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Racism and censorship

September 20th, 2005

Via Jack Strocchi, this story about the censorship by Deakin University of an article on the White Australia policy by racist academic Andrew Fraser, accepted for publication in its law review.

There’s a lot of background on this from Catallaxy, Mark Bahnisch and Rob Corr.

My view based on limited information: the refereeing process was highly dubious and, from what I’ve seen of Fraser, any journal with decent academic standards would reject his trash. However, that didn’t happen and the university authorities should not have engaged in ad hoc censorship.

Fraser appears to be right in claiming that an academic publication in good faith is protected under the Racial Hatred Act, so the university would have to find a reason the publication was not in good faith, for example, that normal academic standards were waived in the interests of attracting controversial publicity. This seems plausible, given the recent record of Deakin Law School, but the University hasn’t made such a claim.

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  1. Neil
    September 20th, 2005 at 16:03 | #1

    The debate reminds of the current ID controversy. We (in Melbourne) have had a variety of people coming forward and saying that ID is science and not religion: with one sole exception, they’ve all been spokespeople for religious groups. Now we have Fraser claiming that racist science is vindicated by the peer-review from a sociologist and a legal academic. By all means claims should be properly scrutinised, and not rejected a priori, but by the appropriate people.

  2. GDP
    September 20th, 2005 at 16:42 | #2

    The relevant section of the act:

    Section 18C does not render unlawful anything said or done reasonably and in good faith:

    (b) in the course of any statement, publication, discussion or debate made or held for any genuine academic, artistic or scientific purpose or any other genuine purpose in the public interest;

    What constitutes a “genuine academic purpose”? There are plenty of woeful academic journals out there that deserve no more protection from the law than any other form of publication (Sokal hoax anyone?).

    So given the low standards to which academia can stoop (not uniformly, but as in any endeavour, the worst can be abysmal), it seems to me that almost any “statement, publication, discussion or debate” could be dressed up to look like “genuine” academic purpose.

    Or is the law supposed to pick the good from the mediocre in academia? Either way, this looks like very ill thought-out law.

  3. September 20th, 2005 at 17:41 | #3

    Deakin’s ham-fisted action is a particularly disgraceful bit of censorship. It combines the worst excesses of the Economic Dries (economic rationalists putting degree milling ahead of academic freedom) and Cultural Wets (political correctors censoring – extreme and foolish – conservative views.)

    The explosive issue of ethnicity and political practice needs to be properly covered by scientific scholars. Fraser would hardly be my first choice to do this.

    I disagree with Fraser’s positive theories. They rely far too much on racial differences, and not nearly enough on class divisions, to account for observed degrees of social stratification and dysfunction.

    Also, I think that Fraser’s normative policie suggestions are bad. I couldnt care less if I was ruled by immigrant blacks, whites or brindles so long as they are smart, nice and adhere to the principles of the Open Society.

    But it is clear that he has only poked his head up and had a go because other, smarter and nicer, scholars have been too intimidated by the corrupting influence of campus political correctness and economic rationalism.

    Will none of Fraser’s brother academics stand up for the Voltairean principle?

  4. Dave Ricardo
    September 20th, 2005 at 18:30 | #4

    “But it is clear that he has only poked his head up and had a go because …”

    Fraser has told you his motivations, has he Jack? I’d say he is having a go because he has, for whatever reason, converted late in life to far right causes and he wants to use his academic position to give them respectability. If he was just a crackpot standing on a soap box in the Domain on a Sunday afternoon, nobody would be paying attention.

    “Will none of Fraser’s brother academics stand up for the Voltairean principle?”

    What rubbish. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean you have a right to publish wherever you want. Deakin University has every right to choose what goes out under their name. Fraser does not have the right to claim to authority of Deakin University as a vehicle for his views. If he can’t find a publisher, he is free to express his views on his own web site, or start up his own law journal.

    Where Deakin has erred is by standing behind a dubious legal opinion instead of just straight out saying” “this is crap and we aren’t going to publish it”.

  5. Dave Ricardo
    September 20th, 2005 at 18:39 | #5

    To continue …

    The VC of Deakin Univesity, Sally Walker, is also the CEO of the university and has the right to make executive decisions of this sort. And she is qualified to make decisions about gets published in a law journal – she was a Professoe of Law before going into academic administraion.

    This doesn’t mean that VC should micro manage every publication that goes out in a university’s name. That would be undesirable for many reasons. But this is an extreme case.

  6. joe2
    September 20th, 2005 at 18:59 | #6

    Maybe, his status as a migrant from Canada should be questioned.
    Does he have Australian citizenship or a working visa?
    Duel citizenship and able to be sent back to his country of birth.
    A threat to national security? Doubt that.
    He does such good dog whistle.
    More likely, a celebrity candidate for one of of our major parties.

  7. September 20th, 2005 at 21:19 | #7

    Dave Ricardo, I think you miss Jack’s point. He was reiterating what he believed to be a defence of what he calls the “Voltairean principle”. The logical extension and appication of Voltaire’s ideas today is that “bad speech” is better combated by “more speech” than “restricted speech”.

    Deakin would have been better off publishing Fraser’s article in addition to another effective article of rebuttal. That way Fraser and society is not subjected to censorship and society is served by refuting Fraser’s arguments in an open environment.

  8. September 20th, 2005 at 21:25 | #8

    I have no comment regarding the VC’s decision. But there is no justification in saying the refereeing process was “highly dubious”. It went through the same process as any other article (albeit with an additional referee). Reports that initial referees rejected the article are incorrect: they simply identified the author and didn’t want to consider the article on that basis.

  9. Jason Soon
    September 20th, 2005 at 22:59 | #9

    the inimitable ‘bad boy’ of Ozblogistan, John J Ray, has made Fraser’s ‘censored’ article available here
    http://users.bigpond.net.au/jonjayray/fraser.html

    so go exercise your ‘Voltairean’ rights and feel free to pick holes in it

  10. September 20th, 2005 at 23:17 | #10

    The Voltarian principle is a hoax – or, more accurately, a 20th century interpretation or paraphrasing of something else that Voltaire wrote in the 18th century that has in turn been misinterpreted. Voltaire would in any event have been unwilling to throw away his abundant enjoyment of life to die for someone else’s mindless babble, let alone babble that seeks only to denigrate the standing of already vulnerable citizens.

