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Wilfred Reilly, a political scientist and expert on race relations, joins Chelsea Follett to discuss racism in the United States and debunk woke oppression narratives.

Wilfred Reilly: The Human Progress Podcast Ep. 17 Transcript

By Chelsea Follett @Chellivia

By Wilfred Reilly @wil_da_beast630

The full conversation between Chelsea Follett and Wilfred Reilly can be found here. The transcript is below.

Chelsea Follett: Today, joining us is Wilfred Reilly, an expert on race relations, a political scientist, a professor at Kentucky State University, and the author of numerous books. He is currently at work on an upcoming project titled Alt-Wrongs, an American Case against Racial Nationalism, and one of his past books was titled Hate Crime Hoax: The Left’s Campaign to Sell a Fake Race War. So he clearly is devoted to holding both the Right and the Left of the political spectrum to account on racial divisiveness. His most recent book, published last year, is Taboo: 10 Facts You Can’t Talk About, and it examines what the empirical evidence says on a variety of politically charged topics like the concept of white privilege. He also serves on the advisory board of the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, which I have to thank for arranging this interview. And so he joins us today to discuss progress toward racial equality, common misconceptions on racial issues, and the threats posed by a racialized, tribalistic, anti-Enlightenment worldview to human progress, whether those views arise on the Right or the Left. Welcome to the podcast.

Wilfred Reilly: Thanks for having me on. Great to be here.

Chelsea Follett: I am excited for this conversation—so, because this is The Human Progress Podcast, let’s start with discussing progress on racial issues. You open your book Taboo describing something you call the Continuing Oppression Narrative. What do you mean by Continuing Oppression Narrative and what progress, if any, has there been?

Wilfred Reilly: I mean, there’s been an enormous amount of progress on race relations in the United States, and the whole idea of the CON, the Continuing Oppression Narrative, a bit of a glib acronym there, but also an accurate description in that there really hasn’t been. This is incredibly pervasive, but it’s just wildly wrong. So if you actually look empirically at any measurement of racism, the United States, this is true among blacks, whites, Asian immigrants, on down the line, Jews, is one of the least racist countries in the world. Standard-form racism. You can simply ask the question: would you be willing to marry or hire or work for someone of a different race? I mean, that’s dropped from roughly 92% according to political scientist Eric Kaufmann just back in the 1950s to about 8% today. That’s the number of people that currently say they would reject an interracial relationship or marriage. And even within that group, I suppose there are some people that are just driven by personal attraction rather than by sort of old-school racism. So there’s not really much doubt about this.

Wilfred Reilly: I don’t just want to keep dropping wonky stats, but World Population Review, a good journal in my field. I actually recently declared the USA the least racist country in the world. We’re one of the top three, I think we were tied with the UK and we were beaten by your Uruguay down in South America, so, good job, honors to Uruguay, but in our weight class, we were easily the least prejudiced of the major nations. Certainly compared to Russia, India, so on down the line. So you have that on the one hand, that the large majority of people, the 90% or 95% majority of whites and blacks alike aren’t bigots, and on the other hand, you have this constant obsessive focus on racial conflict where some people, like grad student Zach Goldberg, called the Great Awokening.

Wilfred Reilly: So one of the things that I do in the book you mentioned, Taboo, is try to look at the reasons for that apparent conflict. I look at some of the claims made by organizations like Black Lives Matter that, for example, there are a very large number of unarmed black men that are basically gunned down in the street by the police, or that there’s a very large amount of interracial crime with sort of whites getting the better of it. You see these content stories of Barbecue Becky, Pool Patrol Paula, brawls at dog parks, and so on, broader claims like systemic racism. And what I find is that almost all of these just fall apart. In the most recent year on record, the total number of unarmed black men that were killed by police officers unarmed was 17. There are less than a thousand people of every race killed by the police in a typical year, usually less than 250 of those are identified as black. Even the very small gap between that sort of 25% figure and the percentage of blacks in the population is about 14 closes if you adjust for a higher crime rate among a younger population.

Wilfred Reilly: So, what I find is that a lot of people believe that there’s this very negative reality that exists right now, but that’s not the case. And so a lot of my writing, my academic writing going forward and a lot of the end the Taboo, is trying to figure out why this is. Why there’s so much fear in this arena, and by the way, a whole bunch of others, young child kidnapping and so on down the line, but why are people so scared of BS that’s not gonna kill them, and who is creating this fear? And I think there’s a really productive kind of route for researchers that are looking at that. We’re very afraid, but there’s not necessarily a reason to be. Last line… But we see this again right now with sort of the panic about young children and COVID-19. Just using standard research techniques, I went to the CDC website and found that the total number of Americans under 18 to die from COVID 19 was 621 over two years of the pandemic, out of, I believe, 29 million infected.

Wilfred Reilly: So you never want anyone to die, but that’s substantially less of a risk than flu or car accident or most other things. The average COVID victims are around 80. So, my focus is race relations, but the question is why there’s so much kind of un-sourced lambent fear in that American upper middle class, what’s the cause?

Chelsea Follett: So, in your research, what did you find is behind this negative bias? Why are narratives of oppression so pervasive, and why is progress in race relations often not discussed?

Wilfred Reilly: It’s the damn media. In all honesty, that’s what I found across most of these things. So again, statistically, one of the things I found prepping for my upcoming conference papers this year in terms of the serious research side of things, people have very, very slanted impressions of the rate of a whole bunch of risks. I don’t want a hammer on COVID, I’m not an epidemiologist or a doctor, but you know, terrible tragedy, but the average American believes that 9% of the population died from COVID-19. That was Kekst CNC, the giant European consultancy, they found this actually last year, when the death rate was one in 1200 people or something like that. So the support, not for put your mask on if you’re around a senior, these sort of politeness gestures, but the support for things like lockdowns of states the size of California was based on this false figure almost entirely. And there were quite a few of these false figures circulating around COVID. If you recall, Neil Ferguson, the well-known British doctor at the start of the pandemic, predicted that about two million Americans would die before last August. That, again, was the initial figure that was used to justify lockdown.

Wilfred Reilly: Now, admittedly, that’s in one of several model runs, and that was the… That was the highest projection he had, but I think the lowest was a million. So that level of fear exists there when we’re looking at… The lowest is, I think, a little under a million. But at any rate, they were all wrong. But that’s the level of fear that exists there, and when we moved specifically into the arena of race, you see this same kind of thing over and over again. And these are all easily searchable kind of reputable interest venues and individuals, the source for this one, the Skeptic Research Center did a very well-known, pretty large-end study recently, and they asked people that identified as being on the political left how many unarmed black men they thought were killed annually by the police. And if you look at people that identified as very liberal, not Marxist or communist or anything like that, just the left and left, Democratic and Green voters, if I recall correctly, 32% of them thought the total number of unarmed black men that were basically murdered by the police every year was about 1000. Another 14 or 15% thought it was about 10,000. And 8% thought it was more than that.

