In a recent blog (The Establishment Media Running Down the US Pandemic Performance) I noted that four counties—France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom—had death rates comparable to those of the United States. I used the similarities to push back against the establishment media claim that the United States is an outlier in COVID-19 deaths, a claim used to attack the president.
The World Health Organization is expressing concern that COVID-19 cases are rising in Europe (The new Covid-19 case surge in Europe, explained). They have declared it a “very serious situation.” The four countries I used in my comparison are among the affected nations. I present the change over time in four graphs below, obtained by searching “COVID-19 cases [country name].”
We see that COVID-19 cases are on the rise in all four countries, most drastically in France and Spain, where the current number of cases is higher that the previous peak, which occurred months earlier. For these countries, the rise in cases started back in July. For Italy and the United Kingdom, increasing frequencies becomes clear by early August.
With the warning lights going off, we need to step back and ask the most important question: are the increases in cases associated with increasing deaths? After all, if we tested for any virus and found a growing number of cases we would need to have some reason for this to cause alarm other than the mere presence of a virus. Most viruses are not particularly lethal or even consequential. For example, rhinoviruses are common in human societies yet we don’t test for them nor do we panic when we perceive colds are appearing with greater frequency. The next four charts document the frequency of death in these four European countries.
In only one country (Spain) does it appear that deaths are on the rise in any significant number, and this is the country with the greatest number of new cases. To be sure, if deaths follow, a lag in frequency is expected. Yet, in France, where a dramatic rise in cases began in mid-July, we see only a slight uptick on in the second week of September. Moreover, both Italy and the United Kingdom show very little increase in deaths despite a steady rise in cases. Perhaps this will change over time, but at present it does not appear they rise in cases is associated with increasing death.
Let’s take a look at the United States, where frequency of cases has been much greater since June. As you can see, this is associated with a rise in the frequency of deaths, but the visual comparison is striking in how the number of cases of death was much greater during the period with fewer cases of infection than in the period with more cases of infection.
What are we to make of this? Why was there so much greater death in the earlier periods than in the later periods? One reason for this is likely aggressive testing. The more testing authorities do the more cases we uncover, which in turn increases case frequencies. In may be that, in the early months of the pandemic, many more people had the virus that we thought but, with testing constrained, few cases were uncovered, thus producing a much higher case fatality rate, which created the exaggerated perception of the virus’ lethality. As testing ramped up, we began to develop a better understanding of the virus’ true lethality, which was not nearly as great as we initially thought.
This is, of course, assuming the virus has a stable rate of death. Natural history suggests that this is a bad assumption. In nature, the proliferation of virus depends on its successful replication. If, in the replication process, a virus sickens its host to the point where the host cannot effectively spread the virus, then this particular variation cannot spread as effectively as those variations that do less damage to the host. A virus is not trying to sicken or kill its host. It is simply trying to exploit the host’s cellular machinery. With the proliferation of less lethal varieties of SARS-CoV-2, death rates fall while infection rates rise.
It is likely that all of these are simultaneously occurring. There were early on certainly more cases than were detected by testing. The initial case fatality rates were thus based on underreporting of cases. I knew this at the time and reported on it my blog. But the viruses has under evolutionary pressures attenuated over time. It is less lethal than it was before. A rise in cases accompanied by a drastic decline in cate fatality rates should be cause to celebrate, but the establishment media and medical-industrial complex are spinning the statistics in a manner that at least functions to frighten the public. They have switched from death counts to case counts. They are hiding the good news for political purposes.
It may be that the lethality of the virus was magnified by those who were most likely to die from it, namely the old and the infirm. Of the 182,095 deaths recorded by the CDC to date, 104,661, or 57.5 percent, were over age of 74. Including those in the 65-74 age range raises the number to 143,790, increasing the percentage to 79 percent. Including those 55-64 accounts for more than 90 percent of fatalities. Approximately half of all those who died were in long-term care facilities, so it was not just age but health condition. For the other four-fifths of the population, 14,871 died from COVID-related causes. That is two percent of all causes for those age groups. For schools aged children, from daycare through undergraduate, COVID-19 related deaths account for just 1 percent of all deaths for those age groups. (All these stats are from the most recent CDC provisional death reports.)
In late August, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggested that only 6 percent of people who died of COVID-19 actually have COVID-19 as the sole diagnosis on their death certificate. This isn’t just an issue when COVID-19 is a factor. Underlying diabetes, coronary artery disease, etc., are common diseases that contribute to mortality, They are triggered by influenza, pneumonia, or some other infectious process. When doctors talk about “triggers,” they mean the proximate cause of death. Unfortunately, the media is not educating the public about proximate and ultimate causes.
If you are healthy, a cold virus won’t kill you. Indeed, getting cold viruses as you mature will protect you against cold viruses throughout your life. This improves your quality of life. But if you are very old, with late-stage cancer, have health problems associated with obesity, etc., with an immune system in decline or depleted, then you might not be able to fight off the cold virus. The cold virus is the proximate cause of your death. But the ultimate cause is something on that list I just enumerated. Eventually, sooner than later, all those with underlying conditions will die and their death will likely be the ultimate cause of their death (if they aren’t hit by a bus, struck by lightning, slip in the bathtub, murdered, etc.). The virus—the trigger— could be a rhinovirus, a coronavirus, or some other virus. The point is that the virus is not the ultimate cause of death because it rarely kills anybody by itself. If it does kill somebody by itself, then a deeper investigation is warranted. The doctors missed something. Or foul play is suspected.
Consider a man who has been shot in the chest. He survives, but the injury exposed him to an antibiotic resistant bacteria that invaded his lungs. Should we absolve the man who shot him of murder because the proximate cause of death is a bacterial infection? No, because the ultimate cause of his death is the gunshot wound to his chest. The man who shot him is responsible for this death. His ultimate passing was triggered by the bacterial infection.
The establishment is using a COVID-19 diagnosis in counting deaths to leave the impression that each of us share the same risk of death if we contract SARS-CoV-2. In fact, most of us who are infected won’t even present with symptoms. Half of us probably already have an immunity to the virus because of a lifetime of exposure to coronaviruses (T-cells exhibit cross-immunity). Indeed, the perception conveyed by the media is so false that any expert who does not make sure the public understands this is lying to them. Virtually everybody the media puts in front of you is lying to you. And they’ve been actively censoring those contradicting the official science on this matter. The good news is that you don’t need to be a virologist to understand the logic of science. You just need to be a scientist or think like a scientist.
Mr. Justice Strong, Olcott v. The Supervisors, 16 Wall. 678, 694, said: “That railroads, though constructed by private corporations and owned by them, are public highways has been the doctrine of nearly all the courts ever since such conveniences for passage and transportation have had any existence.”
Read this with respect to social media, which, although held privately, function as public utilities. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies are analogous to the railroads and telephone systems.
In Township of Pine Grove v. Talcott, 19 Wall. 666, 676, “Though the corporation [a railroad company] was private, its work was public, as much so as if it were to be constructed by the State.”
In Inhabitants of Worcester v. Western Railroad Corporation, 4 Met. 564: “The establishment of that great thoroughfare [railroads] is regarded as a public work, established by public authority, intended for the public use and benefit, the use of which is secured to the whole community, and constitutes, therefore, like a canal, turnpike or highway, a public easement. It is true that the real and personal property necessary to the establishment and management of the railroad is vested in the corporation, but it is in trust for the public.”
Although the establishment and management of social media is vested in the corporation, it is in the trust of the public, and therefore must submit to the authority of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Just as “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances,” neither should corporations acting as public utilities. Only time and place restrictions apply. An actor cannot interfere with another actor’s expressions such that his right is diminished.
It is, therefore, wrong for Facebook or Twitter, etc., to censor any post or comment or remove any user who is not violating constitutional norms. Social media companies, like the conductor in a railroad car, must be neutral in the administration of his duties.
What of our property rights as they pertain to our utterances and creative works? Back to Olcott: “Very early the question arose whether a State’s right of eminent domain could be exercised by a private corporation created for the purpose of constructing a railroad. Clearly it could not unless taking land for such a purpose by such an agency is taking land for public use. The right of eminent domain nowhere justifies taking property for a private use. Yet it is a doctrine universally accepted that a state legislature may authorize a private corporation to take land for the construction of such a road, making compensation to the owner. What else does this doctrine mean if not that building a railroad, though it be built by a private corporation, is an act done for a public use.”
In other words, while our speech acts can be possessed by the corporations establishing and managing public utilities, they are so possessed not exclusively for private use, but also for public use, and the person to whom these speech acts originally belonged should be compensated in some fashion by the corporation acting in the public trust.
It seems to me that the transaction tacitly entered into between users and owners/managers of social media companies so that the former may speak freely is a fee the former pay the latter that takes the form of user content accessible to advertisers and marketers and the subsequent exposure of the user to corporate messaging. Users of social media should not be told how or on what topics to speak any more than a conversation on a railroad car should be censored by the conductor—even as a matter of company policy, as such a policy is illegitimate on constitutional grounds.
Social media has no more right to censor or label user content between parties voluntarily consenting than a cellphone provider does given analogous circumstances. It is not for corporations providing public accommodations to determine access, participation, and utterances on the grounds of content except where that content represents an actual and imminent threat to the safety of concrete and identifiable persons. Cellphone providers do not police the truth content of user utterances on their services. Nor should social media companies.
The establishment media misleads the public in its campaign to blame President Trump for COVID-19 deaths. For example, CNN’s Jake Tapper cuts Peter Navarro’s mic and tells his audience that the United States is less than 5 percent of the world population, yet has more than 20 percent of the world’s deaths from COVID-19—as if this claim settles the matter.
“Okay. Peter Navarro, thank you so much. I appreciate your time today,” says Tapper. Then, with Navarro out of the way, says, “I would just like to remind the American people watching that the United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, and the United States has more than 20 percent of the world’s coronavirus deaths. That is a fact. It does not matter how many times he insults CNN.” CNN is an entity capable of being insulted?
This is propaganda. By telling his audience that the United States is less than 5 percent of the world’s population, by making us seem small and by assuming all countries are comparable, Tapper leaves the impression of a great disparity between the US and the world.
With 328 million people, the United States is not only the third largest country in the world (only China and India are larger), but it is the nexus of the world economy, with a high volume of international travel and densely packed cities. Moreover, many large countries with lower death rates aggressively deployed therapeutics, for example, hydroxychloroquine, in treating COVID-19 patients. Physicians in Western countries were constrained in prescribing cheap therapeutics by the actions of profit-driven medical-industrial complex, which has captured the regulatory process. And what about relevant demographics and health metrics?
With these factors in mind, let’s do a comparison between the United States and four large European countries—France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom—that have been similarly affected by COVID-19. Respectively, these countries have experienced 30,950, 35,624, 29,849, and 41,637 deaths. With a combined population of 240 million people, the four countries have experienced a combined 138 thousand deaths. The United States has experienced 194 thousand deaths.
