Charles Murray at Middlebury

The coverage in the Washington Post and in the New York Times was meager, with no follow-up op-eds.

The Times story, to its credit, says in the lead paragraph that it was “an encounter that turned violent and left one faculty member injured.” The Post story, which was buried deep in the paper (or maybe only appeared on line?) waits until the 6th paragraph to say that it “felt like it was edging frighteningly close to violence.”

On the other hand, the Times very early in the story quotes the Southern Poverty Law Center accusing the Murray of being a “white nationalist.” That is an irresponsible allegation coming from an unreliable source.

My thoughts:

1. In the view of conservatives, this is a very important story. I am pretty sure that a staff of reporters and editors that was more ideologically balanced would have given the story more prominence.

2. In terms of the three-axes model, this story feeds the worst fears of conservatives, which is that in the struggle between civilization and barbarism, progressives are on the wrong side.

3. Megan McArdle writes,

when it comes to physical violence, however noble the cause, that’s assault, not speech, and the perpetrators should be arrested.

The problem is that college administrators do not think in those terms. If you think that a college is capable of punishing violent demonstrators, you will be disappointed. For the most part, college administrators believe in hand-wringing and therapy, as opposed to punishment.

If I were in charge at a college, I would have real police at the event, and I would announce that protestors would be given five minutes to peacefully yell whatever they want. Following that, disturbing the peace will be dealt with by the authorities.

But that approach is about as alien to today’s college administrator as a visitor from Mars.

4. This incident will greatly reduce the likelihood of conservative speakers being invited to college campuses. Administrations do now want to risk being embarrassed by radical protests, and the best way to avoid that risk is to avoid having prominent conservative speakers. I may not be quite so prominent, and I only get one or two invitations a year, but my guess is that I have received my last invitation.

5. College politics can provide a prelude to national politics. Gender identity was a big issue on campus before it flared up on the national scene. The anti-Israel wing of the Democratic Party today looks a lot like the anti-Israel movement that emerged on college campuses several years ago. If conservatives are treated as unacceptable and violence against them becomes the norm on colleges, then there is a risk that this will spread well beyond the campus.

6. Late in 2015, I started to write a novel in which a left-wing movement became increasingly violent. I shelved it, because I did not have experience writing fiction (not even short stories), and I was making things too complex for a rookie writer. Also, only one person to whom I showed a draft gave me any encouragement. Still, many of the sorts of left-fascist rationalizations and behaviors that I was going to speculate on in the novel have become more manifest in the past year.

7. All that said, there is a non-zero chance that the Murray incident was isolated, and that it has no larger significance. I hope it turns out that way.

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26 Responses to Charles Murray at Middlebury

  1. Dave the Liver says:

    Libertarians love racists.

    • Andrew' says:

      You jumped the shark a while back. You are why Trump won.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      Only if reality is racist.

      By which I mean, if there are some differences between groups that some have called races, and if those differences lead to different outcomes, the libertarian says, “Okay.” If all Olympic finalists in the 100 meters for the last 40 years have ancestors from west Africa, the libertarian does not lose sleep over the lack of whites or Asians or east Africans.

      • Andrew' says:

        They don’t deserve an explanation.

        They really deserve a punch in the face, but we are better than they are.

        • Andrew' says:

          Calling someone a racist can get them physically attacked and at the very least cost them employment.

          We don’t complain about professors on campus giving aid and comfort to fringe elements that don’t exist.

          Professors ARE socialists and students are dumb and impulsive and ready to rumble.

  2. Andrew' says:

    Another thing that is so darkly humorous is that the Nazis weren’t even all that racist. They were first-and-foremost against global violent revolutionary socialism. No socialism, no Nazis. And worse, what if Germany had defeated the Soviet Union? Possible that they would not have felt compelled to exterminate undesirables and the rest of the world would probably have been better off.

    It is impossible to extricate the racism from the war which was largely an ill-conceived defense against socialism.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_concentration_camps
    “The number of people in camps, which had fallen to 7,500, grew again to 21,000 by the start of World War II[6] and peaked at 715,000 in January 1945.[7]”

    • Andrew' says:

      I didn’t even know that was going to be the case before I started writing. You can “know” a lot of history just by understanding human nature.

      We do a lot of hand-wringing over the idea that if person A states a truth, person B will distort it into a lie, and then person C will do something stupid based on what B said.

      But this is a solved issue: freedom of speech + personal responsibility. I am not responsible for person C.

  3. djf says:

    When Arnold says that invitations to conservatives to speak on campus will stop, he seems to assume that the school administration is extending the invitations. In fact, these invitations almost always come from conservative or libertarian groups on campus, as was the case with Murray. Presumably, these groups will continue extending the invitations, even if the administrators figure out ways to prevent the events from taking place.

