The EO Wilson saga continues into the depths

Old letters from and to EO Wilson were donated to the Library of Congress after his death, and now historians are digging into them. To say that what they reveal about the distinguished environmentalists views on race is disappointing is an understatement. It seems he was frequently and quietly supporting the ideas of horrible racists like Philippe Rushton and others. It seems that the criticism of Wilson’s racism, which had the “scientific” racists up in arms recently was not misplaced. What a way to poison your own legacy!

There is a battery of letters from Wilson endorsing racists and racism. He seemed to think that a black-white difference in IQ was sufficient to justify blaming it on heredity, when defending Rushton.

Wilson’s letter continues, “To be sure, you and Professor Cain have found fault with Professor Rushton’s writings on race, but some noted specialists in human genetics and cognitive psychology have judged them to be sound and significant.” Wilson asks Vanderwolf to consider a poll that “found that a large minority of specialists of human genetics and testing believe in a partial hereditary basis for black-white average IQ differences.” Further, Wilson states that the National Association of Scholars (a right-wing advocacy group) is soon to publish an analysis “concluding that academic freedom is the issue in this case and that Rushton’s academic freedom is threatened.” The National Association of Scholars remains actively involved today in fighting affirmative action in higher education admissions and against the teaching of critical race theory.

Wow. That sounds familiar. Not allowing racists to publish bad science is an attack on academic freedom! The people who oppose these racist ideas are Leftist McCarthyites.

Wilson’s aforementioned July 1990 letter to Professor Vanderwolf, while ultimately inconsequential, calls attention to a message of support for Rushton from the National Association of Scholars through their publication Academic Questions. What Wilson does not mention is that Wilson himself solicited support for Rushton from the National Association of Scholars in a letter to its founder Stephen Balch on November 6, 1989 (box 143 folder 10). On December 5, 1989, Wilson writes to Rushton, copying Balch, with the following message: “I am very heartened by the response of the National Association of Scholars (Academic Questions) to your case… Much as they like, your [Rushton’s] critics simply will not be able to convict you of racism, and there will come a day when the more honest among them will rue the day they joined this leftward revival of McCarthyism.”

The only reason Wilson was less vocal about his racism while he was alive was that he was a bit chickenshit about his beliefs, and he was afraid of two fellow Harvard professors.

In Wilson’s September 1987 letter declining to sponsor this paper, he states, “You have my support in many ways, but for me to sponsor an article on racial differences in the PNAS would be counterproductive for both of us.” He recounts an incident of being attacked for his views and continues, “I have a couple of colleagues here, Gould and Lewontin, who would use any excuse to raise the charge again. So I’m the wrong person to sponsor the article, although I’d be glad to referee it for another, less vulnerable member of the National Academy.”

How was he vulnerable?

There is no reason for a tenured Harvard professor to fear the criticisms of other professors — all they could have possibly done was scathingly expose the fallacies in his arguments, and maybe turn the attention of the media against him. If he had any confidence in his racist ideas, he should have been willing to discuss them. You know, that free speech thing. He preferred to keep his endorsements on the down-low, though, perhaps because his understanding of genetics was actually not particularly impressive.

I remember the big battles between Gould/Lewontin and Wilson, though, and to be honest, I thought they were a bit much. I liked Ed Wilson’s support for the environment, I didn’t know how deeply his racism ran, and Gould and Lewontin seemed a bit…mean. But now that I am seeing the inside story, it’s clear that they weren’t mean enough. Dump more buckets of water on Wilson’s head!

While Wilson was cautious to rarely mention race publicly, Davis clearly had no such reservations. Davis was a professor at Harvard Medical School who was an outspoken opponent of affirmative action, particularly when it came to Black students earning admission to Harvard. Wilson’s papers reveal a close relationship with Davis (Box 50, 2 folders, Box 51, 6 folders), finding common ground and supporting each other against criticism leveled by Richard Lewontin.

Davis frequently had Wilson’s back, especially throughout Wilson’s most high-profile controversy: the debate with Lewontin and Gould, who were outspoken and relentless critics of Wilson’s Human Sociobiology. By Wilson’s own account in the previously quoted September 1987 letter to Rushton, the two Harvard colleagues and critics had a chilling effect on his ability to support Rushton’s race science. One might wonder whether Wilson would have been far bolder, like Davis, without constant pressure from scientists like Lewontin and Gould.

This feud is well documented and has been the subject of much discussion about the nature of politics and ideology among scientists. But for Davis and Wilson, the “correct side” of the debate was obvious. In a letter to Davis (box 51, folder 5), Wilson provided some commentary about their “favorite anti-racists of the Left.” Wilson pontificated that arguing for equity among groups of people was ideologically similar to racism, adding the evocative phrase “my way of putting it would be that anti-racism is the last refuge of scoundrels.”

AAAAAARGH. What an asshole. I won’t be polite about Wilson in the future.

While EO Wilson has just taken a nose dive in my esteem, I can at least see that two of my heroes, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin, have substantially risen in my appreciation.

Wilson should have stuck with ants, and if he was concerned about his posthumous reputation, he should have had all of his papers burned. They’re damning. I guess he was so racist he didn’t realize how racist his letters were!

