Middlebury College student paper apologizes for running photo of Charles Murray

March 11, 2018 • 12:30 pm

In March of last year, conservative political scientist Charles Murray spoke—or rather, tried to speak—at Middlebury College in Vermont. As you know, Murray was one of the authors of The Bell Curve, a book I still haven’t read but that has the reputation for pushing a hereditarian interpretation of the IQ difference between whites and blacks. I can’t speak to that assertion, but Murray wasn’t even going to come near that topic at Middlebury. Regardless, his co-authorship of the book, and its reputation, has been enough to demonize Murray for life among the Left. (I suspect that most of the students protesting hadn’t read Murray and Herrnstein’s book, but were just following the crowd). And, as always, once someone is invited through proper channels to talk at a college, I consider attempts to deplatform or disrupt them as violations of their free speech. College are, after all, places to debate ideas of all sorts.

Well, that disruption happened—in spades.

Having failed to get his invitation rescinded (see my post here and here), the students deplatformed Murray during his talk, disrupting him to the extent that he had to move to an empty room and broadcast through closed-circuit television. And then, when he left the venue, they attacked him and his host, Professor Allison Stanger, pulling her hair and giving her a neck injury and a concussion. In the end 74 students were disciplined, though the extent of that discipline remains confidential.

Now, on the first anniversary of the melee, the student newspaper, The Middlebury Campus, marked the occasion by revisiting the talk so they could gloat that the issue hadn’t reduced applications to the College.  And on the front page they ran the photograph below, showing Murray onstage with Stanger before the disrupted speech.

Kyle Wright/The Middlebury Campus

I guess the paper’s editors didn’t realize that even showing a picture of Murray could be triggering, and so the paper’s chief editor had to apologize, or “explain himself” for running it!  Here’s a screenshot of editorial; click on it if you want to see the original.

The editorial doesn’t seem to make any point beyond “asking how the protest still lives with us today, one year later.” Of course the photograph doesn’t ask that question at all, much less answer it. What is more telling is that the editor had to explain a damn photograph because he assumed it rubbed salt in an “open wound.”  Yes, I criticize Ethan Brady, but not for running the picture. I criticize him for being so much of a coward that he had to explain it—or was forced to do so because the other editors wanted to be exculpated from the triggering.

This is what we’ve come to: apologies for a photograph. You can imagine what a picture of Hitler illustrating a piece on World War II might do! Or even Woodrow Wilson, the old racist. This is how fragile the students claim to be.

At any rate, Murray seems to have taken it with humor, though he doesn’t think that his host’s injuries are so funny:

86 thoughts on “Middlebury College student paper apologizes for running photo of Charles Murray

  1. OMG, it’s porn for the righteous and the sensitive among us.

    Ban it, stomp it, erase it, destroy any memory of it!

    There’s a lot the paper should apologize for (as part of an institution that won’t stand by its speakers and faculty), notably on Stanger. Standing up for university standards of open discussion, and a picture that already deletes too much that is appalling, should not be given any apology.

    Glen Davidson

  2. Don’t think you can shame these regressive lefties any more than you could shame Trump. There is nothing left to embarrass them apparently and they are what is known as happy in ignorance. For them it is a way of life.

    1. Very like Trump, aren’t they? Bullies who are absolutely sure of themselves and care nothing for facts or truth.

  3. Your argument has got to be pretty damn weak if you have to pretend your opponents don’t exist.

  4. I think I commented on a previous similar post but I will risk repeating myself. I did read the Bell Curve when it first came out and I think it made some interesting points. Here are two: 1) Modest differences in mean (or variance) between two populations lead to very large differences in the tails of the distribution. Let’s say men have slightly greater variance than women for skills relevant to math or theoretical physics. You expect men to be over represented among physics professors at elite universities but also over represented among high school dropouts (both true). Thus, those outcomes do not necessarily demonstrate any bias in the system. 2) Mobility in “social rank” could actually lead to genetically differentiated classes. As long as class was hereditary (in the old-fashioned sense), dumb aristocrats and brilliant commoners are perfectly plausible. With merit based mobility, “classes” can emerge where people tend to choose mates of similar ability. Too the extent that “intelligence” is heritable (and it is), you get self-perpetuating “class” distinctions that are passed (genetically) down through families. Whether you believe these things or not, it seems valid to think about and debate the implications of these ideas.