    I am certain that if rightwing hotheads tried to shut down a campus speech by some leftist figure, any college or university would not hesitate to call in the cops and have them break heads, if necessary, nor would they have any compunction about imposing harsh discipline on any students involved. University administrators are not generally opposed to “punishment” (see e.g. the star chamber proceedings to which alleged “rapists” are subjected), but to appearing not to be wholeheartedly on the side of the “progressive” agenda.

    Calling Murray a “white nationalist” is not an “irresponsible allegation,” it is a lie.

    • Andrew' says:

      The news gets away with lying by quoting useful idiots like the hate group SPLC .

      • djf says:

        I agree, but I was objecting to Arnold’s calling this lie an “irresponsible allegation,” which is a radical understatement.

  4. BenK says:

    In the end, what is required is simply that universities start trying to educate young gentlemen again; and conduct unbecoming is grounds for dismissal. This includes anything but absolute polite treatment of guests, no matter who they may be. It is hospitality, not an endorsement.

  5. Handle says:

    Sometimes you concede being less charitable than your typical target level. But in this post you’ve reached peak charitability.

    First there is the kid gloves with the press coverage. It’s just simple intentional lying to call Charles Murray a white nationalist, and everybody knows it. And it’s conspiracy to fraud to cite the SPLC as a source for anything.

    Indeed, the protesters were chanting the mantra, “Charles Murray go away. Racist. Sexist. Anti-gay.” All three of these accusations are false, but anti-gay is particularly absurd. They added it in only because it rhymes with “go away.”

    And it’s become quite clear that universities are perfectly ready, willing, and able to punish students when they actually want to. Colleges do suspend and expel students over offense incidents, check out FIRE’s website. Look at the kangaroo courts in the wake of the infamous Dear Colleague letter. Observe also how the University of Virginia swiftly and harshly treated fraternities after the Jackie Coakley / Rolling Stone fraud. Middlebury banned fraternities outright several years ago, and Harvard has told its students that even membership in private, non-campus-affiliated single sex social organizations and finals clubs would be sufficient to make them ineligible for leadership positions and certain other awards that are coveted resume items – a ban they appear to be taking completely seriously.

    How to reconcile these inconsistent enthusiasms for enforcement? The Occam’s Razor explanation is that plenty of faculty and administrators of these universities fully support what the Berkeley and Middlebury ‘no-platforming’ rioters were doing. Indeed, some are so brazen as to endorse and defend the actions of these criminals in public media, but most are prudently reluctant to blow their cover so explicitly, and pretend to opposition with the minimum plausible amount of faked tsk-tsking.

  6. Lord says:

    We may see more of this. There used to be the belief that rational minds could discuss facts and arrive at approximate truth even if they differed on goals and values. The take over by politics has shown denial of facts combined with motivated reasoning dominates and the only suasion many accept is forceful experience and emotional vehemence.

  7. JK Brown says:

    These campus speakers are an anachronism. They continue as either an act of vanity or an act of renumeration. They are a step back to the heyday of the traveling intellectual of the late 19th to late 20th century. In that time, in person performance was really the only way to “have” interesting speakers. Video/audio recordings just weren’t up to snuff. But today, an interactive virtual venue is trivial to set up. Recordings are easy to make and “free” to distribute. It was nice to see that finally a speaker did seek to use technology to overcome the suppression of the live event.

    As for Middlebury, of course the feckless university refuses to act, but a professor was injured. She has cause to file a criminal complaint independent of the university and pursue civil damages that could at least attach the student’s future earnings for a significant period. That none of that has happened is evidence that these events are not something either side want to solve.

  8. Oliver says:

    The behavior of the Middlebury students, faculty and administration toward Murray is shameful. Those who assaulted Murray and Allison Stranger should be expelled and arrested for assault. However, Arnold is mistaken about the New York Times. They had an editorial on this incident earlier this week:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/07/opinion/smothering-speech-at-middlebury.html
    And they carried an op-ed by Frank Bruni in today’s paper.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/11/opinion/sunday/the-dangerous-safety-of-college.html

  9. B. Reynolds says:

    It still amazes me that the relic of traditional college education is still something that a large number of people demand. Given how expensive, time-consuming, and inefficient bachelor’s degrees are, you’d think that alternatives would be much further along than they are.

    I suspect that the change, if it comes, would only happen in the middle income and lower-middle income ranks. Upper and upper-middle income students and parents are going to continue to value the status attached to a more expensive school.

    Perhaps that’s why we’ve not seen a greater threat to this system: changes, if they are to occur, happen where the money is.

  10. collin says:

    And should have had more discussions about the Kansas murders of Indian Immigrants? That story had less coverage than Charles Murrary and made headlines in India.

    The Charles Murray was a relatively small story and probably was the best thing that happened to Charles Murray’s career in the last 10 years.

  11. asdf says:

    Let’s give Charles Murray his due. The Bell Curve, and his subsequent work, are incredibly accurate predictions and show that he cares about the corrosive effects of important social trends on large swaths of people and our national institutions. I doubt the man could put out the volume of work he has if he was heartless or a shill.

    That said, Murray has zero accomplishments. Nothing in his books has moved the national conversation or had a material impact on policy. All of the trends he has warned about got worse.

