The sad story of Laci Green

Emphasis on sad. I’ve been a fan of her work for years and years, and quite abruptly she has completely flipped from an ally and supporter of social justice to someone who is more concerned about defending harassers. It’s a terrifying reversal: how can somebody so completely change their perspective, and worse, how can they switch from a white hat to a black hat? Katelyn Burns has a very good summary, it’s especially useful because there are a lot of obscure alt-right YouTubers I’d never heard of before explained and defined.

How did she switch sides? It’s a familiar story to anyone who knows anything about religious cults. She got love-bombed. It was especially effective against someone who has a long history of empathy and willingness to listen to anyone.

In a series of videos, Green revealed that her shift was a result of “red pilling,” the term for a twisted Matrix-inspired recruitment process coined by men’s rights advocates, pick-up artists, and the “alt right.” The process involves a recruiter who attempts to position white supremacists as oppressed truth tellers while spinning phony racial and gender science as “free speech” that’s being trampled on by feminists and the political left.

I also learned something about YouTube.

Lindsay Amer, a queer YouTuber who has experienced response videos firsthand, explains:

“You see these anti-feminist YouTubers who gain hundreds of thousands of followers in under a year. I think there’s a lot of money in anti-feminism. The content is really easy to make and it doesn’t have to be high quality. Someone can just turn on a camera and rant and say something controversial and know that it’s going to get a ton of views. I see people who recut my videos with their bullying commentary added.”

Troublingly, up until recently, such videos were not only supported by YouTube, but incentivized. Because response videos are so easy to make, it was easy for reactionary YouTubers to churn out a lot of content, which YouTube then prioritized in an algorithm that favored prolific output, high view counts, and abundant comments — even if those comments were toxic. Gaming the very closely held secret of the YouTube algorithm became a de facto path to internet stardom, and the format was perfect for response-video creators. Even after changes to their algorithm in December of last year, YouTube has continued to discourage vloggers from preventing harassment — according to Amer, when users disable comments and the sidebar for other suggested videos, their content is less likely to be promoted by the algorithm, and their view counts plummet.

I had no idea. A couple of years ago, I shut down comments to my YouTube channel because I was seeing the opposite of love-bombing — I was constantly getting hate-bombed. The comments became useless because the swarms of anti-feminist trolls would barrel in and rage about feminists and throw in buckets of incoherent abuse no matter what the topic was…and there were multitudes of downvotes that would automatically appear within minutes of an hour-long video. Not only is there a simple-minded formula for gaining avid followers, but those same simple-minded, avid followers become a tool you can use to suppress other critical points of view.

YouTube is broken. It’s still broken. I don’t think Google is incentivized to fix it, either, and it’s become a reactionary breeding ground for assholes who don’t need to provide substantive discussion to become popular — they just need to repetitively echo the same hatreds over and over, reaffirming the prejudices of the lowest common denominator. As Anita Sarkeesian accurately said,

“You make your name on YouTube by making these dumbass videos that just say the same shit over and over again. I hate to give you attention because you’re a garbage human, whatever dude.”

Evergreen and bad allies

I keep getting asked to explain my position on the mess at Evergreen College. I’ve abstained so far because I roll my eyes at both sides. But OK, here goes…and here’s the background.

A bit of background: The “Day of Absence” is an Evergreen tradition that stretches back to the 1970s. As Mr. Weinstein explained on Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal, “in previous years students and faculty of color organized a day on which they met off campus — a symbolic act based on the Douglas Turner Ward play in which all the black residents of a Southern town fail to show up one morning.” This year, the script was flipped: “White students, staff and faculty will be invited to leave campus for the day’s activities,” reported the student newspaper on the change. The decision was made after students of color “voiced concern over feeling as if they are unwelcome on campus, following the 2016 election.”

