Saved by the Bell Curve: Finally, an alt-right rejoinder to the fucking love of science

This may fall a bit short of the Lincoln-Douglas debates:

This is what America does. It uses unprecedented and unsustainable prosperity to import illegals to slaughter animals and fry their meat so that we can stuff it down niggers’ throats until they’re too fat to walk.

It literally trains people in the cutting edge of math, science, finance and management to erect offshore platforms to suck up the carbonized remains of extinct species in order to provide the necessary fuel for the spic-nig cycle.

I guess I never really grasped the goal of civilization before. Why did Newton discover calculus? What are Maxwell’s equations for? Why did Mendeleev deduce the periodic properties of elements? The answer to these and to all questions: to stuff nigs with fried meat until they become crippled from overeating, then to provide them with heroic medical care until they gracelessly expire.

Call in the next five minutes and we’ll throw in a poster attributing this same aphorism to Neil deGrasse Tyson, a $19.95 value, absolutely free!

The problem with bigoted internet memes like this is that they reach a target audience that takes them seriously. These are people who consider the copy-and-paste reposting of crackpot Stormfront musings in pastel camouflage text on a background still shot of Valley Girls having lunch in a burger joint a credible form of debate. There are more of these idiots than a thoughtful person would like to imagine. I know people whose parents have put them on round robin e-mail lists for the circulation of similar mental garbage and steadfastly refused their requests to unsubscribe. In its e-mail form, this bullshit seems to be very much a right-wing phenomenon. So does the bogus attribution of meretricious aphorisms to prominent people who never uttered them; Fabius Maximus writes about instances of this form of propaganda from time to time. (Disclosure: I once successfully punked a friend on Facebook with a bogus quotation of George W. Bush telling Marion Barry and Rob Ford not to be bashful around the freebase since “gentlemen prefer powder.” But I was quick to let her know that I was basically trying to imitate The Onion, since I’m not a right-wing chain letter dipshit.) Just because using the Microsoft Art suite to paste racebaiting nonsense onto a portrait of Neil deGrasse Tyson or a still shot from Saved by the Bell is absolutely fucking ridiculous as a line of argument doesn’t mean that the Nutter Butters won’t believe it. Many of them very much do.

This #SavedByTheBellCurve campaign (you didn’t think that was the only such clip art poster, did you?) presumes familiarity with the plot of a high school-themed sitcom for adolescents and with the thesis of one of the premier think tank troll jobs of the twentieth century. Anyone who is versed in these American cultural touchstones is wasting hard drive space. That said, it’s possible to watch stupid television shows and be merely stupid, not deleterious. The Bell Curve, on the other hand, was never designed to be harmless.

Let’s face it: we got rickrolled. This was a book with an aboveboard secondary thesis hiding a coded primary thesis in plain sight. Its ostensible arguments were really just a verbose fig leaf for its fundamental argument. The horizontal text went something like, “A metaanalysis of the available statistical literature on the racial distribution of IQ, educational and professional attainment, substance abuse, and criminal behavior suggests that the statistically typical behavioral ranges of Sub-Saharan Africans overlap with but are on average less socioeconomically adaptive than the statistically typical behavioral ranges of Caucasians.” The vertical text of the same document, meanwhile, read more like, “Blax are dum thugz.”

The authors, including the rather creepy Charles Murray, knew exactly what they were doing. (Nobody has heard of his coauthor, Richard J. Herrnstein.) They were dog-whistling to the #TCOT bigots in an age before the manifestation of #TCOT. (If any profanity can be eternal and omnipresent but unrevealed, it’s #TCOT.) In a political context that truly valued individual rights, this sort of dog-whistling would fall flat because it’s about the collective problems of racial groups that have no collective rights. In a political context that truly valued equity and the commonweal, the broadside on the darkies for being intractable fuckups as proven by statistics would be universally dismissed as the resentment and paranoia of an ineffectual lunatic fringe, something too ridiculous to distract from the sober efforts of decent people to maintain and improve their society. Neither of these, of course, is the true context of mainstream politics in the United States. This is a country in which decent leaders are recurrently forced to pander to the baseness of smooth-tongued sadists who want nothing more than to kick a man while he’s down.