Wilfred Reilly: Now, to put this in context, there are only about 20,000 murders in a typical year. Black people do have a higher than average crime rate. Younger, more urban population, and no excuses, it’s there, but we’re responsible for maybe 10,000 of them. So the assumption of the average left liberal is that there are more black people killed by cops than there are overall murders of black people in a typical year, and almost as many as there are murders overall. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. So again, you see this incredible level of fear that’s totally un-sourced.

Wilfred Reilly: Where do I think this comes from? I do think it comes from mass media, in very large part. I think that everyone from Michael Moore to Sean Hannity has made this point from time to time, and I think it’s pretty undisputable, not comparing those two individuals. But just when you look at the sort of media content that we get in the USA, there are a number of components of this. One is that it’s very sensationalistic. So there is far more focus on things like… Like an interracial fist fight in a park in a major city would be something that every single network would focus on, even though it doesn’t matter at all. And there’s far more attention paid to this than to the mundane issues that actually bring us joy and pose risk. So the leading killer for men, I assume you probably know this, I have worked with one of the major institutes, but most people don’t, is actually either cancer or heart disease on a year-by-year basis.

Wilfred Reilly: So as a guy, if you want to get healthy, what would you do? Boring, mundane stuff: Drive a little slower, eat less, eat better, avoid fast-food. That’s not a message that you can really use to reach out and terrify people, however. So we see a lot of racial conflict, plane crashes, which is the other thing many people are terrified of, foreign wars, potential terrorist threats, so on down the line. And another element… Because again, I am coming from at least the center right, and this book, Taboo, criticized the left far more than the right. The left is far closer and institutional power right now. Another element that can’t be ignored is that that sensationalist media leans about 93% to the political left. And again, that’s a well-known data point, that’s 2004, that’s the number of reporters that are, if I recall correctly, leftists, liberals, or left-leaning moderates. So, you’re not just seeing these fantastical, terrifying stories, you’re also seeing them coming from one side of the aisle, which is why so much of this seems to be focused on racism or sexism. You’re seeing the George Floyd video 52 times now down into the left.

Wilfred Reilly: So, the claims that I look at in Taboo are “epidemic police violence,” “widespread interracial crime led by whites,” and then I go on from this into levels of racism socially, so “systemic racism,” white privilege, cultural appropriation, so on down the line. And I find there’s very little evidence for really any of this. The privilege of race as a member of the dominant group in society in political science does often exist, it exists at a very low level in the USA, but that’s one of many privileges. Class privilege comes to mind, “pretty privilege,” attractive people are treated much better in very empirical settings like the courtroom, having a father in the home, growing up in a city rather than isolated rural area, so on down the line. But again, all of that is much more complex. It’s harder to focus on. So the combination of political bias and extreme sensationalism confronts us with a lot of nonsense that makes a lot of people very afraid.

Chelsea Follett: So, for people who are concerned about racism, where should they be focusing their attention? Which claims of racial bias do you find the most plausible as opposed to those narratives you’re more skeptical of?

Wilfred Reilly: Well, if I were a suburban white or black American, I don’t think I would spend a great deal of my time focusing on racism. And I don’t want to say that as though it struck me as… It was one of the better phrasings of that question that I’ve heard, but I think that the focus in Left-wing media and Left-wing academia on racism is a legacy of an earlier era. I.e., this was one of the topics that entire fields like Black Studies were set up to study. You have whole groups like the NAACP, although I’m a member, they do a lot of good when it comes to local black business and so on, but when it comes to national lobbying they’re one of the groups promoting this. The SPLC, Southern Poverty Law Center, well-invested endowment of $470 million or whatever it is this year, that was last year’s figures.

Wilfred Reilly: But you have all these entities that are designed to fight that old devil, potential war-level conflict between the races or the institutional oppression of blacks. And the fact that that old devil no longer exists hasn’t stopped them from fighting it. So I think that’s why we’re confronted with this particular sort of bug bear so much. If you’re living a normal urban or suburban life, what do you do about racism? If you see someone say, “I don’t like blacks,” or “I don’t like Irishmen,” or whatever on the minority side, step in and say, “Hey, don’t do that.” My version of this, because today you hear mostly gay jokes and so on, is to, incredibly deadpan, say something like, “I bet you thought I was straight.”

Wilfred Reilly: I mean, just to kind of respond to it, say, “Don’t bring that around here.” That, I think, is what you need to do in your individual life. When it comes to the national picture, a good starting point here, segregation has been illegal, at least at the educational level, since 1954. Racial discrimination has been illegal since 1964, the Civil Rights Act. Pro-minority affirmative action has been in place since 1967, the Philadelphia plan. While this is almost never discussed in modern academic life, it’s not really disputed by anyone. So don’t tolerate racism in your personal life, and if you encounter serious racism, if as say a female minority executive, you encounter racism or sexism, I would go to court. I would take advantage of those resources that exist.

Wilfred Reilly: Now, when you look at, are there patterns to fight more broadly, I think there are three answers here. One, some white and Asian individuals might feel that the pendulum has swung far enough that there is significant prejudice against them, in, for example, college admissions. Because I’m a black guy, I don’t have as much experience with that perspective. Again, I would advise you to consult your lawyer, if you have a 1600 SAT and you’ve been rejected from four or five major colleges, something might be going on. So I think that that’s one element where you can say, well, now racism exists primarily in reverse.

Wilfred Reilly: A second part of the picture is, to some extent, be aware of the numbers, would be a piece of my advice. So what’s often meant by racism, when people who are intelligent minority individuals use the term “systemic racism,” is that we see a gap in performance between two groups. I’ll try to avoid giving my whole dinner speech here, but I mean, “work hard, young men!” but I mean, you often see, for example, that SAT scores for African-Americans are 120 points below those for whites, and whites are 80 points below for Asian. So, this is used by some to argue that the test must be institutionally structurally prejudiced., although no one has ever explained to me why it would favor Koreans over Englishmen.

Wilfred Reilly: But there’s another explanation for these kind of gaps, which is that there’s a tertiary variable that varies between large racial populations as their race does. So what we find in the SAT context is that white kids, at least outside the South, study more than black kids, and Asian kids study about twice as much as white and black kids. And when you adjust for those gaps in study time as versus spending time out on the athletic field, and so on, the gap closes, it goes away. So, the first sort of racism, I don’t think you’ll see much open racism in society.