Mr. Weinstein thought this was wrong. The biology professor said as much in a letter to Rashida Love, the school’s Director of First Peoples Multicultural Advising Services. “There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and under-appreciated roles,” he wrote, “and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away.” The first instance, he argued, “is a forceful call to consciousness.” The second “is a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself.” In other words, what purported to be a request for white students and professors to leave campus was something more than that. It was an act of moral bullying — to stay on campus as a white person would mean to be tarred as a racist.

Stop telling me that Weinstein is a wonderful progressive leftist. He talks the talk, but he doesn’t walk the walk. What I see here is a situation where, for decades, students and faculty of color have borne the burden of demonstrating their significance while everyone gives ’em a thumbs up and cheers and waves little equality flags. This time, the supporters were asked to do a little more, that they take on the effort for one day of actually demonstrating their support in a more concrete way, and Weinstein refused to do that.

His basic message was that he was a shitty ally. He wasn’t willing to do one thing that his minority colleagues had been doing for years.

His letter made it worse. He tried to claim the moral high ground, that his refusal was a principled stand against bullying. Nonsense. It was a statement that you people might have an interest in fighting racism, but he had no interest in making any small accommodation to join in that battle. He was the personification of the passive white middle class that allows racism to persist, and I can understand how people would be outraged at hearing that bullshit from a person who had presented himself as supportive.

But the protesters went too far after that. You don’t get to demand someone be fired for being a shitty ally — there are people who are much, much worse working on college campuses. Protest, yes; scorn the guy, yes; take him off your list of friendly, supportive faculty for sure. But nope, it’s not a firing offense. It is also not grounds for threatening violence, or even worse, threatening violence to his students.

I’ve thought about what I would do in Weinstein’s position, and it would be an easy decision: I would have joined in the protest, and announced it to my classes for that day. Professors do have responsibilities, though, which might have made me hesitate, and I’d have had to do some calculations to figure out what to do to accommodate the students and keep the class on track, and it would have involved extra work on my part, but this is something for which there is precedent and almost certainly a procedure at Evergreen.

I occasionally have to miss class. I missed three days this past year to give a talk in China, and conferences and invited lectures happen all the time for almost every faculty member. The policy here is that I have to give written notice to my administrative head, including my plan to cover the coursework for the students. That typically involves asking another faculty member to give a guest lecture (I’ve reciprocated for my colleagues), or a description of readings or other assigned work for students to do in my absence.

Doing that is routine and trivial. I have to do it several times a year (if these turned into frequent extended absences, of course, I’d have some ‘splainin’ to do and would be getting dressed down by the administration and my peers), and I’m sure Weinstein has been in similar situations himself. If we’re willing to do that for a science meeting, I have to wonder why Weinstein couldn’t do it to support students of color for a day. Priorities, I guess.

So, shitty ally exposed. Do protest and make your opinions of the guy known. Do not, however, demand his head on a platter and harass his students. I’m more on the side of protesters, but a few of them crossed a line I can’t support.

P.S. I have a fondness for Evergreen, and when I was looking for teaching positions it was high on my list. I even got to the point of having a phone interview with their biology committee about 18 years ago, but didn’t make the final cut — I was coming from the traditional Big State College and didn’t have the kind of interdisciplinary/small classroom experience they wanted (they said, or maybe I just sucked). I was disappointed, but finding a job at a small liberal arts college right after that made up for it.

At least she’s safe from second-hand smoke

Suddenly, all these videos of the Philando Castile shooting are being released after the murder cop got acquitted. This latest one is heartbreaking: it’s video of Castile’s fiancé, handcuffed (WHY? What did she do wrong, besides sit next to an innocent man getting violently slaughtered by a cop?), while her daughter tries to deal with the situation.

Mom, please stop cussing and screaming ’cause I don’t want you to get shooted.

In the earlier video, I noticed how both adults in the car reflexively used “sir” in just about every sentence to the asshole cop — I don’t think they wanted to get shooted either. Our police departments are relying on fear to cow the population, and it shows.

It’s been festering for a long time

Trump has just brought it to a head. Watch this young white man go on a tirade against black fellow citizens.

