Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Fun With New Styles in Right-wing Online Talking Points: The Amy Chua 'What Drives Success?' Edition

The Right-wing propaganda apparatus consists of public relations firms, paid trolls, and a very tightly connected network of "news" sites, blogs, TV, radio, social media, and think tanks. Together, the Right-wing has constructed a political ecosphere for the efficient--and overwhelming--dissemination of their talking points and disinformation with the end goal of shaping public opinion to their own ends.

These talking points and narratives are a genre of political speech. They also evolve and change over time. As readers of WARN know, I enjoy tracking the White Right's online memes because they are a useful insight into an alternate political and social reality, one that has come to dominate the Republican Party and movement conservatism.

There are several standard talking points deployed by the White Right in the Age of Obama. Some of these talking points are "old school" and are continually updated to fit a given public policy issue or controversy of the moment.

For example, one of the most common online talking points for the White Right (and conservatives, more generally) involves the dishonest use of crime statistics in order to "prove" that blacks are natural social predators.

A second white supremacist online trope involves referencing I.Q. tests to "prove" that blacks are of inferior intelligence as compared to whites (with the obligatory chaff about "Asian" I.Q. scores used as a distraction from the blatant biological racism at work in such claims).

Anti-black and brown bigotry by conservative political elites in the post civil rights era balances a public norm wherein appeals to biological racism are deemed impolitic, with the tactic of leveraging traditional white supremacist and race essentialist arguments about black inferiority through the language of "bad culture" and "colorblindness".

There is a new/old set of White Right online talking points that I would like to call your attention to.

Mirroring the spirit of Amy Chua's new book The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America and her recent editorial in The New York Times about why some groups succeed in America--and (of course) native born blacks are failures--the White Right's trolls are updating their scripts.

[There are also some serious problems of construct validity, historiography, and inference in Chua's claims about the forces driving comparative group success in the United States.]

What follows are three comments that I pulled from the responses to one of my recent essays at Alternet (the comments on Chua's New York Times essay are also illustrative of a similar tone).

Let's workshop them together. How would you rebut or complicate these claims? What tactics are being deployed and towards what goal? And how are the "data" and "statistics" being used in these claims on the truth?
  • “Roithmayr’s book focuses on racial gaps in housing, education and jobs—for example, Latino and black poverty rates are between 2.5 and four times the rate for whites, and black unemployment is double that of whites.” Why don’t these “Studies” ever point out the fact that Asians and Jews, have surpassed their WASP counterparts in the same metrics that blacks and latinos have fallen behind?"
  • "Good point. Keep in mind that Jews have always faced religious hatred to the point of death and Asians in America were not only hated, discriminated against and even attacked but also locked up in concentration camps for being of Asian ancestry (even if born in the USA) during World War 2. The difference is that they marry, have kids in marriage, avoid crime/gangs/getting knocked up while in school, value and encourage getting an education, don't break into the country illegally as a loser from another country here to do crap work, are well-educated and fully literate in English, don't breed like rabbits, and don't see themselves as perpetual victims." 
  • "Black and Hispanic intellectuals are fond of equating the disproportionate ratio of Blacks and Hispanics imprisoned as compared to their proportion of the population as being solely due to racism. But the problem with that assumption is the fact that Asians and Arabs are underrepresented in our prisons. Now where the numbers line-up perfectly is when you compare the ratio of those incarcerated by race in relation to fathers that abandon their children by race. Asian and Arab men do not abandon their children. But by the numbers I have seen, your average Black and Hispanic man thinks his responsibility to his children stops at impregnated the child’s mother. Now I am not saying that racism does play into the disproportionate numbers, but if it was solely racism Arabs would be as disproportionately over represented in prisons too because there is a lot hatred in America regarding people of Middle Eastern descent."


Myshkin the Idiot said...

While I would likely not really respond to those comments as the people behind them would be completely unwilling to engage in thought different from the ignorant generalizations they have mustered, I will comment what I think regarding these topics as they are central to the conversation regarding the disparities in American experiences and I would appreciate any feedback.

How I would comment: "First of all there are significant problems of poverty in all of these minority groups, Asian Americans, Jewish Americans, Arab Americans and white Americans as well as black and Latino Americans experience poverty in a variety of ways. The gross generalizations demonstrated here hide that fact, so you need to stop.

History plays a strong role in all of this, that you cannot understand that as demonstrated through your commentary is indicative of your ignorance and denial. Read a book, I would suggest Sundown Towns by James Loewen.

Black Americans and Latino Americans have a significant and distinct history in America which cannot be denied. The type of segregation and discriminatory policies that developed in America continue to affect their communities in many ways. The fact that the Northeastern United States is considered the Rust Belt should give you a significant understanding of the types of employment problems that can be found throughout that region from the urban neighborhood, to the rural towns and countrysides.

There has always been and continues to be a persistent spending gap in black and white public schools. Recognize.

