(00:00) Our one year anniversary episode! A look back on our first year of podcasting. New opening and theme music. Our Patreon launch. T-shirts.
(22:22) The race pseudoscience of Charles Murray is playing a much bigger role in the racist GOP agenda, especially their opposition to the teaching real American history. IQ and crime data may be perfectly accurate, and still don’t support Murray’s policy proposals. Deriving a terrible “ought,” from a terrible “is.”
(34:34) Charles Murray’s tragic view of human nature. The false dichotomy of the fragility of the American system, being forced to choose between ruthless Social Darwinism and the feared “Utopias” of socialism / communism. The strong connection between laissez-faire capitalism and racist outcomes.
(49:10) Murray’s use of the “American Creed” that all men are created equal, and quotes from Martin Luther King to justify perpetuating America’s systemic racism. The straw man argument that so-called “identity politics” means that liberals believe that people are inescapably defined by their racial group. Murray’s bad-faith claims that any attempt to redress systemic oppression, is actually the the real oppression.
(01:01:23) America’s demographic transformation. Over the past 60 years, cities have become multicultural, while rural areas have remained overwhelmingly European. Misattributing America’s political polarization to demographic shifts. Blaming white alienation on black demands for justice. Racial IQ data. The real shape of America’s cognitive bell curve.
(01:13:37) Liberals generally have a problem with IQ testing, but according to the American Psychological Association, they are very predictive of educational / job performance. Leveling off of improvements in black IQ scores. Racial IQ disparities in employment. The question of affirmative action policies for universities, balancing fairness between Asian and African minorities.
(01:30:36) Racial crime disparities are real, and are almost certainly a symptom of systemic racism. Possible alternative explanations such as high levels of economic inequality. The GINI coefficient. Murray’s outrageous proposal to solve crime and restore urban property values by ethnically cleansing America’s inner cities.
(01:43:40) “If We Don’t Face Reality.” Charles Murray’s final chapter reveals his true agenda, which is to reinforce the widespread and paranoid right-wing threat of “disaster” for America if it doesn’t restore itself to official white minority rule, which he falsely calls “equality under the law.” His words: “The new ideologues of the far left are akin to the Red Guards of Mao’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, and they are coming for all of us.” Yowza.
Facing Reality: Two Truths about Race in America
Child scolds school board about BLM posters in school despite ‘no politics’ rule
The stark relationship between income inequality and crime
Full Show Transcript
The Vile Pseudoscience of Charles Murray
The Radical Secular Podcast: Episode 52
DISCLAIMER: This is a lightly-edited automated transcript and may not fully reflect the exact dialog of the program. Timestamps pertain to the audio-podcast, and will be slightly offset from the YouTube version.
Announcer: [00:00:00] The Radical Secular podcast, a demand for justice, equality, and rational public policy. Subscribe at YouTube, Apple Podcasts and all the major podcast channels. Visit our website at The Radical Secular dot com for articles, transcripts, and our complete library of episodes. Support us on Patreon and follow us on social media.
Sean Prophet: [00:00:34] Welcome to The Radical Secular podcast. I’m Sean Prophet.
Christophe Difo: [00:00:37] And I’m Christophe Difo.
Sean Prophet: [00:00:39] Our main topic for the day is going to be discussing Charles Murray’s book that was just published a couple of weeks ago, called Facing Reality: Two Truths About Race in America. Now we’ve talked about Charles Murray before. Suffice to say that he is likely the leading credentialed academic proponent of pseudo-scientific racism in the United States, if not the world.
And he’s not shutting up, he’s doubling tripling and quadrupling down. In 2020, he published another book in a similar vein called Human Diversity, the Biology of Race, Gender, and Class, which is an argument for essentialism and biological determinism, which is pretty much everything he writes. His latest work will doubtless provide more fuel to feed the raging fire of white backlash against racial progress in America. So we’ll get into what you need to understand about this new book, and defend yourself against the self-serving right-wing talking points the book has spawned, a bit later in the show.
But first, today marks our 52nd episode of The Radical Secular podcast. We made it. We’re slightly past the one year anniversary of our first episode, which aired on June 20th, 2020.
That was because I think there was a two week gap between our second and third episodes, if I remember correctly, I don’t know why that happened. I think Christophe, you and I were probably scratching our heads to see if we really wanted to commit ourselves to this whole new journey that we were embarking on.
But other than that, we’ve never missed a show, even through vacations and road trips and technical issues we’ve had. We’re all super passionate about this project and we hope that comes through in our company. So we’re going to start our show today with a housekeeping update about where we are and more importantly, where we’re going.
First of all, though, I want to take the opportunity to offer my sincere thanks to you, our family of viewers and listeners, who’ve come along with us on this journey for the past year. We’ve learned a ton about ourselves, and about podcasting and about some of the deeper and more important issues we face as a nation and a world.
Because a lot of times we’re doing research, we find stuff that we didn’t know. so it’s a great learning tool I think for all of us. So we hope that has come through. That you’ve learned something. And if you’re just joining us today for the first time, welcome to The Radical Secular family. We’re so glad to be here with you.
Christophe Difo: [00:02:52] Yeah, absolutely. I’m not surprised that we made it to 52 weeks. Or 52 episodes. But I’m really glad that we did. We’ve come a long way. I’ve looked back at some of those old episodes early on. We’ve been remarkably consistent I think, about how we talk about this stuff. We’ve gotten better at it, but I think the themes that we talk about have been pretty consistent, uh, about unearned hierarchy and challenging those things. But I do think that we’ve come a long way in terms of our, our, like set up. I think our relationship has come a long way, you and me, Sean.
Sean Prophet: [00:03:20] Definitely.
Christophe Difo: [00:03:21] You know, I think we’ve grown closer. We’ve learned a lot about each other. Um, I think that for my perspective I, I grew up knowing who you were, right. But over the last year, I’ve gotten to really know who you are, right. And the kind of person you are and your commitment to these issues.
And I think that’s really important. And I think one of the more subtle things that’s happened is honing to a fine point, my views and my ideas about the world. And even come off of some things the ways I used to think about things. Right. And so I think that the interactions that we have, um, especially including Joe, we’re going to talk a little bit about Joe. But the three of us, I’ve learned a lot about these issues and especially, you and Joe have a lot of real background knowledge on these issues. And so between that and our guests, things have come a long way, man. I’m just happy that we’re here now.
Sean Prophet: [00:04:09] Totally. And it’s like, it really has been like, you know, it’s almost like you’re taking a college course because you’re researching new stuff every week for the show. And uh, like you said, we learned about each other. I feel like you and I are like war buddies, now. We have been in the trenches, man.
Christophe Difo: [00:04:24] It’s true.
Sean Prophet: [00:04:24] And Joe’s great. It’s a bummer he couldn’t be here with us today. He had important family business. But we love having a college professor on the team because he’s also just as passionate as we are, and he gets into it, man. He gets into detail with this stuff. So, it’s a win-win I think for all of us.
Christophe Difo: [00:04:39] Absolutely man, absolutely.
Sean Prophet: [00:04:42] And to our viewers and listeners, you probably noticed that we have a new opening segment and we’re going to make the opening promo format consistent between audio and video. So we’re not doing separate versions. It’s still separate versions. Cause I edit the audio, but the opening will be the same. And all that contact information you need is right upfront. And about all that’s left to say is that new episodes post every Monday at noon Eastern time. And if you’re subscribed, you already know that. If you haven’t subscribed, please do it.
Christophe Difo: [00:05:09] Just do it, come on!
Sean Prophet: [00:05:10] For sure, and that’s the thing about subscriptions is that. You might forget, you might forget that and you will get notified if you subscribe either to an audio podcast or video, and you don’t want to miss these episodes. We work hard on them and you don’t want to miss it. So please subscribe.
Christophe Difo: [00:05:26] Sure, exactly. And look, I mean, even if you can’t watch that episode that week, or you can’t listen that week, for whatever reason, right. Life comes up, you have other things going on. You maybe you listen to other podcasts. I don’t know. Um, you shouldn’t listen to any of the podcasts, but ours, of course, that goes without saying. But in all seriousness, like, but if you support what we do, right. You support what we do. Like that is how we grow is through subscriptions. Right. We don’t grow unless you do that. Think of each time someone subscribes, is we get a shot in the arm, we get more energy. Anytime someone comments, we get another boost of energy, that’s like, “all right, man, let’s fucking take this to the next level,” and that’s important.
Sean Prophet: [00:06:02] Yeah. And if the other thing is, if you subscribe just post the episode whenever it comes out and so you don’t even have time to watch it, just post it. And that will help us grow our base.
Christophe Difo: [00:06:11] Huge, that kind of stuff is so important. And it costs listeners and viewers very little, right. I mean, it’s just a repost, whatever.
Sean Prophet: [00:06:18] Yup. Yup. And you probably also noticed that we have new theme music that I actually composed it.
Christophe Difo: [00:06:24] Yeah. Great job.
Sean Prophet: [00:06:26] Thank you. I mean, we didn’t hate the old music. I think you said Christoph, it sounds like NPR, which that’s not bad company.
Christophe Difo: [00:06:31] But no not bad at all.
Sean Prophet: [00:06:33] But do you think the new music, it’s less NPR like?
Christophe Difo: [00:06:36] I do think that. I think that it reflects a little bit more our approach and the way we talk about things. We are Progressives. NPR is pretty progressive, but we’re also, I think, a little more uh, edgy and radical I like to think of ourselves, than an NPR sort of voice. And so I think this music sort of is more evocative. I think it’s a little more interesting. And so, I’m on board. I think it’s fantastic. And it’s great that you composed it, that we didn’t have to go and license some other song like you.
Sean Prophet: [00:07:04] Yeah, no more copyright claims on YouTube.
Christophe Difo: [00:07:07] Exactly.
Sean Prophet: [00:07:07] I mean, we actually, we paid for our music, but they have this really arcane registration process. You have to go through. Every episode, you’ve got to register that it was– so it was just like, fuck it. We’ll do our own. And it’s a learning process for me, because that’s not what I do. I mean, I’ve done some recording in my life in the past, but I’m not really a musician. And so I’m just kind of learning all this, and how to put it together and got some help for my son, who’s got his BFA in music. And so it was just, it’s again, this is great. I love to learn new things. And this project gives me plenty of opportunity.
Christophe Difo: [00:07:38] Oh my God. It’s I mean, especially with those first six months, man, it was just like every week was like, holy shit. We didn’t think of that. Oh my God. No, No, we do. Oh my God. Now I gotta buy that? It’s just funny how it builds. And I say that in, like you said, war buddies, right. And this is all “holy shit, look how far we’ve come and what we went through.” And it’s it’s it’s a joy.
Sean Prophet: [00:07:57] I know. And when you go back to that first chat that we had, which was just, you know, we’re just talking, it was just like a phone call. And we ended up posting it as an episode called Race Hierarchy and Rule of Law. And I just listened to the first 20 minutes of that. And it pretty much encapsulated what we’re trying to do, and it holds up.
And so I think we’ve stayed true to our mission. You know, of course what we didn’t know was everything else that was going to go along with making and producing a brand. It’s not just the podcast recording, it’s designing an online presence, YouTube, the podcast channels, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, building, what we hope is a credible political organization that we can use to make a difference. And obviously I’ve been in the TV business. So I know what goes into making a weekly show, but I kind of figured for some reason that a podcast would be simpler. It’s not.
And, we take a lot of time to research, write, and produce the episodes. And of course we love doing that, but we’ve been focusing on the content and really comparatively less on our promotion. And I think you’ve given it more thought than I have Christophe. And it’s not like “if you build it, they will come.”
It’s a very saturated market. There’s a lot of talkers. Uh, You can listen to celebrities, you can listen to Hillary Clinton or Don Lemon or Chris Cuomo or Pod Save America, and we admire all those guys, but that means that when you’re watching us, we take it as a special privilege, because we know that there are all these famous people, that you could be listening to instead. And we think that we’re worth doing that. We love to hear ourselves talk. You have to. To have enough fucking hubris to launch a podcast.
