Sunday, 9 January 2011

Why do politicians always sound so stupid when discussing Race?

Here’s a question that I ask myself practically every time I hear a politician speak about racial issues: are they really as stupid as they seem? My measure of stupidity here is the inability to argue logically, i.e. from premises to conclusions, rather than the sort of impenetrable levels of ignorance and confusion displayed throughout his career by our former Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott – he’s just plain dumb. I mean the sort of stupidity which causes politicians who can form simple, grammatical, declarative sentences to commit every grotesque logical howler under the sun – and give every indication of not knowing that they’re doing it.


Many Labour MPs have an impressive track record in this regard, but Keith Vaz is truly outstanding. His reaction to Jack Straw’s comments about Pakistani “heritage” men (and what a heritage!) and their proclivity for grooming and raping very young white girls provoked a frenzy of illogicality.

Having accused Straw of “stereotyping a whole community”Vazza went on: 'I disagree with Jack Straw. I have a lot of Pakistanis in my constituency, so does Jack Straw. I don't think this is a cultural problem... One can accept the evidence that is put before us about patterns of networks but to go that step further is pretty dangerous... Why didn't Jack Straw say something about this? He has represented Blackburn for 31 years, he has been the Home Secretary.”

Crikey! Where to start?

Why should the fact that Vaz has lots of Pakistanis in his constituency have any bearing on whether this is a cultural problem?  What possible grounds could we have for accepting Vaz as a disinterested commentator? Where are the facts to back up his claim that it isn’t a cultural problem?

Does pointing out that the members of a certain racial group show a marked propensity to commit a certain crime amount to “stereotyping a community”?  Blacks in London commit a disproportionate percentage of muggings: stating this simply amounts to telling the truth, doesn’t it? What grounds could there possibly be for not stating this fact? Doesn’t the knowledge that young black men are more likely to mug you than members of other racial groups allow you to take sensible precautions to protect yourself? This isn’t prejudice at work: it’s simple plain bloody common sense. 

“But to go that step further is pretty dangerous”. For whom could drawing logical conclusions from facts prove dangerous? Presumably not for the underage girls who are evidently being targeted by Pakistani men for the purpose of raping them. For Pakistani-origin paedophile rapists? Well, that’s a good thing, isn’t it? For perfectly innocent Pakistani men? I presume that’s what’s behind all this mealy-mouthed nonsense: some racist white thugs might decide to attack some innocent Pakistani men for crimes or intentions of which they are wholly innocent.

But is there any proof that racist white thugs need a pretext to launch attacks on immigrants? Even if such proof exists, is it now acceptable to lie to the public in order to prevent racial violence? Our Left-Liberal establishment thinks so: facts about black crime in London have been energetically covered up for years.

“Why didn’t Jack Straw say something about this?” I presume Vaz means: “why didn’t he say something earlier?” No idea, Keith – but that has absolutely nothing to do with whether what he said was true, does it? Surely even you can grasp this terribly simple point: you were educated at the excellent Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith, and have a degree in Law from Cambridge. You cannot be so stupid as to believe that your points have any logical validity whatsoever.

Of course, Vaz isn’t the only MP talking nonsense on this issue: some Northern Labour MP with an Asian name (sorry - Asian “heritage” name) appearing on BBC News yesterday cited the murder of Jo Yeates in Bristol as proof that Pakistani males aren’t responsible for all paedophile attacks in Britain, just as paedophile attacks aren’t confined to the Northern part of the country.  

Does he seriously think Jack Straw was saying that all paedophiles preying on young white girls are Pakistanis, or that no young girls are attacked south of Watford? Besides, poor Jo Yeates was 26. Does this tasteless nincompoop not know what the word “paedophile” means? 

And of course, it’s not only MPs who’ve been displaying stupidity and/or dishonesty in response to Straw’s comments. Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation (some Muslim outfit), was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying 'These are criminal matters and should be seen in this way. No community or faith ever sanctions these evil crimes and to suggest that this is somehow ingrained in the community is deeply offensive. I urge all engaged in this debate to do so with tolerance, honesty and, above all, based on evidence and not prejudiced positions.”

Remind me who said these were not “criminal matters”? And, forgive me for my insensitivity, but I’m of those peculiar, old-fashioned types who believes that the idea of grown men raping children is slightly more “offensive” than suggesting that a proclivity for committing such vile crimes might be “ingrained” in any partivular community. As for evidence and honesty, I doubt you’d recognise either if they kicked you up the arse. Mr. Shaffiq.

Of the 56 convictions for “on-street” grooming of girls involving at least two men since 1997, 53 of the defendants were of Asian origin. But even that doesn’t impress Barnardo’s Chief Executive, who, oddly, seems far more concerned not to cause racial offence than to protect children. “I certainly don't think this is a Pakistani thing. My staff would say that there is an over-representation of people from minority ethnic groups - Afghans, people from Arabic nations - but it's not just one nation.”

