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Friday, April 27, A.D. 2012
Statistical Practical Reason

Christus is opgestaan!

Last week, I alluded to John Derbyshire’s firing by The National Review over “The Talk: Nonblack Version” in Taki’s Magazine. In it, Derbyshire notes the post-Trayvon media coverage of “The Talk” that black parents give their sons, which mainly consists of telling them to beware of the Man who is keeping them down. Derbyshire then shares “The Talk” that whites—or at least the ones not ridden by the Left’s spiritual maladies—give to their children. Derbyshire counsels his children to follow statistical common sense:

(10) Thus, while always attentive to the particular qualities of individuals, on the many occasions where you have nothing to guide you but knowledge of those mean differences, use statistical common sense:

(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.

(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.

(10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).

(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.

(10e) If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.

(10f) Do not settle in a district or municipality run by black politicians.

(10g) Before voting for a black politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a white.

(10h) Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.

(10i) If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving.

Regular readers and listeners of Derbyshire would not have found the piece odd; Derbyshire has always been frank in his commentary. He makes no secret that he is what the underground Right terms a “race realist”—political dogma does not blind his empirical faculties. Indeed, I have often been surprised by how lenient the political wussies at The National Review were with Derbyshire. I had the faint hope that beneath the craven qualifications of their “conservative” positions, the editors actually held rightwing sympathies and allowed Derbyshire to write honestly about matters that they were too timid to address openly. Unfortunately—no. Even the resident conservative at the magazine, Andrew McCarthy, shows himself to be an inconsistent liberal. McCarthy comments on “The Corner”:

I would prefer not to comment on NR’s cutting ties with Derb, but alas …

Long before I had anything to do with National Review, I was envious of Derb’s talent as a writer and thinker. Over the last few years, I’ve gotten to know him a bit. He is charming, fiercely witty company. All that said, racialism is noxious regardless of who practices it. It is wrong that what is a day at the office for the Left’s racialists becomes a hanging offense in Derb’s case. But that is a summons to disgust over the former, not a defense of the latter.

We believe in the equal dignity and presumption of equal decency toward every person — no matter what race, no matter what science tells us about comparative intelligence, and no matter what is to be gleaned from crime statistics. It is important that research be done, that conclusions not be rigged, and that we are at liberty to speak frankly about what it tells us. But that is not an argument for a priori conclusions about how individual persons ought to be treated in various situations — or for calculating fear or friendship based on race alone. To hold or teach otherwise is to prescribe the disintegration of a pluralistic society, to undermine the aspiration of E Pluribus Unum.

Yes, NR is a journal of opinion, and that entails vigorous disagreement about countless things. But that has never meant all opinions are equally entitled to exploit this platform — or, in Derb’s case, his connection to this platform. He is not being silenced: NR is not the government, I don’t believe the magazine is responding to any sort of government pressure, and what has happened here has nothing to do with the First Amendment. Derb remains free to express his views and he’ll surely find a market for them. But NR is equally free to say: Not here.

I am sorry to see it happen, but I don’t think NR can be blamed for emphatically distancing itself from opinions people here find more harmful than illuminating.

I have much respect for McCarthy, but his words sadden me. As the most conservative, thoughtful writer remaining at America’s “flagship” conservative magazine, I expected more of him. McCarthy has uncritically digested the standard leftist slop—from their revisionism of what E Pluribus Unum means to his acceptance of the ever decreasing range of “acceptable discourse” that the leftist tyranny of perennial offense entails, as fellow National Review writer Mark Steyn notes. At least, McCarthy formulates an argument for why he thinks that Derbyshire is wrong. The typical reaction has been apoplectic spasms that do not address the facts or arguments that Derbyshire offers. In this, McCarthy shows that he remains a man—a wrong man, but still a man.

