Charles Murray returns to Middlebury College

A bad reason to invite Charles Murray to Middlebury College is to incite violence, which is what happened when he was last invited three years ago (see several of my reports here). Although Murray wasn’t going to talk about race or intelligence then, that didn’t matter: he’s been forever deemed a racist for co-authoring The Bell Curve. (I strongly doubt that more than 1% of the protestors had ever read that book [I haven’t]; they were going on social-media outrage). During Murray’s last visit, his talk was interrupted (eventually it was livestreamed from an empty hall) and both he and his host were attacked, with the host, Allison Stanger, sustaining a neck injury and, as I recall, a concussion.  Along with other “cancel culture” incidents at Middlebury in the past few years, this has given the college somewhat of a bad reputation. It was becoming The Evergreen State College of the East.

A good reason for inviting Charles Murray is twofold: so the students can hear what he has to say, and so they can be tested to see if they’ve grown up. If the latter is the case, Middlebury’s reputation will be somewhat restored, and the students will have learned the art of peaceful protest. Or (my recommendation), they shouldn’t protest if they don’t know anything about Murray’s work, but simply ignore his talk, though that’s not so great, either. Actually, they should go to his talk and ask questions.

At any rate, Murray has been re-invited, though the College is now closed because of coronavirus. And the students and faculty are beginning to ramp up their protests, at least according to this letter to the editor (sent to the Middlebury President and her Senior Leadership Group) in the Middlebury Campus, the student newspaper. The letter is written by two named faculty as well as a lot of faculty too scared to divulge their identities (see below). Click on the screenshot to read about the protest.

The authors are a sociology professor and a film and media culture professor (humanities profs, of course: scientists don’t do this stuff). The rest of the signatories are part of the “Middlebury Faculty for an Inclusive Community” (MFIC), whose website says this:

Rather than generating a list of signatories, we offer some specific contacts for different areas of our work and representatives on relevant committees. Not all of members of our group want to identify themselves publicly, but here are many who feel comfortable doing so.

What a bunch of cowards—and they are professors! At any rate, the letter gives four reasons why Murray should not have been invited. Only one is partly valid, and another is weakly valid. The rest is bunk.

The first reason is the usual—Murray’s presence will “endanger members of our community”, “cause significant psychological stress”, and other ridiculous claims:

We believe that over the past three years, our campus has grown significantly in becoming a more inclusive, self-aware and responsive institution, that is open to frank conversations about racial and other inequities that structure our community and broader world. A lecture by an ultimately insignificant, debunked pseudo-scholar, arguing that race, class, and gender inequalities are a product of genetics rather than social systems and practices, would typically be a laughable and easy-to-ignore event. However, the presence of this particular insignificant, debunked pseudo-scholar reopens many wounds that we have worked hard to heal over the past three years.

We write to our administrative colleagues in Old Chapel seeking answers that we hope to receive in a public forum. The largest question that dogs us is, “How did you allow this to happen?” As stewards of Middlebury’s institutional culture, mission and reputation, you certainly recognize the many ways that this is a bad idea — no matter how events might play out on March 31, the event will cause many of us significant psychological distress, provoke in-fighting, generate bad publicity, potentially endanger members of our community, waste hours of time planning and stressing, and ultimately yield nothing beyond rekindled hostility. We believe you could — and should — have taken steps to stop this event from happening on the grounds that it was not in the best interest of the institution and goes directly against our core values of integrity, inclusivity and intellectual honesty. Murray’s talk seems predicated on the “pillar” of academic freedom, but also contradicts our other two pillars of integrity and respect.

I am so tired of rebutting this malarkey. First, Murray wasn’t (and probably isn’t) going to talk about the genetics of IQ and race. Ergo, you can’t censor him based on a 26-year-old book about those topics that you haven’t even read. Second, there’s the implicit and shabby claims that free speech is great BUT in this case Murray isn’t a valid scholar and is also purveying hate speech.

As for the psychological damage and stress, my advice to the students is this: DO NOT GO TO THE TALK! Is that so hard? Why torture yourself?

