Nicola Beaumont’s piercing critique of The Psychologist‘s March 2020 issue on February 22nd stirred quite the commotion on Twitter. According to Nicola, the issue placed an unbalanced emphasis on decolonisation, neglecting to adequately explore other salient facets of psychology. Alas – as is often the case with dissenting views expressed on social media – her comments were met with a flood of adverse feedback, with some individuals questioning her qualifications and fitness to work in the field of psychology. This type of backlash is unfortunately common when individuals express dissenting opinions online.
This was not the first time Nicola had expressed concerns about The Psychologist‘s editorial bias. In January, she had expressed doubts about the publication’s willingness to include pieces that supported Conservative or Brexit viewpoints, anticipating backlash from the Left. Nicola’s statement is not unfounded, as there have been instances of such outrage in the past. I saw a similar situation when Jo Hemming wrote an article about Meghan Markle on Mail Online, which sparked widespread criticism.
I agree with Nicola’s observation that The Psychologist magazine has a history of promoting left-wing agendas. During the Brexit campaign, there was little room for opposing views in the magazine. Numerous articles that criticised Trump were published (which caught my attention as someone who supports both Brexit and Trump).
I could take the easy route and not express my strong opinion on this topic. After all, I could easily align myself with the views that dominate The Psychologist, which often promote a victimhood narrative and social justice agenda. But I find this obsession to be both nauseating and tedious. It appears that victimhood and hostility towards White people – especially White heterosexual men – are being encouraged.
And I don’t use the word “obsession” lightly. To illustrate my point, here are some articles that have been published in The Psychologist over the past six years that promote this agenda:
Now, if you compare the above list to articles that represent Conservative views, you’ll quickly notice that The Psychologist is lacking in content that speaks positively about the contributions of Dr Jordan Peterson; articles that examine Dr Noah Carl’s views on race and IQ; or articles that discuss unconventional perspectives within evolutionary psychology.
The Psychologist is a treasure trove of articles on racism and victimhood, but as an immigrant myself, I cannot say that the UK is a racist country. I question those who make such claims and wonder if they are comparing the UK to China. Or to Russia? It seems unreasonable to label the UK as inherently racist without considering the global context. Having lived in five different countries – the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and Germany – before settling in the UK, I can say that I have witnessed more racism in Singapore and Thailand. Colourism and classism are far more widespread in the Philippines.
While I’m not particularly interested in identity politics, I believe it’s crucial to provide some background context about myself. As a gay man who grew up in a slum in the Philippines, a country that has been colonised four times, I’m keenly aware of the complexities surrounding issues of identity and power dynamics. It’s essential to approach these issues with sensitivity and nuance, rather than reducing them to simplistic ideological frameworks. But I’m also wary of the tendency in some quarters to elevate identity politics above genuine intellectual enquiry and open debate. It’s important to recognise and address the legacies of colonialism and other forms of oppression while maintaining the intellectual rigour and freedom of enquiry that underpins all academic pursuits.
Today’s cultural climate is awash with identity politics, and rejecting victimhood as a tool for self-assertion takes courage. I could easily rack up intersectionality and victimhood points, but I have never perceived myself as a victim of people or circumstances. Instead of succumbing to the notion that I’m a hapless pawn of fate or society, I embrace responsibility for my actions and their outcomes. I don’t use victimhood to advance myself in life; instead, I strive for self-actualisation and the power that comes from being accountable for my destiny. Psychology has played a critical role in shaping my perspective, inspiring me to cultivate resilience and master self-control. Victimhood is anathema to this mindset.
It’s not my intention to invalidate the experiences of others, but since moving to the UK in 2013 to pursue a master’s degree in psychology, I have rarely encountered any form of discrimination or racism. Perhaps this is because I don’t go on with my life scouting around for something to be offended about. I also made a conscious effort to assimilate into British culture, spending most of my time in the company of working-class White people. Assimilation is a complex and challenging process, but it’s a vital step towards building bridges between different communities and promoting social cohesion.
When I shared my reservations about the prevailing narratives in the publication, I was met with a Twitter response claiming that other topics were not being squeezed out. But it’s not the topics themselves that concern me, but rather the ideological perspectives that inform them. I’m sceptical about the notion that all readers of the magazine are in agreement that psychology requires decolonisation. While it’s undoubtedly important to engage with the legacies of colonialism and imperialism in the discipline, it’s equally important to recognise that there are divergent views on how best to do so.
In a time of such polarisation, I hope that the magazine diversifies its views instead of obsessing with social justice dogmas. It feels like you’re reading social justice pieces straight from The Guardian, which would be acceptable if that’s what I signed up for. But then, I didn’t choose to read The Guardian.
An alternative view on this topic has been written by Derek Laffan.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.