  11. Dave Ricardo
    September 21st, 2005 at 08:46 | #11

    “I have no comment regarding the VC’s decision”

    Comes on James, you can do better than that. Stand up for your beliefs. You’re not going to let the Vice Chancellor walk all over you, are you?

  12. September 21st, 2005 at 08:50 | #12

    I had never heard of Fraser until Macquarie University started trying to restrict his use of his title. If nothing else, it suggests censorship of this kind is completely counter-productive, creating a platform where before there was just well deserved obscurity.

  13. Dave Ricardo
    September 21st, 2005 at 09:02 | #13

    Macquarie University has every right to protect its good name.

    If I worked for XYZ Corporation and tried to use their name to lend authority to crap like that, they’d sack me on the spot, and rightly so.

  14. jquiggin
    September 21st, 2005 at 09:34 | #14

    I strongly disagree that universities should be treated as analogous to XYZ Corporation in this context.

    In particular, this analogy implies that everything stated by a representative of the corporation (unless followed by a retraction and sacking) is the position of the corporation. No such assumption applies for a university. This is why academic papers from non-university organisations commonly carry disclaimers (not the views of XYZ corporation) and papers from university academics do not.

    On Fraser’s paper, I found it thoroughly unimpressive (well, I was impressed by the treatment of racist pseudo-science as authoratative, but not in a good way) and notable for the absence of any specifically legal scholarship. If this is the kind of thing that gets through the normal refereeing process at Deakin Law Journal, the University should close it down on quality control grounds.

  15. Dave Ricardo
    September 21st, 2005 at 09:46 | #15

    John, you’ve missed my point. Fraser has tried to use the name of Macquarie University to lend legitimacy to his paper, which is just racist agit-prop.

    Just because a paper is written by somebody who is employed in an academic institution and is submiited for publication to an academic journal, doesn’t make it an academic paper, in the commonly accepted sense of the word.

  16. September 21st, 2005 at 09:54 | #16

    I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

    Apparently the Voltairean principle is actually the Evelyn Beatrice Hall-ian principle. No matter, it still sounds nice as a rallying call for libertarians.

    (A personal note, designed to set up ironic deflation of the morally inflated.) I am, at this point in time and in this place in space, inclined towards cultural conservatism in politics. That means I will tend to support social integration over individual differentiation, as the better way to promote the Open Society goal of personal autonomy.

    So I might be to the one supposed to be ushering in policies exerting a “chilling effect on free speech”.

    Yet I, rotten cultural conservative, am as keen as mustard to promote alternative and critical viewpoints, from both individual agents and institutional agencies. Let a hunded flowers bloom, all the better to cultivate the good ones and weed out the bad ones.

    This means views that I support publication of views that I disagree with, such as those espoused by monoracialists (such as Fraser) and multiculturalists (such as Theophanous, or whoever is now the boss of the ethnic lobby). It simply would not occur to me to impose censorship on the spokespersons for these ill-informed, wrong-headed and ill-willed views.

    In any case, the “Voltaire-ian” principle is obviously one that has pricked the conscience of many libertarians. They are always finding themselves in this dilemma when confronted with a conflict between defending in general the presumptive right to free speech and a free speaker whose particular expressions they find abominable. This is the acid test of libertarianism.

    Lets see how they stood up.

    John Quiggin says September 20th, 2005

    the university would have to find a reason the publication was not in good faith, for example, that normal academic standards were waived in the interests of attracting controversial publicity. This seems plausible

    Dave Ricardo Says: September 20th, 2005 at 6:30 pm

    Freedom of speech doesn’t mean you have a right to publish wherever you want.

    cs Says: September 20th, 2005 at 11:17 pm

    Voltaire would in any event have been unwilling to throw away his abundant enjoyment of life to die for someone else’s mindless babble,

    Not much spirit of dissidence and free thinking here, not on your nellie.

    I could really have a field day here, exposing the yawning gap between libertarian moral principle and our Wet spolitical practice. So I will.

    Our holier-than-thou cultural constructives (or Wets, or “progressives”, if you like), have always prided themselves on favouring social diversity and individual liberty. Yet they have all now gone to ground, or are openly abandoning their libertarian principles, when their views are subject to some uncomfortable stress. Or they are relying on bureaucratic legalisms to split hairs on what counts as proper speech etc.

    If you are fair dinkum about freedom, you should not seek to discourage the opposite point of view. That is, after all, the Miltonian and Popperian mantra.

    But it seems that the demands of political correctness, and solidarity to the Wet party line, have outweighed traditional libertarian concerns for free speech come what may.

    PS, Here’s another famous quote illustrating the libertarian principle, just to make you think:

    Freedom is indivisible.

  17. gordon
    September 21st, 2005 at 10:01 | #17

    It is pretty obvious that race and the associated policies collectively known as “multiculturalism” is a big and growing issue in Australia and New Zealand at the moment. It is also obvious that increasing inequality and the associated downward pressure on people who never thought to find their middle-class status under threat is a significant cause of it.

    Another significant cause is the avoidance of the issue by established academic and political institutions who I suppose see it as a minefield of dangerously politically incorrect possibilities. A lack of response by these institutions creates a vacuum which will certainly be filled by “extremists”. Too often, this only provokes the established commentariat to indulge in a little quick self-promotion, rather than trying to drive out bad analysis and policy by developing better analysis and policy. The hysteria around One Nation a few years ago is a good illustration of this sad tendency.

    Therefore so far as I can see the critics of Fraser have to a large extent only themselves to blame for this kerfuffle. Go and do the research and analysis on race, inequality, multiculturalism and immigration. Don’t just drag out the old anti-Pauline catchphrases and start ringing up journalists – that is a totally inadequate response.

