Laurie Penny uses words real good

Not only that, she wades right into the muck to get a story. She’s been traveling with the Odious Yiannopoulos for the last few weeks, and has written up an account of what it’s like to hang out with the Lost Boys during his fall from grace.

It is horribly ironic that of all the disgusting nonsense Yiannopoulos has said — about women, about Muslims, about transgender people, about immigrants — it is only now that the moderate right appears to have reached the limits of what it will tolerate in the name of free speech. The hypocrisy is clarion-clear: This was never, in fact, about free speech at all. It was about making it OK to say racist, sexist, transphobic, and xenophobic things, about tolerating the public expression of those views right up to the point where it becomes financially unwise to do so. Those suddenly dropping Yiannopoulos are making a business decision, not a moral one — and yes, even in Donald Trump’s America, there’s still a difference. If that difference devours Yiannopoulos and his minions, they will find few mourners.

Those damned SJWs have been saying this for quite a long time. We’ve also noticed the extreme projection these guys exhibit.

It turns out that some words do hurt. You may have noticed that, in this piece, I have not explicitly described Yiannopoulos or the movement that has made him famous as white supremacist, Neo-Nazi, fascist, or racist. The main reason for that is that it has been made explicitly clear to me that, were I to write such a thing, a libel suit the size of Mar-A-Lago would drop on me, and Yiannopoulos would use every trick in his surprisingly defensive playbook to prize out an apology, because that’s what friends are for. He’s done it to other reporters. He’s not the only one. In fact, a defining feature of the new-right populists is their ability to build a reputation as rhino-hided truth-sayers while flailing their hands in panic if anyone uses whatever words happen to hit them where it hurts. So, for legal reasons, I must state that Milo Yiannopolous, possibly alone of all the smug white people in the world, is not a racist. For moral reasons, however, I must state that Yiannopoulos’ personal beliefs are irrelevant given that he’s built a career off peddling bigotry in public. What about sexism? “Sexism I don’t have the energy to wrestle with you over,” says Yiannopoulos, who, I can personally confirm, is the maple-cured bacon of misogynist piggery — oily and sweet and crass and, on a gut level, dreadful for your health.

Read the whole thing.

So much for the myth of the liberal professor

demetriouclaims

We’ve got a problem brewing here in idyllic Morris, Minnesota: one of our faculty, Dan Demetriou, has made racist comments that became widely known among everyone here, and are now getting aired on Inside Higher Ed.

In what seems like the latest installment of the academe edition of the post-Trump culture wars, students and faculty members at the University of Minnesota at Morris are planning a teach-in Monday, following a professor’s harsh criticism of immigrants and refugees on social media. The professor says he wrote about an issue of concern on a private Facebook page and is being punished for being out of step with the politics of his colleagues.

“Illegal immigrants lower the confidence in the rule of law and add people and workers and students we don’t need,” Dan Demetriou, associate professor of philosophy, recently wrote on Facebook, according to screenshots that have been made public. “They on average have IQs lower than natives and low skills. They are harmful to an economy about to automate, especially when it is a welfare state.”

Refugees, meanwhile, are “way worse,” Demetriou wrote, “as most adhere to a religious-political cult with repulsive values at war with the West from its inception. No country who has taken the current crop of refugees has made it work.”

He isn’t being “punished” in any way, as far as I can tell. He is being criticized in a far more civil way than he criticized a significant fraction of our student body. He’s currently on sabbatical in Sweden (!), which sounds like a pretty sweet ‘punishment’ to me, especially since next year was supposed to be my sabbatical year, and I’ve been asked to delay it.

He is no claiming that he is being persecuted by left-wing “feelings”.

Maybe you can imagine being me, hearing most of my colleagues advocate for policies that, as far as I can tell, are failing spectacularly overseas and in many communities at home. No one much cares for how their expressions may discourage, alienate, frustrate or sadden someone who, like me, sincerely believes that his children — our children — will be put in grave risk by leftist immigration policies. Nor should they care, because my feelings don’t determine facts. That someone is upset by a claim is wholly irrelevant to its truth.

Facts matter. What he doesn’t seem to appreciate is how badly out of alignment with the truth his original comments are. He’s being criticized, not because of his political alignment, but because he is wrong.

We teach young people who are immigrants, or children of immigrants, and several of our faculty are immigrants. They are just as intelligent as our white students whose families have been here for several generations. It’s also jarring to see a faculty member from a campus with a significant enrollment of Indian students to use the term “natives” — I don’t think he’s comparing our Somali students to our Lakota students. He’s got a peculiarly privileged understanding of “native”.

IQ is particularly problematic in this context. IQ scores were invented as a rationale for immigration quotas — they are inherently biased. To accuse someone who speaks a couple of languages, who had the ambition and strength to escaped an oppressive situation, and who is now working hard to establish themselves as citizens of a new country, of being unintelligent is simply absurd. People who can rise up out of such difficult circumstances should be welcomed and recognized for the contributions they can make. It’s easy to have the leisure to study and be comfortable in the conventions of the culture you’ve been brought up in, to do well on an IQ test; it’s remarkable when you’ve been on the run from tyrants who want to kill you, or from a rain of American-made bombs, that you can then adapt and thrive to new opportunities.

Of course, that’s what humans do.

I’d like to know where Dan thinks the cutoff for percentage of refugees enrolled makes for a bad school. Is UMM such a school? We tend to praise our university for its diversity relative to other Minnesota colleges (while also regretting that it isn’t higher). Does he think our “foreign” students degrade the quality of the education offered here?

As for failing to make absorption of refugees work in all countries…he’s in Sweden. Sweden is in the news because of similarly ignorant comments made by our president. There’s a lot of information available on immigrants to Sweden. It wrecks his claims.

In the past decade, there’s been a spike in immigration to Sweden. In 1990, 9.2 percent of Sweden’s population was foreign-born. That figure was 11.3 percent in 2000, and 15.4 percent in 2012.