Shut up, slave! yelled the man, later identified as 23-year-old William Boucher. Do not talk to me!

Boucher also referred to the man as livestock and suggested he should be tagged with a bar code involving his Social Security number.

You’re disgusting, the man yells.

The argument spilled outside, where the dispute became violent.

Your children are disposable vermin! Boucher yells at one man, who is also videotaping him, and spits on the 30-year-old man and a 34-year-old woman.

The man shoves Boucher, who continues ranting at black bystanders.

Get on all fours right now! he yells. Get on all fours! Do not walk off on two legs! You don’t deserve to walk on two legs, vermin.

That’s the kind of contemptible attitude that it takes years to incubate: you need to get kids when they’re young and bring them up with those kinds of dehumanizing beliefs. It’s hard to teach kids a basic understanding of science, but what’s even harder, and isn’t usually taught in our STEM classes, is an appreciation of humanity.

This is one of those situations where we need more sociologists and psychologists. This country is just way out of whack.

Robert Price and the embarrassing wing of atheism

Add this one to your “atheism doesn’t make you rational” file: Robert Price being Robert Price again. A couple of years ago, he sparked controversy at an HP Lovecraft convention (he’s also a well known Lovecraft scholar as well as an atheist philosopher/theologian) by basically endorsing Lovecraft’s racism, and further using Lovecraft’s words to support racist policies in the US. Here are the comments he made at that time.

If we can manage to look past [Lovecraft’s] racism, we will manage to see something deeper and quite valid. Lovecraft envisioned not only the threat that science posed to our anthropomorphic smugness, but also the ineluctable advance of the hordes on non-western anti-rationalism to consume a decadent, euro-centric west.

Superstition, barbarism and fanaticism would sooner or later devour us. It appears now that we’re in the midst of this very assault. The blood lust of jihadists threatens Western Civilization and the effete senescent West seems all too eager to go gently into that endless night. Our centers of learning have converted to power politics and an affirmative action epistemology cynically redefining truth as ideology. Logic is undermined by the new axiom of the ad hominem. If white males formulated logic, then logic must be regarded as an instrument of oppression.

Lovecraft was wrong about many things, but not, I think, this one. It’s the real life horror of Red Hook.

Oy. White males invented logic? That’s mythic bullshit. And then to reference the Lovecraft story, The Horror at Red Hook, possibly his most blatantly racist story…to Lovecraft fans, that’s a real dog whistle.

At the time, Price denied the racism.

Having now read several posts from those who were offended by my remarks Thursday night at 1st Baptist, including several friends, I must say I am astonished and very grieved. I am amazed at how they misunderstood me. How can they think I was replicating HPL’s racism, that I was attacking Affirmative Action (didn’t they hear the word “epistemology”?), etc.?

How dare you think he was racist for reciting racist tropes? And how could you possibly think he was criticizing affirmative action?

Well, now he has removed all ambiguity with another racist essay. I have to comment on this one.

I call it the Trayvon Martyr Syndrome [That’s a rather offensive appropriation of a murdered black man, pretending it was some kind of psychological syndrome]. It is a wider phenomenon, and a particularly nefarious one. There had been substantial progress in putting racism behind us in America [No. There was progress in papering it over. Look up sundown towns, redlining, racial profiling, segregation. This stuff has left a historical legacy of discrimination. It ain’t over yet], thanks to the courage of great reformers and real martyrs like Dr. King [I’ve noticed a fondness for dead civil rights leaders among some racists trying to appear tolerant. King was hated by white folks in his time]. But the Obama administration (advised by Al Charlatan) cynically fomented race hate for cheap political advantage and set us back years in race relations [How? Cite one comment by Obama in which he advocated anything other than tolerance]. Who knows why? Well, the Left has successfully used the “Law of Attraction” [Does Price know that this isn’t a law, and it doesn’t work?] to manifest an ugly race-hate climate that didn’t exist until they conjured it into being by insisting it was real [So racism didn’t exist until Obama, and it’s all black people’s fault for making white people hate them?]. And it became real. Their cop-hatred [Yeah, getting shot by cops does tend to make one hate cops] and obnoxious demonstrations [Demonstrations and protests are supposed to annoy their targets; he’s annoyed that Black Lives Matter didn’t make racists comfortable with their racism], invading restaurants and rebuking diners for imagined racism and “white privilege,” had the predictable result: they had goaded the objects of their wrath into the very antagonism they had accused them of. [It’s all their fault for pointing out my racism!]

