Affirmative Action and "The Dog That Didn't Bark"
Just over three years ago, a black lifelong criminal named George Floyd died of an apparent drug-overdose in Minneapolis police custody. This might seem a very minor incident of little importance. But by emphasizing certain distorted facts and hiding others, our media transformed that event into a symbolic flashpoint and thereby ignited a political and cultural revolution that swept across America and much of the Western world.
As a result, we experienced the greatest wave of urban unrest since the late 1960s, with massive protests, rioting, and looting across many dozens of our major cities. Even as our homicide rates showed the sharpest one year rise in history, vocal portions of our political elites responded to this crisis by demanding that our urban police forces be “defunded.”
Meanwhile, acts of racial recompense, symbolic or otherwise, became the center of our politics. Although President Donald Trump was widely portrayed as an extreme, nearly fascistic rightwinger by his media and political opponents, his 2020 reelection campaign emphasized elevating Juneteenth as another national black holiday overshadowing the Fourth of July and offering a $500 billion Platinum Plan of financial benefits to blacks, while he even accepted replacing Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on our currency, all proposals that would have been dismissed as ultra-leftist lunacy just a few years earlier.
Many statues and monuments to our most famous American presidents were torn down or defaced, and a decision was made to rename our large Southern military bases honoring nineteenth century figures, recalling aspects of the Chinese Cultural Revolution under Mao.
Less visible shifts had even greater potential future impact. For decades our elite universities have served as a direct funnel to the commanding heights of American business, finance, law, and media, and in 2020 black enrollment at Harvard College jumped by more than a quarter from the preceding year, representing an astonishing rise of nearly 75% since 2015, by far the fastest such increase in Harvard history. This growth was driven by extremely high acceptance rates, with blacks being 14.8% of the students admitted in 2020 and a whopping 18% of the 2021 admissions.
As a consequence, the per capita enrollment of blacks at our most elite college is probably now several times greater than that of the white Gentiles who had founded that school and still constitute America’s majority population, although the latter have far higher test scores and grades. The increasing numbers of blacks at many of our other most elite colleges such as Yale, Princeton, and Stanford had followed similar trajectories, though generally less extreme.
All these momentous political and social developments since 2020 resulted from extreme media manipulation, which had promoted a severely distorted view of events in service to a particular ideological framework, a process I’d characterized a few years ago:
We naively tend to assume that our media accurately reflects the events of our world and its history, but instead what we all too often see are only the tremendously distorted images of a circus fun-house mirror, with small items sometimes transformed into large ones, and large ones into small. The contours of historical reality may be warped into almost unrecognizable shapes, with some important elements completely disappearing from the record and others appearing out of nowhere. I’ve often suggested that the media creates our reality, but given such glaring omissions and distortions, the reality produced is often largely fictional.
Over these last several years this ideological tide had seemed unstoppable, but near the end of June such official policies of Diversity-Equity-Inclusion (DEI) encountered a major legal reversal, possibly even hitting a brick wall. As I recently wrote:
The top American news story at the end of last week was the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, striking down the use of race in college admissions and thereby overturning nearly a half-century of its own past rulings.
The print editions of our leading national newspapers carried virtually identical front-page banner headlines, with the New York Times announcing “Justices Gut College Affirmative Action” and the Wall Street Journal declaring “Court Guts College Affirmative Action.” The banner headline in my own local Palo Alto Daily Post, a small distribution newspaper that closely tracks the media consensus, was even more emphatic: “Court Ends Affirmative Action.”
Although the ultimate consequences of any major legal decision may take years to be fully understood, the potentially sweeping implications of this dramatic ruling were suggested by the lead story on the Saturday website edition of the Times: “Affirmative Action Ruling May Upend Hiring Policies, Too.”
While it’s too early to be sure of the full impact, this dramatic Supreme Court decision overturning nearly fifty years of past rulings might potentially mark a turning point on an issue central to the mainstream liberal agenda. And unlike the previous reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision, subsequent polls have shown that substantial majorities of Americans support this shift away from racial preferences, undercutting the political position of those who continue to support them.
Yet oddly enough, this severe blow to policies long promoted and protected by our media probably only occurred as a result of the most remarkable media silence, with our entire press spending years hiding important facts from the American public and the judicial system.
