Monday, 9 January 2012

Is Sean Gabb a racist?

I first read Sean Gabb's Cultural Revolution, Culture War (PDF) in September 2009, shortly before I started blogging.

To a friend who suggested it, I replied:
A very interesting read. There's much in there that I agree with.

Although I despise 'political correctness', and I'm deeply concerned about the steps towards Thought Police, I did detect a whiff of racism at times; perhaps I've been indoctrinated by the multiculturalist hegemonic ideology ;-)
My views are much more firmly libertarian now, and my disgust for the British state and the BBC has grown, so I'm minded to re-read the book and re-evaluate my assumptions.

Gabb despairs at racially biased news coverage:

To take a notorious example, everyone knows that the overwhelming majority of interracial crime in Britain and America is black on white. Yet this is not reflected in the media coverage. When the black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, was killed in South London back in 1992, the story received lavish coverage in the media; and the story continued through failed trials, a public enquiry, and the official and media harassment of the unconvicted suspects. The much larger number of black on white murders—known rather than suspected murders, and containing an obvious racial motivation—are either not reported at all or covered briefly and without comment in the local media.
It should be easy enough to establish whether Gabb's claim is true, but true or not, few people would be prepared to state it as plainly.

Gabb is perhaps even more concerned about propaganda in state-funded fiction:
look at the BBC Radio 4 soap The Archers. This is supposedly an “every day tale of ordinary country folk”. It was this once. Nowadays, it is almost agitprop street theatre in its propagandising. Every male character is a monster or a weakling, or both. The female characters are pillars of feminist strength. The village pub is run by two homosexuals. The village solicitor is an Asian woman. A few years ago, the daughter of one of the characters brought back her black South African husband. His voice made it plain what he was: not one of the characters commented.
Not having listened to The Archers, I can't comment. From what I know of the BBC, Gabb's assertions seem plausible enough, but once again, it's not the sort of argument you tend to hear in polite company.

Some time later, Gabb took up writing for the American website
Their FAQ page gives a sense of what VDARE is about:
  • What should I read about America's immigration disaster? friend Paul Nachman has written a guide to the literature [PDF] itself a fairly long article. For a brief"introduction to his guide", see here.

For all I know, they make some perfectly valid points, but it's not the sort of site that most British people, even British libertarians, would be prepared to associate themselves with. Alarm bells ring loudly.

Most recently, I was struck by the attention given to race in Gabb's The Churchill Memorandum. One the one hand, the abundance of politically incorrect language seems appropriate to an alternative 1959; its absence would have been anachronistic. On the other, one gets the sense that Gabb is more interested in questions of race than most people alive today. Chapter one gives a taste:
Somebody muttered, from a few places behind me, about the interminable wait. We shuffled forward another eighteen inches. One of my coloured porters strained with his box. Since the others didn’t think it worth the effort of moving theirs, he scraped it an inch or so across the uneven floor, then went back to sitting on it.

“They call me Major Stanhope,” came the reply in a tone that avoided all hint of rebuke. The officer turned the pages of the passport.

“Well, Major Stanhope,” he said, now mockingly, it says here you’re subject to Imperial immigration control. You sure don’t look like no nigger.”

“British bred,” came the now breezy reply, “though born in Cyprus. The law is very strict, you know—doesn’t just apply to Her Majesty’s coloured subjects. One law for all and all that.” The officer continued looking at the much-stamped pages.

“Next,” the clerk grated. It was my turn. Still trembling, I put my passport on her desk and pulled out the paper copy of my exit visa. She ignored the documents and pointed at the five wooden boxes my coloureds were still attending.

“Next,” she cried. I glanced at my coloureds and pointed at the boxes. There were hours still to go till boarding. But I could at least get out of this bloody queue.

You'll find much more of the same in chapters two to six, which are also available online, and throughout the rest of the book. All quite tame, really, but it seems extreme by modern standards.

Is Sean Gabb a racist, or is he just a valiant defender of free speech who's sometimes deliberately provocative. Does he care about race per se, or is he just interested in it as a proxy for cultural issues?

Ultimately, it doesn't matter.

When Gabb makes a factual claim on matters of race, people may be inclined to doubt it, but the claim will either be true or false, and verification is easier now than ever. People may likewise scrutinise his rhetoric, and once distilled down to its essentials, his argument will either be logically sound, or not. In any debate, we must be wary of those who appeal to motive. Arguments stand or fall on their own merits; motives don't matter.

Moving from the academic to the practical, racism in a libertarian, however distasteful and incongruous, is harmless. It is an issue for the racist, his friends, and family, but poses no threat to others. A bigoted libertarian may choose not to hire people of a certain race, or may refuse to serve them. He may say rude things. But nobody has a right to a job. Nobody has a right to be served. And nobody has a right not to be offended. The racist libertarian owes them nothing.

A racist statist, by contrast, can do tremendous damage. She will demand unequal treatment, favouring one group over another. She will interfere with voluntary transactions between individuals, requiring businessmen to act against their instincts and interests. She'll lobby for our speech to be censored, and use the institutions of the state to indoctrinate our children. If we do not at least outwardly conform to her views, the race-obsessed statist will see us arrested, and our children placed in the care of the state. She will create a climate of fear, with legitimate concerns going undiscussed, and tensions steadily rising.

For my part, I think individualism and libertarianism go hand-in-hand. Racists should be free to hold their views, and to go about their business, so long as they don't infringe on the similar rights of others, but I can't understand why they would cut themselves off from so many brilliant individuals.

Aggregates and averages are of little interest to me. The differences within groups tend to be much larger than the differences between them. Even if it's true that blacks, on average, are better lovers, it would be a foolish woman who passed up a promising suitor, simply because he was white. Even if it's true that blacks, on average, are better basketball players, it would be a foolish coach who chose players based on skin colour, rather than ability. And even if it's true that Asians tend to be more intelligent than whites, who in turn are more intelligent than blacks, it would be a foolish employer who hired based on averages, rather than assessing the aptitude of individual candidates.

Racism is stupid, but it shouldn't be illegal.


  1. The facts about differences in average intelligence between the races are very important because since it is as taboo to talk about race and IQ in these modern enlightened times as it was to discuss sex in the Victorian age, therefore facts about over representation on negative social indices amongst blacks - crime, unemployment, illegitimacy, and so on, has therefore to be attributed to the white bogeyman - white racism. This is both unfair, and also dreadfully undermining to our merit driven society where people with the greatest abilities are supposed to reach the top, regardless of race. If whites are being accused of being "racist" then they have a right to defend themselves, a right that is given to anyone in a court, no matter how heinous the crime. So here I state the white person's defence.
    Black people do poorly in western cultures because they have, on average a lower IQ, just as Chinese do well in white cultures since they have a high IQ. We in the West have tied ourselves in knots trying to help blacks to improve their circumstances, but to no avail, since the problem is intractatble, low IQ, and what makes it worseis that "leaders" and "opinion formers" don't even acknowledge it.

    1. "We in the West have tied ourselves in knots trying to help blacks to improve their circumstances"

      I don't feel qualified to say whether blacks really are less intelligent on average, but the problem only matters to people obsessed with both race and averages (e.g. the central planners in the Department for Education).

      The answer is to get the government out of the education business, and trust parents to seek out the best schools for their children, whatever their ability.

      I want the state reduced to an absolute minimum. What remains should be colour blind.