Immigrant rates have grown even further in recent years, owing in large part to the global refugee crisis. In 2014, Sweden admitted more asylum seekers, per capita, than any other country on Earth. Many Swedish immigrants today hail from war-torn Muslim-majority countries like Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

immigrationtosweden

Some people assumed this would produce a major uptick in the rates of violent crime in Sweden. Historically, immigrants to Sweden do commit crimes at higher rates than the native-born, though children of immigrants commit crimes at basically the same rate as children of native-born Swedes (controlling for income).

However, there’s no evidence of a massive crime wave. Here is an official Swedish government tally of the rates of six different types of crime directed at persons — fraud, assault, threats, harassment, sexual violence, and mugging. (Homicide is excluded because the rate is tiny; in 2014, there were 87 murders in the entire country of roughly 10 million.)

swedishcrime

As you can see, there is no significant uptick in any of the crime categories alongside the rise in immigration. The most recent official report available in English, covering 2015, is not incorporated into that chart — but it concludes that the rates of these crimes are at “approximately the same level as in 2005.” That’s a slight increase over the 2014 rate, but hardly evidence of a crime wave — let alone one committed by migrants or refugees.

Demetriou is a professor of philosophy. He doesn’t seem to know much at all about sociology or history or biology, but he’s quick to declare himself the victim of a political witch-hunt by people who don’t care for his ‘truth’. He’s the son of Greek immigrants, so maybe it’s a problem with his IQ?

I’m in agreement with our chancellor’s statement on this incident.

Colleagues,

It has recently come to my attention that messages have been circulating that include comments perceived of as disrespectful, disparaging, and directed at other community members. While democracy should and does rightfully tolerate expression of differences of opinion, some members of our community have found these communications both personally and professionally distressing.

I want to strongly reaffirm our mission and values as a University community and in particular, Morris’ campus vision that we celebrate and support the multicultural and international inclusiveness of our community. Differences are our strength, and our community values and respects diversity of all kinds.

We no doubt will continue to have differences of opinion and perspective. At the same time it is imperative that we all make every effort to express these differences in a respectful way.

As a model for civil discourse, I offer the University of Minnesota Board of Regents Guiding Principles which provide timely and sage advice whether members of our University community are acting as individuals or representatives of UMM:

“In all of its activities, the University strives to sustain an open exchange of ideas in an environment that:

• embodies the values of academic freedom, responsibility, integrity, and cooperation;
• provides an atmosphere of mutual respect, free from racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and intolerance;
• assists individuals, institutions, and communities in responding to a continuously changing world;
• is conscious of and responsive to the needs of the many communities it is committed to serving;
• creates and supports partnerships within the University, with other educational systems and institutions, and with communities to achieve common goals; and
• inspires, sets high expectations for, and empowers the individuals within its community.”

I look forward to working with you all as we productively and constructively address the issues of the day on our campus.

Michelle
Michelle Behr, Ph.D.

Now, though, is the time for Demetriou to strike back. I’m sure he’s going to be popular with reporters from Breitbart, InfoWars, and the Daily Mail. I wish him luck with his new celebrity.

Two birds, one stone

Yale is efficient. They’ve been debating whether to rename a building named after John Calhoun, the 19th century racist defender of slavery. Remember, this is the guy who said

I hold that the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding states between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good. A positive good.

One could reasonably make an argument that it is unfair to impose modern moral standards on a man dead for a hundred and sixty years, and I’d agree that yes, John C. Calhoun was a product of his time and place, the antebellum South. However it is also unfair to expect that antebellum Southern standards be respected in 21st century America — it works both ways. Yale made the right decision to rename the building after Grace Hopper.

The debate might not have gone on so long if everyone had known that the decision would also drive Geraldo Riviera to sever ties with the university.

Resigned yesterday as Associate Fellow of Calhoun College at Yale. Been an honor but intolerant insistence on political correctness is lame.

Political correctness. There’s a phrase that has become a solid tell for reactionary idiocy. I’ve never seen the words used for anything but to complain about reasonable actions by people with some degree of empathy. I imagine Riviera, if he’d lived at the time, would have called the Emancipation Proclamation a politically correct document, as if there were no moral force behind the liberation of slave and that it was just Ol’ Abe virtue signaling.

At least Yale has managed to purge two assholes at once with one action.

Fake news

Here’s a story that got a lot of play in Germany:

On Feb. 6, Germany’s most-read newspaper reported that dozens of Arab men, presumed to be refugees, had rampaged through the city of Frankfurt on New Year’s Eve. The men were said to have sexually assaulted women as they went through the streets; the newspaper dubbed them the Fressgass “sex mob,” referring to an upmarket shopping street in the city.

Oh no! See, you just can’t trust those dirty refugees. It’s not bigotry if it’s true, right?

Except…we ought to always question stories like that that feed into stereotypes and biases, biases that are almost entirely unjustified.

Except…we ought to take note that crimes committed by white men are never reported as rampages committed by their race or gender. Funny, that. It creates a twisted perspective.

Except…this story was totally false.

Frankfurt police were taken aback by the article — they had not heard of any large-scale assaults taking place in the area on New Year’s Eve — but a number of news outlets published aggregated versions of the story, spreading it further.

When local newspapers tried to report more on the story, local business owners said they had never seen any kind of “sex mob” or mass sexual assault on New Year’s Eve. “It was absolutely peaceful,” one staff member at a Fressgass bar not far from Mai’s establishment told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

On Tuesday, police released a damning statement on the incident that suggested the reports published in Bild were without foundation. “The interrogations of the witnesses, guests, and staff have created considerable doubts about the portrayal of events,” the statement read, adding that “a person allegedly affected by the actions was not in the city at all when the crime occurred.”