The Arab American incarceration comment is simply ignorant. First of all a majority of Arab Americans are Christian and many of them could be considered white. Most Arab Americans are Lebanese. Did you know that the Muslim population is less than 1% while Muslim Americans make up over 6% of the incarcerated adult population? You admit that racism plays a strong role in white American perceptions of Arab Americans, yet are you in denial of white racism toward black Americans?

How racism and discrimination affects black and Latino Americans in the criminal justice system has many sides. First of all, the policing of black and Latino communities is much more than the policing of white communities. The urban landscape is a product of centuries of racial segregation in America. Rural America does not have a cop to citizen ratio in the manner that urban America does, nor are cops enabled to search citizens private property in the manner in which cops in urban settings can. If rural and suburban communities were policed in as heavily as urban communities, the incarceration rate for white Americans would be higher as there is significant drug use and distribution in white America.

The Prison Industrial Complex has contributed significantly to the organization of gangs in America. New inmates essentially are targets for recruitment or drug exploitation.

How can you all claim to know so much regarding these subjects? Would you call in an electrician to tackle your plumbing problem? How can you listen to a business politician or some phony journalist do the work of criminologists and sociologists? The right wing Academia-phobia prevents you from listening to the sound research regarding these persistent social problems. It is apparent that you want to have nothing to do with resolving the social problems referenced here, so I would suggest you stop obstructing the conversation with your blithering ignorance and open your ears and eyes to the many ways these communities have been tackling these very problems for decades."

What tactics are being deployed and toward what goal: Deflection and inclusion of the White Gaze. The fear of losing the country to socialists through apathy is what brings them back.

How is the data being abused: They are only observing data in fields relevant to their argument. They don't have a full picture. The wealthy elite are keeping them in the dark about the real disparity between the outcomes that wealth privilege buys.

kokanee said...

Crickets!!! Where did everybody go?!?!?


There's a lot of disinformation sited in those comments that I can't address due to time constraints.

Let's start with IQ. There is no conclusive evidence that IQ is correlated with ethnicity or genetics. On the contrary, it's becoming increasing clear that IQ is a function of environmental variables.

The systematic and systemic (institutional) racism of ghettoized African-American and Latino communities labelled/designated "black and brown" goes a long ways in explaining any differences in different ethnic groups. Cultural racism ingrained in American society stemming back to slave culture explains the rest.

David Suzuki, the renowned Canadian environmentalist, spoke at our high school graduation ceremony. I remember that he said you can take someone straight out of any primitive culture and integrate them straight into modern society perfectly.

I would argue that all humans are cavemen that are ill suited to the foreign culture into which we've been thrown.

I may have more to say if anyone wants to participate in the comments. I realize it's a touchy subject.

Veri1138 said...

IQ is more one of potential.

Take a modern person and through them back to 9000 B.C. and see how well they do competing against human competitors in those days.

Call it "cultural IQ". And then one has to look at psychology and the cultural influence on psychologists when they design tests.

And then there is this...

Turns out, human psychology may not be universal as Western psychologists would love to believe. If not, psychology is more subjective than previously understood.

DanF said...

FWIW, I chafe at the term "primitive culture" as it's usually used in reference to technology - not the enlightened state of the culture in question. Technology does not make one's culture advanced; it increases survival rates and adds variety to life. What we do with that longevity and opportunity is what matters.

chauncey devega said...

Sometimes there is a chorus, other times and intimate set. I like the freedom of ask questions that I am curious about. On one hand the pressure and the shine that must come from having a high profile spot where you have to say something on every issue to get paid/drive traffic must be great. I can imagine it being a straight jacket too.

chauncey devega said...

I will have to check out that story in ps as I missed it.

chauncey devega said...

Great points. And very thorough. Now the issue becomes is it worth our/your time to even engage in online to and fro's w. talking point trolls--you know how I feel. Or should the audience for that exchange be elsewhere?

Myshkin the Idiot said...

In my experience, the likelihood that you will actually change someone's mind about these ideas they are spreading is very slim. If you can tell them at least one thing to push them to challenge what they think they know, then that's probably the best route. Otherwise they are usually pretty humorous and indicative of the level of ignorance that comes from their usual talking points.

I try to make useful or helpful comments in blogs I like, I try to bring up new perspectives in blogs I don't like. If a right winger engages with me on a blog like this, I might ask them what exactly brings them here.

My mom shared a video of Morgan Freeman saying he thinks Black History Month is ridiculous. He says "black history is American history," which is absolutely true and he also says, "if you want to end racism, stop talking about race." I told her, look he is right, black history is American history, but even today black history does not take precedence in the traditional American narrative, what do you know about black history? To say, don't talk about racism, would basically silence any discussion of black history in America, that doesn't make any sense. She never responded.

kokanee said...

Fine post Myshkin the Wise, fine post.