This media blackout began to lapse a month ago, long after the Supreme Court decision had already been finalized, as Britain’s Guardian suddenly ran a story with an explosive headline, followed by a longer piece in the Harvard Crimson:
Yet despite such explosive implications, these articles were largely ignored by all other media outlets. However, the day after the Harvard decision was announced, the Forward finally ran a short piece summarizing some of the remarkable facts, followed a day later by some discussion in a longer column:
An antisemitic conspiracy theorist who has denied the Holocaust is among the experts whose opinions were considered in the Supreme Court’s Thursday decision to effectively bar the explicit consideration of race in college admissions.
The complaint that initiated the case Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, filed in 2014, repeatedly cites an essay by Ron Unz, titled “The Myth of American Meritocracy.” Students for Fair Admissions argued in their complaint that Unz’s research demonstrates “rampant discrimination against Asian Americans by Ivy League universities generally and Harvard specifically.”
To some, seeing Unz cited by the victorious side in a Supreme Court battle was jarring, because he’s known for spreading antisemitic conspiracy theories.
Unz, who was born to a Yiddish-speaking family in California, has long shared antisemitic conspiracy theories, including Holocaust denial: A 2018 Anti-Defamation League report stated that he “has denied the Holocaust, endorsed the claim that Jews consume the blood of non-Jews, and has claimed that Jews control the media, hate non-Jews, and worship Satan.”
In a 2018 review of Henry Ford’s 1920 collection of articles The International Jew, a notorious antisemitic screed that a leader of the Hitler Youth cited as the reason for his antisemitism during the Nuremberg Trials, Unz concluded that the articles were “quite plausible and factually-oriented, even sometimes overly cautious in their presentation.”
Writing for his site a month later, Unz argued that “in per capita terms Jews were the greatest mass-murderers of the twentieth century,” and that it was “far more likely than not that the standard Holocaust narrative is at least substantially false, and quite possibly, almost entirely so.”
Earlier this year, Unz appeared on Iranian TV claiming that a “Jewish-dominated” Hollywood is responsible for “Holocaust worship” in the United States, and that only “a couple of hundred thousand Jews died in the concentration camps.”
Unz, whose involvement in the complaint against Harvard was first reported by The Guardian a few weeks ago, also shared problematic views about Jews in “The Myth of American Meritocracy,” first published in The American Conservative in 2012.
In the essay, he criticizes universities for having a “massive apparent bias in favor of far less-qualified Jewish applicants.”
Although some of the information provided in these harshly accusatory Forward articles was a little garbled or exaggerated, most of the claims presented were substantially correct, and in many respects considerably understated. For example, no mention was made anywhere of my work describing the important Nazi-Zionist economic partnership of the 1930s that was crucial to the creation of the State of Israel, nor my articles suggesting that the Israeli Mossad probably played a central role in both the JFK Assassination and the 9/11 Attacks.
My numerous World War II writings have emphasized that our widely accepted narrative of that conflict is actually backwards and upside-down, quite often being the opposite of the true history of what happened. Most surprisingly, they even totally ignored my long series of articles over the last three years arguing that the global Covid epidemic—killing over a million Americans and perhaps twenty million people worldwide—was probably the result of blowback from a botched American biowarfare attack against China (and Iran).
Furthermore, anyone who bothered investigating the background to the lawsuit against Harvard might have easily concluded that my role in originally inspiring the case was very important, quite possibly even absolutely crucial:
Last week I discussed these new media developments on Kevin Barrett’s podcast show:
We must recognize that for decades our media has been extremely effective in using exaggerated connections—often amounting to guilt by association—to smear and discredit those causes it seeks to demonize, and such an effort would have been very easy with regard to my own relationship to the lawsuit challenging Affirmative Action. Moreover, a fierce media assault along those lines might have rendered the case so ideologically radioactive that the Supreme Court would have been reluctant to take it up and overturn their fifty years of previous rulings, thereby preserving the Affirmative Action status quo.
But instead, virtually all media outlets spent the last five years avoiding any mention of my role and especially my exceptionally controversial views on so many other matters. Obviously, those seeking to end racial preferences were greatly relieved by this policy of silence, but the bulk of the media were located on the other side of the ideological battle lines, so their behavior might seem inexplicable.
As a contrasting historical example, consider the media reaction to the publication of The Bell Curve nearly three decades ago. The authors were Richard Herrnstein, a top Harvard professor, and Charles Murray, a leading social scientist, and the book became an enormous best-seller, with hundreds of thousands of copies in print.