Wilfred Reilly: The second you might sometimes see prejudice against Asians or Caucasians in the form of affirmative action. Again, there are some legal remedies to that. The third, be cautious of claims of systemic racism, at the very least adjust for things. If you see a claim that black men are arrested more often than white women, you might want to first ask yourself what’s the crime rate for black men and for white women. What’s the crime rate for black men versus black women, for that matter. There are no large number of adult females in prison. And I guess the final point about racism would be there are some embedded prejudices which are often perceived as rational discrimination, but which you do exist in, for example, the business world.

Wilfred Reilly: If you are in a role where you get a chance to fight these, for example, black names face slightly more discrimination on resumes, that is true. Again, even there, you have to adjust for class. It’s very obvious why someone would hire Chad over Jamari. I don’t think Marcus would have any problem at all. But if you think this is a problem, if you want to give poor black kids a chance because a disproportionate number of black people are still poor, they’re very often simple remedies. Tell HR to X out all the names and replace them with numbers. I’ve done that as a boss. So, you take practical steps to remedy the prejudice you see around you without panicking about this media narrative that the entire society is a dystopian hellscape, because it’s not.

Chelsea Follett: And some people seem to fear acknowledging any progress toward racial equality as though discussing that could hinder further progress or could be harmful in some other way, perhaps cause psychological harm. Maybe they fear it takes attention away from the problems that remain, but I think that, actually, discussing progress can help to counteract a sense of hopelessness. Returning to your book, and you touched on this already, but you open with your first chapter tackling the very prominent issue today of racial bias in policing, and you write about a number of high-profile cases, but also the broader statistics. And you’ve already touched on this a little bit, but you note, for example, that 76% of those killed by police are white or Hispanic, and yet you write those cases receive less than 10% of national media coverage. So, what’s going on here with racially motivated police incidents, and why the wall-to-wall media coverage of relatively atypical incidents and limited coverage of more statistically common incidents?

Wilfred Reilly: Yeah, so there’s a lot there. So first of all, one of the things that I thought when I started looking at this arena, that no one except for Roland Fryer seems to have really said, is that I didn’t see a reason to expect extraordinary bias and policing in the first place. If you go back to… What would it be? The Diallo and Louima cases in New York, 25, 26 years ago, I mean, since that point, there’s been a very organized campaign led by people like the Reverend Sharpton than you can inspect to encounter if you’re just a street cop, a flat foot, you shoot a black guy. There is no such campaign, there’s no set of organizations that’s gonna get active if you shoot an Italian-American guy, a poor white guy, a Puerto Rican guy, an Irish-American guy.

Wilfred Reilly: So I’m coming from a city, Chicago, where all those groups have been known to have a crime rate, I didn’t really see that there would be an inherent bias in the system. It didn’t seem to make a lot of sense. And then you add to that, again, today, 10% of both whites and blacks are actual racists, it’s slightly more common among working-class men, but not by much. What? 30% of police now are minorities or women. That’s government service, it’s one of the most integrated field, you see tough black cops all the time.

Wilfred Reilly: So I didn’t really see your reason to assume extraordinary prejudice, and what I found and what every well-done study that I’ve seen here has found, by the way, Roland Fryer’s two or three studies, Michigan State, Washington State, there’s just a ton of research, what I find is that there doesn’t… Heather McDonald, can’t forget her, whole book, War on Cops, what I find is that there seems to be little, if any, bias, because of a perception on both sides that there’s a lot of trash talk exchange, like “back talk,” black men do report more insults and more being coughed on the shoulder or shoved against the car. But when you come to the things that you could seriously focus on, police shooting, serious beatings, those differences simply don’t appear. If you just look at the annual police shooting totals, you’ve got about 100 guys every year, and I do mean guys, there may be 28 women in the entire pool, I think the most I’ve ever seen was a hundred.

Wilfred Reilly: So again, why is this never accused of… Why is sexism never invoked? I think we all know the answer, we all just accept that men have a higher crime rate and are more likely to commit dumb crimes. So I don’t know why this has become so taboo in the arena of race, that younger people might be more likely to be involved in crime, so on, but it has, at any rate. So when you take the data and you conduct the test, the test and you unpack the data, you find that about 1000 people in a typical year shot by police officers are, in the USA, that’s the number, about 250 are black. You then have to adjust for crime rate, so the victim-reported black crime rate, at least for violent police-reported crime is about 2.4 times the white crime rate. When you conduct that adjustment, you are actually a bit less likely to be shot by the cops as a black guy than a white guy. And that’s what Roland Fryer found, famous 2016 paper.

Wilfred Reilly: He found that the police weren’t trigger-happy in either case, but that they were 25.7, I believe, percent more likely to shoot a white suspect when you’re doing a regression for past record, weapon in the hand, so on, than they were to shout a black suspect. And again, that’s not surprising, once you move away from this idea that, of course, the US as an institutionally racist place. In practice, there’s far less media scrutiny if you shoot the white guy. There’s far less civil rights activism if you shoot the white guy. The cop doing the shooting, 33% or whatever the time, is going to be a black or Hispanic guy.

Wilfred Reilly: So the result is not all that staggering. I’m not even sure that it’s statistically significant, by the way, the police are not, they’re murdering whites, either. But it was treated as absolutely bizarre, absolutely earth-shattering, because we’re so used to this false narrative that there’s a near-race war going on and the cops are the armed enforcers of the state and so on. In fact, the level to which this is not happening is pretty remarkable. In Chapter Two of Taboo, although we might easily get there, but I look at international crime in general. And I actually go to the BJS report, Bureau of Justice Statistics, and I break out the total number of what are sort of classic interracial crimes, like violent crimes involving either a black perp and a white victim or a white perp and a black victim.

Wilfred Reilly: And I find out that this is like… This is about 3% of crime. There’s 600,000 of these crimes, there are 20 million total crimes, and that’s only violent crimes and very serious property crimes like burglary and carjacking. Even among just violent crime, classic interracial crime is 8 or 9%. So, this is not a thing that is really going on at any pronounced level by world standards. Again, the question is, why do we all think it is? Why is this in fact a terror on both sides of the aisle? And that’s an interesting question that requires a lot of answering, thus the whole book of me gabbing about it, but it is an interesting one.

Chelsea Follett: It certainly is. And relating to that second chapter about whether we’re living through a war on people of color, the recent case, the recent trial, of Kyle Rittenhouse has really captured the public eye. It’s been very high-profile. What do you think about that case and how it relates to these broader issues?

Wilfred Reilly: Woah. Leaving aside like male bar room comments, like “None of those morons should have been there on either side,” “Where are the police?” that kind of thing, but I do think that question, that’s not, to some extent, just a male bar room comment, “Where were the police?” When you talk about the actual confrontation at the gas station, when you had about 25 on either side waving weapons in there, that was something you’d normally expect to see in, say, Bosnia, not to stereotype a single state. How that happened, where were the cops, what’s the role of the Wisconsin governor? As a political scientist, I have a lot of questions. I tend to be more sympathetic to the guys that were there to protect property, by the way, than to the guys that were there to burn property.