  18. Neil
    September 21st, 2005 at 10:34 | #18

    There is a sense in which the refereeing was okay, and another in which it clearly wasn’t. Given the journal’s decision to consider the piece, the refereeing process was okay. But the journal ought not to have considered the piece at all: not on the grounds that it is pernicious (though it is) but on the basis of disciplinary boundaries. Law journals are not the place to consider arguments about the scientific basis of race (nor should law journals be considering the legal implications of racial differences until the sciences establish that we ought to take such differences seriously). Given the editors’ failure to reject on that basis, the referees should have refused to consider the paper, once again on the basis of considerations of disciplinary boundaries. Fraser is welcome to submit his dross to journals which are competent to reject it on its merits.

  19. Neil
    September 21st, 2005 at 11:29 | #19

    I have now read Fraser’s paper (here: http://users.bigpond.net.au/jonjayray/fraser.html) and I retract the claim that the journal should have rejected it because it could not be expected to assess the science. Now I think the journal should have rejected it because it’s clearly not law. It’s a kind of Straussian vague political polemic. It merely mentions the so-called science of race. But the citations do not fill me with confidence. The citations are all to authors who, like Murray, either do not know or conveniently forget what analysis of variance actually shows.

  20. September 21st, 2005 at 11:46 | #20

    Robert Corr has read the whole thing and demolishes the sources it rests on and its claim to be scholarly research.

    It’s been published in the Australian today – as I discuss in the post trackbacked above.

  21. stoptherubbish
    September 21st, 2005 at 11:48 | #21

    Gordon,
    You made my point for me. The rise of interest in, and growing respectability for, utilising racial and cultural categories as tools of social analysis and political rhetoric is very interesting and not entirely fortuitous in my view. The issue of Fraser’s views is interesting precisely because it is causing so much palpitation and angst among people who would normally be expected to pick up these underlying trends and examine them critically.

    Leaving aside the issue of the Deakin Law review, and its refereeing standards, what concerns me about Fraser and the debate here, is that the issues raised about the changing terms of ‘political engagement’ in Australia and elsewhere, are being ignored in favour of stale ecomiums concerning ‘free speech’. There has been a distinct trend here and in the UK and NZ as well as Europe, for political parties to engage in the rhetoric of race, and for a certain type of commentator/social analyst/political actor to ascribe this development as the healthy antidote to ‘cultural elites who have smothered free speech under the blanket of political correctness’.

    Now speech is never free-it is always expensive, but the increasing trend of the powerful to utilise these kinds of rhetorical tropes, and the encouragment of their use as part of normal discourse, is a phenomenon that I have not seen analysed anywhere much.

    Those who spruik the loudest about ”freedom’ should be encouraged in my view to comment on the growing use of categories such as race and culture as ways of building/dividing electoral coalitions in many liberal democracies, and I would be interested in their views on why this has happened, and the implications of this trend for the capacity of liberal democracies to continue to deserve the name.

  22. Simon
    September 21st, 2005 at 14:18 | #22

    Some of Fraser’s earlier comments may be of relevance here. After his initial outburst, he told Triple J’s Hack program that he believed his arguments were in fact weak.

    He also told a media scrum on the first day of semester at Mac that he wished things would all go away- mind you this was probably said with his fingers crossed. So keeping this in mind, he takes his ‘weak research’ and in an attempt to rediscover some credibility tries to convince Deakin to publish his article. I guess the question is whether Deakin in fact knew anthing about Fraser’s earlier proclaimed comments about his arguments which feature in the essay, or whether Fraser in fact did not act in good faith by bringing the article forward to be published.

    Simon Rice writes in todays HES in The Australian that Deakin should have published the article first before any legal action was considered, yet there is the possibility that it could be rejected totally for poor academic standards and because Fraser did not act in good faith in the beginning in that its questionable as to whether he believed it was suitable scholarly debate.

  23. joe2
    September 21st, 2005 at 17:46 | #23

    Let’s face it,the bloke should be doing a double act with Pauline Hanson at Jupiter’s Casino. Reintroduce the ‘white australia policy’,he says.
    Most times i do not go for the person. Just feel sorry for undergrad’s who had to deal with a Prof like that.

  24. joe2
    September 21st, 2005 at 18:33 | #24

    Sorry for no footnotes and happy for moderation.
    An interview with Jon Faine on local radio,Melbourne, will prove my point.
    Prof Fraser believes we should go back to the ‘white australia policy’.

  25. September 22nd, 2005 at 11:01 | #25

    As an American protected by the First Amendment, I’m struck by how little regard there is for free speech in Australia. This is a clear case of legislation having a “chilling effect” on debate over public policy. If you were an academic needing to get published in peer-reviewed journals, this sends a definite message about what to avoid. We have plenty of political correctness suppressing intellectual discourse in America (as the Larry Summers brouhaha showed), but at least this Australian “racial villification” law would be instantly struck down by the courts here.

    Does Australia really have such a “vibrant” level of intellectual discourse that it can afford laws chilling free debate?

  26. Paul Watson
    September 22nd, 2005 at 11:20 | #26

    “Will none of Fraser’s brother academics stand up for the Voltairean [or whoever it was] principle?�

    I’m a Deakin University legal academic, and I’m quite prepared to admit that the circumstances of Fraser’s non-publication in the Deakin Law Review raise genuine freedom-of-speech concerns. Therefore, in a perfect (or almost-) world, I’d be banging up and down about it.

    As the world currently stands, however, there is at least one much more pressing and serious free-speech local (Australian) “bushfire� burning: see http://www.redrag.net/2005/09/15/deakin-mcconvill-fraser/#comment-20050916084102

    I’m reminded of the ACLU’s defence of the right of neo-Nazis to march in Skokie in 1977-78. Presumably at the time the ACLU reasonably believed that the main free-speech battles had been won, and therefore its energies could properly be spent mopping up the margins. Well that was then, and this is now – in 2005, free-speech defending resources are considerably more limited *and* the substantive threats to “mainstream� free speech in the West are much greater than in the late-70’s (for this de-form, take a bow, boomers).