Back then, the liberal New Republic was at the peak of its national influence, described as required reading on President Bill Clinton’s Air Force One, and both the owner and editor of that publication strongly endorsed the controversial Herrnstein/Murray book, which also received long and very respectful coverage by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist in the New York Times. With such strong initial support, the bombshell bestseller seemed poised to reverse decades of established views on racial matters.
But although nearly its sources were absolutely mainstream and respectable, the fierce critics seized on rather minor and tenuous links to disreputable figures on the right-wing academic fringe to loudly denounce the work as having been inspired by Neo-Nazis or other extremely tainted elements, thereby almost completely destroying its political influence:
Such an attack would have been vastly easier—and far more accurate—in the case of my own relationship to the Harvard lawsuit. Yet for years virtually every publication in America scrupulously averted avoided its eyes, even though many dozens of influential journalists and public intellectuals are on my own distribution list and most of them must surely have been aware of my own incendiary writing during this period. If their predecessors of the mid-1990s had similarly avoided any strong attacks against The Bell Curve, I suspect that American society might have subsequently followed a very different ideological trajectory.
For these reasons, the controversy surrounding the publication of The Bell Curve seems a very relevant example to consider, and a couple of years ago I had summarized that history:
Herrnstein died of lung cancer at the age of 64 in September 1994, having devoted the final years of his life to a project that directly addressed the large racial differences in intelligence which most of his previous writings had usually sidestepped. Teaming up with prominent social scientist Charles Murray, he produced The Bell Curve, a massive volume that weighed in at 845 pages and over 400,000 words.
The book was released just weeks after his death and immediately became a national sensation, probably attracting more controversy and media coverage than anything published in decades. Almost three generations had passed since a major American press had published a book heavily arguing for the mostly innate nature of human intelligence and the wide racial differences in such traits, and although the latter issue constituted only small portion of the text, those incendiary claims attracted nearly all the attention.
At that time, The New Republic was America’s most influential liberal opinion magazine, and both owner Martin Peretz and editor Andrew Sullivan together gave their strong support to the launch of The Bell Curve, allocating much of an issue to a 10,000 word cover-story entitled “Race, Genes, and IQ: An Apologia,” which largely consisted of extended extracts from the book. But that decision sparked a huge revolt by most of the magazine’s outraged staff and regular contributors, who demanded space for rebuttal, so that the same issue also carried some 19 separate attacks on the book and its theories, many of them extremely harsh, with epithets such as “neo-Nazi” tossed around. According to Sullivan, the incident marked a turning point in his relationships with his TNR colleagues, which never recovered, and he eventually left the magazine.
From the distance of a quarter century, I had mostly forgotten the overwhelming media coverage at the time, but spending a couple of days reading fifty or sixty of the contemporaneous reviews, many of them quite lengthy, refreshed my memory, and also underscored the tremendously disparate reactions by usual ideological soulmates.
For example, just within the pages of the New York Times, the Sunday Book Review allocated The Bell Curve and two other books on similar racial issues an almost unprecedented three pages of discussion, with Malcolm Browne, the paper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist taking 4,200 words to portray the works in a substantially favorable light, emphasizing the need to confront long-suppressed taboos. But a week later the same newspaper ran a very long editorial denouncing “The Bell Curve Agenda” in the harshest possible terms, and an 8,300 word cover-story in the Sunday Magazine had vilified Murray as “The Most Dangerous Conservative in America.”
National Review, the leading conservative magazine, had already run a long and favorable review, but soon devoted most of an entire issue to a remarkable symposium by 14 separate contributors, many of them prominent journalists or academics, who provided a very wide range of both positive and negative perspectives. Although TNR was then my favorite magazine and I didn’t hold NR in high regard, the flood of attacks in the former seemed absolutely hysterical, while I thought that the latter had provided the best and most balanced discussion.
The coincidental timing of larger political events probably helped explain this enormous media coverage. Just a couple of weeks after the book’s release, Newt Gingrich and the Republicans had unexpectedly swept to power in Congressional elections, ending nearly a half-century of unbroken Democratic control by seizing majorities in both the House and the Senate, an event just as traumatic to the liberals of that day as Donald Trump’s upset victory was to prove in 2016. Racial controversies had been a significant contributing factor to the Republican landslide, and appalled liberals now saw their familiar political and ideological world crumbling about them, with the frightening possibility that the “white racism” of the buried past would suddenly regain control of American society.