I think you can already see how this is going to go. The percentage of deaths relative to population? The four European countries combined: 0.0575%. The United States: 0.0591%. Virtually the same. However, the percentage of deaths relative to population is even higher in Spain and the United Kingdom than in the United States. The percentage of deaths is the same for Italy and the United States. France’s relatively better numbers brings down the overall number for the four European countries. If I had left France out of the mix, the United States would have fared better in the comparison.
Why doesn’t Tapper inform the public that the United States is comparable to the four hardest hit European countries? That, in fact, the United States has a better than record than Spain and the United Kingdom? Shouldn’t news programming actually focus on informing the public? Clarifying the statistics? Contextualizing the facts? I think you know why they aren’t.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party, which is responsible for unleashing this virus on the world, is not only not the subject of news coverage in the United States, but the public is admonished for even talking about where this virus came from. It’s racist to call it the Chinese virus. The governor of New York, whose state alone experienced 32,629 death (with a population much smaller than each of the four countries I have used for the comparison), refers to the virus as the “European virus.”
Listening to the way Andrew Cuomo has been going on, Trump is to blame for the deaths in the United States. Cuomo angrily threatened Trump’s safety over a planned trip to New York. What is the percentage of deaths in Cuomo’s state? Very high. At 0.167 percent, it is also three times higher than in the four worst-faring European countries. Take the state of New York out of the statistics, and the United States fares much better. So why is the press giving Cuomo a pass? I think you know why they are.
If there are structures that organize social relations by race, then it is morally incumbent upon those who benefit from this organization to work with those who are oppressed by it and work with them to change conditions for all those affected. If the oppressor group refuses to change, then a range of protest actions are justified. If protests are insufficient to bring about change, then violence may be warranted.
The American republic has demonstrated over many decades a remarkable ability to address the problem of the racism it inherited, albeit in one instance with catastrophic war. With the Act of 1807, passed in March, the US Congress gave all slave traders nine months to close down their operations in the United States. As the trade was in black Africans, the system was racist in character. After January 1, 1808, the Act declared it unlawful “to import or bring into the United States or the territories thereof from any foreign kingdom, place, or country, any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, with intent to hold, sell, or dispose of such negro, mulatto, or person of colour, as a slave, or to be held to service or labour.” Thus, within two decades of its founding, the United States forbade its role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Little more than a half century later, the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing chattel slavery in the United States was proclaimed. Unlike the abolition of the slave trade, this change came after a long-fought civil war that claimed the lives of more than a million Americans, hundreds of thousands of them soldiers. Within a century, segregation by race would be abolished. This time, relatively peacefully. The Civil Rights Movement was a powerful statement of the American creed of colorblindness, that all persons should stand equally before the law.
The United States is now experiencing what the media characterizes as a reckoning on the race question. A narrative of an American history bereft of progress on race relations is promulgated by academics and activists, now taken up by corporations and governments. In this account, all whites are portrayed as complicit in a stealth system of anti-black oppression. All whites enjoy white privilege, which includes a psychological wage by virtue of being born white. White supremacy is America’s original sin. It’s in our national DNA. It is the warp and woof of the American tapestry. Etcetera. The act of denying white oppression, privilege, and sin is tantamount to not merely an admission of racism but to recalcitrance. Whites are being asked to atone for this sin, to renounce oppression, and forfeit their privilege, thus affirming the existence of systemic anti-black racism.
Yet, unlike the history I began with, there are no structures enslaving, oppression, or segregating black Americans. As I detailed, these structures were long ago abolished. Indeed, it is now illegal in the United States to discriminate against black people. More than this, at all levels of government, programs of reparations have existed for decades in the form of affirmative action (positive discrimination). And federal funding for education, housing, etc., disproportionately benefit black Americans. Given this, how have so many Americans come to believe that systemic racism continues to shape American life? Why are so many Americans going along with rhetoric that makes whites out to be racist oppressors and trashes the culture that has made America the envy of the world?
In the place of actual structures of oppression and segregation, which are themselves of course, as with other structures in the world, conveyed conceptually and theoretically, ways of speaking about the world can also creates the perception that imaginary structures are actual and real. Concepts may refer to both real and imaginary things, but the ability of human beings to always determine which are which is variable across time and space, and across persons.
We can see the way this works in theological constructions. Theology creates a universe where imaginary entities and locations and forces—gods, angels, devils, heaven, hell, evil and sin—appear as real things. Via a process of reification, the supernatural is transformed into a perceived reality, where concepts substitute for actual things. Real events are then interpreted within an all-encompassing framework. The framework makes particular sense of the evidence. Constructing a false account of the world is given plausibility by being articulated by authorities. In religion, these authorities are the church, mosque, and synagog, with their ministers, imams, and rabbis respectively. There are prayers, rituals, and scriptures. For a religion to be successful, it must build a congregation, acquire converts to doctrine. This means mounting a successful program of inclusion and indoctrination. When the program is societal-wide, pushed by society’s major institutions, it becomes a powerful force. Those who refuse and resist stand as apostates and infidels. Those who criticize doctrine are heretics.
This description of theology applies to the doctrine of critical race theory, which is the ideology guiding not only Black Lives Matter in street-level action, but also in the anti-racism and diversity training that students, teachers, and workers are compelled to undergo in corporations, government, and universities. In many cases, one does not have a choice but to participate. Employment, grades, pay, and promotion are attached. Knowing what happens to refusers and resisters, many more go along to get along.
The principle targets in this training are white people, who are told that they are racist even when they don’t know it. They suffer from “implicit (or unconsciousness) race bias.” They commit “little murders” against non-whites everyday with their words, with their “microaggressions.” See my last podcast or read my last blog entry (The Myth of White Culture) to learn about the many features of so-called “white culture.” During reeducation, white people will learn to see the structures of racism that have heretofore escaped their perception. They will learn to see the unseen by acquiring a new way to talk about the world—an argot, a jargon. They will be told to go into the world and promulgate this new gospel so that others may see it. They will be told to hold accountable those who refuse and resist the message.
It is promising that the White House’s Office of Management and Budget notified agency heads on September 4 of this year that federal workplaces will no longer be allowed to conduct training that focuses on race theory and white privilege. “It has come to the president’s attention that executive branch agencies have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to date ‘training’ government workers to believe divisive, anti-American propaganda,” OMB director Russell Vought wrote in a memo to agency leaders. In the memo Vought notes that “employees across the executive branch have been required to attend trainings where they are told that ‘virtually all White people contribute to racism’ or where they are required to say that they ‘benefit from racism.’”
We can trace back contracts for diversity training at federal agencies to an initiative started through an executive order signed by President Barack Obama in 2011. The Governmentwide Inclusive Diversity Strategic Plan issued in 2016 as a result of that order focused on a “New Inclusion Quotient,” calling on agencies to “provide training and education on cultural competency, implicit bias awareness and inclusion learning for all employees.”
Antiracism poisons our workplaces by requiring white employees to align their values with a worldview in which the work ethic and all the rest of it are degraded. Listen to Anti-Racism Training Doesn’t Work with Karlyn Borysenko (from the podcast Triggernometry). According to Vought’s memo, workers are being told “that there is racism embedded in the belief that America is the land of opportunity or the belief that the most qualified person should receive a job.” This program of indoctrination is not just harmful to the whites compelled to participate. It is harmful to blacks, as well, as it treats them as members of a group that cannot measure up to the standards of the society in which they live. It says that, in order for blacks to succeed, the standards have to be lowered or whites have to refrain from working with these standards in mind. Anti-racism represents a massive project of social engineering imposed on the American population without their consent. It means to change American culture.
To save all of us time (Lord knows we already wasted enough time reading DiAngelo and Kendi), the book is usefully summarized by Social Work Research and Abstracts. In Katz’s book “a group training program is presented in which white people work together in a nonthreatening environment to alter deeply ingrained, often unconscious racist attitudes and then embark on a program of behavioral change. The program has been used with measurable success in many settings. It can be adapted to the specific setting and needs of the participants. After an introduction explaining the principles on which the program is based, a detailed step-by-step training format is presented. The six group experiences, called stages, center on the following themes: racism, definitions and inconsistencies; confronting the reality of racism; dealing with feelings; cultural differences; exploring cultural racism, the meaning of whiteness; individual racism; and developing action strategies. Instructions and suggestions for conducting each session are provided, along with recommended readings, lists of materials required, and sources of materials.”
Katz’s work has a deep intellectual background. White Awareness hails from applied and organizational psychology, a technology designed to align the consciousness of workers with corporate ideology. As such it is a hallmark of progressivism, the technocratic worldview of the white collar sector. Psychologist Kurt Lewin is the central figure in this. Along with Ron Lippitt, Ken Benne, and Lee Bradford, Lewin founded the National Training Laboratories (NLT) Institute for Applied Behavioral Science in 1947 which established the foundations of corporate training regimes, a methodology called T-groups (training groups, or encounter groups or sensitivity training groups), and founded The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science. This direction is associated with the human relations movement, led by Douglas McGregor, Chris Argyris, and Warren Bennis, a movement that has profoundly shaped corporate management strategies. Because the structure of capitalist society compels a population to work for income, individuals are forced into structures that risk producing a subjectivity that is contrary to the material interests of their social class. Human relations and workplace training regimes are designed to proactively integrate workers with this subjectivity.
Deploying various social behavioral and cognitive strategies (small group interaction, role playing, that sort of thing), assimilation is obtained via various brainwashing techniques that leverage the behavioral and cognitive sciences to transform people into compliant corporate citizens. There is an analogy to all this that should, if people grasp the horrifying reality of all this, shake people out of their daze. In the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the “struggle session,” where a victim was forced to admit to wrongdoing, to confess to some crime, was often conducted at the target’s workplace surrounded by his fellow workers. The encounter session in the corporatist West is essentially a type of struggle session where a “facilitator” conscripts employees into coercing other employees into accepting the functional subjectivity. The parallel should frighten any one who cares about human freedom. It’s not an analogy. Bureaucratic collectivism and corporate bureaucratic organization share an affinity for externally-imposed rationalization—efficiency, predictability, uniformity, and control. The Chinese communist system dovetails easily with the transnational corporatist order. This is not theoretically supposed. We are seeing this convergence occurring before our eyes.
The establishment media is mainstreaming and normalizing the cultural revolution. “In this moment of historical reckoning, many Americans are being introduced to such concepts as intersectionality, white fragility, and anti-racism,” writes David Remnick in introducing his podcast with Isabel Wilkerson for The New Yorker. (See my podcast The Problem of Good White People). But this is not a moment of historical reckoning. Academic jargon shaped by the corrupting ideas of critical theory and postmodernism are constructing a reality that isn’t really real.
