The most punchable face in America

Richard Spencer gets interviewed.

I personally have no desire to punch anyone, but when this guy smirks and sniggers I have nothing but sympathy for those in his presence who just feel a need to reach out and smack him one. Charles Barkley and Gerald Griggs are to be commended for their restraint.

I searched YouTube for a clip of this interview, which was a scarring experience. First one I stumbled across was by someone calling himself “Atheism-Is-Unstoppable”, which meant, as you might guess that the video was a horror show, with “A-I-U” covering it over with his idiot commentary consisting mostly of asserting that America is a white nation. I finally found this short clip which doesn’t include any commentary by the uploader.

You definitely do not want to read any of the comments, unless you’re looking for confirmation that YouTube has been overrun with racist assholes.

A nicely done critique of Murray and Harris

It tries hard to be generous to both Murray and Harris, but this analysis of their racist claims also doesn’t cut any corners in tearing apart their claims.

Harris is not a neutral presence in the interview. “For better or worse, these are all facts,” he tells his listeners. “In fact, there is almost nothing in psychological science for which there is more evidence than for these claims.” Harris belies his self-presentation as a tough-minded skeptic by failing to ask Murray a single challenging question. Instead, during their lengthy conversation, he passively follows Murray to the dangerous and unwarranted conclusion that black and Hispanic people in the US are almost certainly genetically disposed to have lower IQ scores on average than whites or Asians — and that the IQ difference also explains differences in life outcomes between different ethnic and racial groups.

In Harris’s view, all of this is simply beyond dispute. Murray’s claims about race and intelligence, however, do not stand up to serious critical or empirical examination.

I’m far less charitable in my opinion of the two. It also doesn’t help that after I posted my criticisms of their bad science, I got flooded with racist email — the people who love Harris and Murray most are not dispassionate, objective scientists, but rather a motley assortment of unhinged bigots. Among other things they did, they subscribed me to goddamned awful newsletters and mailing lists, such as the one from American Renaissance. I got an invitation to attend their 2017 conference, featuring such illustrious racists as Peter Brimelow, Jared Taylor, and John Derbyshire.

That is the company Harris and Murray keep. Let’s not pretend they’re serious scholars anymore, ‘k?

Ignorance and dependency make for excellent shackles

Here’s a story of a remarkable woman, Eudocia Tomas Pulido, also known as Lola. She was the Filipino house slave of a Filipino immigrant family, in the late 20th century. She was given to the family as a gift by a local warlord in the aftermath of WWII, and was brought along when they emigrated to the US; they didn’t pay her a salary, didn’t even give her a room of her own, and she cooked and cleaned and raised their kids for practically her entire life. The author of the story is one of those kids, and was trying to make amends for the injustice, but still…she never went to school, had little money of her own, spoke English poorly, and was stranded in America. Even with the best intentions in the world, it’s hard to overcome the deficits imposed by an impoverished upbringing and adulthood.

The only answer is to treat every child as deserving of opportunity and autonomy, and raise them without those shackles. It’s a disgrace that a major American political party seems to be in the business of making new improved coffles for everyone.

Racists love to cooperate: Sam Harris and Charles Murray

No. I just couldn’t do it. Sam Harris interviews Charles Murray in his podcast (but of course it is a friendly, chummy interview, because two white guys are not going to criticize each other when it comes to talking about the inferiority of other races), but I was unable to listen to it. I tried. I got a few minutes in, but listening to that calm, soothing, rational monotone setting up a conversation in which the capabilities of the majority of the human race were going to be dismissed with cold, clinical detachment was just too infuriating. I just shut that fucker down.

And waited.

I knew someone would have the ability to listen to it all and distill it down to the key points, so I wouldn’t have to suffer through the insufferable for two and a quarter hours. Thank you, Angry White Men blog, for taking the bullet for the rest of us.

I did have a pretty good idea of what was to come, just from the title of the podcast: Forbidden Knowledge: A Conversation with Charles Murray. There was the assumption right there that what the ol’ bigot was dispensing was “knowledge”, rather than racist junk science. And, as usual, they’re going to set themselves up as martyrs, holding “knowledge” they’re “forbidden” to share, despite the fact that these scum have elected a president, have police forces that functionally act to enforce discriminatory oppression, that the internet is crawling with slimy advocates for their ideas, and that this crap is routinely published. Murray’s The Bell Curve was actually published and promoted by major media sources like the New York Times, you know, and it’s not as if Nicholas Wade was unable to get his trash fire of a book published recently. It’s not as if you have to obtain this stuff as bootleg samizdat, in the form of smeared photocopies distributed by a clandestine network of shadowy men in trenchcoats.