    1. Racial imbalances in the academic elite are an issue that is going to confront any Western nation with significant immigration. If they do not already, certain Asian demographics will begin to dominate as Ashkenazi Jews already have. Without widespread understanding of the biological underpinnings of this phenomenon there is a lot of scope for political opportunists to leverage resentment. There is rather obviously a need to have a rational discussion about how to respond to the phenomenon and that discussion is impossible in the current climate.

  5. Charles Murray is not a political scientist. “The Bell Curve” is not social science. He´s a political commentator and ideologue. His use of statistics is a variation of “mathiness” (concept coined by Paul Romer).

      1. Yes. And I´m a political scientist. That´s why I said it. There is no true and respected political scientist (not one) who cites or respects Murray.

        1. That No True Political Scientist sounds like a Scotsman. If you are a real scientist you understand nullis in verba. And yet …

          1. And yet the fact is that no one man or woman who is relevant to the not long international history of Politology/Political Science is a follower or admirer of Murray. You can´t name one true and respected politologist/political scientist whose work uses or quotes (favorably) Murray.

          1. Ah, thus spoke the arrogant ignorance…
            Of course, you have read widely and thought deeply about the object of study of social sciences! -and considered all the epistemological implications, right?

            1. JRLRC, you are repeatedly violating the Roolz by dissing and calling other commentators names. Apologize or you won’t post any more here. Is it really necessary to be so rude and unpleasant? And don’t blame it on other peole.

        2. Political scientists are no more qualified to judge the Bell Curve than the average reader. And the fact that those “scientists” don`t quote Murray says not about the author`s work. It just means that the field has a taboo.

        3. Not going to comment on Charles Murray because I haven’t read his books but I do have a rule that anything that claims to be a science in its name probably isn’t one. e.g. social science, computer science (my university degree is in this) and political science. These are probably not scientific disciplines.

          How do you study politics in a scientific manner? How do you falsify Murray’s claims?

          1. So, Sociology is a science? Yeah, it´s not a science if called “social science”, it is if called “sociology”. Get it. You´re very logical, empirical and scientific! Do you want to know how to study politics in a scientific manner? Why don´t you read an actual Politology (!) book? It´s evident that you haven´t -you´re “thinking” through prejudice.

            1. Your logic is flawed. The hypothesis that something that calls itself a science probably isn’t is not the same as saying that something that doesn’t call itself a science probably is.

              Note also the use of the word “probably”. I’m not claiming that political science isn’t proper science, I’m claiming that it probably isn’t proper science. I’m quite happy to be corrected through the use of persuasive argument and evidence. However, your “go and read a book” responses don’t count as either.

              1. Sure, you were being “literal”, Jeremy… That didn´t and doesn´t seem to be the case because of the two questions you “asked”. Questions that seem biased against the discipline involved. Think about this fact: you opened your comment introducing your “rule”…
                Go read a book. Where else can you get the best arguments?! Come on… If you don´t want to, well, that´s another thing.
                Now I can say this: note that all of this indicates that you made your “rule” without reading politological books.

              2. You don’t seem to want to back up any of your assertions, telling people to go and read books instead. That’s fine, but don’t expect to have persuaded many people of your point of view.

