The New College Protest

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Last week, Charles Murray, a writer and scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank, was shouted off the stage before giving a presentation at Middlebury College, a small liberal-arts college in Middlebury, Vermont. After the talk was relocated to a different location, Murray, faculty, and staff from the college were physically assaulted by protesters. Allison Stanger, a member of the political-science department who conducted the Q&A with Murray, was hospitalized for injuries and diagnosed with a concussion.

Murray, who holds a Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the author of The Bell Curve (1994), which finds correlations between intelligence and success, and Coming Apart (2012), which discusses the polarization of communities in the United States. His latest book, By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission, urges Americans to stem governmental overreach. Murray’s statements about race and intelligence, in particular, have garnered extensive criticism, though Murray has repeatedly denied that his views are racist, arguing that his ideas have been wildly mischaracterized.

More here.

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133 thoughts on “The New College Protest

  1. The research on this article nearly destroyed me. Totally exhausted. I’ll be back later today to answer any questions and to resume blogging…

  2. Congrats on the article. The NYT also had a good series of comments from students.

    What I’m finding troubling about the coverage is that some of it (including the NYT editorial) elides the physical attacks after the interview, by a small number of people, with the nonviolent (though loud and disruptive) protest by the hundreds of students who showed up. The first is scary and terrible and obviously a crime, and given that some criminals were masked, premeditated and not something that just got out of hand. The second is something of debateable value, but not a crime. (Setting off fire alarms is a crime and should be fined heavily, as it is in the dorms where – my students tell me – it happens all of the time.)

    Anyone who assaults anyone else should be liable to prosecution and every bit of criticism that’s being levelled at them. But protesters who shout down someone they believe shouldn’t be allowed to speak are not criminals. We can debate about whether it was the right thing to do, but I think we’re heading back to the 60s, where college students are going to stop being polite, sedate, good listeners on issues like racism.

    1. Going on record as agreeing with this comment.

      You wrote: ” I think we’re heading back to the 60s, where college students are going to stop being polite, sedate, good listeners on issues like racism.”

      Oh lord, I hope so. I basically begged my students in class yesterday to disagree with me.

    2. I’d actually like to see them become good debaters on such issues.

      Two things worry me about protesting in the age of Trump (which, god knows, is necessary). 1) the availability of guns, as noted below and 2) the tendency of our young to think that feelings of anger/umbrage/hurt shouted loudly are an adequate substitute for debate and persuasion.

      We are at a place in our country where we need to bridge divides – shouting other people down is juvenile, cowardly and counter-productive. So while making so much noise the speaker can’t be heard is not a crime as such, it’s an aggressive act against free speech and debate.

    3. Shouting down people you disagree with may or not be criminal, depending on the circumstances, but it is always utterly incompatible with the values of liberalism and free expression. It may be, however, that the tenured radicals on the university faculties will succeed in mobilizing their young acolytes to destroy liberal values on campus.

      1. If you think tenured radicals are producing the most serious attack on the First Amendment these days, you just aren’t paying attention or are grinding an ax.

        I used to wonder if at some point it would be possible for conservatism to become something but an unusually wordy branch of white supremacy. Now I’ve stopped caring.

      2. I don’t any venues but universities where comedians refuse to perform. I don’t know any venues but universities where firebombs are thrown to prevent people from speaking. I don’t know any venues but universities where people end up in emergency rooms because of their association with an unpopular speaker.

      3. Really? Call me when they start shooting random Asian guys at universities instead of when some comedians are butthurt.

      4. Trump’s election and Bannon in the White House have convinced me that there are a set of ideas that you shouldn’t be able to express without separating yourself from polite society and that protests, up to and including civil disobedience, are reasonable means to enforce with separation.

      5. Call me when the guy who shot two Asians is getting federal grants and a federal tax exemption.

    4. af said:

      “.But protesters who shout down someone they believe shouldn’t be allowed to speak are not criminals.”

      I haven’t caught up with the thread–but like heck it’s not a crime.

      At the minimum, it’s disturbing the peace.

  3. Yeah, is this like the 60s or is this something totally different? The Harvard prof that I talked to thought that this new stuff is different. That’s my next project. I’m going to interview a bunch of old 60s college activists and ask them what they think.

    But I totally need a couple of days off first.

  4. I’m going to object to the characterization of the Bell Curve as “which finds correlations between intelligence and success.” The studies by Lubinski and others on identification of talented youth using intelligence testing and the subsequent success of those individuals is a study of measured intelligence and its correlation with success (though one can certainly find flaws in that study, as well). Murray’s book, though, is also about race and gender and intelligence and includes dangerous and biased statements asserted as though they were a professional consensus.

    I know your article isn’t about Murray’s Bell Curve, but, it is relevant to the disruption of his speech. And, like af, I think we have to be careful to differentiate between the peaceful and violent protests.

    1. Aside from that, which is correct, the way people who like Murray use “correlation” makes it pointless to treat their research as somehow independent of prejudice. Lots of things correlate, strongly or weakly, causally or spuriously, significantly or not. If the correlation somehow links black or poor people with a negative trait, it’s repeated and magnified until it can be used as a defining trait of whoever they want to ignore/demonize/whatever. If the correlation links black or poor people with a positive trait, or white people with a negative one, then they either ignore it or do the science-stuff to understand the correlation.

      It’s the same thing Gould talked about in “The Mismeasure of Man” and it’s been mugs game to play it by treating Murray and such as neutral “science.”

      1. Yep. It’s modern phrenology & scientific racism.

        I also want to know when “I believe in Aryan superiority and that women are the weaker sex” became speaking truth to power. I love it how white supremacists make out like they’re being silenced because people don’t want to hear THE TRUTH, rather than, the last time we let these ideas run rampant we had the largest-scale genocide ever documented and collectively decided we wanted to be better than that.

        Also, the science is atrocious. But in general, studies that tell rich white men what they want to hear are always lauded, no matter how bad and dishonest the actual research is.

      1. Well, it is sort of peaceful-er than hitting their cars, breaking windows, and pulling their hair. So there’s that. Actually, Murray, with whom I feel some solidarity as a fellow follicularly-challenged American, is kind of exempt from having his hair pulled…

  5. I have been following the UW shooting incident closely. The line from your article, “In January, a man was shot at the University of Washington outside a presentation by Yiannopoulos” might mislead. The individual involved in the shooting (now publicly identified as Marc Hokoana) is a pro gun activist. He was at the protest to attend Yiannopoulos’s speech on UW’s campus, armed. Bringing guns on campus is against the university code of conduct, but is not illegal. Hokoana stated that he shot (as reported in a police affidavit) an unarmed anti-Yiannopoulos protester (who was not a student, and was attempting to disrupt the Yiannopoulos incident). The unarmed victim was seriously injured and is still recovering. Hokoana waited 3+ hours after the shooting to report the incident to the police and, in the meantime, his phone was completely erased. There are other videos of the incident that are being reviewed by police. The investigation has been slow running, and the name of the individual involved in the shooting incident only recently released.

    The Yiannopoulos/Hokoana incident has made me fearful that we will see more serious violence at these protests, perpetrated by those who carry guns.

  6. If the Middlebury administrators were serious about protecting free expression, they would impose sanctions at least as severe as the Yale administration imposed when fraternity pledges marched through campus chanting “No means yes! Yes means anal!” or as severe as the U.Va. administration imposed in response to the “Jackie” story. But I’m guessing they won’t do anything but wring their hands.

    1. Truly ridiculous suggestion, that sanctions against protesting a speaker, even by shouting him down should be equivalent to sanctions against 1) suggesting that “no means yes” (which is a threat of rape) or 2) unreported rape in front of witnesses, which is what the Jackie story was, when the sanctions were imposed.

      The assault on the Middlebury professor, of course, should be treated as an assault.