AWM recommends you read Lane’s article on the tainted sources of The Bell Curve — it’s poisonous garbage through and through. It’s bad science, something Harris should have brought up. He doesn’t. Instead, he just assumes that all of his biases are true, and that, once again, he and Chuck are the brave souls who are willing to accept the Forbidden Knowledge you peons are too cowardly to believe.

People don’t wanna hear that intelligence is a real thing, and that some people have more of it than others. They don’t wanna hear that IQ tests really measure it. They don’t wanna hear that differences in IQ matter, because they’re highly predictive of differential success in life. And not just for things like educational attainment and wealth, but for things like out-of-wedlock birth and mortality.

People don’t wanna hear that a person’s intelligence is in large measure due to his or her genes, and there seems to be very little we can do environmentally to increase a person’s intelligence — even in childhood. It’s not that the environment doesn’t matter, but genes appear to be 50 to 80 percent of the story. People don’t want to hear this. And they certainly don’t want to hear that average IQ differs across races and ethnic groups.

That was a revealing phrase: there seems to be very little we can do environmentally to increase a person’s intelligence — even in childhood, Sam. Sam. Sam, I want to introduce you to a word that seems to be unfamiliar to you. It’s kind of amazing that a neuroscientist hasn’t run across it before.

That word is education.

Boom. Mic drop. Done.

Now of course Harris does actually know that common English word, but what it reveals is that he has a different understanding of intelligence than most of us do. He want’s to believe that children are born with different capacities for learning, that education is something that just fills that capacity with knowledge. This is, obviously, not true — any educator should be able to tell you that brains grow in ability with use, and that the key to expanding its ability is practice.

He and his ilk like to use the phrase “blank slaters” to address a favorite straw man, the idea that we are born with no inherent patterns of behavior at all (which no one holds, unfortunately for their rhetoric), while they are confident that we’re born with a certain degree of hard wiring for the abilities of the brain.

I have a different phrase for them. They hold to an “empty bucket” theory of human intelligence. They discount education because, you see, it’s a different propery. People are born with an empty bucket for knowledge, which varies in capacity by race and ethnicity and sex, limited in its volume by genetic factors. IQ is a magically objective number for the size of your bucket, fixed by your history and ancestry, while education and knowledge are more variable products of your environment.

What Sam and Chuck want to argue (no, sorry, there was no argument between them) is that black people are born with a 9 gallon bucket, while white people are born with 10 gallon buckets. They have no evidence for this. They only have the assumption that IQ is a measure of maximum potential, and that the statistical average of a deeply flawed metric that doesn’t measure what they think it does is sufficient to allow them to condescend to the poor, intellectually-constrained brains trapped in black bodies.

What makes it even more appalling is that these are two conventional, conservative white men slapping each other on the back while telling each other how superior they are. You would think Harris would have learned by now that the perception that he is racist, which he decries, is only fanned to a white-hot heat when he engages in this kind of self-congratulatory behavior.

He doesn’t. He can’t. I guess his social awareness bucket is very, very tiny.

AWM concludes with a comment about Murray’s flaws that should have been brought up in a competent interview.

And all of these points — unwillingness to engage with critics, connections to white supremacists, consequences for poor and non-white Americans — would have been worth bringing up in Harris’ conversation with Murray. As an interviewer, he should have done more than toss softballs and whitewash Murray’s record. As a skeptic, he should have been more willing to examine Murray’s beliefs. His unwillingness to do so will only bolster racist pseudoscience and toss more red meat to Murray’s white nationalist fans.

Oddly, though, those criticisms of Murray — “unwillingness to engage with critics, connections to white supremacists, consequences for poor and non-white Americans” — also apply perfectly to Sam Harris, so I’m not at all surprised that he wouldn’t bring them up. I knew that about him well ahead of time.

And that’s why I wasn’t going to listen to him.