There are people actively spreading lies to promote hatred and conflict, and these are the worst kinds of people: racists, bigots, neo-Nazis, the so-called “alt-right”. There are also so-called journalists who happily promote these kinds of lies without basic checking of the facts, because it sells newspapers and ads. And as neo-Nazis are given greater prominence (hey, we’ve got a crop of them running the USA!), they become even more effective at spreading those destructive lies. Und so weiter.

It’s going to get worse. Self-promoting death spirals always do.

All science is always political

I have been out of the loop for a few weeks — man, my workload spiked recently — but now that I’m catching up, I feel nothing but dismay at the ridiculous complaints from scientists about the March for Science. I could hardly believe that some oppose the idea of scientists expressing vigorous dissent.

Al Gore, bless his heart (as we say in the South), was well intentioned when he made “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006. But he did us no favors. So many of the conservative Southerners whom I speak to about climate change see it as a partisan issue largely because of that high-profile salvo fired by the former vice president.

Scientists marching in opposition to a newly elected Republican president will only cement the divide. The solution here is not mass spectacle, but an increased effort to communicate directly with those who do not understand the degree to which the changing climate is already affecting their lives. We need storytellers, not marchers.

I’ve heard that so often: don’t rock the boat. We’ve got ours, if you make waves you’re imperiling the precious position we are clinging to by our fingernails. It’s absurd, selfish, and futile. The situation for science has become increasingly dire, and instead of shaking up the situation, putting your position at risk, you want to make sure that scientists are more harmless/helpless, more innocuous, more inoff-fucking-ensive because conservatives who despise science already might use the support of a political movement they hate as more ammo against us?

We have a common word for that. It’s called cowardice.

Then he dares to lecture us on what would be effective science communication? I’ve been through that for years, too. There’s always someone who will lecture at others who are doing the work that they’re doing it wrong. And that someone doing the hectoring is usually terribly ineffective at communicating science, so they are reduced to pontificating about the proper way to do it to the science communicators.

When they tell people “we need storytellers” without recognizing that we already know that, and are doing it, it’s remarkably clueless. We just see the need for something more, that when we reach yet another period of peak crisis, it’s time to add another approach to the toolkit.

And hey, you want to tell stories? Go ahead. No one is stopping you. The only ones trying to suppress diverse methods of outreach to diverse communities are the ones saying there can be only one acceptable way of explaining science.

By the way, I know people who found “An Inconvenient Truth” useful and powerful. That it antagonized the assholes who have been subverting science for decades is a point in its favor.

I thought that op-ed was bad, but here’s a dude complaining that the March is too political…or worse, that it’s the wrong politics. Those damn SJWs! Ruining everything!

What does make me worry is the increasing politicization of the March, which is fast changing from a pro-science march to a pro-social justice march. Now there’s nothing wrong with marching in favor of minority rights and against oppression, but if you mix that stuff up with science, as the March organization seems to be doing, well, that is a recipe for ineffectiveness. What would be the point of a march if it’s about every social injustice, particularly when, as the organizers did, they indict science itself for its racism and support of discrimination? The statement of aims below from the March’s organizers has now disappeared, but the tweet below that is still there. (You can find the full statement archived here.)

We’ve seen this same crap recently from Steven Pinker. The March for Science declares that they are “committed to centralizing, highlighting, standing in solidarity with, and acting as accomplices with black, Latinx, API, indigenous, Muslim, Jewish, women, people with disabilities, poor, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, trans, non-binary, agender, and intersex scientists and science advocates,” and boom, the conservative science wing reacts in horror. I don’t get it. Encouraging diversity and new ideas and approaches is exactly what scientists should support — but I guess if you’re part of the establishment now, you’d rather not see the implicit policies that helped you get where you are change. It’s almost as if they’re willing to help others climb the ladder of scientific achievement, but only if they look like the people that are already there. Can’t clutter up the old boys’ club with disabled lesbians and transgender brown people and all that, because they wouldn’t be as committed to doing good science as…privileged white people?

But that would be racist/sexist.

There’s another distractor there, too: fighting oppression is a “recipe for ineffectiveness”. We must focus laser-like on ONE THING, even if we are a massive organization of hundreds of thousands or even millions of members — everyone must be in lockstep on the ONE THING or we won’t get the ONE THING, even if the one thing is so abstract and huge that it’s effectively indefensible. So Movement Atheism must focus on the ONE THING of ATHEISM, which is fiercely defended as the sole principle that there is no god, never mind all the complex cultural baggage associated with that. Scientists must focus on the ONE THING of SCIENCE, a concept so complex that we have a name for the problem of trying to define its boundaries, the demarcation problem.

I have no idea how (or why) this dude plans to narrow the focus of the March. Is the March for Science to consist only of white men looking distracted as they concentrate on the scientific method? Wait — that would look just like a bunch of philosophers, and we can’t have that. A bunch of white men fiddling with telescopes and dissecting cats and punching numbers into their handheld computers as they march? That sounds like a recipe for effectiveness.

There’s another complaint. The organizers for the March for Science have criticized science. How dare they! Clearly, they don’t understand the True Purpose of Science, which is Good and Above Criticism. All Hail Science!

If a March has any chance of being effective, it can’t consist of a bunch of penitentes who flagellate themselves loudly and publicly for bad behavior. After all, stuff like “immigration policy”, “native rights”, and many other issues of social justice are not, as the organizers maintain, “scientific issues.” They are moral issues, which means they reflect worldviews and preferences that are not objective. Of course once you set your goals on immigration, pipeline locations and who should not be near them, and so on, then science can inform your actions. But to claim that all issues of social justice are “scientific issues” is palpably wrong.

This is just weird to the point of incomprehensibility to me. Science must have an objective purpose? But most of it doesn’t! Science is about curiosity and wonder and exploration. What objective purpose was Thomas Hunt Morgan pursuing when he was searching for sports in his fly colony? What was the objective purpose of Santiago Ramón y Cajal spending long nights drawing the beautiful filigree of Golgi-stained neurons, or writing lovely prose about the growth cone?