  7. I have no idea if Murray is a racist or a sloppy social scientist, because I haven’t read that book. I asked him if he was a white supremacist, anti-women and anti-gay as the students at Middlebury charged. He laughed and said no. He said that I should ask his friend, Andrew Sullivan, if he’s anti-gay. He defended himself on the race charge, but I can’t evaluate his claim fairly because I don’t know anything about the topic and I didn’t read his book and I haven’t heard the other side. I was just there to ask him about the protest and his impressions of the event.

    I did read the Fishtown book about America becoming increasingly isolated in our bubbles. Seems like one possible explanation for why we all missed predicting a Trump win. That was what he was supposed to talk about at Middlebury. Seems like an interesting discussion. I woud have gone to it.

    I’m an old fashioned JS Mill type of girl. The best way to combat a bad idea is to let it out there. Then, you use logic to refute the argument. This enables other people to learn and to change their minds. It also strengthens your position. I find censorship to be depressing, anti-intellectual, and boring. I think that universities should be places of debate — even harsh, angry, critical debate — but ideas have to fly about and be free and sometimes crash into each other.

    The students’ behavior wasn’t criminal. It was stupid.

    1. I have examined Murray’s book and a lot of commentary as well. His book does propose racist/sexist ideas by simplifying complex ideas and attributing differences to race and heredity. It is a classic use of unreliable/unsupported IQ theory to support social norms that stabilize privilege and resemble to a great extent similar arguments that have been since science became important enough to be co opted in to one of the tools of justifying the privileged outcomes of the ruling class. The current scientific consensus is that race itself is meaningless, and that its roots as a concept may have been invented for what we could call racist purposes.

      You can get a quick impression of the Bell Curve (and the contrasting views) from the New Republic: https://newrepublic.com/article/120887/race-genes-and-iq-new-republics-bell-curve-excerpt, as well as commentary there. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s page on Charles Murray also gives a cited summary of his ideas.

      From the Bell Curve:
      “The professional consensus is that the United States has experienced dysgenic pressures throughout either most of the century (the optimists) or all of the century (the pessimists). Women of all races and ethnic groups follow this pattern in similar fashion. There is some evidence that blacks and Latinos are experiencing even more severe dysgenic pressures than whites, which could lead to further divergence between whites and other groups in future generations.” (this is classic racist eugenics — and certainly not any kind of professional consensus).

      Did he seriously use a “some of my best friends are . . . ” argument? Ick (and classic). But, I do believe that Murray has said that Republicans should accept gay marriage as a done deal (which is not exactly the same as not being anti-gay, but is something).

      As you say, your article was not about the Bell Curve, but Charles Murray is about the Bell Curve. I would not have gone to hear Murray speak (as I would not go to hear Yiannopoulos speak).

      I can’t say that I fully agree that the way to combat a bad idea is to let out there. To me, it appears that when a bad idea is out there, that those who don’t wish to fight it will sometimes rely on an to inability to evaluate the evidence for themselves in order to avoid understanding that it is a bad idea, especially when it is a complex idea. We run into these problems with intelligent design, racist theories of human differences, climate change, vaccine safety, . . . .

      And, the really scary part, is that our brains might be designed to work this way and that trying to combat the false information might reinforce it.

      1. The Bell Curve is about as respected in the mainstream social sciences as David Irving’s work is by holocaust historians. And of course if you ask him if he’s racist and sexist he’s going to deny it. Most intelligent racists and sexists do.

        I feel like if we’re not going to let holocaust deniers on campus to “debate” the holocaust (as we shouldn’t), we shouldn’t let known racists on campus to “debate” whether black people or women are really inferior. It’s a situation where the two sides aren’t even remotely equal, and pretending they are are disingenuous. Free speech is important, but it’s not a value that trumps everything else.

        Violence is of course never acceptable, and people committing assault should be prosecuted.

      2. Now, Murray was purportedly invited to talk about his more recent book, which I haven’t read. I took the quiz based on the book somewhere on the internet, and wondered why I was the one who was supposedly in a bubble. Then, I realized that the quiz was by Murray, and though not titled as such, it was about white American culture, and not American culture.

    2. You mean, if people who think the Catholic church is sexist and homophobic came to your church and chanted continuously through the service, so that no one else could hear anyone speaking, you would not expect the police to do anything? Disrupting public performances is frequently criminal, depending on the facts.

      1. Wouldn’t that be a decision for the church to make, whether to request police assistance in removing some members of the church who was being being disruptive? Say, for example, if a group of young people in the church’s current confirmation class decided that the dismissal of a parish school teacher because they had married their same-sex partner was worth disrupting the church service for?

      2. Obviously it would be a decision for the church. But several people have claimed that disrupting public events, if done without violence, cannot be a criminal offense, which is wrong.

      3. A church and Middlebury, and Planned Parenthood offices are all private places. Those places can have codes of conduct and ask for police help in removing people who violate their codes of conduct (which they might or might not be given). Once people are asked to leave private places, they might be committing a crime of trespassing. But that right is the right of the private property own to invoke.

        (Assault, as I have made clear from the beginning, is a crime).

    3. Well, do I hafta choose? It seems to me to have been both criminal and stupid. I think Middlebury should have police enforce anti-battery statutes on its campus. I basically like the University of Chicago principles: ‘we want you to be uncomfortable here. That’s how you will learn.’

      1. Well, there are some liberals here, i.e., you, me, and Laura, and a lot of illiberal people who would not let me speak in public, if they had the power to prevent it.

      2. Why? Are you outing yourself as someone who believes that there are race differences in intelligence or that there was no holocaust or whatever Yannopoulos said in the interview that finally got his book release cancelled and a disinvitation to CPAC?

        We all draw lines somewhere on what we will accept as reasonable discourse in our churches or our universities or our homes.

        And, I would not prevent you (or the holocaust denier, the racist, the nazi) from speaking in public.

        Middlebury is not a public place, and I would not have invited Charles Murray to speak there if I were in charge. University of Washington might be a public place, and though I would not have invited Yannopoulos to speak, I think UW’s decision making was more complicated than Middlebury’s. They should have prepared more appropriately to avoid the shooting.

      3. But you’re not in charge of Middlebury. You don’t have the right to invade space that belongs to other people to prevent their invitees from speaking. It is that attitude, that the whole world is yours to regulate, that leads me to believe, quite reasonably, that you would invade my home or my church or my workspace to prevent me from saying whatever I choose.

      4. A university (public or private) is not a church or a private home. Universities are given special status in our country because they are supposed to be places of ideas and debate. That’s why professors, well some of them, are granted to tenure – to protect (with lots of conditions) those who want to explore unpopular ideas.

        I would have gone to a talk by Murray and his ideas of thought bubbles. I also would have gone to talk that explained why Murray was a racist. I’m a very curious person. I don’t think either talk would have damaged me. I think college students could handle both talks.

      5. I agree that a university is not a church or a private home, but the differences are not such as would justify disrupting lectures at universities.

        Alas, as Laura admits, only old-fashioned people believe in free expression these days. However, although Team Blue is pulling down the temple, I’m not sure they’ll be the ones who end up dancing on the ruins. That will be for Jonah and Ian and Miss Y81 (no longer so little) to find out.

    4. “I did read the Fishtown book about America becoming increasingly isolated in our bubbles. Seems like one possible explanation for why we all missed predicting a Trump win. That was what he was supposed to talk about at Middlebury. Seems like an interesting discussion. I woud have gone to it.”

      I haven’t read Murray’s recent book, but the issues sound very similar to those raised in Putnam’s Our Kids.

      Putnam paints a very interesting and convincing portrait of racial lines dissolving and socioeconomic lines becoming much more important. He describes growing inequality between poor whites and rich whites and between rich black and poor blacks and between poor Hispanics and rich Hispanics.

      I’d actually love to do a book club on the Our Kids book, because it has amazing data.

