RS McCain

Friday Linkfest: This, That, and T’other

It’s not the post that Friday needs, but the post the Friday deserves:

Peace out, cub scouts. Have a great weekend.

The Shaky Evidence of Gender Theory

Stacy McCain could be a accused of being a “feminism bore”, as often he seems to write about little else. But feminism, especially of the radical variety, merits the response. Today McCain takes a long look at Kate Millet, author of the 1970 radfem tome Sexual Politics. His main point, about Millet’s mental health and unhappiness, is of a piece with things he’s written before, but I’m more interested in the bad evidence for Gender Theory that Millet used.

The crux of gender feminism  is that there are no men and women, only “men” and “women” – social constructs that can and should be done away with in the interests of true equality. But upon what evidence does that claim rest? According to McCain, precious little, at least insofar as Sexual Politics is concerned:

Scientific advances have been quite unfortunate for Millett’s claim that “there is no differentiation between the sexes at birth,” in part because her citation for that claim is dependent on one of the greatest frauds in scientific history. On pages 30-31, she excerpts a quotation from a 1965 article “Psychosexual Differentation,” from a book entitled Sex Research, New Developments; in her bibliography, Millett references a 1957 book, The Psychologic Study of Man. The author of both of these works? Johns Hopkins University psychologist Dr. John Money, whose botched attempt to turn a boy into a girl (the notorious “John/Joan” experiment) failed spectacularly, ultimately resulting in the suicide of Dr. Money’s pathetic human guinea pig, David Reimer.

Dr. Money’s unethical (and perhaps criminal) methods of attempting to psychologically “condition” Reimer to be a girl were never successful; “Brenda” Reimer aggressively rejected the female identity that Dr. Money tried to impose. Yet Dr. Money, having trumpeted the “John/Joan” case as proof of his theories in the 1970s, misrepresented the case in his academic publications and in popular media. It took many years before another scientist, curious to know how Dr. Money’s patient had adjusted to adult womanhood, discovered the shocking truth behind Dr. Money’s fraudulent “research.” As a teenager, “Brenda” Reimer had decisively rejected “her” female identity, and sought treatment to become the man “she” had been born to be. David Reimer married a woman and, despite the loss of functional genitalia — castrated in infancy as part of Dr. Money’s “treatment” — he was by the 1990s an otherwise normal (that is, masculine) young man, albeit suffering from depression that finally resulted in his 2004 suicide.

This is startling, and not just because you find yourself wondering “Who the hell authorized the castration of an infant boy?” But because you would like to assume that basic ethics would prevented someone from making use of such experiments. But apparently one would be wrong.

Concurrently, Millet dismisses contrary evidence without having done the reading:

Millett, whose claim to expertise was . . . well, what? She got her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Minnesota and got a postgraduate degree in literature at Oxford University, then went to Japan where she taught English and married an avant-garde sculptor.
Here she was in 1970, however, presuming to accuse Dr. Lionel Tiger, a professor of anthropology, of misrepresenting the research of zoologist Konrad Lorenz, who won the Nobel Prize in 1973. If Tiger was guilty of misrepresenting Lorenz’s work, you might think that Lorenz himself would have made the accusation, which he never did. Anyone interested in the subject may consult Konrad Lorenz’s 1966 book On Aggression and Lionel Tiger’s 1968 book Men in Groups and decide for themselves whether the two authors were in accord.

Of course the answer to this is that science is a patriarchal construct. Which is a rhetorically effective device, as all the devices employed by conspiracy theorists and totalitarians tend to be.

Now, I’m betting that evidence for gender-theory – the nurture side of the equation, as it were – is more pronounced today than it was in 1970. But so is the counter-evidence. There’s more than enough scientific data on how boys and girls behave differently from birth to at least seriously question the notion that gender is a social construct. That there are divergences in gender behavior among men and women, no one denies. That there are social aspects to gender, no one denies. But the assumption that the cart is pushing the horse has never made sense to me.

Why I’m Not Talking About Elliot Rogers, and You Shouldn’t Be, Either.

