Monday, November 12, 2007
History Repeats Itself
Mona Charen's most recent column reminds me of journalism meant for children and young adults from my youth except for a few particulars:
The Oct. 1, 2007, issue featured a cover story titled "Iran: The Other Side of the World?" The piece begins by introducing Mohammad Reza Moqaddam, a 15-year-old resident of Qom, who "speaks quietly and respectfully" and prays five times a day. "A lot of young people these days have distanced themselves from religion," he relates. "I would like them to be much closer to it." Mohammad pays close attention to the news though, and offers the view that "Even if Iran wants nuclear weapons, it's none of the other countries' business. Some of them have nuclear weapons themselves."All you'd need to do to complete my sense of deja vu would be to replace all references to Iran with references to Soviet Russia, and replace admiration of the religiosity Islam with praise for the collectivism of communism.
Okay, so when do we get to the part where it is explained that even if young Mohammad wants a neutral take on the news, he cannot get it in Iran where the press is rigidly controlled by the regime? Nowhere. Where does it explain that Iran is the world's fourth-largest oil supplier and therefore scarcely in need of "peaceful nuclear power"? You won't find that either.
The article (written by Roxana Saberi, a reporter for National Public Radio) explains that Iran has been "at odds" with America since the revolution of 1979, which forced out the "U.S.-backed Shah" and brought to power a government "based on strict Islamic principles." But she doesn't mention that Ayatollah Khomeini and his mobs denounced the United States as the "great Satan" and chanted "Death to America." The hostage crisis, in which armed militants, possibly including the current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, held 52 American diplomats for 444 days, goes unmentioned until a glancing reference at the end of the article under Iranian history.
The altruist-collectivist press is once again attempting to exploit the innocent good will of children by ignoring the fact that there are fundamental differences between the West and its collectivist enemy of the moment.
The schtick is all too familiar: (1) Emphasize some banal and inconsequential similarities between ordinary people there and ordinary people here to create empathy. (2) Tout the moral "superiority" of the others, based on their more consistent adherence to the altruistic portion of the inconsistent mixture of egoism and altruism most Americans live by. (3) Ignore anything the enemy might have done (or be planning to do), while treating any American suspicions or plans for self-defense (such as they are) as evidence of the malevolent nature of America.
This is not to say that there aren't good people living in nations which threaten the United States. However, to fail to oppose tyranny is to endanger our own freedom and lives as well as to fail to protest the fact that people who really are "just like us" are living under tyranny. Such reporting is thus doubly obscene.
Oil Meets Socialism
In a comment, Dismuke pointed me to a long, but very interesting article from The International Herald Tribune about how Hugo Chavez is in the process of running his state's main industry into the ground. Among other things is the following tidbit:
Almost $14 billion is spent at the sole discretion of Chavez. Much of the money goes to the Fund for National Development, or Fonden, an offbudget fund controlled by Chavez, which also takes foreign reserves from the Central Bank. Fonden's Web site in July listed 130 projects - infrastructure, foreign aid, some social projects like health clinics - as well as the purchase of helicopters, submarine technology, assault rifles and plants to build other munitions. The list was taken off the Web site shortly after it drew notice in the press and was replaced by a list containing no arms purchases. What Fonden actually buys, for how much, from whom and through what process is a mystery. [bold added]This revelation comes along with much more additional evidence that Chavez is not investing enough in the state petroleum company for it to continue growing, or perhaps even to maintain its operations at their current levels. Dismuke notes that the reporter is clearly sympathetic to socialism, and yet does deserve credit for reporting that this is a disaster in the making.
Bad Joke in the New York Times
If you want to save money at the barber, this bit of leftist hand-wringing over research into genetic differences between the races will help you along in your endeavor by making you want to pull your hair out!
No matter that the link between I.Q. and those particular bits of DNA was unconfirmed, or that other high I.Q. snippets are more common in Africans, or that hundreds or thousands of others may also affect intelligence, or that their combined influence might be dwarfed by environmental factors. Just the existence of such genetic differences between races, proclaimed the author of the Half Sigma blog, a 40-year-old software developer, means "the egalitarian theory," that all races are equal, "is proven false."I haven't followed the link, but it is clear from the article that some racists will employ any genetic differences that come up as "evidence" to bolster their views if they haven't done so already. That's predictable and ultimately uninteresting.
What is interesting is how paranoid the left is about this, and ironically, the answer is right there at the end of the paragraph in the quote from the blog: The left is not fundamentally in favor of individual rights, but it is egalitarian, and dogmatically so, to boot.
I have considered this question before, so I won't belabor the point again, but what difference would it really make if, say, genetic evidence indicated that blacks, as a group, were less intelligent than whites? None. The concept of individual rights is based on the fact that individual human beings possess the faculty of reason (as distinct from a given IQ) and need to be free from the initiation of force by others to act on the conclusions of their minds and so to live. Differences in IQ within broad limits do not affect the question of whether someone is a rational being. Furthermore, justice demands that we evaluate individuals as individuals, not as members of groups.
But the left abandoned such principles long ago in favor of egalitarianism at the expense of justice (e.g., by condemning "racial" profiling, even of people with specific ideologies) and individual rights (e.g., by such discriminatory measures as race-based hiring quotas). Part of its justification for doing so has been that all races are equal (whatever that means) and that any difference in, say the percentage of races in a profession vs. that in the general population is due at least in part to racial discrimination. (This goes along with demanding that we ignore how one's character or cultural background might have affected one's occupational choices or educational attainment -- by asserting that all cultures are equal as well.)
Any evidence that might point to blacks being genetically predisposed to having lower IQs will thus shake to the foundations whatever semi-plausible rationale the left has for violating individual rights in the name of "equality". I suspect that rather than asking themselves whether egalitarianism and hiring quotas are really good ideas, most leftists would prefer to suppress such findings, or at least open discussion of such findings.
That would be a shame, for frank discussion would lend support to the concept of individual rights, in part by showing that it's not how big your brain is, but what you do with it that counts. The white kid in the punchline of this very bad joke inadvertently demonstrates this:
One white-skinned student, told she was 9 percent West African, went to a Kwanzaa celebration, for instance, but would not dream of going to an Asian cultural event because her DNA did not match, Dr. Richards said. Preconceived notions of race seemed all the more authentic when quantified by DNA.IQ is not just not equivalent to reason. It is also not the same thing as culture.
Well. I guess multiculturalism is achieving equality in one respect: It's working to make differences in IQ irrelevant, after all!
To end on a more serious note, paranoia about research that might unearth genetic bases for intelligence that are not equally distributed among races betrays at best a failure to appreciate the foundations of the concept of individual rights. At worst, it is a symptom of a fundamental opposition to same.
Today: Added clarifications to first and last sections and fixed some typos.