              3. Have you read any politological books? How did you make your “rule”? If you´re talking about something you haven´t read about, I have to tell you “go read a book” on the subject. It´s only fair. I´ll add some names: Mario Bunge, who is not a politologist but an expert in epistemology, philosophy of science, etc.; he knows that the scientific study of politics is possible; some politologists: Przeworski, John Gerring, Andreas Schedler, David Collier, Giovanni Sartori. And a last point: physics is a science but it is not the same as science…

      2. Watch out, Craw. JRLRC knows all the respected political scientists, and he and they all know that none of them respect anything Murray has ever said or done. Which is interesting, because much of Murray’s work has nothing to do with race and IQ, and is absolutely considered well-established to even the most ardent opponent who bothers to actually read it.

        I’m curious, if JRLRC thinks Murray is nothing but an ideologue and political commentator, how he would counter all the other claims in The Bell Curve. But, apparently, substantiating his claims is not worth his time; only making the claims is.

        1. Haha, oh, BJ. That Murray “is absolutely considered well-established to even the most ardent opponent who bothers to actually read it”. Your words are self-defeating, because of many factors, including the fact that you don´t know anything about social science. Name one internationally known and respected social scientist that uses (and in his favor) the work of Murray. Here are some of the names of the most valued, internationally speaking, political scientists: Giovanni Sartori, Juan Linz, Adam Przeworski, Alfred Stepan, Philippe Schmitter, Guillermo O´Donnell, Laurence Whitehead, Gianfranco Pasquino, Dieter Nohlen, Scott Mainwaring, Matthew Soberg Shugart, Arend Lijphart, Dieter Nohlen, Klaus von Bayme, Fritz Scharpf, John Carey, Theda Skocpol, Susan Stokes, Pippa Norris. Which one is fond of Murray? Who?

            1. So sensitive! What is the word? Snowflake? They´re talking about something they really don´t know about, period. I criticized their position, and refuted them about PS. What´s the problem? Weren´t you the last defenders of discussion? Ah, right, they´re not really discussing, they´re “politically incorrectly” defending someone they like because of the similarities of beliefs. Nothing more.

        1. I see. He’s worth your time to comment upon, until someone asks you to back up that comment.

          That’s just about the oldest cop-out in the book.

          1. Just look at the NYT 1994’s book review as well as the SPLC assessment of his book. There were ” scientific basis” to justify facism, Cini in 1927, and communism by Lyshenko, his books are clearly following this path of pseudo-science claimings to pander to the right’s racism. Read Prof. STANGER 2017 Op-Ed in the NYT, I do 100% agree with her.

            1. Is that the same professor Stanger who “suffered a concussion and a neck injury that she still lives with” and who appears in the photo? I wonder if any of the protesters realised that Murray was sharing a platform with one of his opponents?

            1. Did you stop to think that maybe all those thousands of true political scientists were citing Murray just to disrespect him? Huh, huh?

              1. Are they the true and respected ones? Do you know who they are? It´s cute how confident you are in the mere number of citations. Cute and ignorant.

  6. “Murray was one of the authors of The Bell Curve, a book I still haven’t read but that has the reputation for pushing a hereditarian interpretation of the IQ difference between whites and blacks. I can’t speak to that assertion …”

    You might consider taking the time to read the Bell Curve sometime; at the very least you would know whether or not that reputation is deserved. (Only a small part of the book deals with race; their main thesis is about the increasing cognitive stratification in society.) For what it’s worth, here’s Steven Pinker take on it, writing in the “Blank Slate”:

    “… Maybe nature versus nurture is a dead issue. Anyone familiar with current writings on mind and behavior has seen claims to the middle ground like these:”

    [Pinker quoting an excerpt from an initially unidentified book]: “If the reader is now convinced that either the genetic or the environmental explanation has won out to the exclusion of the other, we have not done a sufficiently good job of presenting one side or the other. It seems highly likely to us that both genes and environment have something to do with this issue. What might the mix be? We are resolutely agnostic on that issue: as far as we can determine, the evidence does not yet justify an estimate.”