Wilfred Reilly: But you, in general, can’t let militias fight in the street and be an effective elected official. There are a lot of questions. The other point about this case, though, that’s a little deeper, is that the case had nothing to do with race at all. Almost literally nothing to do with race. Rittenhouse testified, and there was a fair amount of evidence to support this during the trial, that he had come to Kenosha to defend a series of properties, one of which was owned by Indian-American casual friends of his, this wasn’t, “The whites are going to stand up for our land against the ‘savages'” or something like this. And the mob, like many mobs of BLM writers, by the way, was easily 80-plus percent white. Every single person that was shot was a white criminal. So Rosenbaum had something that was five… He had five previous convictions for child sex abuse, Huber had been convicted a couple of times on things like domestic battery, that’s not in the same league, of course, but we know it’s not good, and the third guy, Grosskreutz, I believe, was a convicted burglar.

Wilfred Reilly: So you had a mob of people that was almost entirely white, many with extensive criminal records, that was destroying property. And then, although this is an especially relevant, probably at least a third of the property was owned by “people of color.” These guys go to respond, a fight breaks out. The guy defends himself. I don’t see that race in any classic sense of that term played any role here whatsoever. And again, we get into the incredible spin given by the media too much of this. I wasn’t able to watch CNN or MSNBC on this case for more than 10 minutes at any given point, but the general take seemed to be that a white murderer crossed state lines that was just constantly repeated and went to a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest where he shot three Black Lives Matter protesters protesting for black lives. Like the attempt was really as hard-bodied as possible to make this seem like this was three African-American peaceful people that were shot and not three white felons.

Wilfred Reilly: And really, to a kind of a crazy extent, like there are probably more white felons in a working-class Wisconsin town than there are black people. I don’t want to stereotype too much, but there didn’t seem to be a large Kenosha black section that was participating in these protests. It looked like a bunch of scrappy white kids to me, and that’s mostly what you see at these Antifa events, Black Bloc events, so on down the line. But at any rate, Kyle Rittenhouse, hopefully, hopefully, is surrounded by adults that have some genuine concern for him and he’s going to go to therapy, spend some time with his girlfriend, work out in the gym, go to college. The worst possible thing for him would be to get involved in politics as sort of a mascot.

Chelsea Follett: One of the things you point out in the book that relates to that is that although violent street homicides tend to predominate news coverage — they’re very interesting, they capture the imagination — you point out that suicide and drug overdose deaths actually claim more lives, and you note that white people tend to dominate what you call a “whole range of social pathologies,” ranging from car crashes to suicide and drug use. And actually, the city with the highest population-adjusted homicide rate is an economically downtrodden, majority-white town in West Virginia. So how do these statistics fit into or complicate this idea of a war on people of color?

Wilfred Reilly: Well, I think that there is a lot there, and I don’t want to… Essentially, the racial picture in America is complex, as is the class picture in America. I would recommend that everyone go to Wikipedia or Britannica and look up something like the list of ethnic groups by income, because you do see some patterns. Black groups tend to under-earn white groups, and Hispanic groups tend to under-earn black groups. Those could indicate racism or language fluency or something. But you also see an incredible range where Appalachian American, so that’s a fifth of the whites in the country, under-earn African-Americans, it’s 38,000 to 44,000. There are many groups of this kind, Cajun Americans and so on down the line. So when you take a group like whites or blacks, that’s almost meaningless. One of the best educated groups in the entire USA is made up of literal Nigerian lords, people who immigrated here from West Africa. So, to take the Nigerian lord and the white guy in West Virginia and say, “Well, clearly, the white guy’s got an advantage, we can call that privilege” is nonsensical almost to the point of cruelty. That’s something that I don’t think anyone would actually recognize as real outside of academia.

Wilfred Reilly: If you ask which one of the guys had ancestors who are almost literally slaves to the cold mining concerns for a century, it would be guy number two, not guy number one, who just got here from Legos. But at any rate, yeah, in the book, this is actually about half of the chapter that become one of my speeches, which is a headline, basically, no one cares about poor white Americans. For obvious reasons, I think neither these sort of “pro-white, alt-right” or the money-demanding minority left is going to point out that a lot of the people in the country were performing the worst from an income, IQ, so on, standpoint are these kind of forgotten Caucasians. That doesn’t advance anyone’s agenda. But when I… I think this is Chapter Three, when I looked through the death statistics in the USA, I found some pretty startling things. Again, the black homicide rate is very high, no excuses for that. But the white suicide rate was almost exactly equivalent, it was over 20 per 100,000 for most of the states I looked at.

Wilfred Reilly: The overdose rate, the whites obviously completely dominated opiate use, sales, death. That’s currently the most dangerous set of drugs in the country, fentanyl. So last year, we had a 100,000 drug overdoses. Without even look at the listing, I would guarantee 70,000 plus of them were Caucasians. And that’s not something for people on the minority side of some debate to gloat about; those are our countrymen, they’re not here anymore. So, you could go on and on with this, I mean, DWIs and fatal wrecks, there were situations… Whole trucks smashing into each other on the highways in some of the Appalachian South.

Wilfred Reilly: Now, it’s easy to paint a dystopian picture, just like it is to look at black neighborhoods like the south side of Chicago and convey this image of people leaning out of cars shooting automatic weapons. I actually live 30 minutes from Appalachian Kentucky State, and it’s a pleasant community. Most people simply go to work and obey the law. But there are problems in isolated regions that tend to be majority-white that costs at least as high an annual death toll, and yeah, we should, one, focus on those and help those people who are citizens of the country. And also, two, we should use that to provide some context when you see things like there were 8,000 black-on-black murders last year. Sure, there were also 100,000 overdoses. So I mean, my response is that I tend to oppose crime as opposed to racializing it and saying, “Well, we need to stop Hispanic gangs,” or something like that. We should all stop black gangs and biker gangs while we’re passing that bill.

Chelsea Follett: Right, and you note in Chapter Four, when discussing what factors are behind that gap and what factors predict success that well-meaning people on the Left will blame any achievement gap on racism and folks on what you call the dissident Right tend to obsess over genetics, but you say that both groups are overlooking an alternative explanation of cultural variables. Can you talk a bit about that?