Oh, I see, it’s a religious thing, given that all the groups mentioned are overwhelmingly Muslim. That’s all right then.

If there was overwhelming evidence that white men were targeting young Muslim girls, I wonder if our Left Liberal establishment would be quite so quick to eschew logic. 

13 comments:

  1. "Queasy stomachs on the Today programme as the BBC looks into multicultural Britain" -- http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/andrewmcfbrown/100072016/queasy-stomachs-on-the-today-programme-as-the-bbc-looks-into-multi-cultural-britain/
    Friday, January 14, 2011 - 03:44 PM

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  2. ‘He took my girl and sold her for sex. How do you expect us to feel?’ -- http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/crime/article2875618.ece
    Saturday, January 15, 2011 - 05:28 PM

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  3. Revealed: conspiracy of silence on UK sex gangs -- http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/crime/article2863058.ece

    This is the Times story that started the debate.

    It's worth reading this letter to the Times from the Jill Dando Institute researchers who provided some of the data for the story, 'Sexual exploitation is vile, whatever the perpetrators’ colour', http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/letters/article2865492.ece
    Sunday, January 16, 2011 - 12:52 AM

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  4. The facts are revolting: "In November, a court heard that when a South Yorkshire victim, aged 13, was examined by a nurse she appeared to have been raped more than 50 times".

    The Times say there have been 17 court prosecutions since 1997. Less than two a year. That's not exactly an epidemic, is it?

    56 people were found guilty in these 17 cases. That's not exactly a tidal wave of people.

    53 of them were Asian, 50 were Muslim and a majority were British Pakistani. Does that suggest that there is something especially Asian or Muslim or Pakistani about the crimes committed? No. The Times say:

    QUOTE
    Most of the victims are white and most of the convicted offenders are of Pakistani heritage, unlike other known models of child-sex offending in Britain, including child abuse initiated by online grooming, in which the vast majority of perpetrators are white.
    UNQUOTE

    It is suggested that many Asians/Muslims/Pakistanis have a low opinion of western culture and western women. That may be the case. It may be a view shared by the Gronmark Blog, among others, with its frequent references to Caliban. But it's not a reason to go out grooming and pimping. Mark Steyn, for example, has a low opinion of Islam, but he hasn't set up a grooming and pimping business.

    Pimps don't have a very high opinion of women. Not white pimps. Not any other pimps.

    Pimps have to recruit. It's a business. It's a business that has always included grooming.

    If the Times are surprised at the facts they have reported, it can only be because they didn't expect Asians/Muslims/Pakistanis to be involved in pimping. Which is sweet of the Times, but naïve.

    The Times need to set their story in context. They need to look at the whole country, not just a few regions. They need to provide statistics on all grooming- and prostitution-related crimes since 1997. It may be that we can then see a correlation between being Asian/Muslim/Pakistani and grooming young girls for prostitution. Without those statistics, we members of the public can't infer any such correlation.

    Jack Straw's case is different. He's been Home Secretary and Justice Minister. He's been a Bradford MP for 32 (?) years. He should know what he's talking about. If he thinks there's a specific problem among Asians/Muslims/Pakistanis, he should tell us why.
    Sunday, January 16, 2011 - 01:34 AM

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  5. Scott's point is that a lot of people have said a lot of stupid things about this Times story and that that stupidity is because racism is involved. I would add that the sheer revoltingness of the crimes reported could also explain any stupidity -- brains don't work well when they're in shock.
    Sunday, January 16, 2011 - 01:41 AM

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  6. Picture the scene. It's 1988 (roughly) and my wife and I are at dinner in Wembley in a party of about 250. Tables for 10 and 12 stretched out across a restaurant the size of a football pitch, endless courses, the noise of ebullient conversation is deafening, the last course is served and the speaker gets up to give his after dinner speech.

    He speaks for about 15 minutes. He is impassioned. Drawing us in, his voice rises and breaks as he describes the evil of the Conservative party, a poisonous note of vitriol enters every time he mentions Mrs Thatcher, the failures of capitalism are lampooned and the promise is made of a new world when Labour get back into power.

    A dramatic crescendo, and he comes to the end of his speech and sits down to ... electric silence, the shocked tension was palpable, no pin would have dared to drop.

    Apart from Jane and me, just about everyone at the dinner was Indian. It was a Diwali party. They were immaculately dressed, their manners were courtly, they were amusing and confident and articulate and well-informed and worldly and powerful, they were apparently all successful financially, their children were all going to proper universities to study proper subjects, many of them were Ugandan Asians who had come to the UK with nothing 15 years before and, not to put too fine a point on it, the whole occasion was a Conservative wet dream -- the speaker had just delivered his sub-Spart Sink Estate speech to Aspiration City.