    [Two additional examples from other books omitted]

    [Pinker then continues]: “If you think these are innocuous compromises that show that everyone has outgrown the nature-nurture debate, think again. The quotations come, in fact, from three of the most incendiary books of the last decade. The first is from The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, who argue that the difference in average IQ scores between American blacks and American whites has both genetic and environmental causes. …”

    “For invoking nurture and nature, not nurture alone, these authors have been picketed, shouted down, subjected to searing invective in the press, even denounced in Congress. Others expressing such opinions have been censored, assaulted, or threatened with criminal prosecution. The idea that nature and nurture interact to shape some part of the mind might turn out to be wrong, but it is not wishy-washy or unexceptionable, even in the twenty-first century …”

    1. Pinker is, of course, exactly right, and it has been a common theme for him: the “blank slate” is a lie, and a large portion of society needs to stop pretending it’s true because it’s impeding both research and policy.

  7. For many, this image is burned in our collective memory. As much as we try to distance ourselves from that moment, we are made from it.

    So something as mundane as a talk presenting a different opinion is “burned into our collective memory”?

    Come off it, these students are not genuinely “triggered” or “threatened” by a mere photo, they are simply trying to make non-persons out of anyone holding any opinion they disagree with.

  8. You shall be infantilized, and presumed to be unable to cope with a picture of a Bad Man. If you can cope, best to pretend that you cannot.

  9. In the end 74 students were disciplined, though the extent of that discipline remains confidential.

    There is some information about it, and mostly it amounts to nothing. Murray discusses it, starting with a quote from the President of Middlebury. Laurie Patton:

    In the end, the board took disciplinary action against 74 Middlebury students. Most received probation, which means that they will face more serious penalties if they violate these policies again.

    No, Dr. Patton. They faced no penalty for this offense. “Probation” at Middlebury doesn’t mean a weekly meeting with your probation officer and random drug tests. It just means a temporary mark on your record that is expunged if there is no further violation. A slap on the wrist? Not even that.

    Some few received more, but I’ll just link for the rest.

    So no, not much was done in response to such violence.

    Glen Davidson

  10. I would like to think that the students would be able to identify a picture of Hitler, but have little hope they could identify a picture of Wilson, historical literacy being what it is.

  11. And then, when he left the venue, they attacked him and his host, Professor Allison Stanger, pulling her hair and giving her a neck injury and a concussion.

    Holy crap! Why aren’t these students expelled and facing assault charges?

    Imagine what would happen if a professor gave a student a concussion due to a violent disagreement. It would be career-ending. I’m okay with being somewhat lenient on students exploring the boundaries of behavior, but this is the sort of things we punish 8 year-olds for. 20-year-olds have no excuse for assaulting another adult.

    1. Imagine if it was the College Republicans group who did this to a speaker invited by the campus LGBT center. National news, assault charges, expulsions…

  12. A few weeks ago, Niall Ferguson moderated a discussion between Francis Fukuyama and Charles Murray at Stanford. They had to address the controversy because of the student protests at Charles Murray’s name. It was interesting that normatively-speaking there’s no disagreement between the beliefs in equality between Charles Murray and the protesters. They all believe in equality and treating people with respect. The “crime” of Charles Murray seems to be that he even approached the topic at all in a book about how IQ differences are going to exacerbate and increase inequality.

    For a conservative, I was surprised that Murray advocates a universal income as a means to counter the problem that the information age is bringing.

    Video is here for anyone interested:

    1. As for a universal income, you shouldn’t be surprised since this idea has a long history on the right and one advocate was Milton Friedman.

        1. I think the UBI is going to be an uphill sell until things get too oligarchic to be able to make a difference with it.

          With the decline of the “middle class” that’s been going on for a while, there should be a cultural shift towards recognising the need to distribute money through the economy to keep it going. Instead we’ve seen the opposite – tax cuts for the rich, stripping away welfare rights, decline in spending on social goods like infrastructure, etc. And this is happening all around the industrialised world. And the politicians do this because enough people want it (in the sense that they vote for politicians who campaign on anti-state welfare rhetoric).