The very notion of a “historical reckoning” is mystification. The real reality is that we’re in a struggle between those who believe in republicanism versus those who believe in globalism, those for democracy versus those for technocracy. The question is whether we want to live in a society that protects individual liberty and defends civil rights in the context of a nation state that is answerable to the people and an international legal framework that defends human rights as a universal standard of regard, or live under the tyranny of transnational corporatist rule, a rule that works hand in hand with the Chinese Community Party. That’s the historical moment we’re living in. Black Lives Matter is street-level action in what is a corporatist revolution-from-above. That is the real fascistic threat facing humanity.
What we have been seeing over the last several decades is a shift from Old Left politics, or what we might call, following C. Wright Mills, plain Marxism, what I call classical Marxism, which I have been representing now for years (which seems to have really confused people who thought they knew how to represent my politics in their minds), to New Left politics, or neo-Marxism, which works against the humanism, liberalism, and secularism intrinsic to classical Marxist thought (i.e. the materialist conception of history). This derangement represents the corrupting influence of Heidegger, Nietzsche, and other regressive and authoritarian spirits, particularly those ideas refracted through the prism of French thought. The New Left countermovement against democracy, nationalism, and republicanism dovetails with the bureaucratic corporatist project of globalization, or transnationalization, as well as the bureaucratic collectivism of the Chinese Communist Party, in a common desire to denationalize the West and establish a global neofeudalist order.
Critical race theory, and critical theory in general, is part of the landscape in social science. As a social scientist tenured in the university, I teach critical race theory alongside feminist theories, historical materialism, structural-functionalism, symbolic interactionism, and other theoretical systems. However, even when I was sympathetic to elements of critical race theory, I never taught it uncritically in a classroom. I now recognize critical race theory as a toxic ideology, but even when I didn’t, my belief that higher education is no place for demanding conformity to a particular line of political thought always guided my classroom ethics. I would never teach students that there are bad people for refusing to accept, say, structural-functionalism as a grand theory for explaining their lives. Doing something like that on the basis of race would add an extra layer of horror to such a practice. Nor should critical race theory be represented as a definitive or settled view in training sessions in academy, corporations, or government agencies. Not only is critical race theory toxic, but the practice of compelling speech from administrators, students, teachers, and workers is tyrannical. It is entirely antithetical to the educational enterprise.
The latest OMB memo instructs federal agencies to identify all contracts for diversity training that covers “‘critical race theory,’ ‘white privilege,’ or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil.” That’s a start. But we need to reckon the moment we are in. Anti-racism training is part of a much larger problem for the working class, and that is the problem of transnational corporate power. Anti-racism is a project to align popular consciousness with an ideology that elites find beneficial to some ends. That corporate power is backing anti-racist training based on critical race theory tells us that those ends are not in the interests of working people.
Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, Richard Thompson Ford, author of The Race Card: How bluffing about bias makes race relations worse,” tells his audience in an op-ed for CNN, “There is no ‘White culture’.” I have written about Ford before (see Race and Democracy; Race-Based Discrimination as a Model for Social Justice) and appreciate his work, so I was excited to see his essay appear in my news aggregator.
The matter around which Ford organizes his essay is the exhibit in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington titled “Aspects and Assumptions of Whiteness and White Culture in the United States.” The chart introduces the subject this way: “White dominant culture, or whiteness, refers to the ways white people and their traditions, attitudes and ways of life have been normalized over time and are now considered standard practices in the United States. And since white people still hold most of the institutional power in America, we have all internalized some aspects of white culture—including people of color.”
See that? People of color are said to have internalized aspects of “white culture.” Let’s be clear about what this means: white cultural notions identified in the chart are not intrinsic to black culture, but an alien, external thing that has wormed it way into the heads of black people, colonizing their minds. Supposed ideational patterns, the products of history and ideology, are hypostatized in the abstraction of racial type. Can one know in the tangle of hundreds of years of shared life what ideas belong to which race? Or should we concern ourselves with which ideas advance collective interests and personal development? Might we find these among the items the Smithsonian identified as common “white culture”?
Here’s the chart:
Rugged individualism sees the person as the primary unit of history. Autonomy, independence, and self-reliance are values embodying individualism and there are rewards for embodying them. An alleged tenet of whiteness is that, having more deeply internalized these values that other groups, white people more readily ascend the ladder of success. In an individualist conception of society, the nuclear family is the ideal social unit. There is a husband and wife. A small number of children have their own rooms. They are expected to be independently minded and responsible for their actions.
In the antiracist worldview, “white culture” makes a fetish of the scientific method—i.e. objective, rational and linear thinking, cause and effect relationships, a focus on quantitative operations. Scientific thinking, which is held by its practitioners to be universal, stands in contrast to postmodernism, which conceptualizes the scientific method not only as one of innumerable narratives that project power, but deny that there is any external, mind-independent reality and truth. There is no reality in itself, only accounts of it, and prevailing accounts of it, as well as the epistemic character of those accounts, alert the observer to the prevailing structure of power. French philosopher Michel Foucault famously argued, “There is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations.” Or, more succinctly: “Knowledge is not for knowing: knowledge is for cutting.”
The whiteness of science goes also for Western Judeo-Christian traditions, which are considered primary by white people and nonwhite people who have internalized whiteness. The Protestant work ethic looms large here: the values of hard work, work before play, and accepting personal responsibility for failure. Put another way, white culture prefers an internal locus of control, where success and failure are a function of the character and quality of human agency. This is bound up with the Judeo-Christian tradition. Christianity is normative and other religions are considered foreign and their practitioners outsiders. Islam is the alien religion that looms largest here. As I have pointed out in past writings, those at war with white culture makes a fetish of Islam. Paradoxically, the postmodern left has so othered Muslims in its war against the West that it reflexively treats Muslims as people of color, even though Islam is, if we use antiracist rhetoric, a product of a white culture—just not the European one.
In white culture, notions of justice are based on common law, where the logic of law is pragmatically discovered through dispute resolution typically between individuals and small groups, and culpability is shaped by attribution of intentionality. Adjudication of the law proceeds a lot like adjudication of science, with the goal to find truth through an adversarial dialectic. Individualism comes with personal responsibility and just desserts. Those of you who have been following my podcast and blog have heard me talk about critical race theory and the distinction this standpoint draws between, on the one hand, the “perpetrator perspective,” emphasizing individual responsibility and culpability/intentionality, and, on the other, the “victim perspective,” where assertions and feelings expressed are valid by virtue of hailing from an oppressed category. The oppressor advocates the former perspective because it protects his privilege. It isn’t really better, rather it’s the narrative that prevails because the oppressor is in charge and can make it so. Indeed, it is worse, because it is the perpetrator’s perspective. From the victim perspective, justice does not require proving the individual acted intentionally; all that is needed is that some group harm is alleged and supposed to result from the actions of—or the failure to act by—the other group. This is how one gets notions of “white privilege,” where no white person stands outside whiteness (by definition), all are stigmatized by it, and therefore all are responsible for the harm resulting from its wages.
This is not merely a cracked theory of justice. It is dangerous, and we can see why in the riots occurring on our streets. Here’s what makes it dangerous: From the Western justice standpoint, an individual who harms another individual is held responsible in a process that (ideally) carefully examines the facts in a criminal or civil procedure. Only those persons materially involved in the wrongdoing are held responsible for it. We don’t punish others who look like the wrongdoer in some way; not everybody with blue eyes is responsible on account of the perpetrator having blue eyes—or blonde hair, or freckles, or whatever. Only the perpetrator is held responsible because the perpetrator perpetrated the wrongdoing. If, in contrast, we suppose that every member of a group is responsible for the behavior of individual or individuals presumed to belong to that group, then any individual of that group is a suitable target for retributive or restitutive. The concrete individual is a stand-in for abstract group. Any white man can substitute for any white man. If, furthermore, the harm claimed is abstract, then adjudication in a rational process becomes impossible. All that is left is targeting of individuals on the basis of race. We have a word for that: racism.
There are several other features noted in the chart. Competition. Mastering nature. White culture is said to be action oriented. The majority rules with the caveat that only when whites have power, a caveat failing to acknowledge white minority rule in Rhodesia, South Africa, and, after othering Arabs, Israel (if they don’t other Jews, as well). White culture emphasizes written communication, reason over emotion, privacy, civility, and politeness. The chart identities the Western civilization values of respecting authority, property, and space. White culture is future oriented: planning, delayed gratification, optimistic, promoting progress. Life—work and leisure—is time-oriented, with schedules, the commodification of time. Of course, none of this is white culture. If you want to put a label on it, how about bourgeois culture, at least in many of its elements?
Before turning to a fuller analysis of Ford’s take on “white culture,” I want to expand on the bourgeois culture tag by summarizing an op-ed by Amy Wax, a law professor at University of Pennsylvania, and Larry Alexander, law professor at the University of San Diego, “Paying the price for breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture,” published in The Philadelphia Inquirer in the summer of 2017. This op-ed riled up the cancel culture warriors, who drew up a petition (and secured several thousand signatures) to get Wax fired. It didn’t work.
According to Wax and Alexander, bourgeois culture “laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.” Insisting on the relevance of bourgeois culture in a progressive America, Wax and Alexander write, “Banishing discrimination and expanding opportunity does not require the demise of bourgeois culture. Quite the opposite: The loss of bourgeois habits seriously impeded the progress of disadvantaged groups. That trend also accelerated the destructive consequences of the growing welfare state, which, by taking over financial support of families, reduced the need for two parents. A strong pro-marriage norm might have blunted this effect. Instead, the number of single parents grew astronomically, producing children more prone to academic failure, addiction, idleness, crime, and poverty.” I hear a lot of things on the Smithsonian’s white culture list.
If you find bourgeois culture appealing, welcome to the club (Heather Mac Donald has also extolled the the values of bourgeois culture). These are the values that have produced the most advanced civilization in world history. These values emerge from the dynamic of nationalism, an approach to organizing populations in which legal and political structures elevate individuals from subjects to citizens, placing them under the rule of law, and affording them democratic processes to affect change, to expand and entrench democracy itself, detribalizing them by emancipating them from the provincial structures that limit personal development and self-actualization, providing for them a common culture and language and access to common knowledge for problem solving. As I argue in my writing, individualism is the necessary basis for human rights, as it allows individuals to become defined not by the tribe or the religion but by their universal connection with all human beings independent of ideology, i.e. their species-being. This is an objective standard. Group right, in contrast, are destructive to human rights because they assume relative ontology, putting the subjectivity of the tribe or religion before concreteness of individuals and then put those individuals defined by tribe and religion above the individuals of other groups.
Turning now to Ford’s op-ed and the Smithsonian controversy …. After receiving blowback, interim director Spencer Crew apologized and removed the material in mid-July (which had been online since May 31), not because it he considered it wrong and racist, but because it did not contribute to the discussion as planned. Indeed, Crew insisted that the chart was not racist. “We’re trying to talk about ideology, not about people,” he said. “We are encouraging people to think about the world they live in and how they navigate it. It’s important to talk about it to grow and get better.” But while criticizing culture is not inherently racist, condemning a culture because it is said to be white is profoundly racist.
