I Don't Transcribe German

Episode 38

Charles Murray and the Bell Curve

(Actual episode page)

This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.

Hello and welcome to I Don't Speak German, the anti-fascist podcast in which I, Jack Graham, and my friend Daniel Harper have conversations about the far right's conversations. Daniel tells me what he learned from years of going where few of us can bear to go and listening to what today's far right – the alt-right, white nationalists, white supremacists, nazis, etc. – talk about and say to each other in their safe spaces, their podcasts, their Youtube videos, their live streams, et cetera. The Waffle SS I call them, and do they waffle. Daniel listened so we don't have do.
Needless to say, these are terrible people and they say terrible things, so every episode comes with a big content warning. Daniel and I talk freely about despicable opinions and acts, and sometimes we have to repeat the despicable things that are said, including bigoted slurs. So be warned.
Hurray, Merry Christmas. It's episode 38. Special Christmas edition of I Don't Speak German.
Happy Hanukkah, Jack.
Happy Christmas and Hanukkah and all the other things. Kwanzaa, that's the other one.
It is actually the second day of Hanukkah today, as we're recording this.
It is, isn't it. Yes, and I meant no disrespect. Happy holidays.
– to our Jewish overlords.
That's right. Please don't stop sending the checks, Mr Soros.
Happy holidays, cause we're both foot soldiers in the war on Christmas. So we shouldn't be saying Merry Christmas, but, yeah. Episode 38, it's a Christmas edition, exactly like a normal edition but with some snow on the top, and we're going to be talking about Mr Charles Murray this month, week – we can't really say this week because we don't have a regular schedule.
This episode.
This episode. We're going to be talking about Mr Charles Murray of Bell Curve co-author fame. But first I'm told we have a bit of news.
Yeah. This is a just breaking, just a little bit ago. Eli Mosley, who was one of the organizers of Unite the Right – he was the quote-unquote lieutenant of the alt-right. During the 2017 era, he was sort of Richard Spencer's right-hand man. He is subject to this Sines v Kessler lawsuit, the civil suit that's going up against all these organizers, that's slowly working its way through the courts.
He has consistently refused to provide the discovery that the lawyers have asked for over a year now. To the point where he is finally being [found] in contempt of court. It does look like he's actually going to go to jail for failing to provide evidence that has been asked of him many, many, many, many times. He's been intransigent and in his legal filings he seemingly doesn't care. He's like, I can't attend court that day because my mother needs to see me, and that sort of thing. It's been –
It takes a lot to go to jail in a civil case. You have to be a real asshole and –
He's managed it.
Yeah. There you go. He took a leaf out of Mel Gibson's approach to legal proceedings and just decided to ignore it and hope it would go away.
He's doing even worse than Cantwell, which sounds –
Yeah. Not a fan of the carceral system or the prison-industrial complex or capitalist society's tendency to put people in cages and gulags and stuff like that, but I'm not heartbroken about this one I have to admit.
This is also, like – this was completely avoidable, from the get-go.
Well, yeah.
This is literally, you haven't given us the documents we've been asking you for very politely.
Yeah. He's literally got no-one to blame but himself.
So yeah, that's happening. I don't know, maybe we'll announce it if he – he might wiggle his way out of it but apparently he has been ordered to show up on January 6th for jail time. So unless he manages to give everybody what they want, and pays his fines or whatever because then, he will most certainly spend at least some time in jail. So, that's where we are. Yay.
What a silly man.
So... Charles Murray is the author of many books, including the Bell Curve, which is the one that we'll be discussing most relevantly here.
I've been fighting doing this episode, in part because it's a shitload of work. It's just a lot of fucking work. There are continuing debates around all of the topics regarding this Race and IQ concept, which is – IQ in general and its kind of role in terms of understanding how people fit into society, into capitalist societies, with racial divisions and that sort of thing layered on top of that. The race and IQ concept gets debated anywhere and everywhere. It is a very, very complicated topic and there's a whole lot of bullshit that's buried into the whole thing.
I'm not an expert on the literature. I'm not up on every single one, so it's kind of hard to do a full episode just on that. At the same time, I've made myself something of an – at least I sort of understand the general outlines of these debates, and kind of where these things are happening, and so I was planning on doing a full takedown of the Bell Curve. But then I didn't have to because as we mentioned in the last episode Shaun already did that for us, and it is excellent.
I think it speaks to the difficulty of this topic and [of] discussing it that I know enough to know that Shaun – while that video is amazing and two hours and forty minutes long or something similar to that – it takes him that long to just scratch the surface of where this argument was in 1994, when the Bell Curve was published. And there is now 25 years' worth of people arguing back and forth after the Bell Curve that you'd have to get through to do this topic justice.
It is a massive, massive bit of intellectual and academic and pseudo-scientific and pseudo-academic shitfighting, where people compare papers and [are] like, no, this papers doesn't mean that, or no, you're misinterpreting this, or you're willfully misinterpreting this, or you're taking money from an actual eugenics organization, et cetera et cetera.
You know, as you do, of course. A podcast is not the place to do that kinds of scholarly, citing-sources kind of work, and that's why it's difficult in this format to really talk about debunking it in detail. Which is why I'm glad I don't have to. So I do consider this podcast sort of something that goes alongside Shaun's video, so please go watch that first. I believe it is the first or second link in the show notes, so go check that out. It is absolutely worth your time. I have watched it three times, it's glorious.
It's very good. There is actually another long on video on Youtube about the Bell Curve and Herrnstein and Murray which I would recommend. I will find – I can't remember what it's called or who made it but I have watched it and it was good and will find a link to that as well. But yeah, Shaun's video is excellent.
Yeah, there's another channel that I'm going to recommended called Science and Propaganda, which has a couple of videos about this topic. This is this guy Simon Whitten, who is apparently new but he also is a really good Twitter feed to follow, if you're interested in this topic. He has made three or four really good videos about similar topics, the way pseudo-science gets picked up by right-wing shitheads to push a certain social agenda. Which we're going to get to, very shortly.
But we're going to take it as read that this stuff fallacious, I assume, and refer people to other people's work, essentially.
Right, I mean, ultimately – the point of this podcast episode is more to discuss Charles Murray and his background and the sort of ancillary issues around the Bell Curve, as opposed to refute the Bell Curve itself.
Which, honestly – the Bell Curve self-refutes. So let's dig in to a little bit of what the Bell Curve actually says. I hope that you're aware that the Bell Curve is a book that was published in 1994. It's written by a guy named Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein. Richard Herrnstein died shortly before the eventual publication of the book, and so Charles Murray is sort of the sole author listed whenever these debates come up. But Herrnstein is absolutely a big part of how this book came to be written.
This episode is really about Murray himself, I think we might – I've been looking into Herrnstein a little bit, I think we might do another episode on Herrnstein down the line, because he's kind of an equally fascinating figure. His work goes into talking about criminology. In fact we're going to talk a little bit about him here in a minute – because he wrote another book, which I have in front of me, which is – yeah, we'll get there. We'll get there in a minute. [laughs]
I'm not quite prepared to do a full conversation about Herrnstein at this moment. We're going to be talking about Charles Murray and his place within public discourse – the thing that he does, why he writes this book. Because there is this sort of perception among people who haven't read the Bell Curve, and even among people who have, that it's primarily a book of science. It's primarily a book about numbers and this kind of idea of – what is genetic determinism of IQ and how does that affect social positioning. Like, it's primarily this book of genetics and social science.