    On another matter, of publishing standards at the Deakin Law Review – the starting point here has to be the economics of most academic journal publishing. In narrowly fiscal terms, they are akin to zines: put together by all-volunteer labour, and with the main cost input (materials) picked up by the employer’s photocopier, or its equivalent. Despite this lo-fi nuts’n’bolts, a big-ticket secondary economy circulates around these journals: that of research points, grants, and job promotions. Throw in chronic public under-funding of public universities, and the inevitable result is . . . not pretty.

    So why the surprise, much less outrage? As a certain boomer, and master of façade and personal re-invention once sang/droned: “This is what you want, this is what you get�.

  27. Paul Watson
    September 22nd, 2005 at 11:50 | #27

    P.S.

    FWIW, Drew Fraser, a 60-something academic, is smaller stake-holder than most participants in the publish-or-perish economy circulating around academic journals. In an already highly-distorted marketplace, his unusual status here as “amateur” (= someone who has nothing really to gain by being published, and therefore nothing to *lose* by being published) has further distorted the game at hand, of academic journal output.

  28. what the
    September 22nd, 2005 at 13:40 | #28

    Sailer said “Does Australia really have such a “vibrantâ€? level of intellectual discourse that it can afford laws chilling free debate?”

    No. But. Intellectual debate here is not only rare, weak and clubby but it is mainly the soft chirping of a tiny group of middle-aged people who are definitely Australian yet are strangely isolated from, and oblivious to, the views, beliefs and desires of mainstream Australia.

    Australians are not traditionally thought of as the intellectuals of the world and that is without doubt to our great credit as a nation.

  29. September 22nd, 2005 at 14:55 | #29

    So, when are you guys going to get yourself a First Amendment?

  30. September 22nd, 2005 at 14:56 | #30

    ”I’m struck by how little regard there is for free speech in Australia. This is a clear case of legislation having a “chilling effectâ€? on debate over public policy.”

    I’m also a little struck Steve Sailer about your Patriot Act such that the FBI can access what books one reads in the US (without the consent of Joe Sixpack of course). While Pat Robertson has the freedom of speech to incite murder of a Venezualan President, how would a US Muslim go advocating the assassination of Tony Blair?

    The vilification laws , (and many disagree with them I acknowledge) are in effect an extension of laws against incitement to commit a crime. If you think that’s bad, wait until you see Howard copy the UK proposed laws where indirect incitement supporting for example resistance against the Iraqi war will be a criminal offence.

    How valuable are your First Amendment rights against a President who can lock you up indefinitely without a trial on suspicion only?

  31. Neil
    September 22nd, 2005 at 15:58 | #31

    In any case, this debate is not about our free speech rights. The VC of Deakin claimed that it could not publish the article for fear of publication, but it was a transparent rationalization (as The Australian newspaper proved, when it published the paper). Our racial vilification do not exert a chilling effect on free speech; merely on a variation on calling “fire” in a crowded theatre (the variation “fire on the dirty Xs”). The VC acted to put a halt to bad publicity – and you can’t tell me that that doesn’t happen in the US. The comparison with the Larry Summers case is more apt, because both featured people speakin outside their area of expertise, and in both cases the claims they made were unsupported by the evidence. None of this is to suggest that a bill of rights mightn’t be a good idea, though (not that the US bill of rights has proved very effective in protecting Americans of late).

    Steve Sailer, btw, is notjust a bystander in this debate. Andrew Fraser cites him in the article.

  32. what the
    September 22nd, 2005 at 16:03 | #32

    um, not sure we need to amend anything at this stage :) we don’t usually talk that much about free speech over here, we just speak freely.

    ..and it’s only our very few intellectuals that actually seek to curb speech because they personally find some things utterly unspeakable and then they get scared of other people’s thoughts and want to cut out their tongues with legislation! The rest of australia completely ignores them of course and continues to call a spade a funny bloody shovel.

    anyway i thought Eric Idle summed up your free speech (he got fined a bit for using a bad word apparently) with his lovely ode to the US FCC at http://www.pythonline.com/plugs/idle/index.shtml

    “Here’s a little song I wrote the other day while I was out duck hunting with a judge… It’s a new song, it’s dedicated to the FCC and if they broadcast it, it will cost a quarter of a million dollars.”

  33. Simon
    September 22nd, 2005 at 16:11 | #33

    Just a bit more on what Peter was saying- certainly many people who at the moment are crying at the ‘death of free speech’ would be the ones to champion Howard’s proposed new anti-terror laws, which no matter what spin you put on it, will directly affect muslim Australians by increasing criminalisation on them.

    The right would argue that someone like Fraser whose academic discourse is not capable of inciting violence or hatred, yet as Kathe Boheringer points out in an article which appeared in todays Online Opinion,

    “The casualties will be not merely academic excellence, and the economic progress and social peace that could follow but, more importantly, hope itself, the only antidote to despair. Those who now presume to manage the limits of free thought may have to reap the bitter fruits of the poisoned seeds they have sown. Once a people falls into despair, they may become dangerously unpredictable”. (http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=197)

    At a forum at Macquarie University in early August we heard from members of the Sudanese community who allege that after Fraser’s comments were made public threats and actual violence occured against them. Di Yerbury alleges threats were recieved from members of far right wing groups. As Boheringer alludes to then, these people can be dangerously unpredictable as perhaps some muslim extremists may be. Yet people such as Steve Sailer may have as believe that because Fraser’s comments are academic in nature then it is not at all possible for him to incite violence, despite the fact that there are many ‘unpredicatable’ people out there.

  34. jquiggin
    September 22nd, 2005 at 16:51 | #34

    As regards freedom of speech, Fraser’s racist article has been published on the web and I haven’t seen any calls for him to be prosecuted for these (of course there may have been some).