    Keith Vaz isn't stupid. Lots of other things. He has been suspended from the House at least once. But not stupid.

    And he can make mistakes.
    Sunday, January 16, 2011 - 02:11 AM

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  7. Impeccably, Scott, you start by defining your terms, you lay out your stall: "Here’s a question that I ask myself practically every time I hear a politician speak about racial issues: are they really as stupid as they seem? ... My measure of stupidity here is the inability to argue logically, i.e. from premises to conclusions ...".

    And I can't see anything wrong with your criticisms of, for example, Keith Vaz's responses to the Times story.

    Except that you run the risk of raising the bar impossibly high.

    We expect different degrees of strength in logical argument in different areas of discourse. The lowest level of all applies to off the cuff comments made by politicians. We don't expect too much of journalists in daily newspapers. We expect a lot more from published academic papers. Even there, it is easy to exert undue pressure and for the logical thread to snap.

    There is no escape from this problem. The hope that using formalised languages would allow us always and only to express truths that can be validated collapsed with Gödel's theorem, a day without mentioning which is wasted.

    I sincerely hope that people will accept that different levels of logical strength apply in different areas of discourse. Otherwise, I've had it. Look at the post above. One minute, I refer to "endless courses". Seven words later, I serve the last course.

    Vazza's comments really don't score that badly on the strength-of-the-logical-thread scale.

    And can we do any better?
    Sunday, January 16, 2011 - 11:22 AM

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  8. En passant, Kurt Gödel got a mention in an article by Bonnie Greer in the Guardian, 'Me and Sister Carmela', http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/19/catholic-church-sex-scandal-pope, where she claimed that Gödel's theorem proves that she can say what she likes and always be right.

    It doesn't.

    Scott will know that I believe that there should be an award, called the "Mr WH award", nothing to do with Shakespeare's sonnets, given to media folk who are paid to ply their trade and listened to attentively, despite actually being demonstrably and terminally stupid.

    I still treasure the unprecedented moment on Newsnight Review when Ian Hislop actually managed to silence Ms Greer by pointing out to her some of the failings she suffers and which her acute Gödelian mind seems somehow to have overlooked.

    I nominate Ms Greer for a WH and look to others for further nominations, with a supporting dedication where the egregious (FRM high five!) idiocy isn't entirely obvious.
    Sunday, January 16, 2011 - 11:58 AM

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  9. If Vaz isn’t stupid (and I agree that he has survived many challenges in his time, which might suggest the contrary), then he is guilty of deliberately employing illogical arguments, or of deliberately misunderstanding the points being put to him. In which case he was being, at the very least, dishonest. (I’ve long suspected that the public’s perception of politicians’ dishonesty – before the expenses scandal – was as much to do with anger over hearing illogical arguments (possibly intuited rather than consciously identified) as it was to do with broken promises. As for raising the bar too high, I like a bit of emotiive (in the Milesian sense) rhetoric myself, but when I use an illogical argument (you’ll find plenty of examples throughout this site), it’s because I’m being thick rather than deliberately muddying waters, or because what I’m arguing for doesn’t lend itself to logical argument (the existence of a Supreme Being, for a start, Godel or no Godel). If Vaz had said, “I represent a lot of Pakistani constituents, and I think that by highlighting the facts in this way, Jack Straw is inadvertently putting them at risk of a backlash from the indigenous white population, and they voted for me to represent them and that’s what I’m doing”, I wouldn’t have a problem. I would argue that the safety of underaged white girls – no matter how gullible some of them might be – outranks the right of Vaz’s Pakistani constituents to enjoy a quiet life, and I’d argue that it would be a good thing if the Pakistani community as a whole admitted that there was a problem and started looking at ways of dealing with it – but at least we’d be having a proper dialogue. Or, if he thinks that Straw is factually incorrect, he should tell us that Pakistanis aren’t “overrepresented” when it comes to this sort of crime, and let’s argue facts. Here, the man’s just sticking his fingers in his ears and shouting “Not listening!”. The majority of political debate in the media is carried out at this level – listen to the Today programme on any morning.

    As for Ms Greer (who does sound like a worthy nominee for a WH award) have you come across “Intellectual Impostures” by Alain Sokal & Jean Bricmont, published in France in 1997, which is an hilarious attack on (mainly) French left-wing “thinkers” writing about science, or using scientific analogies, or hijacking technical terms while evidently knowing absolutely sod all about science – and all to prove that they can say what they like and never be wrong! You and the authors sound like soul-mates, as the book is crammed with potential WH Award winners.

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  10. And, yes, DM, I think the subject of race does lead people - on both sides - to become utterly irrational the instant it arises. It's just that, given the laws on what people can and can't say these days, and the Liberal Left’s control of broadcasting, most of the time we’re only hearing from people who are absolutely determined to deny that race is ever a factor in anything – except as a guarantor of victimhood status. That’s why what Straw said – which struck me as pretty unexceptional - caused such outrage on the left, I suspect.