Christophe Difo: [00:09:28] Oh, the egos, the egos.
Sean Prophet: [00:09:30] I know. Anyway. I mean, this is our thrust for the second year. I don’t want to bore you with too many details, but I wanted to give you a chance, Christophe, to sort of tell our listeners and viewers what we’re working on.
Christophe Difo: [00:09:41] Absolutely. And that, I think our first year definitely was a, certainly the first eight or nine months of that was a build sort of mindset. Right. We need to build a library of content. We need to get good at this. We need to build a website. And all that kind of stuff is relatively straightforward. There’s a set list of things to do. I could literally Google that and get a list of things to do, to build a podcast. Right. Promotion and growth is so much different. Like there’s just no cut and dry playbook out there. There are vague sort of strategies for sure. Like there are people out there that will tell you that if you just do X, you will get Y.
I don’t think it’s that simple. And I think one of the other bigger challenges that we face on that front is that we all have lives, right? We have jobs, we have wives and girlfriends and partners. We have other things that we’d like to do. And so it’s, it can be really challenging. But there are a handful of strategies that we have to some extent already put into practice, and other things that we will do in the upcoming year. We have hosted guests, we’ll continue to host guests, that is one of the biggest things they say to do. Getting booked as guests is something that is a far more challenging thing, but that is something that we are working on as well. In fact, uh, Sean and I will be appearing on a podcast within the next month or so.
And then the other thing is developing a community via Patreon. And we’re going to talk a little bit about that. In a few minutes. Another avenue that we’ve been exploring is acquiring sponsors. So, a friend of mine has already signed on to say that she runs a small business. And so if we can get sort of small business sponsors, I think that helps build our credibility.
And I think it gives us a bit of opportunity to– to even advertise in those environments. Right. So we can give them stickers to have in their businesses. Just to give away. Right. And that is– merchandising is also going to be part of that, right. That is also like really high on the priority list for the upcoming year. T-shirts, stickers, flags, cups, whatever.
Sean Prophet: [00:11:41] I want a flag.
Christophe Difo: [00:11:41] Yeah, exactly. Like this sort of stuff, and that is going to be working tandem with the Patreon. And, I’ve heard a lot of people say that are like You Tubers and, et cetera, say that they’d much rather talk to a handful of really dedicated Patreon supporters, than thousands of other people that don’t really give a shit about what you’re saying. And I think there’s something to that. People that actually care about– I think the biggest goal we have Sean challenge that we have is forming a, like a real community that we interact with regularly. And I think the Patreon is going to be a big part of that.
Sean Prophet: [00:12:14] Big part. And so, yes, this is the final housekeeping topic we have here is you might’ve seen it in our opening, that we have now launched the Patreon page. And it’s hard to ask people to pay for something we’re already giving away. But I know that a lot of our listeners have contacted us wanting to contribute.
So we went ahead and created that page. It’s patreon.com/theradicalsecular. So it’s super easy to find. And we’re planning to launch some exclusive content or scheduling a live chat for our listeners, or, doing those kinds of community building things. We might include some of our behind the scenes chats before and after the shows, we haven’t fully finalized what we’re going to be offering in terms of those sorts of subscriber only premiums.
But we do have some physical premiums, t-shirts and stickers and so forth. And there’s even a mug and a poster you get if you support us for a whole year. So any little bit you want to contribute to our effort would definitely help with our hosting costs. Your contributions will help us get the word out through advertising and promotional projects that Christophe just talked about.
We have– our support tiers, are $3 a month, $9 a month, and $27 a month. And we know that like anybody can afford three bucks. Nine is like, you’re awesome, you’re a solid supporter. And 27 is just like over the moon. So, we know that we, again, you could–
Christophe Difo: [00:13:27] Sean I will show up at your house, and we will show up at your house and we will do motorcycle tricks for you, I guess. We’re into motorcycles. I don’t know. I just made that up, but I’m just coming up with stuff now,
Sean Prophet: [00:13:38] But really we do want to engage with you. Drop us a line about things you’d like to hear us talk about and that’s the other thing, Christophe that you could mention right now. What kind of topics and content do you see us covering in our second year to really differentiate from what we’ve been doing? Where do you see the project taking us ultimately?
Christophe Difo: [00:13:54] First of all, I think we will stay. I know that we will, because I know this is important to you, Sean. It’s really important to me, is our commitment to justice and our commitment to the topics that we hammer on all the time, which is I know we, we talked about this, until we’re blue in the face, unearned hierarchy, right?
Sean Prophet: [00:14:10] Yeah, that’s it.
Christophe Difo: [00:14:11] That’s a challenge, the whole fucking shebang. And that is the whole shebang. That is what you, when you distill all the things that we talk about all the time, it comes down to that. And importantly people’s defense of unearned hierarchy, right? That’s called conservatism. That is what conservatism is. Defense of unearned hierarchy like, that’s what it is.
Sean Prophet: [00:14:29] It’s the whole shebang. And they try to deny it.
Christophe Difo: [00:14:30] The whole fucking shebang. They try and deny it. They try and call it freedom. They call it all kinds of fucking things, right. They call it patriotism, Patriot. That’s another great one. Patriotism. The war on terror, on and on and on. But it’s always the same theme. A group of people that are relatively powerful wanting to maintain that power and influence. So, we’ll definitely keep talking about that and we’ll talk about it in different contexts, but I think that another thing we want to do is really try to, and I, and we’ve talked about this preliminarily and that is sort of branch out into other sort of shows. Right? So if we can attack these issues from a different perspective.
And so we’ve talked to Drew Scott about this, and that, that is on the table. Anything’s on the table from that perspective. And in fact, if you have an idea we want to turn this into basically a network, right. We want to network. A system. Ultimately that’s the long-term goal, like a system, a network of shows and ideas and writers. Like that is the goal. So if that’s something you’re on board with, you want to write, you want to do a show, you have an idea, like, let’s talk about that.
Sean Prophet: [00:15:30] For sure. Engaging with our community is what we are here to do, so.
Christophe Difo: [00:15:34] Absolutely.
Sean Prophet: [00:15:36] All right. Well, let’s get into– oh, we got to do t-shirts.
Christophe Difo: [00:15:39] Yeah.
Sean Prophet: [00:15:40] Whatchu wearing today?
Christophe Difo: [00:15:41] So today I’m wearing my KTM t-shirt And for those of you who don’t know, KTM– I joke about this a lot, but KTM’s sort of tagline is “ready to race,” which is cheesy, but it’s– KTM is a motorcycle brand and it’s the kind of motorcycle that I ride. And I just got back from a ride, over Juneteenth weekend. I went with my friend, Luke, we went on a adventure motorcycle ride, which is off-road on road. It was just a ton of fun. I went on a adventure motorcycleing course, a couple months ago.
And it was the first time that I really got to put that stuff to the test. And the difference was night and day, since the last time I was on those trails. So, I figure I’m feeling very motorcycle-ey right now. And by the way, I’m going to do a shameless plug here. If you’re into motorcycle videos, check out my Instagram and check out my Facebook page, because I like to post short videos. I’m not great video editor, but look, I’m learning and I, and that’s part of the process too. It’s fun.
Sean Prophet: [00:16:33] I love your videos, and I’m super fucking jealous of your trail riding. So that’s all I’m gonna say.
Christophe Difo: [00:16:40] Well, we’ll have to get out there. We’ll have to get out there together at some point, man.
Sean Prophet: [00:16:43] I know. All right. Well, my shirt is topical. It says “good night, white pride.”
Christophe Difo: [00:16:49] Nice. That is right on.
Sean Prophet: [00:16:52] It’s kinda like a guy kickboxing, another guy. And look, here’s the point. I am white. I have nothing against white people. Okay. What I don’t like is white people patting themselves on the back for being white. It’s not, there’s no need to be fucking proud of your race. Okay. Whatever the fuck it is. And the problem in our country right now, is that one group of people who’s been oppressed is asking “don’t oppress us.” And the other group who’s been in charge is saying, “what about us?”
So it’s, this white pride is fucking bullshit. And, you know, no white person ever has to feel threatened by the idea of equality. Okay. It’s just not in the cards. And I’ve talked to people about it, and they’re like, I’ve heard this kind of complaining. It’s like, “Oh my God, the media is always attacking white people. White people are the only group that it’s still okay to make fun of.” And it’s like, no, this is not directed at you. Okay. It’s directed at people who are fucking racist. All right. And if you’re not racist, you don’t have anything to worry about.
Christophe Difo: [00:17:48] That’s exactly right.
Sean Prophet: [00:17:49] You know, if you’re not, going around you know, making racist jokes, if you’re not going around trying to pretend that, somebody who got shot was somehow guilty and deserved it. Right. Then you got nothing to worry about. But unfortunately there is too much of that going on. you know, And this white pride thing, it’s like straight pride. It’s like, you don’t need straight pride. You know, You’re not–
Christophe Difo: [00:18:10] Men’s pride–
Sean Prophet: [00:18:11] Men’s pride. Right.
Christophe Difo: [00:18:12] What?
Sean Prophet: [00:18:13] We’re in fucking charge. Like white men are in charge. We don’t need to sit there and toot our own horn. Okay. Everybody already knows.
Christophe Difo: [00:18:19] Yeah. Yeah. And it’s really important. And first of all, This is like “all lives matter” or “blue lives matter” is inherently reactionary, right?
Sean Prophet: [00:18:30] It is.
Christophe Difo: [00:18:30] It is not– like if there wasn’t black pride or LGBTQ pride, then there wouldn’t even be a straight pride. Right. If there wasn’t a feminist movement, then there wouldn’t be a men’s– it’s necessarily reactionary. And it’s in bad faith, right? At very best it’s being very charitable. It reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of power, right. It reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of privilege. And again, that is the most charitable way I can put that without saying those people are just fucking like bad faith racists, but like maybe they’re not, I think most people aren’t, I think most people are just ignorant.
Sean Prophet: [00:19:07] It’s also just, it’s just fucking whiny snowflake shit. Right.
Christophe Difo: [00:19:11] For sure.
Sean Prophet: [00:19:12] It’s like, “oh, what about me?” And it’s like, some guy is laying there with a broken leg and you’re like, “what about my leg?”
Christophe Difo: [00:19:18] Exactly, yes.
Sean Prophet: [00:19:20] That’s what it is.
Christophe Difo: [00:19:21] That’s exactly right.
Sean Prophet: [00:19:22] Alright, well, this, this whole thing is the topic that we’re going to talk about today. And it’s why I wore the shirt, because this book by Charles Murray is just one big white people whine. Okay. It’s just. So this is our main topic. It’s a much bigger topic than we can properly cover in a single episode. And it’s totally infuriating. So the book is Facing Reality: Two Truths About Race In America. We’ve touched on this before in Episode 21, Race, Genetics and IQ, as well as our discussion about the controversy over Senator Tim Scott in Episode 47.
But this game is stepping up. Race pseudoscience is becoming a bigger and bigger part of GOP strategy due to the right wing media firestorm of 2021 over “critical race theory.” Okay. And the fight over whether or not America is, or is not a racist country. So it’s extremely important that people on the left and across the spectrum are aware of the nuances of this issue. Because the stakes couldn’t be higher.
The battle over how race is perceived in America will determine whether or not we keep making progress toward justice and equality, or whether the political winds shift back, as they seem to be doing in many places toward another generational retrenchment into undemocratic Jim Crow policies. So as you may know, Charles Murray is a controversial American sociologist and political scientist with a BA from Harvard, and a PhD from MIT.
He’s come under some withering criticism, even from his own Alma Mater. His statistical research about IQ and crime is probably sound. I don’t think Christophe either you or I have the academic background to weigh in on that, but his conclusions are decidedly not sound. And he’s best known for the 1994 book, The Bell Curve, which also provides a lot of the research basis for his current book.