  8. The differences I see between now and the 60s is what I perceive as the increased prevalence of guns and the growing use of them in crowds. But, I don’t have enough data to know, for example, whether armed private individuals were on campus at the time of the 60’s protests. The fact that UW is a public university makes the regulation of guns on campus more complicated, as well, in the modern age.

    Another difference is the role of social media in disseminating information, rather than the press, which changes the rules of the game, allowing the spread of information in uncontrolled ways. For example, I first found Hokoana’s name on a non-news site, a few days the incident, before it had been published by official sources (people had identified him, from eyewitness information, videos posted online and from his social media presence). The victim was also identified (though his identification is more complicated). Both individuals have since received aggressive unwanted attention.

  9. I would be interested in speculation on why the Middlebury incident seems to get more newspace than the UW Yannopoulos shooting/violence. First, I’m not certain that it did — what would others say?

    1. It doesn’t fit the narrative that the worst people in America are 18 year old women of color on elite universities?

  10. Laura, you wrote: “I’m an old fashioned JS Mill type of girl. The best way to combat a bad idea is to let it out there. Then, you use logic to refute the argument. This enables other people to learn and to change their minds. It also strengthens your position.”

    Yes—”this,” as the kids say.

    When I was at the University of Delaware in the early 1990s, a pathetic remnant of the Klan marched down Main Street. It was impossible to find anyone who agreed with their message, but the campus community widely understood that these doofuses had the right to speak freely—a sentiment echoed by the ACLU, the university journalism faculty, the campus newspaper, regional pundits, and the local police.

    After their lame little march, weeks of tension lifted, and the marchers were shown for the losers they were—not the “invisible empire” of their hilarious boasts, but a bunch of bums. Letting them speak in public dispelled their aura of mystery and deprived them of power.

    Around the same time, the Afrocentric, antisemitic City College professor Leonard Jeffries came to town. Jewish and conservative groups protested peacefully. He spoke, he left. I don’t think it’s entirely coincidental that his peaceful speaking tour marked the beginning of the end of his prominence in national headlines.

    it’s really amazing how much unwarranted power you give to people when you stop them from speaking; letting the devil speak is a great way to show what a loser he is.

      1. Exactly. It’s one thing to tolerate the Klan or Neo-Nazis when they’re unpopular losers. It’s another thing to tolerate them when they’re 35% of our electorate and controlling the executive branch.

        My family is from Northern Europe. Swastikas and overt Neo-Nazi paraphernalia is banned, and it has yet to lead to an illiberal dystopia.* On the flip side, “must we defend the Nazis”** has led to Trump and Bannon. I’m pretty sure the answer doesn’t have to be yes.

        *Despite what the alt-right claims, Sweden is not really an Islamofascist Feminist-Judeo-Marxist hell hole.***
        **title of book I read while on my high school’s constitutional law team.
        ***I suppose it depends on your definition of hell hole. If it includes healthcare for poor people, then yes, my homeland is a hell hole.

      2. Yes. Clinton campaigned on telling moderate Republicans “you’re better than this”. At the time, I took it as a given she was right and supported it. Clearly a mistake. She should have attacked anyone willing to stand with Trump even the most tangential way. All the happened in the election was that the racists who never voted before went to the polls and a subset of the non-white voters stayed home discouraged.

  11. To paraphrase Thomas More (as imagined by Robert Bolt), once you have chopped down all the trees in the liberal forest in pursuit of Donald Trump, and you catch him and he turns against you, where will you hide with all the trees gone? People with unpopular views, who need to convince their fellow citizens, are the ones who should be supporting free speech.

    1. They can still go be racist. The point is to know they will be resisted and countered instead of people saying “let’s ignore this and people will see it’s wrong.”

      1. But if militant Christians shout down Richard Dawkins, or the Department of Education decrees that he cannot speak on college campuses, because it creates a hostile environment for Christians, that will not be a problem, because he can go be atheist privately?

      2. Nobody ignored those controversial speakers and marchers, including the Klan, when I was in college. The Klan march was met not only with huge numbers of people lining the street to denounce them, but also a positive, inclusive counter-program at a nearby school. How you respond to evil speech is a separate question from whether you stand in the way of someone’s right to express it, especially on a college campus. (And “some people’s free speech should be limited because Trump” makes less than no sense to me.)

      3. I am certainly not advocating the Department of Education decreeing that anyone cannot speak.

        But, I’m guessing that no private university would allow a Klan march (well, except maybe ones that support the clan). Because a private university can decide for itself. Public universities (University of Delaware or University of Washington) sit in more complex public spaces and sometimes have no choice but to allow a Klan march than Skokie, in this country.

        I am generally in favor of the strong first amendment as it is (mostly) interpreted in the US. But, it doesn’t govern what speech we choose to allow in private spaces.

      4. “makes less than no sense to me”

        Now *that* is a phrase that makes no sense. How do you make less than no sense?

        But that aside….

        I have to admit, I’m a little tired of going through the same old argument yet again. Blah blah blah all speech should be permitted. Blah blah blah most of the commenters here want to oppress y81. Blah blah blah we have to be civil. Blah.

        Well, you know what, something has changed. We don’t live in a civil society any more, where people abide by certain rules of polite society. Where a presidential candidate mocks a disabled person in public, and then gets elected president. Where Milo Yiannopoulos and PewDiePie and the lost boys who idolize them will do or say anything “for the lulz.” Charles Murray is obviously a troll who is deliberately inciting people. If I were speaking to an audience as a professional (i.e., not as a commenter on a blog who usually isn’t spending more than 10 seconds thinking about a comment before I post it), then I would handle the speech *and* perceive the situation way differently than Charles “some of my best friends are gay” Murray.

        I’d love to live in a world where the JS Mill way worked. It used to. it doesn’t any more, and that sucks. But the media landscape has changed, we know more about the psychology of opinion works (i.e., repeating something will actually reinforce the wrong information, for example), and we have people who are deliberately and strategically violating the norms of civic discourse we all grew up with. Stop trying to impose a way of dealing with hateful, wrong speech that no longer works. Come up with something different.

    2. y81 said:

      “People with unpopular views, who need to convince their fellow citizens, are the ones who should be supporting free speech.”

      Yes.

  12. Two points that are somewhat off topic:

    1. There was a lot of debate among the faculty before they agreed to sponsor the AEI club event about the merits of letting Murray talk at the school. Some argued that Murray was a pseudo scientist and shouldn’t be allowed on campus. Others thought that his work was good enough to allow him to come to campus, as long as he was questioned rigorously by faculty. In the end, the second group won, but it was a hot debate.

    2. If the goal of the protest was to not allow someone like Murray to spout false and offensive pseudo-science, then the protest was a failure. Murray got a HUGE platform after the protest. All sorts of Trumpkins discovered him for the first time. I bet he sold a lot of books. In our interview, he clearly LOVED this moment in the spotlight. He was in his glory. If everyone had just ignored the event, then the three or four kids in the AEI club would have been the only ones in the audience. They created a martyr.

    (And Jonah got into Pittsburgh. We might go to the campus over April break to check it out. If there are any employees of Pittsburgh who regularly comment :), they should meet us for a beer.)

    1. Go! My kiddo thinks that the Carnegie minerals collection is better (and better displayed) than the Natural History museum’s — she likes that it is more about the rocks. She also enjoyed a fabulous chinese restaurant and the Duquesne Incline.

    2. Congrats on Pittsburgh and on actually getting news. We are still totally in the dark and expect to be so until March 18 at the earliest. I’ve basically consumed all of my fingernails and am now starting to chew on phalanges.

      1. He applied to 11 public colleges. Got in or wait listed at 7; still waiting to hear from 4. But he’s not getting any money. So, right now, Rutgers is the best option.