          When the hard left states incredulously that “people are voting against their own interests”, it’s missing something about why right wing rhetoric sits well with so many people. As Fukuyama put it in that discussion, there’s a dignity to work that is lacking in any vision for a modern welfare state. Politicians like Trump exploit this to great effect because their message is tailored to those who believe that work is how one contributes to a society and measures their success by it. A welfare state rewards those who have little interest in being productive members of society at the expense of those who put in the effort.

          1. It sits well with some people because those people are not particularly good at thinking past their immediate and selfish urges. The same people are not particularly good at thinking critically about the narrative they’ve been fed, or have otherwise come to adopt: the narrative that working people don’t use/need assistance and that people who do use it are simply lazy moochers.

            Your last sentence should be emended: “*They believe* a welfare state rewards…”

            1. “They believe” in this instance could be inferred from the context – it is an attitude to the role of work in the social order, and personally not one I share.

              Though with the popularity of politicians (and politics) that attacks and diminishes welfare, it’s clear we (as in the people who see the necessity for welfare) to better stand up for it and make welfare a relevant notion politically-speaking. It does no-one any good for us to agree amongst ourselves that welfare is a good thing if that message can’t gain political traction.

              Understanding why there’s such opposition to welfare and working out how to address that in a politically meaningful way really ought to be what left-leaning and centrist political action needs to be about. There’s a resentful undercurrent of how our current politics has failed many middle-class and working-class people, and that’s being demonstrated around the industrialised world with the rise of populist parties feeding off that discontent. Surely something needs to change!

              1. “Surely something needs to change!”

                More and more it seems as if that something will be “life as we know it!”

              2. Agreed about messaging. Naturally we can’t expect good things to happen if we don’t work to make them happen.

                I think that’s orthogonal to the issue of identifying how opposition to welfare arises. I’m highly skeptical that it stems mainly from a reverence for work. Much more likely, it seems to me, is that it stems mainly from a reluctance or inability to think past selfish instincts, or more charitably, to think past a simplistic and naive gut sense of fair play, not unlike the monkeys in Frans de Waal’s cucumber/grape experiment.

                In any case, my original point to Craw was that you’ll be able to knock me over with a feather if/when UBI is embraced by the current mainstream right.

              3. I wouldn’t say reverence for work, hist that the willingness to work ought to be rewarded. The rhetoric in opposition to welfare typically involves telling the working poor and lower middle class that their prosperity is compromised by the need to pay welfare, so those on welfare are getting a free ride. They’re the monkey performing a task for the cucumber seeing another monkey get a cucumber without performing the task, and seeing their cucumber piece getting smaller as time goes on.

                Needless to say, how to translate this into an effective leftist political narrative is beyond me. All I know is the left are terrible at advocating this, and it looks like we’re going to have an inevitable slide into oligarchy before there wool be a meaningful way this problem is addressed.

              4. Not to go on and on here (this will be my last comment), but my point in brining up de Waal’s experiment was that what he observed seems to be as sophisticated as many people’s idea of fairness gets: immediate and prima facie. Neither the monkeys nor many people seem disposed to seriously considering complicating circumstances. Maybe some monkeys have diabetes and can’t be given grapes. Maybe some monkeys were given extra grapes last week. Maybe some monkeys performed extra tasks last week. Yet at the moment of feeding time, the monkey receiving cucumbers instead of grapes is certain it’s being treated unfairly. Real life isn’t that simple.

                As far as messaging tactics, I’m not sure there’s anything that can be done other than to speak the truth and hope more and more people accept it. It’s simply not true that robust welfare programs encourage widespread moochery, and it is true that they support general societal well-being. I don’t think we need to devise ways of tricking people into accepting this; it would be preferable if they accepted it because they realized it’s the truth.

      1. That “long history on the right” is not that long… Friedman didn´t propose a Basic Income, not exactly. He proposed a “negative income tax” -similar in some respects, not the same. Basic Income, properly understood, is a guaranteed income for every citizen, not just low income tax filers, and doesn´t involve any form of conditional transfer (no requirements other than citizenship).