Ford argues that the notion that there is a “white culture” with these features “ignores the contributions and achievements of generations of industrious and self-sufficient Black scientists, philosophers and writers, to say nothing of Black Protestants who made an ethic of non-violence a guiding feature of their lives.” Ford contends, for example, that it is “an insult to suggest that King ‘internalized’ his faith or his ethic of nonviolence because a White power structure imposed them on him.” He points out that “‘White culture’ in fact reflects the ideas, experiences, sensibilities and perspectives of people of all races—especially African Americans whose contributions to American culture are as widespread and profound as those of the stereotypical Mayflower pilgrims.”
Ford identifies a paradox in the “white culture” narrative: “A defining feature of White supremacy has been to take credit for the labor and accomplishments of other races, whether that labor involved physical toil extracted without wages or intellectual and cultural work copied without attribution. The idea of ‘White culture’ advances this White supremacist project, crediting Whites for the work ethic, when no group of people in human history have worked harder and for less reward than Black people; for the Christian faith, when Black faithful and religious leaders have both furthered and revitalized Christianity and set the tone that Whites have later adopted, for good and for ill; for ‘delayed gratification’ when generations of Black people delayed their own gratification even up to the day they died in the hope that their children might have better lives in a more just society.” He also criticizes the identification of the “written tradition” with “white culture” given that “many renowned White authors incorporated aspects of literary traditions developed by Black writers such as Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison and Gwendolyn Brooks. This isn’t a case of cultural appropriation but of a cultural conversation between people of all races, yielding new forms of expression that no one race can lay exclusive claim to but that all can take pride in.”
Ford writes that “there is no White culture—only American culture,” because of this “people of color deserve some share of the blame as well as of the credit.” He continues, “We bear some of the responsibility for an ethic of ‘rugged individualism’ that, at its worst, has fostered alienation and selfishness; if the veneration of the nuclear family has stigmatized other ways of caring and physical intimacy, we get some of the blame for that too.” He suspects that the narrative the charts is shaped by a counter-cultural intention to disparage “soulless American capitalism and uptight bourgeois respectability” in order to relieve the burden of shared responsibility for that by supposing these were impositions, but finding that denying black responsibility also denies black accomplishment. This is “insulting and dehumanizing,” he contends. “Because there is no White culture—only American culture—people of color deserve their share of the blame as well as of the credit. That’s what it means to be a vital part of a culture and a civilization—not to have ‘internalized’ it as passive victims but to have been a part of it in all of its glory and horror.”
“The idea of White culture—indeed the idea that any set of cultural practices belong to any race—ignores or repudiates the defining development of the modern world: the cosmopolitan mixing of older, face-to-face cultures made possible by the expansion of communication and migration,” he writes. “Black Americans are not displaced Africans who could return to an ancestral homeland.” Blacks are “the children of modernity, a new people born in the violent encounter with avaricious and ambitious Europeans who created a new identity and new culture from that trauma. For better and for worse, the United States is our only home: we have no ‘pure’ traditions to go back to. What we have instead are our profound contributions to what remains, for all of its flaws and hypocrisies, one of the most dynamic, inventive and promising civilizations to emerge from the chaos of human history.”
That Western civilization emerged in Europe, a region inhabited by lighter skinned people, lighter skinned because of an unintended process of human development (the development of large-scale agriculture), doesn’t make it “white.” If history had been such somewhere else, the values of the Enlightenment might have emerged there. But it didn’t. And we can’t change that. We are fortunate that it emerged at all. It’s not just that there is no need to racialize culture, Ford contends that racializing culture is a bad idea. The values of Western civilization are to be preserved and advanced because they are the values that abolished slavery and racism, emancipated women, and achieved equality for gays and lesbians. Western culture is for everybody.
Tragically, though, we see a countermovement prevailing that is racializing the West in order to delegitimize it on that basis—by promoting hatred and loathing of white people and making all of the good it has done for the world problematic on that basis. This is the central problem with Black Lives Matter and its sister countermovement Antifa, both variations on a synthesis of critical theory, postmodernism, and Mao Zedong thought (for a wonderful summary of the development of the toxic mixture sans Maoism, listen to Social Justice Explained with James Lindsay on Triggernometry). The sentiment is anti-West and sees in rhetoric equating the West with whiteness, an ideology promoted by intellectuals in the humanities and social sciences and progressives in corporations and government, an opportunity to bring down modernity with third worldist and tribalist sensibilities.
Make sure to catch my next podcast, coming very soon, in which I follow up on this episode and blog by telling you where the idea of the Smithsonian exhibit on whiteness came from and show how it represents the basis of diversity and racial sensitivity training.
“I’m not saying the military’s in love with me—the soldiers are, the top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”—US President Donald Trump at a White House news conference, Labor Day 2020.
“I promise you, I’m absolutely convinced they will escort him from the White House with great dispatch.” Former Vice President Joe Biden, June 2020, referring to the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, should the election be contested.
The war machine is seeking popular support for its campaign to throw out of office a president who disappoints it leaders by pushing a neoconservative line that the president demeans military service in much the same way the antiwar left does—or at least did. (Is there an antiwar left any more?) As if they care about the troops.
Atlantic’s editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg has written a story in his magazine woven entirely from four anonymous sources that claim that President Trump has made disparaging comments about the troops. Trump allegedly called Americans who died in battle “losers” and “suckers.” CNN claims to have confirmed the story. The sources remain anonymous. Why are they hiding? Trump is a tyrant who retaliates against his critics. So the story goes.
What are these warmongers really mad about? Ending regime-change wars, shifting policy away from the doctrine of endless war, bringing home our troops from overseas, not glorifying military service in the way the warlords believe entrenches the mass reflex for military intervention for the sake of corporate profits. Trump appears to lean in this direction.
A Republican who doesn’t get heroizing the agents of large-scale killing for propaganda purposes, Trump is the worst possible president for the military-industrial complex and the transnational corporations who use the instruments of belligerence to secure their material and strategic interests around the world. They fear they are losing one of their two parties (they know they can always count on Democrats).
What if the president is reluctant to lionize those who are compelled by the conditions of their existence to sign up for service? If he asks what’s in it for working people to report for duty, why is that disparaging of their persons? What if he doesn’t like to see mangled and traumatized persons lying on hospital gurneys or in psych wards? What if the human consequences of the violence self-promoting warmongers demand disgusts him?
There’s an assumption here we would all do well to ascertain (and it’s not the portrayal of the president as a tyrant). Why is failing to accept the validity of the transaction in question not at the same time a critique of the conditions that compel people, often of little means, to sacrifice their lives for the psychological wage of lionization? It has not long been the practice of elite across the epochs to amass troops by offering them honor and glory on the battlefield, to serve the cause of their country or their people, and to marginalize those who would question the worth of the sacrifice? Wouldn’t robbing them of their legitimizing rhetoric deal a blow to warmongering?
The war-makers and their corporate masters have no country or people in their hearts. The wars they wage—Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc.—are not just wars. They’re wars for profit and power. The people who die in their wars die for tragic reasons.
What if the heroes are not those who make war? What if the heroes are those who prevent and stop war? What if our brothers and sisters are more precious to us alive, whole and among us than dead, maimed, and absent?
In this essay, I explain why smart people make such utterly absurd comments as the one tweeted by Tressie McMillan Cottom, a sociologist and associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science: “They have deputized all white people to murder us.” Black Lives Matter is a new religion with all the delusion and zealotry that a new religion brings. Mainstreamed by academia and the establishment media, the phenomenon is metastasizing. My analysis works from a critical political social psychology framework. It dismantles key mythologies that corrupt reason. Tragically, these mythologies are cooked up and promulgated by ideologues in our institutions of higher education. Professors have become preachers of a new religion.
In an open letter by twelve University of Wisconsin system professors and staff condemning the shooting of Jacob Blake by an officer from the Kenosha Police Department, the myths of systemic racism and implicit race bias clearly inform the grievances expressed. Without evidence, the signatories compare the shooting of black men by police to the “public lynchings” in the post-Reconstruction era in America (for my views on this see Agency and Motive in Lynching and Genocide), claiming that “these public shootings are meant to instill fear in Black Americans.” Characterizing the shooting of Blake as “attempted murder” (the evidence indicates that the shooting was a lawful use of deadly force), the letter writers substitute for any actual evidence of racial bias in lethal officer-civilian encounters the cliché that “violence toward Black people [is] embedded in the fabric of this country.” You should recognize this way of talking about the matter as mystification.
Their complaints come with something of a demand: more black academics in the University of Wisconsin system. The academics identify the state of Wisconsin’s education system as an agent “in addressing racist behavior and racial inequality in the state” (two very different things), but lament the underrepresentation of black faculty, administrators and students, suggesting that skin color is itself instrumental in addressing social problems. It’s as if they believe white people cannot adequately address the problems of racist behavior and racial inequality in Wisconsin. Presumably they do not envision hiring black conservatives in these positions since the idea behind greater racial representation is the failure of higher education to more completely get behind the ideology the letter writers wish to advance. I have argued on my blog, and I will argue here, that those who share their politics have done well in portraying the United States as a racist country. Apparently they won’t be happy until every American is as deluded as they are.
“We as Black people do not deserve to die because large portions of our society, including law enforcement, feel threatened by our skin color,” the letter asserts. This claim is made despite the fact that all the evidence shows that there is no racial bias in lethal officer-civilian encounters (see The Myth of Systemic Racism in Lethal Police-Civilian Encounters and The Far Podcast on this topic). In the face of the facts, the assertion of systemic racism and implicit race bias are, in various forms, repeated ad nauseam, manufacturing through repetition a false perception about officer-civilian encounters. These false perceptions cause trauma and violence. They lead people to believe they have valid grievances and that violence is a means of redressing them. These results are not hypothetical. The nation has been in a continual state of disarray since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the end of May. The chaos has spread throughout the West despite the fact that most of these countries do not have a history of race relations resembling that of the United States.
The protests and the riots are people responding not to what is known, but rather to what is believed. Those among my readers who know the literature of social psychology might recognize this as W. I. Thomas’ “definition of a situation” theorem, which goes like this: “If men define things as real, they are real in their consequences.” We see this, for example, in religious thinking. Because men define such entities as gods and devils as actual entities, and such places as heaven and hell as actual places, they are moved to engage in ritual actions and commit acts of violence against apostates, heretics, and infidels. Perceived reality affects behaviors and dispositions. The protests and the riots are indeed real. Their justifications are not.