      2. A friend of S is probably going to Rutgers.

        S told me that the valedictorian in her class is probably going to UMass Lowell. I am still trying to get my head around this. He is super-bright and allegedly got near perfect SAT scores. He’s math-y in nature, but he also reads prodigiously. I don’t know why he’s not going to MIT, to be honest. One of S’s other classmates is, so it’s not like we don’t get kids admitted there. But S says that he didn’t apply to a bunch of places because they were “too liberal.” I guess that’s why he didn’t apply to UMass Amherst? I don’t know what the finances are, but I can’t imagine he couldn’t have applied to a place with need-blind admissions. Maybe his parents won’t pay or can’t pay because they fall into that difficult area? It’s all a waste of a potentially great student, if you ask me. I also wonder what kind of guidance he got. There are basically 2 guidance counselors, one for the top half of the alphabet, one for the bottom half. The one on the bottom half is ok, and the one for the top half is apparently awful, and this kid is in that group (one of S’s friends is in the top half, and she was getting such bad advice I told S to tell her friend to seek out S’s GC).

    3. Laura said:

      “Murray got a HUGE platform after the protest. All sorts of Trumpkins discovered him for the first time. I bet he sold a lot of books. In our interview, he clearly LOVED this moment in the spotlight. He was in his glory. If everyone had just ignored the event, then the three or four kids in the AEI club would have been the only ones in the audience. They created a martyr.”

      Yeah.

      I’m familiar with how campus events work, and normally, it’s not your Average Joe in the audience. The people there are usually going to be either the already committed or people who are already opposed to the speaker.

      That’s not perhaps a great testimony to the open-mindedness of the American college student, but what it means is that it normally doesn’t really matter what a speaker says. He or she is usually going to be speaking primarily to true believers or disbelievers.

      But, make it a big deal and all bets are off…

  13. Also, for those who fondly imagine that the Middlebury students are fighting back against Trump, remember that Middlebury enrolls more students from the top 1% of the income distribution than from the bottom 60%. Those children of privilege are deeply resented by the white working class. Bad behavior by students at elite universities is catnip for the alt-right media, as Laura herself confirmed some weeks ago. Those students are creating more Trump voters.

    1. When you write “We don’t live in a civil society any more,” therefore we can’t afford to have free speech, I don’t think you have much of an argument.

      The world of John Staurt Mill (1806-1873) was one where slavery existed and women were treated as chattel, just as two examples. This was the reality–accepted and promoted by society and the laws and courts of the time, not just a debate on the issue.

      Comparing civility 150 years ago to today favorably is nuts, unless you particularly value dressing for dinner.

      1. sorry, I was trying to reply to Wendy’s post about being tired of going though the same argument again about why free speech should be taken away because we don’t live in a society civil enough to support it.

      2. cy, your point is somewhat taken, though I think we are talking about two different things when we talk about civility.

        However, my main point is that we need to envision some sort of different way of dealing with speech in an age of mass media. I am well aware that the very things we try to do to limit speech may be used against me as well as against people whose ideas I loathe. I think about that a lot. But I’m also wondering what to do about people who say things not because they believe the ideas but because the expression of this particularly vile idea is something they are interested in. There’s something different going on, and I am interested in figuring out what that is, not treading the same old ground of “You’re oppressing me!” “No, you’re oppressing *me*!” bullshit.

  14. Despite some very nasty commentary in today’s ever more accessible media, I still think we can have nice things like free speech because we are in civil enough times.

    Compare the Middlebury/Murray incident with one in J.S. Mill’s time— a similar story with similar elements of a controversial speaker who is shouted down by mobs and run out of town.

    William Lloyd Garrison was to give a speech against slavery in 1835, in Boston. The building was surrounded by a mob, and Garrison was pursued, captured by the crowd, was dragged though the streets by a rope and was finally “rescued” by being arrested and put in jail.

    Were the times more civl than ours? You make the call.

    I think you’re right that “there’s something different going on,” in the sense that the speed of communication and access to information is significantly faster. But I also think that history has plenty of examples that show that society and people operate in similar ways today and in the 1800s.

    I sympathize with the frustration of have having to repeat yourself over and over, but that’s pretty much the way rational discourse works.

    1. “I sympathize with the frustration of have having to repeat yourself over and over, but that’s pretty much the way rational discourse works.”

      Actually, I’m more frustrated by reading everyone else repeating themselves.

      You still seem to be misunderstanding my point. My point is that someone like Garrison was expressing ideas he believed in. He took a risk in a hostile environment and paid the price. He wasn’t expressing controversial ideas for the sake of being controversial. That’s not rational discourse.

      1. Well, I admit that I don’t understand how you can dismiss someone’s speech as unworthy of being heard because you somehow can divine that they are not sincere. How can you know if someone is expressing controversial ideas just to be controversial?

        Murray seems to be sincere about his opinions and he does seem to be “expressing ideas he believed in.” I don’t happen to agree that there is a correlation between race and intelligence and I don’t think he’s made a very good case for it, and I think it’s an idea that can and has caused a large amount of harm in our society—but—I think the way to expose his ideas as wrong is by arguing against them—through more free speech.

        Many people found Garrison’s ideas just as hateful and shocking. Maybe they thought he was expressing controversial ideas just for the sake of being controversial. Who decides?

        I’m also wondering what in particular you would like to see happen, to make things better from your perspective?

      2. Except his ideas have been repeatedly debunked by actual scientists for decades. Letting people whose ideas are wrong (as well as morally repugnant) have a platform isn’t “spreading a plurality of ideas.” It’s giving a platform to someone being purposefully and malignantly ignorant around values we as a society have agreed are discredited and well outside the values of our society.

        For those who defend Charles Murray, would you be ok with:

        1. A history department inviting a holocaust denier to debate whether the holocaust happened, so “students could hear different points of view and decide for themselves?”
        2. A divinity or religious studies department inviting someone to debate whether women have souls (for the same reasons as above)?
        3. A physics department inviting someone to debate whether the earth is flat, and whether the sun revolves around the earth?
        4. A law school inviting someone to debate whether women and black people could legally be chattel?

        If your answer is no to the above, then I don’t see how it can be yes to Murray, except he’s done a better job cloaking his straight up scientific racism in a veneer of David Brooks-style respectability.

        These ideas will continue to circulate on the internet and among like minded people, and can’t be gotten rid of without something like internet censorship, which is a larger harm than people being cranks on the internet. That doesn’t mean, however, that people with these ideas need to be given a platform somewhere respectable where even the mere presentation of the idea endorses that there is something valid and respectable about it.

      3. I’m influenced here by some analysis of the YouTube culture that spawns provocateurs (usually young men like PewDiePie and Milo), such as the analysis here: https://www.buzzfeed.com/jacobclifton/pewdiepie-isnt-a-monster-hes-someone-you-know?utm_term=.heWX969rd#.im4PZ3ZaA
        and
        https://psmag.com/on-the-milo-bus-with-the-lost-boys-of-americas-new-right-629a77e87986#.678wjl2in

        You’re living in some sort of pure rational world, and I’m saying we don’t live there. Whether we can historicize it or not is kind of irrelevant. I’m saying that we have to confront the possibility that the Mill-ian way is not working. Believe me, I’d love it if it were working. But as BI points out, how do you counter emotion and deliberate subversion of civility and “truths” with rationality? I am so so tired of (well, I’m also tired of the same old free speech argument that happens here) trying to argue with people (usually right-wingers) who are arguing from a different understanding of facts. Rational argument begins with shared premises, and we can’t even freakin’ agree on shared premises.

        Do I have a proposal or solution for how to deal with this? No. That’s why I raised the discussion in a forum with people whose thought processes I respect. I thought maybe if I threw out a new idea/perspective, people might consider it.

  15. My school had a fit because students civilly and amateurishly protested Corey Lewandowski. They made a big deal about “free speech” not having safe spaces. I’m seriously debating trying to bring David Irving to campus to see how the administration reacts, but I’m worried about hurting innocent people. I might try to see if I can find a 9-11 truther I could invite, or perhaps someone from the Man-Boy Love Association?

