Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The essence - and the flaw - of radical right wing racism (and it is all radical right these days)

Recently, Pat Garofalo made a racist tweet about basketball players and street criminals. He walked it back, but it seems to be something he actually believes.
Around the same time, Congressman and former GOP VP candidate Paul Ryan made derogatory comments about inner city people lacking a work ethic, etc. He also walked it back, but it seems to be what he believes, even though both the authoritative sources he cited have been discredited for decades as false. In spite of walking that back, it appears to be what he and most (if not all) of his fellow conservatives believe about those "bad poor people"; just yesterday, the Wall Street Journal 'doubled down' on those views.
from Firedog Lake:
Ryan also cited Charles Murray, a conservative social scientist who believes African-Americans are, as a population, less intelligent than whites due to genetic differences and that poverty remains a national problem because “a lot of poor people are born lazy.”
No shock, I'm sure: Charles Murray is widely considered to be a white supremacist.  We saw similar claims about Hispanics made by another right wing think tanker a year or so ago.  There seems to be a whole cottage industry of white supremacy think tankers feeding this garbage to the willing conservative consumers, not just those with political office.

Around the same time, over at the City Pages, another commenter tried to justify this kind of thinking by bringing up a supposed hereditary / genetic explanation that was supposed to identify brown and black people as more likely to be violent criminals because of the so-called "warrior gene", as a justification for Garofalo's comment.

Apart from the consistent failure of conservatives in connecting successfully with science and the world of facts, which all three of the above failed miserably to do, there is a greater problem than simple class warfare against the poor, especially those who are people of color.

Looking at the warrior gene, the reality is not that men of color are more violent and more criminal, it is this from New Scientist:
People with 'warrior gene' better at risky decisions
It's been called the "warrior gene" – a mutation that seems to make people more aggressive. Now researchers report that people with this gene may not be aggressive, just better at spotting their own interests.
Previous research has found that people with MAOA-L, a gene that controls signalling chemicals in the brain, can be more aggressive. But there is enormous controversy about this, as the gene's effects seem to vary with people's backgrounds.
Cary Frydman and colleagues at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena have now found that people with MAOA-L "just make better choices", says Frydman. "This isn't the same as aggression."Variants of the gene MAOA produce less or more of an enzyme that degrades several signalling chemicals, known as neurotransmitters. People with MAOA-L, which results in less of the enzyme, sometimes show more aggression or impulsivity – but not always.
...the calculation also allowed them to look at how often each person took the risky option that would also do them the most good. At every level of risk aversion among the participants, "the MAOA-L carriers were better at choosing what – for them – was the more beneficial option".
The results are consistent with previous research, says Frydman, but his team could distinguish for the first time between the two components of each decision: deciding how much each option was worth , then comparing them. The MAOA-L carriers were better at the second part.
This edge may look like aggression or impulsivity in some situations, but may simply reflect more focused attention, thinks Frydman. "If two gamblers are counting cards, and one is making a lot of bets, it may look like he's more aggressive or impulsive. But you don't know what cards he's counting – he may just be responding to good opportunities."
"Previous studies that have associated MAOA-L with aggression or impulsivity might have to be interpreted carefully," says Antonio Rangel, who heads the lab where Frydman works. "The key question is whether, in the context of the lives of the subjects, these decisions were optimal or not."
In a study published last year Dominic Johnson of the University of Edinburgh, UK, found that MAOA-L carriers were more aggressive, but only after a large provocation and without apparent impulsiveness. "That could be explained by this new work," he says, because his subjects seemed to be acting in strategic self-interest, the very thing Frydman's MAOA-L carriers were good at. This also suggests how such behaviour – and the gene that shapes it – could be selected by evolution.
So - depending on nurture and environment, the 'warrior gene' can be a good thing, or a bad thing.

Then I looked at the work of Psychaiatrist, Psychologist and Criminologist Adrian Raine, who is a renowned researcher in the field of the biology of crime (referring back here, to MN Rep. Garofalo specifically, and indirectly to the assumptions of Congressman Ryan and others).

What Dr. Raine has found is that nurture has an enormous influence in the expression of certain brain differences, notably in the amygdala and the pre-frontal cortex, and further that some of these differences are caused by environmental toxins like the presence of lead. People in poverty are disproportionately victims of environmental pollution (including lead).

Raine has found in the course of his years of study that there are physical differences, such as an unusually low heart rate at rest, that along with brain differences CAN be a predicter of crime. But Raine himself has these same brain differences, and is clearly not a criminal.

What Raine has found is that - similarly to the research on the so-called 'warrior gene', people with these biological differences can in fact, properly nurtured, become decorated heroes who do dangerous work like bomb demolition experts.
As he and others in the field note, over and over, biology is not destiny.

What is so doubly troubling about conservatives like Garofalo and Ryan is that they, in their conservative policies, under the fake label of tough love, are doing everything possible to sabotage the social safety net that helps people who are more vulnerable to the effects of their genetic or developmental inheritance. By harming aid to schools, nutritional assistance, obstructing health care for poor kids and their families, opposing raising the minimum wage, opposing clean air and water, along with other environmental protection, and pretty much EVERY other policy plank they have, they doom people in poverty to a rigged system, and permanently unlevel playing field that disadvantages them.

I can only wonder if these unabashed debunked believers in the latest iteration of eugenics are actually some kind of macabre Social Darwinists, who are simply hoping that most poor people will just die off, like some modern economic version of the black plague in past centuries. And in the interim, they contrive for these people to profit those raking in billions in the private prison business along the school to prison pipeline.

Our people are a tremendous potential resource; it is constructive and beneficial public policy to invest in it, and to make sure that we guarantee the poorest among us have the basic necessities to live, to thrive, and to succeed.
Conservatives hate that.

Conservatives believe, consistently, things that are not true, and often things that are truly hateful. Shame on conservatives, and double shame on their failure to accept honest science, and to promote dishonest fake or junk science. That includes every single conservative in our state legislature and every right wing member of our congressional delegation (and presumably the people who elect all of the above).

We have to stop those conservatives from pushing through their bad policies, their terrible and inhumane legislation, by persuading them if we can, but by voting them out and voting their policies down if we cannot. Odds are that we probably will not succeed in reversing their failed thinking, so that argues instead for focusing our efforts on successful opposition. Time to write them off, and move on in spite of them.

The radical right seems determined to double down and double down over and over again, unwilling to accept truth or facts.

What conservatives don't understand is that not only is it the right thing to do, to help those who need it, but that we ALL benefit from people fulfilling their potential instead of destroying it.   It is the best possible public policy.

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