When I first read McCarthy’s statement, I immediately wondered how he could reject treating strangers according to general knowledge about the groups to which they belong. McCarthy has spent the last decade as America’s Cassandra regarding Mohammedan terrorism, and yet he fails to see his inconsistency. Most Mohammedans who visit and live in America are peaceful. Most of them (or a large minority) probably disagree with terrorism as a means to promote Mohammedan ends. Yet, the percentage of Mohammedans who participate in or support terrorism is much higher than that of the general American population. Hence, it is reasonable to focus on Mohammedans in counter-terrorism efforts. Such employs statistical practical reason. It is what we do every day when we notice patterns and make decisions based on those patterns. Liberals call this prejudice. Indeed, when I notice that metal glows red, like burners on a stove, even a stove that I have never before seen, I prejudge that the metal is hot. When I see a strange dog’s snarling, I prejudge that it might bite me. Scientists employ the same method in a more exacting manner. When nutritionists advise people to consume certain foods or to avoid others, in more or less amounts, they are using statistical reasoning. When physicians state that cigarette smoking contributes to cancer and lung disease, they do not thereby claim that all or even most smokers have or will get cancer or lung disease. Yet, the evidence shows that smoking significantly increases those risks. McCarthy and the millions of well intended liberals like him must be able to understand this principle, and yet they fail to apply it in certain cases where they have been brainwashed to cease the rational exercise of their minds.

When I looked at Auster’s coverage, I saw that my thoughts were shared by at least some conservatives. I especially recommend “Derbyshire’s accomplishment” at View from the Right. In addition to the statistical reasoning that Derbyshire invokes, commentator James P. mentions group dynamics, which McCarthy refuses to acknowledge:

Andrew McCarthy stated at National Review:

We believe in the equal dignity and presumption of equal decency toward every person—no matter what race, no matter what science tells us about comparative intelligence, and no matter what is to be gleaned from crime statistics. It is important that research be done, that conclusions not be rigged, and that we are at liberty to speak frankly about what it tells us. But that is not an argument for a priori conclusions about how individual persons ought to be treated in various situations—or for calculating fear or friendship based on race alone. To hold or teach otherwise is to prescribe the disintegration of a pluralistic society, to undermine the aspiration of E Pluribus Unum.

The assumption behind his conclusion is that group or national behavior is simply the sum total of all the individual behaviors. This is clearly untrue. Humans behave differently as groups (or as nations) than they do as individuals—that is why the field of “group dynamics” exists. For example, in Western countries, individual Westerners generally treat individual Muslims with dignity and decency, and many individual Muslims are of course decent and well-behaved. Nevertheless, the immigration of large groups of Muslims (as well as other alien groups) has created undeniable problems in many Western countries despite this decent, dignified behavior on the individual level. The unfortunate fact is that the prescription that “individuals should treat individuals with dignity and decency” is not scalable to the national level. The sum total result of millions of alien immigrants, most of whom deserve, receive, and reciprocate decent treatment, is not a harmonious, pluralistic society. Instead, the result is significant social stress, racial and ethnic tension, and the formation of competing, self-segregated groups—this is observable in every country that permits large-scale immigration! Far from promoting E pluribus unum, the precept that we have to treat groups the same way that we treat individuals is actively leading to the very disintegration of pluralistic society that McCarthy fears, not least because this precept inhibits honest assessment of the impact of immigration and domestic policies such as education.

Auster replies:

James’s point is one of the most important that can be made, yet it is also one that is still not understood at all. The opposite falsehood to James’s truth is still what is universally believed in the West today. Well-meaning Western people such as Andrew McCarthy instinctively recoil from any generalized negative statements about groups, because they see that as a violation of the moral imperative to treat all human beings as individuals. They are looking at reality through a wrong model. When a society considers allowing a mass immigration from another culture, the proper question ceases to be, “How shall I as an individual treat another individual who happens to be of a different racial/cultural background from myself?”, and becomes, “What is going to be the effect on our society of this culturally and racially different group”? But Western society never asks itself this question, because it still sees the situation through the filter of relationships between individuals.