    The issues raised by the Deakin Law Review article are:
    (1) Should this piece have been accepted for publication in a law review based on normal academic standards
    (2) Should Deakin university have acted to investigate the operations of its Law Review
    (3) Should Deakin University have prohibited publication on the stated legal grounds

    My answers are No, Probably Yes and No.

    [Other statements allegedly inciting violence are another matter. I don't see why these should be protected simply because the target is a group of people rather than an individual].

  35. conrad
    September 22nd, 2005 at 18:03 | #35

    I think you are incorrect about 1) Should this piece have been accepted for publication in a law review based on normal academic standards.

    As far as I can tell the bottom rung of journals have basically no standards in most academic fields, and there are many many such journals. Thus the the floor is basically “accept anything”. THerefore, by saying no to (1) you are really saying that vast numbers of publication shouldn’t exist (which is fine by me), but isn’t realistic, since it is very hard to separate the dross from the unreviewable obscure.

  36. jquiggin
    September 22nd, 2005 at 19:16 | #36

    Conrad, I think you are using “basically” in a misleading fashion. Good journals in most fields have high rejection rates (in economics, much too high IMHO, but that’s another story). Articles that are correct, but pedestrian, don’t stand much chance, and plenty of good articles get rejected simply because referees don’t like them.

    Bottom tier journals by comparison have much less stringent standards, but that’s not the same as having no standards. At any journal, no matter how humble, referees are supposed to detect errors and unsupported claims and reject articles that contain them, not to mention crank submissions unrelated to the field in quesiton.

  37. September 22nd, 2005 at 21:00 | #37

    Of course, it now transpires that it wasn’t a crank submission but an invitation by the journal for a crank to submit.

  38. September 23rd, 2005 at 05:41 | #38

    I’m struck, once again, by how diversity and free speech turn out to be in conflict with each other.

  39. jquiggin
    September 23rd, 2005 at 06:17 | #39

    To repeat myself Steve, the piece has been published (with excerpts in a major newspaper) and no-one has been prosecuted. Where is the violation of free speech?

  40. September 23rd, 2005 at 11:33 | #40

    jquiggin Says: September 23rd, 2005 at 6:17 am

    the piece has been published (with excerpts in a major newspaper) and no-one has been prosecuted. Where is the violation of free speech?

    Pr Q is correct in saying that Australia’s racial vilification laws allow scholars to publish politically incorrect articles on ethnic identity issues, without fear of prosecution:

    LAWS against racial vilification leave room for contentious academic debate, an expert on human rights law said.

    “[An exemption in the law] invites publication of controversial views,” Mr Rice said. “It creates space for those views to be explored – and to back off before taking that opportunity puts the racial vilification bar higher than it was intended.”

    But I think Pr Q is missing the more general ideological point. Steve Sailer is referring to the particular case of academic repression, rather than general civil repression. That is, the banning of Drew Fraser from Macquarie University and the scratching of his article from Deakin Law Review.

    Dr Fraser, an associate professor at Macquarie University, said limits on intellectual freedom were narrowing by the day, especially when it came to discussion of race and immigration.

    Executive director of the Australian Multicultural Foundation Hass Dellal, said there were moral limits to freedom of speech, and Mr Fraser’s views disrupted social harmony. [ie political incorrectness, whatever its degree of ill-willing, wrong-headedness, hinders job opportunities in the multicultural industry!]

    This kind of repressive treatment meted out to, admittedly somewhat crankish and offensive, authors will tend to have a chilling effect on the free expression of other, more scientific, scholars interested in studying this vital issue. And that can only be bad in itself – it is wrong to constrain the pursuit of knowledge. And bad in the wider social context – ignorance that festers underground eventually wells up into intolerance.

    The counter-argument, that Fraser’s secure position and free publication is somehow an affront to academic standards in Australia’s humanities, does not cut much mustard, given the sources it is coming from.* Where were all Australia’s stalwart defenders of ideological decency and intellectual integrity in the past two generations?

    Australian acedemia, after WWII, endured a long period during which time class-warring, Second World communist supporters held positions that allowed them to regularly publish articles pursuing a marxist theory of history. Then, after the Vietnam War, Australian acedemia endured another long period during which time culture-warring, Third-world nationalist supporters infested liberal Arts faculties and regularly published articles pursuing a culturalist theory of society.

    Second World Communism was an evil political system and marxism was poor quality social science. Third World nationalism had plenty of moral deformations and cultural theory is a tissue of nonsens.

    If moral and intellectual standards are so important, then why werent any of these roguish/foolish academics who put out this rubbish sacked or censored, like Fraser?

    PS If I had been editor of Deaking Law Review I would have rejected Fraser’s article as is – on intellectual, not ideological, grounds. The article has a crankish tone, too much given to Spenglerian doom-saying. And there is too little critical analysis of Darwinian evolutionary theory as a scientific tool for analysing ethnicity in the context of the modern nation state. (We could have done without the gratuitous and offensive promotion of the, now irrelevant, White Australia policy. But every minorty group is now encouraged to promote ethnic identity politics and seeks special privileges. So it is not surprising that someone from the majority group will try on the same lurk.)

    * I exempt Pr Q from these strictures. As a hard-headed social democrat he has never subscribed to the craven motto of “Pas d’enemi a la gauche”.

  41. Neil
    September 23rd, 2005 at 12:26 | #41

    Most of the commentators here have very little idea of the actual state of academic publishing. They think there is a PC ban on views unpopular on the left. In fact, the exact opposite is the case: authors can get away with nonsense by mentioning genes or Darwin. For instance, we recently had Baron-Cohen’s awful book on innate sex differences, and not a peep of protest despite the fact that it was badly argued rubbish; we had Pinker’s Blank Slate supporting Murray and Herrnstein, despite the fact that many people have pointed out that the data does not support the view (can you say “Flynn effect”?), we had Thornhill and Palmer on rape… and many others. In fact, the state of academic publishing is such that this kind of work will get an easier ride, for reasons that are obscure to me (perhaps because editors, like McConvill, are looking for publicity). The ideological tenor of our times is decidely non-PC (here’s my evidence: I take the Guardian to be a reliable bellwether of left opinion: look at the respectful reviews of Baron-Cohen and Pinker in the paper).