Or consider the tendency to defend black hooligans and criminals simply because they are fellow blacks, as if to call one a criminal amounts to indicting all African Americans. [No one is doing that, except the people who equate blackness with criminality.] The most idiotic example of this must surely be a black Leftist official in Baltimore claiming that to call anyone a “thug” is racist. Uh, you mean because there is an inherent link between “black” and “thug”? [Incorrect. Take a look at the news media, this is a shockingly common trope. If a black person is gunned down, there is an immediate attempt to tar their reputation with a search of their arrest record; being a murdered black man means it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’re going to get called a “thug” in the press. Murdered white men, no matter how guilty or heinous their crimes, become “troubled loners”] Who except you is saying that? It is you who are inviting the rest of us to think so!

[Wait for it, wait for it, you knew this was coming…]

The sheer absurdity of all this blather about systemic racism was obvious from the fact that white America had elected the first black President! [That a coalition of progressive white voters and minorities and women got together to elect a black man does not mean that all the other racists in the country were absolved; it also does not mean that the institutions that support racist policies suddenly evaporated]

A man who voted for Reagan and George W. Bush, wants to elect Sarah Palin, who praises Trump and voted for him, does not get to claim that because other people voted for Obama, racism does not exist. He’s walking talking writing raving evidence to the contrary.

The water in Flint, Michigan is still poisonous

I wonder if the problem is the administration of that city is packed with incompetent racists? Nah, that can’t be. Here’s one of those administrators with his own entirely rational explanation for the Flint water crisis.

Flint has the same problems as Detroit—fucking ni**ers don’t pay their bills, believe me, I deal with them, Phil Stair, sales manager for the Genesee County Land Bank said on May 26th during a conversation with environmental activist and independent journalist Chelsea Lyons in Flint.

You may gasp in disbelief, but there is a recording of the conversation. That’s his argument.

Read the whole thing.

Corruption in Flint runs deep; as do the racist undertones of its officials. Government officials, both elected and appointed, have a habit of blaming Flint’s problems on the poorest and most vulnerable. In reality, the families trying to get by in a dilapidated city suffer through rate hikes, water shutoffs and tax liens while the taxpayer-funded employees get raise after raise after raise.

Ken Ham, black person who is a pale shade of beige

Ken Ham is claiming that he doesn’t see color — that there is no such thing as a white person or a black person, and that he, goofy Australian bible-thumper, is not white. A scientist (well, a competent scientist) would say that the conventional clustering of traits associated with being black or white is artificial and does not align at all well with genuine biological groupings, but that is something different.

There is no genetic sequence unique to blacks or whites or Asians. In fact, these categories don’t reflect biological groupings at all. There is more genetic variation in the diverse populations from the continent of Africa (who some would lump into a “black” category) than exists in ALL populations from outside of Africa (the rest of the world) combined!

There are no specific racial genes. There are no genes that make blacks in the USA more susceptible to high blood pressure, just as there are no genes for particular kinds of cancers that can be assigned to only one racial grouping. There is no neurological patterning that distinguishes races from one another, nor are there patterns in muscle development and structure, digestive tracts, hand-eye coordination, or any other such measures.

But at the same time, the cultural construct of race is very real and has devastating effects on people. You cannot deny that American black people are socially handicapped by the color of their skin, just as American white people have benefitted immensely from history and policies that favored them.