Oh, good — I’m not the only one who utterly despised this ad

Have you all seen this Heineken ad? It takes six people who don’t know anything about each other and pairs them up. On one side, a black woman feminist; a man who accepts the science of climate change; and a transgender woman. In the prelude, each makes a brief statement about their positive beliefs. On the other side, three men: one skinheadish fellow declares that feminism is about man-hating, that women are needed to have children; another rather indignant twit who announces that all those people who believe in climate change need to get off their high horse and get a job; a middle-aged guy who flatly declares that you’re either a man or a woman. Then they’re put together to assemble a bar, and afterwards drink a beer with each other.

If you must, here it is.

I’m seeing people going all goo-goo over it. Aww, isn’t that sweet? One-on-one, people can see each other’s basic humanity and get along.

Except…there’s a striking asymmetry here. Two of those people rejected the basic identity and humanity of the others. The three left-leaning people did not go into this denying the existence of the others, while two of the righties did (and the third was just an ignorant asshat). We’re supposed to feel good about it because they’re able to drink beer together, but there’s no evidence that those three men recognized their own failures, while the three on the other side just had to take it and tolerate the intolerable.

Here’s a good take on it from Mirah Curzer.

This is the danger of the feel-good “let’s just talk to each other” approach. It’s just a more cuddly version of that horrible bothsidesism that equates being called a racist with actual racism as reasons for hurt and anger. Both sides are not the same. The transphobe who agrees to have a beer with the trans woman is sacrificing nothing. She, on the other hand, is giving up a certain amount of dignity by breaking bread with someone who thinks she shouldn’t have the right to exist. She’s risking her mental and physical safety, volunteering for the hard emotional labor of arguing for her right to be a person. And with ads like this, that labor is being demanded of her with no consideration of how much it may cost. Worse, it’s heavily implied that if she were to walk away, it would make her just as intolerant as the bigot who views her with disgust.

Not all viewpoints are equal. Not all olive branches are earned. And it is not in the service of justice to demand emotional labor of marginalized people while praising bigots for doing the bare minimum to act like humans on a single occasion.

Isn’t that the way it always is? And now we’re supposed to tolerate assholes so Heineken can sell beer, too.

For the “hate speech has no consequences and must be allowed” crowd

Compare and contrast: two students, both at Transylvania College. Tracy Clayton is a black woman who wrote about the endemic racism at the school; confederate flags hanging in dorm room windows, buildings named to honor the Confederacy, racist slurs in graffiti and conversation, etc. You know the drill. Your standard oblivious racist sense of entitlement from the white community, as we see all across the country. Transylvania College has about a 19% enrollment from people of color, so factually, she actually was a member of the minority there.

Mitchell Adkins was a white man in this same environment: a majority white Southern school. He imagines that he’s an oppressed minority.

Adkins complained, “Being a Republican in this school makes me such a minority that I’ve had to face discrimination on a daily basis.”

Kentucky went for Trump over Clinton 62.5% to 32.7% in the last election. It has a Republican governor and legislature. It elected Rand Paul to the Senate. It is true that Lexington and Louisville are two small islands of blue, but it’s not as if Adkins is all alone. And his party swept the last election! You’d think Republicans would see that as some sign that they have political clout. But that is not enough! He was oppressed!

“Transylvania is a predominantly Democratic school. I’m always happy to listen to other people’s opinions, but as soon as I give my own, I’m called a ‘bigot,’ an ‘assh*le,” some even go as far as ‘fascist Nazi,’” he wrote.

He continued, “With the election of (Republican) Matt Bevin as governor, I’ve become even more of a target for people claiming that I’m ‘responsible for ruining this country’ and that, somehow, I’m an evil person for what would make this state great.”

He didn’t bother to say what he said that prompted the accusation of bigotry, probably because he’s aware that if he did, everyone would agree that yes, the consensus of the people he’s complaining about was correct.

Clayton graduated, moved on, and is a writer for Buzzfeed. Adkins dropped out, blamed the liberals for his failure, and did this:

“A guy came in, banged something, a hatchet or an ax, on the table and said ‘the day of reckoning has come,’” witness Tristan Reynolds said. “He asked somebody what their political affiliation was, they said ‘Republican’ and the guy said ‘you are safe.’ And then I realized what was going on and started getting people out.”

He put two women in the hospital with a machete attack in a coffeeshop.

It was all the liberals’ fault, of course. Damn them and their thuggish ways!

Sullivan is back. Can he please retire again?

Shorter Andrew Sullivan: We treated Asians and Jews like shit, and they turned out to be rich successful nerds, so black people’s problems must be their own damn fault.