    I actually have a hard time being civil on this particular issue, because it stresses me out beyond reason that whether black people are inferior is still accepted as a topic of reasonable debate by the chattering classes in a way other sorts of wrong and offensive ideas aren’t. It’s hard to fathom exactly how ingrained racism is in this country. I keep hoping progress is 2 steps forward, 1 step back, but I’m worried it’s more like 1 step forward, 2 steps back.

    1. (B.I. : this is a reply to your comment above about allowing Murray to speak at a university and whether other’s like holocaust-deniers should be allowed to speak on campus. For some reason, on my computer, there isn’t a reply button to click at the bottom of your comment)

      If I was the head of a university I might invite Murray, but only in a highly structured debate format (as someone suggested in an earlier comment). And perhaps I would have meetings beforehand where faculty or students could debate a Murray-stand-in and then the students could vote on who did the best job and what were the most convincing arguments. If no one on campus was up-to-snuff with their debating or oratory skills I’d invite someone off-campus to debate him. I would personally very much enjoy listening to his arguments be eviscerated.

      And then I would watch Murray’s arguments be destroyed.

      Because someone may know “in their gut” that races are equal in intelligence. But learning that Murray uses the results of army IQ tests from WWI—that supposedly measured “innate intelligence”— actually consisted of pages of questions like “Do conscientious brunettes exist?”, “Do serpents make oblong echoes?”, “Are intermittent sounds discontinuous?” “Are textile manufacturers valueless?”, “Do Christians often overlook faults?” and required the recruit to know what the missing part was on a Victrola, enables people to conclude that Murray’s reasoning is based on garbage. And I’m arguing that having these little pieces of solid, concrete knowledge in your head is much more powerful because it enables you to really, really know that Murray’s argument are junk versus someone just saying that his arguments have been debunked.

      There’s a reason it’s so satisfying to watch, say, Christopher Hitchens destroy his opponents in a debate. Using facts and reasoning as weapons is the way to go if you actually want to convince anyone. Ignoring the matter is an option, I suppose. But if you actually want to teach kids, I think you have to engage them with the actual ideas. And I personally think that debunking Murray’s ideas is like shooting fish in a barrel.

      And I might be ok with a debate with the holocaust denier, the do women have souls guy, the flat-earther and women and blacks as chattel guy, for the same reason, because I think you could wipe the floor with their ridiculous arguments. I think that is educational. And useful.

      Personally though, I wouldn’t ever just offer them a chance to just give a straight speech, I think that does imply the ideas are worthwhile. With these kinds of subjects, push-back is necessary. (And I would also try a lot harder to get some higher caliber speakers.)

      1. What if people are simply speaking about what they feel and not making an argument? How is it possible to counter that with rationality?

  16. Well, that’s a tough one. People don’t hear logic when they aren’t ready to. I think sometimes that the best anyone can do is plant a few seeds.

    Also, in your clip, I think when the reporter was countering Newt Gingrich and his lies about the crime rate, although she was obviously speaking directly to Newt, she wasn’t really trying to convince him of anything, she was arguing for the benefit of the television audience. They were the ones she has a possibility of convincing. They were the ones who needed to hear the facts.

    But yeah, plenty of people won’t listen. Like water off a duck’s back.

    But again, what are the alternatives to talking and laying out the facts?

  17. Wendy, by the way that last question wasn’t meant to needle you. I hear you when you say you don’t have the answers and are casting about for some alternative ways to deal with this issue. I’m just as interested as you are to hear if anybody has any good ideas about dealing this issue.

    1. I know what you mean about
      1. performing the debate, even with someone whose mind you won’t change, in the hopes of reaching another audience. I don’t tend to do that here on 11d, but I do it elsewhere, especially on Facebook.
      2. I’m not sure what to do, but I wonder about exposure effects. Just look at the media these days dealing with Trump. What was in Nixon’s time cause to freak the hell out, warrants a “whatevs!” today. (I heard a news anchor on NPR almost literally say that this morning.)

      I’ll keep thinking about this and if it comes up again here, maybe I’ll have some sort of other insight. Don’t really have time to think with my fingers right now.

  18. It seems to me there are several separate themes running though these responses:

    = This Murray fellow is uniquely vile, and should be kept from a public forum which could appear to endorse his claims as within normal discourse. And by the way, he is wrongwrongwrong, because Science. “modern phrenology & scientific racism.”

    =And by the way, the Constitution is not a suicide pact, and letting this kind of crap into the public sphere got us the Orange Crusher. “We tried that with Trump and look where we ended up.”

    =The best way to vitiate this sort of stuff is sunlight, the great disinfectant. “How you respond to evil speech is a separate question from whether you stand in the way of someone’s right to express it, especially on a college campus. (And “some people’s free speech should be limited because Trump” makes less than no sense to me.)”

    =Middlebury ought not have let its campus be used for this, it’s private property and they failed to protect.

    =Middlebury betrays its students if it doesn’t expose them to views from outside the bubble. “I did read the Fishtown book about America becoming increasingly isolated in our bubbles. Seems like one possible explanation for why we all missed predicting a Trump win. That was what he was supposed to talk about at Middlebury. Seems like an interesting discussion. I would have gone to it.” “Murray seems to be sincere about his opinions and he does seem to be “expressing ideas he believed in.” I don’t happen to agree that there is a correlation between race and intelligence and I don’t think he’s made a very good case for it, and I think it’s an idea that can and has caused a large amount of harm in our society—but—I think the way to expose his ideas as wrong is by arguing against them—through more free speech.”

    I generally think people who are unhappy with and who were surprised by the victory of the Orange Crusher ought to be looking for more information, not less, and should not cut themselves off from hearing the views of others, particularly those who surprise them. So I have some views. I have actually read part of Bell Curve and part of Coming Apart, and was positively impressed with both of them. Coming Apart seems to me to be the social science backup material which was missing from Hillbilly Elegy – what poor white people do and how it gives them bad outcomes.

    A lot of Bell Curve was about how life outcomes tend to be less good for people who score lower on IQ tests. This isn’t terribly surprising – the Army has done its best to make artillerymen, and finds that it cannot make artillerymen with recruits whose scores on the Armed Forces test is lower than about IQ 94. Accounting school programs find they do better with IQ 120 students than IQ 105 students.

    Then there was the business about group differences, and the fireworks began. Not my area, but plausible, I think, that there is an optimal average level of intellect for a group to be successful. It’s well to remember that our ancestors were generally close to starvation, precarious, small groups at ongoing low level war with nearby groups, nonliterate. Groups which succeeded in hunting, gathering grubs and fruit, and fending off the vile enemy bastids from the other side of the hill were the ones which became our ancestors. ‘Smart’ was probably part of it – but how smart? Our brains take about twenty percent of our calories. Does a smarter brain take more? How do you invest your resources between smart and strong and loyal and can-memorize-long-epic-poems-for-reciting and high/low sex drive and ability to make music? Seems to me plausible that a group which included individuals with variable levels of all those talents would have done well, particularly since we, the products of this evolution, DO have variable levels of these talents. It’s not obvious to me that the optimal mix for the group would have been the same in all areas, or that the optimal average level would have been the same. Our need for accountants is recent, as is our need for Chem Es. China had a very long period during which males who did well on standardized tests got to be local satraps and have a wife and several concubines and fifteen children – does that feed into why Chinese kids do half a standard deviation better than the white average, and a full standard deviation plus better than African-Americans, on the SAT?

    I see us as the products of a very long evolutionary process of unknown precision which adapted us to conditions very different from the present day, and which may well have had different optimal outcomes in different places. So I don’t see Murray’s race speculations as impossible or out of line or as something we ought not think about. I also think that the Hillbilly Elegy/Coming Apart questions are separate from his earlier race speculations, and important to think about whether or not Bell Curve raised valid questions.

