The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

Courtesy of Gene Expression, a sad tale of an intellectual meltdown over at Little Green Footballs (a right-of-center American blog) against Brussels Journal (a right-of-center European blog). Part of the case was this post:

In this society, everyone has grown up on lies that few are equipped to challenge. The older ones have grown up with plastic called leatherette, with cigarettes as symbols of sex appeal, and with Negroes in the front line in the Army but in the back line at the bus stop. And the younger ones have grown up in a world where a short coffee is “tall” and a medium one is “grande,” and one’s life is ruined for pointing out that the American blacks’ mean IQ of 85, and not racism, is the cause of their underepresentation in the upper echelons of government, business and the professions.

What’s odd, of course, is that thinking about current differences in general intelligence (whatever their cause) sheds light on institutional, unjust discrimination in our society.

Consider “retardation” (the hip special-ed term of another day, roughly an IQ score below 70). There are two major categories of retardation

  • familial retardation, where the child’s IQ is roughly the average of his parents’
  • organic retardation, where the child’s IQ is significantly below the average of his parents

Individuals who are organically retarded have substantial difficulty in leading a normal life. Often organic retardation goes along with poor hygiene, poor grooming, or other general deficiencies in behavior.

Familial retardation, in contrast, pretty much means only that someone does less well in problems that involve spatial and logical reasoning.

Clearly, one’s life is better if one is neither. But the problems facing the organically retarded are much, much more severe than those facing the familially retarded. And likewise, care that is appropriate for the organically retarded (a strong focus on basic social skills) would be neglectful for the familially retarded (who may require, by contrast, more intense schooling).

Yet many school systems lump both organically and familially retarded children together in one special education problem. As a consequence, the whole system of special education is biased toward organically retarded (disproportionately white) children who have basic problems with grooming and social interaction, deprivig familially retarded (disproportionately black) children of precisely the sort of intense schooling they need.

Of course, this is not to say that all familiailly retarded students are black, nor that all organically retarded students are white. Nor that most whites are organically retarded, nor that most blacks are familially retarded.

But the larger point remains: ignoring science because it is inconvenient does not make the world a better place. Ignoring inconvenient facts makes the world a worse place.

Ignoring inconvenient facts can lead to racist outcomes.

And such ignorance can cause stupid disagreements. Like LGF‘s attack on Brussels Journal.

5 thoughts on “The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations”

  1. The statement about IQ's was a non-sequitor to the whole brew-ha and only appears in that particular statement, it was nothing more than a parting shot and a diversionary one at that.

    What it all really stemmed from was Vlaams Belang's (and Swedish Democrats) relations with the White Power movement (and even Nazi sympathizers) and other far rightest groups in Europe. There is overwhelming evidence of such links and sympathies and no overt denunciation of those links. LGF made the point that it was important not to let the far-right hijack the anti-jihadi discourse.
    The main gist of the allegations have never adequately been addressed by the guys at VB, IMO:

  2. ElamBend,

    Thank you for your clarification. The context I had for understanding the controversy was the LGF comment thread.

    I am unaware to the extent that European conservative movements purged extremists, in the manner that WFB Jr. led the purge of the Objectivists and the Birchers. So with respect to extremist fellow travelers among European conservatives, I have to plead ignorance.

  3. There was an anti-jihad conference in Europe a few weeks ago and LGF linked to it. On the caution of some readers about Vlaams Belang and the Swedish Democrats to Charles so he said that there are some questions as to their savoriness:

    This caused some people to start accusing LGF to be in camp with the jihadi sympathizers, which was ridiculous. However, in light of the strong reaction Charles Johnson started digging at the background of the groups and came up with some pretty damning stuff. What's worse is that the leader of Vlaams Belang will only give shifty answers to the charges, all of which can be heard in an interview he gave to the Shire Podcast (which caused a split among those guys):

    As LGF kept digging, more stuff came up that showed that the members of VB associated or had associated with those who espouse the White Power or White Nationalist cause and symbols. For instance Filip Dewinter has an Odin's Cross on his bookshelf, a symbol that has become a sort of hidden swastika.
    All this has caused splits among many bloggers and personal attacks upon Charles Johnson, but precious little in the way of answering some very reasonable questions about the associations and beliefs of the leadership of VB. Not surprisingly, if one looks around enough, it not just one Abrahamic faith these guys don't like.