Wilfred Reilly: Sure. So yeah, in the book, I draw the distinction between Sharptonites and Jensenites, and these are the two groups that have really been dominating, this is long out of Twitter, that have really been dominating debate around these topics for a while. Sharptonites essentially tend to be at least 50% people of color. And the argument is that any gap in performance you see between groups is due to racism. The kind of… I think the lead orator of this school is Ibram Kendi, maybe Henry Rogers, but I mean, well-known guy, pleasant guy in person, but teaches at Boston College, runs their “anti-racism center,” recently been the recipient of, I believe, more than one $10 million gift, so hopefully, some of that largess will swing towards the Right in the next round of philanthropy. But Kendi’s argument, in all seriousness, would be that every time you see a gap, that has to be the result of racism, because the only two possible explanations for a gap between people are what he calls prejudice however subtle and what he calls inferiority, by which he seems to mean essentially genetic weakness, lower IQ genetically, something like that. And this is a very widespread argument. It has a kind of Manichean duality that people like. Robin DiAngelo would also say this and so on down the line.

Wilfred Reilly: So that’s one take, and the other take would be the people on the dissident side, Steve Sailer comes to mind, or Jared Taylor. They would just say openly like, “Look, it’s obviously not racism. What if it is genes?” And they will cite, for example, the work of Arthur Jensen to extent that there could be, for example, 10-point genetic gaps between ethnic groups. And for a whole bunch of reasons, I find that both those arguments unconvincing. I think it’s just obvious that racism doesn’t cause all group caps. Asians, West Africans and so on, outperform whites, Jews. There’s not any debate about that in serious social science, so that one’s gone.

Wilfred Reilly: The genetic argument is actually in some ways stronger in the sense that you can’t disprove it just by pointing out that a third of the minority groups outpace whites, but is also in its strong form, almost certainly wrong. If you look at, for example, The Bell Curve, the book attracted a great deal of attention in the late 1990s, in large part because it argued that there was a consistent 15-point IQ gap between blacks and whites. And the author of The Bell Curve, Charles Murray, who is a solid social scientist, an engaging guy if you meet him, as is Kendi, but he recently published another best-selling book called Facing Reality, arguing that there is still what he called a significant genetic gap between blacks and whites.

Wilfred Reilly: And I actually opened up the book and looked at the tables in it and found that the gap has shrunk from like 84 to 100 to 91 or 92 to 100. It strikes me as impossible that that happened for genetic reasons. So obviously, again, like half of his argument vanished in 15 years, 20 years. So, it’s clear that there’s something else going on here. And this isn’t to say that racism doesn’t exist, and although I don’t personally believe this, this isn’t to say that there couldn’t be 2% performance gap between ethnic groups, we certainly see those between East Africans and everyone else when it comes to running or 100 other things. But the reality is that much more of performance is explained by looking at other things that you can call cultural or environmental variables.

Wilfred Reilly: So within the black group where there’s no genetic conversation whatsoever, you’re going from African-Americans who perform on par with Appalachians who are one of the lower-income groups in the country, I think we all know that, up to Nigerians and Ghanaians who make 70K a year and are the best-educated people in the country. And no one is arguing that there’s a significant genetic difference here. The ancestors of black Americans came from Nigeria and Ghana. So what is helping this group be the most successful in the country, or among them, while this group struggles? It’s pretty obvious, if you look at it. It’s things like hours of study time, a father in the home. This is one of the biggest changes in contemporary America, by the way, the complete breakup of the modern nuclear family.

Wilfred Reilly: Feminism did many good things, obviously, at the same time, the radical redefinition of gender roles combined with the outsourcing of a ton of blue-collar jobs, I don’t think the conservative take that this is due to just changing social mores is correct, combined with a number of other factors, welfare, you can’t leave out, the right is right about that one, led to one of the biggest social revolutions in history. So in 1945, quoting the great libertarian, conservative, black, southern — hopefully, I have all that in the right order — economist, Walter Williams, in 1945, if you look at the black family, the out-of-wedlock birth rate, or as they would have said at the time, the illegitimacy rate, was about 9% African-American. It was 4% for whites. Caucasians are doing even better. Good. Great. Good job.

Wilfred Reilly: But that has changed dramatically so that today, the out-of-wedlock birth rate for black Americans is 72%, the out-of-wedlock birth rate for white Americans is around 40%. So, one of the great advantages that stable groups have, whether you’re talking about Nigerians or Jewish-Americans, is just having two-parent families. And again, it’s glib to just say things like, “Mom should stay home,” but it is very valid to ask the question, “Why did they stop often staying home?” while also demanding that men take care of their children. And that leads into a complicated scenario that calls a lot of the programs in the ’60s and ’70s into question.

Wilfred Reilly: Anyway, but if you look at variables like father in… I have an even lengthier father-in-the-home-rant, but if you look at variables like dad in the home, study time, I think those would probably be the two largest, but also just something like median age. The most common age for a black man, I say this in the book, it’s perfectly fair to call that the mode, the average, is 27; for a white guy, it’s 58. So, even if you eliminate everything else, even if you eliminate the fatherlessness problems, so on, the 60-year-old guy is gonna make more money than the 30-year-old guy.

Wilfred Reilly: So, when you adjust for these basic variables, you all of a sudden see that the differences between blacks and Nigerians, or between Appalachians and then Anglo-Whites and then Jewish Americans, most of these vanish. They don’t vanish entirely, there’s still some prejudice, but the gap almost entirely closes. And so that’s why I would refer to myself as a culturalist, to some extent. I think that most differences in income, IQ, so on down the line, reported prejudice, I.e., fights in school, even something like that, those would vanish if you simply were somehow able to take that variable father-in-the-home or that variable of region and equalize that for everyone. Whether or not that can be done is very questionable, but the basic argument that any difference is due to either genes or some kind of magical racism, the phlogiston-like prejudice that’s everywhere, there’s not much of an argument for that, in my opinion.

Chelsea Follett: Right, you write that when you adjust for things like the presence of a father in the home and income and age, that pretty much eliminates any difference between racial groups when it comes to things like criminal offenses, but you also tackle a sort of meta-debate of what racism is in Chapter Six. And you write that basically, we’re all capable of racism, we all have a duty to fight it, and that’s, of course, in contrast to the increasingly popular view that racism can’t exist without power and privilege and so on. Could you paint a picture of those two conflicting views of what racism is?

Wilfred Reilly: Sure. First, I’d actually like to shout out another scholar. The initial analysis that I use in Taboo was developed by someone called June O’Neill, who is, as I understand, a fairly Left-leaning government economist who’s written some great papers. And what she did… she writes about human capital and in whatever papers in 1990, and in another one, she just updated it in 2005, she looks at the difference between whites and blacks in income, which is more than almost anything else used to demonstrate the reality of systemic racism. And she adjusts for, I think, five things. It’s region, black people are more likely to live in the South where there’s a long history of oppression not just for blacks but for Appalachians, Cajuns. The specific groups we’re mentioning, Natives, and wages are low for everyone. She adjusts for age. Again, you’re talking about a 30-year gap on the mode there. She adjusts for test scores. You don’t have to view this as IQ, but there are a lot of reasons for aptitude test score differences, again. How much you study. So I guess this would equalize the IQ, father-there, and study time variables. She does aptitude test score, and basic things like the field you’re seeking work in and the work experience you have. And she finds that adjusting for these five or six variables closes the gap between blacks and whites to 0.9%.