It's not really that at all. It's a very straightforward argument. What they do is, they take IQ scores alongside socioeconomic status indicators, which basically come through parental income of people. They have this big mass of data. And they track that, along with this [Bureau of Labor Statistics] study and determine that if you hold IQ constant and then vary socioeconomic status, you get a certain kind of linear relationship. People whose parents didn't do well in life tend to not do well in life. You get a linear relationship: the better off your parents were, the better off you are.
And then they do the [other] thing where they hold socioeconomic status constant and then compare IQ, and it turns out that IQ has another linear relationship, but it is a stronger linear relationship than the one through parents' socioeconomic status. Now, this is an incredibly simplistic and nonsensical – no, it's not nonsensical, it's just, you're taking the crudest possible dataset and using that to make these incredibly broad policy proposals.
Because this isn't just a book about – a rarefied social science book about IQ and genetics and how much of who we are is actually built into our genes, et cetera et cetera. This is a book with specific policy proposals. This is a book that is about pushing an agenda.
The war on welfare, the mid-nineties, the cutting back of – Bill Clinton stands and says the era of big government is over, basically cuts welfare for millions of Americans. These poor, starving children, majority African American, in this country, since the mid-nineties – you can lay a huge proportion of that on Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein and this fucking book. And so it's an important book, but to think of it as primarily a book of science, which is how a lot of people tend to think of it, is completely fucking wrong. And that's the thing that I think we really have to get across here.
And it's also the fact that we've known this since the book was published. I'm going to read some stuff from the book, from articles about the book, that indicate this even back in 1994. We're going to get there.
Yeah, indeed. It's extremely tempting to read long sections from Steven Jay Gould's response to it that he put in at the end of the second edition, or whatever it was, of the Mismeasure of Man, a book that already refutes the Bell Curve before the Bell Curve was even published. But he does add a refutation of the Bell Curve – very short, actually – refutation of the Bell Curve in the second edition – I think it was the second edition. It's very tempting to just read long passages from that. I was reviewing it earlier and I had fight to impulse to post it all on Twitter because it's so brilliant.
I also want to point out – not point out, focus in on one thing. You said it's self-refuting. One of the things I love about the Shaun video is the way he zeros in one something that is so important, which is that Herrnstein and Murray's political conclusions – which are the point of the book, they write the pseudo-science in order to cushion and justify the political conclusions that they want to draw, and the political program they want to advocate.
The political conclusions don't flow from the arguments. Just on a very crude level: they say you shouldn't give welfare to people who are single mothers. They don't say this exactly but this is what it amounts to. Don't give welfare to single mothers because they're doing it because they're low-intelligence people.
Well, you're not going to deter them from having more children by not giving them benefits if they're low-intelligence people, are you? If they're low-intelligence people, they're not going to draw the conclusion from that – I shouldn't have more children – because they're low-intelligence people. I'm not saying any of this is real, I'm saying that their own presentation of the argument is inherently self-contradictory. And I love that Shawn zeros in on that.
No, absolutely, I completely agree. In that particular case, what they're actually doing is – they're softening their own argument, because they won't say just, well, those children are just going to die. It's ultimately a matter of eugenics.
Oh yeah.
They phrase it as, well, then the poor mothers will just realize they can't have more children because they can't afford them. But in reality it's like – we're not going to give people access to birth control. We know that people who have more access to more resources at better at using birth control, for instance, and better at planning their families. And that's not because they have higher IQs, it's because, like, condoms cost money, and healthcare costs money, at least in this country. Hopefully not in yours, but we'll see what happens – anyway, I feel really bad for the state of your country right now. I'd say come here, but we're even worse, so...
Anyway. [laughs]
I've just realized that this is actually the perfect subject to be doing for the Christmas episode because it's actually just the kind of Malthusianism that Dickens was satirizing in the Christmas Carol. I just literally heard Scrooge say, well, if they'd rather die, they'd better do it, and reduce the surplus population. [laughs] That's exactly right.
I would like to highlight a little bit how the rhetoric of this book works. And I think that people think of it as a race-and-IQ book, which it is in part. The magazine article in the Atlantic, which was the very first piece that Andrew Sullivan edited – it's kind of the thing that made his name to fame and the thing that brought Andrew Sullivan to a place of prominence in American public life – was the Atlantic cover story about the Bell Curve. Anything you ever thought badly about Andrew Sullivan – and there are lots of things to think badly about Andrew Sullivan – he got his start peddling race-and-IQ bullshit. Which was the highlight of the magazine piece. But it's only a tiny part of the overall – of the actual book.
They sort of wrote like, Murray kind of says it's like, oh, the book isn't really about race and IQ, that's only a little bit of the book. You're correct, although you are the one that did the magazine piece that made this the big thing. If I were of a more conspiratorial bend, I would think that the reason they highlighted that in the magazine piece and in all the publicity around it was specifically to distract people from the terrible nature of the rest of the book, which is less overtly racist, obviously, but, if anything, even more ideologically suspect and even more incoherent on any kind of logical basis.
I have in front of me here an actual paperback copy of the Bell Curve. Believe it or not, I bought this. I bought it used. Charles Murray does not get any money for this. But I have this. It is eight hundred and something pages, it is a massive book. I have put a link to a PDF of this book. I have checked the pagination. I've spot-checked it. The pages should be accurate, in the PDF version and the version in front of me.
So we're going to read a little bit from the Bell Curve.
[sarcastic] Hurray.
This is the central argument in the Bell Curve, this is from page 37, and it is entitled The Creation of a Cognitive Elite within the College System.
"The experience of Harvard with which we began this discussion is a parable for the experience of the nation's university system. Insofar as many more people now go to college, the college degree has become more democratic during the twentieth century. But as it became democratic, a new elite was developing even more rapidly within the system. From the early 1950s into the mid-1960s, the nation's university system not only became more efficient in bringing the bright youngsters to college, it became radically more efficient at sorting the brightest of the bright into a handful of elite colleges."
So this is the central message of the book. What's happening since the decline of the old aristocratic system at major elite universities in the United States is that instead of basically a mix of IQs – of people who were just the children of the aristocracy getting into elite school, now that these schools use SAT scores and other kinds of metrics, basically quote-unquote proxies for IQ as metrics, that these school become much more top-heavy with really brilliant people.
And what that means is that essentially all the bright people are leaving the middle of the country and going to elite schools. That these elite schools are literally taking the brightest of the brightest of the bright.
And there is just so much wrong with this.
Yeah. [laughs] Where do you even start.
Where do you even start with this. But I would like to use this moment to illustrate this slightly. John F Kennedy's Harvard application essay is five sentences long. I'm going to read it to you now, and I put this in the links.
[sarcastic] In its entirety.
In its entirety. We're going to read this.
"The reasons that I have for wishing to go to Harvard are several. I feel that Harvard can give me a better background and a better liberal education than any other university. I have always wanted to go there, as I have felt that it is not just another college, but is a university with something definite to offer. Then too, I would like to go to the same college as my father. To be a 'Harvard man' is an enviable distinction, and one that I sincerely hope I shall attain."
Now –
That's it, yeah.
This –
Should I paraphrase that for you?
"My name's Kennedy. Will that do?"
[laughs] This gets bandied about as a demonstration of how dumb John F Kennedy was, which completely misunderstands the entire context for this.
Missing the point, yeah.
It misses the point because – this isn't just a paper he wrote, which is sort of implied by some of the conversation about it. This is hand-written. There's a version of this in his handwriting. It's part of the form. It's not meant to be a scholarly essay or anything like that.
