking. More to come soon.
In a democracy, we rely on the good judgement of our leaders to direct the course of the nation, and having access to data and civil debate is key for people to make well-informed decisions. When people who express novel or unpopular ideas are shamed or shunned, it inhibits the development of a functioning, forward-moving society. In effect, these practices castrate critical reasoning and curtail free expression.
Powerful institutions have directly controlled or censored information in the past. In the current age of internet and social media, that’s not as easy. Yet less evident ways of suppressing certain ideas exist: namely, discrediting or misrepresenting authors and their views. Assassinating people’s character stops their ideas from being considered.
Our case list
We’ve curated a list of thinkers, teachers, writers, entrepreneurs and others who’ve recently been shamed for their ideas. Each week we’ll bring light to several cases, show the mechanisms used to discredit, and explore the impact these things have. We’ll use our proprietary analysis method to show how the media and other institutions used spin (vague or subjective language), slant (cherry-picked information) and faulty logic to misrepresent or shame these individuals. In some cases, our analysis will be accompanied by numerical ratings representing these distortions.
Read the first piece in the series: Quantifying the case of Lindsay Shepherd
Our list is in no way complete. We want to hear your stories, and rely on your support to bring these injustices to light. Help us grow this list by sending the names of people who’ve been shamed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please share our work with others. We want as many people as possible to become aware of the freedoms that are at risk and how they affect our future. Only through raising our collective awareness of the problem we will be successful in solving it.
Discovery, knowledge, science — much of the progress our societies have enjoyed stems from honoring these great pursuits. They all use objective facts and critical evaluation as their foundation. What happens when this is thwarted through dishonor? It obstructs the pursuit of knowledge. This has to stop. Join us in our efforts to spread awareness of this issue.
To consider candidates for this series, we apply the following criteria:
- They’ve voiced opinions in an appropriate forum, such as writing for publications or speaking at universities.
- Their opinions have been misrepresented in a way that serves a current media bias or narrative.
- They’ve been shunned by an institution (or attempted to be shunned), or they’ve been publicly dishonored or had their character attacked.
- Traditional media, social media or institutions have focused on only one side of the story, giving less voice to other perspectives.
Our proprietary analysis method is based on scientific standards. It offers an objective, testable measure of spin, slant, logic and data distortions that turn objective facts into biased accounts or sometimes fiction. An easy-to-understand rating system allows readers to see at a glance how much and what types of distortion were used in any communication.
In this series, we’ll explore key questions such as: What were people accused of doing? Is there anything objectively destructive about what they did or said? What are the effects of the accusations against them? How does this behavior affect progress in our society?