In the American political context, it is impossible to have The Bell Curve without the “spic-nig cycle.” The former is a quasiscientific justification that bigots can readily deploy in defense of the latter, and they’ll deploy it regardless of how well they understand the statistics behind it, such as the difference between the mean and the top quartile. “Human biodiversity,” or HBD, isn’t really a science, although it may look like one if it isn’t examined too closely. It’s more a bogus, politically driven metascience, a grab bag of cherry-picked results from studies of human sexuality, genetics, sociology, criminology, and any other field that might come in handy for proving the inferiority of the lesser races. Its subscribers give the appearance of believing that they’ll look more reputable misconstruing scientific data than donning the white sheet and screaming racial slurs in front of a burning cross. Roissy likes to bracket “SCIENCE” with cute heart emoticons. This practice isn’t common among real scientists who conduct real scientific studies. Neither, for that matter, is publishing peevish thoughts on “mudsharks.”

Anyone who has a working familiarity with American politics knows that a widely publicized book about the statistical tendency of racial minorities to be somewhat dimwitted will inevitably be used to bad ends by bad people. The meritocratic pretensions that all but the most eccentric American monarchists and aristocrats are too embarrassed to drop compel Americans to find some fault or other in those they would like to consign to penury, incarceration, and generalized terror. In a centuries-old republic whose founding war was waged against an imperial monarchy and the privileged hereditary aristocracy just below it, attributing the misfortune of the poor and the incarcerated to their moral failure, or even to their genetic predisposition to moral failure, sounds more upstanding than arguing that it is fitting and proper for the higher orders of man to systematically brutalize their inferiors as a matter of birthright and solemn tradition. I mean, we fought a fucking War of Independence to shake off the haters, just like Taylor Swift told us. Washington’s men didn’t suffer through their drills bloody-footed and hungry all winter under that foul-tempered Prussian Baron von Steuben (and under that foul-tempered Tidewater dandy Washington) for a society of inherited privilege such as their general would one day again enjoy at Mount Vernon. Their brothers-in-arms didn’t rabidly threaten to hang Benedict Arnold if he ever passed back under their jurisdiction, first out of a sense of betrayal and existential fear for the viability of their republican project, and then out of festering aggravated butthurt, so that they might continue to be high-hatted by useless alcoholic parasites of good breeding.

Georgian Great Britain was a sufficiently fucked up polity that the American project, even with its stunning hypocrisies, made a certain amount of sense. To this day one of these hypocrisies is that the losers in the American game of life somehow deserved it. In the British tradition, everybody knew that deserving to be a winner had fuck-all to do with actually being one. This is why we have Downton Abbey. As Americans, we’re supposed to transcend all that stuffy horseshit. Most Americans understand on some level that we suck at transcending our racial problems, but we never had trouble with the class thing, right? Maybe our poor have sometimes gotten resentful or insolent towards the successful and failed to recognize the hard work and grit that got them there, but that’s just another case of haters who gonna hate, not evidence of a moral or structural problem diminishing the equity of American society. Right?

Bueller?

By some reckonings, a hidebound aristocratic social order impels the privileged to offer a measure of noblesse oblige to the less fortunate, especially to those in one’s household employment. One oughtn’t beat Mrs. Patmore for inadvertently putting too much salt in the potatoes. Similar arguments have been made about antebellum slavery, especially in comparison to the coldness of contemporary Yankee industrialism. On a case-by-case basis, there’s something to these arguments, and many of the Yankee industrialists were asswipes who had to be backed into a corner with threats of revolution before they’d make any concessions to labor, but this plantation paternalism story has a way of discounting the extent to which slavery by corruption of blood was enforced by means of aggravated battery and threats of murder. It’s a pretty seedy bit of revisionism, then, and its beneficiaries are a creepier lot than they appear at first glance. (They clean up well. Society types always do.)

