The progressives want their cities back. They’ll look the other way to get them.
New NYC Mayor Bill DiBlasio, that old supporter of Sandanista Communists (hardly alone among his contemporary peers on that score), has appointed star law enforcement chief William J. Bratton as police commissioner. To me, the choice by such a boldly leftist progressive to reinstate Giuliani’s chief is a revealing one, especially as it comes with approving endorsements from such quarters as lead-crime-link proponent, Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum (who doesn’t like Bratton’s ‘big mouth’) and, of course, the New York Times. (HT: Sailer)
However, Bratton doesn’t have any diversity / identity-politics bona-fides. The left establishment is theoretically (and at least rhetorically) opposed to stop-and-frisk tactics, but Bratton endorses them.
He is also an advocate of the rightist ‘broken windows‘ theory formulated by James Q. Wilson. This is a kind of social reform campaign strategy which uses the built up environment to communicate, ‘There is order here, and the government is ready, willing, and able to do whatever is necessary to maintain it. We really mean it. Respect it, or get crushed!‘
In general, life in modern civilization is inescapably full of influences that comprise one giant and continuous psychological operation. The question is only who (if anyone) is running them and what are they doing to people? ‘Broken Windows’ answers, “Insofar as crime as concerned, it is the state (representing the decent bourgeois) which is running it, and it suppresses all kinds of thuggery.” Everyone is always trying to win these wars for influence on as many battle-fronts as possible, and in a Democracy the winners get the country in the long term.
Personally, the severity of our current sentencing regime for violations outside the classical felonies shocks my conscience, and I’m open to believing it leads to a certain amount of injustice in an abstract sense. But the measure of a society is not how it treats its prisoners, but how it must treat them to get the job done. The punishment should fit the crime, if possible, but the first priority is that the punishment must control the crime. It’s clear that after our experiment with lenity we now have to go to much greater lengths to deter criminality than we did in the past, and this is as valid a metric of social degradation as any other.
Bratton was also unafraid (i.e., ‘sane’) to concentrate on Muslims with regard to counterterrorism after 9/11 and he was brazen and unapologetic about, if not ‘ethnic’ then ‘identity-behavioral-correlation’ profiling. He was incredibly effective, he made a lot of enemies on the left, but the left has put him back in charge. Why?
As Sailer shows, the left now believes crime doesn’t pay, and it is willing to make certain ideological compromises to ensure the security of the streets the possession of which they are no longer willing to surrender to the Knockout Game. First and foremost in that regard is New York City, followed closely by a demographically transforming Washington D.C. If hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, then we should applaud such pragmatic tribute to realism on the left. That’s what it takes to have safer streets across all beats. Personally, I sense a kind of modest political opportunity.
Starting in the late 1950’s the Liberals thought it would be enlightened to stop policing (in Bratton’s words) and replace all that clearly unnecessary brutality and retrograde barbarism with other, more civilized alternatives. This is an intellectual social reform movement with a long history. Actually, the long history of progressivism in general is most quickly summarized by an enthusiasm to reject the old, time-tested social institutions originating in undesigned traditions as obsolete anachronisms and replace with them with new, more ‘enlightened’ innovations rationally constructed from first principles.
The Rightist view of human nature is often described as ‘tragic’ or ‘realistically pessimistic’. Whether one on the right sees man as ‘fallen and totally depraved’ or merely a ‘hairless ape’ makes little difference in regards to the conclusion of what is required to regulate such a creature’s behaviors. And that prescription, unfortunately but inescapably for most people, involved a certain amount of severity of consequence. There is pain, harshness, punishment, impoverishment, and so on, or at the very least an effectively salient terror of the credible threat of these things.
The Right, like Machiavelli, says a Kumbaya world is a pipe-dream fantasy. Love and Dialogue are fine for the fortunate occasions when they can work, but in general they are fickle things which can only ever get you so far. Certain Accountability and Hard Repercussion are needed to do the rest.
But there is something in human nature, a tendency we associate with ‘The Left’, that also bristles at this cynicism and recoils from this ugly truth. An urge that rebels like an adolescent against nature and reality and fantasizes and hopes for an imaginary world full of humanity born as innocent angels and evolved beyond vice.
The left and right split in this way at many levels, and as it is between the state and the man, so it is between states in international relations, between members of a family with regard to child-rearing, and so on for all sustainable institutions.
The leftist hopeful dream is one of a society which could be full of rewarding, positive carrots and completely devoid of the sticks of negative experience. At the ultimate extreme, this attitude exaggerates to the point of fetishization even the merest of offenses, and this amplification of sensitivity yields an endless process of discovery of new slights and the ceaseless expansion of theaters in the war for their eradication.