          1. To the extent that Friedman’s negative income tax has been realized in the U.S., we have the Earned Income Tax Credit. I’m starting to lean toward the idea that the EITC ought to be expanded to achieve a universal basic income, and various forms of welfare ended at the federal level. My self-described political inclination is libertarian-leaning.

          2. You´re running away from your own claims. You said Friedman proposed a Basic or Universal Income. He didn´t. You were imprecise (or lying). I corrected you. And now you´re trying to play the poor´s defender role. Pathetic. Now I have to ask: where is the evidence of the long (long) rightist history with Basic Income? Another imprecision or another lie?

  13. The apologetic editorial, and the view of the other editors, cast a new light on what was once a common practise in another place. In the Progressive and Peace-loving Soviet Union, pictures of the early Bolshevik leaders were commonly altered to airbrush out the image of Trotsky. This was no doubt done to avoid giving pain to the Soviet audience, or undermining their ability to move forward. Citizens of the USSR were thus spared images that might otherwise have been burned into their collective memory. I believe images of Kamenev, Zinoviev, Bukharin, and others were also mercifully removed, for similarly therapeutic reasons.

  14. That “long history on the right” is not that long… Friedman didn´t propose a Basic Income, not exactly. He proposed a “negative income tax” -similar in some respects, not the same. Basic Income, properly understood, is a guaranteed income for every citizen, not just low income tax filers, and doesn´t involve any form of conditional transfer (no requirements other than citizenship).

  15. I started reading thinking someone had complained and that’s what sparked the editorial. But that’s not what happened, as far as I can tell. The editorial ran in the same issue as the picture. People in the newsroom ASSUMED someone would complain and therefore opposed the picture because of fears of said complaints.

    And then Brady wrote an editorial talking about how he “knew” the photograph would be painful for people but he, being a brave little toaster, ran it anyway. Yet he is also sensitive to the plight of the poor “students of color” whom he ASSUMES feel their humanity is threatened by Charles Murray (minorities being unable to control their emotions and all.)

    If I have the timeline right, no one protested the photograph on the grounds that it hurt them to see it at all. People in the newsroom made a massive leap about what other people might find offensive and ran scared, Brady said no he is brave he will run it and btw also write a cringy editorial about it. It looks to me like he’s attempting to both play the free speech warrior and the sensitive SJW patting those poor little easily-hurt minorities on the head.

  16. I clicked the link read all of the comments on the story. Only one out of 74 could broadly be said to be on the side of the editor and that comment was more or less ripped to shreds by the replies to it.

    There is some hope.

  17. I have big problems with some of Murray’s ideas. But the idea of having to apologize for running an innocuous (he’s not burning cats or whatever) photo of him in a newspaper? That’s frigging asinine.

  18. This is very disturbing. we know that poverty and a lack of proper nutrition affects the brain development of small children. How is it not possible that centuries of maltreatment, especially malnutrition, cannot result in a degradation of inheritable characteristics. There seems to be plenty of evidence of animals making adaptions to local conditions over time and this is not applicable to this situation? If the man’s conjectures are false, prove them false! Don’t just shout him down. because if they are true then the case for reparations is even stronger, as is the case for offsetting the effects over time.

    On Sun, Mar 11, 2018 at 12:32 PM, Why Evolution Is True wrote:

    > whyevolutionistrue posted: “In March of last year, conservative political > scientist Charles Murray spoke—or rather, tried to speak—at Middlebury > College in Vermont. As you know, Murray was one of the authors of The Bell > Curve, a book I still haven’t read but that has the reputation ” >

  19. Worth checking out Sam Harris’s interview on the latter’s podcast, waking up, for a clear overview of what in fact Murray’s infamous book “The Bell Curve” was about. It does a fantastic job in giving the lie to any accusations of bigotry on the part of Murray’s would-be critics!

Leave a Reply