But it indicates, like, around this time when – this was in 1935 I think, yeah, April 23rd, 1935 is the date that it's dated. At this point, Harvard accepted about ninety percent of its applicants because unless you were a rich douchebag from an aristocratic family, nobody bothered to – you wouldn't apply to Harvard otherwise. It just didn't happen.
Murray and Herrnstein absolutely agree with this. They're like, well, yeah, that system was bad, we agree. Aristocracy is bad. But aristocracy at least allows that smart people get left in the middle of the country.
Whereas now that they're all going to the biggest and best schools, now –
I'd be fascinated to know – if social position is determined by IQ, I'd be fascinated to know how aristocracy became aristocracy in the first place, without all aristocrats being of high IQ. How does –
Well, Murray's whole thing is that since like the 1950s this is kind of a new phenomenon. And in fact his previous book, Losing Ground, is all about how these aristocracies are being shut down by this coming meritocracy. And that we're creating this cognitive elite. And that this is bad because of mismatches. It creates aftereffects on our politics and all that sort of thing.
I want to be clear that this is nonsense. I have two things that I'm going to use. First of all is the college admissions cheating scandal, where wealthy people were paying to get – they were essentially scamming the testing agencies to get their kids extra time on tests, largely by faking disabilities, which is its own awful problem – anybody faking disabilities to do that implies that everyone is faking disabilities to get benefits, and that's horrible. That's even more horrible than anything else in this story as far as I'm concerned.
But those students end up doing perfectly fine in Harvard. From what I understand they don't fail out at any higher rate than the other kids do. At least not significantly higher. They do fine. Once you're in Harvard, you're just in Harvard, you know. It's not this incredibly difficult school. It's incredibly difficult to get into, not to get out of.
Yeah, exactly.
MIT seems to be a school that's ridiculously hard to get out of. It's also hard to get into, but – in some of the top-end engineering schools there does seem to be a bit of a gradient there.
Also, people talk about grade inflation and this idea of college admissions at top universities as being a fundamental problem. Like, how do you select who gets into these schools? And there are all kinds of things. A lot of people will say, oh, you just pick, you just set a criteria and take the top so many thousands – I think six thousand is a usual year at Harvard and Yale. Six thousand students. Well, they get more than six thousand applications from people that get straight 4.0 GPAs. And that goes for every single elite school in the country.
So what if you get somebody really good who has a 3.9? And that's why this sort of – it's not just sort of grade inflation, it's not just GPA inflation, it's – suddenly you have to get these sort of crazy extracurriculars and you do all that stuff. And ultimately a lot of these sports scholarships for things like rowing and equestrian[ism], that ultimately builds around allowing the children of aristocracy their extra way in. Because who does that except for those kids.
So this is just fundamentally false. This is built right there into the book. You spend ten seconds thinking about it and it's wrong. The whole thing is wrong.
It's just wrong. It's wrong.
I do not have to debunk this book any further. It is over. The argument is just wrong. [laughs] It's just wrong.
That's right, yeah. That is a central prop of the book. And it's not there. It's not real. So the whole thing falls over.
Everything is sort of using this sort of very flimsy mathematical rigmarole so then demonstrate that this true along all walks of life. And it's a little bit more solid when you start kind of looking at it and saying, well, people who are good at standardized tests tend to do better in getting into non-elite schools. But all of this just comes along with socioeconomic status. You talk about Gould... there's also a video from 1994, from November 1994, soon after the book was published, in which Gould explains the problem with the mathematics – in this video. I have linked it in the show notes. It is kind of towards the bottom.
Gould actually starts talking about nine minutes and forty-five seconds in. It's worth watching the full two-hour thing because you get a lot of different perspectives on the book, all of which are saying, this is complete horseshit for various reasons within my field. Gould is definitely the most entertaining and he's the one that I like the best. I mean, honestly, I just watch him and then I'm like, what a
podcaster this man would have been. [laughs]
Yeah. [laughs]
He would have made an amazing podcaster. I can only imagine, had he lived a few more years.
I also linked to another article that Gould wrote in 1994, called Curveball, which is sort of the text summary of the basic idea that he says in that video.
Again, there's a lot – I didn't really want to talk too much about Gould personally and this video, but all of that is just straightforward – this is the way that we need to come take a look at this.
Again, this was debunked immediately on publication, and Gould was right on the top of understanding this.
But this claim that there is a cognitive elite forming, that is absolutely their rationale for their policy proposals. Because basically what they claim to be afraid of is Idiocracy, isn't it?
Yeah, the sort of marching moron stuff. It ends up being – and again, they sort of go into a slightly more sophisticated angle where they start saying, well, if all the bright people are in major cities, and there aren't any bright people [elsewhere] or whatever, then you start to see this disconnect between a sort of intellectual political elite and the hoi polloi. Whereas, if you're really bright and you couldn't get into a major school, you'd go to your local state school and be, like, a genius, and you'd be building and innovating and everything there.
But again, the whole thing is like – there are more bright people who can possibly go to any of these schools, and to the degree we're seeing, like, rust belt collapse, it's not because all the geniuses are in New England and Southern California, it's because of neoliberal policy that's extracting resources from –
I was going to say... I think Occam's Razor allows us to find other explanations for why there's a disconnect between ordinary people and political elite. Personally, I think there are better, simpler explanations. [laughs]
[sarcastic] It turns out that people who went to the schools that I went to were just better and, you know, I hate to say that because –
Heh. Yeah.
[sarcastic:] I feel bad about it, but ultimately, if they just take the best of the best, and the only way that we can know that is clearly through this test, I mean this test which has no cultural [biases] built into it... I'm going to explain in much detail why I know these tests were completely fair and they are not biased in a way. [referencing Shaun video:] Just don't ask me to take one in Japanese, because I would totally fail that, you know.
Sorry, that's a gag on Shaun, who uses that example.
So, I do want to read one more portion of the Bell Curve, if you don't mind. Another very quick portion. I put the page references here but I didn't quote the text in the show notes. This is on page 307, and so – I'd like to introduce you to an educational researcher, a Nigerian American named John Ogbu.
Now, John Obgu, he died in 2003. There is some controversy around him and I don't necessarily – I'm not qualified to comment on the nature of his career, which was about a fifty-year career in education and kind of research and kind of sociology and the sociopolitical nature of education around the world. He visited many, many countries and did a lot of really high-level research on this stuff. But he is cited in the index of the Bell Curve. And we're going to read the entirety of what –
[chuckles] – of what Herrnstein and Murray have to say about John Obgu. This is the point, this is moment in which – I say of Twitter, I make fun of the Bell Curve a lot on Twitter, and I did say at one time, there are bits in the Bell Curve that refute the Bell Curve –
Oh yeah.
– and the some dipshit goes like, Yeah? Show one! I then I literally screenshotted this page and posted it. And then it's like, Well yeah, but what about all the other stuff they said? So I want you to listen –
Gee, it's almost as if they're not arguing in good faith and whatsoever you say, they'll always say yeah, but about this. And you answer that and then they say but what about that.
So this is about black-white differences in test scores. This is about, sort of –
"All, in different ways, purport to explain how large black-white differences in test scores could coexist with equal predictive validity of the test for such things as academic and job performance and yet still not be based on differences in 'intelligence,' broadly defined, let alone genetic differences."
Here's the section about Ogbu.