Please, do tell me how to define this criterion of “objectivity”. It seems to me that this arbitrary distinction would make postage stamp collecting, which has discrete, specific, measurable criteria, more scientific than launching a space probe to Pluto, where we had little idea what we’d find.

It is clearly not so much that some issues lack objectivity — once you recognize that native Americans are human beings, “native rights” becomes a rather clearly defined concern with measurable goals — but, as defined, that adding a moral component taints a subject, polluting the purity of Science, making it non-objective.

I’ve got news for him: everything has a moral component. Everything has a political component. If it’s a human activity, it is contaminated with moral and political ramifications, because that’s what humans do. Deciding that we have the economic surplus and the privilege of leisure to be able to support people who study fruit flies full time is a moral, social, and political act, for instance.

It becomes even more profoundly moral, social, and political when we make arbitrary decisions about which people will be permitted to have the privilege of spending their days studying fruit flies, or even which people will be granted the education that will allow them to appreciate the study of fruit flies. Until the day comes that AIs are doing all the science, discussing the science only among the other AIs, and doing all the work to benefit or harm only AIs, you cannot divorce the moral from the scientific. And even then I hope the AIs are smart enough to consider the impact of their pursuits on AI morality, because we feeble apes sure don’t seem to be able to comprehend that concept.

Just the idea that science ought not to criticize itself in public gives me the heebie-jeebies. Damn. The Tuskegee Syphilis Study? I guess that was scientifically objective, let’s not criticize it. Eugenics? All sciencey and shit. Bioethics is not a field that actually exists, or if it does, it’s not objective and Truly Scientific because it recognizes the impact of science on society.

It’s easy to find fun and exciting examples. How about this: An Adorable Swedish Tradition Has Its Roots in Human Experimentation. They fed institutionalized, mentally-ill people with massive doses of candy until their teeth rotted, to determine if sugar actually caused tooth decay. It was objectively done, of course. All Praise Science!

Or how about the whole issue of evolutionary psychology, which mainly seems to exist to rationalize traditional Western values as objective and scientific, perpetuating a whole vast collection of oppressive ideas.

Victorian social attitudes and science were closely intertwined. The common belief was that males and females were radically different. Moreover, attitudes about Victorian women influenced beliefs about nonhuman females. Males were considered to be active, combative, more variable, and more evolved and complex. Females were deemed to be passive, nurturing; less variable, with arrested development equivalent to that of a child. “True women” were expected to be pure, submissive to men, sexually restrained and uninterested in sex – and this representation was also seamlessly applied to female animals.

That sure sounds like Science with a capital “S” to me! Let’s get some grant money to prove the status quo and get it published in Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, Cosmpolitan, and The Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management! A three-fer, win-win, here comes tenure…and none of that has involved those damned “moral issues”, as long as you realize that white, conservative, capitalist, male biases are the gold standard of Truth, and it’s only those deviants who question the status quo who are bringing in that dirty word, “morality”, and making everything messily unscientific.

Oh, god, this thing gets even worse.

If we are to march, we should march in unity for truth, and against those who reject empirical truth. What unites all science—and makes it unique—is that it is a universal toolkit, used in the same way by members of all groups, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or religion. That is what holds us together. If we start dragging in issues of social justice—and I’m not of course saying they should be ignored in other venues—then we divide not only ourselves, but separate ourselves from much of the electorate, who, as we’ve seen above, generally trust us.

Declaring that you’ll only be marching under the banner of TRUTH sounds awfully religious to me. Declaring that science always works the same way in everyone’s hands sounds awfully ahistorical to me. Declaring that what holds us together is a disregard of gender, ethnicity, or religion sounds awfully privileged to me — I have the luxury of being unaffected by my sex and race, but damn, if you listen with half an ear to everyone who isn’t a white man you can’t help but notice that that isn’t true for everyone.

Social justice isn’t something that we “drag in” when social injustice is the muck that hinders the participation of more than half the citizenry in science, when toxic nonsense about sex and race poison the whole discourse about science in our culture.

This whole argument that social justice must be actively excluded from the March for Science reminds me of another march: the suffrage parade of 1913, in which black women were asked to segregate themselves from the white women and march at the back of the parade, because the white ladies did not want their goals marred by that other issue of equality. If you’re worried that your cause might be tainted, that’s the example you should examine, because it was Ida Wells who emerges the hero and white feminists who damage their own reputation (and who still, all too often, kick their own butts when they ignore intersectionality).

And sweet jesus, the hypocrisy. Science is all about Truth and Objectivity, which is why we should bow to the biases of the electorate, who will be divided from us if we start dragging in issues of social justice, since they, after all, are assumed to not like it (and oh, the implicit bias in which part of the electorate we must listen to…I cringe). So much for the objectivity of science — it should say what the people desire, or it might erode their trust in us.

I presume Dr Coyne will now respect the wishes of all those faith-heads who want him to shut up about atheism. Might separate ourselves from much of the electorate, don’t you know.

Not my America

I hope your breakfast is settled now, because here’s a video of Jared Taylor being interviewed by Jorge Ramos. In case you don’t know who Taylor is, he’s an unpleasant and pretentious leader of white supremacists — if you’ll watch the video (I don’t blame you if you don’t), you’ll see an unctuous, smiling glad-hander trying to sell hate as if it is pancakes. He’s a slimy, smarmy, sneering snake of a man, a slithering sibilant walking among us with little humanity in his smirking skull. But hey, watch and learn.

I only made it a third of the way through; I applaude Ramos’ persistence. But I have to address a few of Taylor’s assumptions.

Homogeneous countries have less violence. That’s a weird claim, because even if it were true, I’d want to know why. He’s going to constantly harp on the idea that Mexico is homogenous, just to get a dig in at Ramos, but the thing is that Mexico’s violent crime rate is higher than that of the more ethnically diverse USA. A good part of that is the drug war that the US has fostered. Maybe it’s not race, or conflicts between races, that cause the major problems?

