The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

‘Blood Will Tell,’ as Folks Say Down Home

Posted on | February 19, 2023 | Comments Off on ‘Blood Will Tell,’ as Folks Say Down Home

In addition to being handsome, my son Jefferson is also very smart. Last week I texted him, “What did you score on the LSAT?” He answered 170 which, really, is Ivy League caliber, but instead he accepted a generous scholarship offer from a law school in the Midwest and is now in his second semester. The reason I asked was because of a headline at Instapundit, “Two-Thirds Through The Fall 2023 Law School Admissions Season: Applicants Are Down -3.5%, With Biggest Decline (-7%) In The 165-169 LSAT Band.” I was trying to figure out what this meant. The largest decline in law school applications, it seems, are from students with not-quite-Ivy-caliber scores. “Yeah, I’m better than those schmucks,” my son replied when I told him why I was asking.

Sure, good looks are hereditary. Intelligence is also coded into my son’s DNA, but that unmistakable McCain arrogance? Is it nature or nurture?

Last night on The Other Podcast, we were discussing my post about how Vince Dao wrecked liberals’ minds by denying genetic determinism. Whatever our hereditary traits may be, people are neither doomed to failure nor guaranteed success merely by their genetics. Dao went viral by making arguments best articulated by Charles Murray in his 1984 book Losing Ground, i.e., that long-term poverty is closely linked to certain behaviors and that, merely by avoiding these behaviors, anyone in America has a 97% chance of avoiding poverty.

The assertion by “social justice” types that black people are doomed by systemic racism is provably false; however much harm anyone may suffer from racism (“systemic” or otherwise), this harm can’t explain such phenomena as the blight of violence and failure affecting the black community in Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, etc. If you’re doing drugs, dropping out of school and breeding fatherless children — to name three specific behaviors associated with long-term poverty — you can offer whatever excuse you want, but “Blame Whitey” ain’t gonna cut it.

Resorting to “systemic racism” as the universal explanation for every problem experienced by black people has a tendency to render black success invisible. Most Americans don’t realize that there are now many thousands of black people who are third-, fourth- and even fifth-generation middle class. More than a hundred years ago, in the iron grip of Jim Crow, there were black people in the Deep South who nevertheless had middle-class lives. The owner of a neighborhood store or barber shop, whose wife taught at the local (segregated) school, was a respectable citizen who could expect his children to attend Morris Brown or Fisk or Howard, and thus to move the banner forward, so to speak. If they were able to maintain this sort of progress over the course of succeeding generations, once the barriers to further advancement were abolished by civil rights legislation in the 1960s, the young offspring of this black bourgeoisie were poised to far exceed what had ever been possible before. The narrative of “systemic racism” ignores all this, and perpetuates an unfortunate stereotype in which ghetto life is presumed to define black culture, so that any black person who eschews ghetto culture is accused of being a “race traitor,” “acting white,” an Uncle Tom.

As I said of my own Appalachian-American heritage, “am I doomed to a life of moonshine, banjos, feuding and incest? Must I become a hillbilly stereotype, because it’s programmed into my DNA?” Yet there seem to be some people who think it is the height of wokeness to believe that the only “authentic” black experience is defined by the type of behavior I frequently highlight in my “Aspiring Rapper Updates.”

The Woke Brigades want to turn Black History Month into an atrocity narrative, a Systemic Racism Festival that focuses on oppression and victimhood, rather than offering inspiration and hope by pointing to role models who refused to surrender to despair. Because that’s what’s really going on in places like Baltimore where 23 public schools had zero students proficient in math. That’s what happens when you surrender to despair, if you abandon the true path of progress and instead embrace the culture of victimhood promoted by the “Blame Whitey” crowd.

Meanwhile, of course, white people must resist two equally dangerous temptations, either to go all-in on the “woke” narrative — becoming ridiculous liberals carrying around a burden of white guilt and striving to prove themselves as Amis des Noirs — or else going over the ledge into the abyss of “White Supremacy” (which I must put inside scare quotes, as the term has been overused to the point of having almost no real meaning beyond “someone who disagreed with a liberal”). Maintaining one’s mental equilibrium amid these alternative temptations can be difficult when the Democratic Party has devoted itself to wokeness on steroids, and one risks denunciation as a Thought Criminal merely for expressing doubt about the “Blame Whitey” atrocity narrative. Voices of sanity are seldom loud enough to drown out the noise from howling maniacs.