A more valid complaint by the writers is that only three people invited Murray to speak, and even the College Republicans, whom they represent, didn’t get a say. If that’s the case, the procedure for inviting speakers has been violated. Whether that should mandate cancellation is above my pay grade.

The third reason is that the College Handbook says that a full-time faculty or staff member must be the advisor of the inviting group. However, the advisor of the College Republicans is an “Executive in Residence,” one James Douglas—one of the inviters.. However, Douglas happens to be the former (Republican) governor of Vermont, the state where the College resides.  According to the MFIC’s letter, such a man can’t possibly have an understanding of the impact of the decision. That’s dubious, but if the College wanted to censor a speaker based on a technicality, they have this and the reason above to lean on. But those seem like lame excuses for censorship.

Finally, the letter says that Murray’s talk would require significant “security and facilities staffing”. Sadly, the College requires student organizations to “bear full responsibility for arranging and financing any Department of Public Safety Services that may be necessary in connection with controversial speakers.” That should not be the case, for it prevents groups from inviting the very speakers the students need to hear: controversial ones. Middlebury needs to ditch that rule immediately. And besides, if the College Republicans can fund security, why should the MFICers beef?

However, WHY would they need significant security? It’s because the protestors could wreak havoc and possibly attack the speaker and his supporters. This would not be an issue if the protestors were peaceful, or simply had a counter-event or didn’t go to the talk. A group should never be afraid to invite a controversial speaker because the protestors might be violent. If they are, they should be arrested or suspended. (As I recall, some of the protestors of Murray’s last talk were sanctioned by the College, but their punishment was never revealed.) And no group should be the costs of inviting a speaker, or at least the costs should be equalized among student groups.

In the end, because I don’t know Murray’s work or the topic of his prospective talk, I can’t judge the wisdom of inviting him. But it least it will be a test of whether Middlebury truly tolerates free speech, and whether the students and faculty have grown up. Judging by the letter above, they have a ways to go.

I’ll end with a comment made on the article by one writer:

 

29 Comments

  1. Eric Grobler
    Posted March 11, 2020 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    I have a lot of respect for Murray.

    I think his analysis in “Coming Apart” that American society is diverging into groups that might as well live in different countries because they have no shared culture, interests or even much social interaction is correct.

    I read the Bell Curve around ’95 and also found it very interesting.
    I think because many liberals are very aware of present and past injustices (for good reason) they want to believe that people are generally equal in intellectual ability and that environmental inequality is responsible for different outcomes.

    Because most middle class liberals do not have direct experience with people less fortunate, they project their liberal sensibilities onto the poor, empathy is philosophical and abstract, hiding a sense of guilt on having won the lottery of life.

    As I understand Murray, he argues that working class people deserves respect and society should have realistic policies that provides jobs and facilitate stable families and social structures.

    Murray is an intelligent social scientist with nuanced ideas, he might be wrong on some points but he is not a racist and is worth listening too.

    • John Vokey
      Posted March 11, 2020 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      The Bell Curve is most assuredly wrong about IQ and race and horribly biased, as is made emminently clear in the book, The Bell Curve Debate (Jacoby, Russell; Glauberman, Naomi, eds. (1995). The Bell Curve Debate: History, Documents, Opinions. New York: Times Books. ISBN 0-8129-2587-4. LCCN 95003797). For one thing, Murray and Herrnstein correctly acknowledge that standard IQ tests do not discriminate with respect to gender. But it is why they fail to do so that is the key point: the tests were constructed not to discriminate males from females on IQ. They just as easily could be so constructed to eliminate racial differences, but routinely do not. One does not have think very hard for the likely reason why not.

      • Eric Grobler
        Posted March 11, 2020 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

        “The Bell Curve is most assuredly wrong about IQ”
        Wrong it what sense?

        1) You reject the observation that groups like Asians, Whites, Ashkenazi Jews, African Americans etc have important differences in mean IQ?
        2) You reject the validity of IQ tests?
        3) You accept the above but reject the hypothesis that it is mainly due to genetic factors?