… if you look across the USA you can see that there are patterns of racial difference, such as income inequalities, health disparities, differences in academic achievement and representation in professional sports. If one thinks that these patterns of racial differences have a biological basis, if we see them as “natural,” racial inequality becomes just part of the human experience (remember a book called The Bell Curve?). This fallacy influences people to see racism and inequality not as the products of economic, social, and political histories but more as a natural state of affairs.

OK? So it’s complicated. There are lineages that generate real genetic groups that do not correspond to folk notions of race, so the biological justifications for discrimination are bullshit; but race is also a categorization used to give one group privileges and another oppression. You don’t get to deny the existence of discrimination by race, just as you don’t get to claim biology gives you an excuse to deny the social effects of racist history.

That’s what Ken Ham and other people are trying to do with the color-blind fallacy: they want to sweep away the historical blame for biases and claim that no, they aren’t the recipients of all kinds of advantages from our racist history. There’s no legacy of oppression that we need to correct. We’re all the same! Except that some people just happen to get stopped more often by the police, are more frequent victims of police shootings, have inherited a history of poverty, and are targeted for voter suppression. But other than that, they’re all the same!

Ken Ham has a long and oblivious history on this issue. Here’s an opinion piece he wrote last year on this topic. It starts with a grain of truth and just gets weirder and weirder.

From a genetic standpoint, today’s scientists have abandoned the word “race” for humans — and so should everyone else. I urge President Obama, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and others to abandon the word “races” and use “people groups” instead — to emphasize we are all one race, one blood and one family, and get away from any racist connotations.

It’s a fact of science that all humans are the same basic color, just different shades. The main substance in our bodies that determines skin color is melanin. There are no truly “white” people or “black” people. Humans have different shades from light brown to very dark depending on how much and the type of melanin. It’s a fact that all humans are colored people. (By the way, albinism — a lack of the pigments — is a rare condition that can occur in all people groups.) I challenge the president and others currently weighing in on race matters that we are all colored people — just different shades of brown.

Note what’s fundamentally off about this piece: he’s telling black leaders, and only black leaders, to stop referring to race because he is actually the same color as they are. He isn’t; yes, all humans use melanin primarily as the pigmentation molecule, but we also are able to perceive difference in skin color, and we can and have chosen to use those differences to oppress certain groups.

This is a patent attempt to absolve himself of any vestige of white guilt, or any obligation to exert himself to correct it.

It’s a white guy telling black people, Hey, I’ll make you a deal: if you pretend my skin color hasn’t given me any advantages, I’ll pretend your skin color doesn’t give you any disadvantages. What a deal! It’s only fair!

And really, Ham has been going on about demanding that we ignore racism for a long time. Here’s an article from 2007 in which he asks, Are there really different races?. His answer is no, because the Bible doesn’t say it.

He also loves to quote mine biologists.

Darwinian evolution was (and still is) inherently a racist philosophy, teaching that different groups or “races” of people evolved at different times and rates, so some groups are more like their apelike ancestors than others. Leading evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould claimed, “Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1859, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory.”

No, first of all, evolutionary biology does not teach that different races evolved at different times and rates. Racism teaches that, and some biologists try to justify racism with biology. That’s the point of that quote: it’s not that Darwin invented racism — medieval pogroms and colonialism and slavery all long preceded Darwin — but that after Darwin, racists believed that they now had biological arguments to defend their beliefs, and those increased once they found ways to abuse the Darwinian rationale. And he doesn’t seem to note the irony in citing a godless, non-Christian scientist who is berating bad abuses of good science.

Ham’s whole essay is a long, rambling mess, in which he tries to argue that because the Bible doesn’t explicitly endorse racism against dark-skinned people, Christianity is absolved of all guilt. Again, let’s just close our eyes to reality: let’s pretend there were no Christian ministers interpreting the Bible to justify slavery, or arguing that the Curse of Ham (no relation) meant that all Africans were condemned to lives of servility and inferiority.

