Apologies for borrowing the title of this article from one my favorite Pink Panther cartoons, but it seems as appropriate as ever. The AltRight was quick to embrace Harvard professor Steven Pinker’s recent remarks referring to them as “highly intelligent and internet savvy.” This was somewhat laughable to me, as it should be clear to anyone with the least bit of critical thinking skills that in the overall context,(as Jesse Singal correctly observed) Pinker was saying that people in the AltRight held incorrect views and were simply just not exposed to the powerful counter arguments and explanations which would refute their ideas. He referred to them or (or those potentially susceptible to persuasion toward their way of thinking) as lacking the necessary facts which would provide ideological immunity toward embracing identitarian views.
Now you might think at this point that someone as intelligent as Pinker must hold some kind of trump (small t) card and that these counter arguments he has must be devastating. Well, far from me to come off like an anti-vaxxer, but let’s just say that the “immunity” that Pinker offers to inject you with consists mainly of the same basic bitch arguments you’ve likely already heard a thousand times already and rejected.
Allow me to give a couple of examples:
Pinker claims that the “the majority of domestic terrorism is committed by right-wing extremist groups.” First off, this statement is rather vague and misleading in and of itself. For one thing, Muslims represent a tiny percentage of the population relative to whites and other demographics, so who commits the “majority” of domestic terrorist acts isn’t the most relevant statistic. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
A. Muslims commit terrorism at a rate which is vastly disproportionate to their percentage of the population.
B. Islamic groups self identify as Muslims and almost always clearly state their religious motivations for carrying out their attacks, whereas “right-wing extremist group” or “white supremacist” are dubious, subjective classifications often attributed by third parties and which may or may not be accurate or even have served as primary motivations for the attacks.
C. The media and the government frequently downplay Islamic violent acts, to sustain the narrative, minimize panic and prevent the dreaded backlash against Muslims. Often attacks will be comically categorized as “workplace violence” and the Islamic component of the crime will be ignored, even when explicitly stated by the perp as an inspiration for committing the act.
D. When Pinker says “the majority of domestic terrorism is committed by right-wing extremist groups,” what metric is he using? Are we talking body counts or number of incidents? Can we really give the same weight to an incident like 9/11 where 3000 people were killed to a situation where someone whom happens to be AltRight panics and drives into some people while his car is being surrounded and attacked? I’m looking over the list of recent domestic terrorist incidents, and I’m just not seeing a whole lot of “right-wing extremist groups” or even whites being implicated. There is the Vegas shooting of course, but as yet we have no information as to the motive.
E. Unlike other forms of domestic terrorism, Islamic terrorism is almost entirely preventable. It’s like “bonus” terrorism. The 9/11 hijackers were all here on temporary visas. If we did not continue to import people (whom we do not benefit from anyway) from Islamic countries, our risk for this particular brand of terrorism would be greatly reduced. Since these people explicitly state their hostility toward western values and express no desire to assimilate to our cultural and social norms, one wonders what the point is.
Another factoid Pinker touts as some kind of antidote to AltRight ideas is that even though Blacks commit a disproportionate amount of violent crime, the Irish also once had high crime rates, therefore it’s possible for groups’ criminality to change over time. Okay sure, but so what? A few points:
A. What parameters are we talking about? The Irish once had higher crime rates, but what was the murder/violent sexual assault rate relative to the rate among blacks for the same types of crimes? This would be useful information to know. Italians also were once over represented in crime. It’s perhaps telling though, that the nature of their criminality was vastly different from that of blacks. Italian crime took the form of organized and sophisticated syndicates which often involved committing murders and robberies in association with those activities. The mob built and managed casino resort hotels though. It didn’t rape old ladies or kill random people on the street for 5 bucks. There was a degree of impulse control and future time orientation in play even within the criminal element.
B. While crime rates do fluctuate among groups depending upon their circumstances and cultural environment, the violent crime rate among blacks is consistently higher throughout the entire world, remaining elevated, spanning over a wide variety of countries and radically different environments. Sure, it’s certainly possible that over the next 80 years, the violent crime rate among blacks will be greatly reduced…but so what? Why are we obligated to subject ourselves to it in the meantime and accept this finality as a given. It’s a bet I didn’t agree to take. Since the vast majority of blacks have little interest in assuming any responsibility for their own behavior and would rather blame white people, wouldn’t it make more sense to go our separate ways and allow blacks the self-determination to flourish to remove whites as a variable in their equation for success/failure? Then in 80 years, after nations like Haiti have advanced space programs, established functioning sewage systems and can sustain violent crime rates equal to those of poor white communities if West Virginia, perhaps we can revisit the possibility of multiracial integration. If in 80 years blacks have demonstrated they have the ability to act civilized and courteous in public in accordance with western ideals, then we can give it another go.
C. Using the argument of Irish or Italian crime fluctuation is unlikely to persuade people with potentially AltRight leanings to embrace multiracialism or mass immigration from non-white countries. In fact, most people who hold these views believe that allowing migrants from Italy, Greece, etc into the US was a mistake to begin with (I say this as someone whose 1/4 Italian by the way.) These migrant waves did irreparably transform the country in culturally undesirable ways for the Anglos who were here at the time, and they had every right to resist being overwhelmed by them. Just because the status quo seems “normal” to us in the contemporary, that isn’t inherently indicative of it being an improvement for those who pre-existed its manifestation. As F Scott Fitzgerald (part Irish!) wrote in This Side of Paradise:
When Amory went to Washington the next week-end he caught some of the spirit of crisis which changed to repulsion in the Pullman car coming back, for the berths across from him were occupied by stinking aliens-Greeks, he guessed, or Russians. He thought how much easier patriotism had been to a homogeneous race, how much easier it would have been to fight as the Colonies fought, or as the Confederacy fought. And he did no sleeping that night, but listened to the aliens guffaw and snore while they filled the car with the heavy scent of latest America.
It’s been nearly 100 years since This Side of Paradise was published, and Fitzgerald’s sentiments still ring as true as ever, while Pinker’s ideological inoculations carry the familiar scent of snake oil.
Brandon Adamson is the author of Beatnik Fascism