        If you believe point 3: that environmental factors accounts for most of the IQ differences (culture, nutrition, parasites, poverty, war etc) while acknowledging that genetics must play some role then I understand that point of view.

        However, in principle there has to be genetic cognitive differences between populations (any metric; gender, ancestry, geography) large or small, else one has to discount human evolution.

        Last point, the Bell Curve was not about “race differences” in IQ per se, it is the observation that in any society there is a significant number of individuals with low cognitive ability and the growing divide (due to the modern economy) between them and the “Cognitive Elite” and the social implications.

      • Eric Grobler
        Posted March 11, 2020 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

        Interesting point about “Race and IQ”

        Apparently the 15 point IQ gap between African Americans and the general US population have not significantly narrowed since the book was published.

        However I read somewhere that recent black immigrants from West Africa and the Caribbean score above the national IQ (100) and also perform better than the average american on other metrics such as education and average income. (and are also socially more stable)

        That gives weight to Thomas Sowell argument that group culture is a significant factor.
        (Black immigrants work hard to succeed while African Americans are constantly told they are helpless victims of a racist culture)

        • Tim Harris
          Posted March 12, 2020 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

          By whom are African Americans constantly told that they are helpless victims of a racist culture? And what are your reasons for suggesting they passively accept this judgement, made, one supposes from your tone, by people they regard as their superiors? And why does this lead, as you suggest, to some sort of congenital laziness on their part? Has it occurred to you that black immigrants to the US are almost certainly better educated and have been brought up in rather better circumstances than have many black Americans?

          ‘This gives weight to Thomas Sowell (sic) argument that group culture is a significant factor.’ ‘Group culture’ is not something that mysteriously comes about out of nowhere or results from a cause that is inherent to the group, and to no other groups. The USA does actually have a history, and it also a society. There are such things as historical and social factors (slavery, lynchings, sundown towns, continuing prejudice), not to mention political factors. You sound like a 19th-century British phrenologist comparing the features of nice upstanding Englishmen with the supposedly ‘primitive’ features of the Irish to support the view that the Irish were hopelessly inferior.

          Regarding the Ashkenazi: Evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker suggested that “the most obvious test of a genetic cause of the Ashkenazi advantage would be a cross-adoption study that measured the adult IQ of children with Ashkenazi biological parents and gentile adoptive parents, and vice versa,” but noted, “No such study exists, so [Cochran]’s evidence is circumstantial.” (filched from Wikipedia).

          • Tim Harris
            Posted March 12, 2020 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

            Sorry to go on, but I should have added the question as to what Mr Grobler thinks of continuing Republican attempts to suppress the African-American vote. Of the manner in which young African-American men were – and probably still are – incarcerated for long periods for possession (where it was not planted by the police)of marijuana whereas their white counterparts got away with a tap on the wrist. Of events like the shooting of Trayvon Martin, for which the white killer got away scot-free – not to mention various killings of African-Americans, including children, by the police. Of the lead-poisoning inflicted mostly on the poorer inhabitants of Flint, Ohio, for which nobody has been called to account. It really is no good to pretend that the problem is a nice, tidy one that exists in some supposedly ‘scientific’ vacuum.

            I am reminded of Jacob Rees-Mogg insinuating that the poor inhabitants, many of them immigrants, of the Grenfell Tower in London were, unlike him, too unintelligent to get out at once, despite the fact that they had been told by the fire service to stay in their flats. It was just a simple matter of IQ - for an self-satisfied and ‘intelligent’ man like Rees-Mogg, who someone rightly called ‘the idiot’s idea of a thinking man’.

            • Eric Grobler
              Posted March 13, 2020 at 7:54 am | Permalink

              “Sorry to go on, but I should have added the question as to what Mr Grobler thinks of continuing Republican attempts…”

              What make you think I am a Republican supporter?
              I am going to put on one of my favorite John Coltrane records “Africa Brass” to chill out, I suggest you listen to some good jazz as well.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted March 16, 2020 at 3:57 am | Permalink

                Just to point out that I have nowhere intimated that Mr Grobler is a Republican supporter. Perhaps he should re-read what I wrote.

