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Inept Smears

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On Monday, I linked to Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker article “None of the Above: What race doesn’t tell you about IQ.” Several of my commenters alertly called attention to Gladwell’s line:

“… and in 1994 Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, in “The Bell Curve,” notoriously proposed that Americans with the lowest I.Q.s be sequestered in a “high-tech” version of an Indian reservation, “while the rest of America tries to go about its business.””

Obviously, this is flatly wrong. As “yo” acidly observed,

“‘Proposed’ and ‘argued against’ are so close in meaning that its easy to get them confused.”

This afternoon, following earlier critical comments by “Rain And” and “rone,” I posted on the blog:

Dear Malcolm:

Don’t they have fact checkers at The New Yorker anymore?

Are you going to issue an apology to Charles Murray for your possibly libelous claim, “”Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, in “The Bell Curve,” notoriously proposed that Americans with the lowest I.Q.s be sequestered in a “high-tech” version of an Indian reservation””?

Soon after, Gladwell posted this on his blog:


To my chagrin, I made an error in my New Yorker piece “None of the Above.” In the “Bell Curve,” Charles Murray and Richard Hernstein did not advocate a “high-tech Indian reservation” for low-IQ groups. Rather, they warned that if current welfare policies continued, we would end up having to build high-tech reservations for those with low IQs–which is a very different argument, obviously (although not, if you think about it, any less ridiculous). I regret the error. The New Yorker will be running a correction.

December 12, 2007 | Permalink

The potentially libelous line remains in the online version of the New Yorker article, but an apology (a more graceful one that Malcolm’s, by the way), has been appended to the bottom of the article:

“C ORRECTION: In his December 17th piece, “None of the Above,” Malcolm Gladwell states that Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, in their 1994 book “The Bell Curve,” proposed that Americans with low I.Q.s be “sequestered in a ‘high-tech’ version of an Indian reservation.” In fact, Herrnstein and Murray deplored the prospect of such “custodialism” and recommended that steps be taken to avert it. We regret the error.”

• Tags: Gladwell, Inept Smears, IQ 
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Washington Monthly denounces my Obama article: As I mentioned a couple of months ago, there was an attempt going around D.C. to kill my American Conservative article “Obama’s Identity Crisis” before I’d even finished it. Now, the would-be censor, some guy named Alexander Konetzki, recounts in the Washington Monthly his heroic effort to silence my questioning of the Presidential candidate’s media image:

Ever since Barack Obama burst onto the political stage in 2004, pundits have taken to calling the junior senator from Illinois a rock star. He inspires, they say, with his youth, intelligence, and soaring oratory. He transcends race.

This flattering picture, which makes even the senator blush, has seldom been challenged by political commentators or the public. And as of mid-March 2007, no one had tried in earnest to subvert the idea that, as president, Obama could help ease America’s racial tensions because his mother was white and his father was black.

But that’s exactly what Steve Sailer, a columnist for the anti-immigration site, tried to do in a piece he submitted to the American Conservative magazine, where, at the time, I was assistant editor. Using quotes from Obama’s 1995 autobiography, Dreams From My Father, Sailer portrayed the senator not as a unifying figure, but as an angry black nationalist who completely rejected his white racial heritage as a young man and might do the same as president.

Well, we can’t have people going around reading and even quoting a potential President’s autobiography, now can we? Some things, such as Obama’s image, are just too sacred to “subvert.”

Now, much as I would like to take credit for being the only journalist to notice the blatant contradictions between Obama’s campaign spiel and his autobiography, quite a few others have noticed it too. I quote three of them here. Further, Obama’s account of his Hawaiian upbringing has since been exploded by the many reporters during the late winter who made the supreme sacrifice of taking an expense account trip to Hawaii to interview Obama’s schoolmates.

The Washington Monthly doesn’t even bother providing a link to my article, which might allow readers to judge it for themselves.

Jim Antle
comments in the American Spectator blog:

This kind of groundbreaking investigative reporting is why I read the Washington Monthly. I confess: When I went to work for the American Conservative, I was shocked to discover it was a conservative magazine. Then I came to The American Spectator and quickly learned that by some strange coincidence, it too was a conservative magazine!

With all this conservatism being published in conservative magazines, I don’t know what critics of the liberal media are talking about. Fortunately, we can read informative articles about this shocking experience. (Hat tip: The Corner, the blog of yet another conservative magazine.)

Konetzki claims Obama’s book “flatly contradicts” my article, but, predictably, he can’t document that lie. As for what little that is even allegedly substantive in Konetzki’s piece, he disputes my contention:

The happy ending to Dreams is that Obama’s hard-drinking half-brother Roy—“Actually, now we call him Abongo, his Luo name, for two years ago he decided to reassert his African heritage”—converts to teetotaling Islam.

Allow me to suggest opening up Obama’s autobiography, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race an Inheritance and reading the last page and a half of the book (pp. 441-442 in the paperback), beginning with the sentences:

“The person who made me proudest of all, though, was Roy. Actually, now we call him Abongo, his Luo name, for two years ago he decided to reassert his African heritage.”

Of course, reading Obama’s book is not something many of my critics, such as Matt Yglesias (whose attack on me Konetzki approvingly cites), have actually gotten around to doing.

Back in 2000, we elected President a pig in a poke. How’d that work out for us? This time, with Obama, we at least have a non-ghost written autobiography of some literary merit, so we don’t have the excuse we had with Bush that he’s too boring to think about. But, when it comes to Obama, lots of people just want to hope, not read or think.

• Tags: Inept Smears, Obama 
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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