In fact, the way I sort of describe the current book, it’s basically a short, 150 page summary of the main IQ and crime data, that he covered in The Bell Curve. So that’s not new, he’s updated the book with recent statistics and he has also added a lot of current white nationalist talking points. So I want to be clear though, this book is not a polemic, it’s lucid, methodical, very academic in its presentation. And, Charles Murray’s obviously thought deeply about what he’s written. And I think he sincerely believes what he’s saying. And he just also happens to believe a lot of vile things about how our society should be organized, that don’t necessarily follow from his data.
And yet he believes that he’s been led to these conclusions by the data he’s compiled. So he’s horribly misguided. And I think he’s in the unique position of both being used as a pawn by America’s right-wing, but also having his career and standing advanced, and having gotten a lot of funding because he tells a lot of right-wingers exactly what they want to hear, on race, which is that race is a scientifically meaningful construct, and that race is determinative of a person’s value to society, and the position they should hold in that society.
So he’s Mr. Hierarchy, I’m telling you. He’s not a Tucker Carlson or a Charlie Kirk or Ben Shapiro, Sean Hannity, Dan Bongino. He’s not a propagandist or a demagogue, but he’s got a real symbiotic relationship with those guys. He provides a lot of credibility to their racist talking points and it’s, he’s just provides fodder to feed their fire.
And it’s, he dresses it up in academic clothing and I personally think it makes him even more dangerous. He also adopts this whole white victimhood right-wing troll kind of tactic, of claiming ideological persecution, and censorship, because he goes against the academic consensus. De platforming and all that crap, because he’s been de platformed, and he’s– but look, it’s because he’s wrong in his conclusions. If he was presenting something that was academically supportable, in terms of his conclusions, he wouldn’t be being de platformed.
Christophe Difo: [00:23:20] Yeah.
Sean Prophet: [00:23:20] But the role of a university I think, is to curate what is real knowledge and what is demagoguery. And I don’t think there’s any particular reason why students need to be exposed to demagoguery like this. There’s grains of truth, and this is the issue, unlike so many in the right wing fever swamp, Murray has academic chops, and kind of surprisingly in the book he acknowledges many of the complaints liberals have been making for years, about race in America.
And then of course he proceeds to eviscerate the liberal drive toward racial equality as futile. So he’s in the unique position on the right of being someone who ostensibly respects hard data, which is super rare. But at the same time, he claims that his data supports a horrible, extremely racist agenda. So if you believe his statistics, he really does provide the left with a significant substantive intellectual challenge to some of our policy solutions we’ve long taken as sacrosanct, such as affirmative action. Now, since neither you, nor I Christophe have the academic background to really drill down into the data, I want to take a different approach, which is that we’re going to assume for today’s discussion that his data on IQ and crime are accurate. Because I don’t think we need to overturn those claims, to go after Murray’s conclusions.
Let’s take him at face value, because I think we can argue successfully that even if every data point he presents is true, that he still reaches wildly wrong conclusions that fly in the face of long established social science. That’s the challenge we’re up against. The data he cites, if we accept his presentation from the angle he cites it, does seem to pose a challenge to liberal orthodoxy on things like equal employment opportunity and affirmative action. And that’s damned uncomfortable to think about. So I don’t know. What’s your take on that? Is there anything valid from your perspective about his work on IQ and crime?
Christophe Difo: [00:25:08] Well, I think my, the first thing that comes to me, I mind is what we talked about in terms of like a post liberal, post liberalism and as a policy sort of, perspective. And that is being willing to attack, the sacred cows of liberalism. Right. And not just for the sake of destroying them obviously, but for the sake of challenging them. Right. And because if we are not willing to concede that African-Americans, on average, have lower IQ, right. If that’s what the data says. And I think that is what the data says. Then we talked about that in our episode, race and IQ, but that was the theme of the whole fucking thing, but the whole, but like, and so we can concede that, even though it makes us uncomfortable, it makes liberals uncomfortable. For sure. It makes me uncomfortable to sort of concede that out loud, but still, we have to do that, if we are people who think of ourselves as data-driven, who care about science, who care about getting it right. We care about climate change. Right. We don’t get to switch it off when it makes us uncomfortable.
We just don’t get to do that. We have to be ethically consistent. Now, that doesn’t mean that the conclusions that we draw based on that, right. That, that we conclude what Murray concludes– and because all of that’s ultimately besides the point, right? Because the reasons why black people are– on average, have lower IQ is because of white fucking supremacy. It’s because of 400 years of slavery. It’s because of Jim Crow. It’s because of all these things, that we know. How smart people who marry smart people and have babies with smart people get smart kids. Right. If you have been deprived, if you grew up in an environment where your brain didn’t develop correctly, and then you have a child with somebody who also had that exact same experience, and then grows up in poverty. It’s what we call intergenerational poverty, right? This is what happens. So, so again, yes, we need to concede this stuff, but then we need to follow that up right away with like, “yeah but then how do we make sure that doesn’t happen in the future?” Because this is not inevitable.
Sean Prophet: [00:27:05] Yeah, well, here’s the thing. It’s intellectual honesty, right? And I think that we never win by being intellectually dishonest, even if something’s inconvenient. Because what that does is that makes us take another trip around and go, “Oh, the IQs are lower. Why are they lower? Let’s fix that. Let’s do something about it.”
Christophe Difo: [00:27:23] Right.
Sean Prophet: [00:27:24] And I want to start with, because people work backwards from the preferred conclusion and that’s– I want to make a couple of observations about what drives people to embrace race pseudoscience, to begin with. And these are going to be familiar concepts to our longtime listeners. But if you’re just now joining us, we submit that the basic through line for right-wing policy is the conservative moral hierarchy, as outlined by George Lakoff in his 1996 book, Moral Politics, How Liberals and Conservatives Think. It’s also discussed in Corey Robin’s, foundational 2011 book, The Reactionary Mind, and also in the seminal 2019 video produced by Ian Danskin called The Alt-right Playbook: Always a Bigger Fish.
Christophe Difo: [00:28:05] Everyone should read and watch all of that stuff, because it is just so, like you said, foundational.
Sean Prophet: [00:28:10] Changes your thinking. I mean, once you start understanding that these right wing policy positions are all– that is their one common thread, is it’s the hierarchy thing, and that’s what drives race pseudoscience as well, because they’re like, “Oh, they’re stupider. And they commit more crimes. Let’s relegate them to a lower position in society.” It’s like, that’s what they want to do anyway.
Christophe Difo: [00:28:29] That’s what they want to do anyway. It’s just a way of justifying that. That’s all it is.
Sean Prophet: [00:28:35] Yeah. So I mean, what Charles Murray is doing in his books is using his sort of right libertarian beliefs, and his copious datasets, to derive a really terrible “ought” from a really terrible “is.” And that’s the basic statement of the “is-ought” problem, which is a perennial subject in moral philosophy. Plenty of people will tell you that you can’t derive an “ought” from an “is.” One microsecond before they do it themselves.
And it really flows from a deep well of hypocrisy because everybody has their biases, about the kind of world they would like to inhabit. The best of all possible worlds, cliche. And we bring those biases to every ethical discussion. Perhaps you are somebody who likes the idea of a hierarchical society, but at least be honest about what you’re doing.
We’re no exception. We have our preferences. We on The Radical Secular believe that the highest goal is justice, which should lead to a society with high levels of both dignity and equality and human flourishing, for people at all levels of aptitude, which can be best achieved through rational public policy. We believe that the power of the state can and should be used to do good to reward intelligent, civilized behavior, and to punish theives, barbarians and bad actors.
We believe that the long-term progress toward these goals is not only possible, but it’s a moral fucking imperative.
Christophe Difo: [00:29:52] It really fucking is. And even from the most practical standpoint, I think about this a lot when I think about libertarians, I say, think about libertarians, cause I don’t talk to them because um, why? So, but the, here’s the thing it’s like, if you are a libertarian, if you are a conservative and you really just think that people should just die or should starve if they can’t sort of hack it in your Social Darwinist sort of environment. So that it’s like, you can only build so many walls because like the end result here is wealthy, powerful people in gated sort of castles essentially. And just people dead in the street, starving. Like that is the outcome. And I say to myself or to these people in my head, I’m like, “is that really what you want?”
Because I think a lot of people haven’t thought it through to think that that’s where this ends. Right. Feudalism is where this ends. Right. But the people that are powerful in this situation. This is exactly what they’re gunning for. We’re gonna talk about that.
Sean Prophet: [00:30:48] Yeah. Well, Charles Murray takes the tragic view of human nature and society and–
Christophe Difo: [00:30:53] Exactly.
Sean Prophet: [00:30:54] It’s always being worried about the “unintended consequences.” “What’s going to happen. If you try to make it better, it’s going to be worse!” And it’s like, oh, what about the intended consequences? And there’s a quote near the end of the book that really jumped right off the page at me, because I’ve heard the same kind of self justifications from conservatives my entire life, basically that: “The liberal project is doomed. We can’t make the world better. So we shouldn’t try,” lest we fall under the spell of the dreaded communism or socialism– the utopias– and the world either devolves toward tyranny or explodes into chaos. So that is always like– ” the world is going to hell in a hand basket,” is essentially what they’re always saying.
And so I want to read you this quote from the book. He says:
“Treating our fellow human beings as individuals, instead of treating them as members of groups is unnatural. Our brains evolved to think of people as members of groups, to trust and care for people who are like us, and to be suspicious of people who are not.”
So you can see him setting up the subtle racism justification, right? The combination of acquisitiveness and loyalty to the interests of one’s own group, be it defined by ethnicity or class, shaped human governments for the subsequent 10,000 years. The natural form of government was hierarchical, run by a dominant group that arranged affairs to its benefit, and oppressed outsiders to a lesser or greater degree usually greater. The rare attempts to try any other form of government were unstable and short-lived.”
End quote. What he says after this is, he’s talking about how America is this unique thing. And because all of these other governments were tyrannical and dictatorial.
Christophe Difo: [00:32:22] We talk about that all the time, too. We talk about it all the time, right? Like this is a miracle, a miracle with the country we’re living in right now, in that sense.
Sean Prophet: [00:32:29] But effectively, what he’s saying is that, you know, it’s so difficult to push back against this kind of hierarchical tyranny, that what America did is so fragile. We have to be so careful with it. Because if we don’t get it right, then it’s going to turn back into total chaos. So this is his basic orientation. And aside from this whole thing being this naked argument from tradition, like we can’t possibly do better. There’s two problems with this passage cause it’s the naturalistic fallacy, right?
Basically that what’s natural is also good. Murder is natural. Arsenic is natural. Supernovas are natural. We try to avoid those things. And to the extent we can. And so the second is his sort of tragic flaw fatalism, that we should accept any necessary injustice out of a kind of innate moral deference to hierarchy as an end in itself. That going against power as an organizing principle is merely a different kind of injustice. We’ve flipped it around, that hurts different people, namely those at the top of the self-organizing hierarchy. That’s Social Darwinism in a nutshell, right? Just let, let it happen, however it’s going to happen. Survival of the fittest, war of all against all, might makes right. Basically ruthless competition without regard for justice.
So along with this tragic view of human nature comes the idea that more equal societies make people soft, by rewarding a lack of personal achievement. And this is a barbaric attitude. Like people have to suffer, it’s a declaration of failure, and it’s everything we stand against.
So, now Charles Murray uses this tragic view to argue that because America, as a nation, proposes in its founding documents, to treat its citizens equally, it’s incredibly uniquely fragile as I was mentioning and that we can’t make our nation too equal, or it will destroy itself for violating some kind of political law of nature or something. And we’ll come back to that idea at the end of the show, but how does that whole thing strike you?