So a guy decides that he’s not getting sex enough, and that he’s gonna kill some people, and that will show them all . . . something.

Read that again. Did you notice the part where it doesn’t make any sense? Like, any at all?

Let’s go with that.

Let’s not turn Rogers into the latest representative of our favored demonologies – mysogynist, beta male, child of divorce, closeted gay, gun culture, feminazis, what have you. A few sophistic flips will make him stand in for any or none of them. And everyone knows that. So unless you’re talking to someone who already belongs to your particular ideological tribe, your learned discourse is going to meet rolling eyes. So let’s just…not.

Let’s not assume any more about Rogers than he was a disturbed young man who decided, quite deliberately and with malice aforethought, to explode, and take as many with him as he could (four men and two women, as it turned out). Let’s not use him, and the pain he’s caused six families, as another excuse to shout at each other on the Internet.

Let’s just skip to the end, where we shrug our shoulders and recognize that whatever was going on in this young man’s mind was beyond our ability to help, and we forget about it. Because it was, and we’re going to. He was sick, and he killed six people. There is no why. There is no answer. Homo homini lupus est.

Why We Ever Stopped Using the Gibbet, I’ll Never Understand

I have always found the concept of lethal injection creepy and offensive. There’s something Orwellian about using the instruments of medicine to bring about death. Yes, that’s how we put down animals, but a human is more than just an animal. A human, even one guilty of a capital crime, deserves to suffer death honestly, not as a euphemism.

I assume lethal injection became popular due to its apparent “humanity”, i.e. the lack of suffering comparable to hanging, beheading, or firing squad. But the execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma on Tuesday has put the lie to that. Instead of a quiet passing from life to un-life, Locket writhed and clenched and suffered for forty minutes.

Stacy McCain takes the tack of reminding us that Lockett’s execution was still less severe than the group rape, shooting, and burying alive of Stephanie Neimann, for which he received his death sentence. With this, I have no argument. But I am less interested in how much Lockett suffered than in the pretense that execution can be done without suffering.

“Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man.

- Genesis 9:6

I am myself something of an agnostic on capital punishment. I am uncertain of its benefits and have doubts about whether the state should be trusted with the taking of life. But I recognize the instinct that says “hang the sonofabitch from the nearest tree”, and I do not judge it. And that’s why lethal injection creeps me out. Execution becomes an elongated series of procedures and steps, done quietly in the dead of night, away from the public eye. In a week, I will have forgotten Clayton Lockett’s name. The state will have lifted him out of the stream of history.

The question of whether he deserves it or not is incidental. If we must execute men in the name of public order and justice, then let us do so openly. Let us do so without pretense, without false solicitousness, without swabbing his arm with alcohol in preparation for a dose of poison. If we’re going to shed his blood, then shed his blood, and let the citizens of the state in whose name that blood is shed be the witnesses.

In conclusion, if we haven’t the stomach to hang murderers in the public square, we shouldn’t be executing them at all.

UPDATE: Kevin Williamson, who has become my favorite writer at National Review, opines much the same:

The fiasco in Oklahoma suggests that maybe we took a wrong turn back in 1792. If we are to have capital punishment, there is something to be said for the old-fashioned methods. The sword is indeed too aristocratic for a republic such as France’s or our own, and our already over-titled public sector does not need a High Executioner. But there is something to be said for the sword, and for the high executioner. Execution is a job for a man, not a machine. The power to take a life is profound, and it must be undertaken with the highest degree of sobriety and responsibility. The intimacy of the sword in the hands of the executioner communicates that power and responsibility much more directly than our own relatively bloodless bureaucracy of death ever could. The plodding American mode of bureaucracy if anything subtracts from the profundity of an execution, being organized around a principle of dehumanization that in a sense makes the actual taking of life anticlimactic, almost — but only almost — beside the point.

Useful Idiot Jesse Myerson Gets Slapped Around Like a Red-Head Stepchild

By RS McCain.

Myerson is the bourgeois equivalent of the kind of semi-educated twerp who slicks his hair to that Fuhrer emo-flop and quibbles about exactly how many Jews died in the so-called holocaust.