    I wouldn’t say that its just because Murray is out in the wilderness. Most of the mainstream GOPe was pretty close to him on belief and policy for the last twenty years. The AEI kept him on at his job. They just don’t get explicit about IQ. They muttered something about NAM “culture” in place of “IQ” and then basically weren’t that different from Murray in prescriptions.

    I believe this is in part because Murray served as a kind of vaccine against meaningful action. You could read him, accept facts about IQ differences, but then go on your way thinking that you either didn’t need to do anything or what you needed to do wasn’t that urgent or important. Amnesty for illegals? Why not, its the libertarian thing. Like the last amnesty we’ll say something vague about securing the border, but that’ll work out about as well as the last time it was used to justify amnesty.

    Murray-ism in effect soothed those that could do the math against radical changes that were happening underfoot. When I learned about HBD it made me re-evaluate all sorts of beliefs, and I abandoned my libertarianism. Murray wants you to know that learning these things doesn’t require you to change anything you don’t really want to. It’s not functionally different from being ignorant of the matter, which shows you how little he’s really thought through the implications of his own data.

    His opponents get it though. Murray says you “don’t have to judge people as a group, but as an individual.” However, individuals form groups. Those groups push their interested economically, culturally, socially, and politically. Pretending this isn’t true isn’t an example of enlightenment, but ignorance. This ignorance is part of why his POV has been getting farther and farther away from the mainstream for twenty years.

    Murray’s methods for trying to convince people he’s not a racist haven’t gotten any more effective in the last twenty years. They boil down to:

    1) I don’t just think whites are smarter then you, I also think Asians are smarter then you too.

    2) Look at my (former) Asian wife.

    For some reason finding out that another group of color is smarter then your own didn’t make any minorities happy. It also didn’t impress “good whites” all that much and it did little to either address or confront what drives them. Even Asians didn’t care all that much.

    It also left a very hard question for Murray. Someone might go to Asia and realize something important, that Asians are racists. It’s really obvious living there. It’s also strongly embedded in their policies and culture. They allow zero immigration.

    They also aren’t obsessed with IQ. Every year lots of decent IQ white people show up in Japan to teach English, then are kicked out when their term is up. Asia isn’t trying to import all the right side of the bell curve people they can from wherever they can. It’s almost as if they think there is more to being a society and culture then IQ scores.

    What’s especially strange too is that The Bell Curve was theoretically about how we should be afraid of forming some kind of IQ aristocracy. Similar to what Kurt Vonnegut worried about in Player Piano. And yet his immigration policy boils down to IQ-ism. Not even particularly selective IQ-ism (we could accept all the +3SD geniuses the world has to offer and still be at way lower numbers then we get from just Asia today). If we are having a hard time bridging the cultural gap between people that share a long national history, how much harder is it going to be with a bunch of newcomers that feel no affinity towards the rest of the country?

    Murray hasn’t made any progress in twenty years because his ideas are incoherent and idealogical. It seems unlikely that constantly hiding behind his former Asian wife is going to change that. The Bell Curve culminated in a blog ghetto that has no effect on the outside world that moves on without it.

    • collin says:

      Obviously, Charles Murray has accomplished a lot over the years and there are probably some truths of the Bell Curve. (Otherwise I am not a fan of IQ test and a lot of the US past history created this IQ difference. Also I believe there was some regulation issues with the inner city that don’t exist today and minorities are no longer below this Bell Curve.)

      However, I believe the forces that created the Bell Curve against inner city African-American in 1980s and eary 90s have now turned against the WWC rural populations. In 2016, the economic forces turned against these communities for slow growth the last couple generations so the smart WWC got the hell out in 1970 – 2000s. (My business leader is from dirt poor WV.) So what happened against inner city African-Americans happened to WWC a generation later.

      However, I don’t see a lot of conservatives telling these voters to pull their pants up but tend to blame the problems of WV on the coastal liberal elite and illegal immigrants picking seasonal agriculture. I sure some of the ICE activity might increase local wages (oddly enough the local minority residents) but it will not bring the factories back to the Rust Belt.

    • collin says:

      I do find it really weird that the latest drug epidemic is hitting white populations more than minority populations. I am surprised that it has hit the cities as hard as rural populations. That has not been true for the last 100 years.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      That said, Murray has zero accomplishments. Nothing in his books has moved the national conversation or had a material impact on policy.

      That statement is certainly wrong. Murray’s <i.Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980 had a tremendous influence. It was one of the reasons that “ending welfare as we know it” was pushed for by a Democratic president and passed by Congress in 1996. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act has had a big effect.

  12. Massimo Heitor says:

    College administrations can punish violent protesters: that’s easy. Celebrate Charles Murray, declare his ideologies victorious, build a statue of him, name buildings after him, have him speak at commencement ceremonies, put his picture on diplomas and student aid packages, etc. The current administration may not have that willpower or mindset, but it’s not hard to do.

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