Christophe Difo: [00:34:18] Strikes me as fucking fascist is what it does. You know what I mean? I remember talking to somebody on or just reading a thread on Facebook at some point. I think it’s one of those groups that I’m a part of, and they’ll like post stuff that a right winger uh, said that is so outrageous. And so, but everyone is a super liberal in the group and they all laugh and dah, dah, dah. But I went and I went to the right wingers’ page and this guy’s a straight up monarchist. Like monarchist, right? Which is essentially a fascist, right? Yeah. I mean, that’s what modern version kind of, of authoritarianism, right. Um–
Sean Prophet: [00:34:48] Authoritarianism always ends up devolving to dictatorship, and dictatorship always ends up devolving to one guy.
Christophe Difo: [00:34:55] Exactly. I mean, that’s, what’s always happened. So it’s monarchy essentially. I’m like, “this is really the argument you’re making?” And, in terms of Murray himself, you know, I’m just. It’s really insidious. And you said this at the top, because he is really insidious, because he makes statements that are true about the world, right? Like that we– like you and I, people who care about science and data and real life. And we’re like, “yeah, well that is a true statement.” But then he makes these outrageous conclusions as a result of that. So it’s so insidious because on the front, like it’s like this meme, that’s always like,” yeah, they had us in the first half, I’m not going to lie.” Right. Like, that’s like, the meme set up and it’s like, “oh wait, you had me in the first half.”
But then at the same time, I’m like, “wait a second though. So you’re saying that we should just let people die or there’s just a permanent underclass,” like, or we should just not do anything– that’s madness. So, he leaves this hook for people that want this to happen, to hang their hat on, and like a intellectual hook, and that’s what’s so dangerous about it.
Sean Prophet: [00:35:53] Well, look, I mean, it can tend to come off as well poisoning, but in this case it’s actually true. And that is that, Charles Murray works for the American Enterprise Institute. And so what do you expect? They’re an unapologetic think tank. They promote laissez-faire capitalism, slashing taxes on the wealthy. And as we’ve said, many times, re-imagining America as a feudal state. So this was the subject of Nancy McLean’s book, Democracy in Chains, and much of what she predicted has already taken place. I mean, it’s done. And it’s been given academic cover by scholars, such as Charles Murray, such as James Buchanan, uh, Milton Friedman and other right libertarians who attack the liberal consensus, and promote trickle-down economics. And trickle down economics has always been a stalking horse for racism, you know.
Christophe Difo: [00:36:35] Of course.
Sean Prophet: [00:36:35] And– and it’s really a conflict of interest, actually, for a scholar to pretend to be impartial about how society should be organized, when he’s also part of an organization that wants lower wages for workers, in fact, wants to abolish the minimum wage altogether, while at the same time accepting generous corporate subsidies and demanding lower taxes for the wealthy.
Does anyone doubt for a minute that if corporations could get away with it, that they would just pay their workers nothing? It’s like to a lot of right-wingers, there was not anything wrong with plantation capitalism. It made a lot of slave owners fabulously wealthy. So there are many places in the world today that manufacture a lot of the products that we buy, which still operate sweatshops that keep people in similar kind of servitude based on their own poverty and desperation.
There’s dozens of countries in the world where people earn under one US dollar per hour, if you can imagine. And in order to keep the steady flow of workers going, capitalism worldwide relies on people’s fear of starvation, because let’s be clear, nobody would work for a dollar an hour. If they had any choice. Wage slavery is absolutely still slavery. I mean, slaves in the American south were fed, and housed.
Christophe Difo: [00:37:42] 100%. Glad that you said that, because that was the next word out of my mouth was wage slave. I think this is a word that you and I need to normalize, man, because this is it. When you think about it that way, I mean, it is– it’s violence in some sense, right? Because you’re like, “no, unless you do what this owner class tells you to do, you will die, you will starve,” There is no safety. Right. And– and right libertarians, if it were up to them, there would be no safety net at all. Right. And you would have to live off of charity or off the good graces of your master, right, in the law. You’ll find this interesting, I think. In the law, when you go back to like reading old property texts, or old cases, you know, the name for an employer was “master.” And I’m not talking about, I’m not talking about actual slaves, right. I’m talking about there was “master” and “servant.”
That was how we talked about employers, and employees, so that is the legacy. That is the um, the, um, genealogy perhaps of the modern corporate state, right. It has evolved. It has become something that we– we value some workers more than we value other workers. But that is the heritage man. That is the heritage. And that’s what we’re dealing with. And capitalism uh, you know, I think about this sometimes Sean– when I uh, the other day I was on the motorcycle trip, a couple months ago. And you know, I realized that I was one shirt short, I didn’t have a shirt. So I ran into a Walmart and I bought a shirt because I was like, fuck, I don’t have a shirt for tomorrow. I’ve got to buy a shirt. So I buy a shirt, you know, whatever, like $11 shirt, the cheapest one I could fucking find, right? $11 for a shirt. And I’m like, ” a slave made this.”
Sean Prophet: [00:39:15] Yeah.
Christophe Difo: [00:39:15] That’s why I have this. Literally, right? I mean, they are being paid a dollar maybe, but like you said, to your point, they’re essentially slaves. Sometimes actually locked in the building. So, I’m not saying I shouldn’t have bought that shirt, but let’s be very clear about what’s going on. Let’s be clear-eyed about that.
Sean Prophet: [00:39:34] Yeah. Well, and it’s interesting because the COVID-19 pandemic exposed something else, and that is that in the U S and other rich countries, whenever there are regular stimulus and unemployment checks going out, it raises wages. Because when employers are desperate for workers, they suddenly become willing to pay more. And who knew? People just aren’t willing to work for starvation wages, if they get even a little bit of help from the government.
Christophe Difo: [00:40:01] Who knew?
Sean Prophet: [00:40:03] We’ve seen how upset Republicans are about this. It’s like, “oh, nobody wants to work.” It’s like, yeah, because you’re not paying them. And now they’re not starving because they got an unemployment check, right? So it completely explains why libertarians are against any safety net for the poor. They don’t want any competition from the taxpayer, for workers. They want people to have to work. So they’ll work for less. And this also explains why wealthy donors have completely paralyzed the Republican party.
You know, They’re called the “party of no,” for a reason. They won’t do anything that broadly reduces poverty or helps the American people. And politics in the U S since Reagan has been consumed with fighting over maybe five or 10 percentage points of corporate profits that could either go to workers, or go to investors. That’s the entire battle, right? Between the left and the right.
Christophe Difo: [00:40:49] Absolutely.
Sean Prophet: [00:40:50] Republicans want it all to go to investors. And it’s not about the money only though because Republicans want workers to have zero negotiating power. That’s why they oppose unions. And that’s why they oppose public benefits because those things give workers leverage.
Christophe Difo: [00:41:05] Yup.
Sean Prophet: [00:41:06] And it’s crystal clear. Throughout the book that Charles Murray wouldn’t have any problem, keeping people who were below a certain IQ as a permanent underclass. He considers them both disposable and unteachable. And a lot of those people he’s talking about would just happen to be black.
Christophe Difo: [00:41:22] I mean, of course they would.
Sean Prophet: [00:41:23] What a coinkydink.
Christophe Difo: [00:41:24] Oh, look, who, wonder why?
Sean Prophet: [00:41:28] Yeah. So I mean, I see this whole thing as the crux of the issue, this airtight connection between systemic racism, and laissez-faire capitalism, in terms of the impact on black people. These two systems are effectively one and the same.
Christophe Difo: [00:41:40] And that’s absolutely right. And, you know, in Black Reconstruction in America, that is the thrust of that entire book. You would think that it would be about race. And of course it is, and reconstruction. and Jim Crow, And it is a beautiful history of that. But ultimately it is making the argument, and by the way MLK made this exact same argument, which is, there is no power and freedom without economic freedom, right.
Because, that is the new mold Sean for how the conservative right has enslaved people. Right? So technically you can go and find another job. Right. But you don’t have any job security there either, and they could fire you at any single time. And so you are basically beholden to this organization, And you jump when they say jump, you say how high right. And even white collar workers that are making good livings are working 12 hour days. A 12 hour day is now just kind of a given in many industries. That is just a given. I’m sure in Hollywood, it’s a given. It’s definitely in Wall Street. Like definitely in law firms in New York city. I have to tell you that mean, that’s why I don’t work in a law firm in New York city anymore, because that is a baseline given. 12 hours.
And that’s just when you’re in the office, right. Even when you’re on vacation, you never stopped working. How is that not slavery over you? How is that not slavery? It is. Sure you get paid more. But like you said enslaved Africans also got food. They got a house, right? So the standards have changed, but ultimately we’re talking about the same thing and we’re not even talking about low wage workers here. I’m talking about the wealthy workers, not even the low wage workers here, right. To go back to your earlier point, Sean, is that it’s markets, laissez-faire, laissez-faire, laissez-faire, until it gets to the point where it’s like, oh, wait a second. Now the market also determines the price of labor, right? That’s also market-driven but now we don’t want that to be market driven. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. We don’t want that. We only want it to be market driven and laissez faire capitalism when it’s convenient for us, the owner class, like that is when we want it to be that way. And that is deeply troubling. But also not at all surprising.
Sean Prophet: [00:43:39] Well, and also you have to think about when, this whole libertarian conceit, it’s like, “well, you don’t like it, just get another job.” Well, if there’s price fixing in the labor market, which there has been.
Christophe Difo: [00:43:49] Exactly.
Sean Prophet: [00:43:49] There’s price fixing. Every one of these shit jobs pay the same.
Christophe Difo: [00:43:53] Exactly.
Sean Prophet: [00:43:53] And they’re usually either minimum wage or a couple of bucks above minimum wage. And only recently, did we see, suddenly fast food restaurants advertising 18, $20 an hour jobs. It’s like, wow. And they can make money. Here, go figure it out.
Christophe Difo: [00:44:06] So go fucking figure.
Sean Prophet: [00:44:09] All right. Well, back to the book, we have to understand when considering the work of Charles Murray, we got to see it for what it is, which is a twisting of real-world data about racial differences that we have to assume is at least somewhat valid– I mean, it’s not entirely fabricated– into a post-hoc justification of the inequality represented by the capitalist status quo. He can’t say that. Of course. And he’s just only following the data. Um, As with other conservatives, that sort of feudalist wealth agenda is always couched in flowing rhetoric about the wonder and meaning of “The American Experiment.” The last best hope for humanity.
And in one of the worst possible insults, in the opening pages of his book, Murray uses the American creed, which is “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” and Martin Luther King’s statement about judging people by the “content of their character” to justify colorblindness and official government impartiality.
This is the new right-wing gambit, and it’s no coincidence, that we hear this same rhetoric on the regular from Tucker Carlson. He’s probably one of the biggest defenders, but they’re all saying it now. Which is, you know, there’s a quote I’m going to read here, which is from a little girl, a nine-year-old girl, and these talking points are now trickling down to children.
So, I want to read this. This is from an article in Newsweek. This girl said.
“I said there should be no BLM in schools, period. It is a political message and getting rid of police officers, rioting, burning buildings down, while King Governor Tim Walz just sits on the throne and watches. I don’t not judge people by the color of their skin. I don’t really care what color their hair, skin or eyes is. I judge by the way they treat me. She said. She added that Martin Luther King Jr’s dream that one day, my four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character, that dream has come true.”
So, so this little girl, there’s so many things wrong with this. I mean, she’s using this conservative language by calling a democratic governor, a “king.” She is bastardizing Martin Luther King’s statement to make it seem like racism is over and we’re now just being all judged on our character. And this is mainstream Republican orthodoxy at this point. How does it make you feel to hear this from a nine year old girl?
Christophe Difo: [00:46:17] It pisses me off in the first instance uh, Sean, because we all know– you and I know– that her parents have sort of indoctrinated her. Right. But her parents would have been the people who hated Martin Luther King when he was alive. Right. Every conservative today who hates Colin Kaepernick who wears those shirts that say, “I stand for the flag and kneel before God,” or whatever the fuck, like these are the same people that would hate MLK. They would hate the movement. They would be demonizing him just like they demonize Colin Kaepernick, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
As in her quote, she says like, oh, I don’t care about the color of their skin da, da, da. It reminds me of the people, though, who would say like, I don’t care if he’s blue purple green. You know that fucking line?