Here we may now turn to another Instapundit headline (from Gail Heriot): “Four Reasons Why Heterodox Academy Failed.” This is a National Association of Scholars journal article by University of Cambridge philosophy professor Nathan Cofnas, who dares set foot upon that academic terrain where angels proverbially fear to tread:

Wokeism is built upon an ideological certitude about the origins of inequality: all groups have the same distribution of innate potential, and all differences favoring whites or men are due to past or present white racism or sexism. The whole ideology stands or falls on this empirical claim. Therefore, the greatest taboo in our society is to consider alternative explanations for inequality, particularly those that implicate natural differences in the distribution of traits among racial groups.
The ideological precept underlying wokeism has to be protected from scrutiny by a taboo for one simple reason: it is not scientifically supported. No matter how much people are punished for telling the truth — denied jobs, kicked off social media, or called names — and no matter how much honor is bestowed on those who defend woke lies, the facts will not change. Different ancestral populations — call them “races,” “ethnicities,” or whatever you want — are genetically distinguishable. They have different distributions of traits, including measured IQ and athletic abilities, likely in part because they were subject to different selection pressures in recent history. It is possible these differences play a nontrivial role in social outcomes. Almost every remotely plausible environmental explanation for these differences has been repeatedly tested in both natural and controlled experiments, and the same patterns of differences appear every time. As of yet, there is nothing that seriously casts doubt on the hereditarian explanation, and if it weren’t for the political implications this wouldn’t be controversial.

Ah, yes — “the political implications”! Those two paragraphs include five footnotes to references, by the way, because it’s not like Professor Cofnas is merely asserting these claims. The problem is politics, in an environment where government agencies base their policies on the “ideological certitude about the origins of inequality,” and where statistics are therefore considered proof of “systemic racism.”

Three words: Average group differences.

Whatever standard you employ to evaluate human beings categorically, as groups, and however you may then measure their lives by statistics, it is self-evident that these groups, considered as such, will invariably show differences in their averages. It doesn’t matter if you’re measuring them economically (annual income) or academically (test scores), each group will have its own average, and these averages will be different.

This was what caused the massive freakout, now almost 30 years ago, upon publication of The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. Despite the efforts of Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray to emphasize their point about average group differences, these caveats failed to stop liberals from turning into a mob of howling maniacs: “Crypto-Nazi eugenic pseudoscience!”

Oh, what insane reactions this book provoked! In fact, I was ready to join the howling mob, based upon commentary about it in The New Republic, the New York Times, and other media outlets. However, it so happened that someone — literally, a white supremacist — challenged me to actually read the book I was denouncing. By doing so, I discovered that the book wasn’t at all what its liberal critics were saying it was, nor was it what the white supremacist seemed to think it was, i.e., an endorsement of his own pet theories. (Historically, this wasn’t the first time liberals and white supremacists agreed on a controversial subject, both of them being equally wrong for different reasons.) The main defense I’d make of The Bell Curve is this: If you’re smart enough to actually read it, you are very smart. And if you’re smart enough to actually understand it, well, obviously you’re too smart to be a liberal.

Some allegedly smart liberals became completely unhinged in their reactions to The Bell Curve, distorting the contents of the book in ways that led me to believe — in hindsight, after I’d read it myself — that either (a) they were too stupid to understand what Herrnstein and Murray were saying or (b) if they did understand it, they were so committed to radical egalitarianism that they felt a need to smear the authors as crypto-Nazis in an attempt to suppress their work. Neither of these alternative explanations is flattering to liberals, and discovering how badly I’d been misled by the columns of commentary about the book I’d read in The New Republic and other liberal journals led me toward a newfound understanding of how media bias really operates.

The basic point, one made by Herrnstein and Murray (but evidently invisible to liberal readers), is that no individual’s life outcomes are, or should be, determined by what racial category they belong to — or to put it another way, you can’t judge anyone on the basis of group averages. While it may be unlikely — in terms of statistics — for a Vietnamese immigrant to become an NFL linebacker, don’t tell that to Dat Nguyen.

Perhaps unintentionally, the Apostles of Wokeness are inviting us all to surrender to despair, to think that the sinister forces of “systemic racism” are so pervasive and omnipotent that we must demolish everything — tear down all the statues, “defund the police,” let our city streets turn into homeless camps full of junkies and criminals — because otherwise we can’t have “social justice.” And this destructive attitude may tempt some people into white supremacy (of the actually dangerous kind).

“Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself . . . [Truth] is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.”
Thomas Jefferson

We cannot preserve liberty by censorship. We ought to have enough faith in the good sense of our fellow Americans to trust them with the truth. Yet there are people who insist that censorship — suppressing as dangerous the voices of anyone who doesn’t toe the line of political correctness — is necessary to save “democracy.” They seem to believe that, if people with bad ideas are allowed to express themselves on the Internet, this will necessarily result in gullible people falling prey to these bad ideas and becoming violent terrorists. Or voting Republican (which, in the mind of the average liberal, is the same thing as terrorism).

The Guardian informs us that “Katherine Denkinson is an investigative journalist whose work focuses on misinformation, conspiracies and the growth of the far right,” and her argument is that by restoring the Twitter account of the British group Patriotic Alternative, Elon Musk “has placed a target on the back of every disenfranchised and politically lost young man on Twitter, many of whom are recruited to the far right via the platform.” Which is very interesting, and perhaps also true, but isn’t it worth asking why so many young men are so “disenfranchised and politically lost” that they are vulnerable to such appeals? And isn’t it fair to point out that “lost” young people are vulnerable to lots of other craziness they might find somewhere on the Internet?