Working people don’t come to such notions organically. Race is not a real thing and, as George Herbert Mead observed, the tendency of human beings is to cooperate along lines of shared material interests. Racial divisioning is an artificial separation. People who know better or at least should know better—we’re talking about academics, after all—choose false perception over reality, as well as divisive rhetoric, because, in addition to actually imbibing in the illusions they peddle, the myths provide opportunities to express self-righteousness, manufacture victimhood status, feed gross, manufacture esteem, and materially enrich selves by deepening in-group/out-group dynamics, amplifying resentment, and fomenting intergroup conflict.
There are deep psychological and emotional investments to be found here. It feels good to cast oneself in the role of the moral superior, as well as play the victim and the sympathy is engenders in others. People want you to feel sorry for them. They are angered when you don’t. Narcissists understand that people pay attention to the grievance makers and admire the redemption seekers where they have been conditioned to believe that such persons are to be reckoned among the worthy victims. Again, this is the way religion works. The claims of religion aren’t true; nonetheless, they are opportunities for self-righteousness, victimhood, egoism, and so on. As such, they are highly attractive to certain people. I feel I hardly need to do a point-by-point comparison to show where Black Lives Matter shares the core features of religious thought and practice (I have already done this work in previous blogs, but it’s rather obvious).
Moreover, like religion, the ideology of systemic racism is functional, only in the present case the ritual of self-blame is dramatically turned outward. Appeals to systemic racism and implicit race bias, both of which are not immediately apparent and thus require a special vocabulary—scripture, if you will—to make real, allow people to escape responsibility for the dysfunctions associated with attitudes, norms, and values that, through alienation and by learning other-blame for personal failures and situations, work against integration and success in the Western way of life. Such cultures in question are, in a word, disintegrationist—presently in an obvious and belligerent way (we see this in Islam, as well). Rather than admit the reason blacks run afoul of the police in disproportionate numbers, namely the fact of black overrepresentation in serious crime and the endogenous factors that lie behind this, the facts are rationalized, producing an ideology that blames racial disproportionality in arrests, convictions, and commitments to correctional programs on abstractions and assertions reified by an elaborate conceptual apparatus generate slogans that devotees need only memorize.
Like good propaganda, the abstractions and assertions are self-referential and therefore self-proving. Pitched as causal forces, when asked to identify these forces as independent variables, proponents of the ideology don’t even bother to attempt operationalizations, rather merely refer back to the fact of disparity, as if it is prima facia evidence for the thing itself. In other words, they substitute for the alleged independent variables the dependent variable. The argument is circular. Implicit race bias must exist because racial disproportionalities exist. What other explanation could there be? (See my recent essays Stop Blaming Police and Focus on Criminality—That Will Make Our Communities Safer and Why are there so Many More White than Black Victims of Interracial Homicide?) Again, like religion, the ideology is constructed from articles of faith, asserted as true because the alleged victims “experience it.” Anecdotes feed a thoroughgoing confirmation bias.
When proponents are confronted with the science debunking the ideology, which, in the case of lethal officer-civilian encounters is the entire body of literature, which is not insubstantial, the science is said to be biased. Epistemological demands for logic and objectivity are decried as “white culture,” which is asserted as an actual thing and declared a priori racist. Recently, the Smithsonian removed an exhibit on white culture and, among other things, identified scientific rationality as an element in white supremacy (I will be podcasting and blogging about this soon). This is not a new idea, but one that has been promoted in diversity training exercises for decades. From this it follows that any scientist who proceeds rationally may be subjected to accusations of being rightwing and racist—or, at least, “problematic,” to use the postmodern jargon. Efforts to cancel, censor, deplatform, marginalize, and smear those who tell the truth as science finds it (in all its caution) are rampant as a result. This is a reflection of the authoritarianism that results from advocacy of rationally indefensible claims. Those who threaten to debunk the claims with reason and facts must be shut down.
One of the more terrible things that comes out of practice of myth-making is the manufacture of trauma. To be sure, trauma expressed may be the result of actual oppression and violence. But there is also trauma that results from the belief that one has experienced or is supposed to experience oppression. The paradigm of this was McMartin preschool trial of the 1980s where children were led to believe they were the victims of sexual abuse by the MacMartin family that owned the day care center. Not a single conviction was obtained in a case that lasted seven years. In the end, all charges were dropped. The events described by investigators and prosecutors never happened. But many of the children, now adults, believe the memories investigators planted in their heads actually happened. They are as real to them as if they had happened. The children believe they told the truth and that nobody believed them. McMartin was not the only case but one of many in a moral panic, which include hysteria over Satanic ritual abuse. (I have written about moral panics in several blog entries, most recently about a threatening panic over the return of lynching fueled by the hysteria over systemic racism. See Death by Suicide in the Era of Black Lives Matter: The Beginning of a Moral Panic? Fortunately, that one appears to have weakened over time.)
The dynamic of implanting memories is also found in the ideology of intergenerational and collective trauma. The memories may be real, but, for most or all members of a group, only vicariously experienced, often at several degrees removed from some real experience or a lived experience. In the pages of Frontiers, a journal of personality and social psychology, Glad Hirschberger, of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, pulls from the literature, including work by notable sociologist Kai Erickson (who wrote about mass hysteria in The Wayward Puritan), a comprehensive summary of the notion of collective trauma. He writes that “the memory of trauma may be adaptive for group survival, but also elevates existential threat, which prompts a search for meaning, and the construction of a trans-generational collective self.” To give you an example of the language of social constructionism that underpins this view as well as the main tenets of the theory, I want to share two lengthy passages from Hirschberger’s article (Collective Trauma and the Social Construction of Meaning):
“The term collective trauma refers to the psychological reactions to a traumatic event that affect an entire society; it does not merely reflect an historical fact, the recollection of a terrible event that happened to a group of people. It suggests that the tragedy is represented in the collective memory of the group, and like all forms of memory it comprises not only a reproduction of the events, but also an ongoing reconstruction of the trauma in an attempt to make sense of it. Collective memory of trauma is different from individual memory because collective memory persists beyond the lives of the direct survivors of the events, and is remembered by group members that may be far removed from the traumatic events in time and space. These subsequent generations of trauma survivors, that never witnessed the actual events, may remember the events differently than the direct survivors, and then the construction of these past events may take different shape and form from generation to generation.
“For victims of collective trauma meaning is established by: (a) passing down culturally-derived teachings and traditions about threat that promote group preservation; (b) these traditions of threat amplify existential concerns and increase the motivation to embed the trauma into a symbolic system of meaning; (c) trauma fosters the sense of a collective self that is transgenerational thereby promoting a sense of meaning and mitigating existential threat; (d) the sense of an historic collective self also increases group cohesion and group identification that function to create meaning and alleviate existential concerns; (e) the profound sense of meaning that is borne out of collective trauma perpetuates the memory of the trauma and the reluctance to close the door on the past; (f) over time collective trauma becomes the epicenter of group identity, and the lens through which group members understand their social environment.”
Hirschberger also discusses the way in which collective intergenerational trauma affects the perpetrators. The language here will sound very familiar to a lot of readers. “For perpetrators, the memory of trauma poses a threat to collective identity that may be addressed by denying history, minimizing culpability for wrongdoing, transforming the memory of the event, closing the door on history, or accepting responsibility. The acknowledgment of responsibility often comes with disidentification from the group.” In other words, the victim group constructs a narrative of its trauma and, expecting the alleged perpetrator group to validate the narrative, characterizes the failure of such as a continuation of the oppression (you might recognize this as a form of gas lighting). Hirschberger article organizes in a clear and useful way the social psychological elements of what Critical Race Theories identify as the “victims perspective” and the “perpetrators perspective” (see my Committing the Crime it Condemns for an overview). As I have argued in several blogs, this way of portraying the world suffers from reification or hypostatization, wherein an abstraction is treated as if it is a concrete thing. Reification commits the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. However, reification does produce concrete effects (see The Appeal to Identity: Bad Politics and the Fallacy of Standpoint Epistemology).
For example, the experience of black children and young adults with anti-black racism is most commonly in the past tense since racism has largely been eradicated in the contemporary United States. Children and young adults learn from books, parents, pastors, teachers, and television about what life was like for people who look like them back then. They do not experience what occurred in the past except through being told about it. If they weren’t told about it, they would not experience it. When they are told about it, they are also told that they should feel trauma over it. Thus the trauma experienced is not caused by the concreteness of past events, but by memories constructed from its abstractions, which influencers in positions of authority encourage and, in some cases, insist that they feel the dead past as living trauma. Group identity is then constructed out of these abstractions. Thus trauma is visited upon black children not by white racism, which they do not experience, but by those in their own community steeped in antiracism. We also see this with the elevation of insignificant cultural slights, or faux pas, to the status of microaggression. So rare is racism really that attitudes and behaviors that were not heretofore defined as racism become redefined as so.
The ideas of collective trauma and internalized oppression and collective trauma is a central tenet of social justice education and politics, which explains why it has become so widespread in the West. This technique of implanting memories in children and young adults, of orchestrating an acquired set of attitudes and emotions, produces a victim mentality in which the person sees her or himself as the victim of actions or events he did not actually experience and uses this trauma to define his interactions with others, to condition his choices and responses, a dynamic that will shape his future along a particular trajectory. The dynamic reinforces his belief that he is a victim of imagined crimes committed by a living dead.
We might call the ideology of manufactured victimhood victimism, a shared belief that constructs esteem and confers upon those with special status emotional and psychological wages. To be sure, not all members of a group about which a victim narrative has been fashioned suffer from victimism. Even under conditions of actual hardship, some individuals don’t experience trauma or define themselves as victims. They take things in stride. The myriad of experiences are regarded as part of daily circumstance. There is no reconstruction of the self to embody the victim identity. Whether one is successfully conditioned to be a victim depends on how intensely the expectation is felt, the reward and punishment structure (the contingency schedule, for the behaviorists out there), and how acutely demands for group cohesion and loyalty are perceived. Moreover, there are personality traits that predispose persons to it (see my A Fact-Proof Screen: Black Lives Matter and Hoffer’s True Believer). The need for attention or recognition is variable across the population.
It is important for those who think they are victims to have others affirm their victimhood. Seeking the support of those around him, through various strategies, including the suspension of disbelief (the default position in abstract things should always be disbelief), the victim enlists others in the project to validate the illusion. The more sure those around the supposed victim are in their belief of victimhood, the more efficacious is emotional blackmail not only demanding outsiders acknowledge their responsibility in their trauma but in relenting to the demands the victim is making. The program of self-denunciation also benefits from personality traits. Thus a dynamic of sadomasochism is initiated (see Such a Beautiful Moment—The Self-Flagellating of White People).
Collective trauma is source of solidarity and defines and intensifies the in-group/out-group division. It feeds conflict and seeks resolution of conflict, to the extent that it does, in the transfer of esteem and material goods and services from the out-group to the in-group. It’s a type of extortion. Esteem is fueled by the perception of self-righteousness, or the moral superiority of the victim, or the oppressed, and the immorality of the perpetrator—the oppressor. The strategy stands normal morality on its head. Despite being the aggressors, victims can move under the cover of sympathy, painting the targets of their violence as the real threat, even portraying the targets of their violence as deserving of the violence perpetrated against them. This is a technique of neutralization that David Matza and Gresham Sykes identify, “denial of victim,” here achieved by swapping places in the victim-perpetrator dyad.