Sean Prophet: [00:47:02] Or purple.
Christophe Difo: [00:47:03] Or purple, I don’t care. But you know, they do. Right.
Sean Prophet: [00:47:05] They do.
Christophe Difo: [00:47:05] You know they do. And what it is, Sean, is purposefully overlooking systemic issues. Right. And this idea. I read a quote about this recently and I just will just paraphrase it. But the gist of it is like, “we need to get away from this idea that racism equals that people need to be a bad person.” To be racist, right? Like it’s not that simple. It’s not like you would look at a racist and he’d be like, “ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.” Like some sort of evil, right? Like a villain in a comic book. It’s like, no. It’s usually just average normal people living their lives and not realizing that they are benefiting from privilege. Not realizing that there are systemic issues in place here. So to answer your question, this is fucking infuriating. It’s infuriating. This is why it’s so important that we talk about critical race theory. Although not critical race theory, because that’s not, what’s actually going to be taught in high schools or anything like that. But we need to talk about. The real history of the United States. Because kids like this are going to grow up to be conservative Republicans, and they’re going to end up being racist. I mean, for sure, I mean, right.
Sean Prophet: [00:48:05] She’s already racist. And they’ve appropriated Martin Luther King. He’s a convenient, safe, black man. He’s dead. He can’t speak. He’s not saying anything. But the ones who are alive who are actually speaking they, they still hate, so it’s–
Christophe Difo: [00:48:18] They still hate. You’re absolutely right. And we talk about the weird things around cultural appropriation, but like, this is just like, this is the kind of appropriation that is exactly wrong, right? This kind of, let me take this incredibly important public figure that was the spearhead of a movement for justice. And then use it to oppress. That is astonishing. It feels 1984-esque. Using language that says you are free. Freedom is slavery. Like that kind of stuff. Right.
Sean Prophet: [00:48:47] Well, they’re taking his most famous quote of all time, pretty much. And using it to say that we can’t challenge systemic racism.
Christophe Difo: [00:48:55] Exactly.
Sean Prophet: [00:48:56] So it’s horrible. All right. Murray starts his book by railing against ” identity politics,” which is another one of these horrible phrases.
Christophe Difo: [00:49:06] That was the precursor to woke ism. Like there’s a new word for the same concept, but the same concept is as basically like equality, justice. That’s really what they’re saying. They’re against it.
Sean Prophet: [00:49:15] It evolved from “political correctness,” to “identity politics,” “wokeism,” “critical race theory.” These are their racist gambits evolving over the years. And–
Christophe Difo: [00:49:23] Exactly.
Sean Prophet: [00:49:24] So he’s saying that it’s a direct repudiation of America’s creed and that quote, “the core premise of identity politics is that people are inescapably defined by the groups into which they are born,” which is false. That’s–
Christophe Difo: [00:49:36] What a straw man argument. What a straw man argument. Sam Harris does this too. It is such a straw man argument– no, literally nobody is saying that.
Sean Prophet: [00:49:45] Nobody. And, identity politics and critical race theory claim that what’s happening is that people are locked into long-term and cumulative disadvantage, through the oppressive function of the American system, as designed by its founders, not by some flaw or dysfunction. We’re not trying to say the system is broken. We’re trying to say “by design,” and this is key–
Christophe Difo: [00:50:07] Exactly how it was designed.
Sean Prophet: [00:50:10] And it particularly refers to the Constitution’s hands-off approach to regulating commerce. Allowing great discretion in the running of private businesses, including racial discrimination and a nearly infinite amount of income and wealth accumulation. As we know, this gets into a problem where when you get somebody who’s got $200 billion, they’re approaching the power of a government. In terms of what they can spend and how they can move to rearrange things, to suit them. Right? So it’s not just an issue of wealth. It’s an issue of unchecked power, which is of course what we always rail against.
We know that there was no income tax specified in the Constitution until the 16th Amendment was adopted in 1913. And this was partially again, to deal with the robber barons who were accumulating all this wealth. And also to help the government fund everything it does to alleviate inequality, comes from the payment of those taxes. Right? So the basic libertarian claim that Murray echoes is that the American system as designed is just fine. And that if we want a meritocracy, we should go back to that Constitution, their pre 16th amendment hands-off approach. And right-wing libertarians– they may try to dance around this point– but their real agenda is to eliminate all taxes.
That’s what they mean when they say, you know, Grover Norquist, who said he wants to “make government so small, he can drown it in a bathtub.” What do you think he’s talking about? What the fuck? You know he means abolish all the taxes that fund the government, and allow it to intervene in the economy. They want that 16th amendment gone. And if they ever got their constitutional convention, that’s one of the things they would do. And so this is the fundamental objection of conservatives when it comes to teaching critical race theory. Which correctly points out that the intended function of our system of government, from its founding okay, was a hands-off approach. And that it produces racist outcomes. That is the nub of critical race theory. And so, actions of private business have long led to, there was mortgage red lining. This has been cumulative over many generations, wage suppression, hiring practices that discriminate against non-whites.
This is what American corporations have done. And he sidesteps this issue in favor of impugning the capacity for intelligence of black Americans. And he focuses on their high levels of criminal behavior, while arguing at the same time for elimination of government intervention.
Christophe Difo: [00:52:27] Hmm.
Sean Prophet: [00:52:28] Here’s another quote from his book. He says,
“Liberals believe that it is appropriate for the government to play racial favorites, to dispense favors and penalties, according to the group to which individuals belong. My view is that this position has proved to be toxic. It is based on the premise that all groups are equal in the ways that shape economic, social, and political outcomes for groups, and that therefore all differences in group outcomes are artificial and indefensible. That premise is factually wrong. Hence this book about race differences in cognitive ability and criminal behavior.”
End quote, can you comment on that, man?
Christophe Difo: [00:53:02] I mean, my God, I mean, it’s so disgusting and so racist, that it’s hard to even talk about it, but you know, what is fundamental here is, you talked about early on. In that quote in, in in your comments before it about having the government be so small that it could be drowned in the bathtub, et cetera, and eliminating taxes. Um, you know what you get when you do that, you get a plantation. or you get– You get the Confederacy like that is what that is. That is feudalism. That means that there is no overarching government powerful enough to check individual financial interests. And so essentially. Businessmen run the entire world. I mean, and in some sense The Expanse kind of does this too, right? Where big corporations are so big and so powerful. They essentially, you don’t even identify as a person from a different country as the, the, the, the company you work for. Like, that’s part of your identity. That is more than the country. Right. And it’s really, one of the themes is– certainly early in the show is clawing back that power from the corporations, right? Like what’s her face, the amazing woman that–
Sean Prophet: [00:54:07] Chrisjen.
Christophe Difo: [00:54:08] Oh my God. Like she goes and says, ” we are the government, we can freeze your assets.” But again, that tension is what the libertarians absolutely hate. But in terms of this particular quote I mean, I don’t even know what to say about it. Other than to say that the government does play racial favorites. To white people.
Sean Prophet: [00:54:25] Yeah.
Christophe Difo: [00:54:26] And wealthy white people. That’s why it’s so disingenuous for him to say, “oh yeah, by the way, don’t play favorites.” Are you fucking kidding me? You’re just saying don’t play favorites to those people. You’re–
Sean Prophet: [00:54:36] They just want to flip it.
Christophe Difo: [00:54:37] Exactly. That’s all. That’s all. And it’s just such bad faith. I mean, the racism is just so evident that anybody can just hear it. I don’t have to comment on that specifically other than to say, like, wow, just wow. And the way that he justifies this intellectually, is what’s again, I’m going to keep coming back to that theme. That is so, so dangerous, because it gives people something to hang their hat on. Right libertarians are like this. They think they’re smart. They, they’re like, “oh no, I’m driven by data. What are you talking about?” But it’s always in bad faith in service of this hierarchical view of the world.
Sean Prophet: [00:55:10] Yeah, well, let’s talk about how– what he actually says here and the data. And he begins by discussing America’s racial makeup through the demographic breakdown of four major racial groups. He really only talks about four. Which is Europeans 60%, Latins, 18% Africans, 13% Asians, 6%. And the other 4% is a mixture of smaller groups, including Native Americans, who he doesn’t really talk that much about, in the book. But he then turns to what he calls a transformation of American society that began about 1960. And this is the big beef. Okay. It’s not just The Civil Rights Act. It is the immigration that started happening in around 1960. He says, quote,
“New York city went from 77% European in 1960 to 32% in 2019. That’s a transformation by any definition. Other major cities changed even more than New York did. From 1960 to 2019 Los Angeles went from 85% European to 29%. Chicago went from 82 to 34%. Houston went from 77 to 23%. All the rhetoric about the racial diversity of America is true for big cities. Since big city America contains so many of our Africans Latins and Asians the percentages for America outside the big cities are much different. The European percentage rises from 45 to 71% while the Latin and African percentages fall to 14% and 10% respectively. The narrative tells us that America is moving toward a multiracial society in which Europeans will soon be a minority. And we all need to adjust in similar ways. The reality is that different parts of America have had widely varying experience with a multi-racial society and are moving toward even more different futures.”
So, we see right away where this is going. He’s taking us through this very scary narrative about how our nation is becoming more racially polarized. Our cities are becoming browner and heading toward being ungovernable. He creates this whole divide. This is where a lot of the Republican urba-phobia comes from. A lot of people think that “Real America” is this part of the country that’s still white, and that cities are these shitholes.
We’ve seen this narrative sharpening over the last few years and decades. To the point where it’s just openly being said, now, that conservatives just hate cities. And cities have democratic mayors. And so this is a huge change in our country, to where even from 10 years ago, we didn’t hear this kind of stuff.
So the blue on this first map, are Europeans, the red, Black people, orange are Latinos. uh, Green are native Americans, and gray are Asians. Purple areas are major metropolitan areas. And a lot of Murray’s critique of non-whites, you know, leads them to this focus on the large cities that I just mentioned. So we’re all kind of familiar with this rightward shift of American politics that happened between 1996 and 2016. It’s like tectonic shift in, in America over that time. And we have a good idea as to why this happened. Looking at the next two maps, we see vast swaths of low population counties in America’s Heartland that went from blue to red over the course of the 20 year period. And, Murray says that this increased polarization is primarily a backlash against government racial preferences, particularly in urban areas that he considers unfair to white Europeans.
But I’m just wondering, cause I’m looking at these maps Christophe and I mean, can you think of some other things that might’ve happened in those 20 years that might explain these maps?
Christophe Difo: [00:58:30] Uh, Oh boy. Well, first of all, let’s go back to why these cities change in the first place, white flight, right? 1964, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, and most importantly, the desegregation of schools. That’s why white people left. They left. Right. But the real issue here. In terms of the question you just asked, right, I mean like this all coincides perfectly with the rise of right-wing talk radio. Cable news, and the radicalization of white people. Right. And they have been, they’ve been told since the early nineties, that black people and brown people are coming to take their jobs, and they’re mooching off the government. And let’s go back to the fucking eighties, the eighties Reagan. Reagan and the ” crack epidemic” and “welfare queens,” and et cetera, et cetera. I mean, that is why. That is why. The idea that he decides, that this has to do with a backlash to racial preferences. I mean, maybe, but only because those attempts to elevate poor people who are disproportionately people of color, have been demonized by the right wing propaganda machine. I mean, of course. Unbelievable astonishing conclusion that he draws there.
Sean Prophet: [00:59:37] It’s astonishing. He doesn’t even mention the fact that in 1996 is when Fox news launched, and they immediately started in, on attacking the Clinton administration. And the impeachment coverage for him was like a huge deal for them. And also the election of Barack Obama, right?
