WTF Friday: Glass Houses

Charles Murray
Charles Murray

Race and ethnicity and stuff: Let’s think big thoughts about it, together. Texas is an increasingly diverse place. That’s great for our palates, but sometimes it makes people “uncomfortable.” And “sometimes” we need to have “conversations” about whether it’s “inappropriate” to cite “white supremacists” in “policy papers.”

1) How about that Charles Murray, huh? Don’t get me wrong, Murray should be dropped down a well. Murray, a Thinker, earned most of his renown and public fame for Saying What We’re All Thinking about women and black people—they’re not as smart as Charles Murray and people like him (white, rich, men.) You could describe him as a sort of white supremacist, with the caveat that he doesn’t have much affection for poor white people either. He’s a sort of cheerleader for the elite, in the traditional WASP sense, or Mencken’s sense: Those with education and power have it because, on some level, they deserve it, and those who are poor are poor not because of history, or circumstances, but because they lack the natural ability and intelligence to not be as poor anymore.

That basic idea has been present throughout Murray’s work—implicitly and explicitly. It’s not too far distanced from the pith-helmeted Englishmen who wandered around darkest Africa a century ago measuring skull ridges. (And actually, Murray occasionally relies on contemporaries of those people in his work.) But his Straight Talk on Race has made him a popular figure among some in the Acela corridor, who, as luck would have it, look a lot like Murray. “A huge number of well-meaning whites fear that they are closet racists,” said Murray about one of his turgid tomes. “This book tells them they are not. It’s going to make them feel better about things they already think but do not know how to say.”

“You want to have a job training program for welfare mothers? You think that’s going to cure the welfare problem,” Murray told PBS in 1994. “You had better keep in mind that the mean IQ of welfare mothers is somewhere in the 80s, which means that you have certain limitations in what you’re going to accomplish.”

For this and a hundred other reasons stemming from his disturbing and malevolent career, drop Charles Murray down a well. But when the Huffington Post and Wendy Davis jumped on Greg Abbott for citing one of Murray’s books in an education policy paper his team put together, they may have overreached. For one thing, the footnote is one of dozens. And while the book cited, Real Education, (though the Abbott campaign cited it as “Read Education”) makes some unusual arguments—Murray says all primary and secondary education in the United States should be privatized—the footnoted passage is actually pretty mundane.

The most WTF-y thing about the whole incident is Abbott’s reaction. Shortly after the original HuffPo story broke, Christy Hoppe at the Dallas Morning News wrote a follow-up. After a recitation of a few of the cringe-inducing things Murray’s said, Hoppe turned to the campaign for a reaction.

Abbott’s campaign stated that Murray is a widely noted education thinker, whose work is cited frequently, including by columnists for our own newspaper.

He told the AP:

Abbott on Thursday said Murray is often widely cited and ran down a list of mainstream publications that have published Murray’s work.

From KSAT:

[Abbott] also said Murray has been quoted by national media, and recognized as being among those who “define the contemporary intellectual debate about social policy.”

You want to put Abbott on trial? Abbott’s putting this whole court on trial. How can you get mad at him for deferring to a white supremacist when everyone else does too? He’s a “best-selling author” who holds a perch at a respected conservative think tank. He’s lauded as one of this country’s great original thinkers. People from Bill Clinton—”He did the country a great service,” the president said about his welfare reform advocacy—to David Brooks and the editorial boards of major newspapers celebrate him and his works. Far more dispiriting than Abbott’s footnote is the fact that he’s right. Charles Murray, after decades of racist pseudo-science and policy quackery, still has an important place in our discourse. WTF.

Drop Charles Murray down a well.

2) I may be astonished that America still has a place in its heart for Charles Murray, but state Rep. Dan Flynn sees things going in the opposite direction—and it sickens him.

It is the era of multiculturalism, diversity, and political correctness. Our society has been fooled into believing that differences must be accepted with an unobjective cordiality, without question and of course, at face value.

Flynn represents Van, Texas, population 2,600. It’s almost 90 percent white.

Many on the right have been warning us for years, when a culture weakens its own principles in favor of an amorphous multicultural society, eventually, a stronger culture simply undermines and supplants the impoverished values it encounters.

Unsurprisingly, he has a particular kind of person in mind when he’s talking about the dangers of diversity. Sharia law is coming to Texas, he says, and it’ll rule us all someday. To safeguard the social cohesion of Van from the encroaching hoards of halal food carts and madrassa-building jihadis, Flynn has a plan. Come next year, he’ll be introducing a bill “that will require our Texas Judicial System to only allow American Law on American Soil in our Texas Courts.”

What’s he talking about? Many religious communities prefer to use mediation to resolve legal disputes, and do so along the lines of their religion’s legal code. When bills to “ban Sharia” in other states have popped up, they’re most resolutely opposed by the Jewish community, whose members sometimes mediate legal disputes using Jewish religious law. So Flynn may scare away the hookah joints from Van, but wake up to find a flock of angry rabbis on his doorstep. Small-town Texas is going to seed, I tell you.

3) Speaking of Jews, steadfast weirdo Congressman Louie Gohmert has some words of encouragement, or—wait, I don’t really know what this is. Gohmert was being interviewed about the dying Israeli/Palestinian peace talks, and the possible release of Israeli spy-for-hire Jonathan Pollard as part of a trade.

“Well, I don’t know what the deal is,” Gohmert said.

Admirable! I wish more congressmen admitted they have no idea what’s going on. Let’s move—

“Since I do believe the Bible, those nations that divide Israel are going to be judged and it isn’t going to be pretty. I’d hate to be the country that betrays Israel, that demands that they give up land that had been given to them. I think that we’re in real trouble with the pressure that this administration’s doing.”

If Israel gives up the land that it annexed in 1967, Gohmert says, God—the one that blesses America, I guess—will take vengeance on America. And Israel? And Palestinians? Man. That guy is fickle.

4) Hey, it’s Steve Stockman (R-Huckster.) What have you been up to, bro?

“Only the most out-of-touch radical would try to disarm soldiers,” said the Clear Lake Republican, who lost the U.S. Senate primary in March. “It’s time to repeal this deadly anti-gun law before it creates another mass killing. This is another tragedy created by anti-gun activists.”

The day after the shooting at Fort Hood, Stockman stood up to try to resuscitate a bill he authored that would let military personnel carry personal weapons on military bases. Aren’t these the people that tell Americans not to “politicize” mass shootings? The fun thing about this one is that it’s moving towards a consensus position for Republicans: limelight-lover and chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security Michael McCaul endorsed it recently.

Not that it will matter, but the Army itself doesn’t want this. You know who’s leading the “out-of-touch radical” contingent? Some lib wacko, right? Oh, it’s the commander of Fort Hood.

Go forth and drink, WTFers.

Christopher Hooks is a freelance journalist in Austin, where he grew up. His work has appeared in Politico Magazine, Slate, and Texas Monthly, among others. He graduated from The New School in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in history.

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Published at 4:26 pm CST