          • Eric Grobler
            Posted March 13, 2020 at 7:20 am | Permalink

            “By whom are African Americans constantly told that they are helpless victims of a racist culture?”

            A large section of academia for example.

            “Has it occurred to you that black immigrants to the US are almost certainly better educated and have been brought up in rather better circumstances than have many black Americans?”

            Please put your thinking hat on. Why do recent black immigrants from poorer countries perform significantly better on many metrics than the average black american?

            I suggest you watch some episodes of the Glen Show.
            https://bloggingheads.tv/programs/current/glenn-show

            “You sound like a 19th-century British phrenologist comparing the features of nice upstanding Englishmen with the supposedly ‘primitive’ features of the Irish to support the view that the Irish were hopelessly inferior.”

            Listen Tim, you sound like an arrogant person who likes to insult people, without having the intellectual and/or psychological ability to understand what they are actually saying.
            (I am an Irish citizen b.t.w and you ironically have the arrogance of an English aristocrat)

            Did you read any of Thomas Sowell’s books on different outcomes between immigrant groups like the Irish, Jews, Chinese, Indians, Italians etc? I did and he had a big influence on my thinking.

            Perhaps you are under the impression that Thomas Sowell is a 19th century white supremacist?

            “Evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker suggested..”
            I have a suspicion you have not actually read any material on Ashkenazi intelligence and the possible cultural or genetic causes thereof. The debate is not IF Ashkenazi Jews have an unusually high IQ as a group, that is well accepted. (except for the usual suspects who reject IQ per se)

            Did you watch this lecture:

            • Tim Harris
              Posted March 15, 2020 at 2:59 am | Permalink

              Ah, so it’s really the fault of academics you dislike, and the fault of the African Americans who are apparently sitting around imbibing their teachings and behaving accordingly. As to why African Americans ‘perform’ worse in certain respects than other groups, I refer you once again to the sorry and continuing history of racism in Anglo-Saxondom which one really does not have to be a post-modern academic to suppose might be a factor – a rather large one, in fact. In Britain, there has been the (continuing) ‘Windrush’ scandal, which was not brought to people’s attention by post-modern academics (who were doubtless too busy working on their obfuscations) but by the wife of Boris Johnson’s younger brother, Amelia Gentleman.

              I’m afraid I find extraordinary the obsession with individual or group IQ and behaviour in isolation from social and political factors – an obsession that derives directly from the long history of Western racism, in which other races were regarded first of all as being of inferior intelligence. And I have no time for the comfortably well-off (and brought up in comfortably well-off families) who suppose that their luck and ‘performance’ in life is due to their individual virtues and has nothing to do with their background, and that a lack of success in life is due to some irredeemable flaw in individuals or in the individuals make up specific groups. And small time, either, for Ayn Randian or William Rees-Moggian myths about the ‘sovereign individual’ or Thatcherian myths about there being no such thing as society. (William, by the way, is the father of Jacob, so you can see where the latter got his ideas from.)

              Pinker’s point in the remark I quoted is that it is difficult to say whether the higher IQ found in Ashkenazi Jews is due wholly to genetic factors or whether it is due in part to the kind of upbringing and education that at least some Ashkenazi Jewish families gave, and give, to their children – and good for them in doing this. But the history, and continuing history, of Ashkenazi Jews is radically different from that of African-Americans. Groups don’t exist in some sort of a-historical petri-dish.

              • Eric Grobler
                Posted March 15, 2020 at 7:31 am | Permalink

                ” But the history, and continuing history, of Ashkenazi Jews is radically different…”
                What is this supposed to mean?

                Did the European pogroms, legal discrimination and holocaust contribute to the Jewish success in the US?
                Do you see where you jump to conclusions?

                “Ah, so it’s really the fault…”
                Tim, using terms like “fault” is childish, we are hopefully talking about what factors are at play when comparing differences in group outcomes.

                “As to why African Americans ‘perform’ worse in certain respects than other groups, I refer you once again to the sorry and continuing history of racism in Anglo-Saxondom…”

                You still do not get the question:
                WHY DO RECENT BLACK IMMIGRANTS PERFORM BETTER ACADEMICALLY, SOCIALLY AND ECONOMICALLY THAN AFRICAN AMERICANS?