"John Ogbu, a Berkeley anthropologist, has proposed a more specific version of this argument. He suggests that we look at the history of various minority groups to understand the sources of differing levels of intellectual attainment in America. He distinguishes three types of minorities: 'autonomous minorities' such as the Amish, Jews, and Mormons, who, while they may be victims of discrimination, are still within the cultural mainstream; 'immigrant minorities,' such as the Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, and Koreans within the United States, who moved voluntarily to their new societies and, while they may begin in menial jobs, compare themselves favorably with their peers back in the home country; and, finally, 'castelike minorities,' such as black Americans, who were involuntary immigrants or otherwise are consigned from birth to a distinctively lower place on the social ladder."
"Ogbu argues that the differences in test scores are an outcome of this historical distinction, pointing to a number of castes around the world – the untouchables in India, the Buraku in Japan, and Oriental Jews in Israel – that have exhibited comparable problems in educational achievement despite being of the same racial group as the majority."
In other words, Obgu does a ton of research around the world. He goes to many, many countries and looks at educational systems and attainment across ethnic, cultural, religious groups. And he starts to summarize these things, and he comes up with this idea of the castelike minority, and that is – if you are born into a minority within a nation-state or within a region, within a country, and you are discriminated against by various kinds of complicated sociological definitions that he uses, you end up having about a standard deviation lower IQ, lower test scores, lower achievement in terms of general life, than the people who are not subject to those kinds of political, sociological detriment.
And he finds this across all societies. He finds this in places where there are groups that are, quote-unquote, genetically, very similar to the host population, who do not do well because of this castelike minority status.
I'm now going to quote from a piece co-authored by John Ogbu. Now I'm going to give Murray and Herrnstein a little bit credit here because this particular one was published in 1998, which is four years after the Bell Curve was published. So obviously they can't – but it is also really more of a summary of Ogbu's historical research as opposed to a discussion – it's not new, it's more of like a review article about Ogbu's work, essentially.
And so – and this is again in the show notes, it's a free PDF. Charles Murray has had twenty-one years to read this, and as far as I know he has not ever responded to it.
"From his comparative research Ogbu has concluded that (1) no minority group does better in school because it is genetically superior than others; (2) no minority culture is better at educating its children; and (3) no minority language is better suited for learning in school. He has argued that from a comparative perspective, one cannot attribute the differences in minority school performance to cultural, linguistic, or genetic differences."
"This is not to deny genetic differences or to deny that cultural and language differences may have an adverse or positive effect on minority school performance; but culture and language do not entirely determine the differences among minorities. Consider that some minority groups, like the Buraku outcast in Japan, do poorly in school in their country of origin but do quite well in the United States, or that Koreans do well in school in China and in the United States but do poorly in Japan."
"Comparative research suggests that we might discover at least a part of the explanation by closely looking at the histories and sociocultural adaptations of these minorities. More specifically, to understand why minority groups differ among themselves in school performance we have to know two things: the first is their own responses to their history of incorporation into US society and their subsequent treatment or mistreatment by white Americans. The second is how their responses to that history and treatment affect their perceptions of and responses to schooling."
Again, this completely refutes – even if the Bell Curve was just about racial differences in terms of IQ, et cetera et cetera, and the earlier thing where I said you can refute the Bell Curve with reading three sentences and thinking about it – even if it was just about the race-and-IQ question, Murray and Herrnstein – well, Herrnstein has been dead for decades, but Murray has no answer to this. No hereditarian answer to IQ. They never respond to this kind of argument. It's just completely beyond the pale for them. They'd rather look at the data itself than look at the sociological patterns that create the data. And that's it. Period.
Yeah. They just declare, by fiat, that it's not relevant. It's not worth talking about. In much the same way that they declare by fiat that the science about IQ is settled.
Right, I feel like there is this sort of thing to where we end up having the same kind of argument over and over again with this stuff. Where we end up wanting to – I mean in good faith – have the argument about IQ and about cultural bias and IQ. And these guys have answers, quote-unquote, answers to that. There are kind of responses. And this is why this sort of debate ends up being so intransigent on all sides.
Well, we should just read a little by Eric Turkheimer now. Sorry I read so much right here in this portion, but –
Actually –
I can't say it better than this. Sorry, go ahead.
Before you go on, I want to nuance what I just said. Herrnstein and Murray put lots of what you could call alibi statements into the book. I mean I said they declare by fiat that the science about IQ is settled. You can quote loads of bits in the book where they say, oh well, we don't know about the relationship of IQ to genetics or socioeconomic status, and we're not saying that it's definitely all heritable. You can find loads of stuff like that in the book. That's not what I meant.
Yeah no, I agree, definitely. They do this – sorry, Murray does this and the people of his ilk do this all the time. Murray is very avuncular. He seems like such a nice, reasonable guy in these things.
He's very much like, oh look, I mean I understand that people have this problem, but here is all the reasons that I think our research is valid. It was valid at the time, and we've just gotten more data since then and, you know, there is a lot of stuff – we made some mistakes but ultimately things have kind of come this way. And all we're really saying is that there are pretty good reasons to think that the difference between black and white IQ data is at least partly genetic. How can you possibly disagree with that – we've got all these scientists that stand behind this, that agree with this. So ultimately we stand in the mainstream on this. And it's those silly people who think that sociological factors, that environmental factors are the things that are doing this, and not – and then they use environmental factors to mean very narrowly defined things, like parental socioeconomic status as opposed to –
Yeah, well –
As opposed to, like, a history of oppression is not a thing you know.
Yeah, exactly. It's a wonderfully vague term, the environmental factor. That's like everything other than genes, isn't it, and they can define that as narrowly or as widely as they like.
And of course when you look at the science of this, and I have been in talks with – I think I'm going to get an actual geneticist to come on and talk about some of these issues. I'm going to try not to put my foot in my mouth on this, show my whole ass talking about this stuff, by avoiding it, but –
I want to be clear that there are, within people doing this science, there are very good – there is research that kind of goes a lot of different ways on this, right. But it's a conversation, and so this is why I wanted read this thing from Eric Turkheimer.
Turkheimer has a really nice blog. He works [on] Genetics and Human Agency. He's an academic, he's been studying IQ and intelligence testing and this sort of stuff for about thirty years. He's on Twitter. I don't think he follows me. Eric Turkheimer, if you want to come, I would love to have you on the show honestly, I really love your blog. He has a really clear perspective on this.
He makes the point that – I, Eric Turkheimer, and Charles Murray have both been arguing this topic for our entire careers, and neither one of us has made any difference. Nobody ever changes their mind on this topic. And his point on this is, basically, this is because the questions that we're arguing are not those that can be solved scientifically. There's not some research program that's going to be able to definitely solve these question. And the people who do want to say [that IQ] is wholly based on heredity don't even have any idea about what that kind of research program would look like. Like, what kind of results do you expect to get.
So here I'm going to read a bit from his blog. I put a link to this in the show notes, and to his full blog, and it's definitely worth digging into his archives if you have an interest in this topic. I find him a really great, clear thinker on this stuff. But I'm reading from [a blog post] called The Origin of Race Differences in Intelligence is Not a Scientific Question.
And he says, "I should be clear that I am not making a 'both sides do it' argument. It is the hereditarians who are trying to reach a strong and potentially destructive conclusion, and the burden is absolutely on them to demonstrate that they have a well-grounded empirical and quantitative theory to work with. So, if you are out there and think that group differences are at least partially genetic, please explain exactly what you mean, in empirical terms. Do you mean that some portion of the IQ gap will never go away, no matter what we do environmentally? Do you mean we will discover genes with hard-wired biological consequences for IQ, and their frequencies will differ across groups? Are polygenic risk scores going to do it somehow? But don't let me mischaracterize your position: explain it yourself."