The hope seems to be the evil sources of all this unnecessary coercion and cruel negativity can be hunted to extinction like the dodo bird and replaced for all time by uplifting indoctrination and friendly corrective conversation.
Along with trying to excuse criminal behavior as resulting from other societal ‘root causes’ for which we should be sympathetic instead of individual decisions which would arouse out vengeance, the optimistic but naive theoretical criminologists of the 50’s and 60’s thought they could do away with all those severities. But they especially wanted to eliminate what they saw as the inherent and rampant racism of the system.
A perfectly legitimate and commendable motivation! But, by assuming that any ‘just’ system would yield statistically identical results for any human subgrouping (the central egalitarian ideological assumption that corrodes the entirely of what remains of our society’s intellectual life), they concluded that their metric for ‘racism’ – or any ‘ism’ really – should be the deviation of any output from this assumption. This is called ‘disparate impact’ or, in other contexts, ‘the gap’.
Problems arise with this line of ‘analysis’ when one fails to correct for deviations in the inputs. Because, by the assumed proposition, there can be no deviation in the inputs. And you had better be careful about challenging that assumption in public under your legal name if you care about feeding and sheltering your family.
The delivery of social consequences along those lines against heretics and blasphemers by the government’s ideological allies (or, more importantly, those intimidated by them) is a pretty effective way to ensure you can keep propagating the false assumptions of your state religion but with the cover of it not being ‘state action’. Lynch mob’s gonna lynch; it doesn’t matter much which comrade is holding the rope if you’re at the end of it.
If, by some miracle, you are allowed to identify the difference in inputs, then that difference is always explained away as not being ‘fundamental’ or ‘inherent’ (and certainly not –gasp– ‘biological’) but as caused by some evil dark oppressive forces elsewhere in the broader ‘system’. When a search for evidence of the usual suspects of that evil comes up empty-handed, then the burden of proof is shifted and the mysterious evil demons are iteratively displaced into increasingly obscure – but no less effective! – gears of the social machine.
The forms of false hypotheses that survive cannot then be the ones based on the strongest logic and evidence, but are instead the ones most immune to any form of contrary evidence or rational argument. Eventually you end up in the territory of completely unfalsifiable assertions which utilize vague qualifiers such as ‘unconscious’ and ‘systemic’ and ‘institutional’ and ‘privilege’.
That is to say, you end up in ‘faith’. Faith in invisible demons, in this instance. How else to explain the evil gaps in a world where a just and benevolent God defied the science of natural evolution and created all our sub-groupings to be statically identical, always and forever no matter what? Ha! You cant!
Of course, no one says that the enormous gap between male and female incarceration rates is the inherent and rampant ‘sexism’ of the system. Even the people who say ‘men and women are the same and equal’ still don’t call this gap a ‘gap’ at all, or reflective of some ‘disparate impact’. Because that would be embarrassingly moronic.
It’s not just because that particular ‘sexism’ works in the politically correct direction, but because that assertion is so immediately recognized as obvious and immense idiocy by 99.9% of sane people. I’m sure there are people who make these claims – there are also people who claim to be Napoleon – but thankfully they have no influence, yet. A reigning ideology is strong in propagating all sorts of crazy illusions, but it’s not that strong until you get to the ‘two plus two equals five’ stage of social organization.
So, it is still permitted to be thought that testosterone has a strong influence on the distribution of strength, height, athleticism, and crime. And we are even allowed to believe that testosterone has this effect not just between the sexes, but between ethnic groups with regards to strength, height, athleticism, and … well … actually, no ‘and’. Forget I said it.
Because with regards to matters involving ancestry, we have been at the ‘two plus two equals five’ stage for a long time. A long, long time. I’ve been taught that two plus two equals five in this way, by my entire social environment, for my entire life. Perhaps like you, I’ve spent a million minutes in the many madrassas of modernity memorizing my mantras.
I’ve been taken to my share of two-minutes hates (and I still attend whenever work ‘invites’ me to) and of course I’ve heard many stories about what happened to all the –shudder– evil Winston Smiths out there. But at some point I looked at my fingers and saw four instead of five, and every time I looked it just kept happening.
And then I realized that while the case for four is pretty convincing, there is no case at all for five and there never was.
Well, none except, “Repeat ‘five’ and never say ‘four’, or else!”
It’s a pretty convincing case, I’ll admit. I repeat five when they tell me too. It’s also why we waste all that money on extra material for our six-fingered gloves, but at least it keeps the textile supply chain happy.