This touches on another glitch in the official republican ethos as it circumscribes public manners in the United States. This ethos encourages a rogue’s gallery of privileged fuckheads to act like they earned all they have through their own hard work and determination instead of their success having anything to do with their having been brought up in an affluent, well-educated, or well-connected family. An earnest Jeffersonian ethos is beneficial in a society in which the average citizen is actually willing to live with the modesty needed to hold a Jeffersonian community together, such as in Vermont or in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country or around Springfield, Oregon, but in communities whose elites and would-be elites aren’t so modest, it’s slippery. It feeds into the all-American cottage industry of explaining why various classes of white people aren’t responsible for slavery, the point being that they shouldn’t worry their pretty heads about the damage that slavery has done to their country, since it would just make them feel bad and maybe make them feel that they ought to do something to help make things right at long last. The usual alibis are time-space continuum conflicts (cracka wasn’t even born then), sectoral conflicts involving agrarian yeomanry and/or the Underground Railroad (NB: not often heard from people who are proud of their ancestors for being free soil yeomen or helping run the Underground Railroad), national origin conflicts (cracka was starving from the potato famine/driving the Jews out of Odessa again/an Odessan Jew, but not for long), or class conflicts (cracka was a po’ cracka).

These categories obviously describe many white Americans, but not all. We are, as David Brooks has said, a nation of mutts, but some of us are closer to the good life of the big house than others. The debutante ball is still a big deal in aristocratic circles in the South. So, for the truly brazen, there’s a fifth category of moral exemption from the unbearable whiteness of being inexorably tied to slavery and its legacies. It goes something like, yes, I’m descended from slaveholders, and yes, they had a plantation, but they worked harder and made less money from the plantation than y’all think (sad to say, Thomas Sowell may be a useful idiot in this revisionist campaign; he’s a reputable historian, but some of his fans sure aren’t), and I may have grown up rich, but I bust my ass and got through medical/engineering/law/business school, while all the welfare queens just sat around South Dallas in their slips watching General Hospital. 

Well then, white boy. Bully for you for choosing a higher calling than sitting around the veranda drinking mint juleps all the live-long day, but this is quite like Cliven Bundy complaining that he’s worked more cattle than some unemployed, professionally adrift black kid who can’t figure out how the hell he’ll ever escape from the projects. If Megan McArdle, of all morality-whoring nightmares, can pretend that she hasn’t gotten as far as she has by relying on daddy’s connections, you can, too. Why not insinuate without really saying so that you grew up in a tarpaper shack? Log cabin origin myths go back at least to William Henry Harrison, and it’s not like you got any advantage from growing up in a properly insulated house.

The classic racial inferiority tropes are a lot more fluid than they may seem. Few Americans these days are much interested in discussing the uncivilized nature of the Irish, for example; the Irish are obviously well-enough behaved, so complaining that they’re a bunch of unemployable hooligans just doesn’t make sense. Anti-Arab sentiment, meanwhile, has surged since 9/11, and with it assertions that the Arab world is unsuited to modernity on account of Islam and clan feuds. Many on the right wing have been currying favor with the sort of truly, literally ignorant boot-in-the-ass jingoists who can’t distinguish Yemeni Sunnis from Levantine Christians or Osama bin Laden from a Sikh cab driver. For the marginally better-informed, there are stories about a baroque conspiracy involving, if not all Muslims, most of them, to establish a totalitarian international Caliphate roughly in the mold of the Eastern Bloc but with less pluralism. Paradoxically, Glenn Beck may be one of the more reliable sources on this subject, since he at least sometimes compares US government talking points to his own version of geopolitics before parroting them.

Of course, the Caliphate grandiosity has become a lot more credible with the rise of ISIS, but as horrific as ISIS is, it has only managed to capture and hold Sunni-majority territory in two failed but brutal states. It’s an opportunistic hodgepodge of psychopaths and marginalized, impressionable youth from rough neighborhoods in various countries. Regardless of their own degree of psychopathy, Sunni Arab state actors have a number of moral and pragmatic reasons for wanting nothing to do with ISIS but to burn it to the ground. The Iranian government, being run by Persian Shiites, wants even less to do with that rabble, and is surely relieved that it will remain an Arab problem.

Here’s where the recent history becomes telling. The Bell Curve came out in 1994, a few years after the Gulf War. At the time, there was practically no interest in the United States about whether or why the Arab world was having difficulty adapting to modernity. Americans were not looking for scientific or sociological justifications to paint Arabs as a bunch of camelfucking savages. Anti-Arab sentiment erupted years later, practically out of the blue, following 9/11. Keep in mind, however, that the United States was already entangled in dysfunctional and morally compromised Arab geopolitics.

