In 1994, Charles Murray, with funding from the eugenicist and racialist Pioneer Foundation, co-authored The Bell Curve – a nasty piece of bigoted pseudoscience in which he and co-author Richard Herrnstein concluded that the plight of African Americans was due to genetic inferiority. Now comes Mr. Murray’s latest pseudoscientific effort to provide cover to corporate/economic elites for failure to meet the needs of working class Americans (black, white, brown or otherwise) while they – the elites – enrich themselves at an unprecedented rate. He has compiled completely biased and unscientific research into his latest tome entitled Coming Apart. In this book, he blames working class suffering on unwise and immoral behavior on the part of the working class itself.
Ensconced along with other “neo-conservatives” at the ultra-right-wing American Enterprise Institute, Murray’s role is to produce junk science for the purpose of explaining why the poor are poor and the rich are rich. What is really annoying about the appearance of this type of corporate shilling through propaganda and pseudoscience is the reaction of liberal writers such as Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times (see “The Decline of White Workers, NYT Op. Ed., February 9, 2012).
Journalists like Kristof write about anything that comes into their minds, regardless of whether or not they understand the topics in enough depth. When it comes to Charles Murray’s bigotry, this is nothing new. Consider, for instance, a favorable 1994 New York Times Book review of three books by known racialist crackpots (including Charles Murray). The reviews, entitled “What is Intelligence & Who Has It?” were written by former science reporter Malcom Browne.
As a statistics professor with a fair amount of research background in racial issues, I read the Bell Curve and the other works (they are still on my bookshelf) because of the quantitative and testing claims put forth by the authors. Furthermore, the premises on which Murray and Herrnstein based their “African-American inferiority” theory were supported by IQ testing and the interpretation of results from such testing. At the time, I was professionally engaged in evaluating mental measurements for an educational consulting organization.
I had discovered that all of the authors had received funding from the white supremacist and eugenecist Pioneer Foundation, which had provided the racialist philosophical underpinnings for German Nazis’ policies. I also discerned that all three works were merely a rehash of the racialist IQ theories used to justify extermination of Jews and a variety of other people deemed undesirable by the Hitlerian regime.
I wrote Malcome Browne a letter in which I expressed dismay that he would do a “puff piece” on books extolling the theoretical framework for Nazi extermination. In a letter dated October 20, 1994 – still in my files – Browne responded to my complaints by saying, amongst other things, the following: “I have no patience with those who would halt research on grounds that it is tainted by the errors of its practitioners.” This said to me that he didn’t understand the issues, the history, or the science of IQ theories as they have been applied to ethnic groups. Furthermore, it is typical of the ill informed journalist – liberal or otherwise – who thinks it is courageous and even a bit cool to jump in on the side of research in which a modern economic class or ethnic group is stereotyped as inferior or at fault for their own plight.
Nicholas Kristof and Charles Murray are both quite wealthy. Obviously, neither of them have any sensitivity to the desperation, depression, hopelessness, and despair besetting millions upon millions of middle and low income Americans. I do know that Murray is highly paid by his corporate bosses for putting out stuff that covers up the real causes of under and unemployment and all of the human distresses that accompany it.
It is our job as thinking Americans to push back on propaganda designed to justify increasing economic inequality. It is important to arm ourselves with objective data and research and let journalists like Kristof know what we think of his misguided attempt to be a cool, intellectually independent, tough minded thinker. It would be OK if he were that if he knew enough about the subject and had an inkling about economic oppression.