Christophe Difo: [00:59:51] Oh my God.
Sean Prophet: [00:59:52] It’s just, he is transparently revising history and, blaming black people, and liberals basically for this polarization.
Christophe Difo: [00:59:59] He’s like, this could have nothing to do with the white people. It’s just an astonishing thing. I mean, we talk about how he’s intellectually honest in some sense, but then he comes to these conclusions that are just so intellectually dishonest, like, come on man.
Sean Prophet: [01:00:14] And the next thing he says here, he’s basically talking about how dangerous it is for black people to ask for their rights. Here he goes. He says:
“Statements about white privilege and systemic racism coming from black opinion leaders have always seemed self-defeating. Blacks, constituting 13% of the population are telling whites who are 60% of the population that they are racist, bad people, the cause of all black’s problems and that they had better change their ways, or else. Right or wrong that rhetoric has been guaranteed to produce backlash by some portion of the 60% against the 13%.”
So in other words, he’s telling black people to accept the status quo because if they try to change it, the white majority will make the country ungovernable. And he’s justifying that. And–
Christophe Difo: [01:00:55] But he’s not wrong by the way. Cause that’s literally what’s happening.
Sean Prophet: [01:00:58] That is what’s happening.
Christophe Difo: [01:00:59] But he’s justifying it. He’s like, “oh, well then just don’t ask.” Wait, what? That’s the conclusion you draw from that?
Sean Prophet: [01:01:06] When they say, “don’t be divisive.” What they’re really asking us to do, is to go back to that old pre civil rights, New Deal compromise that allowed so-called bipartisanship to support generous social benefits. This is something Jonathan Chait talked about. And we talked about in one of our other episodes. This compromise lasted for like a hundred years where black people weren’t getting any rights. And so finally that changed and that has just set all of this chain of events in motion. I mean, Eisenhower. The Republican 1956 platform is basically the current democratic platform. So–
Christophe Difo: [01:01:38] Wow.
Sean Prophet: [01:01:38] And that all changed after Civil Rights. So, but instead of belaboring what we already know, I want to get right into Murray’s data that he uses to justify reversing Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action policies. He begins by presenting detailed information about IQ tests administered from just after the Civil Rights Act, up to the present.
He goes into all sorts of detail about methodologies. I’m not going to get into here. He also addresses common objections to the validity of IQ tests in general. And of all the things that Charles Murray talks about in his book, I find his documentation of IQ to be the most defensible. Because he has large sample sizes, and the results are consistent over broad geographical areas.
You can’t make up that kind of data, and I’m not being facetious.
Christophe Difo: [01:02:18] Right.
Sean Prophet: [01:02:19] It’s pretty clear that the IQ differences exist and, whether IQ is as determinative of social outcomes, as he claims, is another story. But so here we go, looking at this chart real briefly, you know, we have the mean IQ, which is another way of saying the average. Europeans 103, African 91, Latin 94, Asian is 108.
Asians always come out on top of this, by the way.
Christophe Difo: [01:02:44] It’s also true.
Sean Prophet: [01:02:46] Where I part company with Murray, in a major way is about the causes of these IQ differences, and potential cures. And Christophe. You already talked about this at pretty good length in your episode, we did last year. Do you want to do like a two minute recap of what you said and your take on this. Because these differences are really substantial.
Christophe Difo: [01:03:01] They are substantial, and they matter. And the gist of it is, and I touched on this briefly and I won’t get too much into it, but the bottom line is that like, genetics are genetics, right. IQ derives from genetics. If you have people who have been consistently disadvantaged, and we know that environment also affects genetics, right? So we know that these things are true. If you have a bunch of people who are by the way, isolated, black people could only legally, literally only marry black people for most of the time black people have been on the American continent. There has been concerted efforts to maintain, to make sure folks didn’t get educated, smart. And when these folks then marry each other and have children, you’re on average going to get people with lower IQ. I mean, it’s not rocket science really. It’s kind of obvious, when you think of it that way. And the real thing we should be talking about here is, the reasons that this happens, and there is no scientific data to prove that this is somehow inherent to– that is somehow biologically inevitable. There is absolutely no evidence. And that is the big logical leap that guys like Murray, and of course the entire right wing, make all of the time.
Sean Prophet: [01:04:16] Yeah. And I want to digress also just briefly and talk about what the actual bell curve looks like, because it’s not what I thought. I mean, it– basically you’ve got two bell curves. And I thought that they would just be like slightly offset from each other, one overlaid over the other. But because of the small population of Africans and Latinos and Asians in America their little bell curves are at the bottom kind of inside of the main sort of overall population, bell curve.
And so it’s not like you think. It’s really, we’re very cognitively homogenous here and all of the, even the outliers among black people and Latinos and Asians are underneath the main bell curve. And so it’s not like you’ve got a whole big difference that’s happening here. It’s really kind of overblown like it’s–
Christophe Difo: [01:05:04] Yeah. And also like segregation, right? Like we can’t talk about this without talking about segregation, right? Because if you have an insular community that doesn’t get to mix genes in with the rest of the community. I mean, you’re going to have a small pocket and that happens whether that’s wealthy white people, right. Who are on average smarter, right. On average, better looking than poor white people. Right? So we have these social groups that are so homogenous and in the United States, it’s exacerbated because it’s by law for many years and now by defacto. Right. And so here we are and this is what they try to do. They try and compartmentalize this as if we can talk about these numbers without talking about the reasons why on the front end, why this is like it is, and then on the backend, what we should do about it, right? Those are the two parts where they have absolutely wrong. The actual numbers are the actual numbers.
Sean Prophet: [01:05:56] Yeah. And a lot of white liberals, and liberals generally have a problem with IQ, as a concept. They don’t like IQ testing. They don’t like standardized testing. They don’t like putting people in boxes. They’re worried about what Charles Murray is precisely doing here, is that IQ tests are going to be used to, argue against social progress. But I want to read something here from the American Psychological Association, because they debunked this. They actually say that IQ is very determinative and um–
Christophe Difo: [01:06:24] This is part of our post liberalism philosophy that we’re developing here.
Sean Prophet: [01:06:27] Yeah. And so Murray quotes this in his book just as a way of beefing up sort of the credibility of IQ. And so here’s the APA. They say:
“Intelligence tests predict school performance fairly well, at least in American schools as they are now constituted. Similarly achievement tests are fairly good predictors of performance in college and post-graduate settings. Considered in this light, the relevant question is whether the tests have a predictive bias against blacks. Such a bias would exist, if African-American performance on the criteria and variables were systematically higher, than the same subjects test scores would predict. This is not the case, the actual regression lines, which show the mean criteria and performance for individuals who got various scores on the predictor for blacks, do not lie above those for whites.”
So this validates IQ, as a measurement, and I wholly agree with that.
Christophe Difo: [01:07:17] I think that’s right. I think that’s right. And, in predictability, in terms of, I know this from the law school context, right? Uh, the LSAT is a really good predictor of how people will do in the first year of law school. Like a really solid predictor that’s been consistent it’s just true.
Sean Prophet: [01:07:32] Yeah, well, Murray also argues in his book that we’ve run up against a hard limit to educational intervention, to raise IQs. And this is what he uses, there’s a chart where he documents, how IQ differences between Europeans and Africans began to decrease, after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Because they started testing, they started throwing money at schools. But then the decrease leveled off around 1990 and now the differences have remained constant at about one standard deviation ever since 1990.
And so this is where I think Murray makes his worst error. Instead of trying to find further interventions that might help reduce these IQ disparities further. He just declares failure. He’s basically spending an entire book to tell us that this is just the way it is. It’s sort of a, “the poor you will have with you always” kind of an attitude toward cognition of non-white Americans.
And here’s what we haven’t tried. We haven’t tried a multi-generational approach to comprehensively rooting out the conditions that contribute to poverty, and lowered cognitive ability. Everything done so far, including “No Child Left Behind,” has involved band-aids and half-measures. Band-aids on a fucking bullet wound, man.
Christophe Difo: [01:08:40] Exactly.
Sean Prophet: [01:08:41] We still tie school funding to local property taxes. Too many black parents still live under shameful conditions that cause enormous stress on their children, and that lead to lost cognitive opportunity. Black parents still speak far fewer words to their children, than white parents do. Because black parents are often not home specifically because they have to work so hard, due to lower wages. Or– I don’t even want to say this, because it’s so horrible– but their dads have been arrested.
Christophe Difo: [01:09:06] It’s true.
Sean Prophet: [01:09:07] Not there. So black kids still have worse nutrition, by far, than their white counterparts. Black kids still experience far higher levels of domestic and street violence. And we know that trauma also causes brain damage. And the stagnation of black IQ scores also coincides with Republican budget cuts.
Christophe Difo: [01:09:24] Yes. Exactly.
Sean Prophet: [01:09:25] Republican war on teachers’ unions, the right wing hatred of the National Education Association, the longterm Republican efforts to defund and sabotage public schools, and shift money to private schools. Like he acts as if suddenly, “oh, we threw all this money at it, and it’s not getting better.”
No, you deliberately tried to make it worse.
Christophe Difo: [01:09:43] Exactly. Where you literally cut all of this stuff. So, yeah. Well, finish your thought and then I’ll comment.
Sean Prophet: [01:09:49] Yeah. I mean, I’m a hundred percent confident that IQ differences are not fundamentally race-related. And that we still haven’t done enough to build a society where we can actually realize that. Every part of Murray’s approach says that we just have to accept things as they are. And therefore we have to accept that black people in every profession are going to have a lower average IQ than whites. That’s the way it is now, but there’s no reason we have to accept that that’s how it has to be. So I just want to take a look briefly at this chart of IQ in various professions. And it starts out all the way at the top, like with accountants and, you know, European accountants have an IQ of 111 on average, whereas uh, African accountants have an IQ of a hundred.
And it goes all the way down to janitors, where, uh, European janitors have 92 and African janitors have a 79. And this is across the board. We’re talking about, retail, childcare workers, secretaries, mechanics, K to 12 teachers, registered nurses, these IQ disparities show up across all employment tiers. So this is a snapshot of how it is not how it has to be.
Christophe Difo: [01:10:49] I think that’s right, obviously, and I’m reminded of again the Black Reconstruction in America and he talks about this a lot, right. That recently emancipated enslaved Africans were not hip to how government works, or how society works. Right. They weren’t part of it. They were obviously not educated perhaps not couth, right? Like they weren’t genteel. Right. They were kind of rough around the edges. And none of that is surprising. Like none of that is surprising. Right. And so I’m just extrapolating that up till now. Right? Like, yeah. It’s still true that black people have been oppressed. Right.
So, I’m reminded too, when you talk about that sort of threshold, 1990. So I, it’s just going to be a weird analogy, but everybody roll with me. So I cut my hair, and I cut my hair short on the sides and not on the top. Right. Like a Mohawk type thing. And on the sides, it grows back really fucking fast. Right. And so on the top, though, when my hair gets to a certain length, it noticeably slows down, and it takes a long time for it to be obvious that it’s growing. Right. This is making the analogy here to basically from 1865, up to 1990, you had a lot of growth there that needs to happen, right. Immediate growth. So you’re going to get an explosion, this same thing with the economy, by the way, right. The economy comes back from the recession really fast, but then the growth slows. Right? It takes new strategies. It takes new approaches. And the same is true. I’m just thinking about this now, but I’m thinking that, it might be the case here as well. Then at that exact same time, we’re talking about the eighties and the nineties, when these programs were slashed, and the budgets were slashed, and the new normal became everybody fend for themselves.
Sean Prophet: [01:12:28] Yeah. And if, if you look at what happened right after the Civil Rights Act, they did all this IQ testing. They wanted to find out what’s working, what’s not working about our schools and all that. And then they fixed a lot of low hanging fruit problems that were easy to fix, that they could just immediately fix. Okay. Let’s desegregate. And all of that stuff had an immediate impact that helped raise IQ scores. But then now you’ve got the more intractable problems, that have not yet been done. And this guy is making this conclusion that, because of that, that we should just stop.