                If your explanation start with “continuing history of racism…” then you obviously did not understand the question or you think Nigerians for example do not experience any racism in the US.

                “Pinker’s point in the remark I quoted is that it is difficult to say whether the higher IQ found in Ashkenazi Jews is due wholly to genetic factors ”

                You are a funny guy. You just respectfully quoted Pinker where the hypothesis that genetics might play a major role in Ashkenazi intelligence is on the table.
                However, when I reported that Black immigrants score higher than the national IQ average, suggesting that CULTURE and ATTITUDE rather than genetics is a major factor, you call me names …??!!

                It is obvious to me that you do not criticize Pinker (yet) because your social radar told you that he is on the left, but when someone you perceive to be “right wing” make similar observations, you go ballistic.

                “some Ashkenazi Jewish families gave, and give, to their children – and good for them in doing this.”
                Here we go… Why do African American parents not emphasize education like Jews and Asians do?

                And to get back to my point on recent black immigrants, do they also place more emphasis on education? Do you now see why the “victim narrative” can harm black children?
                (Most Jewish parents who were European survivors did not even speak to their children about their ordeals)

                Can you now understand that someone can be against the “victim narrative”, not because they do not care about black kids in the hood, but because they care.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted March 15, 2020 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

                No-one is denying pogroms, legal discrimination, etc. against Ashkenazi Jews, or the holocaust. I simply suggest that you look up the reasons that have been adduced for the higher general IQ among Jewish people of Ashkenazi ancestry. Since you talk about the factors at play, why, instead of appealing to the vacuous concept of the ‘victim narrative’ as an apparently total explanation of African-American life, do you not address the very real factors that have brought, and continue to bring, about the present situation? That might very well answer your question about why recent black immigrants perform better in many ways than African immigrants.

              • Eric Grobler
                Posted March 15, 2020 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

                “That might very well answer your question about why recent black immigrants perform better in many ways than African immigrants.”

                Sorry Tim, maybe I am bit slow today, but I did not make the connection.

                Why do you think recent black immigrants do better?
                (Lets imagine you have a small community of recent west African immigrants doing better than the African Americans around them in say the same part of Chicago)

              • Tim Harris
                Posted March 16, 2020 at 4:08 am | Permalink

                I suggest, Mr Grobler, that you might do the homework yourself (you may find some suggestions of where to look in what I have written above), and a little thinking for yourself,instead of flourishing the ridiculous little flag of the ‘victim narrative’ as if it amounted to anything like an explanation for what is a very sad and complex situation which is intimately bound up with American history, with American politics, and with American society.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted March 16, 2020 at 6:26 am | Permalink

                I should also recommend reading the work of Judith Shklar, a Latvian Jew who managed to escape the Nazis and came as a refugee to the US having travelled through Russia to Japan, and who wrote perceptively about American society and its illusions. She is someone who genuinely makes you think.

      • Eric Grobler
        Posted March 11, 2020 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

        “the tests were constructed not to discriminate males from females on IQ.”
        Yes it was normalized somewhat, however the shape of the curve is significantly different between males and females (males score higher at the extremes) and there are also differences between the sub tests.

        “They just as easily could be so constructed to eliminate racial differences”

        Yes but then it will loose the predictive value to discriminate on cognitive ability.

        Let me put it like this; It is well known that Ashkenazi Jews score very high on IQ tests and it is also a fact that they produced most of the Nobel laureates.
        Are you proposing to “adjust” IQ tests to eliminate group differences?
        Maybe if John von Neumann scores 115 on the “neutral test” it will make you happy!

        • sted24
          Posted March 11, 2020 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

          To move from the top end of IQ to the bottom, you may be interested in ‘McNamara’s Morons’. More politely ‘Project 100,000’.

          The US Military has had long experience in not recruiting men who test too low to turn into soldiers. IQ is a significant component of their tests.

          At the height of the Viet Nam war, with casualties out-running recruitment, McNamara decided to lower the bar. It was a disaster. These poor men were killed at about three times the average rate. Etc.