    I also generally like politeness, and ability to have discussion without raised voices and denigration.

    1. dave s. said:

      “I generally think people who are unhappy with and who were surprised by the victory of the Orange Crusher ought to be looking for more information, not less, and should not cut themselves off from hearing the views of others, particularly those who surprise them.”

      Yes.

    2. cy and I were already converging towards consensus in our discussion, but thank you, dave, for further encouraging us to find areas of commonality, such as mutual disgust for those who would continue to embrace ridiculous ideas about race despite all logical evidence to the contrary.

      1. Yeah, and really, I am happy to be able to have these conversations.

        It definitely beats shouting at the T.V.

  19. Studying scientific racism isn’t my direct area of expertise but it is in my professional wheelhouse, and I’ve probably read far more primary texts on the topic than anyone else here. I’ve read The Bell Curve, and I’ve read The Passing of a Great Race. I’ve read lots of physical anthropology from the 19th-20th centuries, I’ve read phrenology texts. I really don’t need any more “exposure” in these areas.

    I also have elderly Northern European relatives. I’ve gotten scientific racism straight from the well, so to speak. I learned about head skull shape from my grandmother, who taught me about the Nordic, Alpine, and Mediterranean Races. My grandparents consider Slavic people to be untermensch, and they’re very divided on Jews, but share the viewpoint that they are The Oriental Other. My grandparents struggle over where to draw the line, but they consider East & South Asians to be superior to Southern and Eastern Europeans (one grandmother draws the line south of the Alps, the other south of Hamburg). Every relationship I’ve ever been in has been considered by at least one of my grandparents as an interracial relationship, including the one with my anglo-Australian boyfriend.* My grandparents’ racial beliefs actually result in them being nonracist in a US setting, because they consider almost all white Americans to be unholy mixes of mongrelized inferior European races (aka nonwhite),** so they don’t get how “white” Americans could object for racial reasons to people from other parts of the world immigrating here, nor do American racial hierarchies make any sense to them.***

    TL:DR Race is a social construct, and chances are to someone out there you’re at the or near the bottom of a racial hierarchy. Instead of assuming their hierarchy is wrong and yours is right, it might make sense to pause and consider that perhaps the idea of racial categories that can be ranked hierarchically is arbitrary and nonsensical.

    *As my grandmother says, “why would you want to date the criminal dregs of the Anglo-Saxon race?”
    **As a child, my grandmother called me “the little mutt” because I am a quarter Finnish, and Finns are clearly not white. She would then laugh and point out that she was “a mutt” too, because while most of her family was from Western Norway, her grandmother was Swedish.
    ***My fathers’ parents lived in an African-American neighborhood, and were collateral damage in some pretty severe structural racism (red lined, woeful infrastructure, shockingly biased news reporting). They were outraged at how poorly other white people treated their black neighbors and the general shittiness of white Americans towards people of color.

    1. Alternate TL:DR

      I learned at a really young age that race was an arbitrary social category because I saw how my grandparents had all these really important and meaningful “racial” distinctions mapping minute differences between neighboring regions that were utterly irrelevant and incomprehensible to 20/21st century Americans. It wasn’t too hard to extrapolate that perhaps our racial categories are equally arbitrary and would be equally incomprehensible to someone else.

      1. So a summary of your comment is: my grandparents were ridiculous racist buffoons, consequently there can’t possibly be anything worth thinking about from Mr. Murray, whether his earlier IQ discussion, his earlier race discussion or his more current work on behavior patterns in different classes of Americans?

      2. dave s. said,

        “So a summary of your comment is: my grandparents were ridiculous racist buffoons, consequently there can’t possibly be anything worth thinking about from Mr. Murray, whether his earlier IQ discussion, his earlier race discussion or his more current work on behavior patterns in different classes of Americans?”

        Or, over hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution (including times with quite distinct groups living side by side like Neanderthals and Cro Magnon man) and with current human population on earth being 7 billion spread among a couple hundred countries and 57 million square miles of land (many genetically isolated for substantial lengths of time), it just so happens that all ethnic groups contain exactly the same incidence of various genetic neurological features.

        Why this should be, I have no idea, particularly as there is a growing understanding of how many medical and psychological issues have a genetic or ethnic risk factor.

        Here’s something from a piece on the Amish, genetic drift, and the founder effect:

        “In the Amish, in fact, Ellis-van Creveld syndrome has been traced back to one couple, Samuel King and his wife, who came to the area in 1744. The mutated gene that causes the syndrome was passed along from the Kings and their offspring, and today it is many times more common in the Amish population than in the American population at large.

        “The founder effect is an extreme example of “genetic drift.” Genes occurring at a certain frequency in the larger population will occur at a different frequency — more or less often — in a smaller subset of that population. As in the example of human diseases, genetically determined traits that would ordinarily be uncommon in the overall gene pool might crop up with distressing frequency in a small subset of that pool.”

        http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/06/3/l_063_03.html

        The Amish in the US have had less than 300 years for this all to happen…

        Australian Aboriginal peoples had something like 50,000 years of isolation.

        Looping back to one of the central subjects of the blog, there seems to be a strong genetic component to the autism spectrum. While there is (certainly historically) a temptation to think in terms of genes as “good” or “bad,” with the high functioning end of the autism spectrum, there can be very interesting patterns of ability and disability, both attributable to high functioning autism (see, for example the HBO Temple Grandin biopic for illustrations). Certain genetic neurological conditions might be (like a pair of skis) good for some things, but not other things–good for finding patterns or spatial skills, bad at noticing a friend’s sadness or participating in a multi-person conversation.

        As dave s. was suggesting, we humans have lived under a great many different kinds of environmental conditions, and there are trade-offs to prioritizing any particular quality. To be A (for example detail-oriented) is to not be not-A (good at the big picture)–it is not even logically possible for an individual to have ALL good traits. Even a particularly gifted individual will have only a subset of good traits. It’s not, for example, expected for a computing pioneer to have the social grace of a highly successful salesman…

      3. Regarding policy, I would suggest being a bit more relaxed about inequality of outcome rather than discriminating against individuals.

        So, for example, top achievers in math are less likely to be girls. So, on the one hand, we shouldn’t freak out about that and kill ourselves trying to achieve total equality of outcomes–but at the same time, if girls are excelling in math, that’s not something to discourage. These trends in performance are averages, and cannot be applied to the performance of individuals.

        The individual differences often swamp the sex or ethnic differences. Even the differences between closely related individuals are going to be important. Sacha Baron Cohen and Simon Baron-Cohen are cousins–but you couldn’t expect to swap them without anybody noticing. And cousins are MUCH closer relatives than mere coethnics.

      4. So a summary of your comment is: my grandparents were ridiculous racist buffoons, consequently there can’t possibly be anything worth thinking about from Mr. Murray, whether his earlier IQ discussion, his earlier race discussion or his more current work on behavior patterns in different classes of Americans?

        Again, the fallacy of “their scientific racism is ridiculous; my scientific racism is science!”

        You said it would be good to have exposure to racialist attitudes rather than dismiss them out of hand; I pointed out that I did indeed have exposure to scientific racism of a kind not seen too much these days in North America (or among anyone under 80 anywhere, really). Since I’ve both studied scientific racism academically and been exposed to it, it’s really easy to see the continuities with Murray’s work and the older supposedly discredited.

        As to the “you coastal elites need to know Real Americans” point: My actual paid job is to understand people who are radically different from me. I’m pretty good at it. I understand why lots of people voted for Trump. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with it, nor that understanding leads to acceptance.

  20. “For those who defend Charles Murray, would you be ok with:

    1. A history department inviting a holocaust denier to debate whether the holocaust happened, so “students could hear different points of view and decide for themselves?”
    2. A divinity or religious studies department inviting someone to debate whether women have souls (for the same reasons as above)?
    3. A physics department inviting someone to debate whether the earth is flat, and whether the sun revolves around the earth?
    4. A law school inviting someone to debate whether women and black people could legally be chattel?”