I’d also like to point out that the US has more right-wing terrorism — that the people we ought to fear are not our Hispanic neighbors, but the people who argue that we need to provoke violence with our Hispanic neighbors. People like Jared Taylor. The real problem isn’t diversity, but the minority who so hate others with different skin color that they think oppression, discrimination, and forcible ejection are calm, reasonable, rational responses.

Mexico is just as racist as we are. He tries hard to bait Ramos by claiming that he just wants the US to be like Mexico, which he tries to pretend is some kind of uniform brown skin tone with no racial differences. But that’s not true! Mexican internal race relations are complex — there are rankings based on skin color, and different attitudes towards people who look more “Indian” vs. “Spanish”. I don’t know if there are people like Taylor who would argue for the superiority of the population who look more European (there probably are, given human nature), but at least I’m unaware of any prominent figures arguing for expulsion of all mestizos. If there is less conflict, it seems to me it has to be because people are more aware the deep history and obvious diversity of the Mexican people, making a simple binary distinction that demonizes one group harder to do. The US has a long history of treating anyone with “one drop” of black heritage as inferior. We’ve taken a range and turned it into a black and white distinction.

“Us” and “Them”. Taylor often claims he just wants to make his country safe for “us” against the invading hordes of “them”, those immigrants. He mentions that his family came over to North America from England in the 18th century — hey, so did my paternal line! But here’s the deal: his “us” includes people with Northern European ancestry (like me!), but no one else. I just have to say that I feel no intellectual kinship with Jared Taylor. I do not want to be part of his “us”. Skin color is nothing but a granfalloon, and to automatically assume that people with a similar genetic lineage are closer to you than someone with shared ideals is a mistake. He is part of a “them” to me — the racist club that excludes others. I am part of an egalitarian club that is inclusive and open to everyone with similar ideals. Jared Taylor would probably call me a “race traitor” because I can find common cause with my fellow Americans without worrying about what color skin they have, or what language they spoke while growing up.

Diversity makes us weaker. Pure madness. I’m looking at the scientific enterprise in America, and here’s a curious fact for you: of the 6 American Nobelists in 2016, every single one of them was an immigrant. Stop by an “American” research lab sometime, and you’ll find it is well-stocked with people from all kinds of exotic places — often only the PI was born in this country, while all the grad students and post-docs and technicians are British, Italian, German, Spanish, Chinese, Malaysian, Nigerian, Indian. And quite often the PI isn’t American-born, either. Science is international. It becomes strongest when we don’t impose artificial barriers of race.

I’m not exactly the world’s biggest fan of Michio Kaku, but here’s an antidote to Jared Taylor, and it’s something on which Kaku and I agree 100%. Diversity has been one of the strongest tools we have in building the American scientific enterprise. We have grown by being attractive to people all around the world, gathering together new ideas, combining them in novel arrangements, and taking advantage of the brightest brains, which, it turns out, are all the same color.

What scares me is that the American public school system is doing such a poor job of educating students — guaranteed to get worse as long as we consider people like Betsy DeVos to be tenable candidates for running it — and at the same time we are now driving away the intelligent people who would otherwise be happy to come here and learn and teach. I refuse to be grouped with an “us” that so ignorantly insists on a racist delusion that is entirely destructive to a reality that has benefited us so much over the decades.

When the Jared Taylors of the USA destroy an environment that has formed me and led to new ideas and new strengths, I won’t identify with it anymore. I’ll find a new “us”. Canada is looking more like my people than the theocratic, racist cult that’s taking over here.

“Identity politics” is racist code

Accusing someone of “identity politics” is the new, genteel way of calling them a “nigger lover”. I still remember being shocked into silence when I was about 15 years old, and my fervently Christian, home-schooling, John Bircher relation called me that, with a patronizing smile, after I tried to explain that no, black people are not more closely related evolutionarily to gorillas than are white people. He had pretensions to intellectualism, so I’m sure he would have loved the phrase “identity politics”. It’s excellent double-speak. Take a term that refers to a tendency to splinter into groups that favor narrower causes built around race, religion, or class, and apply it exclusively to any person who promotes a more inclusive, broader politics, one that crosses racial and sexual boundaries, the exact opposite of what the term implies. At the same time, avoid labeling what the white supremacists, the KKK, the alt-right, and the neo-Nazis do as identity politics, even though that would be far more accurate.

I was stunned and unable to respond when I was 15, but I’ve had 45 years now to think about it (l’esprit de l’escalier with a vengeance!). It’s been decades of being called a faggot, a Jew, a race traitor, and all sorts of variants of the identity politics insult, and I can confidently say now that it’s true: I am an old white heterosexual man, and I reject the politics of white heterosexual male supremacy, which is what you’re really trying to say. I don’t think my gender or race automatically make me a better human being. You think yours does, and that makes you a worse human being. It’s hard work to lift ourselves above our prejudices, and anyone who uses the phrase “identity politics” to disparage those who are trying is displaying their own lazily held biases. It’s virtue signaling to your fellow bigots.

I say this in response to a post by a well-regarded Atheist Hero, Sam Harris, A Few Thoughts on the “Muslim Ban”. The fact that he puts it in quotes is foreshadowing.

He makes it crystal clear that he detests Donald Trump — calling him “a malignant Chauncey Gardiner” is a good phrase — and that he thinks the implementation of the ban is terrible policy and inconsistent in its targets. But this is Sam at his oiliest: he is able to condemn Trump without reservation, but the ban…well, its real problem is that it doesn’t go far enough, and it’s undermined by those damned liberal leftists who are unable to see the true, depraved evil of Islam, the standard Sam Harris rant. You see, the real cause of all of our problems is not the right wing and demagogues like Trump, it’s the Left and their identity politics.