    Philip Kitcher pointed out a while ago that rigourous scholarly standards are automatically relaxed when the topic turns to human differences; especially sexual, but also racial. That situation has worsened. If Deakin’s action was a first sign that proper standards will be applied across the board, then it should be welcomed. But the situation is not as Jack thinks: that work that agrees with PC sentiments gets an easier ride (at least not in the social sciences, in law, in philosophy or the natural sciences. In these disciplines, the exact opposite situation prevails).

  42. September 23rd, 2005 at 15:33 | #42

    Neil Says: September 23rd, 2005 at 12:26 pm

    The ideological tenor of our times is decidely non-PC (here’s my evidence: I take the Guardian to be a reliable bellwether of left opinion: look at the respectful reviews of Baron-Cohen and Pinker in the paper).

    The study of human culture has definitely improved since the hey day of political correctness, say c 1970-1995. Things could hardly have gotten any worse. In the seventies university humanities departments were taken over by mad students, some of whom went on to run the assylum. For proof, I offer up the lengthy period when post-modernist theory was taken seriously by academics and then later shoved down the throats of unsuspecting undergraduates.

    The best proof that things are better is the high status given by the New York Times to Nicholas Wade, whose long series of articles on human biological identity have been a model of judicious journalism. I am glad that Guardian readers are also getting the benefit of its excellent science coverage. But this issue is about how academics, rather than journalists, are covering the explosive, and exploding, knowledge coming out of the biological sciences.

    Philip Kitcher pointed out a while ago that rigourous scholarly standards are automatically relaxed when the topic turns to human differences; especially sexual, but also racial.

    Well he would say that, wouldn’t he? So, according to Neil, in the good old days when gender theorists, queer theorists, black studies theorists were looking into “sexual, but also racial…human differences” there were “rigourous scholarly standards” applied accross the board. He has got to be joking.

    Now rotten Darwinists like EO Wilson and nincompoops like James Watson have moved into the field. So, according to Neil, there goes the neighbourhood.

    Neil seems utterly clueless about the general state of the life and mind sciences. The Darwinian synthesis on human behaviour is now more or less mainstream in the natural science community. Pinker and Baron-Cohen argue positions that just reflect this.

    It is the cultural theorists that now occupy the wierd extremist position, way out on the Left. But cultural theorists still seem to think that their intellectual and ideologicals positions are, by default, the proper ones. And they occupy positions of power which they use to enforce their point of view.

    It is very hard to take Neil’s other statements seriously. His potted review and dismissive treatment of Darwinian theorists is an intellectual travesty. And his attempt to downplay the chilling effect of political correctness on the investigation of human bio-diversity is blatantly false. Who does he think he is trying to kid?

    Neil seems to have plunged the Larry Summers brou-ha down a memory hole. Summers made some unexceptional remarks about the under-performance of females in the sci-tech professions. For his crimes he had endure a hysterical fire storm of political correctness whipped up by a bunch of intellectual second-raters. They forced him to make retractions and reparations.

    Race, and ethnicity, remain topics which cannot be rationally analysed by social scientitsts, using the methods of natural science, without hysterical accusations of racism being thrown about. The psychologists in and around the London School of Differential Psychology continue to face harassment both on and off campus. This includes a certain amount of ostracism by publishers.

    The g-factor was rejected by ten publishers. Whether or not its conclusions are absolutely valid, it certainly did not deserve such censorious treatment.

    A politician (Brogden) just lost his job for making what was, after all, just an off-the-record joke that indirectly, and offensively, alluded to race. The taboo on analysis of ethnic diversity is endangering the lives of people of color. There is no sense of proportion here.

    All this idelogical rubbish will stop once the mountains of HGP data starts to bear fruit. Wouldn’t it be a good idea if cultural scientists lost their religion and followed suit to their brethern in the harder sciences?

    we recently had Baron-Cohen’s awful book on innate sex differences, and not a peep of protest despite the fact that it was badly argued rubbish;

    Well that settles it, I guess. Baron-Cohen’s book inter alia implicitly criticises the thesis of radical feminism: that notion that gender roles are totally socially constructed and hormones have nothing to do with it. There is nothing much more to say about the paeleo-feminist theory but that it is flat wrong. See for instance, this archive of articles on human nature and gender, compiled by New Scientist.

    Murray and Herrnstein, despite the fact that many people have pointed out that the data does not support the view. (can you say “Flynn effect�?)

    The Flynn Effect is consistent with Murray’s position, which might be described as soft-core hereditarianism (ie mental capacity = biological endowment + sociological environment). Murray has written extensively on the Flynn effect. Both Neil, and Pr Q, seem to be unaware of these developments (c ~1999)

    I have serious reservations about Murray and Herrnstein’s book, mostly because they side-stepped orthodox peer-review and because their are legitimate concerns over their methodology. But the mainstream of the pschological profession more or less gave them a clean bill of health. However the subsequent fire storm they had to endure bore no to any conceivable proportion to their supposed intellectual or ideological offences.

    Pinker’s Blank Slate

    The Blank Slate was hardly an example of unreconstructed Social Darwinism. Pinker was trying to rectify the intellectual deformations caused by the disastrous “social constructivist” philosophies. Anyone remember behaviourism, Lysenkoism, primitivism, post-modernism?

    Pinker merely refutes the belief that human psychology is totally socially-constructed. He maintains the sensible middle ground that it is partially biologically-conserved. If this is meant to be some daring form of political incorrectness then we may as well pack up and all go home.

    More generally, the original socio-biolgical thinkers – Hamilton, Wilson, Williams – were hounded by their brother academics for propounding Darwinism in the social sciences. This eventually led to the establishment of a whole new discipline – evolutionary pscyhology – which was just socio-biology with the interesting bits left out.

    This censorship has had a chilling and distorting effect on debate. Scholars on both sides then of the debate have tended to stick to their own journals, “cranking out their own smelly little orthodoxies”. And they will then elude more general critical peer review.