Apologetics for an ideology with Communism’s body count ought to be a one-way ticket to a compound in Idaho, printing off mimeographed newsletters to be sold for a quarter with a dimebag of meth.

I blame Trotsky, because he invented the notion that Communism was pure and humane until Stalin got his hands on it. Which is inane. Stalin did nothing that Lenin (and Trotsky) did not do before him. All he did was (slightly) increase the scale. But Trotsky’s post-downfall bit of self-serving claptrap has allowed generations of the supposedly-educated to look at Stalin and Mao and Ho and Pol Pot and say “that is not communism.”

But it is.

McCain performs yeoman service in stuffing the myth Communism in It’s True Form and The Good Tsar Lenin back on the ash-heap of history where it belongs.

Not shown: Capitalism.

Not shown: Capitalism.

Because I Need More Things to Do, I’ve Now Put Out a Literary Journal

On the Flipboard. I call it Things to Read.

In this issue:

  • Victor Davis Hanson’s “An American Satyricon”
  • Robert Stacy McCain’s “The Columbia Journalism Review is (Still) Decadent and Depraved”
  • Jessica Khoury’s “Is It Science Fiction”
  • An excerpt from Jordan Belfort’s Memoir, “The Wolf of Wall Street”

And much much more (well, more anyway)!

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Richard Cohen Calls the Tea Party Racist, But He Used the Wrong Words or Something…

Tempest_in_a_teapot

Richard Cohen is beneath contempt. In all the years I read the Washington Post, I never saw a column of his that was not cheap and tedious. Sure, I’ll fisk E.J. Dionne, because Dionne is a Dem apparatchik in journalist’s clothing, announcing the party line. His columns thus rise to the level of argument. Cohen’s collective works, on the other hand, amount to nothing but the assorted mental burps and prejudices of a man who’s done nothing but pen a newspaper column since 1976.

So this is not me taking notice of Richard Cohen. This is me examining what Richard Cohen said that has everyone so worked up. The offending graph:

Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.

Let’s parse, shall we?

  1. “Today’s GOP is not racist…but it is deeply troubled.” This is the standard You’re-not-racist-but-you-are progressive construction. It allow’s progs to make generalizations about conservatives while sparing any actual conservatives who might be in the room. It’s a variant of the Maybe-not-you-but-you-can’t-deny association smear. So far, so typical.
  2. “…about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be avant-garde”. This is the oh-the-poor-terrified-dears patronisation. You see, conservatives don’t merely dissent from progressive dogma on these subjects. We are filled with troubles about them. We are maiden aunts reaching for our smelling salts at the sight of these kids with their rock n’ roll and their eight-track tapes.
  3. “People with conventional views must suppress a gag reflex when…” And having built the strawman, you put words in his mouth. The idea that objection to interracial marriage constitutes an intrinsic or even significant part of conservatism is a non-starter, but never mind. If Reagan triumphs, they’re going to take the vote away from women. It’s just who those people are.

What seems to be the problem is Cohen’s use of “conventional.” For Cohen’s generation, “conventional” and “conservative” were synonymous. In saying “People with conventional views”, Cohen obviously refers to the “troubled” not-racist-but-racist right. However, “conventional” has a more common meaning, that of “conforming or adhering to accepted standards.” And if you so remove the context and replace Cohen’s intent with the conventional meaning, then it sounds as though he’s saying interracial marriage is something that makes normal people sick.

But why do that to a fellow leftie? Simple. Because the rituals of  racism-dissociation, as limned by Shelby Steele in his magnificent meditation, White Guilt, demand no less. The appearance of racism is all that matters, and all that white progressives need to prove their Not-Racism to themselves and anyone else. Blacks who participate in this ritual get the frisson of sticking it to an old white man, who’s probably racist anyway, because they all are, am I right?

Thus is Richard Cohen, making a tiresome accusation of racism against conservatives, hoist by his own petard. That those who attack him disagree not a jot from his premise doesn’t make the irony any less delicious.

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