Saturday, May 25, 2013

Don't go there!

Razib Khan (writing as David Hume at Secular Right) deals sensibly – but gingerly – with a controversy regarding a Harvard PhD dissertation on IQ, race and immigration. He is "not keen to get deeply involved", because, he says, so much has been said already about the affair in question. But I suspect his reluctance may have other causes as well, for there are clear disincentives in play for right-leaning moderates to discuss certain sensitive issues.

Razib also made a more general point about academic manners and assumptions which I strongly endorse.

"As a non-liberal with some affiliation with academia," he writes, "I’m in a peculiar position. I get to observe people blithely confusing their normative presuppositions with the basic background assumptions of the average person."

This leads them to suspect anyone whose opinions are out of line with theirs on certain litmus issues to be an extremist.

Which leads me to another topic entirely, but one which serves to illustrate the above points: the recent suicide of Dominique Venner in the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.

As it happens, I have some knowledge of the French far right (including a couple of Venner's former associates), but I hesitate to write on the topic because even a balanced and quite dispassionate account would likely be interpreted in academic circles as some kind of endorsement of fascism.

The way one is supposed to deal with this sort of topic – if one deals with it at all – is to do it in the way David Sessions did it, writing at The Daily Beast. Sessions's analysis carries useful information but is heavily loaded with moral outrage and left-wing signaling to protect the author against any suggestion that he feels anything other than the greatest possible repugnance for the man in question and his ideas, and indeed for anyone associated with the French right.

Sessions talks, for example, of the Algerian conflict of the 1950s and early 60s having "further radicalized the already hysterically right-wing pieds-noirs, the French settlers in Algeria who, at the end of the bloody war, uprooted themselves from generations of history and moved en masse to metropolitan France. Though they successfully assimilated into French culture, they often supported the country’s emerging far-right party, the Front National…" Do we really need the "hysterically right-wing"? (And that was before they were further radicalized.)

What leftists and politically-correct journalists don't seem to understand is that the hidden constraints on speech which have arisen over recent decades create pressures which are felt not just by educated moderates (like me) but also by less well-educated people of conservative disposition who are liable to react to such perceived constraints – spurred on, perhaps, by dramatic events like Venner's suicide – in unpredictable and possibly violent ways.