Wilfred Reilly: Now you can debate the effect of racism on some of those. Again, the testing variables are already in her model, so work experience can be affected by prejudiced bosses or something, but at most, you’re talking about a 2 or 3% gap that’s caused by pure racism when you’re comparing the same people. And that’s an important point. When you’re doing these analyses, you have to compare like to like. Racism is the extent to which a black guy would be treated differently from an identical white guy or vice versa, where the only possible differentiation between them was race. It doesn’t make any sense at all to say that a black guy who’s 27 living in the Mississippi Delta makes less money than a white guy who’s 58 and living in midtown Manhattan, and that must be due to racial prejudice, and you see these kinds of simplistic arguments all the time.

Wilfred Reilly: So, I think that’s one key point there, and so that’s not an argument that’s original to me, but to actually answer the question, when you say that… In the book, one of the things that I warn about is the over-prevalence of these weird social science theories. There are entire fields… James Lindsay is a casual friend of mine, famously hoaxed the entire Grievance Studies sector, publishing these great papers in major journals like Hypatia and Fat Studies, arguing that, for example, there should be an out-of-shape category in bodybuilding events, or that the best cure for homophobia was having anal sex with men. There’s a paper he wrote about sexual conduct in dog parks that, as I recall, includes the question, “Is the doggy position feminist for animals?” and talks about whether people are more comfortable having their leg humped by a male or female dog. Obviously, the point of this is that this is all nonsense, you can publish anything, but I think that a lot of the theories that come from that sector or right next to it are very, very prevalent in society.

Wilfred Reilly: So for example, there actually is a feminist theory that all sex is rape. I believe it was Butler than advanced this idea. And you’ll hear this argued sometimes on an academic campus, although no one seems to follow through with the implications and practice. But another one of these ideas is what you’re talking about, that only whites or only members of the ruling class are capable of racism. And again, this is all just dorm room nonsense, in my opinion. There are two ways to look at the science, to briefly deviate. One type of science or expertise is what’s produced using empirical proof by people that have a particular technical skill. So I, for example, like most solid social scientists, can do high-level regression analysis. So when I say that if you adjust for education, black men make as much as whites or something like that, that’s true. Basically. But you’d have to throw in a couple other things here, but that point is basically true.

Wilfred Reilly: Another form of expertise or of science is… The term is simply used to describe things produced by people with credentials. So for example, a book with the title like The Feminist Beauty Myth or Why Trans Kids Are Beautiful could be cited as the science, if it was written by someone with a PhD who went to college or worked for a think tank. And all of the stuff we’re talking about right now comes from this second zone of the science, basically. And it’s far more influential than most people think without having any basis in fact. It’s not that there was actually some kind of psychological test done that found new ways of disliking what you could call outgroups. The idea that you can’t be racist if you’re not in power, someone just sort of made it up and got it published, so now, it is part of the published record. But in the book, I basically just say…

Wilfred Reilly: I say that doesn’t make any sense, for a whole bunch of reasons. First, as a political scientist, internationally, it’s absolutely a useless idea. So taking this seriously, the Nazis would not have been capable of racism unless they were in power. More specifically, because you could argue that everyone in Germany was a German. The Rwandan Hutus, the people that were responsible for the Rwandan genocide, would only have been capable of what’s usually called “ineffective personal prejudice” until they took power from the Tutsis, and only then they would have been capable of actual racism—until the Tutsis took power back. All of the other murders during the period where they weren’t yet in power and after they fell from it would just be “ineffective personal prejudice.” That seems like a meaningless or idiotic distinction. The claim is you need prejudice plus power, social and political power, to be racist. And again, neither the Nazis or the Hutus had that for quite a while.

Wilfred Reilly: But there are other issues with this. Even if you accept that you need power, that you need political or social power as well as prejudice to be racist, the argument that only whites can be racist would only make sense if you assume a single, unified, all-white ruling class. Otherwise, the argument’s absolutely nonsensical: All whites would have to agree, they’d have to all be in or close to the ruling class, and no minorities would have to be part of the ruling class. Otherwise, you wind up with the obvious questions like, “Well, Barack Obama was the leader of the ruling class for eight years, he was the President of the United States, why couldn’t he be the worst sort of bigot?” And I think these questions pretty much destroy the entire idea, if we’re ever going to take it seriously in the first place. It’s really just nonsensical semantics.

Wilfred Reilly: But for example, a question I asked recently on Twitter is, “Well, I’m a Professor, and, at the time, an executive at a top 300 college, I’m also a pretty well-known writer, in what sense don’t I have power over a white janitor at my university?” And this went on, it became a thread for way longer than I expected—I eventually had to mute it. But no one really answered the question, because the answer is that I obviously do. So, the response to “racism requires prejudice plus power,” I think, is simply, well, 1), many members of the ruling class, the current CEO Twitter comes to mind, are people of color; and 2), that doesn’t make sense, because by that standard, the Ku Klux Klan, for example, which represents a fringe political perspective, and again, that Appalachian group that’s one of the poorest in the country, they have no power, they have no access to ruling, how can they be bigots? I really feel like that went on for a long time and didn’t say all that much, but that’s because I’m responding to something that doesn’t make a lot of sense, I guess, would be the explanation there.

Chelsea Follett: And speaking of academics, I live in Virginia where the recent governor’s election really turned on the issue of education and specifically how race is approached in schools—and there’s a whole meta-debate about whether that should be called Critical Race Theory or that’s not the right term—but how should we approach the subject of race in education?

Wilfred Reilly: Well, first of all, so I’ve been involved on the fringes of the Critical Race Theory debate. I went to Montana, actually, with Chris Rufo and a bunch of other heterodox intellectuals to try to figure out how to fight back the hordes, and we hung out in Bosman for a while and came up with, hopefully, some ideas, but in general… So a couple of responses. First, the critical race theory debate is another example of the manipulative use of semantics, I guess. I really think without any sarcasm at all that it’s an advantage for the political left that they have more of the English teachers on their side. So, when people say, “Well, schools don’t teach critical race theory, you fool,” what they’re saying is not, “We teach a mainstream pro-American curriculum and you have no beef here”; what they’re saying is that they teach critical pedagogy, which is slightly distinct from critical race theory.