Christophe Difo: [01:13:00] Just stop. Like it’s just, what a crazy, I mean, it’s not a crazy conclusion if what you want is a hierarchical environment. Right. It’s not. But like for people like you and me, it’s like, well, why would you stop there? Like under what circumstance would you say? Like, all right, well, we made it to, I don’t know, like– I mean, it’s so anti the way the human spirit is, we always want to keep going further. We want to explore more. We want to know more. We want to accumulate more. Why would we just stop here unless, unless?
Sean Prophet: [01:13:30] That’s what you want.
Christophe Difo: [01:13:31] That’s what you want. Exactly.
Sean Prophet: [01:13:32] Well, Murray notes in the book that there’s two areas where IQ differences are greatly reduced, or even disappear. And the first is among people who have taken the U S Medical Licensing Exam, which is a super fucking hard test. And the second is in the U S military, where in many cases, black soldiers perform better than whites on cognitive tests. And his reasoning is that in both these cases, lower performers have already been eliminated. You know, like they, they washed out of med school or whatever, or in the army they couldn’t hack it. Right? So that’s what he’s kind of saying. And he uses this as his sort of entree into the argument for getting rid of Equal Employment Opportunity, and preferential school admissions for black people, because he believes that if we evaluate everyone based solely on their performance and aptitude, that’s going to make a better society for both blacks and whites.
And he argues that the preferential treatment for blacks in employment and education is actually worse for the very people that it’s trying to help. And so he says here. And this is one example that, maybe he’s got somewhat of a point in this one and that is, he says:
“Universities draw from the talent pool in a hierarchy, African and Latin students with combined SATs in the 1500s are admitted everywhere they apply. But they tend to accept the most elite school on their list, which is Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, and have a lot of extraordinarily talented minority students. And they thin out the pool for the next schools in line.”
So to me, it does raise an important issue. How do we achieve the goal of improving African and Latino representation? Not just in America’s top jobs, but across the board. If many of the top candidates concentrate at just a few Ivy League schools. Because I want all of America’s colleges to include top black students. And if they’re not, it’s a lot of wasted slots, and wasted opportunity. Also, it seems like at second tier non Ivy league schools, this would put a lot of black students admitted through affirmative action, in the lower percentiles of their class, compared to white students at those schools. So what do you think Christophe, can we eliminate these preferences and is that going to help or hurt black people to do so?
Christophe Difo: [01:15:36] I think that we need to look at these critically for sure. I think this is part of, again, back to my post liberal perspective, is that we need to be critical about these things, not just have the sort of knee jerk reaction which is, I think typical for us on the left, on issues like this. On IQ or on affirmative action, et cetera.. But I have thought about this, a great deal. And I don’t have data I’m not a data scientist, or anything like that. And I don’t claim to be, or a statistical genius of it or any kind, but– or even really knowledgeable, but I will say this, and that is, a couple of things.
First of all, from my experience. I got thrown into the deep end at Georgetown. I don’t know that I got in because of any preferential treatment at all. I don’t think that I did. I mean, I earned the scores and stuff like that. But the analogy I’m making here, is that I came from Montclair State University, a state school. Right. And so I didn’t grow up in this environment that was sort of geared toward that world. Right. And this is true for many black students, for me, for different reasons, way different reasons than it is for most black students. But most black students aren’t growing up in an environment that they’re being groomed essentially to go to a place like Georgetown, or like, like the really top schools, like Harvards, Yales. And so I floundered, I think in the first year I really did, but then I got my sea legs. And so yeah, I understand the argument and this is Clarence Thomases argument, by the way.
Sean Prophet: [01:16:56] Oh, is it?
Christophe Difo: [01:16:56] This is a Clarence Thomas’ exact argument that as a really smart black guy. He has gotten impugned because people think that he got where he got because of affirmative action. And on the other hand, that affirmative action and things like equal opportunity actually hurt black people. But I think that’s bullshit because I think that when you let that black kid in to– and even the black kid that doesn’t get into Yale, but ends up going to UCLA instead. Right. And. What you do though, is you are throwing them into the social environment, in which they can elevate themselves. And what ends up happening is that kid who didn’t get into Yale and got into UCLA is going to have a child, his, he’s gonna marry somebody that’s in that same social class, have a kid that’s also in that social class and will be better able to compete and get into Yale or get into UCLA. My point is that allowing people into the club is a huge part of this that’s overlooked. It’s not just how they perform at school. It’s the people they talk to. It is the world that they get injected into, Sean.
Sean Prophet: [01:18:03] Right.
Christophe Difo: [01:18:03] That is so fucking important. I went to a big law firm because I went to Georgetown, even though I didn’t get particularly great first year grades. I still went to a big law firm, and I got the credibility that comes along with going to a big law firm. I met the people that you meet, the people that I went to law school with, like it elevates people. And again, I’m a bad example because the reasons why I was sort of behind have nothing to do with intelligence or class base, it’s because my parents were my parents, and things happned in the church and everything else.
Sean Prophet: [01:18:33] Yeah.
Christophe Difo: [01:18:34] I also had my own personal struggles with drugs and everything like that. So that’s why I was so far behind, I was actually on track to be groomed for that. If everything had gone normally.
Sean Prophet: [01:18:43] It helped pull you up.
Christophe Difo: [01:18:44] Exactly.
Sean Prophet: [01:18:45] Being given that opportunity, helped you come up and overcome some of those challenges that you were struggling with.
Christophe Difo: [01:18:50] Exactly. And that’s why it’s so fucking critical. It allows you in a club that you wouldn’t be in otherwise. And then when you have kids down the road, you’re going to have kids into that club, right? That is how over generations, you pull people up.
Sean Prophet: [01:19:04] Well, and this is the argument though, is that, and I’m going to read this next uh, basically his summation of his chapters on employment and education is the following, where he says:
“I think it’s fair to conclude that the American job market is indeed racially biased. A detached observer might even call it systemic racism. The American job market systemically discriminates in favor of racial minorities, other than Asians.”
This is the big deal with college admissions too, because he’s saying, okay, well, if these slots are going to black people preferentially, then it’s going to deny these Asians or whites who are smarter and we’re going to have a less intelligent workforce. And so I dunno, what do you think about that?
Christophe Difo: [01:19:45] Yeah, I mean, I think that there are costs for sure. And I think that’s how I think about that, is that there are costs. But they’re also historically disadvantaged folks. And now with Asian families and Asian kids, I mean, that can be a little bit complicated, right? Because Asian folks have been discriminated against in this country, almost as long as black folks have. So, um, I understand that there’s complexity, here. But the numbers don’t lie. The numbers are that we have an entire group of people who has a unique history in the United States, that helped build the United States. That continues to be the underclass in the United States. And this is the argument for reparations as well. It’s like–
Sean Prophet: [01:20:30] Yeah,
Christophe Difo: [01:20:30] I get that it’s unfair, but oh my God, unfair? You want to talk about unfair? It’s been, it was unfair for 500 years. What are you fucking talking about? So, yeah. Yeah, it is unfair. And that does suck, but guess what? This is what it feels like to be on the unfair side of things. Welcome to the fucking club.
Sean Prophet: [01:20:49] Well, and also Asians–they have the IQ scores. They have the test scores, they have a lot more options.
Christophe Difo: [01:20:53] Exactly. That’s very true too. That’s very true too. Exactly.
Sean Prophet: [01:20:57] So, okay. Let’s move on to crime. It’s beyond dispute. As we already said black crime statistics are off the charts compared to white crime statistics, and even other minorities. We’ve got disparities in America’s largest cities that are from five to one, to 10 to one, to even 20 to one. And so, I have this graph in here about it and it’s, it’s horrifying. Just you have a hard time believing it, but it’s apparently true. So, you know, there’s been an extensive amount of work done on the sociology of crime. I’m not an expert in that, but I don’t think it’s at all controversial to say that systematic disparities in educational outcomes, poverty, poor nutrition, and economic inequality themselves go a long way toward explaining these horrific crime figures, not to mention America’s incredibly lax gun laws.
So rather than being a measure of some sort of deterministic black racial essentialism that justifies harsher treatment, high crime statistics are actually to me, evidence of prolonged and stubborn, systemic racism. In many ways, it’s like what Martin Luther King said about riots. Crime is the language of the unheard.
And I know that’s a super shocking thing to say. I know it sounds like I’m justifying crime. I’m not, I can’t help saying this, because when I hear about high black crime statistics, what I feel isn’t outraged, but it’s compassion. I’m thinking to myself, how bad must conditions have to be, in these neighborhoods in American cities that black people feel so hopeless, that crime is the best they can do for themselves. How bad must the effects have been of things we’ve heard about like building freeways through black neighborhoods, or redlining, bad schools dozens to hundreds of race massacres that occurred in our cities over the past hundred years. I mean, what the fuck?
Christophe Difo: [01:22:42] Yeah. I mean, all that is right and again, the numbers are the numbers. They do not lie. And I’ve said this many times, I’ll say it again. And that is, yeah. I mean, on average black people commit more crimes. I mean, those are just the numbers, but again, we have to look at, we have to get back to causes and conditions. And on the show, I think we’ve talked about this, and Steven Pinker talks about this too. In one of his books that I’ve read, and that is right, that there’s an honor culture, that sort of evolves out of lawlessness. And so when you can not trust the Leviathan, when you cannot trust the police force, the economic system to provide for you, you resort to self-help right.
Libertarians love this stuff, right? This is what they love, right? Like, resorting to self help. Right? So basically when you can’t trust the system to provide for you, you create your own system. And basically that is what black culture has devolved to be. There’s the black culture element from names to eyelashes, to nails, to music. And then there’s also then just the criminal element, which is a separate element by the way, which is frequently conflated. Those things are not the same, right.
There is a criminal element. And then there’s a cultural element that’s developed. Right? Um, they may or may not overlap, but they’re not the same thing. And the crime is like, again, it’s a self-help thing like, right. It becomes an honor culture. This happened in the plantation south. This happened in the wild west, when there isn’t a strong centralized government that can mete out punishment, and keep things in line. People resort to self-help, that’s what happens. That’s what I see in these neighborhoods. That’s what I see in these numbers.
Sean Prophet: [01:24:16] Yeah. And of course also, I mean, it just goes without saying that if you have a choice between, you know, working, uh McDonald’s at minimum wage or slinging, slinging dope on a corner where you can take home, hundreds of dollars, at a time, I think it’s just obvious what people are going to do. And yeah okay. It’s wrong. They’re breaking the law, but you know, if you’re a kid and you’re trying to get ahead, you’re trying to be somebody in the neighborhood. Right.
Christophe Difo: [01:24:38] You’re just like– everybody wants to be somebody.
Sean Prophet: [01:24:41] Yeah. Well, I want to also then touch on one of the most heavily studied measures of social and economic inequality, which is the GINI coefficient. And I did an index search on Murray’s book. I read the whole thing too, but I also just wanted to make sure, the GINI coefficient is not mentioned anywhere, not a single word. And here’s what it is, and why it’s important. The GINI coefficient measures the economic inequality of a nation on a scale from zero to one. Zero would be perfect equality. And one would be a single person having all the money and everyone else having nothing. So every nation is on that scale. Okay. Now this is important. The GINI coefficient does not measure percentile distributions. You can get the same GINI coefficient from a large number of different distributions. But what it does measure is overall generalized economic inequality. It’s sort of a shorthand for how wide the gap is between the average rich and the average poor in society. And here’s another important thing to recognize about the GINI coefficient, is that there is a separate value for wealth versus income inequality. They’re likely to be related, but income and wealth disparities arise from different kinds of policies.
So today we’re going to focus on income inequality and its relationship to crime. And here are four scatterplots, that I’m going to put up. And this is from an article in the economist from 2018 and basically the scatterplots document the strong relationship globally between income inequality and four measures of crime.