By radically simplifying the world with this rhetoric, by casting conflict as good and evil, literally in this case black and white, the social justice activist washes oppression and violence in a bath of righteousness. You might say that the movement is baptized—not merely cleansed of its sins, but given an immunity of sorts: a permission slip to sin in the name of justice. This invites others—especially those attracted to hate and violence—to join them in “oppressing the enemy.” Offensive violence become justified by future of being redefined as defensive in a false transformational maneuver, while the defensive violence of their targets is likewise redefined as offensive violence. Shielding oneself from interpersonal violence when one has been stripped of the human right to self-defense transforms the victim into the perpetrator. One’s battered face is guilty of having been located in the path of a righteous fist—or rock of molotov cocktail or professional grade firework.
Being concerned with ones own imagined suffering reduces the capacity to feel sympathy for the targets of retribution. The ideology dehumanizes the victims of its bearers. The victims had it coming to them in this warped worldview. Even though the perpetrators of retributive violence were not wronged by any of the individuals they target, because the victims share the skin color of the alleged oppressor group, extracting justice from any of them is warranted, and diminishment of empathy allows them to carry out retribution or restitution without the pangs of conscience. In the case of Antifa and Black Lives Matter violence, state and local governments stopped holding responsible those committing criminal acts on the grounds that those committing them are members of historically oppressed groups. Like employee theft is wages-in-kind, looting is reparations-in-action. Lest they be portrayed as racists and reactionaries, shop owners should stand aside and behold justice. With all of the attention is placed on alleged wrongdoing and the suffering on account of it, final compromise with the alleged oppressor is a remote possibility. A positive sanctioned culture of blaming others for ones personal situation eschews resolution because peace would bring an end to the psychological and emotional wages, not to mention the material stuff, that accrue to the victim.
Through all of this, no time was taken to stop and determine whether the grievances are real or imagined. Is there some objective arrangement or action that oppresses? Or is this subjectively experienced. To actually achieve justice, the righting of wrongs requires actual wrongs. Reform in the name of justice requires an injustice to reform. Thus there needs to be an objective analysis of the wrong, of the injustice. Alas, postmodernism saves the day by asserting there can be no objective judgment of wrongs and injustices since the deny the “lived experience.” Injustice and oppression are how we feel not what really is. But, then, that just proves my argument. Black Lives Matter is set up as a forever thing that can only be forever because it rests on a mythology. There is very little here that needs resolving—but a mythology in need of debunking. In order to do this, we have to assert our right to publicly challenge myths without risking life, property, and reputation. And here postmodernism again intrudes to tell us that the free speech right is a white-serving construct of modernity.
The chaos in the streets, the high levels of violent crime, daily disintegration, are mainly occurring in cities run by progressive Democrats. The riots were prepared by decades of custodial state policies designed by progressives to manage the consequences of rising organic composition of capital and globalization—off-shoring, mass immigration—for the corporate class. The ideology that guides the mob and supplies the propaganda apparatus with woke vocabulary, that shapes our workplaces and school boards—was cooked up in the humanities and social sciences departments of the institutions of higher education in the service of global capitalism. The constant trashing of America and West fuels the violence. Anti-white racism identifies the targets of ginned up resentment. The cosmopolitanism of bourgeoise elitism portrays working class Americans as deplorables and casts their traditionalist sensibilities as fascistic. Elites aim to delegitimize the working class and its politics to derail resistance to the managed decline of the republic. It’s starting to feel as if they have overplayed their hand. At the same time, it also feels as if they won’t be able to put the violence they have unleashed back into Pandora’s box.
To expound on what I earlier said and tie it with the range of actions we see on our streets, it is important to keep in mind that the validity of a grievance determines the legitimacy of an action. A protest is a first amendment activity. Even if the grievance is illusory, and therefore the demonstration invalid, people are permitted, constrained by certain rational rules, to peacefully protest. Protests occur not only over matters of fact. They can be organized by feelings. However, a riot is an illegitimate exercise of violence—this form of violence is not constitutionally or morally legitimate. This is not to suggest that there are no legitimate forms of violence, the pertinent one being rebellion, which can look like a riot phenomenologically. But if a riot is to be elevated to the status of a rebellion it must have valid grievances, i.e., a root cause, and all other means seeking redress of grievances must first be exhausted. Determining root causes is an objective exercise. The current riots do not constitute a rebellion. None of the conditions necessary for ethical justification for Antifa or Black Lives Matter violence have been met. Nor are the protests valid. This is an insurrection. (The federal government exists to enforce the law, repel invasion, and suppress insurrection. What are our leaders waiting for?)
When the claim is made that justice reform provides the justification, as I wrote above, justice reform requires an injustice to reform. The injustice claimed by Antifa and Black Lives Matter is racial bias in patterns of police shootings and incarceration. There is no evidence of systemic racism in these patterns. Forty years of scientific research fails to find evidence of systemic racism in lethal officer-civilian encounters. There are roughly a thousand to twelve hundred lethal officer-civilian encounters in the United States annually. That’s a lot, but keep in mind that we are the third largest country in the world and the most violent advanced country in the world. Of that number of deaths, approximately 250-300 blacks are killed by the police. In other words, blacks are a minority of deaths in this type of violence, most of which constitute the appropriate use of deadly force by an officer of the law. Controlling for crime rates and circumstances any disproportionalities disappear. Leaving aside the drug war, in which substantial reform has already been taking place for years, the racial disparities in corrections reflects patterns of serious crime, as I document on my blog. It is relevant here to know that Trump signed into law a major criminal justice reform bill addressing remaining outstanding issues. We have made substantial progress and are continuing to make progress.
I am not concerned with illusions. What people believe doesn’t determine the truth for me. And it shouldn’t for any of you, either. A rational person is concerned with reality—with what is. The difference between sane and crazy is a commitment to what is. The scientific evidence refutes the claims made by those who assert a grievance. Because of the power of the scientific method, which is universally true, and in light of the evidence, arguing that there is racial bias in police shootings, to take the most high profile claim, is the equivalent of arguing that the earth is flat or that it lies at the center of the solar system.
The argument I make does not portray protests as riots. Watch out for that straw man. It’s those who are enabling violence who characterize the riots as protests. The riots are an objective fact. We cannot deny arson, looting, assault, and even murder for the sake of argument—for the sake of our desire to avoid inconvenient truths. We don’t have time to play dumb. These things are real and they are being perpetrated by Antifa and Black Lives Matter. Fox News doesn’t portray the protests as riots. They cover the riots. It’s the other media outlets that portray riots as protests—even while standing in front of burning buildings!
Antifa and Black Lives Matter are clearly insurrectionist. This is politically organized violence against civil authority and an established government. Trump and Republicans have been remarkably patient in the face of the worst civil unrest in America since I was small child. And that was a long time ago! Joe Biden is wrong when he says Trump is fearmongering. The insurrection is real. The violence is real. The homicides are real. The point of the insurrection is to spread fear throughout the population through intimidation and violence. The insurrection is using terrorism—the illegitimate use of intimidation and violence to advance political objectives—in pursuit of its goals. Like trauma-production, fear-production is the work of the left.
Right wingers aren’t storming restaurants and bullying people into declaring their allegiance to a cracked racial theory, a false history, and a reactionary political movement. Right wingers aren’t burning churches, looting stores, attacking police officers, and targeting civilians for harassment, intimidation, and violence on the basis of skin color. Right wingers aren’t denigrating an entire race and blaming them for their perceived personal misfortunes. Right wingers aren’t trying to overthrow the American republic. It’s left wingers doing that. En masse and at massive scale. It’s the left that is authoritarian, bigoted, and racist—and highly motivated. These destructive forces enjoy support from Democrats and progressives, state and local governments, corporations and colleges and universities. Wake up, comrades. Your nation is in trouble. Democracy and justice are in jeopardy.
There is a ritual form of terroristic Islamic violence where a person, most often a male, puts himself in harm’s way and, upon his deliberate and predictable death becomes a martyr. His demise becomes an occasion for the like-minded to come together and chant slogans—“God is Great!” “Death to the Infidel!” “Death to America!” Might we be seeing something like this in the United States? A man’s demise becomes an occasion for the like-minded to come together and chant, “Black Lives Matter!” “Off the pigs!” and “Death to America!” A criminal becomes a left-idealist hero. Murals are painted. GoFundMe accounts are established. The enemy is framed.
If the jihadi wanted to the live, he wouldn’t strap on a bomb vest. He is behaving in a manner that any rational observer can see is likely to result in his death. He has come to believe that his death is part of a struggle of which he is necessarily a part. His actions, he believes, represent resistance to an oppressive power that he damages by damaging himself. He is a brave soul against mighty forces of evil. Many outsider observers agree with him. If it were not for the oppressor, they rationalize, members of the oppressed class would not have to blow themselves up. Is it not conceivable that, in some cases, the man who charges the police officer with a knife or goes for the police officer’s gun is not similarly motivated? If he wanted to live, he would follow the officers orders. He still has his rights. Cop rarely shoot persons submitting to detention or arrest. But the man chooses the different path. The path of martyrdom?
This is not an outlandish suggestion. In criminology there is a name for the phenomenon in which persons behave in a manner that increases the likelihood that officers will shoot them. It’s called “suicide by cop.” A species of victim-precipitated homicide, suicide by cop (or suicide by police) occurs when an individual deliberately elicits a lethal response from a law enforcement officer. It applies to civilian encounters, as well, such as when a man aggresses upon another man carrying an AR 15 and gets shot. If the man had left the armed man alone, he would not have been shot. Assuming he is reasonably intelligent, he would understand that aggressing upon an armed man may result in his death. He has a death wish. He gets himself shot.
There is a popular reluctance to study the behavior of victims in lethal encounters. It stems from the idea that to do so constitutes “blaming the victim.” Blame and explanation are not synonymous. We can hold people blameless while still acknowledging their behavior that elicited the response that killed them. The kid who pokes the dog with a stick doesn’t deserve to be bitten. But when we ask why the dog bit the child, the presence of a stick makes the case different from an unprovoked dog bite. Of course, humans aren’t dogs. Humans have motives behind their actions. Thus responsibility becomes a matter to be considered. And we should consider it if it is relevant to the explanation.