Wilfred Reilly: Myself and Chris and some of the other people that were there, Melissa Chan, Miss Mel Chan, actually looked through some of these curricula. The idea that you’re citing, for example, the Brazilian Marxist School of Education, or you are talking a great deal about privilege and equity and inclusion, that you’re using what’s called SEL models in almost every classroom, all that, that’s not really disputed. The only question is whether that should be called critical race theory, as opposed to, say, value of whiteness theory, white privilege theory, critical pedagogy, I could give nine more synonymous examples. So no one denies that the basic framework is in most education. Again, like when I said, the media leans 93% left, that wasn’t just me making that up, it’s a pretty well-known study, there are similar… Econ Live recently looked at… I think this is only higher educators, to be frank, not secondary educators, but they looked at educators, and they found that 18% of them were communist, like identified as Marxists or communists openly. Another 21% identified as radicals, and 26% identified as activists, I think.

Wilfred Reilly: So when you look at what’s actually in the curricula as we did, or you look at how educators identify, no one disputes what that is. I mean, Howard Zinn, the Zinn Education Project and me own friendly rival, the 1619 project, is that opposite of 1776 Unites, our founder, those are responsible for two of the most assigned curricula in America in secondary education. So that debate is entirely semantic, and I think it’s obvious critical principles or most of what’s taught to kids in many urban districts. So the question… Your deeper question is, what should be taught? The truth. And I mean, to some extent, that sounds kind of glib and smart-ass, but that’s actually what should be taught. I’m not a huge fan of the sort of the more jingoistic curricula the people on the right were putting together, where Trump came up with the 1776 curriculum, and then some groups, I believe, Moms for Unity decided it wasn’t right-wing enough. And so, they’re looking for more… The names of obscure pilgrims and so on to put in there, I don’t really feel that’s useful, either, because you’re going to be totally shocked if you grow up believing that or you grow up as a home-schooled kid and then you go to college, and you learn there are memoirs by the Indian generals on the other side and so on. You need to be prepared for that.

Wilfred Reilly: But on the other hand, I don’t think the 1619 Project, which is debunked by its own fact-checker, I don’t think that should… Literally in a hilarious article. I don’t think that should stand alone. I don’t think that’s at the level of political partisanship or the level of quality that most moms and dads are demanding. What you should teach as a nuanced picture on American history. In a blatant plug, I’m a member of some of these… One of the things that people said for a long time when, we would ask at dinners, “Why is the SPLC still so influential? Why the ADL?” People would say, “Well, there’s no sort of coherent, center-right, upper middle class alternative,” bluntly. That was phrased exactly like that. This was many of the moms and dads I know. And I think now, you’re seeing those developed. So you have Bari Weiss’s FAIR, for example. Bjorn Bartning’s. I’m a member of that group. There actually is a FAIR curriculum. If you go to the website, just Google FAIR, Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, great educational curriculum. I wouldn’t say that if I was bad. In fact.

Wilfred Reilly: 1776 Unites more focused on black history, but there’re five or six great supplements there. Certainly, if you’re an educator of color or you want to show your kids of whatever color about black history. And it’s to be hoped that more alternatives like this will pop up. I guess a way to describe what I would like to see is there is a curriculum dealing with American Indian history, I forget the title and probably wouldn’t give it if I hadn’t, but it just focuses on four Native defeats ending with Wounded Knee. So that’s all of Indian history, it’s the brutalization of the whites. And it strikes me that this kind of thing is deeply dishonest and that it leaves out everything else. It leaves out the Native victories. Like as a brown kid, I’d like to learn about Little Bighorn — “Yeah, we won that one!” But it also leaves out the pre-existing American Indian culture, it leaves out atrocities on both sides, there was worse stuff than just the open warfare, and it wasn’t one-sided, if you look at the Indian Wars.

Wilfred Reilly: And that helps you understand a little of why both the whites and the natives are so angry. I mean, it leaves out modern Native American Indians, there are more North American Natives alive today than there were where Columbus landed. So just saying something like there is a one-sided genocide, that’s not realistic. That ignores dozens of victories on both sides, it ignores the fact that many or most Indians are here today. So, what I want to see is a realistic portrayal of what actually happened. Who was the best white general, who was the best native, what role did blacks play? The Buffalo soldiers weren’t from here, either, right? You need to have all of that information conveyed, and that’s the ideal.

Chelsea Follett: Right, as opposed to overly pessimistic narratives that you do often see on the Left. In the last chapter of Taboo, you also take on the so-called Alt-Right, and that leads into your current project as well. So the ethno-nationalists or whatever you want to call them basically look at countries like Japan where it’s mostly homogenous and want to be more like that, but you point out that actually more diverse societies, while they do have higher rates of ethnic conflict or discord, they also have higher rates of innovation, based on patent applications and so forth, and you say a number of other things that recommend more diverse societies. So why diversity?

Wilfred Reilly: I think… So, first of all, obviously, I don’t like the Alt-Right. I’ve been a pretty well-known opponent to the Alt-Right since debating Jared Taylor about the value of diversity in 2016, which was an interesting event. There are very few hardcore Neo-Nazis today, and they’re mostly on a few forums like Stormfront. I’m pretty familiar with the Internet. The American Renaissance, and V-Dare guys are classically racist in the sense that most Americans would have been in probably 1960. And I noticed that those ideas, because they don’t sound crazy, were getting a pretty heavy viewing in that kind of Milo Yiannopoulos era of social media. And so I challenged one of the guys to a debate, and he honorably accepted, he came to a Historically Black College. And we had the debate, there were a couple of those sort of like medieval style points, like he got the white podium and I got the black one and so on, and we talked. And the debate… Both of us had been recorded as the winner by different sources, I would assume almost everyone had a bias on that one.

Wilfred Reilly: But at any rate, the Alt-Right, to me, obviously, an opponent, but in this book, they got one chapter because I didn’t think of them as a level of risk at the same level as the currently socially dominant kind of woke Left. And I wanna take a brief deviation there. When I say woke, one of the things that you’ll almost invariably be hit with as a rightist or centrist commentator, when you say that it’s like, “What do you mean? This isn’t the internet; you’re just making stuff up. What does woke mean?” Woke means something very specific and definable, and I’ll just use their own words. Point one of the woke philosophy is just straight Richard Delgado, that Western society is set up to oppress. The goal, or at least half of it, is keeping blacks, women, maybe poor whites, Hispanics, down. So Delgado’s famous comment is “Racism is everywhere. It’s every day. It’s intentional. You’re not imagining it.” So that’s point one, that systems like prisons or the SAT aren’t set up to lock away rapists and wife-beaters, and they’re not set up to get the best and smartest students into college; they’re set up to keep black people down. That’s the first point of wokeness.

Wilfred Reilly: The second point of weakness is that any difference in performance, and this is, again, just straight Ibram Kendi, a chapter of his book, is de facto evidence of discrimination. So, “To Hell with Tom Sowell and Rich Nisbett, disparities are discrimination.” And the third, and I think this is the most dangerous solution, this is where they jam-pack in all the DEI and BLM and SEL stuff, the third point is that the solution to this is “equity.” And equity doesn’t mean anything like equality, as I’m sure you know about at this point; equity means mandated proportional representation of every group across every field.