And they are, do people lack confidence in local police? Do they feel safe walking home alone? Have they had money, or property stolen? And have they been assaulted? So unsurprisingly reports of each of these situations become much higher, the higher, the level of economic inequality is in a given country and this analysis tracks consistently around the world on every continent.
And here is a quote from the article:
“50 years ago, Gary Becker, a Nobel prize winning economist, advanced an argument that all crime is economic, and all criminals are rational. Becker’s seminal paper, crime, and punishment and economic approach. Posited that would be criminals, make a cost benefit assessment of the likely rewards from breaking the law against the probability of being caught and punished. In Becker’s world of utility, maximizing miscreants, places that have larger gaps between the poor, the would be criminals, and the rich, who are the victims, will, all other things being equal, have higher crime.”
Now this makes eminent sense to me. This is like the most obvious thing in the world, but the guy won a Nobel prize for figuring it out. And what do you think this says about Murray’s attempts to promote the idea that America’s inner city crime is race-based?
Christophe Difo: [01:27:21] Well, it just goes to what I was saying before above, right. And that is like, if you take any group of people and you put them in the position of where black people are now. You will get a similar result. Like it has nothing to do with individual’s race. I mean, it has all these factors. We we just went through these factors. It’s really an astonishing thing that you mentioned, right? It’s almost, it tracks what I just said. Lack of confidence in local police. Don’t feel safe walking home. You do not have stability. You cannot trust the government.
And this is exacerbated obviously for black folks just given the history. But if you put any person, I mean, this is also true, by the way, if you went to poor white people, you’re going to get really similar results. And of course, I understand that the numbers are far worse for black folks, poor black folks, but poor white folks, I mean, I’ve been really taken aback by seeing like the marriage numbers of poor white folks. It is really very close to marriage numbers among poor black folks. And again, it’s because in those circumstances, this is the sort of culture that tends to develop in these environments. Because there is no science in biological race, there’s no real science there. So we must find answers elsewhere. And the only other answers I think come to social environmental factors.
Sean Prophet: [01:28:33] Yeah, it has to be, and it also has to do with concentration. I think the fact that there has been red lining and there’s been segregation in this country and you have ghettos, there are probably not too many places where there are, only poor white people living concentrated into a very small area. Right.
Christophe Difo: [01:28:50] Right. Exactly.
Sean Prophet: [01:28:51] I don’t think, I think there’s so many ways to tear this apart sociologically, if you really looked into it and um, you know–
Christophe Difo: [01:28:58] That’s really important, what you said, right. Because black people were herded into ghettos in the sixties and the seventies. And red lined into ghettos. Right. So you have people living on top of each other like that. And yeah, I think that is a really important fact. And, I think it’s really telling too that we are now talking about white people dying deaths of despair, we talk about income inequality. Right. And that has been exacerbated. And as that’s happened that poverty has seeped– now it’s not just black people. Right?
Sean Prophet: [01:29:25] Right.
Christophe Difo: [01:29:25] Dying in the crack epidemic. Right. It is also now white people because that’s how bad things have gotten in terms of that inequality.
Sean Prophet: [01:29:33] Yeah. And this is the plan of neo-liberalism. I mean, this is what they wanted, is to just make people so poor and desperate, that they would turn on each other, and that they would give up hope. And so that’s exactly what’s happened.
Christophe Difo: [01:29:44] Not vote, not participate in the process. Exactly what you want. If you’re looking for minority rule.
Sean Prophet: [01:29:49] Yeah. And notably, Charles Murray also ignores that there might be a rational basis for crime in the minds of people who’ve been left behind by the free enterprise system.
Christophe Difo: [01:29:58] Exactly.
Sean Prophet: [01:29:59] In America, he goes right to genetics and essentialism, immediately. Although he goes in his book, he goes to great lengths to talk about how people feel unsafe, and are disproportionately victims of crimes in areas with high Black and Latino populations. He short-circuits his analysis by claiming basically that no matter how much the government throws at these neighborhoods, they haven’t gotten any better.
And he goes so far as to claim that the very land itself in inner cities is devalued by the presence of minority populations. And his proposal, unsurprisingly, is to get rid of those populations through gentrification. I shit you not, I mean, he actually says this. Here’s a quote. He says:
“Attempts to stimulate economic growth in places with high crime rates work only in places that are gentrifying, or can be gentrified. Over the decades since the 1960s, federal and municipal governments have periodically introduced programs that offer economic incentives for businesses to invest in the inner city. The most recent example consists of the Opportunity Zones enacted as part of the Tax Cuts And Jobs Act of 2017. The act offers capital gains tax breaks for investments in about 8,700 designated opportunity zones. The academic analyses of the results so far suggest that this initiative is producing the same unintended outcomes that have characterized previous efforts. The land occupied by the inner city really is potentially worth a lot of money if, but only if the minority residents are replaced through gentrification.”
Christophe Difo: [01:31:27] Holy fucking God.
Sean Prophet: [01:31:33] Where are these people supposed to go, man? I mean, according to Charles Murray, it seems they’ll cause the same problems wherever they go. That’s his answer. So gentrifying them out of existence seems to me to be a blatant call for elimination, which strikes me to being dangerously close to calling for genocide.
Christophe Difo: [01:31:51] Yeah. I mean, the question is where do you want these people to go? I, I hinted at that earlier on like, if you’re a libertarian, like what do you want these people to do? Like, and the only other question is like, just disappear, which that sounds terrifying. That sounds terrifying. I think it’s really interesting too, is that like you throw money at a– like, you talked about a bandaid on a bullet wound earlier, and that is, that’s what these sort of tax breaks are. Like, that’s not investing in the community and the people that are there. that’s– That’s investing in like, I don’t know, whatever business owner wants to go into that neighborhood, that’s really different. Like if people there don’t have any money to buy products, if they don’t have any hope, then what the fuck do you expect is going to happen? Of course, that’s, what’s going to happen. These are not solutions, these are band-aids.
Sean Prophet: [01:32:35] Well, and that’s exactly what they’re doing. The entire purpose of half measures is to say, “see, we tried and we failed.”
Christophe Difo: [01:32:41] Yup. Exactly.
Sean Prophet: [01:32:43] Well, we’re getting close to the end of our time. Actually we’ve kind of gone over, but I really want to nail the core of this book for what it is. Charles Murray is providing academic cover to naked threats by the American white majority, and by extension, the wealthy to make the United States ungovernable as a multicultural nation. And so what this book is then is a policy manual for white minority rule, through a combination of undemocratic tactics that range from voter suppression to outright violence and treason, such as we saw on January 6th, 2021.
And if the country does become ungovernable, of course we know who we’re supposed to blame. Um, Murray justifies this by painting a lurid picture of what would happen if the structures of white supremacy breakdown, by using the most racist of all metaphors, the return to the jungle.
Christophe Difo: [01:33:28] Unbelievable.
Sean Prophet: [01:33:29] His last chapter is titled if we don’t face reality. And this is where his victim complex is really exposed. And his true agenda is revealed to be far more than an academic exercise. And where he uses the most purple prose that veers into polemic. He says, quote:
“The new ideologues of the far left are akin to the Red Guards of Mao’s great proletarian cultural revolution of the 1960s, and they are coming for all of us.”
Christophe Difo: [01:33:53] Unbelievable.
Sean Prophet: [01:33:54] “Scholars are criticized, not for the quality of their work, but for its failure to advance the cause of social justice. Work seen as hostile to that cause is met with calls for the scholars’ dismissal. The pushback has been so feeble in part because no one has been willing to say the systemically racist America you portrayed doesn’t exist. Identity politics is an existential threat to the American experiment. If working-class and middle-class whites adopt identity politics, disaster follows. The American experiment is fragile. It has always been fragile, and always will be fragile, because it is so extremely unnatural. Unnatural in this context means in conflict with human nature. Jonah Goldberg has described the fragility of the American system by comparing it to a garden hacked out of a tropical jungle. A garden surrounded by jungle is unnatural. The gardeners must tend it with unremitting care, lest the jungle return. America proved that a durable alternative to the natural form of government was possible. A constitutional Republic combined with carefully circumscribed democracy.”
Christophe Difo: [01:35:00] A carefully circumscribed democracy?
Sean Prophet: [01:35:03] What does he mean by that? I don’t know.
Christophe Difo: [01:35:04] What the fuck does that mean?
Sean Prophet: [01:35:08] So he concludes this is like the closing paragraph,
“The introduction of identity politics into that carefully crafted constitutional system does not simply distract us from warding off the jungle. It is the jungle. The primitive sense of us against them pressing in upon the garden. It not only permits, but insists that the power of the state be used to reward favored groups at the expense of everyone else.”
Christophe Difo: [01:35:34] I just, , what do you even say to that? Like, you know, what do you even say to something like that? It’s– circumscribed democracy. I mean, that is basically just saying the quiet part out loud, right?
Sean Prophet: [01:35:50] They’re all saying the quiet part out loud. I mean, from Trump all the way down, they’re all saying, yeah. They don’t want everybody to vote.
Christophe Difo: [01:35:57] They don’t want everybody to vote. I mean, that is what they’re saying. And this idea that– one of the fundamental flaws, there’s a lot of fundamental flaws here. One of the most galling ones, is this idea that there hasn’t been a preferred group in this country. What are you talking about? The entire history of this country is the oppression of everyone else by a preferred group, identity politics. Whiteness has been the unspoken part of identity politics, since the fucking very beginnings– since the beginning of this country, it has been unspoken identity politics. Fuck that. That is bullshit. Every white person. From the very beginning knows they’re not black, right?
Sean Prophet: [01:36:38] Yeah.
Christophe Difo: [01:36:38] Don’t tell me, everybody knows that, right. And every black person knows they’re not white. And so it’s basically, what he’s doing is trying to ignore the systemic, built in hierarchies that are part of this country. And like we’ve said, at the top of this show, have been intentionally crafted in this country over and over again. And he just ignores it and says, oh, now, all of a sudden, they’re doing all this identity politics, again saying the quiet part out loud. That is an astonishing, astonishing quote, man. That is just, it makes me sick.
Sean Prophet: [01:37:09] Yeah. And that’s not even the worst of it. His final words in the book represent the ultimate revisionist history that America was founded as a nation of equality under the law, to which he implores us to return. And we know that’s not true. There is no return. The only return there is this to outright white supremacy and wealth supremacy. I mean, the U S was founded to empower only white male landowners. We know that in the beginning, women could not vote. We know there was slavery. We know that black slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person, even though they couldn’t vote, to boost the power of Southern congressional delegations. These are explicit things in the Constitution that America was founded on. And yet Charles Murray closes out his book with these words, which I find nothing short of despicable, quote:
“The return to an embrace of the American creed must be a celebration of America’s original, ideal of equality under the law.”
Fuck you. That’s such a lie.
“We must reaffirm the American creed explicitly and quickly, or this country will become just another big power, like other big powers governed with all the historic oppressions that America tried to cast off.”
End quote. I got nothing, man. Any final thoughts from you?
Christophe Difo: [01:38:24] I mean, I mean, what I want to do is just like laugh, slash cry scream, because. This kind of, and I’ll return to what I keep hammering back at, because this is the way the conservatives look at the world in general. But the problem here is that it’s sort of couched in this– slathered with this veneer of intellectual uh, intellectual rigor, and academic rigor. And that’s what makes it dangerous. That’s what makes it disgusting and particularly offensive, particularly offensive. Um, And this guy is a fucking snowflake. Fuck this guy.
Yeah. Well that about wraps it up for today. If you like our show, make sure to subscribe, leave a review and tell your friends to listen. New episodes post Mondays at noon, Eastern on YouTube and all the major podcast channels. We also publish new articles weekly in our journal at The Radical Secular dot com. I’m Sean Prophet. Thank you for being here and remember wherever you are, you can be radically secular.
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