    I agree with Charles Johnson that the last thing the anti-jihad types need is to be associated and hijacked by a bunch of thugs with ulterior motives and dishonest leaders.

  4. Here's an example of the slipshod intellectual dishonesty of the LGF/anti-BJ side that disturbs me.

    LGF [1] links to an article on Sultan Knish [2], blockquoting this text from Knish:

    “No one is perfect and I am certainly not. I think my former posts on the topic were fairly realistic about what to expect from some European conservatives. And then Brussels Journal put up one post promoting Ron Paul as the American Paul Belien and an article from Taki’s magazine that cheers Jewish Holocaust denier Norman Finkelstein as an inconoclast, calls Mearsheimer and Walt “illustrious academics” and claims AIPAC was behind the invasion of Kuwait.”

    Certainly sounds anti-Zionist, if not anti-Semitic. But you go to the actual BJ post [3], the relevent section reads:

    “It might also be asked why the Israelis, who run a Western-type constitutional government, should trust the Palestinians politically – even if admittedly Israeli military forces have sometimes taken brutal revenge on the Palestinians after Hamas-incited terror-bombings. There is nothing in the Palestinian, or for that matter the Arab Muslim, past that would suggest the likelihood that they would honor and enforce treaties or control violent minorities that might seek to wipe out the Israelis. I am always amazed when my friends on the right who, although justly skeptical of the belief that Arabs Muslims could develop Western-type regimes, express every confidence that the Palestinians are closet-moderates. All that is needed for the unexpected to happen is for the Israelis to give the West Bankers a chance by clearing out of the West Bank and by giving the Arabs control of East Jerusalem.”

    BJ's excerpted pro-Zionist sections of the original post! [4]

    If LGF has a point, denying science and distorting the textual record isn't a logically valid way to get it across — though it may help score rhetorical points.


  5. I agree with your example, it's a distortion, and hard to find much wrong with that particular BJ post. But if you look at the older LGF links, or listen to Paul Belien's inteview, perhaps you'll come to a different conclusion.

    There is no smoking gun, but there is a loosy-goosy relationship among the right in Europe, including Vlaams Belang, with those who are not [classically] liberal. Too many people throw out the racism card if you start talking about Islamism as a threat, best not to get tarred by unwelcome fellow travelers.

  6. If association is the problem…. then we face a choice of associating with a blog that is associated with an ignorance of social science, its findings, and methods (LGF), a blog that is associated with racists, apparently (BJ), both, or neither.

  7. I think you better go over to LGF and read up on this issue for yourself. The blog gates of vienna was where this IQ topic got brought into it, and you're taking things out of context. You really want to take issue with LGF for thinking the euro-blogs raising the issue of blacks' IQ to defend themselves is questionable? You better know what you're getting yourself into first, don't you think?

  8. First of all, look up the meaning of the word “sharmuta.” That will tell you everything you need to know about that individual, except who is paying her to do so much deception and harm in the blogosphere.

    Second, the statement that “the main gist of the allegations have never been adequately addressed by the guys at VB” is misleading. VB is a major political party over there. The “guys at VB” have their own concerns and do not owe any explanations to anybody on this side of the pond.

    How would you feel about it if some arrogant burnout case of a blogger in Belgium started demanding all sorts of explanations from Republicans or Democrats in the US? They wouldn't dignify it with an answer.

    OTOH, the objections were answered more than adequately by the folks at Gates of Vienna. There are a lot of articles, many of which are featured on their front page. Just look through the November archive at GOV.

    Also see Conservative Swede and two articles on our blog, It is time to punt Little Green Footballs and Little Green Footballs – Hitting New Lows One After Another.

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