Also bizarrely, he tries to argue that the old miscegenation laws had no religious basis: the Bible only prohibits Christians from marrying non-Christians, which is OK, but doesn’t use the language of race. Right. The Bible, which promotes the Hebrews as his chosen people and sends them marching across Palestine committing genocide, did not have any kind of ethnic bigotry in it because it does not identify the people by the color of their skin.

But, you know, I’m an old white dork arguing with another old white dork about the legitimacy of ignoring the history of racism and the real effects it has on people’s lives. Maybe I should shut up and get the opinions of black people (oh, excuse me, I mean people who have just a slightly different shade of melanin-tinted skin than I do, but which entail no historical and current injustices).

Sincere Kirabo:

Identity politics are a form of political engagement that highlights issues and perspectives relevant to shared aspects of an identity. “Identity” is based on cultural context, social history, and lived experiences. Harris’s assessment of identity politics is suspect for three reasons.

First, it’s impossible to ignore his appeal to “Homo sapien,” which is a sly way of asserting “all lives matter” in the face of noticeable, disproportionate treatment of groups of people. How fortunate must one be to utter this without a hint of irony? Within the context of this discussion, his statement is akin to declaring “I don’t see color. I just see people.” Just like the idea of colorblindness is an act of racial avoidance, so too is the belief that “We’re all just people.”

This sounds cool in theory, but we don’t live in a utopia where every conceivable human identity across all economic, social, and political class barriers is unappraised. Until that day arrives, one can’t ignore that some groups of people are less valued than others based on gradations of identity.

Sikivu Hutchinson:

At a recent teacher training I conducted on creating safe spaces for LGBTQI high school students, a teacher asked why it was necessary to “call attention” to issues of sexuality and difference when LGBTQI students were already marginalized? Shouldn’t educators just treat everyone with the same dignity and respect “regardless” of sexual orientation? Educational justice activists have long argued that the colorblind ethos of classroom instruction disingenuously ignores how the values and mores of the dominant culture indoctrinate us into binary norms. In her book Other People’s Children, educational justice writer Lisa Delpit argues that mainstream classrooms are structured around an implicit “culture of power” which disenfranchises students of color. Consequently, a “treat everyone with dignity and respect” approach that isn’t based on a critical consciousness about how the dominant culture works undermines intersectional identities. In the classroom, everyday assumptions about interpersonal and romantic relationships “invisibilize” queer students. Classroom discussions about traditional straight families headed by heterosexual parents and caregivers perpetuate the idea that good, normal family units are straight family units. Assumptions that everyone has been brought up in a conventional family structure based on a universal nuclear family norm that is uncritically faith-based, brand queer, foster, homeless and secular youth as other.

Anthony Pinn has a whole book on this subject: When Colorblindness Isn’t the Answer: Humanism and the Challenge of Race. He explains the way white supremacy wants to perpetuate the illusion that this is not a problem.

we look for ways to speak to this injustice, to force change to a deadly system because “Black Lives Matter”. We want everyone to know this, act on it, and establish new social-political dynamics that make this recognition a safeguard against abuse. Of course, in doing this work we fall back on strategies drawn from the civil rights movement — march, make noise, call attention to circumstances and challenge the moral consciousness of the nation. I, like so many, benefited from this 20th century strategy, but it can’t be denied that the fundamental logic of life in the United States hasn’t changed as a consequence of those civil rights movement efforts.

That is the genius of white supremacy: it mutates and transforms, and it gives up a little in order to present the illusion of fundamental change. It finds ways to blame victims for the violence perpetuated against them. No, white supremacy and its child, white privilege, are the source and the cause. There is a desperate effort to find something in the past of the victim that will justify murder as the safeguarding of order and wellbeing. Yet, nothing can sanction the murder of black men and women whose crimes seem ill defined at best.

You know, maybe the opinions of a guy who thinks the earth is only 6,000 years old aren’t the product of rational, evidence-based thinking.