    If I were a university administrator, I would have no problem with a student group inviting any of those people to speak. If I were a faculty member, I can’t imagine encouraging anyone to disrupt or harass said speaker. My life is usually pretty full, but I can imagine attending a lecture on 2 or 4, which seem to me to be in a different intellectual category than 1 and 3. Those are more relevant considerations to the discussion of the events at Middlebury.

    (Incidentally, it would be even more interesting to attend a debate on the topic of whether 2 and 4 are in a different intellectual category from 1 and 3.)

    1. I mean, I am not opposed to people debunking these things either, in the right setting. After all, if people aren’t exposed to them, they’re more vulnerable to cranks and charlatans. I think the right way to do so is to offer good history and good science in schools, so children learn to think critically and accurately, and are able to see the obvious problems with a flat earth theory or holocaust denial.

      Given we don’t live in a perfect world, I agree that public debunking has its place. That place only works, if, as cy points out, it’s explicitly structured as a debunking rather than a debate. Even with that, I don’t think that someone like a holocaust denier should be allowed a platform to speak. I attended a workshop on holocaust denial (in order to be able to debunk holocaust deniers if necessary), and it involved presentation of the evidence holocaust deniers used and a debunking of that evidence.

  21. To get at the profound unscientificness of Murray’s work, US racial categories simply do not exist. There is more intragenetic variation than there is intergenetic variation between what we consider black people, white people, etc. But somehow Murray takes as a given these categories of “race.”

    Conversely, when he looks at “white people,” he assumes they’re some genetically homogeneous mass, so while he sticks with his idea of heritable intelligence, he proposes a non race-based sorting mechanism, one that is reversible. With black people, he’s so wedded to his pre-existing bias of innate black inferiority it would never occur to him to propose a similar explanation, despite being confronted with the same evidence.

  22. TL:DR
    My point:
    There’s actually more genetic evidence to support Madison Grant’s racial categories in Europe than there is to support Murray’s racial categories of black and white Americans. Why then, do we consider discrimination among different European ethnic groups to be unacceptable and “ridiculous,” but discrimination against black people to be based on objective truth liberals won’t confront?

    1. who is this ‘we’ of whom you speak? you are, if you are talking about me, putting words onto my keyboard. It is insulting to be told that I favor discrimination – again, if I am the one about whom you are talking. But, you seem to give very little import to politeness.
      very interesting article by Andrew Sullivan about ‘intersectionality’, which seems to be the fig leaf with which these thugs are cloaking their assault on speech and discourse: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/03/is-intersectionality-a-religion.html

      1. These are two statements which are mutually contradictory:

        1. I think Murray’s work on race and intelligence is valid and/or interesting.

        2. I am not racist.

        You really can only pick one or the other.

  23. Personally, my calculation is we need young people (especially ones becoming educated) and non-white people to vote in the numbers that they did in 2008 and 2012, not in the numbers that they did in 2016. If they want to stand in front of somebody spouting racist nonsense and shout until he goes away, I’m all about the “Have fun kids.”

    The idea that there is some sort of middle ground to reach out to is nuts. Anything that would get a Trump voter to switch sides by “compromising” on race is going to cost more votes than it gains.

    1. Even more to that, I’m not sure how you would compromise? Let’s call it “white ethnic cleansing” instead of “white genocide”? Black people are only slightly inferior?

      1. B.I. I am calling you for Bulverism!

        CS Lewis’ invention of term: “You must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly.

        In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it “Bulverism”. Some day I am going to write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father — who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than a third — “Oh you say that because you are a man.” “At that moment”, E. Bulver assures us, “there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume that your opponent is wrong, and explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall.” That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth Century.”

        But, B.I., you are not the ONLY Bulverist in this little pixel patch!

      2. The compromise they (what’s left of the not-openly racist wing of the Republican party) want to is for liberals to say racism doesn’t exist anymore or at least not on a level that is politically relevant. And that no decent middle-class white person need fear being accused of it.

      3. Sounds like a reasonable characterization — Trump voters: people who believe race is a reasonable criterion to use for decision making (and, frankly, Trump exhibited this behavior in his statements about Judge Curiel) and those who argue that race no longer matters in America and thus even when political/judgement/policy/business decisions have produce negative outcomes based on race, race is still irrelevant to the decision making.

    2. Yes, ultimately, the choices will be made by people who vote (though we have the issue of the electoral college, gerrymandering, and voters rights). I don’t think that that we can do much about the electoral college (and, frankly, am not an ideological supporter — I think a country as large as the US has to have some form of ensuring buy-in from the entire country in its presidential elections). But, I think we have to fight for voting rights and against gerrymandering wherever we can, including in the courts.

      I have no plans for compromise on this issue. I believe that demographic trends and economic realities and social change will move us back on the right paths (and that this is a backlash). But, If the country really continues down this road, I expect the end of the American century. People like me (or at least my children) will consider leaving (family members are already choosing other countries for college, the tech companies are growing their satellites in Vancouver); people in other countries will stay there. My prediction would be a shift in world power to Asia.

      1. Enthusiasm for immigrants and belief in racial and sexual equality are common in Asia??!! What Asian country is that?

      2. No, I am not arguing that the Asian powerhouses will become the new American experiment. Power will shift there because the immigrants will stop coming here, and stay there. And, there are just many more people in India and China (because, I don’t actually believe in race based theories of intelligence, I am only citing numbers).

        Canada will see an immediate benefit, though. And, I’m not seeing Canada as being immune to the forces playing out in America, but they are in a different place at this moment. UK is not (but, maybe Scotland).

      3. PS: BTW, the family members choosing other countries for college are the white cousins. So, the swathe of people feeling unwelcome here is larger than just brown people.

  24. Personally, I’m just waiting to see how the health care plan comes out. That’s where the lies of the Trump campaign are going to be laid bare most quickly. He’s either got to double-cross the lower-middle class white voters who he promised wouldn’t lose their coverage or the Repeal Obamacare crowd. My guess is the Repeal Obamacare crowd gets the knife in the back, but you never can tell.

  25. Hey, guys. Sorry I checked out for a couple of days. I put aside all sorts of real life chores, while working on the article and needed some time to catch up. We’re in the midst of a blizzard here, so I’m back to blogging. I’m thinking about an open thread on health care and some girlie stuff – because snow days mean online shopping.

    1. You got snow. Usually by this time of the year I’m so sick of snow, I’d be happy it missed us. But I’m disappointed that we didn’t get the 3-6 inches predicted.

      1. K. My editor is away this month, and I don’t want to write for the Atlantic for four weeks. But I’ll keep an eye on the story.

  26. “I actually have a hard time being civil on this particular issue, because it stresses me out beyond reason that whether black people are inferior is still accepted as a topic of reasonable debate by the chattering classes in a way other sorts of wrong and offensive ideas aren’t.”

    Yes, I feel the same way and have decided that all I can do is to tell them over and over again that it is not. That it is not a topic of reasonable debate.

    I occasionally consider whether people would, instead, be willing to discuss the topic of whether asian people are intellectually superior to white people (which the IQ studies would “show”, but don’t, because they don’t have any validity and cannot be used the way Murray uses them). But, I’ve decided this is a bit like trying to introduce satanism into debates about freedom of religion. Not really useful, and, it does me no good to the ideas I support to convince people that satanism is a religion, or to convince people that in fact, Asians and Jews are smarter than everyone else.

  27. ” whether black people are inferior is still accepted as a topic of reasonable debate by the chattering classes in a way other sorts of wrong and offensive ideas aren’t.”

    I don’t think that anybody in the chattering class is making that argument. I have never seen that mentioned in the op ed pages in the NYT, WSJ, WaPo. Never seen it argued on CNN. That’s a silly statement.

