Mar 6th, 2011 by Unamused
Today we’re talking about one of Hitler’s very few good ideas: the Big Lie.
… in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.
When you call in sick for work because you’d rather be at the beach, that is a small lie (no less false for being small). When a federally funded think tank proves that lying on the beach is not, in fact, more relaxing than checking spreadsheets, and furthermore that repeated exposure to photocopier toner can cure colorectal cancer, which is caused by bikinis and spread by beach volleyball, that is a Big Lie.
Race relations today are built on a foundation of small lies and Big Lies. When the mayor of New York City testifies before Congress that his city is closing the achievement gap between white and black children, that is a small lie*. When otherwise intelligent and reasonable people declare that race doesn’t exist, or if it does exist, it is only skin deep, that is a Big Lie.
Of course it is necessary to expose and correct the small lies about race, but in a sense this treats the symptom and not the disease. Those small lies grow out of Big ones. For instance, the Big Lie that the average black person is just as smart as the average white person creates a social issue out of a sociological fact, namely the achievement gap. This false issue, being based on a lie, cannot be corrected except by further lies—juking stats, fudging numbers, and lowering standards. It won’t stop until the Big Lie itself is corrected.
So today we set aside the little lies in pursuit of higher truths and bigger fish.
* Black children are no smarter than they were ten years ago (and white children no dumber — well, not much dumber). But if you make the tests easy enough, it sure looks like you’re making progress. There is no achievement gap when 100 percent of students pass or 100 percent fail, but the closer you get to a fair test (meaning a test that actually measures ability), the more pronounced are the (real) differences between racial groups.
Big Lie #1: race doesn’t exist
Race doesn’t exist; race is only skin deep; race is a social construct; deep down we’re all the same: these are all lies. They contradict common sense, everyday experience, and the available scientific evidence.
It is now very well established that race is genetic (at least, it is 99.86 percent of the time). Though skin and hair are the most obvious hereditary traits with significant racial components, these components also exist for
- bone structure,
- susceptibility to diseases (so this particular lie directly harms minorities),
- testosterone levels, and
Unfortunately (for white people, black people, and the state of race relations generally), it’s blacks and Hispanics (designated victim groups), not whites or Asians, who get the short end of the stick, brain-wise. This turns a scientific fact — blacks are less intelligent than whites — into hate speech (see Big Lie #3: reality is racist), and is a big part of the appeal of Big Lie #1: if race doesn’t exist, we can just dismiss out of hand any race-related research with results we don’t like.
There are degrees of mendacity here; I will not waste my time cataloging all the ways in which one may deny the nature or significance of race, but they exist on a spectrum of ridiculousness. At the less ridiculous end, many ordinary people acknowledge the anatomical differences between races (skin color, hair texture, and so on) — and maybe some other differences as well, as long as they are value-neutral or favor minorities, like athletic ability — but nevertheless insist that these anatomical differences cannot possibly extend to the brain, nor disfavor minorities in any way. Think: “race is only skin deep, except West Africans are better sprinters, but whites aren’t smarter, because that stereotype is racist.” (In this fantasy, muscle cells are subject to evolution, but not brain cells.)
At the extremely ridiculous end of the spectrum, we have the “social construct” theory of race — a very popular, very post-modern, very stupid notion, with or without politicized junk science to back it up. (Here’s a comment with ten reasons why race isn’t a social construct.) This theory is so silly, so pretentious, so dangerous, and so obviously false, surely it must be the least widespread of all the Big Lies about race. It seems to be really popular only among academics — maybe not in real subjects like physics or biology or even business, but certainly in bullshit nonsense gibberish subjects like “critical race theory” and “critical white studies.” I believe its flagrant falsehood also makes it the hardest to correct: if a person’s thinking has gone so wrong that they can deny the existence of race with a straight face (and tenure), what hope is there of convincing them otherwise, short of extended psychiatric treatment?
Big Lie #2: racism is everywhere
Racism is everywhere — meaning racism by whites against minorities, of course. White people could never be the victims of racism (see Big Lie #4: white people are always the problem). But when asked for evidence of this discrimination, the Crusaders Against Racism (I’m in the mood to capitalize) are often curiously silent.
This reminds me of Aristotle. Sharp guy — the first logician — but not much of a biologist. He thought men had more teeth than women, and he even had a theory to explain it: “the abundance of heat and blood” in men. If only he had left his house (or hut, or coliseum, or pyramid, or whatever the Greeks were living in around 350 BC), wrenched open some poor woman’s mouth and counted, he would have realized that men do not, in fact, have more teeth than women. Isn’t it time the Crusaders left their ziggurats and wrenched open some poor woman’s mouth to see if it’s full of racism? Metaphorically speaking, of course.