  43. Neil
    September 23rd, 2005 at 16:04 | #43

    Sorry, I don’t know how to quote… I’ll just use quotation marks:

    “according to Neil, in the good old days when gender theorists, queer theorists, black studies theorists were looking into “sexual, but also racial…human differencesâ€? there were “rigourous scholarly standardsâ€? applied accross the board. He has got to be joking”

    I did limit the claim to social sciences, natural sciences, philosophy and law (actually I’m not sure about the last).

    “The Darwinian synthesis on human behaviour is now more or less mainstream in the natural science community. Pinker and Baron-Cohen argue positions that just reflect this”

    Depends on what you mean by “the Darwinian synthesis on human behavior”. The Darwinian synthesis is usually used to refer to the view that dominated evolutionary theory from around 1930-60 – the view propounded by people like Julian Huxley: natural seletion with a Mendelian mechanism. This much is true: all serious thinkers acknowledge that any hypothesis about human behavior must be consistent with evolutionary hypotheses. But that consistency claim leaves a great deal of space for debate. There is an enormous amount of debate about how direct evolutionary explanations ought to be: should we expect that the major lines of human behavior observable today in (say) Australia can be accounted for by looking at what was adaptive in the environment of evolutionary adaptation? Or should we think that, at most, the dispositions laid down in the EEA merely set constraints on the way human beings behave?

    “His potted review and dismissive treatment of Darwinian theorists is an intellectual travesty”.

    Actually, I just said that they were rubbish. Hard to see how that’s a potted review, never mind a travesty. I suggest you read my extended work on Baron-Cohen, et al. You’re certainly free to disagree with it (I expect you will). But don’t tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about, or that the weight of scientific opinion is against me. There is in fact an ongoing debate here. Do not mention cultural studies again; that’s a distraction. My claim was about the lax standards with regard to simplistic heredterian hypotheses in the natural and social sciences.

    And do you really think that Murray’s hypothesis is that “mental capacity = biological endowment + sociological environment”? At that level of abstraction, what sane person could possibily dissent?

    As for the claim about the g-factor: reminds me of Thornhill and Palmer’s evidence that there is discrimination against evolutionary psychologist: people with that speciality have actually applied for jobs and not got them! EP is getting better. But it tolerates a lot of bullshit which would not be permitted in other fields. I don’t mean non-PC; I mean lax standards and shoddy arguments.

  44. Paul Watson
    September 24th, 2005 at 11:15 | #44

    “Australian academia, after WWII, endured a long [bad] period . . . If moral and intellectual standards are so important, then why weren’t any of these roguish/foolish academics who put out this rubbish sacked or censored, like Fraser?�

    Fair question, but the answer is at once obvious: boomer-centricity. If anything either (i) employed boomers, and/or (ii) suited the majority of boomers at the time, it was (and is) unimpeachable (Another toxic example of boomer-centricity is that the housing-price bubble was not pricked by timely taxation law changes – at a huge resultant cost to my generation, and hence Australia’s future.)

    “The study of human culture has definitely improved since the hey day of political correctness, say c 1970-1995. Things could hardly have gotten any worse.�

    Oh yeah? So you think that deliberately starving public universities of public funding has axiomatically improved the quality humanities teaching and research? If so, you are hardly alone in that view – Exhibit 1: just about anyone who writes on this area in The Australian. There’s just one teensy problem with the Right’s concerted purging of the Left from academia: the baby (= the next generation) has got thrown out with the bathwater.

  45. Andrew Reynolds
    September 25th, 2005 at 19:18 | #45

    Neil,
    To quote, you just put your text in blockquote html tags: with the word blockquote between them. To end it, just put /blockquote between the . I cannot show you directly because, if I do, it interprets it as a tag and does not show it, but you probably get the idea. The other tags beloved of Jack Strocchi are ‘i’ for italics, ‘b’ for bold and ‘strike’ to strike text.
    Experiment with the preview pane.

  46. September 25th, 2005 at 21:51 | #46

    Neil,

    To quote ‘blah blah rhubarb blah’ as

    blah blah rhubarb blah

    …you enter it as follows :

    <blockquote>
    blah blah rhubarb blah
    </blockquote>

    I find that it looks better, if you don’t put the tags on separate lines, that is

    blah blah rhubarb blah

    … can be displayed using :

    <blockquote>blah blah rhubarb blah</blockquote>

    ————————————————————————————

    (Just in case you are wondering, the reason, I can display the tags in the example above, is that I have entered them as :

    &lt;blockquote&gt;
    blah blah rhubarb blah
    &lt;/blockquote&gt;

    … where ‘lt’ stands for ‘less than’ and ‘gt’ stands for ‘greater than’, and the reason that you can see the ‘&’ characters in the above example, is that I have entered it as :

    &amp;lt;blockquote&amp;gt;
    blah blah rhubarb blah
    &amp;lt;/blockquote&amp;gt;
    )

  47. September 25th, 2005 at 22:01 | #47

    Neil,

    Something didn’t work properly after I hit ‘Submit Comment’, but if you want to see how to use the ‘blockquote’ tag, see the example, below the black line, above, supposedly explaining the example above the black line.

  48. Andrew Reynolds
    September 26th, 2005 at 00:02 | #48

    James,
    WordPress seems to convert the symbols on the fly and then store them as the actual symbols, and, when reading them out, converts it into the tags. Very annoying when explaining.

  49. September 26th, 2005 at 09:57 | #49

    To quote, you just put your text in blockquote html tags: with the word blockquote between them. To end it, just put /blockquote between the

    Thanks guys. I have learned something from this thread. Jack, if you want to continue the debate, email me (you can find my email at my website) and I’ll be glad to send you my extended dissing of Pinker, Baron-Cohen, et al.

  50. September 26th, 2005 at 17:08 | #50

    Neil Says: September 23rd, 2005 at 4:04 pm

    EP is getting better. But it tolerates a lot of bullshit which would not be permitted in other fields. I don’t mean non-PC; I mean lax standards and shoddy arguments.

