The Corner

Culture

Charles Murray Finally Fights Back Against the SPLC

The once-valuable (and now hateful and vile) Southern Poverty Law Center has long labeled Charles Murray an “extremist” and a “white nationalist.” The SPLC’s label not only contributes to lazy headlines and borderline-slanderous reporting, it also seems to have partly inspired the violent attack against Murray at Middlebury College. After years of ignoring the SPLC’s claims, Murray finally chose to address them, in detail, and his response is devastating.

He took the entire SPLC entry and copy edited it — providing additional context when necessary, correcting misrepresentations, and generally dismantling their argument. Here’s a sample, when he corrects the SPLC’s assertion that Murray tries to link social inequality to “genes” and claims that he bases his own work on “the work of explicitly racist scientists.” After noting that his book, The Bell Curve, “never attempts to link social inequality to genes,” Murray says this:

Actually, you’ve got to change this whole sentence. The attempts to link IQ to social inequality are contained in Part II of The Bell Curve, “Cognitive Classes and Social Behavior.” It consists of eight chapters, each of which examines the relationships among IQ, socioeconomic status (SES) and various social behaviors. The topics of the eight chapters are poverty, schooling, unemployment, marriage and nonmarital births, welfare dependency, parenting, crime, and citizenship. In each chapter, Herrnstein and Murray review the relevant technical literature and then use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) to conduct regression analyses of the relevant social behavior using as independent variables cognitive test scores and an index of SES. Here’s the point: The NLSY analyses for all eight chapters are based exclusively on samples of non-Latino whites. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to invoke the use of “racist scientists” to discredit findings based on original analyses conducted by Herrnstein and Murray using samples of whites. No?

Murray’s post systematically picks apart the SPLC’s assertions, and in so doing, he reminds us of The Bell Curve’s key predictions:

In this penultimate chapter we speculate about the impact of cognitive stratification on American life and government. Predicting the course of society is chancy, but certain tendencies seem strong enough to worry about:

An increasingly isolated cognitive elite.

A merging of the cognitive elite with the affluent.

A deteriorating quality of life for people at the bottom end of the cognitive ability distribution.

Unchecked, these trends will lead the U.S. toward something resembling a caste society, with the underclass mired ever more firmly at the bottom and the cognitive elite ever more firmly anchored at the top, restructuring the rules of society so that it becomes harder and harder for them to lose. Among the other casualties of this process would be American civil society as we have known it. Like other apocalyptic visions, this one is pessimistic, perhaps too much so. On the other hand, there is much to be pessimistic about.

Murray remarks, “As predictions from 1994 go, you’ve got to admit these aren’t bad.”

The SPLC and others have twisted words like “extremist” into meaninglessness. Yes, they (and the rest of us) can properly identify the Klan and Klan-like groups as hateful, and those groups are certainly worth monitoring, but it takes a special kind of ideological fanaticism to apply the same label to people like Murray and groups like my old employers at the Alliance Defending Freedom. The SPLC can do whatever it wants with its fundraising riches. No one, however, has to pay any attention to them, and the next reporter who relies on its “research” to describe or discredit decent men and women will out himself as lazy, biased, and possibly even malicious. 

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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