Culture of Fear

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Contextual Citation


"Sloppy uses of feminist and inclusionary arguments can and will breed a culture of fear, and this can and will harm the organization as a whole. It is directly detrimental to the organization’s deeper purpose. I can’t overstate how venomous this kind of organizational development is; even if it is very understandable and is not caused by anyone’s ill will. In fact it is paradoxically caused only by people’s earnest struggle for inclusion and recognition."


"inclusion is important. But not for its own sake. Not as a gimmick. There is no multi-color raincoat god of multiplicity out there who loves us more if we have more varying genitals and skin colors. Multiplicity is a virtue only in so far as it serves collective intelligence, common understanding and productive cooperation. Feminism is important, not only as a social value, but also as a marker of organizational quality and efficiency. But in its simpler and more antagonistic forms it can breed unproductive struggles for victimhood and let invisible elephants of blame sneak into the room. Let us counter these tendencies with proactive and consciously designed organizational innovations. Let us work for a deeper feminism that tackles the core of the problem. This requires that social rights are counter-balanced with social responsibilities."

- Hanzi Freinacht [1]


Hanzi Freinacht:

"he culture of fear is very detrimental to the long-term success of an organization for several reasons.

First of all, it lowers collective intelligence as people become more afraid of speaking their minds and just generally “being themselves”. As the collective intelligence of a group depends upon equally and fairly distributed speech, and such communication must build upon the honest and relaxed expression of thoughts, ideas and values, this puts a lid on people’s ability to partake in earnest. Anything you say or do can be taken as a sign that you are the one who “upholds those nasty structures” and so you have to watch your every step, lest it be used against you.

This, in turn, skews the incentives for all participants in the organization. Rewards are reaped to a lesser extent for coming up with the best ideas and putting in the most work (in a functional do-ocracy, which is based on the meritocratic evaluation of effort, skill and competence) and to a greater extent for winning the moral struggles for victimhood and blame. This shifts people’s attention and efforts away from serving the overall purpose of the organization and towards the games for victimhood and blame that flow from arguments of inclusion and feminism. Instead of making sure that your political party has the best possible policies and chances of winning, you need to spend time and effort making sure that you are not painted as a sexist or upholder of unjust social structures. And you end up spending more time trying not to seem power-hungry or dominant or exclusionary, than you do working with real suggestions. It’s a treadmill for moral purity that can, in effect, never be achieved. And it takes up a large quantity of resources in terms of time and attention.

And this, of course, means that people will become less experimental, innovative and risk-prone, all of which are necessary for a vibrant and powerful organization. It stifles initiative and innovation. So you get a less efficient organization.

And as people feel stuck in games for moral worth and that they must avoid subtle forms of blame and moral accusations, many react with bitterness and resentment. This of course is a breeding ground for underlying conflicts that begin to permeate the organization, and this will in turn lead to more people struggling to be defined as victims and as the ones who have been unfairly treated and discriminated against. And anyone who is unfairly treated or gets excluded on other grounds than gender, ethnicity or class—for instance, that you are socially awkward, nerdy or have too different ideas, or whatever—naturally feels resentment towards the fact that they cannot muster a corresponding moral victimhood as those belonging to the socially accepted categories of the oppressed. And they start playing games to redefine victimhood and blame, much like the regressive parts of the men’s movement.

Which brings us to the last point about the culture of fear. Since anybody can make vague and unspecified claims of gender discrimination, racism, etc., and these claims are more or less impossible to counter, they lead down a slippery slope. Whenever somebody doesn’t like your idea, or doesn’t think you’re the right candidate, or just doesn’t agree with you, you can comfortably push the feminism or “power structure” button, and you’re off the hook. Now it’s all those people who didn’t give you your due respect and attention who are bad, and you don’t need to reevaluate your stance. This of course corrupts the process of fair and rational democratic deliberation and supplements good arguments for cheap moral scores.

All of this leads to a timid, weak and cowardly organizational culture. A culture of fear. Or at least one of guilt, shame and envy." (