On Jewish poverty in NYC:
NEW YORK (JTA) — A new report shows that 20 percent of Jewish households in the New York metropolitan area are poor, a figure only marginally lower than the rate in the general population. --

chauncey devega said...

I have a longer piece on Chua's thesis that I didn't post as I got busy w. some other matters. There are so many holes in her arguments and misreadings of history. Always be suspicious of vainglorious writing that is first and foremost an exercise in explaining how "people like you" are better than "those people".

kokanee said...

Re: vainglorious

Great word!

I read Chua's article strictly as an opinion piece. My wife's a (Bengal) tiger mom so I'll have something to say on that too.
As always, I look forward to your thoughts on your next post.

mbfromnm said...

Your link to the article"We aren't the world" in Pacific Standard is invaluable.

I like the way it documents how white and western researchers skew both their samples and their assumptions based on the assumption that the way we whites think is the same way all people in the world think. Nothing like a little inaccurate assumption to throw off a whole lot of faulty conclusions from flawed research.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

Did you hear about the African American brothers who were killed while looking at property one of them had bought in Cabell County West Virginia? So sad..

The man who shot them reported to the police afterward they were looking at a shed on his property, the shed was part of what one of the men had purchased. He thinks he can lie and get away with it.

He said he shot one man, then the other didn't run right away, so he shot him also.

It reminds me of the study on symbolic racism and gun ownership in America.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

Thank you kakanee. My name comes from a novel by Dostoevsky about a man who has epilepsy and is pretty naive so people called him an idiot. It's one character I have identified with out of most novels I have read.

The whole "model minority" concept it weird, model to what? White superiority? White people make up 78% of the 1% as well as the upper middle class... so there isn't really a minority that actually is displacing white people at the top which is what all of this sort of sounds like to me.

America's Four Middle Classes:

kokanee said...

Good point. Bias is loaded into the word. What do you suggest as an alternative?

purveyor1 said...

Who is this "Kokanee" anyway?

kokanee said...

Myshkin the Emotional Empath - Now that you mention "Myshkin the Idiot," that sounds vaguely familiar - not that I've ever read the book.
Re: "model minority"

A "model minority" not only integrates into the majority society perfectly by adopting the majority's culture, religion and rules; they also ask for nothing, make no demands, are meek and subservient and are completely non-threatening. More importantly, they are non-threatening in numbers. One black family in a white neighborhood will get preferential treatment, two is fine, three is tolerable, four is annoying and then it's &$/@:$£¥%#! they're taking over the neighborhood!
Middle class? What middle class? That was the dumbest Pew study I've ever seen. See this: US Stores Catering to the Middle Class Are Failing, Only High and Low End Remaining

kokanee said...


An armchair social justice crusader, environmental activist and political dissenter; radical lefty; a loving husband and father; and always one paycheck away from being homeless.

kokanee said...

Here is the Morgan Friedman video:

It's interesting. On one hand he's right, people should just treat other people as people (how profound!) On the other hand, disenfranchised groups have legitimate grievances and those voices must be heard.

Your thoughts, oh wise one?

Myshkin the Idiot said...

I totally agree with you about that. The founder of Negro History Week said he hoped one day there would be no need to point out black history in America and the world, but until then, highlighting that history is necessary. I don't think our public schools do a good job at discussing black American history. You learn a very sanitized version of slavery and Jim/Jane Crow era, some of the civil rights movement, but it never takes a central role in the entire narrative, as it should.

The same thing with American Indian history. These histories are troublesome for white people to come to grips with. Most of what I know of these histories has come from studying and reading books about them after high school and college.

When Freeman says, "I won't call you a white man, you don't call me a black man" I ask white people, Do you think of yourself as 'white' because that is what is really important. you have to stop thinking that you are white and others are black to be at one with all of humanity, but you cannot deny that there are different experiences based on skin color no matter someone's social position or geography that are rooted in history and the history and socialization of racial prejudice..

kokanee said...

Words of wisdom, Myshkin the Sapient.

kokanee said...

Disgusting. While I'm against the death penalty, I'd make an exception for this monster.

kokanee said...

Hey Veri,

Yes, I've read the Citibank plutonomy pdfs, if that's what you are referring to.

Walmart sells to the poor or lower-middle-class. Walmart sucks. ;)

re: "There are three classes in Western Capitalism: Masters, Servants - bureaucrats and technocrats"

That sounds about right. The plutocrats, the 1% who enables them by doing their bidding and then the rest of us.

I always think of George Orwell's inner government, outer government and proles.

P. S. I will respond you your other comments when I read the PS article.

kokanee said...

No, up next for is Forever Free by Eric Foner.

kokanee said...

Re: "I guess I have a mercurial streak in me?"

It's that closet lefty in you. If you lived in NYC, you would fit right in with the Democrats.

kokanee said...

Wow - that was a fascinating article. Thanks!