However, most of what is being said in opposition to Trump’s order is thoroughly contaminated by identity politics and liberal delusion. The Left seems determined to empower the Right by continuing to lie about the problem of Islamism. As David Frum recently wrote, “When liberals insist that only fascists will defend borders, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals won’t do.” I have been saying as much for more than a decade—and am vilified by my fellow liberals whenever I do.

Yes, Sam, you are, because we can see right through you to your conservative heart and decidedly illiberal views. That one paragraph is a perfect example.

“Identity politics” is a far right dog whistle. The only identity politics being practiced is a refusal to accept the privileges of being a white man — the only division being fomented here is between a larger vision of a united humanity and the bigotry of the status quo. It is also classic Harris to place the blame for Trump not on the people who voted for him, or the cowardly, amoral power brokers of the Republican party, or the corporatist drift of an out-of-touch Democratic party, but on the progressive, liberal people who rejected Trump and are now leading the angry opposition. It’s madness. It’s like blaming centuries of authoritarian religious oppression by the Catholic Church on those horrible atheists and pagans.

The only lying here is by Harris. He quotes David Frum — David Frum! — making the common argument that liberals can’t be true patriots, claiming that we are insufficiently zealous in being isolationist and xenophobic. There’s more to being an American than being a bigoted nativist (although, to be honest, that has historically been a significant part of being American). Liberals do not argue for the necessity of fascism to defend ourselves. It turns out that we actually think the diverse people who inhabit this country are ourselves, and what we oppose is the fascist politics of racism. The assumptions of Harris and Frum are fundamentally wrong. That we can embrace immigrants who have chosen to live in our country, whether they are Mexican or Muslim, is our patriotism, our values, our appreciation of an American identity. The America of Harris and Frum is a meaner, insular, provincial place, and that we reject their vision does not imply that we want a police state by default.

I really can’t get over the fact that he quotes David Frum to characterize liberals. Frum was a speech-writer to George W. Bush (he’s proud to have coined the Manichaean phrase “axis of evil”, which is perfectly Harrisean). He worked for the Reagan and Giuliani campaigns. He’s a neocon who supported the Iraq war. And he is the authority my “fellow liberal” Sam Harris turns to to explain liberalism? I am so unsurprised. They are very sympatico.

Then Harris says something I agree with.

It is perfectly possible—and increasingly necessary—to speak about the ideological roots of Islamism and jihadism, and even about the unique need for reform within mainstream Islam itself, without lapsing into bigotry or disregarding the suffering of refugees. Indeed, when one understands the problem for what it is, one realizes that secular Muslims, liberal Muslims, and former Muslims are among the most desirable allies to have in the West—and, indeed, such people are the primary victims of Islamist intolerance and jihadist terror in Muslim-majority countries.

Yes. I can despise Islam while at the same time recognizing that I have a moral duty to defend Muslims from oppression, violence, and discrimination. I am also able to recognize that someone identifying as Muslim has not confessed to being an Islamist on jihad. So why isn’t Liberal Sam condemning in plain English any kind of “Muslim Ban”? I can’t think of many better ways to alienate secular and liberal Muslims than making blanket prohibitions of entire nations of people from setting foot in America.

Well, I can think of one better way: we could bomb them and kill their civilians. We do that, too.

Harris, however, cannot categorically reject the Trump policy, because he favors something similar — maybe implemented with more finesse, with more carefully placed weasel words, but exactly the same in effect. So he writes a “few words” on the Muslim ban that consist of denouncements of the liberals who are out on the streets and in the airports right now protesting against this uncivil oppression. It’s telling.

Harris is not alone, however. Have you seen the latest from Steven Pinker?


Scientists’ March on Washington plan compromises its goals with anti-science PC/identity politics/hard-left rhetoric https://goo.gl/AVB7mR

Whoa. The March for Science is anti-science? Where does that come from?

It apparently comes from “identity politics”, which in this case, means the March for Science openly invites diversity. Here’s the horrible hard-left compromising rhetoric of that web page:

In the past days, scientists have voiced concern over many issues – gag orders for government science agencies, funding freezes, and reversing science based policies. We recognize that these changes will differently and disproportionately affect minority scientists, science advocates, and the global communities impacted by these changes in American policies. Addressing these issues is imperative in understanding how recent developments will affect all people – not simply the most privileged among us. We take seriously your concerns that for this march to be meaningful, we must centralize diversity of the march’s organizers at all levels of planning. Diversity must also be reflected in the march itself —both through the mission statement and those who participate.

We hear you, and thank you for your criticism. At the March for Science, we are committed to centralizing, highlighting, standing in solidarity with, and acting as accomplices with black, Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islander, indigenous, non-Christian, women, people with disabilities, poor, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, trans, non-binary, agender, and intersex scientists and science advocates. We must work to make science available to everyone and encouraging individuals of all backgrounds to pursue science careers, especially in advanced degrees and positions. A diverse group of scientists produces increasingly diverse research, which broadens, strengthens, and enriches scientific inquiry, and therefore, our understanding of the world.

That’s what Pinker considers anti-science: a statement that clearly declares their intent not to discriminate. He might want to check out the NIH policies on inclusion — it’s even more thorough. I guess the NIH is anti-science.

Or perhaps he should wag an angry finger at those damned SJWs at the NSF and NASA. Totally PC. Must be anti-science. Thinking that people with disabilities, or uteruses, or too much melanin in their skin, should actually be respected for their skills is such a deplorable hard left position to take.

The March for Science also includes a blatant example of identity politics.

Who can participate:

Anyone who values science. That’s the only requirement.

Yep. Maybe that’s what annoyed Pinker. A refusal to discriminate on the basis of racial or other identity is “identity politics” to bigots.