No, really, he said that.

It’s easy to mock this reductionism, I know, but it reflects something a little deeper. Asian-Americans, like Jews, are indeed a problem for the “social-justice” brigade. I mean, how on earth have both ethnic groups done so well in such a profoundly racist society? How have bigoted white people allowed these minorities to do so well — even to the point of earning more, on average, than whites? Asian-Americans, for example, have been subject to some of the most brutal oppression, racial hatred, and open discrimination over the years. In the late 19th century, as most worked in hard labor, they were subject to lynchings and violence across the American West and laws that prohibited their employment. They were banned from immigrating to the U.S. in 1924. Japanese-American citizens were forced into internment camps during the Second World War, and subjected to hideous, racist propaganda after Pearl Harbor. Yet, today, Asian-Americans are among the most prosperous, well-educated, and successful ethnic groups in America. What gives? It couldn’t possibly be that they maintained solid two-parent family structures, had social networks that looked after one another, placed enormous emphasis on education and hard work, and thereby turned false, negative stereotypes into true, positive ones, could it? It couldn’t be that all whites are not racists or that the American dream still lives?

I’m kind of amazed that no editor stopped him and said something about that — I just assumed that they were too exhausted after reading the previous droning paragraphs, which were mostly something about how everything is Hillary Clinton’s fault. But you’d think even a sympathetic editor would stop and pause at a recitation of white America’s crimes against humanity that culminates in blaming black people for lying there bleeding after centuries of oppression.

Let’s not forget the stereotyping of Asian-Americans, and using them as a club to beat down those blacks some more. There’s something to offend everyone in that mess!

Oblivious Shermer is busily excusing racism now

In response to a tweet about modern Nazis spouting off about racism and doing Nazi salutes, Michael Shermer tweets back:

You hear that, black Americans? If you push back against racism, it’s your fault when the Nazis come after you. Jews, be quiet unless you want to stir them up again. Stop it, troublemakers!

His timeline is currently full of tweets in which he disingenuously points out over and over again that gosh, things are so much better for black folk now — interracial marriage is allowed, white people say they don’t mind black families living near them, etc., etc., etc. If there is incremental improvement, well, that just means you’ve got nothing to complain about.

What an ass.

Excuses fit only for authoritarians

We’ve all heard about the disgraceful behavior of United Airlines and the Chicago police. I’m getting disgusted by the excuses made in the aftermath.

A few weeks ago, United made the news for kicking two girls off one of their flights because they were wearing leggings. United justified this because there were rules written down for United employees traveling on a pass, so a lot of people said that was OK, then — they were rules, after all, and rules must be obeyed.

Wait, why? Who made this rule, and for what reason? Presumably it’s because they have this corporate image that they want to enforce, so they’ve got this damn stupid rule written down by some prudish busybody — it’s certainly not for an objectively good reason, like safety — and now they insist on enforcing it, pointlessly, even if it is problematic for customers. And yet I saw people just accept the injustice because it was a rule.

Now likewise they have a rule that they can throw paying customers off the plane at the convenience of their employees and at the whim of a random number generator. People are doing the same thing! It’s a rule, therefore United has a right to abuse passengers who aren’t sufficiently obedient. Again, this is not a safety rule (if a passenger is endangering others, then yes, there should be an expectation of obedience and penalties for defying the airline), but one for the convenience of the corporation. They are permitted to act inhumanely in the service of purely capitalist gains.

And people accept that! Some, like Bill O’Reilly, even laugh at the video of the man being bloodied.

I don’t give a flying fuck if somewhere in United’s fine print they have written down that they get to club you senseless if they need your seat — it is an unjust rule because it prioritizes the convenience of an employee over the safety and health and rights of another human being. Having it written down does not make it right, it means that an immoral behavior is formally sanctioned in the corporate culture of United. That makes it worse.

Of course, there is even more heinous justifications. Would you believe journalists have rummaged in the victim’s past to find evidence of misbehavior? He was convicted of using his medical license to abuse prescription drugs in 2004. That’s bad, but not relevant — his punishment was to have his license to practice medicine suspended for ten years, a debt that has been paid. It does not mean that United, or anyone, is justified to punch him in the head any time they feel like it.

I find the callousness of big business disturbing, but find the willingness of too many Americans to condone it even more distressing.