"My concern is that anti-hereditarians play into race scientists' hands when we agree to engage with them as though there existed a legitimate research paradigm proceeding toward a rational conclusion. At least in the social sciences, legitimate empirical research paradigms rarely come to all-or-none conclusions, so it becomes natural for people to conclude, with Murray and Harris, that the whole long argument is bound to settle eventually on the idea that group differences are a little environmental, a little genetic. But in fact, that is not where we are headed. I predict that in a relatively short period of time, contemporary race science will seem just as transparently unscientific and empirically untrue as the race science of the early 20th century now appears from our modern perspective."
"Declaring something to be a science doesn't make it so. The hereditarians want all the good things that come from being thought of as scientists. They want academic respect, they want protection from charges of racism, they want clear separation from the very recent history of 'race science' that led directly to the Holocaust and Jim Crow. They have to earn it, by doing the hard work of developing the quantitative and empirical theories that transform intuitions about stereotypes into real science."
Yeah, that's really good. That's exactly right. They claim the status of disinterested, apolitical, objective objectors. You know, science and all that. Steven Jay Gould calls it scientism. They want all these advantages of appearing neutral and disassociation from what they're actually doing, which is perpetuating this very old – again, Gould points out how old it is, the Bell Curve is just sort of, for him, the latest iteration of this thing that goes back a very long time. The same arguments.
What they're doing is claiming the status of science for something that – this is a point Shaun makes in the video, he makes a point about how Herrnstein and Murray constantly make this assumption that the evidence is eventually going to pop up that proves them right. They sort of kick – they kick it down the road. In time, more evidence will come in and it's bound to support our side of it.
Murray's poses – yes, it's a bit of both, and we're just trying to be reasonable about it, while strongly implying it's mainly genetic. I think what – what's that guy called?
Turkheimer. What he's pointing out there is incredibly valuable. Which is that there is just no scientific consistency about what they actually mean a lot of the time when they say that these things are hereditary. And that's in the Bell Curve – it's not sort of your Twitter nazis that do that, it's in the Bell Curve as well.
This is in the Bell Curve and it's in all the – I mean I don't claim to be one hundred percent [familiar] with all this literature. I'm not someone who does this for a living. This is not my area of expertise at all. But I have read these papers, and it's shown throughout, this problem. It's just kind of built in, this idea that, like, what are actually saying?
Like, what is the actual thing you're trying to do? And they always fall back on, well, you know, it's the SJWs, it's the egalitarians who will just not let us ask these questions that we really need to ask. And they will us not give us the research funding. And it's like, you've been in this career for thirty years.
Like, Charles Murray has been touted by the AEI for decades.
Who's stopping you?
He's an incredibly powerful person within the fields of public policy.
[resigned:] Yeah.
He forces legitimate scientists to consider him as a peer, based on this book that you can refute by looking at it.
Yeah, exactly. The layman can refute [it] by just taking one of the props of the argument seriously and thinking about it for two seconds.
This is why they love to pose as sort of, you know, heretical speakers of forbidden ideas whose free speech is being curtailed. Because what's actually happening is that people are protesting the fact that they're still peddling this stuff, despite the fact that it's been shown time and time again, for a very long time, to have no scientific validity. Nobody is actually stopping them from saying it. What's happening is that people are saying you shouldn't be allowed to go around touting this stuff without being challenged. Because it's bullshit.
And the pose as being free speech martyrs obviously always is a lovely distraction from the conversation that really should be happening, which is forcing them to define terms and actually tell us what they're actually saying. But of course they don't want to do that.
Right, exactly. Another thing that kind of comes up – I'm sorry to keep reading stuff but there is so much great writing about this that I'm just going to. Just demonstrating that all this was known in 1994, this is from the New York Times Magazine, this is a profile of Charles Murray. It is available online, it is from 1994, and it is entitled, Daring Research or Social Science Pornography? Which is a great title.
This is a quote from Murray:
"'Why can a publisher sell it?' he asked in the proposal for Losing Ground."
Losing Ground is Murray's prior work to the Bell Curve, which argued many of the same policy proposals that are in the Bell Curve, but without the patina of pseudo-science, so –
Yeah, I encountered pre-Bell Curve Murray and Herrnstein being cited by Rothbard, actually, when I was studying the Austrians.
Oh yeah, definitely. We'll come to back this in a second, but –
– "he asked in the proposal for Losing Ground."
"Because a huge number of well-meaning whites fear they are closet racists, and this book tell them they are not. It's going to make them feel better about things they already think but do not know how to say. Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich may have more power than Murray, and Rush Limbaugh and Pat Buchanan may have a more direct influence, but no other conservative has his ability to make a radical thought seem so reasonable. While others rant, Murray seduces with mountains of data and assurances of his own fine intentions. He will never be the country's most famous conservative, but he may well be the most dangerous."
Yeah. And that – I mean you made the point earlier the book has played an enormous ideological role in justifying savage policies, and that that was very much the intention. I mean Murray went into it in order to pursue a very eccentric and extreme form of reactionary libertarianism. That was his politics.
Absolutely. Also, just from this same piece, which does go a little bit into Murray's childhood – and again, worth looking at:
"While there is much to admire about the industry and inquisitiveness of Murray's teenage years, there is at least one adventure that he understandably deletes from the story: the night he helped his friends burn a cross."
"They had a formed a kind of good-guys gang, "the Mallows," whose very name, from marshmallows, was a play on their own softness. In the fall of 1960, during their senior year, they nailed some scrap wood into a cross, adorned it with fireworks, and set it ablaze on the hill beside the police station, with marshmallows scattered as a calling card."
"Rutledge recalls his astonishment the next day when the talk turned to racial persecution in a town with two black families. 'There wasn't a racist thought in our simple-minded minds', he said, 'that's how unaware we were.'"
"A long pause follows when Murray is reminded of the event. 'Incredibly, incredibly dumb,' he says, 'but it never had crossed our minds that this had any larger significance. And I look back on that and say, 'How on earth could we be so oblivious?' I guess it says something about that day and age that it didn't cross our minds.'"
You know, even if it's true that it didn't cross their minds, that is itself proof of institutionalized racism – that a bunch of white kids could burn a cross and it not even occurred to them that they were racist. I don't believe that for a moment by the way.
But even if you take that at face value –
I just love the moment of, like, he pauses for a second before he answers. This is definitely a piece worth reading, but –
You're mentioning something that I omitted, you're not supposed to – anybody who's read the Bell Curve knows that you mustn't mention things that they omit, because, you know, omission is a huge part of their technique.
And also by acknowledging it. See, he acknowledges, oh no, you're right, I'm sorry, I'm completely kind of forgot that incident.
[mock embarrassment:] Yeah.
It didn't mean anything. I don't have any desire to rebut that or to consider what my own lack of willingness to tell this to you – or my lack of remembering it, if we take him at his word – I wasn't really thinking about it, I forgot the incident. God, what stupid kids we were. That doesn't make me think about the possible other things I might be omitting in this story. And it doesn't make the people who agree with him kind of think about what else might be missing from this.
I mean I've got the data right here and the data just comes – it's magic. The numbers, they just happen.
Yeah. It doesn't mean anything, and now that I've acknowledged it we can just move on. Because that's another key technique in the Bell Curve: you acknowledge the counter-argument or the evidence that proves you wrong and you skip over it gracefully and assert that you are right anyway and move on.
