Henry Farrell in Monkey Cage:
Larry Summers, the former president of Harvard who caused controversy with his comments on women, announced in The Post that he was never going to use the term “political correctness” again. The real threat, in Summers’ view, stems from the “terrifying events” that Donald Trump’s election has set off, leading to an upsurge in hateful incidents and speech.
Timur Kuran’s academic book, “Private Truths, Public Lies,” helps explain why Trump’s election victory has been associated with an upsurge in hate crimes.
Kuran may seem an improbable person to explain why public expressions of racism are increasing: He doesn’t believe that U.S. racism is as bad as many think, opposes “political correctness” and “affirmative action” and argues that the U.S. has metamorphosed “from a country that oppresses blacks into one that gives many blacks special privileges.”
Even so, his intellectual arguments can be separated from his political beliefs. His notion of “preference falsification” provides a plausible explanation for why many racists, anti-Semites and the like were reluctant to reveal their true beliefs until recently. It also explains why they are more willing to do so now that Trump has been elected.
Preference falsification means that people often don’t say what they really think
Kuran’s key idea is that ‘preference falsification’ explains many aspects of human society and politics. Preference falsification is “the act of misrepresenting one’s genuine wants under perceived social pressure.” Trivial examples of this are commonplace. When we go to our boss’s house for dinner, we don’t necessarily express our true opinion of his or her hideous taste in furniture, and may indeed praise it. At Thanksgiving dinner, we may want to bite our tongues when relatives express loud and confident political opinions that we completely disagree with.