The idea of victim-precipitated homicide has been around for decades and there is quite a substantial literature on it. The literature has to this point suggested two types of motives: (1) the person has planned his suicide by this method; (2) the person decides in the moment that death is preferable to arrest or some other fate. The first may include several of Durkheim’s motives, specifically anomie (distress at loss of normative structure), egoism (distress at loss of solidarity), and fatalism (distress at loss of liberty). The second is more specifically fatalism. Sociologist Émile Durkheim argues that motives lie along an intersecting scale of integration and regulation. One way the group exerts a force on the individual is through internalized beliefs, norms, and values that constitute a collective consciousness or a shared worldview. This concerns how well the person is integrated into the group. The other way the group exerts a force on the individual is through the imposition of external rules. When internalized beliefs and values fail to control the individual’s behavior, social control agents move to control the individual. One can scale up these dynamics. The culture of groups may conflict with the greater culture in which those groups embed. I trust the reader can see the implications for understanding the situation we face today with respect to violent crime.
When I discuss Durkheim’s motives in lectures, I apply altruism, i.e. self-demise because it signifies solidarity to identity or cause, to the explanation of suicide bombing. The jihadi blows himself up because his sacrifice is meaningful to him, but also because he knows it is meaningful to his comrades. He knows they will celebrate his sacrifice. He’s counting on it. It will strengthen faith in the ideology of Islam. The applicability of altruism as a motive to situations where victim-precipitated homicide is significant for advancing the ideology of systemic racism, the belief that America is an evil country, is hardly a stretch. Human beings act on the basis of their beliefs about the world. If the person officers are attempting to take into custody a man who believes he has a role to play in a movement against law enforcement and the greater oppressive culture, then he may knowingly risk his life by disobeying their commands, even violently confronting them. He knows how this will turn out for him and that may be the very reason for his actions.
This analysis does not rule out the other motives. Jacob Blake, for example, had a picture of police officers in a squad car dressed as a pig and a devil on his Facebook page. This suggests an anti-cop attitude. He may have been plugged into the Black Lives Matter movement at some cognitive and emotional levels. But he also may have decided in that moment, given the seriousness of the warrant for his arrest, that death was preferable to being taken into custody. That is, his motive was fatalistic in character. The fact remains that he made choices that put himself in a situation that greatly increased the likelihood that police officers would use deadly force. He was violently resisting arrest and appears to have been armed. His actions are an intrinsic part of the explanation of his injuries.
I teach courses on police and law enforcement. In lectures, both in my courses and in public service events, I tell students and community members that if they want to survive a police encounter—if they don’t have a death wish—to always carefully follow the officer’s commands and not act in a way that suggests to the officer that his life in in jeopardy. Officers have a right to self defense and knows how quickly an encounter can turn lethal. The officer is armed for this reason. The officer wants to go home to family and he knows about police officers who didn’t make it home. Tens of millions of Americans encounter the police every year, and there is rarely any violence associated with these encounters. The vast majority of police officers are decent people doing the necessarily work of law enforcement. If they are matter-of-fact and not particularly friendly it is because that is what their job entails. They use a command voice to keep the peace. The vast majority of civilians follow the officer’s commands. An encounter with a police officer may be tense, however, if the officer suspects criminality, so it is important to know how to behave to make the officer’s job go smoothly while also protecting your Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.
The organization Flex Your Rights has produced a video, 10 Rules for Dealing with the Police, instructing individuals on how to deal with the police. It has high production value and stars criminal defense attorney Billy Murphy, whom some readers may remember from the TV show The Wire. Watching the video you will learn how to safely interact with a police officer, as well as learn about your constitutional rights. These will come in handy if you are ever detained or arrested. For those bent on violently confronting police officers, I wish there was a video that could help them.
Earlier I noted that victim-precipitated homicide occurs in the civilian realm, as well. In Kenosha, Wisconsin, on August 25, a teenager from Illinois was attacked by several men who had assembled in Kenosha either to protest or riot the shooting of Jacob Blake (who survived his injuries). The teenager was armed and shot three of them. The following account is drawn from multiple news sources. Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, a registered sex offender for a sex crime involving a minor, chased the teenager and threw something at him. Rosenbaum was shot multiple times and died from his wounds. Anthony Huber, 26, who had a criminal history that included charges of battery and domestic abuse, chased down the teenager and was beating the teenager with a skateboard while the teenager was on the ground. Huber was fatally shot in the abdomen. Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, a member of the People’s Revolution Movement of Milwaukee, who also has a criminal record, was chasing the teenager alongside Huber. Grosskreutz was armed with a pistol, which is clearly visible in video and images. Grosskreutz was shot in the upper arm and survived. He reportedly regrets not killing the teenager. The two dead men are being portrayed as martyrs. Did they think of themselves as heroes in a situation of their own making? Were these redemptive acts?
Jacob Blake, the ritual totem currently at the center of the unrest allegedly over police violence, also had a criminal record. The reason the police were arresting Blake on August 23 was because authorities had issued a warrant for his arrest in July on several charges including criminal trespass to a dwelling and felony third-degree sexual assault, all with domestic abuse as modifiers. The police had been called to the scene of a domestic disturbance (the 911 call indicated a very serious situation) and thus has a legitimate reason for detaining Blake. They were carrying out their duties as sworn law enforcement officers. During the arrest, which became physical and saw the deployment of a Taser, Blake wrestled free and was moving with purpose to a vehicle that may or may not have been his. There were kids in the car. He either still had the knife, was reaching for a gun, or trying to leave the scene with small children in the car, any of these constituting a very dangerous situation. The police officer stopped whatever Blake had planned. Unlike a lot of men who violently confront police, Blake has an opportunity to tell the public about that plan.
One reason we work so hard to reduce race prejudice in our society is to reduce the likelihood of race prejudice motivating harmful interactions. When I was growing up in the 1960s, and many of those in my age cohort will remember this, we were taught to treat everybody first and foremost as individuals. Of course we saw race. A society doesn’t get rid of racialized ways of seeing people overnight. Nonetheless, we were taught to judge persons with different skin colors on the basis of their actions and their character—not prejudge them on the basis of their skin color. I still firmly believe this is the right path to achieving equality and justice.
By race prejudice I don’t mean just any belief that sees an individual as a member of a racial group. I mean a belief that encourages people to treat an individual on the basis of notions about the group to which he is perceived to belong. The belief that all white people enjoy skin color privilege or the belief that all black people are victims of racial oppression are examples of race prejudice. Such attitudes prejudge an individual’s situation or tendencies merely by the color of his skin, which doesn’t tell us anything definitive about character, circumstances, or conduct. A black man could be rich or poor, a worker or a businessman, a socialist or a conservative, gay or straight, religious or atheist, and so on. Race prejudice leads us to assume that any given concrete individual thoughts and actions are predictable because he is a member of a group based on skin color and therefore representative of abstract constructs attributed to that group, whether these constructs are imagined or statistical.
When a black person is criminally victimized by a white person, we wonder whether the white person was motived by race prejudice. We presume this when, for example, we claim that the deaths of black suspects at the hands of white officers is a reflection of racist attitudes, explicit or implicit. This presumption is claimed as the reason for today’s violence in our streets. If we could point to statistics showing that, while granting that most homicide is intraracial, occurring within a racial category, interracial crime, occurring between racial categories, is most often represented by a white perpetrator and a black victim, then this might reflect anti-black prejudice. The historical example is white-on-black violence is lynching, where, after Reconstruction, the direction and patterns of the interracial violence indicated anti-black prejudice.
However, the current direction of interracial crime is in the opposite direction from lynching. The first chart below shows that, even though blacks are less than 13 percent of the US population, they are increasingly the greatest number of homicide victims. Most of the perpetrators are black. The following chart shows that, year after year, whites are more likely to be homicide victims at the hands of black perpetrators than blacks are to be homicide victims at the hands of white perpetrators. The disparity is even more striking when one reflects on the fact that most perpetrators of homicide are male and black males constitute less than six percent of the population.
If the risk of homicide were random, given de facto patterns of residential segregation and the routine activities of humans (by this, I mean crime mostly happens where people live and work), one should not expect these numbers. It might follow then that, based on the logic we see in arguments concerning implicit bias and systemic racism, the numbers suggest systemic anti-white prejudice. Keep in mind, according to antiracists, for the argument of systemic racism to work, we don’t need explicit race prejudice. We need only disparate patterns to make the call.
I want to be very clear about my intentions in making this point. I am not saying white people should fear black males. It would be an instance of anti-black prejudice to presume any black man one encounters means to harm him. Most black men do not perpetrate violence against white people. It is tragic that all black men pay what amounts to a racial tax for the overrepresentation of some black men in violent and serious crime (this is Heather Mac Donald’s observation). Nor am I saying that anti-white prejudice entirely explains this phenomenon. But is it not at least possible that anti-white prejudice pays a role in the overrepresentation of white victims in homicide and other serious criminal interactions at the hands of black men?
We should not assume a priori that black people are incapable of anti-white prejudice or that anti-white prejudice could not motivate international violence. Decades ago David Matza and Gresham Sykes, in a landmark article advancing the use by perpetrators of crime of “techniques of neutralization” to assuage guilt, found that, in the technique denial of victim, the offender believes the victim deserved whatever action the offender perpetrated against him. In their study of killing in Rwanda, Emily Bryant and associates routinely encountered an appeal to the harm one has suffered on account of his racial identity to justify homicidal violence. Volkan Topalli added to these findings the phenomenon that, in what he calls “autotelic crime,” hardcore street criminals not only considered their actions acceptable, but also attractive and desirable. Anti-white rhetoric is freely and enthusiastically expressed in the protests and riots occurring in our cities. Might it therefore be the case that some of the violence perpetrated against whites by blacks is motivated by the racial animus ginned up by anti-white rhetoric?
If day after day, black people are told that their situation and suffering is on account of white people, do we really expect no black person is going to take that to heart and use it as a motive or justification for action—looting, robbery, or homicide? We say the same thing about white people who are taught that all black people are criminal. We understand hate crime to be violence against a person on the basis of his perceived identity. The hate is in the beliefs of the perpetrator and it said to motivate his actions. Given that interracial violence of this source is much more likely than the other way around, why wouldn’t the rise of a pervasive anti-white rhetoric motivate or justify at least some violence against whites? And if this is indeed true, and it certainly seems plausible from everything we know in the scientific literature, why would we tolerate rhetoric fueling anti-white prejudice by repeating such myths as “all whites are racist,” “all white are privileged,” “all whites are responsible for the historic oppression of blacks,” the “cycle of systemic racism,” “blacks can’t be racist,” and so on?
As I said in my previous blog, people are often motivated to deny their own responsibility in creating their personal situation and instead blame others for it. They use techniques to deflect attention from their guilt—even their own attention. Yet a big part of social science is teaching people that they aren’t responsible for their choices and decisions and their consequences. To teach people that they are responsible for this situation amounts to “victim blaming,” William Ryan famously tells us. But on a moment’s reflection we will see that the avoidance of victim blaming only applies to some people, namely the alleged “oppressed” groups, the “victims.” The alleged “oppressor” group is always blameworthy, and, in today’s climate, blameworthiness is for abstract aggregate effects is distributed equally to all members of that group. The oppressor is guilty of everything. And dehumanized in the process.