Wilfred Reilly: So we see this all the time. And my fiancée is an upper-middle-class woman, she reads the paper, so we read all these articles that, to me, are just complete BS. Like, black people and bird watching: A major disadvantage, The disgraceful lack of minority Dairy Maids, like all this junk. The New York Times has one or two every week. We actually had a little scrapbook for a while about what the latest disgrace was. So the idea is you need to get more black people and shove them into River Rhine etiology or whatever, because that is the solution to the problem.

Wilfred Reilly: So, the woke ideology is actually dominant in most institutions. It would be very hard to find a Fortune 1000 that you would want to work for that did not have major HR department, director-level diversity guy, if not more, DEI-focused, SEL, every buzz word would be there. And this is actually dangerous, to some extent, because you’re… Between this and the legacies that we all know already existed, you’re bringing in perhaps 30% of people into your business that don’t really have a useful role. I’m not saying minorities; I’m saying people hired to meet these specific goals, and then all of the other people that didn’t deserve to be there that were already there. And that’s a major problem.

Wilfred Reilly: The old line is, when you fly in a plane, you want the pilot to be the guy least likely to hit the mountain. So, I consider the presence of wokeness in mainstream corporate America, the military, the Marines just hired their Chief Diversity Officer, the lady that has general’s rank is a flag officer. Like that, to me, was a lot more worrying than guys arguing with me on the internet. But the alt-right did get a chapter because it is the white version of an extremely negative and stupid idea, which is ethno-nationalism. And that’s the one sentence, as you mentioned, there are arguments against diversity, for example, it decrease a social trust. There are also arguments for diversity. Again, universally known in political science: Increases cosmopolitanism, decreases group think, increases patent rate, decreases likelihood of going to war, although the USA hasn’t observed this effect, for whatever reason. But so on down the line. In general, I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Wilfred Reilly: But a final point that I think swings the edge for me on this one is that diversity isn’t something you can get away from in big countries. If you look at areas that have conquered a lot of land and still have a lot of peoples living in it, whether you’re talking about the USSR, Brazil, ancient Rome or us, even Canada’s 13% minority, massive Native Nations up there. You’re not going to get away from the interchange between different types of people, so you’d better learn to make the best of it, and I give some suggestions about how to do that. And I also, I think, debunked the race and IQ claim, although this is still challenged from time to time, and I’m cited in articles that prove I’m an idiot and so on.

Wilfred Reilly: But anyway, the basic point is that what is bad on the Left is just as bad on the Right. There has to be a set of coherent rightist solutions for the USA. And I think that over the past couple of years, you’ve started seeing that more and more as opposed to just responding to the left, which is often culturally dominant. But what’s your solution to COVID or to a major threat, like a serious disease? Well, brave it out, stay open, and protect seniors. There’s a dramatic difference between that position and lock down everyone and hide. What do you want to teach in the schools? There’s a dramatic difference between a standard, patriotic, not-crazy curriculum, and CRT. But I think it is within the vein of these innovative solutions that come from the other side that you’re going to find useful options. I don’t think that old, failed concepts like ethno-nationalism or Marxism or fascism have anything to offer on left or right.

Chelsea Follett: Right, so, obviously there is an ascendant ideology that is very racialized, very tribalistic, anti-Enlightenment and so forth. What do you see… And this is the last question I’ll ask you. What is the greatest threat to human progress that this way of thinking poses, do you think?

Wilfred Reilly: Well, I think that you summed it up with anti-Enlightenment. I mean, that’s an excellent brief summary. The danger that… The great danger posed by this way of thinking is that it directly challenges science. And science is what has made the world livable for all human beings, and I will say especially women and poor people, and many of the groups that are being appealed to most strongly by this ideology. So one of the things I’ve realized as a political scientist, and I think a pretty good one, over the years, is that there are only so many ideas. What edgy internet kids call NRx or god emperors or whatever is just monarchy. It’s funny, but “God Emperor Trump,” or “I’m a Neo-reactionary,” “I just want a throne and an altar to bow to,” that last line, someone could have said in Bavaria in 1390, we used to have that. You know, the king would hold up his…

Wilfred Reilly: Anyway. So, NRx is just a monarchy, any form of Marxism, Neo-Marxism, expanded social democracy, a new kinder future, just Communism. There are only so many human ideas, and so, what you’re seeing with the woke challenge is not a proposal to do things in some bright new way; it’s a proposal to return to old bad ideas, like ethno-Marxism, witchcraft, basically the idea that science is based on lived experience and hidden knowledges and so on. And that is a core existential challenge to the world that we have now. The reality is that most of the things that… I think I already said this, the reality is that most of the things that are being claimed as sort of brilliant new ideas we need to look at and accept. For example, the berdache style idea about the flexibility of not just gender, but sex. Or the idea that you determine what reality is based on your experiences and how you identify. Even the friendliness, if you look at some of the South African debates on, there’s two actual ideas of witchcraft and magic, this was just the stuff that we had before science. I don’t know how dangerous it is, but I certainly don’t think it has anything to offer.

Wilfred Reilly: The reality, and this might actually be a closing line, there was recently a massive debate on the internet about what two plus two equals. And you should check this out, if you didn’t see it. Kareem Carr, a well-known mathematician from Harvard said that two plus two equals five, because technically, you can round the numbers up or minority students might see the process of combination, which parenthesis is applied first, differently from white students. And this went on and on for days. But the plain reality is that two plus two equals four. So this is actually something to keep in mind when you see people advancing what are presented as brilliant edgy quasi-scientific theories. “All sex with men is brutal abuse,” we’ve passed over briefly, but more seriously, “Only minorities can avoid racial prejudice.”

Wilfred Reilly: When you hear this kind of thing, it’s tempting sometimes to unpack all the epistemological roots of that and debunk it, but something that’s probably more useful is just to say, “That’s nonsense. I have common sense and I understand empirically that’s just gibberish using any normal version of the words I have in my head.” So save yourself some time, treat it like the most extreme possible theology, and just remember that two plus two is, in fact, four. But that is the threat that people might forget that. And you can’t build bridges if you assume it’s five.

Chelsea Follett: True. Well, we at Human Progress definitely support a data-informed view of the world, even if it goes against common perceptions, which is what you promote in this book. I hope people will check it out. Congratulations on a great book here, and thank you so much for joining us. I enjoyed this conversation.

Wilfred Reilly: Alright, me, too. Thanks a lot.

Chelsea Follett is the managing editor of HumanProgress.org and a policy analyst in the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.

Wilfred Reilly is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Kentucky State University.

 

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