Perhaps it’s a price worth paying. Perhaps hard, ugly truths – the dark enlightenments – aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. There is such a thing as a noble lie, and T.S. Eliot was probably on to something when he wrote that humankind cannot bear too much reality. I like to think that Keats is usually misunderstood and he was the original hipster – being self-referential meta-ironic two centuries ahead of his time – when he wrote, “… Beauty is truth, truth beauty …” Because if life teaches you any wisdom it is that his phrase itself is a seductive, pretty lie, and the ugly fact that it’s a lie is a wildly unpopular one.
So, I’m not convinced we can have perfectly rational, Puritanically ‘less wrong’ societies that produce the kind of human being that one prefers to inhabit one’s society. My guess is that probably all societies more advanced than clans require some kind of intellectual substitute for the inherent tribalism of human nature in the form a collective moral ideology that helps builds tribal-levels of trust, social capital, and good faith and eases social interactions. I share the hunch that human beings are built to adopt these sorts ideologies as social coordinating mechanisms.
And those ideologies will inevitably have to rely on propagating a few false assertions to encourage people to be irrationally kind and magnanimous towards each other, or perhaps fanatically jihadist towards outsiders if that’s your bag. For example, people don’t naturally tend to get along easily with complete strangers from far away. If that kind of getting along is important to your social order (for example, to construct a unified polity out of warring clans, or to enable commerce in a highly mobile society), then you can tell a little white lie and say ‘that perfect stranger is really just like kin’.
The closer the perfect strangers actually are to each other, the easier it is to sell this white lie because it’s less of a lie. If similar, trustworthy people – who would otherwise naturally be too skeptical of each other to interact – can somehow be tricked into a first interaction, because they see each other as ‘fellow somethings’ then the unifying social coordination objective can actually be accomplished.
It’s a great trick. It may be indispensable. In time, perhaps it’s not even a trick anymore.
But, vice versa; if the people you are trying to bring together in fraternity are actually very different, or are antagonistic and not reliably trustworthy, then you’re running a pretty big risk with regards to your legitimacy and credibility when you keep telling all those groups that everyone is the same, while also insisting that they repeatedly deal with each other on equal terms whereupon they repeatedly observe the contrary.
That’s going to cause some problems with your little scheme. You might have to rely a lot less on the white lies and a lot more on the or elses. What happens when the or else stops working? Well bad news, good news. The bad news is that or else tends to stop working after a while, or people find some clever way to route around it.
The good news is that there’s plenty more ‘or else’ where that came from! You can always turn the volume up another notch. You’re hardly in the middle ranges, but the knob goes all the way to 11, if you’re into that kind of thing. You’d hardly be alone, historically, if you were.
But let’s say you wanted to stick to white lies. It was for such reasons that Harvard sociologist Nathan Glazer, in an article [that, alas, I cannot locate online] in a famous issue of the New Republic, suggested that the scientific truth about racial differences in intelligence – as demonstrated exhaustively in Murray and Herrnstein’s The Bell Curve, – was not worth knowing socially, and even if accepted by the elite, not worth acknowledging publicly. Contra Sailer’s motto, “Knowledge is Good,” Glazer writes:
Some truths may not be worth knowing. Our society, our polity, our elites, according to Herrnstein and Murray, live with an untruth. I ask myself whether this untruth is not better for American society than the truth.
The answer is negative. That kind of equality is an untruth, and its assertion was and is worse for American society than the truth. Compare it to this one:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…
His work, and the work of people who write for the non-NR places he turned up, argued explicitly against the bounds of Americanism as an imperative of civilization: rights and equality sound very nice, but it’s all fake, and we are being destroyed. The article that got him fired is a straightforward argument against the Declaration. How else can you summarize it but “it is self-evident to me that men aren’t equal at all, now behave accordingly.” This is all he’s ever written.
(AMENDATION: See Also, Mel Bradford’s ‘The Heresy of Equality‘ – 1976 – “And there is no man equal to any other, except perhaps in the special, and politically untranslatable, understanding of the Deity. Not intellectually or physically or economically or even morally. Not equal! Such is, of course, the genuinely self-evident pr0position.“)
Could it be that the progressives have been trying to order the tides to halt but without being able to keep their feet dry for so long that, like King Cnut, they’ve finally aknowledged (perhaps only in practice, and sub silentio), the realistic limits of their fantasies and the human constraints to their dreams? That they prefer the police to do whatever is required to own the streets the progressives must share with their diverse and vibrant compatriots? Even at the sacrifice of their constant, hysterical racial obsessions; even when the methods employed have those nasty disparate impacts?
In other words, that it has become self-evident to them that groups of men are not, in fact, statistically equal, and that they will now behave accordingly?
It seems so. And if so, it really is ‘progress’ for once. Even as an unprincipled exception, even in just a few places for a short time, it’s better than nothing. It’s a precedent and an example and success invites imitation. The trick is convincing them to share ‘their’ successes with the rest of the country. One can always dream.