I think an old parable explains why the professional subcultures of articulate intellectuals, such as academics in the humanities, artists and journalists, all experience such enormous pressures to conform to the same viewpoint.
In the parable, a king wants to buy some clocks and travels to the Bavarian village were the ten best clockmakers in the world keep their shops all along one street.
As he enters the street all the clocks in all the shops strike 1 o’clock in one massive group chime. The king marvels at the great accuracy of the clockmakers of the village, but a few moments later he hears another group chime. After investigating he finds that all the clocks in 9 of the 10 shops show the same time but that all the clocks in the 10th shop show a different time by several minutes. Puzzled, the king calls all the clockmakers together and ask why the clocks in the 10th shop do not chime at the same time as all the clocks in all the other shops.
The owner of the odd shop out immediately steps forward and says that due to his unusual skill and innovation his clocks keep more accurate time than the clocks of the other shops. The other shop owners protest loudly. The king is at a loss. The town lacks a master town clock or sundial, so he has no means of determining which clocks keep the best time. Confused, he decides not to buy any clocks and leaves town. Angered, the owners of the 9 agreeing shops burn down the shop of the odd man out to prevent such confusion from arising again. Now when someone comes to town, all the clocks will chime at the same instant. Customers will not become confused and everyone will sell more clocks.
The clockmakers destroy the nonconforming clockmaker among them because they know that as a practical matter we judge the accuracy of clocks by consensus. Absolute time does not exist. Essentially, a parliament of clocks votes on the correct time. (Even scientifically, this is true.) By fiat, we say that the clocks that deviate from the consensus time are inaccurate, but logically that need not be so. Different technologies or different levels of care in setting, winding or servicing the clocks could lead to the minority clocks being more accurate. However, if all the clocks agree, then no lay person will have grounds for suspecting that the majority clocks don’t keep accurate time.
As a practical matter, articulate intellectuals face the same problem. They deal in areas in which no means exist for easily or quickly falsifying and testing their ideas. Like the king with the clocks, lay people looking at their work from the outside cannot evaluate the accuracy of their work. No means exist to make an objective measurement that would determine the accuracy of a particular literary criticism. Historians agree that certain events occurred at certain places and times and then argue furiously over the events’ import and consequences. Journalists do the same thing. Various theories in many academic fields knock around for decades before simply fading away, apparently because people grow bored with them.
In order to maintain their power and position within society, articulate intellectuals must convince the larger population that they really do have a superior understanding of the issues they study. The do so using a parliament of clocks. By enforcing rigorous conformist standards on their members, they seek to create the illusion of accuracy by making it appear that all people knowledgeable in a particular field all reach the same conclusion. If all the supposed experts in a particular field all tell the same story the lay people are much less likely to guess that none of the experts know what they are talking about.
You can see this effect quite clearly in the herd mentality of journalists. Researchers have shown that journalist rapidly converge upon the same perspective on even very complex stories. Why? Well, how does an ordinary consumer of news media judge whether a particular news story is accurate? Simple, they check with another news source. What if the different sources disagree? What grounds does the consumer have for determining which source is correct? The consumer might conclude that none of the sources are making an accurate report and they may stop consuming news media. The media prevents this from happening by converging on the same story. If every source that the consumer can reasonably check tells the same story, then the consumer won’t have grounds for doubting any of the sources. (Notice that news outlets brag that they get stories before the competition, not that they provide superior information to the competition.) Back in the ’70s when a tiny handful of media outlets dominated, trust in the media ran very high. Only with the coming of cable and the Internet did trust in the media begin to seriously erode when consumers began to see that not all news sources held the same perspective. Like the king, they began to wonder just which shops really sold the accurate clocks.
The desperate attempt to substitute consensus for accuracy shows up in the articulate intellectuals’ perspective on everything from artistic critique to climatology. When people really cannot prove what they believe, they must resort to peer pressure to keep people from questioning them. Yet history, both recent and ancient, shows that elite consensus fails far more often than it succeeds. Without some means of objective falsification such as experimentation, functional technology, military victory or business success, the consensus of any group merely serves the social needs of the group and not the decision making needs of the broader society.
Contemporary leftism is the politics of the articulate intellectual and it is clear that leftists care more about creating the appearance of their own infallibility than in telling the time.