The anti-white rhetoric on our streets and in our institutions is intense. Whereas in the past when one was identified as a white supremacist it indicated membership in a white supremacist organization, the Ku Klux Klan or a neonazi group. Today people are told that no white person stands outside the system of white racial power. Therefore all whites are whites supremacist. By definition. By birth. The best they can be are allies in the antiracist project, a campaign that perpetuates the myth of white supremacy. This is why I say that antiracism is a species of racism. Indeed, it is the species of racism that prevails today in the West. There are, in fact, very few actual white supremacists left. Systemic racism is a thing of the past. One suspects that the violence of the anti-racist mob reflects the vacuity of its cause. But there is also a lurking malevolence there. The erasure of the history of progress in social relations has in back of it dark intent. It means to undo what Clarence Henderson’s generation accomplished.
As I argued in my previous blog, the problem of criminal violence in America isn’t the police or white supremacy. The problem of criminal violence is, at least to a significant degree, the weakening of common cultural orientation that sustains the rule of law and an alternative cultural sensibility that positively sanctions breaking it. The problem of crime is, again at least in part, a dysfunctional cultural and moral attitude that progressives not only shield from criticism, but enable with their anti-police and anti-white rhetoric. Anti-white prejudice adds a layer of disregard for humanity and motive for action. On the African continent, Belgians used ID cards as instruments to socially construct two Rwandan races, imposing fixed identities, producing ethnic resentment. On the European continent, demagogues told the people that Jews caused their problems. It was taken by ordinary German Christians as permission to imprison and kill Jews and steal their property. The United States finds itself in a situation where establishment powers have formed the conditions of mass violence against property and persons believed to be members of a despised race.
Ideas matter. They matter a lot. That’s because man is a thinking animal. Tribal thinking has long been the bane of peace and progress for millennia. There is an urgent need to return to the republic ideas of a common culture based on the beliefs, norms, and values of modernity. Order is required to restore the promise of the Enlightenment, the single greatest force in the progressive development of mankind.
“We cannot allow the cycle of systemic racism and injustice to continue” Tony Evers continues to encourage the mob with terrible consequences. A man with a long gun defended himself from the mob in Kenosha overnight. Two people are dead. This is the predictable consequence of persistent violence against persons and property. Rioting is not only not a First Amendment right, it is action aggressing upon a citizenry that has Second Amendment means to manifest its inherent right to self-defense.
The deluded have been dreaming about an America that no longer exists. They are now waking up to an America that still does, an America that is armed and dangerous. Those who want a civil war don’t seem to recognize that they will lose that war. There are too few of them and most of them have no experience with firearms. If federal, state, and local law enforcements are not going bring down the hammer on the mob, civilians are going to take up the slack. The longer this goes on the more organized and impatient the citizenry will become. They’re the ones with the firearms and they know how to use them. It’s going to go very badly for Antifa-BLM in the end. The only martyrs recognized in the end will be ghosts in the nightmares of those who survive. The cause that propels them is wrong.
The President of the United States recognizes this. “We will NOT stand for looting, arson, violence, and lawlessness on American streets,” he tweeted less than an hour ago. “My team just got off the phone with Governor Evers who agreed to accept federal assistance.” Evers is in way over his head. At least he knows it. Hopefully the federal government will bring order to Kenosha. Other cities need to ask for assistance before they also go up in flames.
All this chaos would have been avoided if those who are rioting cared about reality and the social class to which they belong. As I have shown on this blog, there is no systemic racism in law enforcement in the United States (The Far Podcast; The Myth of Systemic Racism in Lethal Police-Civilian Encounters). Controlling for crime rates and circumstances, the police do not disproportionately kill black civilians—even unarmed ones. In this blog, I explain the problem of overrepresentation of blacks in police stops.
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Racial profiling occurs when police use race exclusively to determine traffic stops or stop-and-frisks. Racial profiling does not refer to law enforcement officers pursuing descriptions of suspects that include gender, race, and ethnicity. Police routinely pull over vehicles and ask questions of their occupants because somebody in a vehicle fits the description of somebody the police are looking for or because somebody in the vehicle is a known offender and therefore potentially suspect in a criminal investigation.
There are three legal standards police officers may use to stop, question, and search a person: a warrant, probable cause, and reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion is a low-level standard wherein there are specific and reasonable inferences that entitle the officer to draw from facts in light of experience. This practice should not be confused with racial profiling. Compared to white males, black males more frequently commit serious crime both proportionally (aggravated assault, burglary, theft and larceny) and absolutely (homicide and robbery). As a consequence, black males are more likely to fit the description than are white males.
Racism is not at work here. If white males were overrepresented in crime, then they would more often fit the description. But they aren’t. Moreover, black males are more likely to have more extensive criminal records compared to white males. And this is not a function of arbitrary arrest, but of overrepresentation black males in criminal behavior. One-third of all black males have been convicted of a felony, the most serious criminal charge. Very rarely are those with felony records innocent of the offenses that affixed that label to them.
What explains the drastic overrepresentation of black males in crime? There is nothing about a black person’s biology that makes him more prone to criminality than a white person. Even if criminal behavior had some genetic basis, race does not exist as a biological reality, so it could not explain grouped variation. Race is a social construct and a historical phenomenon—it is the product of ideology. Explanations for the racial disparity in frequency and severity of criminal offending are better sought in analyses of societal and cultural forces. However, I do not find convincing the claim that material inequalities are exclusively or mostly responsible for overrepresentation of black males in serious criminal offending. The fact that three times more whites live in poverty than blacks but do not kill or rob at three times the rate of blacks—on the contrary, white males are underrepresented in the perpetration of homicide and robbery—tells us that we have to look at other situational and ideational factors.
We know this for sure: except for verified cases of irresistible impulse, every person who commits a crime makes a decision to do so. This is how we can hold individuals accountable for their wrongdoing: they possess an agency that governs the actions of their persons. This is not to say that they do not find in their thoughts justifications and rationalizations for violating the law. Indeed, they do and that’s the point.
Progressives don’t excuse the heinous acts of wealthy white offenders by denying their agency or infantilizing them. So why do progressives infantilize black males by routinely portraying them as something like marionettes dancing at the end of abstract strings manipulated by unseen forces? Why to the left-idealists romanticize criminals as heroes rebelling against the conditions of their existence? We see this type of rhetoric in the justification for the riotous (and racist) actions of Antifa and Black Lives Matter—and not just from the anarchists and self-described “trained Marxists.” Those who perpetrate crime and violence are bad actors and they should be identified, arrested, charged, and tried by a jury of their peers, the members of the community whom they have wronged.
Of course, holding bad actors responsible for their transgressions gets us only so far if the conditions from which they emerge are allowed to persist. If we want to reduce crime, we must tackle the source of the motivation to act badly. That means broaching the subject of culture. Human action is a function of what and how individuals are taught to think about and respond to the world around them. If people learn that crime and violence are appropriate ways of acting or are morally justified, then they will be more likely to engage in crime and violence. If a person is told that his society is unjust, then he will feel less compelled to obey its rules—independent of whether his society is unjust.
Individuals often resist accepting responsibility for their failures, especially if they are taught to do so, and this prepares people to accept rhetorics that locate responsibility outside themselves. Because people are fond of their own thoughts, taking them to be who they are or who they should be, they resist accepting that the culture responsible for those thoughts is the reason for their situation. If outsiders allegedly responsible for this situation are more or less clearly identified, and the targets of ginned up hatred and resentment are members of an abstract group based on some arbitrary and superficial characteristic, such as skin color, then the actor’s empathy towards members of that group will diminish and the likelihood that he will deal with them in a rude and rough manner increase. Hatred and resentment may even put in a man’s mind a duty to act in a criminal and violent fashion. This is why we take care to socialize our children to behave responsibility and with care and concern for other people. More than this, we teach our children not to dehumanize individuals on the basis of perceived group membership. At least we’re supposed to be teaching them this.
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All around me I hear people asking why agents of the criminal justice system stop, detain, search, arrest, charge, convict, and sentence black males at higher rates than white males while refusing to hear the answer: Because black males are overrepresented in serious crime and violence and the police are tasked with crime control. The laws passed against these wrongful acts are not unjust, but designed to make people freer and happier. If the answer is accepted but the response is that the agents of criminal justice, to do the work of antiracism, should enforce the law in a racially-differential manner, then a more thoroughgoing racism is proposed: racially-selective underprotection of majority-black communities (and not an insignificant number of white citizens). For it must be remembered that, even though whites are more likely to be the victims of black perpetrators than the other way around, blacks are overrepresented among the victims of crime committed by black males. And there are victims beyond the immediate ones; the social disorder generated by criminal activity degrades the conditions of life for everybody in the community.
The question we should therefore be asking therefore is this: What are black males learning from the culture that prevails in their communities that makes them more likely to criminally offend than white males? We have ruled out biology. We have ruled out poverty per se. Idleness plays a role, since space-time beyond the constraints of constructive activities creates room for wrongful behavior; at the same time, the idle also pass their time in ways that do not involve hurting other people. The left has for too long rejected culture as the source of the problem. Shared belief, norms, and values are features of culture and morality. This is why I must insist that cultural criticism not be a priori defined as “racist” (Smearing Amy Wax and The Fallacy of Cultural Racism). It is not true that cultures associated with spaces occupied by particular racial groups are intrinsic features of those groups. Culture is tied to place and tradition. Persons become bearers of that culture. To be sure, they take their cultures with them. But, while persons, regardless of race, are socialized into a culture, they may also escape some of the shared beliefs, norms, and values that justify action and rationalize behavior. Leaving a culture is like leaving a religion or leaving a politics. A man should be suspicious of the energy put into making him unaware of the opportunity to leave personally dysfunctional beliefs, norms, and values.
Have you ever wondered why is it “antiracist”—what you are today told you must be to be a good person—to criticize and even condemn “white culture” but racist to suggest there are elements in “black culture” that undermine law-abidingness, stunt personal growth and development, and sabotage life success? Why are white people told that they can and should abandon Western culture, with its emphasis on individualism, industriousness, linear thinking, reason and science, while telling those who live in crime-ridden neighborhoods that they are defined and enriched by the culture prevailing there? Please note that I put “white culture” and “black culture” in scare quotes. Why are we told in the first place that these cultures are “white” and “black”? Why is so called “white culture”—humanism, liberalism, rationalism, secularism—identified in a racialized manner?
These mystifications and double standard pervade today’s political discourse. They keep us from asking the hard questions. Moreover, they put working people in antagonistic corners to fight amongst themselves. What we should want is the good life for all Americans, and the good life necessarily depends on civil order and public safety. Without order and safety there is no freedom and development. Order and safety depend very fundamentally on a commitment of members of the community to the same. Those commitments are cultural attitudes.