The result was an exceptionally bitter wave of liberal media attacks on the book, which was demonized to an unprecedented extent. As mentioned, much of the early media discussion of The Bell Curve and its ideas had been favorable or at least respectful, but an enormous public campaign of vilification was now unleashed, with many timorous Republicans and conservatives soon wilting under the attacks and abandoning any support. A couple of years earlier, I had been invited to a private meeting in DC at which Murray had confidentially circulated portions of his work-in-progress and the neoconservative organizers strategized with him about the best approach for successfully launching the book; but now I heard word that Bill Kristol was seeking conservatives to sign a public statement condemning the “racist” tract.
The book continued to sell very well, but the tide of elite public opinion soon turned sharply against it, and Herrnstein’s death just a month before publication was surely a contributing factor. Until just a few years earlier, Murray had been totally unaware of these scientific issues involving race and IQ, and indeed had regularly dismissed the possible role of racial differences as a factor in black social problems in his previous writings denouncing the welfare state. By contrast, Herrnstein had spent more than two decades researching the topic as a leading Harvard professor, and was also partially immunized against attacks because of his strong liberal credentials. Thus, the disappearance of the senior liberal co-author removed a crucial defender of the contents, leaving the conservative Murray much more vulnerable and exposed, and forcing him to publicly defend psychometric issues that were outside his primary area of expertise. I remember thinking at the time that when faced with sharp technical questioning by hostile journalists some of his media responses were not as effective as they might have been.
America’s leading psychometricians, whose professional expertise on race and IQ had long been ignored or mischaracterized in the public arena, quickly mobilized in support, using the media firestorm as an opportunity to get their longstanding opinions into print. In December, the Wall Street Journal gave over most of a full editorial page to a public declaration that The Bell Curve represented the scholarly consensus of the “mainstream science on intelligence,” a statement organized by Prof. Linda Gottfredson and signed by 52 academic experts, including such eminent scholars as Eysenck and Jensen.
Despite these counter-attacks, the intellectual tide continued to turn against the work, and within less than a year, the ideological status quo had reasserted itself, with the remaining defenders finding themselves severely beleaguered in the mainstream media. When the firestorm had originally erupted, famed paleolibertarian Murray Rothbard had been gleeful that the long-suppressed truths about racial matters had finally broken through, suggesting that powerful political elements had apparently decided to reverse their decades of scientific suppression. But at the ten year anniversary, longtime writers on race and IQ such as Steve Sailer and Chris Brand delivered lengthy and despairing verdicts, concluding that the ideas in the book had been successfully suppressed, and any favorable mention of it in respectable circles would render someone an immediate outcast. Sailer even suggested that the “Bell Curve Wars” represented a crucial turning point for both the neoconservative and neoliberal intellectual movements, which soon abandoned any lingering candor on racially-charged issues. Indeed, other frequent writers on racial matters such as John Derbyshire and Peter Brimelow have sometimes described the period 1995-2005 as a brief “interglacial” during which controversial racial topics could sometimes be discussed in the mainstream media, but that the subsequent clamp-down had been even more severe than anything before.
Many journalists and academics became extremely fearful of broaching the subject of race and IQ, with even the most eminent figures sometimes suffering severe consequences when they did so. For half a century, James Watson had reigned as one of the world’s greatest scientific figures, having shared a Nobel Prize for discovering DNA in 1953 and then spending decades leading Cold Spring Harbor laboratory, which he built up into a major center of scientific research. But in 2007 while on a book-tour at the age of 79, he raised questions about the average intelligence of black Africans and was immediately subjected to a firestorm of public criticism and media vituperation, soon being stripped of many of his honors, and later endured a second wave of vilification when similar remarks came to light in a 2018 documentary. This was a shocking fate for a scientist in his 90s who had spent his entire career at the peak of world renown and achievement.
At the time of the initial Watson firestorm, Slate was our leading online publication, generally neoliberal and well-respected, and William Saletan, one of its senior editors, began publishing a lengthy five-part series entitled “Liberal Creationism,” in which he explained the solid scientific basis of Watson’s casual remarks. But Saletan immediately encountered such a ferocious wave of denunciations that he soon apologized for having used “disreputable sources” amid widespread doubts that he would be able to keep his job.
These last five years of total media silence regarding the roots of the Harvard lawsuit—so unlike the reaction to The Bell Curve—constitute the “dog that didn’t bark.” Uncovering the true reasons for such extreme journalistic reticence would seem a huge story that some energetic investigator should certainly pursue.
Send this article to a friend: