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Attorney General of the United States less racist than Nobel prize winning biologist

This sounds pretty bad:

The FBI was better off when “you all only hired Irishmen,” [former Attorney General] Sessions said in one diatribe about the bureau’s workforce. “They were drunks but they could be trusted. . . .”

But compare to this from Mister Helix:

[The] historic curse of the Irish . . . is not alcohol, it’s not stupidity. . . it’s ignorance. . . . some anti-Semitism is justified. Just like some anti-Irish feeling is justified . . .

And “who would want to adopt an Irish kid?”

Watson elaborated:

You can be real dumb or you can seem dumb because you don’t know anything — that’s all I’m saying. The Irish seemed dumb because they didn’t know anything.

He seems to be tying himself into knots, trying to reconcile old-style anti-Irish racism with modern-day racism in which there’s a single white race. You see, he wants to say Irish are inferior, but he can’t say their genes are worse, so he puts it down to “ignorance.”

Overall, I’d have to say Sessions is less of a bigot: Sure, he brings in a classic stereotype, but in a positive way!

Lots of us say stupid and obnoxious things in private. One of the difficulties of being a public figure is that even your casual conversation can be monitored. It must be tough to be in that position, and I can see how at some point you might just give up and let it all loose, Sessions or Watson style, and just go full-out racist.

110 Comments

  1. How ethnocentrism plays out in the modern political context strikes me as different from how it had played out prior to the 70s. Its commodification for political ends is so robust today. You see all these ethnic groups vying for economic & political influence. In so far as the Irish & Jewish American, I recall the stories from them about their treatment in the US, when I lived in Boston.

    I am totally amazed how minorities can exhibit their prejudices. It’s an industry actually. But younger people are way more accepting of ethnic and racial differences.

    • Terry says:

      Just saw a disturbing article about how Jonathan Haidt is pessimistic about our democracy lasting another thirty years. He is very concerned about tribalism. Jonathan Haidt is one of the most reasonable and soft-spoken public intellectuals out there today.

      Haidt’s thesis originates with humans’ evolutionary journey. He says the “human mind is prepared for tribalism” and that humans are “deeply intuitive creatures whose gut feelings drive strategic reasoning.”

      The delusion is to believe that liberal, secular, multicultural democracy is a natural condition for human nature. Haidt says this is false. The achievement of our democratic model based on diversity is a “miracle” that is far more fragile than we realise.

      He warns that the mixture of social media, eruption of common­-enemy identity politics, and entrenched rival moralities of progressives and conservatives is provoking a reversion to tribalism.

      “We just don’t know what a democracy looks like when you drain all the trust out of the system­,” Haidt said.

      https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/politics/very-good-chance-democracy-is-doomed-in-america-says-haidt/news-story/0106ec1c458a0b5e3844545514a55b5a

      • Anonymous says:

        “Just saw a disturbing article about how Jonathan Haidt is pessimistic about our democracy lasting another thirty years. He is very concerned about tribalism.”

        Just posted a long comment here on the comment you made about SSRI’s that might be related to this.

        It’s not posted as of yet, and was “under moderation” but the timing of your comment couldn’t be better because this is part of what i have been wondering about recently.

        For instance, i am wondering more and more if academia/science/Psychology may have made things worse by trying to “nudge” things, or societies in a certain direction.

      • Samuel Huntington’s book, Who Are We?, addresses that same subject from a different angle: amplifying what globalization & power projection have wrought. It’s worth reading. I differ with Jonathan Haidt in that sense that we have to delve deeper into the various identities that are called up in different contexts. I do understand his thesis. Tribalism is not a new phenomenon. Social media may amplify it admittedly.

        I find greater diversity of opinions among conservatives & progressives, notwithstanding that sometimes these labels anchor us to stereotypes that are traditionally associated with these labels. When one actually sits down with different groups, one gets a more nuanced, and, perhaps, a more accurate picture of the dynamics across & within social networks. We tend to rely on a few social media sites. That can skew our perceptions.

        I think the wealth and class gaps are more the causes for divisions & polarization. Some just exploit them for media content.

      • John Williams says:

        “Just saw a disturbing article about how Jonathan Haidt is pessimistic about our democracy lasting another thirty years.” So, why is tribalism a greater threat now than it was in the past? As a natural scientist, it seems to me obvious that humans evolved as social animals, but that didn’t keep democracy from developing. It seems to me that the threat to democracy comes from the increasing concentration of wealth, not tribalism.

        • Anonymous says:

          Quote from above: “So, why is tribalism a greater threat now than it was in the past? As a natural scientist, it seems to me obvious that humans evolved as social animals, but that didn’t keep democracy from developing”

          Without having read the article by Haidt, i reason there could be many nuances, and little things, that can influence matters and that could/should be taken into consideration.

          For example, i have been wondering (for about 3 minutes now as a result of reading these comments here) about the following:

          # when, why, and how did (most) democracies develop?
          # were there shared situations, factors, population characeristics, etc. between those developed democracies?
          # can a democracy possibly only “work” if there is a certain minimum (or optimal) level of shared norms, values, factors, etc. between the people?
          # can a democracy even be a “bad” way to go about things
          # are there certain things that can be considered to be social actually conducice for a democracy, and other things that can be considered to be social actually hindering for a democracy?
          # etc.
          # etc.

        • Terry says:

          “So, why is tribalism a greater threat now than it was in the past?”

          Just the feeling that, not too long ago, we thought we were headed for a future where group differences were fading away. Many people, like myself, who voted for Obama, thought black/white divisiveness was nearing an end. Obama was marketed by many as a way to get to a “post-racial” future.

          Instead, it seems like tribalism is on the upsurge, and that tribalism is now a thriving industry. There is a lot of money in tribalism and many people’s jobs depend on it. Historically, tribalism has been a very bad thing in many places.

          Recently, presidential candidates fell over each other to tell the most naked, racist, and hateful lies about the fifth anniversary of Michael Brown’s attack on Officer Wilson. Elizabeth Warren tweeted that:

          “5 years ago Michael Brown was murdered by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Michael was unarmed yet he was shot 6 times. I stand with activists and organizers who continue the fight for justice for Michael. We must confront systemic racism and police violence head on.”

          Caveat: it is easy to feel that things are getting worse because it is easy to minimize the problems of the past. That may be the case here. Maybe this latest upsurge in tribalism is just a blip. Further, yes, wealth inequality is a serious problem too. The current crop of mega-billionaires is quite astonishing.

          • Anoneuoid says:

            Just the feeling that, not too long ago, we thought we were headed for a future where group differences were fading away. Many people, like myself, who voted for Obama, thought black/white divisiveness was nearing an end. Obama was marketed by many as a way to get to a “post-racial” future.

            Instead, it seems like tribalism is on the upsurge, and that tribalism is now a thriving industry. There is a lot of money in tribalism and many people’s jobs depend on it. Historically, tribalism has been a very bad thing in many places.

            You are just describing the feelings that the US media has wanted you to feel… Time to step away from the propaganda.

            • I have a friend who married a Jewish man who is involved in various social activism groups, as a consequence they know a lot of Jewish families. They are in Minnesota. Within a few weeks of Trump’s election several different acquaintances had schwastikas painted onto their houses. That had never before happened to any of them over the last 40-50 years.

              The current state of divisiveness may be media induced or not… but it’s a real state involving real consequences.

              • Anoneuoid says:

                Well, Trump is like the most pro-Jewish president the US has ever had.

                Some of his biggest supporters are famous Zionists: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheldon_Adelson

                They are naming towns after him in Israel: https://news.yahoo.com/israel-name-town-golan-trump-netanyahu-155726721.html

                His son in law and senior advisor and now daughter are Jewish: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jared_Kushner

                It is difficult for me to think of someone associating anti-jewish activity with Trump as anything other than the result of propaganda. People need to get off Facebook/cnn/etc and back to reality.