Far be it from me to advocate censorship, but if “the far right” (whatever you consider that category to include) is so dangerous that they must be banned from Twitter, couldn’t you make the same argument against, e.g., the advocates of transgenderism who are driving the “social contagion” that has convinced thousands of teenage girls to seek double mastectomies and testosterone injections as “gender affirming”? Is the increasing surgical mutilation of young women less to be deplored than whatever “far right” politics are being promoted on Twitter? How is it that some young people are not so “lost” that they automatically dive head-first into whatever kook fringe stuff they see on the Internet?

Trust me, as a parent, I share the concerns of every other sensible parent about what kind of seductive craziness our kids might find online, which is why I sometimes feel compelled to give my kids such warnings as, “Heroin is a bad drug” and “Mass murder is not cool.” Apparently some parents think such warnings are unnecessary, which is why their kids become mass murderers or junkies. Or date Miley Cyrus, to mention another danger I’ve warned my kids against. You can’t be too careful.

One of the things I’ve tried to teach my kids is that people are always watching you and judging you. Try to conduct yourself in such a way as to deserve admiration — stand up straight, dress sharp, mind your manners, etc. — rather than slouching through life as a crude slob. By my estimate, at least 90% of young people’s problems are correlated with (if not indeed caused by) bad posture and bad manners. There are few courteous inmates in our nation’s prisons, and every homeless encampment is full of people shuffling along with slumped shoulders.

“Oh, Stacy, that’s so superficial,” you may say — ah, but people who don’t care what kind of impression they convey by their posture and manners are unlikely to succeed in life, and what do we see when we cast our eyes upon conspicuous examples of failure? Rude, unkempt and slovenly.

Stay away from heroin, don’t be a mass murderer, don’t date Miley Cyrus and, of course, stand up straight and be polite — just some helpful advice from an old man who’s had enough experience of the world to perceive the patterns of behavior that make the difference between success and failure. We don’t need to censor Twitter to protect our kids, we just need to teach kids to discern between right and wrong, good and evil.

Mental toughness — that’s what kids need to learn, if they are to avoid the various temptations of evil lurking out there on the Internet. Having spent years staring into the abyss of craziness without losing my own sanity, sometimes I look at the various shrieking moonbats on Twitter and think the same thing my son said about people with sub-170 LSAT scores: “Yeah, I’m better than those schmucks.”

See, that’s the thing about “white supremacy” — if you actually are superior, you don’t need any fancy theory to prove your superiority. Without regard to whether you’re a Vietnamese immigrant or an Appalachian-American or whatever your particular group average may be, your task as an individual is simple: Win. Succeed. Survive.

You’re not a statistic. You’re not some helpless victim controlled by a trend line on somebody’s chart. The world may be going to hell in a handbasket, but you as an individual still have the ability — more than that, a moral duty — to defy the odds and succeed despite every disadvantage, every obstruction, every prejudice against you.

Years ago, when Max Blumenthal was working on his bullshit exposé of racism — “RAAAAACISM!” — at The Washington Times, I was forbidden by my bosses from giving him any comment, even though it was known that I would be cited as an example. Then we got word through the grapevine that The Nation was finally ready to publish Max’s article, so I sought and received permission to contact him. Calling the number that he had sent me in his repeated email inquiries, I had a jocular chat with the young fool, while carefully evading his attempts to get me to say anything about this or that accusation against me or my bosses. Not long thereafter, Max’s article at long last appeared, riddled with errors, but it included this quote from me: “I’m too lazy to be evil.”

Everybody agreed this was the one true fact in the whole article.

Never let ’em see you sweat. If you’re really good at something, you make it look easy, as though anyone could do what you’re doing. Why not leverage that illusion to your advantage? You may be burning the midnight oil — cramming for the LSAT, or working at home past midnight on your next project — but you don’t have to let anyone else know how much unseen work you’re putting into the job. Strive to make your success seem effortless, an inevitable consequence of your innate superiority, so that others are envious of how easy it is for you. Then when the crisis comes, when you are forced to confront the possibility of destruction, maintain the assured confidence of a Christian holding four aces. Laugh in the face of your enemy. And keep right on winning.

An invitation to surrender to despair is one I’ll never RSVP. Given the choice between optimism and pessimism, I will admit that our current situation justifies pessimism. Nevertheless, I must choose hope over despair, because hopelessness never accomplished anything.

“My experience of men has neither disposed me to think worse of them nor indisposed me to serve them; nor in spite in spite of failures which I lament, of errors which I now see and acknowledge, or of the present aspect of affairs, do I despair of the future.
“The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.”

Robert E. Lee, 1870

You can tear down every statue in the country and call me names all day long, but the one thing you’ll never make me do is quit. Because a winner never quits, and a quitter never wins, and I don’t intend to start losing anytime soon: “Yeah, I’m better than those schmucks.”

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If you made it all the way to the end of this 3,000-word post, thank you and congratulations, and let me take this opportunity to remind you of the Five Most Important Words in the English Language:





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