    Murray said that he’s not even saying that, and that his argument in his book has been warped by people with an agenda. Because I don’t want to spend two days of my life reading his book and reading all the commentary. I don’t plan on judging him on this matter. I do know that 100 faculty members at Middlebury signed some letter saying that they supported his right to talk on campus. The president of UVA just said that she supported people like Murray talking at college campus. He’s spoken at many colleges for decades. So, maybe all those professors and college presidents are totally misinformed about his writings. Or not. I don’t know.

    1. I support the right, in theory. I’m just not willing to do anything about it as it’s way down the list of current threats to the First Amendment and I think that on whole the students shouting out Murray are more likely to be of use against those greater threats.

      But, while the chattering classes defined as op-ed pages aren’t making arguments about racial inferiority (so far as I know — I don’t read editorials much), the White House employs highly placed advisor who very much do.

    2. Murray does say that in his book. The quote I cited to says that — dysgenic pressure means that you are creating different genetic populations with different abilities. The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies him as a supporter of white supremacy arguments and provides citations. And others use his book to support the theory there are race based differences in IQ.

      I suspect that others have used very similar words to yours to deny climate change or the lack of connection between vaccines and autism (Which are, roughly, I don’t have time to figure it out, and don’t want to. People I respect believe it. So, I’ll remain an agnostic).

      As I said before, I am not certain that I would oppose Murray being invited to speak on every topic (Linus Pauling was a crank on vitamin c but not on the hydrogen bond) — so, I would not interpret the 100 signatures or the UVA president as accepting that Murray does *not* propose race based theories of intelligence inferiority. They might just think that it is appropriate to invite him anyway.

      The rest of what you said applies to Yannopoulos, too. And Richard Spencer (who recently spoke at UT).

      1. It seems noteworthy that the list of Middlebury professors who signed this petition calling Murray a “phony scholar,” among other epithets, did not include any members of Middlebury’s psychology department – the ones most capable of judging the validity of “The Bell Curve.”

  28. “I suspect that others have used very similar words to yours to deny climate change or the lack of connection between vaccines and autism (Which are, roughly, I don’t have time to figure it out, and don’t want to. People I respect believe it. So, I’ll remain an agnostic).”

    Eye roll. I’m not dealing anymore. I don’t know anything about global warming science metrics, but I trust the scientists who tell me that it’s happening. Is that wrong? Should I get a PhD in science, so I can understand the studies. No. We all rely on shortcuts. Lots of people who didn’t read Murray relied on the SPLC reports rather than the viewpoints of academics with PhDs in a variety of relevant fields. Whatever.

    You can keep talking. I’m not.

    1. But, that’s what I said about discussing race based theories of intelligence, which is what Murray did and does in the Bell Curve. I’m not discussing it anymore.

      I am guessing that the “100 middlebury professors” are the experts in the relevant fields, but would be interesting in finding out, but haven’t found a list of the supporters of Murray’s invite.

  29. Where do 100 Middlebury professors support Murray’s invitation? Is there a official statement out there? My internet searches aren’t finding it.

    1. My article has tons of links about the debate within the faculty about the merits of bringing Murray to campus before the talk. You can start there.

      1. But you said there were a 100 middlebury professors who supported Murray’s invitation and signed something. Is this an actual number, with a named list (like in a letter to an editor)? I would like to know the backgrounds of the people who supported Murray’s invitation and their reasoning.

        I saw the unsigned letter from the Political Science Department, which states that the faculty is divided and that the chairman supports the invitation. And I saw Dr. Manhattan’s link to the group of faculty who signed a letter opposing the invitation (58 of them).

        But, I haven’t seen a link to the names of faculty who publicly supported the invite (though the chairman of the department, Bert Johnson is mentioned as a supporter). Is there one I haven’t found?

  30. Nice bit from commonweal

    A place like Middlebury is well stocked with brilliant, resourceful, well-trained, progressive-minded humanists. Let them deal with Murray. Take his ideas and put them in the context of the history of American racism, eugenics, class mobility and its limitations, the ideology of IQ testing, and on and on. Get your crowd excited by the power, eloquence, and persuasiveness of your arguments, the beautiful truths you can summon and articulate. Isn’t this what college is about? Instead, a mob of angry chanting students forced a speaker off the stage, followed him and a professor around campus in order to prevent him from speaking, then finally assaulted them and chased them out of town.

    How is this anything other than an unmitigated disaster? A huge windfall to Murray, who now gets to play the victim. A huge embarrassment to Middlebury and to American higher education, for playing the thug.

    https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/hot-mess-middlebury

    1. “Take his ideas and put them in the context of the history of American racism, eugenics, class mobility and its limitations, the ideology of IQ testing, and on and on.”

      This is exactly what BI has tried to do in this comment thread. Has it been effective?

      1. Apparently not. I didn’t do a great job (some late night commenting got wordy and the main points got buried).

        I’ll try one last time before leaving this thread for good. To be more succinct: The Bell Curve is warmed over Social Darwinism with “Jewis/Italian/Irish” crossed out and “black” written in instead. If you accept Murray’s points as valid (or even as interesting or worth further consideration!), then you are accepting Social Darwinism. Full stop. If you are not comfortable being labeled a Social Darwinist, then you should rethink your interest of Murray’s work.

        Murray’s Bell Curve is on par with Gobineau and Madison Grant. You do not have to have read their work to have an opinion on whether Aryans are the master race (Gobineau) or whether Nordic people are the master race (Grant). You also would not think it acceptable for someone to claim agnosticism on this issue. You are more sensitive to wrongness of these arguments, because, in 21st century America, racism against various white ethnic groups isn’t acceptable in a way it is for black people.

        If you are unsure why or how Social Darwinism is idiotic science and morally awful, then I would suggest googling it. I do not have the time or patience to explain the many many reasons why Social Darwinism is terrible.

  31. Wendy replied to me, saying: “Well, you know what, something has changed. We don’t live in a civil society any more, where people abide by certain rules of polite society.”

    But doesn’t this skirt awfully close the 1980s right-wing church-lady argument? Arguments based on decency, morality, community standards? That was considered a highly illiberal approach when I was a kid. Why is it okay now, except that it’s useful in promoting the voices you prefer?

    “Stop trying to impose a way of dealing with hateful, wrong speech that no longer works. Come up with something different.”

    I plan to remain a free-speech absolutist, and I’ll continue to oppose attempts to ban, intimidate, or attack speakers, even when I think the speaker is a bitter little crumb like Milo. My position often makes me deeply uncomfortable—but I watched the American right sell out a significant share of our freedoms after 9/11, and now I’m seeing the left talking about selling out free speech. I’ve worked in publishing, academia, and the arts for 20 years; I have faith (which you probably see as naive faith, but so be it) that peacefully countering the airing of bad ideas with better ideas is the way to go, regardless of the crisis of the moment.

    1. I am a first amendment absolutist (though there are others with stronger views than me), but decision making about Middlebury’s invites is not about the first amendment right to free speech (which is what I prefer to use the words “free speech” for). I am only in favor of violence when I’ve decided war is necessary (which I haven’t, in America). Peaceful protest of some ideas, though, I support.

  32. Thanks — that is what I was looking for.

    Note that these professors do not say that Charles Murray or his book does not advocate racist ideas. They say that the invitation was permissible, on any topic, including, one presumes, advocating racist ideas and bad science, and that only peaceful nondisruptive protest is appropriate.

    “No group of professors or students has the right to determine for the entire community that a question is closed for discussion.”
    “Students have the right to challenge and to protest non-disruptively the views of their professors and guest speakers.”
    “A protest that prevents campus speakers from communicating with their audience is a coercive act.”

    I would be shocked if there are a hundred faculty members with the appropriate expertise at Middlebury (or even without the appropriate expertise) who believe that Murray’s Bell Curve does not purport racist ideology with bad science.

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