              • D Kane says:

                > They are in Minnesota. Within a few weeks of Trump’s election several different acquaintances had schwastikas painted onto their houses.

                There is a good chance these were hate hoaxes, to the extent they even happened in the first place. How about a link to a news article?

              • Terry says:

                Any arrests?

                If not, are you at all skeptical? (Minnesota, reported by a social activist, multiple incidents, friend of a friend, tie to Trump, immediately after election, cui bono.)

                How good is your hoax radar? What was your reaction to the first reports of the Jussie Smollett noose incident?

              • There’s no news article, just pictures she posted to her Facebook, of several of her friend’s houses with large schwastikas on them. I promise you the friends didn’t paint them there if that’s what you mean by “hoaxes”. If you mean that someone was induced to paint them by media coverage, but that someone didn’t actually support the message they were painting… then that’s what I meant by “media induced”… could be. but to the person who has it on their house and lives in fear, it doesn’t make much difference.

                To Anoneuoid, whether Trump’s own policies etc are pro-jewish is irrelevant to the question of whether he somehow has emboldened racist sentiments which would include anti-jewish sentiment.

              • Anoneuoid says:

                To Anoneuoid, whether Trump’s own policies etc are pro-jewish is irrelevant to the question of whether he somehow has emboldened racist sentiments which would include anti-jewish sentiment.

                I originally said:

                “You are just describing the feelings that the US media has wanted you to feel… Time to step away from the propaganda.”

                There has been plenty of propaganda that attempts to paint trump as anti-Jewish. Most likely that propaganda is what inspired those acts: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/anti-semitism-is-no-longer-an-undertone-of-trumps-campaign-its-the-melody/2016/11/07/b1ad6e22-a50a-11e6-8042-f4d111c862d1_story.html

                A second, much less likely, possibility is that people were upset that he was elected due to his pro-Israel stance and were triggered to act out. At least that would be based in reality.

              • Plenty of things Trump himself have said suggest that he’s a horribly bigoted person whether or not his own personal brand of bigotry extends to anti-jewish sentiment is basically not that relevant to whether or not his actions and words (amplified by media coverage, sure) incite people to be more bigoted against the groups they themselves are bigoted against.

                IMHO people who paint swastikas aren’t responding on a logic or fact based level and they certainly aren’t sending a global political anti-israel message by painting swastikas on individual Minnesotan families garages. This isn’t a bunch of Minnesotan Palestinians angry that Trump supports Israel.

                In the modern day US, a swastika is a white-power symbol, and was widely used in for example the Charlottesville “Unite The Right” rally https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unite_the_Right_rally

                I don’t disagree with your point that the media enjoys talking up all of this stuff and selling it. But there’s something there to talk up in the first place and that thing wasn’t there in say 2005 when the thing everyone was talking up in the media was how to get rich flipping houses.

              • Anoneuoid says:

                Plenty of things Trump himself have said suggest that he’s a horribly bigoted person

                I have never seen the slightest hint Trump cares about someones race. That said, I have no desire to go back over whatever off-color jokes or out-of-context statements you are basing that assessment on.

                These few sentences seem to be the most accurate summary of Trump:

                “He judges people by what kind of deal he can make with them,” Mr. Wallach said. “That’s his god.”

                https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/17/us/politics/trump-blacks-african-americans-girlfriend-charlottesville.html

                Mr. Trump: You never know, you know again, the word—– I don’t know what the word permanent means, OK? I never know what the word permanent means.

                https://www.wsj.com/articles/transcript-of-donald-trump-interview-with-the-wall-street-journal-1515715481

                BTW. I never vote for anyone running as Democrat or Republican and don’t believe a word Trump says. The only reason I pay much attention to politics is that it (unfortunately) has come to play such a huge role in our financial system. Believing falsehoods about the president of the US can put people at a huge disadvantage there. Afaict, market manipulation is the main purpose of the news, with pushing political agendas secondary.

            • Terry says:

              Could be. Could be.

              Sometimes, when I just walk around in the real world and interact with real people, all that seems very far away.

              • Daniel,

                ‘To Anoneuoid, whether Trump’s own policies etc are pro-jewish is irrelevant to the question of whether he somehow has emboldened racist sentiments which would include anti-jewish sentiment.”
                —–

                I would say that anti-one-ethnic sentiments increased after 9/11 and the Iraq war for a variety of complex reasons. I have spent years with the interaith communities in DC and national security circles where statistics were bandied about. Hate crimes and prejudice proliferates during war time. It’s b/c national security prerogatives kick in then.

                There is a fair amount of blame game for why we are in these conflicts abroad. President Bush’s efforts to resolve the Israeli Palestene conflict also heightened the concern for hate crimes. The brunt of it was directed at Muslims though.

              • Sameera: Yes the 9/11 event and our response to it kicked in a lot of anti-other sentiment mostly aimed at Muslims.

                This anti-Muslim sentiment triggered by an attack on the US by certain Muslim extremists seems to have festered into a certain Pro-White anti-all-others sentiment among a certain population in the US. I don’t have a good idea of how big that US population actually is.

                Further efforts by active foreign propagandists also have been designed to incite divisiveness and anti-other sentiment. https://medium.com/s/story/the-trolls-within-how-russian-information-operations-infiltrated-online-communities-691fb969b9e4

                There can be no doubt that Trump was elected riding on the back of that sentiment. I don’t think he’s directly responsible for it, but his election seems to have been taken as a validation of anti-other sentiment among a largish group of Americans and emboldened activities like the Charlottesville Unite The Right march, and the guy from Portland who stabbed people on the MAX train. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_Portland_train_attack

                To imply that it’s all manufactured by US Media to sell newspapers is to miss the point that there’s a bunch of cloth available for the Media to cut and sew.

  2. D Kane says:

    Obviously, the Irish and English must be identical on every possible metric. Any other result would be racist, Racist, RACIST. That, at least, is what I learned reading Darwin’s The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex . . .

    • Andrew says:

      D:

      Nobody is saying that the Irish and English must be identical on every possible metric. And nobody, other than you, is using all-caps here.

      • D Kane says:

        > Nobody is saying that the Irish and English must be identical on every possible metric.

        Is intelligence one of the metrics that Irish and English are allowed to be not-identical on, or is that inconceivable?

        • Andrew says:

          D:

          What do you mean by “are allowed to” and “inconceivable”? Different people have different views.

          Regarding you specific question, of course no two groups will be exactly identical on any continuous measurement—there will be differences—and these differences themselves will change over time and across situations.

          • D Kane says:

            > no two groups will be exactly identical on any continuous measurement

            We are in agreement!

            So, if we had a continuous measure of trustworthyness, the Irish and English would differ. Why are you so sure that Session is wrong in his (implicit) claim that the Irish are (more) trustworthy?

            • mattio says:

              They may be; but do you really want to live in a world where you are judged by the average characteristics of your “group” instead of your individual traits?

            • Christopher says:

              The amount of variation between groups of people on those sorts of metrics tends to be swamped by the amount of variation within groups. While you could try making a technical point that one group is slightly more trustworthy on average (given the time and context), anyone who understood it would realize it was essentially meaningless.
              Of course, being misunderstood is often the reason people make these sort of claims.

              • D Kane says:

                > The amount of variation between groups of people on those sorts of metrics tends to be swamped

                Uhh, no. There is a large empirical literature on intelligence testing. You should check it out!

              • D Kane: are you saying that for example the entire population of black people is reliably lower in intelligence than the entire population of white people, so that you can make a reliable inference that a black person has lower IQ than a white person based on skin color? For example if you did this, you’d be right say 90% or 95% of the time, or even say 70%?

                Because no, that’s simply not true.

                Here is actual data from LSAT tests found by google image search for SAT and race.

                https://i1.wp.com/www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/ccf_20170201_reeves_4.png?w=768&crop=0%2C0px%2C100%2C9999px&ssl=1

                Black scores range from about 120 to about 170 with a median around 140, white scores range from 120 to 180 with a median around 155. Something like 25% of Black scores are higher than the white median…

                so, what Christopher said is absolutely true. The variation *within race* is large relative to the variation in averages between races.

      • D Kane says:

        > I’d have to say Sessions is less of a bigot

        Your definition of “bigot” seems to be — corrections welcome! — someone who believes that groups differ that, for example, Irish might be more trustworthy than English. (If that is unfair, how do you define bigot? And, of course, we are all only speaking of averages, within the context of overlapping distributions.)

        But you also admit that the Irish and English are not “identical on every possible metric.” Doesn’t that make you a bigot?

        • Steve says:

          It is easy to say that from a statistical point of view that groups will be different. Of course they will. That does not mean that the differences are the result of essential differences between the groups. It is clear that Watson and Sessions are talking about essential differences. This is an old game: “Irishmen are drunks.” “That’s racist.” “No, I didn’t say that all Irishmen are drunks, but there are statistically important differences.” “Really, you weren’t making a generalization about all Irishmen, i.e., they tend to be drunks?” It is an old game. It is dishonest and boring. Statistical differences are not what people are talking about when they call Mexicans rapists or African Americans low IQ. They are making existentialist claims that are racist.

          • D Kane says:

            > Statistical differences are not what people are talking about

            Your ability to read minds is impressive! I am sure that Jeff Sessions believes that every single person of Irish descent is trustworthy, including all the ones he put in jail as a prosecutor.

            • Phil says:

              D Kane,
              You seem to have missed Steve’s point; or else you are going out of your way to make it for him. I was about to re-explain it in more detail, but I’m pretty sure that if you calm down, take a few deep breaths, and re-read Steve’s post you will understand it.

              • Quite often the contexts in which racialized or ethnocentric claims are made are absent. For me, one of the overarching lessons of history is the dynamic of who has power over whom. That kinda is reductionist. But applies quite well in many cases.

                Any number of rationales can be called up & worked to achieve power. Ethnocentrism and racial distinctions constitute two. But there are at least 16 other categories that intersect with or stand on their own as against ethnocentric and racial categorization. In any case context as I said earlier is often missing.

              • D Kane says:

                Steve is making a claim, not a point. The claim is:

                > It is clear that Watson and Sessions are talking about essential differences.

                I think this is, factually, an incorrect claim. Neither Watson nor Sessions — nor the many people that Andrew likes to accuse of racism and assorted sins — believes that every single Irishman is more trustworthy than every single non-Irishman, or whatever generalization we are discussing. They always believe that “groups will be different” on average and that, sometimes, those differences are large enough and/or important enough to be worth noticing.

              • Andrew says:

                D:

                You have so many mistakes or assumptions in that one comment!

                1. You wrote, “Andrew likes to accuse of racism and assorted sins.” I don’t enjoy seeing when Kazin, Watson, Sessions, etc., say these racist things. It makes me a little sad. But I think it’s helpful in understanding the world to remember that these attitudes are out there (and are not limited to any particular political ideology, as Sessions is conservative, Kazin was liberal, and Watson is I dunno but maybe apolitical).

                2. I never said racism is a “sin.” I’m no expert on sin, but arguably the sin is in what people do, not in what ideologies they hold. I don’t think racism is a virtue, but I’m not sure I’d label it as a “sin.”

                3. I have no idea what are the “assorted sins” you’re talking about.

                4. I agree with you that Watson and Sessions are not claiming that every Irish person is an ignorant drunk. Also, though, I see no evidence that they are talking about statistical averages. Here’s the full quote from the linked news article on Sessions: “The FBI was better off when ‘you all only hired Irishmen,’ Sessions said in one diatribe about the bureau’s workforce. ‘They were drunks but they could be trusted. Not like all those new people with nose rings and tattoos — who knows what they’re doing?'” This is not a claim about averages.

                5. When Watson says, “some anti-Semitism is justified. Just like some anti-Irish feeling is justified,” this is not a statement about averages or group differences. Similarly, his statement that “you’re not going to hire” fat people is not a statement about averages or group differences. Sometimes he does make statements about averages, but such statements, for example, “Catholics are more likely to forgive than Jews,” seem a lot more like prejudice than statistics.

              • Terry says:

                Andrew:

                “I agree with you that Watson and Sessions are not claiming that every Irish person is an ignorant drunk. Also, though, I see no evidence that they are talking about statistical averages. Here’s the full quote from the linked news article on Sessions: “The FBI was better off when ‘you all only hired Irishmen,’ Sessions said in one diatribe about the bureau’s workforce. ‘They were drunks but they could be trusted. Not like all those new people with nose rings and tattoos — who knows what they’re doing?’” This is not a claim about averages.”

                If it isn’t a claim about every Irish person, and it isn’t a claim about averages, what is it a claim of? Can you restate the claim so we can see why it is objectionable? “All Irishmen have a tendency to be drunks,” or “Among the set of all Irishmen, there are factors that tend to make Irishmen, on average, more often turn out to be drunks”?

              • “They were drunks but they could be trusted” is more or less a claim of the form “Irish FBI agents had a high probability (implication is maybe 80 or 90%) of being alcoholics, but also a high probability of following orders”

                One of the most objectionable aspects of this kind of claim is that it turns a very continuous grey distribution into a binary black and white thing which overstates the statistics. Were “essentially all Irish” alcoholics? Probably not. The rate of severe alcoholism in the general population of the US is several percent, like 2-3, it’s about 10% of people with alcohol issues, which is itself about 12% of the US. Even if Irish people had 2x rate, it’s still something like maybe 4% for severe and 20% for moderate. This is far different from “they were drunks…” particularly when you consider we’re talking about FBI agents not randomly selected Irish people.

              • “They were X” is certainly going to imply to most people that more of them were X than not X, ie. frequency of greater than 50%.

                also saying someone is “a drunk” (ie. an essential aspect of their life was getting drunk) implies much more severe issue than “they liked to go out on friday nights off duty and drink too much” it implies a much more severe form such as that they drank at work, or every day they’d go home and get falling down drunk… ie. severe forms of alcohol issues.

                Saying that “more than 50% of Irish FBI agents were severe alcoholics” is a pretty alarming statement if it’s true, and simply most likely numerically illiterate and stupid statement in reality. But “they were drunks” is nebulous enough that you can’t attack it on any kind of specifics, but extremely suggestive that what you want people to believe is that “more than 50% of Irish FBI agents were severe alcoholics”

                The biggest issue with most racial stereotypes is that they’re non-specific weasel words intended to imply much broader applicability than what is actually justified by real numbers.

              • Consider how much less controversial his statement would have been if he’d said something like “they had about twice the usual rate of severe alcoholism but 1/4 the rate of disciplinary issues” except insert some actually factually correct numbers there… Assuming the numbers are correct, it’s not an objectionable statement, it’s just a statement of fact.

                A statement like “they were drunks but they could be trusted” is factually unverifiable. Whatever numbers you come up with someone could also say “well, obviously that’s what I meant” but what numbers are implied to the receiving audience are almost always far different from whatever the actual numbers are.

              • Terry says:

                Daniel Lakeland:

                Good analysis. The Session’s quote is objectionable because it is factually wrong. “All are drunks” is not a tenable approximation and it leads to error. I don’t understand why this is so hard to say and why the discussion got tangled up in essentialism and other hard-to-grasp concepts.

                “Consider how much less controversial his statement would have been if he’d said something like “they had about twice the usual rate of severe alcoholism but 1/4 the rate of disciplinary issues” except insert some actually factually correct numbers there… Assuming the numbers are correct, it’s not an objectionable statement, it’s just a statement of fact.”

                I find that this happens ALL the time. The actual facts aren’t stark enough to justify more than a mild reaction, so activists usually amp things up. With regard to recycling, “we need to open some more landfills in the future” was amped up to “WE ARE DROWNING IN GARBAGE AND WILL HAVE NOWHERE TO PUT IT IN A FEW YEARS!”

          • Steve says:

            I meant “essentialist”. My spell check will not let me say “essentialist.”

            • D Kane says:

              I may have messed up the nesting of this comment. I am trying to reply to Andrew above.

              1) Andrew: I apologize for mischaracterizing your views! It is important to get this stuff right. Let me try again.

              “Andrew sometimes accuses people of racism and other forms of ethnic bias.”

              If there is some other terminology to describe general discussions of things like the trustworthyness and/or drunkness of the Irish, then I would be happy to use it. “ethnic bias” is the best I could come up with.

              2) Let me second Terry’s request above:

              > If it isn’t a claim about every Irish person, and it isn’t a claim about averages, what is it a claim of? Can you restate the claim so we can see why it is objectionable?

              I (and Terry) are trying to understand what claim you think Sessions is making. We agree that he is not making a claim about every Irishman (i.e., his claim is not an “essentialist” one). I think he is making a claim about averages/distributions. This claim might be true or false. The magnitude might be trivial or important.

              What claim do you think Sessions is making?

              • Andrew says:

                D:

                Assuming the news report quoted him correctly, what Session said is, “The FBI was better off when ‘you all only hired Irishmen,’ Sessions said in one diatribe about the bureau’s workforce. ‘They were drunks but they could be trusted. Not like all those new people with nose rings and tattoos — who knows what they’re doing?’”

                Similarly, Kazin wrote, “The whole Latin-American, dark Cuban-night side of NY does disgust me; and the reason, whether here are Cuba, is the naked, shabby, serf-like quality of these people.”

                And Watson said, “some anti-Semitism is justified. Just like some anti-Irish feeling is justified.”

                All these seem pretty racist to me—but, hey, racism is just a word. If you don’t want to call these statements racist, feel free. But these are not statistical statements, nor do they presume to be. I think it’s odd that you seem to think that Sessions, or for that matter Watson or Kazin, are making some sort of quantitative claims. They’re generalizing, the way people often do when they make racist statements.

    • A.G.McDowell says:

      There is in fact a just-so story here. If you are a bright male Jew, you are stereotypically encouraged to become a Rabbi, and have lots of children. If you are a bright male Irish Catholic, you are stereotypically encouraged to become a priest, and have no children.

      (The apparent stupidity of the countryman in the big city is also stereotypical, and not restricted to the Irish).

  3. chrisare says:

    Can a white person be racist against whites?

  4. An Irish person says:

    This post is… odd. Is there some broader context I’m missing here here?

    • Andrew says:

      An:

      The broader context is sociology, political science, etc. Racism and attitudes toward groups are important topics, and this was a pretty funny pair of examples.

      • I would have to know what each says in private. That’s when you get the real scoop. With the end of the British Empir, WWII,and the establishment of the UN and other international organizations, ethnic/racial attitudes were revisited. American academia played a pivotal role in adapting them to a variety of broader economic and social goals and objectives. At least that is my view, given my own experience with representatives of various organizations and governments.

        • Anonymous says:

          Quote from above: “American academia played a pivotal role in adapting them to a variety of broader economic and social goals and objectives.”

          Education (e.g. Psychology) as indoctrination? Academia as politics?

          I wouldn’t be surprised, and i think the case can be made that this is what happened, and is happening. I am pretty sure i saw a book-title about this somewhere as well, but i can’t seem to find it now. I think it was something like “Social Psychology as indoctrination”. I tried to look it up but couldn’t find it. I did come across a paper by A. G. Davey (1972) titled “Education or indoctrination”. Here are the final words of that paper:

          “Unless teachers are prepared constantly to scrutinize their procedural rules and to incorporate the taught in their thinking and planning, they will induce, and daily reinforce, that disposition towards authority which will in time make their pupils the prey of any determined group of men who plan a new heaven or a new hell.”

          After viewing twitter in recent years (i have now stopped), thoughts about the possible mass hysteria, possible indoctrination, and possible insanity of some students and people in academia crossed my mind. Enough at least to combine with other things and result in distancing myself from those people and “discussions”, and ultimately academia at large. I actually think parts of social science are a cult, and the people in it could have been indoctrinated.

          Also possibly see this blogpost about the recent, “remarkable”, APA “guidelines for psychological practice with boys and men”

          https://ifstudies.org/blog/psychology-as-indoctrination-girls-rule-boys-drool

          If you think about it, academia might be the perfect place for cult like things to occur, and for indoctrination to be present:

          # Many young people with ideals that want to be part of it all
          # A a few “special” older people with all the power (i.c. professors)
          # The role of money, politics, power, etc.
          # “Cult like” things as (informal) meetings and conferences, professors wearing strange and special attire, etc.
          # The “special” status academics (used to?) have
          # The difficulty of “normal” members of the general public to publish papers, or have access to them, or sometimes even to try and become an academic.

          • Martha (Smith) says:

            It seems extreme to suggest that academia is the *perfect* “place for cult like things to occur, and for indoctrination to be present,” but it sure does seem like a place that often fosters cult-like things to develop (e.g., the “The cult of statistical significance”, as discussed by McCloskey and Ziliac. I don’t agree with everything they say, and think that they often exaggerate, but I think readers of this blog would generally agree that there is something going on with “statistical significance” that is cult-like, and cultivated/nurtured/sustained in some parts of academia.)

            • Anonymous says:

              Quote from above: “(…)but it sure does seem like a place that often fosters cult-like things to develop (e.g., the “The cult of statistical significance”, as discussed by McCloskey and Ziliac.”

              Someone mentioned the paper “Mindless statistics” by Gigerenzer (2004) in a recent discussion on this blog. I subsequently read it, and encountered the following on page 590:

              “Psychology seems to be one of the first disciplines where the null ritual became institutionalized as statistics per se, during the 1950s (Rucci and Tweney, 1980; Gigerenzer and Murray, 1987, chapter 1). Subsequently, it spread to many social, medical, and biological sciences, including economics (McCloskey and Ziliak, 1996), sociology (Morrison and Henkel, 1970), and ecology (Anderson et al., 2000).”

              I sometimes wonder if Psychology has done more harm than good…

              • Martha (Smith) says:

                1. Thanks for the Gigerenzer quote.

                2. I agree with your last sentence.

              • Anonymous says:

                Quote from above: ““Psychology seems to be one of the first disciplines where the null ritual became institutionalized as statistics per se, during the 1950s (Rucci and Tweney, 1980; Gigerenzer and Murray, 1987, chapter 1).”

                I just read some stuff about “Brainwashing” on Wikipedia and encountered some other things that occured in the 1950’s that i think are funny, remarkable, whatever, concerning this little discussion here:

                “The concept of brainwashing was originally developed in the 1950s to explain how the Chinese government appeared to make people cooperate with them. (…) It was later applied by Margaret Singer, Philip Zimbardo, and some others in the anti-cult movement to explain conversions to some new religious movements and other groups.”

                “For 20 years starting in the early 1950s, the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the United States Department of Defense conducted secret research, including Project MKUltra, in an attempt to develop practical brainwashing techniques; the results are unknown (see also Sidney Gottlieb)”

              • Terry says:

                “I sometimes wonder if Psychology has done more harm than good…”

                The advent of SSRI drugs really knocked the legs out from under psychology. It reduced psychology to chemistry. “Here, take these chemicals, and if those don’t work, try these others.” Many of psychology’s weird pre-SSRI constructs blew away like dust in a gentle wind.

                (Yes, this is grossly simplified and overstated. But the SSRI’s really did do a number on psychology.)

              • Anonymous says:

                (Apologies for possibly double posting. The 1st attempt at posting the comment below seems to have not worked/is still be “under moderation” or something like that)

                Quote from above: “Many of psychology’s weird pre-SSRI constructs blew away like dust in a gentle wind.”

                I don’t know how to interpret this sentence exactly.

                I agree very much with the possible problems of pharmacy and pills concerning mental health though. Also from personal experience. However, what did psychology/psychiatry do before pills like SSRI’s? Weren’t people put in cold water baths for hours, and who knows what? And what about things like Phrenology, Hysteria therapy, the Freud stuff, etc. I think that’s just as bad as prescribing people pills for who knows what (while making lots of money).

                And then we have (possible) relatively recent things of the last 50 years or so in Psychology that could very well be named in that same category. I’ll refrain from picking out research in that time period that could very well be just as much BS, and have done just as much harm. For instance, i have began to ponder about the possible role of (research done by) social scientists in politics, and if that actually made things worse (e.g. by causing a backlash movement).

                I also worry about, what i view is, the increasing non-scientific manner of academic debate, and academic action. In my view it’s all becoming too much about groups, and people, and opinions, and politics, etc. which subsequently influences other things. The very foundation of science has to do with words, and reasoning, etc. That these are the things that, in my view at least, are being messed with more and more in academia/science/Psychology is crucially damaging for academia/science/Psychology, but as a result of that lots of other things as well.

                When i think about all these matters, i am glad i recently came across a certain translation and interpretation of the “Tao Te Ching”. For 2 reasons.

                1) One is the possible cyclical nature of things, which causes me to not stress that much about stuff. I am not sure if the following makes sense, but this is how i view it in my mind. I used to want to “contribute” to something i viewed as being “better” or “higher” or someting like that. After reading about how things could be cyclical, i viewed things differently. If there is not necessarily a way up, it might not matter if we are going down, because that’s also the path to going up again if things are cyclical.

                2) In this translation and interpretation of the “Tao The Ching” there are several sentences that pertain to the idea of “non-action”. That it may sometimes be better to not act. And that by taking action, you can make things worse. This fits nicely with the cyclical nature of things for me in my mind as well.

                I have recently began to view (parts of) Psychology wanting to intervene, and change things, in the light of these 2 things as well. Perhaps academia/science/Psychology shouldn’t (want to) interfere with things. And i have recently even began to view my own attempts at trying to help improve academia/science/Psychology in that light as well. Perhaps it would have been better if i did not attempt to help improve matters. Perhaps i made things even worse…

                To end this comment, here is a quote by said translation and interpretation of the “Tao The Ching” (from chapter 57): “Use justice to rule a country. Use surprise to wage war. Use non-action to govern the world.”

              • Terry says:

                Anonymous:

                Re SSRI’s and psychology. I was thinking that SSRI’s knocked the legs out from under a lot of theories, especially Freudianism and talk therapy. No, your problems aren’t due to your mother, they are due to your chemicals. SSRIs (and other meds) were to many psychological theories what the germ theory was to many medical theories.

                One of the Rockefellers was seriously mentally ill, and fell in with the Jungians. The Jungians pretended they had cured her, but they did nothing for her. The Jungians just fawned over her for the money. Today, a psychologist/psychiatrist would prescribe meds.

          • By happenstance, back in Boston, I came across Eric Margolis’ Concepts which was really fascinating to me. I would like to reread it.

            An even more fascinating book by Erick Margolis was titled: The Hidden Curriculum in Higher Education. A legal scholar recommended the book to me. At first I didn’t realise that it was the same author who edited Concepts. In the second work, Margolis analyzing the politics that shape our education. Here is a sample of his own experiences.

            http://margolis.faculty.asu.edu/articles/Eric.pdf

            • Terry says:

              Nice detail in the Margolis piece. Always interesting to see detailed, first-hand accounts of an industry in transition.

              I am more sympathetic to “McDonaldization” than Margolis, though. If you have hordes of undergrads to educate, then educate them to the desired standards as efficiently as possible. I don’t see why we need to couple this production of a basic commodity with ivory-tower thinkery. We have too much ivory-tower thinkery already.

              • Margolis appears to be among some academics at MIT that I came across in Cambridge who had consistently lamented that creativity & depth have been ebbing in elite academic institutions. I would guess that their views were contingent on how they viewed progress in their fields. The following is a take on the utilization of ‘identity politics’ which is cogent in general. I read it for the 1st time, after I posted to Andrew’s blog. It comports with my own experiences with many groups over the years. I

                https://visualethnography.me/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Final-2002.pdf

                I can’t discern whether there is too much ivory tower thinking.
                These recent airing of statistical & scientific controversies reflect that the ivory tower has shown some foundational cracks in its edifice. It’s not simply patching it up. I speculate major epistemic changes have been brewing but that most of us are fumbling around trying to define and evaluate them. No easy task.

          • Re: ‘Special status’ academics [use to?] have

            Yes academics use to have a lot more respect. Several legal scholars have chronicled the state of academia since the 80s or so. Among them Derek Bok, Deborah Rhode, & Richard Posner.

            The crises of knowledge that have erupted as a consequence of the statistical controversies and just the general drift of disciplines contribute the disillusionment with expertise.

        • Andrew says:

          Sameera:

          You write, “I would have to know what each says in private.”

          I’m not sure I agree. We usually think of private statements or thoughts as representing someone’s real beliefs, with public statements being moderated by expectations. But I’m inclined to argue that public statement are something closer to actual beliefs, as these are the things that someone is willing to stand up, declare, and defend to the world.

          • Yes I’m sure that is the case in some contexts. However, my experience reflects that when it comes to expressing their prejudices, cognitive dissonance is at work and subsets hold to contradictory views which manifest differently in different contexts. When I used the term ‘private’, I did not mean as say someone whispering in my ear [God Forbid] when they meet me initially. I meant over time, at least their contradictions can become apparent.

          • Ironically, I seem to think more like you Andrew in some contexts than most others posting here. LOL

    • Terry says:

      “This post is… odd. Is there some broader context I’m missing here here?”

      No one is quite sure.

      Every month or so, you wake up and there is one of these posts gently mocking someone for being racist or fascist or something. The tone is often whimsical and incendiary at the same time. The target is often a southern white guy. Sometimes it feels like Close Encounters of the Third Kind (especially this one).

      • Andrew says:

        Terry:

        I can’t really remember what I was thinking six months ago when I wrote this post! Racism is a sort of pseudoscientific or adjacent-to-scientific thinking that comes up a lot in popular culture and also in intellectual circles (see for example here for further discussion of the point).

        The gentle mockery comes because I find some of these statements to be so laughable. Given the history of these things, I fully understand how some people could get angry when Mr. Helix says, “some anti-Semitism is justified. Just like some anti-Irish feeling is justified,” but to me these statements just seem more ridiculous than anything else. Dude thinks he can tell us which hates are justified. I don’t see my post above as incendiary, but all things are possible.

        Just to be clear: racism, or other forms of essentialism, do not need to include offensive stereotypes or “some anti-X is justified” attitudes at all; see for example our discussion here.

        Finally, I haven’t been counting as to the geographic and ethnic backgrounds of the subjects of various blog posts. I guess you’re right that most of the people I write about are white men, which to some extent must be the result of my background and culture; for example most of the books I read are by white men (I’m in the middle of a few right now!) and it takes extra effort if I want to go beyond that (see also here).

        I’m not so sure about the southerner thing, as only one of the three racists linked to in the above post was from the southern U.S.—the other two were from Chicago and Brooklyn—but there is a larger implied point that I agree with, which is that there are so many stupid or obnoxious statements out there in the world, that one has to choose what to write about. If I wanted to, I could fill up an entire blog with posts about bad graphs, or posts about bad Bayesian analyses, or posts about bad evolutionary psychology, etc. Or, for that matter, posts about good graphs, good Bayesian analysis, good evolutionary psychology, etc. I mix things up, which is why some topics come up only every few months.

  5. Vangel says:

    Watson could have said that about my countrymen. Since he would have been accurate, can we still call him a racist or a bigger? It is not as he associated a general observation to a specific individual or all individuals in a population so.let us cut him some slack.

    • We may all appreciate that ‘identity’ is situational. It can consist of multiple identities and manifest differently in different contexts. In reading through that artile containing an elaboration of Watson’s views, Watson was Irish as well. In acknowledging finally, Watson tried to make light of his statements. In any case, I don’t think it is so unusual for members of an ethnicity to indulge in a little deprecation.

  6. oncodoc says:

    I wonder where Mr. Sessions got that idea about the FBI. Eliot Ness was of Norwegian ancestry, and Mueller is not an Irish name. I’ll give him Comey. Hoover was famous for having very strict ideas about his agents. FBI agents were famous for having a strict dress code and very conservative grooming.
    I am a “white” person. We are all white, or none of us is white. If being “white” is something granted by society depending on the whims of the populace and liable to manipulation by demogogues rather than an inherent inalienable condition, then it is fake and transitory. We are all “white” even a guy from Zaire with a skin laden with melanocytes.
    The study of human biology is very important. However, surgeons must use tools that are scrupulously clean of microbes. Students of human populations must use tools clean of racism. A few seconds of study of history shows us the gruesome effects of racism.

    • Carlos Ungil says:

      “During the Bureau’s early years, agents were primarily white and Protestant, many coming from the South. Beginning in 1940, Catholic appointments increased, especially Catholics of Irish descent. […] [In 1955] the FBI’s monthly turnover rate was 0.5 percent. Twenty years later, agent turnover continued to be low, with the average agent’s period of service being 16 years and 3 months and, again, the typical agent being a white male, predominantly Catholic and Irish, solidly middle class, and yet rarely from a wealthy background.”

      The FBI: A Comprehensive Reference Guide (Athan G. Theoharis, Tony G. Poveda, Susan Rosenfeld, Richard G. Powers)

    • Martha (Smith) says:

      I often laugh when I think of the adjective “white” as describing me. My skin color would be more accurately described as “mostly translucent with scattered brown and red spots,” and when I look at my hands and arms, the only place I see white is where I’ve got scars — the general picture is better described as “pink, yellow, and blue, with scattered brown, red and white spots.”

      • Terry says:

        Sometimes I think of myself as a Gargoyle-American. Nobody I know disputes the characterization.

      • Dalton says:

        About a 15 years ago, I had the pleasure of hanging out in Mark Shriver’s Biological Anthropology lab at Penn State. He was doing lots of work on genetics and ancestry back then (I think he still is). I recall one study they were working on was related to human variation in skin pigmentation and tying this to genetics. As part of this study they were taking close up photographs of subjects’ skin. I don’t recall where on the body they took these photos, but the results was fairly mundane rectangle flesh absent any identifying marks (Their interest was in skin pigmentation alone, and they were trying to isolate skin pigmentation alone so they were avoiding areas of the body with hair, moles, etc. I think maybe the upper arm?) At the same time they asked people what they identified their race/ancestry as.

        Anyway, the two things I remember about the poster board Mark was showing me of these rectangles was a) how much of a continuum of color it was and b) how the close up skin swatches didn’t really match up to any coherent pattern of self-described race/ancestry, except maybe on the poles of the continuum. White and black are much more descriptors of cultural background then they are of pigmentation. Unfortunately, the two get quite confused.

        Another aside, I had a friend who worked for Mark for a little bit, but before that had work for a sociology professor on something called “The Race Relations Project” or some such. I don’t remember the details, but it involved my friend moderating discussions between groups of students of different (self-described) races on topics of racism and race relations. (Penn State is a pretty interesting place to do this because the main campus draws student from all over the State and the State is pretty segregated at the regional scale, i.e. rural areas predominantly white, some urban areas – like Philadelphia – predominantly black.) Again anecdotal, but my friends take away from this experience is that race (and racism!) is incredibly complicated and slippery thing and the more you think about it and talk about it, the harder it becomes to define what “race” actually is while at the same time it becomes clear how inescapable and omnipresent a force it is. My friend likened it loosely to that David Foster Wallace’s concept of “This is Water” from his famous commencement speech – race is water and we’re all swimming in it. He found the discussions he moderated incredibly interesting, frequently frustrating, and, almost without exception, fruitless. At the end of the day, no one came away more enlightened about how to deal with race and racial tensions.

        I for one think that even if we were all the same shade, same shape, same sex, and worshiped the same gods, we’d still find some other reason to hate each other. Humans are very good at finding differences (even or especially if they’re just noise!), pretending they’re “significant”, and rationalizing that a good enough excuse to kill each other.

        • Terry says:

          Very interesting! Thanks.

          “He found the discussions he moderated incredibly interesting, frequently frustrating, and, almost without exception, fruitless. At the end of the day, no one came away more enlightened about how to deal with race and racial tensions.”

          Hmmm. So what is your takeaway on what to do? You seem to rule out more sensitivity-raising activities. Avoid diversity perhaps, i.e., try to be more like Japan? Live in different communities like Jerusalem or Constantinople? Is tribal conflict inevitable in a multicultural society?

        • Terry says:

          “He found the discussions he moderated incredibly interesting, frequently frustrating, and, almost without exception, fruitless. At the end of the day, no one came away more enlightened about how to deal with race and racial tensions.”

          I’ve been thinking a lot about this. Any summary as to what the sticking points were? Ships passing in the night? Fundamental disagreement about facts?

  7. Renzo Alves says:

    “All politics is local”, as the man said. A very responsive government will tend to become tribal (I suspect). The People will get what they think they want, so to speak, even if they later find it comes bundled with consequences they don’t want. I tend to share Prof. Haidt’s view. Either that or an asteroid strike will wipe out humanity first. The rats and cockroaches will celebrate.

  8. yyw says:

    Considering that Watson is 1/4 Irish and raised catholic, his statement re Irish could just be a reaction against his upbringing.

    • yyw

      Heck I lived in Irish-Catholic neighborhoods> Brighton and Somerville, MA. It always struck me that they had a fair amount of deprecating humor about their own lineage. I don’t think it is so unusual. Stand up comedians indulge in it. Blacks do it. Irish and Italians do it. And of course Jews do so as well. Now Watson may have had a specific context that he called up.

      Watson was opinionated for sure. That was what I heard second hand.

      • Actually I lived not far from John Kelly, former DHS director. I don’t recall coming across him specifically. But recognized his buddies. I was probably the only Asian in Brighton for the years we lived there. Went to a private Catholic school. Irish and Italian teachers. Went back and forth between Beacon Hill elites and working class Italians and Irish. Then moved to Brookline where I saw Sheldon Adelson a fair amount.

  9. Anoneuoid,

    Trump doesn’t strike me as anti-Jewish, as you note.

  10. J says:

    SSRI’s knocked the legs out from under Psychology? Hardly the case. Please go read any number of major meta-analyses on the efficacy of psychotherapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, for example, is a primary tool used in the treatment of a number of mental health issues and has been shown to be effective.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3584580/

    • Anonymous says:

      Quote from above: “Hardly the case. Please go read any number of major meta-analyses on the efficacy of psychotherapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, for example, is a primary tool used in the treatment of a number of mental health issues and has been shown to be effective”

      I always wonder how these meta-analyses of things like drugs and therapy effectiveness could have many of the same problematic issues that we have recently became aware of (i.c. publiaction bias, p-hacking, selective reporting, etc.)

      Also see this paper: “Is cognitive behavioural therapy the gold standard for pyschotherapy?” by Leichsenring & Steinert (2017).

      A few quotes from said paper:

      # “A recent meta-analysis using criteria of the Cochrane risk ofbias tool reported that only 17% (24 of 144) of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of CBT for anxiety and depressive disorders were of high quality”

      # “CBT was found to have been compared with a waiting list condition in more than 80% of 121 studies in anxiety disorders. In major depression, this was true for 44% of 63 studies. Being more effective than waiting list controls is not a strong proof of efficacy and may lead to overestimating the efficacy of CBT especially because waiting list controls may even represent a nocebo condition”

      # “For several studies carried out by CBT researchers, high risk of researcher allegiance has recently been identified.”

      # “Cognitive therapy assumes that improvements in symptoms are achieved through changes in key cognitive processes (eg, negative triad, ie, a negative view of self, others, and the future). In a review based on the available evidence, a prominent CBT researcher concluded that this central assumption of CBT is not correct.”

      I always view CBT as the fastfood of therapy. To me it just says 1) don’t think (bad) stuff, and 2) go and do (good) stuff. The fact that this type of therapy is done via the internet where the client has no actual interacation with a therapist is therfore also not surprising to me.

      Additionally, i question the long term effects of CBT very much, and i doubt there are many studies into this. And i think CBT has contributed to (what i view as being) detrimental, and scandalous, processes where people with mental problems are given a handful of 1 hour sessions by their insurance agencies and that will just have to do.

      • Anonymous says:

        Quote from above: “The fact that this type of therapy is done via the internet where the client has no actual interacation with a therapist is therfore also not surprising to me.”

        I should have phrased this better i think.

        If i understood things correctly, it is often done WITH a therapist, but CAN also be done via internet therapy (“E-therapy”, “online CBT”, “Computerized CBT”).

      • Martha (Smith) says:

        Anon said,
        “I always wonder how these meta-analyses of things like drugs and therapy effectiveness could have many of the same problematic issues that we have recently became aware of (i.c. publication bias, p-hacking, selective reporting, etc.)”

        J’s comment also raised skepticism in my mind — since we’re talking about a branch of psychology, it’s reasonable to suspect that the “questionable practices” that are common in other branches of psychology would be present in research on psychotherapy. So thank’s, Anon, for the Leichsenring & Steinert reference and the quotes from it.

        Also, the following quote from the paper J linked to is relevant:

        “In general, the evidence-base of CBT is very strong. However, additional research is needed to examine the efficacy of CBT for randomized-controlled studies. Moreover, except for children and elderly populations, no meta-analytic studies of CBT have been reported on specific subgroups, such as ethnic minorities and low income samples.”

      • Kyle C says:

        CBT definitely teaches you how to fill out the questionnaires! (“No no no, I am NOT feeling hopeless, my therapist taught me that is WRONG, it’s an ERROR.”) That alone should create some differences-in-differences. As far as I can tell, every other therapeutic benefit of any therapy results from the “therapeutic bond” — a k a being able to “rent a wise friend” for 45-minute sessions. “Better therapists” are probably just wiser people we would all rather spend time with.

    • Terry says:

      “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, for example, is a primary tool used in the treatment of a number of mental health issues and has been shown to be effective.”

      For the record, I wasn’t saying that all of psychology/psychiatry was permanently rendered irrelevant by SSRIs and other psych meds. I was only saying that a significant number of pre-med psych theories were undermined.

      I don’t feel strongly about CBT. I’m pretty sure it has been oversold, especially by well-intentioned therapists, but it is hard to believe it doesn’t do anyone any good. (FWIW.)

  11. Renzo Alves says:

    Psychotherapy in all its forms was and remains “educated guesswork”. Every modality works (sort of) sometimes (including voodoo), none works always (or often). Moreover, no one knows why (but as someone noted above, the personal relationship between “therapist” and “client” is a large part. Primitive computer apps have been shown to be considerably helpful (ELIZA) indicating that people in general will fabricate personal relationships even when there is no person to have a relationship with (likewise, pets can be helpful).
    People who have studied Abnormal Psych. (or at least have studied the 9th ed. of Carson and Butcher’s famous text, which I happen to have at hand) have never been in doubt about this although therapists (who don’t need an education or license) obviously have a certain “conflict of interest”.

    Basically, the human brain/mind is very complicated. Don’t blame that on psychology.

    • Anoneuoid says:

      Basically, the human brain/mind is very complicated. Don’t blame that on psychology.

      I blame psychology for using completely inappropriate tools to study the human brain/mind and not training their students in basic skills like calculus and programming that are required to model complex dynamic systems.

  12. Renzo Alves says:

    You have a point but it is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.
    Also may I add that you stats nerds are fixating on relatively few high-profile, media-catnip, bad apples and attention-seekers, and the results of their personal pursuit of rewards.

    • Anoneuoid says:

      My background is biomedical research, not stats. The problems I complain about are standard and institutionalized in that field and psychology:

      1) Testing a default null hypothesis no one believes, ie one that is not derived from the research hypothesis.
      2) Interpreting the meaningless coefficients of arbitrary statistical models.

      I discovered that #2 was nonsense more recently. It is possibly even a bigger scandal than the first unbelievably big problem. Both stem from researchers trying to get away with not coming up with actual mathematical/computational models of what they think is going on.

  13. jrkrideau says:

    As someone with a psychology background may I point out that the psychology discussion here seems focused solely on clinical psychology which may be all that most laymen have heard about.

    The discipline is wildly varied. The comments are a bit like discussing the pluses and minuses of civil engineering while not noticing there are other branches of engineering.

    This is not to say that some of the critiques do not have merit. Some definitely do.

    Oh and by the way Jung and Freud were, at least technically, not psychologists. I am not quite sure what Freud was, but he certainly was not a psychologist. Fake psychiatrist perhaps?

  14. Daniel- Thanks for your response.

    RE: ‘This anti-Muslim sentiment triggered by an attack on the US by certain Muslim extremists seems to have festered into a certain Pro-White anti-all-others sentiment among a certain population in the US. I don’t have a good idea of how big that US population actually is.’

    Me: I have toyed with drawing a causal model that may express the multicausality of US attitudes formed within the last 40 or 50 years. As I mentioned before prejudice is complex > both structural & phenomenological. I mapped attitudes around 2007 or so.

    I actually diaagree with the hypothesis that prejudice resides in simply Pro-white anti all others sentiment. Nor are you making that claim. Rather prejudice is diffuse and exploited by different interest groups differently. I agree that 9-11 was a catalytic event that has to some extent revitalized prejudice & hate crimes. In New York, for example. some interest groups were able to put up billboards on public transportation vehicles and other strategic city venues. This activity was tolerated b/c we were at war also.

    I am suggesting probably that the attitudinal antecedents toward Muslims were being milled since after the end of WWII. By even Muslim intellectuals. Certain themes that I recall from the late 50s were still salient in academia. Particularly evident in the themes highlighted in interfaith & theological circles at Harvard The & Princeton more specifically. I myself was surprised their role in shaping foreign policies. There are reasons for why I thought some academics were on the wrong track. Someday I elaborate why I thought they were.