Which is how you quote. You cite John Ogbu in your book. You make sure you put it in there so that whenever some asshole like me comes up and says, like, hey, you didn't really deal with Obgu – no, no, it's right there, it's in the book. You're lying, clearly.
It's also how, if you're Charles Murray, you propagandize yourself against those who criticize you. Because, you know, people say, with perfect justice, you're a biological determinist. And you say, no, no, look here in the Bell Curve, there's a bit here that says that environmental factors play a huge role and I'm not biological determinist. Despite the fact that it's a manifestly biological determinist book.
You're stawmanning me. I didn't say this is biological. I'm saying it's got to be partly genetic, partly environmental, and that we should just act like it's mostly biological.
Yeah. Because the evidence will come in eventually that proves that it is. It's no wonder he gets on so well with Sam Harris, really, is it.
Oh yeah, no. There is – in particular on this topic, and you hear this over and over and over again, there was a – one of these guys showed up to Molyneux, and I think I mentioned this in the Molyneyx episode – it wasn't Murray, I forget exactly which guy it was, there's a lot of these guys that do this. I want to say it's David Reich but I don't want to be wrong on that. One of these guys did an interview about race and IQ on Moluneux' show, and was talking about – well, we've come leaps and bounds and it turns out that maybe we know two percent of the information about the genome and how that affects intelligence. Just imagine when we know fifty percent, then we'll be able to make all kinds of predictions.
So yeah, come back when you know fifty percent. Because you've been saying the same shit for fifty years.
You're always like, we've got some evidence right here and all it's in the pipeline. We're doing research. We are real scientists. We are going to get this one of these days. Come back when you have fifty percent of intelligence is due to identifiable genetic structure that we can identify and when you have that, then we can have a real conversation about what that means. But until then fuck off. [laughs]
[laughs] Yeah.
I'm not here to do that. I feel like one of the things that also gets missed – and we've touched some of this a little bit – Murray is a social scientist. He's not a geneticist. He's not someone who does this. He's someone – he has a policy agenda, he is a policy wonk. He has a policy agenda and he comes at this as someone who wants to cut welfare programs, who thinks that government programs don't actually do anything to assist the people they're supposed to help. And they just end up creating a culture of dependency.
This is obvious if you look at Murray's career. But there is a very good piece that I recommend over at the Baffler. This is by Quinn Slobodian and Stuart Schrader, I apologize if I butchered that name, and it's called The White Man Unburdened. And if there's one thing I've recommended in this episode that should be read, it is this piece. I almost lead with this piece because I think it's really – it talks about who Charles Murray is. Actually I believe it links to that original New York Times Magazine piece that I was quoting earlier, or at least references it.
This is a piece that goes into who is Charles Murray, where does he come from, what's his background. And, uh, well let's quote from this.
Yeah. Don't apologize.
I promise this is the last time I'm going to do a long quote, but this is definitely kind of worth it, alright.
Don't apologize for reading.
"Despite the reputation he cultivates as a teller of uncomfortable truths based on rigorous empirical social-scientific research, Murray misrepresents what the United States was trying to achieve in Thailand."
So Murray kind of gets his start as a social scientist. He's hanging out in Thailand and he's doing social surveys of the local peasantry, the local population, to determine what kinds of aid they might need from the organization he's working with, which is essentially the soft edge of the US State Department policy in Thailand in the late 60s – which should tell a lot about – it's essentially papering over the effects of the Vietnam war.
That's what he was doing at this time. Again, it's an excellent piece. I don't want to quote the whole thing. Anyway.
"Murray misrepresents what the United States was trying to achieve in Thailand, and what his role there was. In Murray’s monograph, the word 'insurgency' appeared twice and 'war' never. He made no reference to opium, perhaps the commodity most worth fighting over in northeast Thailand. He did not mention martial law. And he certainly did not analyze how ethnic persecution shaped village life. Murray’s later writings have effaced these particulars even further."
"Most important, Murray diminishes the US war in Vietnam as the decisive context that shaped much of Thailand's political and economic fortunes. The nearby American war transformed Thailand's urban economy, while heightening worries both within the Thai regime and in the diplomatic community at large that Thailand might become another falling domino. Rural community development was designed to thwart Communist organizing and subversion. Additionally, from the 1950s through the 1970s, there were challenges to the Thai national government's legitimacy – which meant, in turn, a protracted initiative to suppress any dissent that struck Thai leaders as carrying a remote echo of left-wing subversion. Meanwhile, a host of factions within the government were themselves skirmishing, with coups and counter-coups."
"CIA involvement was one way for Washington to play favorites. Reading Murray's Thai writings, you’d never know that his employer, AIR, was linked to security agencies or that the actual counterpart Thai development agency was a paramilitary force created by the CIA, the Border Patrol Police, which played a key role in a massacre of students and the installation of dictatorial right-wing rule in October 1976."
"Obscuring this context has important consequences for Murray's analysis of the failures of US nation-building in Thailand, which would go on to serve as the conceptual seedbed for his critique of the American welfare state. The research he conducted in the late 1960s assessed villagers' attitudes toward the government and the assistance it provided. He found that many villagers claimed to have little positive interaction, or any at all, with representatives from the national government. They preferred to deal with local officials. Local officials, Murray argued, were more sensitive to their needs than outside administrators."
This becomes his central – this is his central ideological focus.
Giving power to – and I'm not saying, I'm not making the argument against local control here because that's a complicated political thing. You know, whether, on what scale, we need to manage these things. But ultimately Murray isn't saying, well, local people know their needs best and we should allow them to make the decision. He's saying, we shouldn't be giving aid to these people, because ultimately it just makes their lives worse, and all you had to do is ask them. I work for an organization that's funded the CIA, and it's installing right-wing puppet governments. And they don't want anything to do this me, and so clearly that's just saying that all welfare is just bad.
It's amazing, isn't it, how every single time you pull on any thread you get taken to the same bloody places, over and over again. The method, amputation of context, tactical amnesia about the crimes of imperalism, and the point of the exercise is firstly to conduct imperalism in the first place, based on, as it turned out, historically, white supremacy. And ultimately it's about protection of capital. It's just amazing how it always flows back to the same things via the same channels.
We've talked a lot about Charles Murray here, because that's the nature of the episode. We're talking about Charles Murray. But he did have a co-author: Richard Herrnstein. And Richard Herrnstein had been kind of involved in the IQ stuff back in the 60s and 70s. This guy Arthur Jensen writes the original paper that starts off this whole debate, in 1969 – [sarcastic:] which was certainly not – certainly didn't come out of opposition to the civil rights era, at all.
[sarcastic:] Nah.
[sarcastic:] That's not what's going on.
But! I have another book in front of me. This is called Crime and Human Nature. I don't know if there's a PDF available of this one. I have not read this whole book. But it's by Richard Herrnstein, published 1985. And he has a co-author: James Q Wilson.
James Q Wilson, in case name might ring a bell to you, is the guy who created the thing called Broken Windows policing, which is where you go after minor property crimes because it's, something something – [you] put more black people in prison for low-level offenses and then that makes crime go away. Sort of begins that whole process.
Broken Windows ends up being sort of the ideological justification for that – war on poor people and African Americans in the Reagan White House.
Again, funny how all this ends up connected. Probably was buddies with our buddy Bob Whitaker from the last episode, or at least – who knows, I don't know, I'd have to look into that actually, I'm not sure about that.
I'm not even going to read from this book, I'm just going to read from the flap jacket. I know I said I wasn't going to read any more but fuck that, I'm going to read here.
Good. That's more like it. No apologies.