This is 21st century America. Racism is over. (Again, I mean racism by whites against minorities. Blacks still discriminate against whites — blatantly, gleefully, violently, murderously.) No matter how desperately the Crusaders — like Joe Conason here — cling to it as their political weapon of choice, racism really is dead. From James Taranto’s rebuttal:
Conason seeks cheap grace by denouncing trivial offenses because he longs for a moral glory in which he came along too late to partake. Racism is dead, and its killers were heroes. Nostalgia for racism lives on in the imagination of liberals who only wish they could be so heroic.
Ouch. For completeness, here is Conason’s weak but crowd pleasing rebuttal to Taranto’s rebuttal. (His re-rebuttal?) Conason is still howling about carnival games — I wonder, if a carnival game is evidence of thriving racial bigotry and hatred, what were lynchings evidence of? Super-thriving racial mega-bigotry and ultra-hatred? You’re going to run out of adjectives long before you get to slavery, let alone the Holocaust. I also see that “[d]issembling about the existence of racism may itself be considered a mark of racial hostility”. So racism is everywhere, and saying that it isn’t — or even that some particular incident isn’t racist — is itself racism! Breathtaking in its perfect intellectual dishonesty.
Big Lie #2 is partly a corollary to Big Lie #1. Consider the notion that disparate impact implies disparate treatment. It’s a fashionable way to create racism out of thin air — even the Supreme Court is getting in on the action. This is how it’s done: since race doesn’t exist (Big Lie #1), black failure (“disparate impact”) must be a consequence of white racism (“disparate treatment”). Wow, we’ve just converted a statistical difference between two sociological groups into systemic racism. Maybe even institutional racism. (Is there a difference? Do I even care?)
Somehow no one ever tries this trick with the NBA’s hiring practices and their disparate impact on the Japanese.
Big Lie #3: reality is racist
Certain facts are offensive, and we must not talk about them out of respect for (oversensitive, hypocritical) minorities. The very existence of race may be one of these hate facts (Big Lie #1); the absence of racism, another (Big Lie #2). Since the Crusaders Against Racism and their black allies are in power, those who break this rule are punished, usually severely.
The most famous and spectacular case is that of James Watson, the great American scientist and co-discoverer of the structure of DNA. In an interview, he said 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. [This is true.]
. . . there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. [This is true.] Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so. [This is true.]
several of Watson’s sold-out speaking engagements were cancelled, many critical articles appeared in the British press, trailed by the American press a few days later, hundreds of blogs were fuming with negative commentary, including ones by the editors of Scientific American and Wired Magazine, a number of associations issued statements condemning his words, and soon he was suspended from his chancellorship at Cold Spring Harbor. Watson cancelled his already ruined book tour and flew home to tend to the destruction. It was too late; the eminent biologist retired in disgrace on Oct. 26th .
Here’s a sample of the furor he created. Upon canceling Watson’s talk, the Science Museum in London issued this statement:
We know that eminent scientists can sometimes say things that cause controversy and the Science Museum does not shy away from debating controversial topics.
However, the Science Museum feels that Nobel Prize winner James Watson’s recent comments have gone beyond the point of acceptable debate and we are as a result cancelling his talk at the museum.
Do I really need to point out the contradiction between (a) not shying away from debating controversial topics, and (b) setting a “point of acceptable debate” — on a scientific question, no less — beyond which no one may go?
It seems like if you’re even asking about the possibility of race differences in intelligence, you’ve already gone well beyond the Science Museum’s “point of acceptable debate” (and Scientific American’s, and Cold Spring Harbor’s, and the mainstream media’s, and the Crusaders’…). And if you point out that they do exist, well, you’re just making “baseless, unscientific and extremely offensive comments,” which —
— wait for it —
— “serve as a reminder of the attitudes which can still exist at the highest professional levels.” That’s right, racism is everywhere in science (Big Lie #2), and we know that because of these offensive, hateful remarks which should never be spoken (Big Lie #3), and which must be wrong because race doesn’t have anything to do with intelligence (Big Lie #1, illustrated), and if blacks appear to be underperforming (in every study ever done), it must be a product of institutional racism (Big Lie #2, illustrated by the ever idiotic Tim Wise), and we know it exists because…
Worshiping lies. Denying what is obviously true. This is “equality.” This is “diversity.” This is white America’s Orwellian endgame.
Big Lie #4: white people are the problem
Only white people can be racist. This Big Lie is genuinely racist — a term I, at least, do not use lightly. And yes, some people really believe it, especially in academia (again, mostly in bullshit nonsense gibberish subjects). We hardly need a rebuttal to this racial double standard.
As a corollary, white people cannot be the victims of discrimination, and should just stop whining, those stupid racists.
White people are not the problem. White people treat minorities better than anyone else (and about a billion times better than anyone else treats whites), mostly by creating the kind of societies white people naturally create — like Canada, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Britain, as opposed to Cuba, Swaziland, Nigeria, and Botswana — then (dangerously) letting non-whites immigrate there, where (even more dangerously) they are treated better than whites. Actually, I changed my mind: white people are the problem — but only for white people.
I wonder if they’ll realize it in time.