What made the difference? The major Western powers were allied with its primary satrapy, Saudi Arabia, against their former secondary satrapy, Saddami Iraq, on account of the latter having started a border war with the former and outlived its usefulness to the West in its prior border war with Iran. The only significant parties to these wars were state actors. Saddam hadn’t been chased into his hole in the ground yet, and as we’ve all seen by now, Saddami Iraq is not the worst possible outcome in that part of the world.

The West blew up a brutal but stable regime in Iraq, creating one of the power vacuums that ISIS has filled, and “sand nigger” has now entered the American gutter parlance. Mission Accomplished (TM).

Racist feeling towards black people, of course, is much more enduring. That’s a long-poisoned well. Even so, there were particulars in the mid-1990’s that made The Bell Curve especially resonant. There was not yet enough hindsight to be sure that violent crime was going into secular decline. Even sober observers were still worried that the crack wars might flare up again, and the overall level of violent crime was still near its most recent peak. More relevant to The Bell Curve, however, were the Clinton Administration’s focus on applying free market dogmas, especially welfare reform and NAFTA, and its tendentious platitudes about the importance of the “knowledge economy.” In aggregate ethnic terms, black people drew the short straw in this bargain. In point of fact, blacks were left in practically the same untenable position as poor whites: limited formal education in a job market increasingly focused on credentialing and hesitant to pay for on-the-job training, and increasingly shut out of the menial jobs they had historically held in favor of offshoring and the hiring of illegal immigrants from Latin America. It was just harder for Bougie to see that poor whites were getting screwed in this deal, either directly and immediately by factory closures or indirectly with a delay by the entrenchment of a deracinated, intimidated, unenfranchised menial workforce with limited English proficiency. Black failure under this predatory regime was easy to understand in racial terms, but white failure had to be understood in class terms, which were verboten.

The handwringing about black people failing to adapt to the “knowledge economy” was never really about their likelihood of floundering in a pure meritocracy. It was about their likelihood of floundering in a more subtly regulated and much more cutthroat economy dominated by credential-whoring, fraud, and preying upon anyone showing the first sign of weakness. Of course the poor and the uneducated have more trouble adapting to such a vicious regime than the wealthy and the educated. It’s a destructive regime for anyone at any station of life below the level of self-regenerative old money, but the poor are in much worse shape to weather the storm than the affluent, and the poor in America are disproportionately black.

Bill Clinton really outfoxed the labor left on economic and trade policy. It helped him tremendously that he was able to ride the first half of a systemic pump-and-dump scam, leaving it to Bush II and Obama to clean up the terrible mess when the bubble finally burst. It was incredibly boneheaded of Clinton to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, a move of such stupidity and hubris as to constitute a crime against history, but he was safely ensconced in his Global Initiative and like nonsense by the time the shit hit the fan. A more tragic way of looking at this is that the Second Great Depression of 2008-? started 79 years after the first, squarely within the margin of error for a Fourth Turning clusterfuck, making Slick Willie a mere tool of history, the sleazy vector by which the inexorable resurgence of venality and then misery so happened to be visited upon the body politic. In Soviet America, history lives through YOU! It’s a demoralizing thought, but consider that Bill Clinton, a secretary-pawing property scam sleazeball who seems to have also committed rape and witness intimidation, possibly been involved in gangland murders, and, we now know, definitely been a regular on Jeffrey Epstein’s flying jailbait whorehouse, made Peter DeFazio look like a crank for opposing NAFTA.

Tell me we weren’t screwed.

At least we’ve managed to get into a time of low violence in most of the country, notwithstanding CNN’s thoughts on the crime rates. That’s one thing about the United States that isn’t going completely to hell. It’s possible that Whitey will seriously freak out over Ferguson (the protests against the police, not the riots by the police) or the white-girl-bleed-a-lot racial violence, but I’d say that it’s unlikely to lead to ghetto pogroms as things stand today. Give thanks that so many of the racists on sites like Chateau Heartiste are keyboard vigilantes, armchair corporals in the war on miscegenation. (At least I think they are; the ones who carry on about sex certainly don’t act like they get out of the house much.) The Bell Curve was published two years after the Rodney King riots, meaning that it was in its draft stages when the deployment of US Army and Marine combat personnel to suppress a riot in the largest city on the West Coast was an even rawer memory.