"In a study that will forever think about both crime and human nature" –
[exasperated sigh]
[hysterical cackle]
– "Wilson and Herrnstein explore the effects of constitutional factors, gender, age, race, intelligence, personality, the family, school, and community, the labor market, television, alcohol and drugs, and punishment and reward. Crime and Human Nature also charts historical trends, compares different cultures and offers a startingly original perspective on the age-old debate over punishment as deterrence, rehabilitation or retribution."
Essentially, it's trying to look at human nature through the lens of crime and making an argument that criminal behavior is something that is – they don't seem to quite go one hundred percent on the [idea that] this is sort of genetically created. They're not quite doing the full-on phrenology thing. They're saying, oh, there are cultural factors. People just have bad cultures. And sometimes bad genetics, that make them do bad things.
They don't pull their pants up.
Right. You know, that's sort of the thing. And again, we talked about American Renaissance, The Color of Crime, which is essentially the same argument. They just file of the high-falutin' language and just start quoting black crime statistics.
Yeah. This is just the genteel version of that, yeah.
Right. And so this is – I've talked about Murray a lot, I've talked about Herrnstein here, I'm probably going to do a little bit more on Herrnstein in the future. But, yeah, what else do you have to say.
But Charles Murray, you know, he's being rehabilitated, or certain people are trying to rehabilitate him, aren't they?
To the extent that he needs it.
[creaky noise] Sorry, I was moving my book off my desk so I had a place to sit.
No, I think that – he was never really that far out in the hinterlands. Sam Harris talks a lot about, like, you have been unfairly maligned for your entire career. And it's like, yes, by respectable people who understand how words and numbers work.
Yeah, you were maligned by people who were unkind enough and ungentlemanly enough that your books are full of shit.
Yes, [my] book is full of shit, therefore you are unfairly maligning me because you're saying I said things I didn't say. You're just – and this is the thing that's really important. The Shaun video, we referenced it earlier, please go check it out. It's really – the reason I'm not doing the more in-depth discussion about race and IQ is because Shaun did that work for me, basically.
Yeah. I really want to stress that it's not only very good on the arguments and the facts and stuff – very, very, very good indeed. It's also very accessible and enjoyable. I mean, if you – it's not enjoyable like, you know, watching a movie, but it's enjoyable if you're someone like us. You're not going to be bored.
If you like this podcast, I think you will really appreciate that video, honestly. I think you'll get a lot out of it.
Oh yeah.
Shaun does something really clever structurally, and we'll end on that, but – one of the arguments that he makes, one of the things that he says, is that people want to argue about the Bell Curve as if we're kind of arguing about science. That's kind of the point that Turkheimer is making but Shaun in a different direction with this.
And that is, Murray and Herrnstein, in the book, and then Murray in all of his future appearances, is almost jovial – no, I'm not really arguing, I'm not really – there is a lot of hectoring language in this. We're really trying to be precise about this and really try to indicate and include words from all of our critics so that we can't be accused of writing a polemic or whatever.
But then they go on to argue as if all of that hectoring and all that back and forth and all that nuance didn't exist. Because they argue for absolutely draconian –
– awful cuts to basic social services –
Well, they kind –
– for the poorest and most marginalized people.
That's part of their contention that a cognitive elite is forming. They start to argue for stuff like reservations for the cognitively impoverished. They get close to arguing for concentration camps for the stupid. We know what they mean by the stupid.
Even beyond on that, like cutting of welfare – again, I hate to keep harping on this, but we talk a lot about terrorists and stuff on this show, and about this overt white supremacist stuff, people trying to create RaHoWa and stuff, and the violence that they commit. And all of that is absolutely terrible. And I'm not going to sit here and say we shouldn't talk about mass shooters because that's absolutely something we need to talk about. I think it's essential part of what this show does.
But Charles Murray has had more negative effect on the world than any of these dipshits could ever pretend to.
Yeah. Not just directly via providing ideological cover for neoliberal politicians who wanted to attack social welfare and social programs and so on and so forth. But also in the ammunition that he's given to people like that, to the people who go and commit the mass shootings, or encourage the people that commit the mass shootings.
Because every one of these fuckers argues IQ is immutable, and it's heritable, and it's fixed, and it's linked to race. And they will refer to the Bell Curve. I don't know if they've read it or not. Probably loads of them haven't. But it's a totemic piece of esthetics for them.
The heft of book, the size of it, and the – look at all the numbers! Look at how long it is!
Yeah. It looks impressive with its big scholarly apparatus. That's what it is, it's esthetic.
The Culture of Critique kind of does the same thing. The Culture of Critique is a better sourced academic book than the Bell Curve.
As terrible as it is. By not making a real argument you fail to make a bad one. From Kevin MacDonald. But at least there are more references. The references are better sometimes. I don't know. I keep meaning to do a little site note where we dig into some of Kevin MacDonald's footnotes, because that's a horrifying and wild ride. I meant to do it today but then I got stuck finding all these quotes and kind of really enjoying digging back into this for an afternoon.
Yeah, no, it's good.
We delayed this one for a week because I had some personal life stuff to deal with, and because I knew I did not want to half-ass this one.
But I think Shaun does something really interesting in his video, something that I really appreciated as someone who has read fairly deep in this literature, and someone who has done a lot of that groundwork that Shaun does. It's that he starts quoting bits of the Bell Curve and then like citing it to Murray's sources, and if you know this word at all, you just start dinging: Pioneer Fund, Pioneer Fund, Pioneer Fund.
These are all people funded by an openly eugenicist organization that was founded in 1937 and that has never not been an openly eugenicist organization. That is running one of the major journals in this field – Mankind Quarterly is just a publication of this group essentially.
There are some layers of other people who sit on the board. These major academic, real academic sources that are looking at this stuff are funded by this eugenicist organization. And there's a level of secrecy only because people don't look at it. But then these people had to be taken seriously within academia because they're on the boards of the major publishers. They're on the boards of major journals so you have to consider their arguments, in terms of talking about this stuff publicly.
Absolutely, yeah. And it's not unreminiscent of the vast network of crackpot right-wing libertarian economics groups and think tanks and professors that infest the American university system, funded by various billionaires. It's not the same the Pioneer Fund, which has got links to Nazis and all sorts of people – because as you said, it's a eugenicist organization. But it works in the same way. These people don't get scrutinized, and they get taken as respectable, despite the fact that their ideas are absolutely fucking insane.
And because they have this patina of academic respectability. And it just gets omitted, you know, this stuff will get talked about in the media, and you'll just get – oh well, this think tank says, and this professor says that. It's the same with Charles Murray. When he goes and talks to people like Sam Harris, Sam Harris doesn't talk about the fact that loads of your sources, in your main book about this, they can be linked back to an openly eugenicist organization.
Well, I'd like to push back slightly on what you were saying about the economics and business schools being funded by right-wing billionaires and that they're directly connected to this eugenicist stuff. I mean I know what you're saying and I agree with you, but the connection is closer than I think a lot – you know, you mentioned earlier Murray Rothbard, who is one of the intellectual progenitors of libertarianism –
Well Murray himself, his ideology is extreme right-wing libertarianism.
Exactly. This guys are not strict racialists, but Murray Rothbard gets quoted – he has a famous paper, Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Human Nature. Maybe we'll do a Rothbard episode one day. That'll be fun.
I should pimp my – I did an essay responding to one of Rothbard's essays. It might have been that actually. Was it? Yeah, it was.
It's one of those famous ones, I mean it's absolutely something that we could do a full episode just going through.