In the same way, when a white person in today’s society finds himself in a black environment, such as the white man standing on a Baltimore street recently, the pertinent question is not, “How shall I deal with individuals?”, but “How are blacks as a group likely to treat a white man who has naively wandered into their neighborhood and is standing there on the sidewalk with a distracted expression on his face?” What is likely to happen to a such a white man in a black neighborhood is radically different from what is likely to happen to him in a white neighborhood or a Japanese neighborhood.

McCarthy’s mid-20th century, Eleanor Roosevelt-style liberal idealism leaves him totally unequipped to grapple with such questions, or even to see the palpable facts of black group and individual behavior. Presumably he reads the news media and has come across the constant news stories of black savage behavior (though of course the word “black” is almost never used in such stories). But he hasn’t taken it in, because it doesn’t fit his liberal model of a world of individuals whose race doesn’t matter. He therefore recoils from and condemns Derbyshire’s highly relevant warnings.

Commentator James N. adds:

This is one of the most important, and difficult, discussions I’ve read on VFR. The distinction between judging (or pre-judging) an individual as an individual, versus reacting to him as a member of a group, seems simple at first, but for Americans born after WW II it is actually quite difficult. I think this is because we grew up in a world where group identification produced particular, visible injustices to certain individuals, whose stories became well-known.

The result has been, through a kind of mental judo, that minorities can now CHOOSE when and by whom that want to be judged as individuals, and when as members of a group. Obviously, most choose whatever mode is advantageous at any particular point in time.

“Celebrate diversity” is a conscious appeal to group identities. It is precisely group characteristics we are called on to “celebrate” (tolerate). But woe betide if our “celebration” touches an individual in a disagreeable way. THAT is forbidden.

Derbyshire responds to his critics in “Talking Back” in Taki’s Magazine. He addresses the most prominent criticism of his article:

Be a bad Samaritan! Setting aside the hordes of lunatics who descended on the piece, among thoughtful and largely sympathetic commentators—the only ones I give a fig about—the item of advice most often objected to was:

(10h) Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.

Christians thought this un-Christian, but even people commenting from no religious position thought it was unkind and constituted poor citizenship.

I’m going to do a bit of “on-the-one-hand, on-the-other” havering here. You ready to wobble?

On one hand, I wish I had elaborated some on that, to the effect that in view of not-uncommon outcomes such as the one to which I linked, you just need to be a whole lot more wary about acting the Good Samaritan when the distressed traveler is black (even if you yourself are black). One can think of cases where you should act anyway, but in most situations, I’d still recommend double caution.

On the other hand, the context here is advice to kids. Deciding which situation says, “Stay out of this!” and which says, “Help the guy” requires an act of judgment. Kids don’t have very good judgment; so a blanket “Stay out of this!” is not bad advice in context.

Auster writes that his initial response to Derbyshire’s controversial advice was, “Of course.” Such was my response, too. However, my family and I have at times not taken this advice, but we certainly were wary. The unwary end up robbed, raped, mutilated, and/or dead.

Derbyshire also mentions our prejudice toward the weather, which occurred to me, as well, when I thought about McCarthy’s comment:

I don’t know why people have so much difficulty thinking statistically, as we behave statistically all the time. The sky is overcast; I have to go out to an event where I’ll be in the open; I take an umbrella. If, after all, it does not rain, do I feel like an idiot for having taken the umbrella? Of course not. I yielded to my inner statistician. I went with the percentages. We all do it a dozen times a day. It’s statistical common sense. The trouble-free black neighborhood is the rain-free overcast day: It happens a lot, but take that umbrella.

And that is why liberals are all wet!

Seriously, liberalism makes one blind, stupid, incoherent, careless, and vulnerable. It is a fitting cult for a suicidal nation.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, April 27, Anno Domini 2012
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