These riots were about a lot more than a dusthead getting beaten up by a couple of cops, just as the Ferguson protests are about a lot more than Michael Brown. Back then, patrol services in the LAPD divisions south of Washington Avenue were at once ineffectual and brutal, warrant service at times came to resemble something out of a Latin American paramilitary rampage, and the department’s fine chickenhawk of a chief, Daryl Gates, went to a self-dealing political fundraiser in Brentwood and made mewling comments about his department’s flatfootedness while South Central went up in flames. These days, patrol services in South Central (although we aren’t supposed to call it that anymore) are under the direction of the Tingirides brain trust, which makes a serious effort to reach out to the locals, build their trust, and listen to them about what the hell is going on in their neighborhoods instead of rolling in like high-tech Visigoths and knocking skulls. One gets the feeling that the Tingirides brain trust might not have done so well in earning the trust of upstanding local citizens had it sent Mark Fuhrman out as an advance emissary to tell grandma, “Yo, dawg, my homey Charles Murray say y’all always gonna be stupid!”

Science: it’s a lot easier to fucking love when it hasn’t been hijacked by creepy racists.

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3 thoughts on “Saved by the Bell Curve: Finally, an alt-right rejoinder to the fucking love of science

    • Statistical distributions of violent behavior are irrelevant to rights and responsibilities of individuals. If I understand you, you’re using crime statistics to argue for preemptive group curtailment of civil rights and liberties on the basis of race. I do not stand for that in the slightest.

      By the way, I was the victim of a racially motivated black-on-white street ambush. I blame this attack on the thugs who attacked me without provocation, not on any of the other black people who have shown me obvious goodwill.

      You are not qualified to speak on behalf of victims of black-on-white crime. You’re just a shithead who dropped by here to stir up communal unrest. In my personal judgment, your comment was substantive enough to merit approval, even though I find your argument reprehensible. If you try to post anything here that I judge to have no redeeming value, I’ll delete it without warning.

      Feel free to wear out your welcome here.

  1. Hey,

    I’m the guy who originated that quote (I said it in a chat in 2011 and it was saved for posterity by someone else.) If I were writing it today, I’d slightly redo the third paragraph, but looking at developments over the last 5 years, I’d say history has vindicated my position. In order to obtain “economic growth,” we’re told, we have to import lots of third-world immigrants into the first world, where they’ll do “the jobs that we won’t do.” The official media gives carrots and sticks: “they’ll pay our Social Security” but if we don’t accept more they will justifiably feel “rage at social exclusion” and in any case it’s the humane thing to do, racists! This is apparently true for all white countries, but no developed Asian ones, for some reason that no one ever explains.

    In the USA, that means that blacks – who are heritage Americans of long standing and whose ancestors have typically been in the USA for at least 200 years and possibly 400 – are not a sufficiently servile working class to suit the corporate management class. The very smart people who are the self-appointed rulers of America have decided that we need a new Mexican working class, which they fondly believe will content itself with second-class status and $10/hour in perpetuity. Blacks can go work in HR, if they’re talented tenth, or subsist on a combination of disability, welfare scams, minimum-wage jobs (for women,) and petty crime. The boss class doesn’t really care. For now, they have a docile caste of waiters, landscapers and maids who can be paid starvation wages and threatened with la migra if they stand up for themselves. And, just as Wal-Mart does, they can socialize the costs of this new caste, in terms of schools for their children, Social Security for their old age, Medicaid, worker’s comp, food stamps and social housing, while privatizing the profits that you command by running an entire restaurant on something like $200/hr of wage costs.

    As my language may make clear, I am pretty racist in a certain sense: I think that intelligence and personality are significantly heritable and differ meaningly by ancestry groups. On the other hand, I think that black Americans are Americans too and are entitled to the benefits of being citizens of a first-world nation. America belongs to them, in part, and it should take their interests into account, not just turn them into a permanent class of impoverished consumers through whom welfare dollars can be recycled into dividends for McDick’s, Nike and payday loan companies.

    Cheers,
    bbtp

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