    RE: To imply that it’s all manufactured by US Media to sell newspapers is to miss the point that there’s a bunch of cloth available for the Media to cut and sew.

    Me: The pro-white movement is fundamentally an anti-state and in many respects an anti-globalization movement both of which subsets claim have eroded or are eroding the culture, jobs, religion, and political traditions that they deem are fundamentally and exclusively American.

    I don’t think the US media ‘manufactured’ attitudes toward Muslims. They seek content that will cull high viewer ratings. I think that the media competes for fast dramatic content. The scoop. As Bourdieu chronicles in his lucid book Television. Thus it skimps on essential underlying facts, to which they may or may not be privy to.

    Lastly, I had read Gordon Allport’s Psychology of Rumor. It is not easily available. It addresses how rumors go viral and how facts are distorted during war time. Seems very relevant to this day.

    • Dalton says:

      “The pro-white movement is fundamentally an anti-state and in many respects an anti-globalization movement both of which subsets claim have eroded or are eroding the culture, jobs, religion, and political traditions that they deem are fundamentally and exclusively American.”

      The funny thing about this statement is that the white supremacy/white nationalist movement is itself quite globalized. The El Paso shooter referenced the Christchurch shooter who both referenced and revered the Anders Breivik. Some of this is perpetuated, funded, and otherwise enabled by state actors – mostly Russia. Russian psy-ops are active in Sweden, Finland, Ukraine, the United States and the UK. (A great recent article detailing some of this: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/10/world/europe/sweden-immigration-nationalism.html) The far-right white nationalists in many countries are adopting the same tactics in an attempt to mainstream their ideologies: ditching the combat boots and growing out the hair, trading the suspenders for polo shirts. At the same time, online forums facilitate coordination and radicalization. There have always been disaffected young men. It is simply much easier for these men to stumble into a cause and find a group of compatriots online.

      I’d also disagree that these trends emerged after 9/11. The anti-government/white-nationalist movement in the United States have always been here. They are waxing in numbers, strength and visibility right now, but they were quite deadly and visible prior to 9/11 – most especially in the early 90’s. Somehow people seem to forget the second deadliest terrorist attack in United States – 1995 Oklahoma City bombing conducted far-right extremist Timothy McVeigh.

      • anonymous says:

        Who funded the Dayton shooter then?

        If you think that the issues in Sweden are fabricated by Russian ‘psy-ops’ I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

        • I wouldn’t say “fabricated” but certainly it’s objectively a fact that Russian propagandists/psy-ops people are attempting to destabilize western nations and if it’s doing anything in Sweden it’s certainly not making them a kinder gentler group of people.

          • Dalton says:

            Wouldn’t it be great if there was some state actor who set up a social media shop with the express goal of making other nations kinder, gentler people? I like to imagine there is some basement somewhere in Canada with a hundred people dropping Mr. Roger’s memes on Twitter all day long.

            • Martha (Smith) says:

              Dalton said, “I like to imagine there is some basement somewhere in Canada with a hundred people dropping Mr. Roger’s memes on Twitter all day long.”

              Hmm — I’ve got a cousin in Canada who seems to post Mr.Rogers-type memes on Facebook just about every day — and they seem to be things that are copied from somewhere else. So maybe there is some little outfit somewhere in Canada pumping them out :~)

        • Dalton says:

          I didn’t imply that any of these mass murders were funded by outside sources (that includes the Dayton shooter). If that implication comes across in the text, it’s unintentional. I suppose I should’be put a line break before pivoting to the state actors involved in the global movement of virulent racial nationalism.

          Nor did I say the “issues in Sweden” – meaning various degrees of tensions between native Swedish and immigrants – were fabricated by Russian ‘psy-ops’. Those tensions were probably there in the first place. It is however indisputable that Russia is involved in anti-immigrant propaganda in Sweden. (And in the United States! Who knows, maybe you’re one of them! I think it’s pretty unlike you are, but I find it amusing to think that somewhere in Saint Petersburg there is some dude commenting on Andrew’s blog on the clock. I’m mean what better way to influence the election than to influence the people who already think all the polls are bullshit.)

          If you’re selling Buridan’s bridge, I’ll give you $2.50 for it (how much is that in rubles?).

  15. Bob says:

    The Irish reputation for stupidity may come from how they used to interact with their English landlords, don’t draw attention to yourself and don’t act above your station. No upside to it if you’re a serf who can be kicked out at any time.

    You’ll actually see it a lot if you interact with them, they naturally play dumb when in the wrong. Maybe Irish Americans are different but native Irish do it all the time, especially Kerry people.

    The drinking thing is similarly earned. It was a dent to national pride when it turned out some of the East European countries drank more than us. Anyone I know who’s worked in the US has told me if you drink like a normal person over there they consider you an raging alcoholic.

    I didn’t know the FBI was so stacked with the Irish, but it makes sense when you see they are drawn to the police forces, with good reason. If you’re an immigrant it’s one of the few ways to status and prestige. It brings a large amount of goodwill too, I expect being a NY cop a hundred years ago was pretty dangerous.

    It’s actually interesting how they got to be a big deal in the police forces, they were some of the first recruits in the militias that were set up after emancipation to deal with ‘social unrest’. They were massively anti-emancipation because they were second from bottom on the ladder and fought tooth and nail to keep it that way.

    ‘Trustworthy is an interesting choice of words, I’ll have to read between the lines there.

  16. Terry,

    I got the impression that Andrew was arguing that Session’s characterization was ‘positive’ as compared to Helix and Watson’s characterization. Not that it was ‘objectionable’ as you may have inferred. Perhaps I misread Andrew’s viewpoint.

    • Anonymous says:

      Andrew said of Session’s remark that “This sounds pretty bad” and called Sessions a bigot, although less of a bigot than Watson. That sounds to me like he finds Session’s remark “objectionable”, although as you correctly point out, less objectionable than Watson’s remarks.

  17. Andrew Wilson says:

    I think the full quote makes the Sessions remark look more like a comment on perceived knowns and unknows, vs racism per se:

    “The FBI was better off when “you all only hired Irishmen,” Sessions said in one diatribe about the bureau’s workforce. “They were drunks but they could be trusted. Not like all those new people with nose rings and tattoos — who knows what they’re doing?””

    One could say, “Research was better off when we had p0.05 means not significant. We all know p-values don’t really work, but we trust them and we know how to work with them. You want to use Andrew Gelman’s multiverse analysis – who knows what that’s all about?”

    • Andrew Wilson says:

      I forgot about the “no less than sign” thing.

      One could say, “Research was better off when we had p less than 0.05 means significant and p greater than 0.05 means not significant. We all know p-values don’t really work, but we trust them and we know how to work with them. You want to use Andrew Gelman’s multiverse analysis – who knows what that’s all about?”

  18. yyw says:

    Lay people (and many scientists) make imprecise statements. A statement like “Ethnic group A values family” clearly can be criticized as imprecise, but is it reasonable or constructive to go further and criticize it as racist, because it can be interpreted as implying that family is not as valued outside group A and then get into the familiar argument of stereotyping, generalization, within group versus between group difference, the hidden motive behind such a statement, and so on? Maybe the solution is to never look at differences between identity groups, but that seems to be the favorite pastime of both left and right these days.

  19. Martha (Smith) says:

    yyw said,
    “A statement like “Ethnic group A values family” clearly can be criticized as imprecise, is it reasonable or constructive to go further and criticize it as racist, because it can be interpreted as implying that family is not as valued outside group A”

    I’m not convinced that it can reasonably be interpreted as implying that family is not valued outside group A; I would see that as a misinterpretation.

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