Doesn't This Place Have Standards?
So, here's something you should know about me: I really don't care for racists.
A few years ago, a simpering neo-Nazi named Kevin Alfred Strom wrote to me, having somehow acquired the delusion that I would be his friend. I handled him rather roughly, I can tell you, though I like to think it was no less than he deserved. And then there was Eric Hovind, the creationist dauphin who posted an anti-immigrant poem that - oops! - just happened to be prominently featured on the white-power site Stormfront.
The reason I bring all this up is because I found out the other day that Big Think has begun publishing a blog by a person named Satoshi Kanazawa, who presents himself as an evolutionary psychologist. I'm going to say more about this fellow, but first, a few words.
I hope it's clear that I don't object in principle to Big Think serving as a platform for controversial ideas (hey, they gave me a blog!), or showcasing a range of political opinions. In the time I've been on Big Think, I've debated libertarians and conservatives like Penn Jillette and Peter Lawler, and I thought these were productive and worthwhile exchanges even when I continued to disagree. But Kanazawa is a different ballpark entirely.
He's most infamous for a paper which argues that African countries suffer chronic poverty and illness because their people have lower IQs. (Wouldn't poverty and illness cause lower IQ, not vice versa?) He's also known for a blog post arguing that black women are "objectively less attractive" than other races. He bases this on subjective opinion surveys, which might give you insight into patterns of cultural prejudice, but can hardly be insight into objective reality. (Would he also argue that black people are more likely to be criminals based on people's responses to an Implicit Association Test?)
Kanazawa's usual tactic is to cloak his bigotry in a superficial veneer of science and then, when his views get the expected response, to cry about censorship and free speech - a predictable if rather shopworn gimmick. But his pretense of being a Dispassionate Scientist Following Where The Facts May Lead is thrown into some doubt by the fact that, when he writes about this stuff in other contexts, even more vile and noxious views come bubbling up. Take these excerpts from his old posts on Psychology Today, where he argues that if there's one thing our military needs, it's more racism:
We don't hate our enemies nearly as much as they hate us... This has never been the case in our previous wars. We have always hated our enemies purely and intensely. They were "Japs," they were "Krauts," they were "Gooks." And we didn't think twice about dropping bombs on them, to kill them and their wives and children. [emphasis as in original]
In fact, he as much as says that the appropriate response to 9/11, which involved a few dozen people at most who planned a horrible atrocity, would have been a first-strike nuclear genocide, killing millions of completely innocent people.
Imagine that, on September 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers came down, the President of the United States was not George W. Bush, but Ann Coulter. What would have happened then? On September 12, President Coulter would have ordered the US military forces to drop 35 nuclear bombs throughout the Middle East, killing all of our actual and potential enemy combatants, and their wives and children. On September 13, the war would have been over and won, without a single American life lost.
(Why exactly 35 bombs, I wonder? What were his imagined targets? Alas, he declines to specify.)
And then there's this quote from an extensive collection on Jezebel, in which Kanazawa favors us with his pathetically retrograde view about the proper roles of men and women, which he tosses off as if it were inarguable fact:
Money, promotions, the corner office, social status, and political power are what make men happy... Spending time with their children is what makes women happy.
He follows this wisdom up with an exhortation to "kill all the feminists and hippies and liberals" so as to achieve this happy state. It's not clear to me from the context whether he means this literally.
If Kanazawa had turned over a new leaf in the interim, that might be one thing, but no: he opens his first and so far only Big Think post to defend his "black women are less attractive" paper, and moans about all the persecution he's faced just for investigating this hypothesis which just popped into his head for no apparent reason! He goes so far as to name his blog after something supposedly said by Galileo, which if I'm not mistaken, vaults you right to the top of the Crackpot Index.
I can only speculate as to the lapse in editorial judgment that must have occurred for Big Think to extend this racist, sexist, genocide-advocating pseudoscientific bigot a platform. Were they unaware of his views? Were they aware, but went ahead anyway because controversy is good for traffic? (Racism can't be good for traffic, can it?)
I don't want to be accused of giving any extra publicity to Kanazawa, so I won't be writing to criticize him again. However, I want to make it clear in the most emphatic terms that I think him utterly vile and contemptible. And rest assured, I intend to follow up with Big Think's upper echelons to find out who made this decision and why, and I'll update when I know more.
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