DILLIGAF about defending the police?

Oh, look, I learned a new acronym. Handy!

There’s a pointless wrangle going on in this thread about the slogan “Defund the police”, which CripDyke also addresses reasonably on the Pervert Justice blog. DILLIGAF, people. ACAB. Defund the police, whatever that means to you. Change is necessary. That’s where the focus ought to be, not on the pedantry of how the demand is phrased, but recognizing the reality of how awful the police are in this country.

For example, here’s the story of the NYPD police squad rousting black teenagers on Halloween, even hitting one of them with their car. A civilian review board found that the police were out of line, so the police voided their conclusion and said they’d handle it entirely internally. These are the kinds of people we’re looking at.

One of the officers, the report noted, was wearing a sweatshirt with a logo of the Punisher, a Marvel character who kills lawbreakers, which is popular with cops and white nationalists. The sweatshirt also had a blue line over the American flag and the acronym DILLIGAF. (“Do I Look Like I Give a Fuck.”) The officer told investigators he hadn’t known the meaning of the logo or the acronym on his sweatshirt.

Isn’t that charming. That’s the face of the police they are proud to present.

You might wonder what’s happened to the bad cops. Here you go:

Officer Christopher Brower drove into the boy, according to the report. Officer Christopher Digioia wore the Punisher sweatshirt and is the one officer still facing a disciplinary trial, for allegedly swearing at the teens. A search of their respective CCRB files shows they were also disciplined for another case together. Investigators found that, in April 2019, about six months before the Halloween incident, the two had refused to provide their names or badge numbers to a civilian. The NYPD penalized them for that with “instructions.”

The precinct commander who the CCRB concluded oversaw the wrongful arrests is Inspector Megan O’Malley. She told investigators she believed the arrests were justified because the boys ran and one had dropped a kitchen knife. O’Malley has since been promoted and now heads a precinct in midtown Manhattan.

The officer who, the report said, first ordered the boys to be stopped and then pointed a gun at one of them is Lt. John Dasaro. He told investigators he had been worried that the boy was armed. Dasaro was moved to work at the internal affairs unit that investigates use of force against civilians.

It’s not just big city problems. Here’s the story of Brookside, Alabama, a little tiny town like a model Mayberry.

The town of 1,253 just north of Birmingham reported just 55 serious crimes to the state in the entire eight year period between 2011 and 2018 – none of them homicide or rape. But in 2018 it began building a police empire, hiring more and more officers to blanket its six miles of roads and mile-and-a-half jurisdiction on Interstate 22.

By 2020 Brookside made more misdemeanor arrests than it has residents. It went from towing 50 vehicles in 2018 to 789 in 2020 – each carrying fines. That’s a 1,478% increase, with 1.7 tows for every household in town.

The growth has come with trouble to match. Brookside officers have been accused in lawsuits of fabricating charges, using racist language and “making up laws” to stack counts on passersby. Defendants must pay thousands in fines and fees – or pay for costly appeals to state court – and poorer residents or passersby fall into patterns of debt they cannot easily escape.

“Brookside is a poster child for policing for profit,” said Carla Crowder, the director of Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice, a nonprofit devoted to justice and equity. “We are not safer because of it.”

Defund the police. Does anyone want to argue that at least Brookside is one place that needs savage cuts to police funding? Anyone? They expanded the police force ten fold, and the town wants to increase it even more. Look at what they have now!

This is indefensible. Defunding is the answer.

I think I’ve crossed some threshold

Either that, or advertising is becoming increasingly desperate. Every morning now I get dozens of emails from “company representatives” telling me they have wonderful opportunities to partner with some ad agency or other by putting their custom ads on Freethoughtblogs, or Pharyngula, or my YouTube channel (the latter is odd, I’m a very tiny fish in that sea, hardly worth bothering with). I ignore them all. It isn’t happening. The frequency of these requests keep going up, and I don’t understand it.

Either I’m far more popular than I think — my general experience with the internet is that I get far more hatred than appreciation — or capitalism is broke and is scrabbling for every penny they can find. My ego favors the former, but my intellect is hoping it’s the latter.

Oh, relatedly: I’m getting a lot of first-time commenters asking to be approved. It’s the same dilemma, hoping that it’s because they really like me, but suspecting that it’s just trolls trying to sneak in so they can vomit up more hatred. I approve them anyway, because honestly, being the janitor and cleaning up the foulness the trolls throw around is both satisfying and trivially easy.

The problem is all the qualified people have Imposter Syndrome

I think Marcus Ranum just diagnosed my problem.

I am so full of anger and hatred that it’s 3:00am and I can’t sleep.

Hey, that’s my problem! I just checked my dipstick, and yep, I’m overflowing with bile. No wonder I’m waking up in the middle of the night.

What’s making the bitter gall flow? It’s similar to what annoys me: Joe Rogan and the whole elaborate pile of bullshit that is the current ladder to success. Rogan is just one symptom, but hoo boy, his recent not-pology pushed all my buttons, too.

