Racial supremacy is a fairly taboo topic in the media. That’s why William Saletan thought it was exciting to tell liberals that they were no better than creationists if they failed to accept the “studies” done by white supremacist J. Philippe Rushton. It’s also why Andrew Sullivan and George Will thought it was exciting to promote The Bell Curve. It doesn’t matter that there is little-to-no scientific evidence for any of it. What matters is that taking on an edgy topic like this proves you are a brave media maverick.
But I’d argue that Saletan’s and Sullivan’s flirtations with white supremacy are mostly symptomatic of the general Slate/TNR fetish for contrarianism. Sure, you think that white supremacist notions are just for bigots, but once you get past the conventional wisdom of our hippie overlords blah blah blah. In particular, Saletan’s white supremacist piece could just as easily have been a multi-part treatise on why Creed is underrated.
The popularity of Steve Sailer among principled, intellectually honest conservatives is much more troubling. Sailer writes for site called VDARE.com; the name is taken from the name of the first
white English child born in North America. After Hurricane Katrina, Sailer wrote
What you won’t hear, except from me, is that ‘Let the good times roll’ is an especially risky message for African-Americans. The plain fact is that they tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups. Thus they need stricter moral guidance from society.
(This was criticized harshly by Jon Podhoretz — I’m certainly not claiming that all conservatives agree with Sailer.)
I’ve mentioned before that David Brooks has cited Sailer’s work (in passing) in his Times column. Well, it turns out that Jon Tierney once based a good chunk of a column on Steve Sailer’s estimates of Bush’s and Kerry’s IQs (Sailer estimated that Bush’s was four points higher, something Tierney — now a Times science reporter — thought this massive IQ gap would be Bush’s “secret weapon”, I kid you not). Of course, one could argue that they didn’t know really know who Sailer was and that, in Tierney’s case, it’s pretty likely that he was also engaging in Slate/TNR contrarianism.
But here’s something striking: when he was at the Atlantic, Ross Douthat linked to Steve Sailer at least eight times (here; here; here; here; here; here; here; here; here), approvingly in each case. Douthat also wrote that “….Will Saletan bravely attempts a summary of the emerging scientific consensus on racial differences in intelligence, another issue where the left doesn’t much care for science has to say” (Douthat later semi-retracted).
I’m just a shrill vituperative D-list blogger, so I don’t expect anyone to reply to this, but Andrew Sullivan, Matt Yglesias, and the rest of the At Pack: you have spent a lot of time promoting Douthat, did you ever call him out on his frequent links to Steve Sailer and Vdare.com?
And can we all stop pretending that there isn’t a sizable racial supremacist component to much of mainstream conservatism?
Update. Balloon-Juice favorite Daniel Larison also has VDARE on his blogroll. VDARE publishes a lot of stuff, much of it crazy, but I am not sure that it is all crazy. So I don’t know what to make of this exactly.
Update. Loneoak makes a good point in the comments:
When the Sailer zombie meets the Bobo sociology, bad things happen. Because Bobo/Douthat/respectable conservatives are not bound to standards of rigor in their observations of human behavior, it is far too easy for them to pick up on ‘science’ that conforms to their weaksauce sociology. This is not to say that sociology could not ever support politically conservative politics, but rather that our toxic media atmosphere only supports conservative pundits who can effortlessly repackage ‘common wisdom’ about human behavior as ‘hard truths.’ Because we live in a society whose ‘common wisdom’ is often white supremacist, the Sailer-Bob nexus is any ugly one.