My long cover story in the January 15, 2007 issue of The American Conservative is now online. Here's an excerpt:
"In the presence of [ethnic] diversity, we hunker down. We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it's not just that we don't trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don't trust people who do look like us." -- Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam
It was one of the more irony-laden incidents in the history of celebrity social scientists.
While in Sweden to receive a $50,000 academic prize as political science professor of the year, Harvard's Robert D. Putnam, a former Carter administration official who made his reputation writing about the decline of social trust in America in his bestseller Bowling Alone, confessed to Financial Times columnist John Lloyd that his latest research discovery -- that ethnic diversity decreases trust and co-operation in communities -- was so explosive that for the last half decade he hadn't dared announce it "until he could develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity, saying it 'would have been irresponsible to publish without that.'"
In a column headlined "Harvard study paints bleak picture of ethnic diversity," Lloyd summarized the results of the largest study ever of "civic engagement," a survey of 26,200 people in 40 American communities: "When the data were adjusted for class, income and other factors, they showed that the more people of different races lived in the same community, the greater the loss of trust. 'They don't trust the local mayor, they don't trust the local paper, they don't trust other people and they don't trust institutions,' said Prof Putnam. 'The only thing there's more of is protest marches and TV watching.'"
Lloyd noted, "Prof Putnam found trust was lowest in Los Angeles, 'the most diverse human habitation in human history.'"
As if to prove his own point that diversity creates minefields of mistrust, Putnam later protested to the Harvard Crimson that the Financial Times essay left him feeling betrayed, calling it "by two degrees of magnitude, the worst experience I have ever had with the media." To Putnam's horror, hundreds of "racists and anti-immigrant activists" sent him e-mails congratulating him for finally coming clean about his findings.
Lloyd stoutly stood by his reporting, and Putnam couldn't cite any mistakes of fact, just a failure to accentuate the positive. It was "almost criminal," Putnam grumbled, that Lloyd had not sufficiently emphasized the spin that he had spent five years concocting...
But what primarily drove down L.A.'s rating in Putnam's 130-question survey were the high levels of distrust displayed by Hispanics. While no more than 12 percent of L.A.'s whites said they trusted other races "only a little or not at all," 37 percent of L.A.'s Latinos distrusted whites. And whites were the most reliable in Hispanic eyes. Forty percent of Latinos doubted Asians, 43 percent distrusted other Hispanics, and 54 percent were anxious about blacks. ...
The problems caused by diversity can be partly ameliorated, but the handful of techniques that actually work generally appall liberal intellectuals, so we hear about them only when they come under attack. ...
Another untold story is the beneficial effect on race relations of the growth of Christian fundamentalism. Among soldiers and college football players, for instance, co-operation between the races is up due to an increased emphasis on a common transracial identity as Christians.
According to military correspondent Robert D. Kaplan of The Atlantic, "The rise of Christian evangelicalism had helped stop the indiscipline of the Vietnam-era Army." And that has helped build bridges among the races. Military sociologists Charles C. Moskos and John Sibley Butler wrote in All That We Can Be: Black Leadership and Racial Integration the Army Way, "Perhaps the most vivid example of the 'blackening' of enlisted culture is seen in religion. Black Pentecostal congregations have also begun to influence the style of worship in mainstream Protestant services in post chapels. Sunday worship in the Army finds both the congregation and the spirit of the service racially integrated."
Similarly, it's now common to see college football coaches leading their teams in prayer. Fisher DeBerry, the outstanding coach of the Air Force Academy, who has led players with no hope of making the NFL to a record of 169-108-1, hung a banner in the locker room bearing the Fellowship of Christian Athletes' Competitor's Creed, which begins, "I am a Christian first and last." When the administration found out, he was asked to take it down.
Because policymakers almost certainly won't do what it would take to alleviate the harms caused by diversity -- indeed, they won't even talk honestly about what would have to be done -- it's crazy to exacerbate the problem through more mass immigration. As the issue of co-operation becomes ever more pressing, the quality of intellectual discourse on the topic declines -- as Putnam's self-censorship revealed -- precisely because of a lack of trust due to the mounting political power of "the diverse" to punish frank discussion. [More]