Yeah, I did. I wrote an entire response to Rothbard's Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Human Nature. So maybe I'll be vain and link to that as well.
Please do. That paper gets quoted – not so much in 2019, I think people kind of moved on – Murray Rothbard was Jewish and they don't like quoting [Jews] in their nazi propaganda, perish the thought. But it definitely gets – those ideas become part of the source of the neoreactionaries. The neoreactionaries certainly borrow heavily from that.
And then the general tenor of that – it provides intellectual justification for this more kind of folk version, this more kind of populist level where their not intellectualizing in the same way, but they're sort of borrowing from the same ideas. And the fact that there is this patina of intellectual justification is what allows it to look legitimate to people looking into this for the first time.
And that's why it's so pernicious, and that's why – I mean, frankly, that's why I do this. It's just connected. To show you where it comes from. To immunize people against it. I feel like that so much of what this is just, like, point the links. Point the links out. This is where [this is] coming from.
Some of the context that they very determinedly omit.
Yeah. Provide some of it. It also occurs to me that there's something kindred in Murray's method, which is to play this very avuncular, genial, reasonable guy and then to disavow all the claims that are made about him that are – maybe not all of them, but the claims made about him and the book by people who are outraged that it's still taken seriously and don't think it should be taken seriously, et cetera – these people are on the right track. And he will disavow those claims.
He will say, no, that's not true, look, there's this quote from the book, et cetera et cetera. And that strikes me as an approach that's very kindred to the central mode of today's far right. Which is this sort of ironic oh, I mean it, but I also don't mean it, but I also kind of do maneuver.
And actually, of course it is. Because that goes right the way back through all this stuff. Right the way back from day one they've been doing this. They've been doing this sort of dance around respectability.
And all the way back to the 30s.
Yeah. Absolutely.
You can find this in Mein Kampf, you know. You can find those same general kinds of ideas.
I mean I'm sure you could find it pro-slavery literature in 1840 in Missouri if you went looking for it. I'm not a scholar of that era, but this is part and parcel, this idea of – we're not going to say what we really believe. We're going to say the thing that is a little bit nicer than the thing that we actually believe –
– and use that as our cudgel.
Yeah, and then –
And then they that we do that. Then they think that, like, I must support coming up and killing every white person.
Because I must be doing the equally insidious thing, and hiding my real beliefs. And I'm very open about the things that I actually believe.
Absolutely. What you see is what you get. I tell you what I think. [laughs] I'm not hiding the fact that I –
I turns out that when you don't actually believe that millions of people should be killed, it's very easy to not pretend not to believe that.
Yeah, that's right. I can just say it. I don't have to hide it. Because what I think – you know, you might not agree with me, and I'm very much in the minority, but what I think fundamentally isn't absolutely insane and obscene. So I don't have to dance around it.
So that's Charles Murray. At least the version we're going to do right now. Let me know if you actually want to do the full Sam Harris [and] Charles Murray discussion and talk about all that – legitimately, I say this to the audience, or to Jack if Jack wants to do it, but: it's legitimately fascinating, but I don't know that our general podcast audience is going to want to listen to me geek out about particular exchanges with another podcast, and all the bullshit that got kind of buried.
But it is fascinating in terms of how the language works, which is something – I can sit and relisten to that any day. I will just put in on and just go, like, god, this is such as train wreck.
That tells you more about me than anything.
We'll do a series of them. We'll do, you know, Sam Harris and Klein as well. [That would] be great. I'm up for it. We'll see what the listeners think but, yeah, I'm up for it.
I'm hoping in the new year we can get back to the old – kind of hit a bunch of these figures, like doing Richard Spencer and David Duke and Mike Enoch and stuff. Get back to basics a little bit in the new year. But I do want to keep doing these bigger-picture episodes as well.
There are a lot of figures that we just haven't covered because news happens, or because there is something else that is going on. There are a lot of people that we could definitely spend an hour talking about that we just haven't gotten around to yet. I feel slightly embarrassed not to have done an Identity Evropa episode yet. Because we really should. We'll get there.
But that's not all we're doing. We're going to do – I think we're going to try to do one more episode before the end of the year? And we're going to do another movie review. Should we reveal what movie we're doing?
Yeah, go ahead. No, hang on a minute, you're not supposed to talk about it.
Oh, we're not supposed to talk about it. But then again that's the whole problem with it. People talk about it.
We're going to talk about Fight Club. Toxic masculinity and how it fed into the manosphere, and how the manosphere – what it says about this movement, and about how it becomes a progenitor of a lot of this stuff. I think it is legitimately fascinating, but I think it's legitimately fascinating twenty years later. Maybe more so than it was in 1999.
We'll also use that to talk about that year of 1999 in cinema, because there are a lot of other films that are kind of playing with similar ideas. I have lots of thoughts on this. We'll do that and we'll talk about the movie a little bit as well.
Yeah. The first rule of the next episode of I Don't Speak German is, we do talk about Fight Club.
We do talk about German.
We do talk German, yeah.
What if we both actually spoke German and then did a whole episode in German talking about Fight Club. That would be –
Yeah. I want to learn German just to do that joke.
It would be totally worth spending like years of my life learning a language just to do a troll on our audience.
Yeah, and also I could read Marx in the original German. That would probably be handy.
That was episode 38. We are planning to do another one before the end of the year, so I won't say thanks for the year that you've given us, listeners. It's been an amazing year. We started in January this year and here we are in December, nearly at the end. We built a huge – by our standard anyway – a huge audience.
It's a pretty big audience. I'm kind of amazed at how big – like, we never thought it was going to do this. We should do this in the next episode. But I think even if we don't get that last one out before the end of the year, 38 episodes in 52 weeks is not half bad.
That's pretty good.
Given the nature of this content and what we're doing here, so – I'm proud of us.
Absolutely, yeah. I'm proud of you. I'm just tagging along.
Yeah, so. Happy Christm... no, we're not doing that, are we. Happy Holidays. That's right. Sorry. I nearly went –
If you celebrate holidays – but of course Happy Hanukkah, because we're just required to.
Just have a pleasant end of December.
It's such a terrible joke, you know, given what's actually happening in the world. I hope the people understand that I don't mean that in the slightest and it's not, like – it's fine. Anyway. Please, if you celebrate a holiday, please celebrate it with kindness and love in your heart. Unless you're a nazi, in which case you should absolutely stop being a nazi.
Stop being a nazi and, you know, yeah. Well that's it. Stop being a nazi.
Yeah, just stop being a nazi.
But until –
If you want to be racist, take the microphone away, then I don't have to pay attention to you anymore.
Exactly. Either stop being a nazi or stop talking about it. One or the other will do. You know, for a start. But otherwise, if you don't fit into that category, have a pleasant end of December and beginning of January. We might see you before the new year but – great. Thanks a lot. Bye.
That was I Don't Speak German. Thanks for listening. We're on iTunes and show up in most podcast catchers. We try to release something every week, with a regular episode every fortnight. Please come back for more. Check out our back catalog of episodes and tell everyone you've ever met about how great we are. You can find Daniel's twitter, along with links to pretty much everything he does, at @danieleharper.
You can find my twitter at @_jack_graham_. Please get in touch if you have any suggestions, tips, information, praise, or anything to say, as long as you're not a nazi of some kind. Daniel and I both have Patreons, and any contribution you can make genuinely does help us to do this. Though it also really helps if you just listen and maybe talk about us online to spread the word. If you'd like to give us stars and reviews on iTunes that'd be appreciated too.
Bye for now, and ¡No pasarán!