Selma

From this remarkable collection of photos of the Selma-to-Montgomery march:

Here are the people marching for dignity and respect and equality.

selma

Here are some of the white hecklers lined up alongside that march, jeering at the people fighting for social justice.

selmahecklers

Nothing has changed from 1965 to 2017, except that the hecklers are now mocking those goals online.

Be like the marchers in Selma. Don’t be like the hecklers.

Real Americans

The media is trying to figure out how Trump got elected, and one common undercurrent to this effort is finding ways to define Real Americans. Some of these efforts get mighty peculiar. Sean Davis’s criterion, for instance, is what kind of truck you drive. It’s ridiculous.

The five most popular vehicle models among Republicans, for example, are all trucks, with the ubiquitous Ford F-150 leading the way. Among Democrats, the Subaru Outback is the most popular choice. If you drive a truck, you’re probably a Republican. If you drive a Subaru, you’re probably a Democrat. Donald Trump won every single state in which the Ford F-150 is the most popular vehicle (even Pennsylvania). He won all but four of the states in which the Chevy Silverado is the most popular vehicle, including Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Hillary Clinton handily won the states where people prefer Subarus.

Which brings us to the simple question about truck ownership from John Ekdahl that drove Acela corridor progressive political journalists into a frenzy on Tuesday night: “The top 3 best selling vehicles in America are pick-ups. Question to reporters: do you personally know someone that owns one?”

Whether you drive a truck or a small car is simply a crude proxy for rural and urban. I’ve lived in that “Acela corridor”, and it would stupid to own a F-150 (although many people do), because parking is limited, on your commute you’re going to spend most of your time idling or creeping along, and they’re gas hogs. Now I live in the deepest part of rural America, and they’re still stupid, most of the time, but there are actual circumstances in which they’re useful. People here hunt and fish for recreation, and it’s impractical to use a Subaru to haul a boat, and very awkward to stuff a dead deer into one. There are also work-related reasons: when I was a young’un helping out on my uncle’s ranch, I drove a truck, too: how else do you get the hay bales out to the cattle in the far field?

I think Roy Edroso has it exactly right, though: most of the trucks you see around, especially in urban areas, were bought for symbolic reasons and as an exercise in manliness and profligate excess.

if you don’t know what it’s like to drive a truck, you ain’t a real U.S. male, sez tough guy Sean Davis of The Federalist. Davis’ angle is that “A Bunch Of Journalists Freak[ed] Out After Being Asked If They Know Anybody Who Drives A Truck.” In this case “Freak Out” means they asked, upon being questioned as to whether they owned a truck or not, what owning a truck has to do with anything. This Davis interpreted to mean that reporters are “the most cloistered and provincial class in America” and live in a “liberal media bubble.” Davis neglected to mention what sort of truck he drives, what sort of loads he hauls, or if his rig is equipped with a CB and a jaker breaker.

Actually, turns out he’s not talking about big rigs, but about Silverados and Tacomas and other such Canyoneros one sees driven by accountants and middle managers all across the fruited plain. But I suspect that is, as the saying goes, central to his point. Davis also lists a bunch of Twitter responses which he portrays as evidence of his thesis; in one of these, Jose A. DelReal says yes, he has a truck “b/c I’m from Alaska. Do any friends own one in DC or NYC? No, because they’re unnecessary here.” Davis’ response: “This person writes for Washington Post and just missed the entire point.” That point, apparently, is that in order to be unbubbled and in touch with the Real America you must have a truck, not because you need it, but because lots of Americans have them whether they actually need them to do actual hauling or not, just as many Texans wear cowboy hats whether or not they ever rode herd, or many conservatives revere the Confederate flag whether or not they ever faced the Union Army in battle.

So here’s a better spin on the difference between liberals and conservatives: liberals buy the vehicle they need that suits their purposes in a practical way, while conservatives waste money (and gas!) buying an overpriced symbol for the purpose of public posturing…virtue signaling, if you will. Which could be a sign of which would make better bureaucrats and leaders.

I drive a Honda Fit, by the way. When we were last in the market for a car, we went looking for an inexpensive, reliable vehicle for light commuting. We don’t need a Canyonero since we don’t hunt, fish, or haul firewood, and personally, I don’t feel that I have shortcomings that could be compensated for with a monster truck.

Davis wasn’t the worst, though. The NY Times ran an op-ed to explain why rural America voted for Trump. It’s because they’re such damn good virtuous people.

One recent morning, I sat near two young men at a coffee shop here whom I’ve known since they were little boys. Now about 18, they pushed away from the table, and one said: “Let’s go to work. Let the liberals sleep in.” The other nodded.

Oh. It’s not because they’re good people. It’s because they’re self-centered bigots, like those two young men.

By the way, I read that at 5am. Many of us liberals also get up early to get our work done.

They’re hard workers. As a kid, one washed dishes, took orders and swept the floor at a restaurant. Every summer, the other picked sweet corn by hand at dawn for a farm stand and for grocery stores, and then went to work all day on his parents’ farm. Now one is a welder, and the other is in his first year at a state university on an academic scholarship. They are conservative, believe in hard work, family, the military and cops, and they know that abortion and socialism are evil, that Jesus Christ is our savior, and that Donald J. Trump will be good for America.

And working hard makes them different from liberals…how? My father, a proud liberal and union member, basically worked himself to death as a mechanic, often working two jobs at a time to keep his family well. I started working when I was 12; I had a job shoveling rocks that ended up wrecking my knees. I worked my way through junior and senior high school in agricultural jobs, too, and got an academic scholarship to the state college, and wouldn’t have been able to go if I hadn’t.

I’m liberal AF. My siblings are similarly liberal, and also have had to work hard all their lives.

Back when I lived in that “Acela corridor”, I taught at an urban college, and my classes were full of first generation college kids from black families who aspired to be doctors…and they worked their asses off. They got there out of barely adequate high schools and had to play catch-up with all the kids who came there with advantages. I doubt those men and women are now Trump voters.