Jim Watson needs to retire to a nice, remote beach somewhere far from everyone else

Dr. James Watson, Cold Spring Harbor, NY, 7.23.06

It’s long past due. He’s been shooting himself in the foot and then stuffing it in his mouth to gnaw on it for decades. He was in the news for his racist, sexist views ten years ago.

The article is like a summary of Watson’s greatest gaffes.

In 1997, he told a British newspaper that a woman should have the right to abort her unborn child if tests could determine it would be homosexual. He later insisted he was talking about a “hypothetical” choice which could never be applied. He has also suggested a link between skin colour and sex drive, positing the theory that black people have higher libidos, and argued in favour of genetic screening and engineering on the basis that “stupidity” could one day be cured. He has claimed that beauty could be genetically manufactured, saying: “People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would great.”

Zuska has another one.

He smiles. “Rosalind is my cross,” he says slowly. “I’ll bear it. I think she was partially autistic.” He pauses for a while, before repeating the suggestion, as if to make it clear that this is no off-the-cuff insult, but a considered diagnosis. “I’d never really thought of scientists as autistic until this whole business of high-intelligence autism came up. There is probably no other explanation for Rosalind’s behaviour.

At that time I thought he was a horrible old man but I argued that he ought to have the right to speak freely…and he does. He speaks very freely. But what he says is neither intelligent nor insightful, and he doesn’t deserve respect for his stupid opinions. Especially when tolerance just means he never learns and keeps doing the same thing over and over again.

Now the Carl Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois has cancelled an invitation to speak.

A research institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign agreed to host James Watson, a Nobel laureate whose work is credited with discovering the structure of DNA, to give a lecture there. But the event was quickly called off amid faculty concerns about whether it was appropriate to host someone like Watson, whose statements have been widely condemned as racist.

Watson has made numerous controversial comments over the years and also has been condemned for sexist and homophobic statements.

But his comments on race have led many to say he should be shunned.

In a 2007 interview, he said that he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours — whereas all the testing says not really.” Further, he said that while people hope that all groups are equal, “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.” (He also said that some black people are smart, and has apologized, although many question the sincerity of his apology.)

I had dinner with Watson at a small restaurant in New York several years ago. It was the most uncomfortable two hours of my life. All he wanted to talk about was race, and the conversation was all about our geneaology. He asked what my ancestry was, and when I told him half Scandinavian, half Scot/English/Irish he immediately judged me acceptable company, and started explaining my personality to me. Scandinavians are intelligent but cold and aloof, and share the same problems that the Japanese have: they are among the smartest people in the world, but they lack the passion and drive to accomplish great things. You know who may not be as intrinsically intelligent, but make up for it with their aggressive need to get things done? The Scots/Irish! Best people on the planet! The perfect combination of ambition and smarts!

I think he thought he was flattering me, but I just wanted to sink into my chair and down through the floor and drop into a subway tube. Heck, dropping into a sewer line would be preferable.

It was difficult to get a word in edgewise with this guy, but after that pronouncement he looked at me expectantly — I could tell there was a question he wanted me to ask. So I obliged, knowing exactly what the answer would be. “So, Jim, what’s your ancestry?”

“Scots/Irish!” he cackled.

And then he regaled the table with tales of brave explorers and pioneers and soldiers, all his people. I tried to strike up a conversation with his wife, instead, who seemed very nice and a little distressed at her husband’s mania.

So, yes, I’ve heard more than enough of Jim Watson. I think we all ought to be a bit Watsoned out at this point, and I don’t see any purpose in inviting him to give public lectures anymore. You never know: he might launch into a fact-free fairy tale about having dark skin, being fat, and being over-sexed as linked properties caused by exposure to the sun and living in tropical countries, illustrated with a slide show of women in bikinis.

He really did that.

I’m just surprised that any professional organization would be so unaware of his reputation that they’d invite him in the first place.