Then, Rogan made his elaborate not-pology, basically saying that he’s just a dumb jock, and he’s a curious guy who likes to interview trolls. Basically, he’s pulling the Oprah excuse, “I didn’t create ‘Doctor’ Phil, I just uh… promoted him and handed him my microphone. He’s the grifter, not me!” Everyone is playing the same song, and it’s edging perilously close to the “free speech” defense. You know, that one? It’s usually followed around by its nasty little cousin “Both sides”. And that’s where I have to stop and call ‘bullshit’ on the whole thing.

It’s grifters all the way up.

We have to be a lot less forgiving of the bullshit, “I am just trying to learn…” dodge. Let me speak as someone who used to teach (fairly well-reviewed and popular!) classes around the world: I would not give a 1 hour lecture on any topic whatsoever without developing the expertise, first. It usually took me most of a day to write any given 1 hour presentation and I already knew my topic. If someone offered me $1 mil to do a talk on virology, sure, I would do it but it’d be basically a wad of “this paper says this and this professor says that and isn’t it all cool?” That’s being a cheerleader, not an expert, but I’d take the $1 mil. Anyone who is trying to have a public conversation about any given topic, whatever, owes their audience the simple attention to detail to absorb the supporting knowledge necessary to have the conversation. That’s why I have to hoist another great big “fuck Joe Rogan” flag – he had Jordan Peterson on his show and simply batted the bullshit-ball back and forth; that tells me that he (and his handlers) didn’t do the simplest, most basic research, to figure out that Jordan Peterson is a sociopathic compulsive liar who doesn’t even bother to get his facts straight in the field he professes; never mind the other fields: the guy is omni-wrong. Interviewing Jordan Peterson is not the time to play dumb jock, it’s the time to pull out the verbal knife. That is the only way to get these people off the mainstream media: make them walk off the stage with the rhetorical equivalent a fat lip and a bootprint on the seat of their pants. Any “interviewer” who can’t hold their own against a bullshit artist is, ipso facto, a bullshit artist themself. Or they’re not qualified to hold a mic.

Right. I’m giving a one-hour lecture today, on a subject I’m familiar with and have been teaching for a couple of decades, and I still have to sweat over it for a few hours, reviewing material, trying to figure out better ways to present the topic, thinking ahead to how it will fit in the rest of the curriculum, putting in late nights and early mornings on the class. I can’t get up to the lectern and bloviate with a fellow bullshitter for an hour. Where’s my million dollars?

And seriously, is Rogan even worth the hundred million dollars Spotify paid him? He doesn’t bring any expertise to the table. Just go down to the local bar and offer the motormouth (there’s always one) $50 and a case of beer to sit in front of a microphone. Oh, right: he’s paid to bring his custom-built audience of artisanal stupid people along. That’s his value-added.

Oops. Whoopi Goldberg just got suspended for two weeks over her Holocaust remarks. Black woman gets stronger corporate response than dumb jock, news at 11.

Welp, scratch that charity off my list

World Wildlife Fund UK just made the most bone-headed announcement. As a supposedly environment-friendly organization, you’d think they’d know that the most environmentally unsound investment you could make is in blockchain and NFTs, but that’s what they’re doing — selling NFTs.

I don’t believe that claim that “each transaction has the equivalent carbon emissions of a glass of tap water”. It’s built on a lie.

This was an enlightening response.

That’s the way of it. NFTs are hopelessly confusing and complicated, but there’s always some enthusiastic tech-bro who wants to see his personal investment validated, so he proselytizes fanatically and convinces a befuddled management that this really is the way to get more funding for their cash-strapped organization (and charities are always cash-strapped, and so are good marks for this kind of scheme).

Have you got a passionate NFT-proponent working for you? Fire ’em. You see someone on Facebook or Twitter with an NFT avatar? Block ’em.

I despised Bill Maher before it was cool to hate him

I guess the Left has moved towards me, then. Bill Maher is now claiming that, because right-wing Fox News has said the Democrats ought to make Maher a presidential candidate (I’m sure his bloated ego loved that), the Left has left him. So on a recent show he defended that endorsement from right-wing loonies by trying to argue that no, the Democrats are the loony ones. Yeah, right, our center-right political party is far crazier than the party that has embraced the anti-democracy racist misogynist position. He trots out a series of headlines from the Wall Street Journal and Forbes to prove that Democrats lack all common sense. It’s painful to listen to, especially since he has an audience that whoops and hollers to every stupid point he makes.

The solution: watch it with Dusty Smith who pauses it to take apart his every claim.

Man, Maher has always been every well-off white guy who thinks its funny when someone questions his sense of entitlement. I never cared much for him, and even disliked his atheist movie, Religulous.

Interesting. After posting this, I did my usual morning cleanup of the comments section, and what do I find? Our chronic homophobic/transphobic/misogynistic/antisemitic bigoted troll had erupted overnight, dumping 52 comments in various places, all totally uncreative, repetitive garbage accusing people of being gay. Everything from “seanbf” has been cleaned up now, but the curious thing is…he was inspired by Bill Maher. He kept citing that Maher segment above, declaring that Maher was correct, he loved Bill Maher. Good company.