          You’ll find stuff on WikiP and elsewhere. This is an accessible and moving account:

          • Eric Grobler
            Posted March 11, 2020 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

            Interesting, The Irish defense force also administer IQ tests for recruits, now I know why!

          • rickflick
            Posted March 11, 2020 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

            Sad.

  2. Jon Gallant
    Posted March 11, 2020 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    What charms me most about de-platformers like this Faculty for an Inclusive Community is their hypochondria, incessantly moaning about the “psychological distress” that will be suffered if any speakers or writers are allowed to express wrongthink in public.

    The old USSR used to generate posters of the revolution’s supporters: always workers and peasants, brandishing hammer and sickle, or the Red soldier with his Mosin M1891/30 rifle. We should have posters of the American new campus Left: these will show a fainting hypochondriac on a couch, reaching feebly for an advil or a prozac.

  3. Simon Hayward
    Posted March 11, 2020 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Looks like this time (per his twitter account) he was deplatformed by coronavirus

  4. Posted March 11, 2020 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    > Sadly, the College requires student organizations to “bear full responsibility for arranging and financing any Department of Public Safety Services that may be necessary in connection with controversial speakers.” That should not be the case, for it prevents groups from inviting the very speakers the students need to hear: controversial ones. Middlebury needs to ditch that rule immediately.

    I strongly agree. The college is essentially weaponizing the Heckler’s Veto with this policy.

    If it isn’t eliminated, I would love to see the sponsoring organization hire as security real police officers who are willing to physically evict disruptive protestors and arrest anyone committing vandalism or trespass. The Woke kids need to learn the difference between speech and violence.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 11, 2020 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t read the whole of The Bell Curve, either, but I did read the issue of The New Republic (back when it was edited by Andrew Sullivan) devoted to a lengthy excerpt, as well as the follow-up issue of TNR devoted to a rebuttal by academic experts.

    Say what you will of its merits, the book generated some interesting discussion. And I’ve watched presentations by Murray on other topics on C-SPAN2’s Book TV. Those were interesting, too, even where I disagreed with every goddam word outta his mouth.

    I’m guessing the same could have been said about his talk at Middlebury, too, whatever its topic, had he been permitted to give it.

    Pity, that.

  6. Filippo
    Posted March 11, 2020 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    ” . . . the event will cause many of us significant psychological distress, provoke in-fighting, generate bad publicity, potentially endanger members of our community . . . .”

    You mean like faculty member Allison Stanger was endangered and injured by one or more hair-pulling and neck-wringing Middlebury students?

  7. TJR
    Posted March 12, 2020 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    The Bell Curve wasn’t really about race, it was about class. They argued that the “cognitive elite” and the ruling class now had interests very much in alignment, so that for everyone else things were getting worse.

    In other words the ruling class have co-opted clever people, and they’ve got together to shaft the poor.

    I was reading the following article in “Radical America” (linked in a recent Areo article) giving a Marxist analysis of the rise of the Professional Managerial Class in the 20th century

    Click to access 1125403552886481.pdf

    I was struck by the similarities between it and The Bell Curve. Just replace “Professional Managerial Class” with “cognitive elite” or vice versa and the arguments are very similar.

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted March 12, 2020 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      “Just replace “Professional Managerial Class” with “cognitive elite” or vice versa and the arguments are very similar.”

      Wow

  8. Dwight Rossee
    Posted March 12, 2020 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    By behaving in a manner where they resort to physically attacking people they disagree with, these students merely highlight their own innate inferiority. LOL.

  9. g.
    Posted March 12, 2020 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    Agreed. It is particularly amusing to hear that A. should be disinvited because he incites violence – violence from the people that object to him speaking! It’s the heckler’s veto on steriods.

    • Filippo
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 4:42 am | Permalink

      ” . . . disinvited because he incites violence – violence from the people that object to him speaking! It’s the heckler’s veto on steriods.”

      For some reason I’m reminded of the scene in the film “Blazing Saddles” where the sheriff (Cleavon Little) holds a gun on himself.


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