    There is some truth in this criticism of EP, particularly the initial reliance on “just-so” ad hoc hypothesising, properly criticised by SJ Gould as speculative and non-testable. But Gould was wrong to say that evolutionary socio-biologists never tested test their theories.


    Thanks guys. I have learned something from this thread. Jack, if you want to continue the debate, email me (you can find my email at my website) and I’ll be glad to send you my extended dissing of Pinker, Baron-Cohen, et al.

    Neil I am busy with something else right now, but I will try to catch up with you soonish. It is nice to set forth the Darwinian perspective on human nature without being caricatured as a genetic determinist or neo-Nazi. So perhaps I have overstated the dangers of political correctness, in the present case.

  51. September 26th, 2005 at 21:54 | #51

    jquiggin Says: September 22nd, 2005 at 4:51 pm

    The issues raised by the Deakin Law Review article are:

    (1) Should this piece have been accepted for publication in a law review based on normal academic standards
    (2) Should Deakin university have acted to investigate the operations of its Law Review
    (3) Should Deakin University have prohibited publication on the stated legal grounds

    My answers are No, Probably Yes and No.

    My answers to these questions would be the same. Although I would expect, on free speech grounds, the university to encourgage publication of the article, with any empirical substance accentuated and gratuitous ideological frills toned down.

    However I have a question for the good professor. He seems to be setting the bar on academic standards fairly high, which is all to the good.

    But since the end of WWII what has his brother academics and uni admins done to apply these rigourous standards to the kind of stuff coming out of trendy humanities faculties? I mean the torrent of ideological rubbish which early on used marxist theory to support Second World communism and more recently used cultural theory to support Third World nationalism? These theories are bunk and the practices they justified were evil.

    If one took the moral and intellectual standards that Pr Q applies to Deakin Law Review in the Fraser case and applied them to all Australian uni admins over the past half-century then one would have wound up shutting down more than half the Arts faculties in the country!

    So why the new found rush of academic purity? Is it because the malfeasor is an supporter of the, rather moth-eaten and politically inoperable, White Australia policy – a policy that few find morally acceptable, but that has no genocidal crimes to its name?

    I think the answer is obvious: political correctness.

  52. September 26th, 2005 at 23:17 | #52

    Neil Says: September 23rd, 2005 at 4:04 pm

    Depends on what you mean by “the Darwinian synthesis on human behavior�. The Darwinian synthesis is usually used to refer to the view that dominated evolutionary theory from around 1930-60 – the view propounded by people like Julian Huxley: natural seletion with a Mendelian mechanism.

    There were two phases in the modern Darwinian synthesis: the first phase where genes were used to explain micro-biological associations and the second phase where genes were used to explain macro-biological associations.

    In both cases, the micro-biological theory of genetics was married to natural historical (evolutionary) modes of explanation: phenotypic embodiments are constructed, and then selected, by the ecotypic environment with the consequent genotypic endowments being conserved.

    Wikipedia elaborates the second phase:

    The modern evolutionary synthesis continued to be developed and refined after the initial establishment in the 1930s and 1940s. The most notable paradigm shift was the so-called Williams revolution, after George C. Williams presented a gene-centric view of evolution in the 1960s. The synthesis as it exists now has extended the scope of the Darwinian idea of natural selection, specifically to include subsequent scientific discoveries and concepts unknown to Darwin such as DNA and genetics that allow rigorous, in many cases mathematical, analyses of phenomena such as kin selection, altruism, and speciation.

    Of course, natural selection can condition general psychology. It evolved the first brain, which was a pschological innovation alright. And sexual selection can condition particular physiologies. It evolved the “eye-catching” sub-special (familial, tribal, racial) characteristics, which are nothing if not physical.

    Fisher, Dobzhansky and Mayr’s used Mendel’s genetics to illustrate how natural selection adapts bodies to their environment. This explains how biological evolution has shaped diverse physiologies within an ecology.

    These micro-biologists explained how genes regulated the formation and association of the smaller biological units, such as cellular (cells) and modular (organs) associations.

    Hamilton, Williams & Dawkins used Mendel’s genetics to illustrate how sexual selection adapts minds to their environments. This explains how biological evolution has also shaped diverse psychologies within a society.

    These macro-biologists sought to explain how genes regulated the association of people into larger systems. They showed how various biological modules fitted in with each other to form nodes in sociological networks. This is the natural explanation of family values.

    The second phase of the Darwinian synthesis is of obvious relevance to the analysis of human bio-diversity within society. Especially under conditions of nationalization and globalization when members of formerly isolated tribes are called to somehow integrate into a nation state.

  53. September 27th, 2005 at 10:13 | #53

    Jack,

    The debate is not about whether natural selection has shaped our psychologies. It is about the number and specificity of the adaptations, and their resilience to environmental changes. Pinker misrepresents the first question: he takes it to be a debate between people who say that there is a single domain-general mental mechanism which underlies all human cognition at all levels, and those who claim that there are mental modules. Anyone who thinks that there the mind is entirely domain-general hasn’t read any neuropsychology (or psychology in the heuristics and biases tradition). It’s easy to show that there are many modules. But the swiss-army knife view of the mind doesn’t follow from the demonstration that the mind is somewhat modular: it doesn’t follow that all important aspects of human behavior can be explained in terms of adaptations. The second question concerns the shape of the norm of reaction yielded by what modules there: Pinker, et al. are committed to the claim that the norm of reaction is additive across accessible environments; I argue that a priori there is no reason to believe this, and that the empirical evidence supports the view that many modules have non-additive norms of reaction in actual human environments.

    Defending this claim requires a bit of game theory, and close attention to the arguments of these people. I don’t have space to provide the evidence here. The main point I want to make is that this is not a debate that pits Darwinians against social constructionists. It’s debate internal to Darwinian (I would prefer to say naturalistic) thought: the evidence is empirical, and all sides had better advance claims compatible with natural selection.

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