I know that rural, conservative kids also have to work hard — I’ve got them in my classes right now. This is a universal human condition, that we have to work to better ourselves, but it’s goddamn conservatives that try to claim it as their own, unique, special property, along with other virtues like patriotism and responsibility, while denying those virtues to others. Again, it’s not hard work that sets them apart, it’s bigotry.

It is not a good thing that those two men reflexively regard abortion and socialism as evil — they don’t know anything about either. And dare I point out that another strange property of both of those essays is that they take an exclusively male point of view? Driving big trucks and controlling women’s reproductive freedom seem to be such stereotypically masculine attitudes.

But wait! We haven’t yet met our quota of conservative bullshit! Here’s the argument that most persuaded the NY Times essayist.

“The difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans believe people are fundamentally bad, while Democrats see people as fundamentally good,” said Mr. Watts, who was in the area to campaign for Senator Rand Paul. “We are born bad,” he said and added that children did not need to be taught to behave badly — they are born knowing how to do that.

“We teach them how to be good,” he said. “We become good by being reborn — born again.”

He continued: “Democrats believe that we are born good, that we create God, not that he created us. If we are our own God, as the Democrats say, then we need to look at something else to blame when things go wrong — not us.”

Mr. Watts talked about the 2015 movie theater shooting in Lafayette, La., in which two people were killed. Mr. Watts said that Republicans knew that the gunman was a bad man, doing a bad thing. Democrats, he added, “would look for other causes — that the man was basically good, but that it was the guns, society or some other place where the blame lies and then they will want to control the guns, or something else — not the man.” Republicans, he said, don’t need to look anywhere else for the blame.

Ah, so they’re bigots who believe in a dishonest caricature of Christianity. That makes it all better.

None of what Watts said is true. Liberals also think the theater shooter was a bad man. It’s just that, when you’ve got these mass murders popping up all over the place, it is short-sighted and unproductive to simply play whack-a-mole with them one by one — at some point you have to ask yourselves, why? What’s driving these crimes? What enables them? Can we get to the root causes and prevent these problems before they happen?

Conservatives apparently think it’s as simple as declaring one person to be bad, and then throwing up their hands and saying we can’t do anything about it. Fuck that attitude.

I’ve only touched on that godawful essay — I’m going to have to turn it over to the Rude Pundit to give it a more appropriate treatment.

It’s all bullshit. The rest of Leonard’s column is about how it seems like cities in red states are taken care of by their government, but not the rural parts of the state, where the roads need to be improved and there is a need for police and firefighters and EMTs: “To rural Americans, sometimes it seems our taxes mostly go to making city residents live better. We recognize that the truth is more complex, particularly when it comes to social programs, but it’s the perception that matters — certainly to the way most people vote.”

And there you have the reason why liberals are called “elitist.” We actually know that most of our taxes go to the Republican-run states. We aren’t fucking hypocrites who condemn government, elect people who want to shrink government, and then are pissed off when the government doesn’t offer enough services. We don’t get our news from conspiracy theorists and liars. Are there excesses on the left? Of course. We’re fuckin’ human. But when one group is inclusive of all races and religions and genders and sexual orientations and more, while the other pines for a time when white Christians ran everything, it’s pretty damn clear who the real elitists are.

What you’re calling “elitism” is just simply not being ignorant. We don’t have our heads shoved up Jesus’s ass. And when the left gets angry because of how fucking dumb some of the shit coming out of rural and red mouths is, we’re told we need to understand what they believe. No, we’re just gonna say that stupid is stupid.

You can stop explaining the white working class rural conservative Christian farming folk, hot-takers and self-justifiers. Instead, why don’t you explain liberalism to them? Why don’t you explain that jobs are drying up and communities are dying not because of abortion and same-sex marriage but because of Republican economic policies that have favored the wealthy, most of whom live in cities, including a certain president-elect they voted for who took advantage of those very policies in order to stay rich? Ultimately, though, it won’t matter. Because despite every fucking word to the contrary, the real problem is that those who voted for Trump are racist. They are sexist. They are Islamophobic. They are ignorant.

The whole thrust of these “let’s learn about the yokels” articles is to imply that there are real Americans and there are coastal elites. Sorry, motherfuckers. We’re all Americans. And if I have to suffer under your stupid, you have to hear about our smarts.

Preach it. It astounds me that the NY Times would publish a bad op-ed that purports to argue that conservatives aren’t bigots, they’re just hard working, when the whole foundation of that argument is an acceptance of conservative bigotry that liberals and urban folk (you know, those dark-skinned people) are lazy. Their thesis was a demonstration of the antithesis, which is an academic elitist way of saying they managed to fuck up their own shit.


At least the Washington Post recognizes where the real problem lies: How nostalgia for white Christian America drove so many Americans to vote for Trump. America is not white, so get used to it: citizenship is not defined by the color of your skin. And yeah, let’s dethrone Christianity, too.

Seriously? You’re going to blame the second law of thermodynamics for poverty?

Arguments from Natural Law are among my pet peeves — there’s nothing quite like reducing a complex sociological issue to a simplistic, naive causal relationship based on, of all things, physics. Steven Pinker commits this sin in discussing thermodynamics, which he seems to have a rather cartoonish perspective on, to the point where he decides that poverty is explained by entropy. Or rather, that poverty needs no explanation.

Poverty, too, needs no explanation. In a world governed by entropy and evolution, it is the default state of humankind. Matter does not just arrange itself into shelter or clothing, and living things do everything they can not to become our food. What needs to be explained is wealth. Yet most discussions of poverty consist of arguments about whom to blame for it.

Yeah, rather than talking about exploiters and capitalism and historical inequities and all that messy stuff, let’s instead have a caricature of a physics explanation from a psychologist who apparently gets all of his understanding of thermodynamics from creationist web sites and pop psychology magazines.

I’m just going to wash my hands of this slime and let Blake Stacey explain it all.