    I simply don’t understand what the objection to identifying a certain racial group as being prone to a certain type of crime is – it should help the police for a start (and, by God, do they need it!). White males are massively “overrepresented” when it comes to serial killings – an even rarer crime, as well as in burglaries (and probably underrepresented in muggings and pimping). I don’t feel I’m being picked on whenever these facts are mentioned!
    Sunday, January 16, 2011 - 04:48 PM

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  11. Scott, I want to come back to you on these matters -- I've started so I'll finish -- but I'm still collecting my thoughts, and doing a few other things, so there may be days between posts, instead of the usual hours.
    Monday, January 17, 2011 - 11:38 AM

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  12. 17 vile crimes were committed between 1997 and 2010 in Northern England and the Midlands. Something needed to be done. Something was done. 56 people have been found guilty.

    The Times have another ghastly story today [1], Men ‘used girls in exchange for drinks and mobile phone credit’. Something needed to be done. Something was done. Eight men appeared in court yesterday.

    That’s detection work. What about prevention?

    Andrew Gilligan reports successful work done since 2006 by parents, schools and the Lancashire Telegraph, Blackburn’s local paper.

    The Times clearly think that not enough is being done -- Revealed: conspiracy of silence on UK sex gangs, they say, and they quote a policeman as follows:

    QUOTE
    A senior West Mercia detective has now called for an end to the “damaging taboo” surrounding gang-led on-street grooming, which he blames on a fear among police and child protection workers of being branded racist. Detective Chief Inspector Alan Edwards said: “These girls are being passed around and used as meat. To stop this type of crime you need to start talking about it, but everyone’s been too scared to address the ethnicity factor. No one wants to stand up and say that Pakistani guys in some parts of the country are recruiting young white girls and passing them around their relatives for sex, but we need to stop being worried about the racial complication.”
    UNQUOTE

    “Everyone’s been too scared to address the ethnicity factor”? Not everyone. The Lancashire Telegraph haven’t been too scared. But the senior West Mercia detective is probably not wrong, too many people have been too scared. The Times had a report yesterday [2] about a video to be shown in schools to warn children about grooming, Anger as educational film on grooming withheld. It was ready to be shown to children in July 2008. It still hasn’t been.

    That seems outrageous. Justice is meant to be blind. She is meant to wield her sword without fear. Either the law is going to be upheld or it isn’t. No-one has the right to decide that it is better for a few dozen more children to be raped than to risk local unrest.

    Or do they? Norman Tebbit [3] seems to think that Willie Whitelaw was right to keep quiet about Fr James Chesney, the priest and IRA member who planned the Claudy bombing in 1972.

    I don’t know but I’m pretty sure that Tebbit and Whitelaw are wrong and so are the people who have suppressed this video.

    The Times identify 56 people of whom 53 are Asian, 50 are Muslim and a majority are Pakistani. That’s one species (people), one continent (Asia), one religion (Islam) and one country (Pakistan). Four categories. Soon joined by a fifth – racism.

    So what is meant by “racism” in this case? My answer – nothing. No-one reading that Times article is told what is meant by “racism”. So that, when Scott says “I simply don’t understand what the objection to identifying a certain racial group as being prone to a certain type of crime is”, the response must be no, of course he doesn’t understand, neither do I, it doesn’t mean anything.

    When you get a word behaving in this peculiar way, being used emphatically by a lot of people who are sure they disagree with each other but can’t say why, you need a criterion, a way to decide whether a sentence including the word is true or false. And Scott provides a criterion – “it should help the police”.

    If attributing these crimes of grooming, pimping and gang rape to race helps the police, then the attribution has some meaning. It doesn’t help the police. So it doesn’t have any meaning.

    How could it help? Three of the 56 guilty men aren’t Asian, Muslim or Pakistani. In London, according to the Times article, this crime is more Caribbean than Asian/Muslim/Pakistani. In Holland, it’s predominantly Moroccan. These are different races, as the term is normally understood, and so the crime can’t be pinned on race.

    (TO BE CONTINUED...)

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  13. There are 176,000 Pakistanis in Yorkshire and the Humber, 44,000 in the East Midlands and 183,000 in the West Midlands. Something under 50 of them have been found guilty of grooming/pimping/rape. That’s 0.0124% of them. 99.9876% of them aren’t guilty.

    So how does the Inspector’s briefing go?
    -- Detective Sergeant, you’re not getting anywhere with this rape investigation, I’ve called in the profilers and they’ve come up with an idea – pull in the Pakistanis, all 403,000 of them, and bingo!
    -- OK Chief, I’ll get onto it right away.

    A diagnosis should imply a prescription, a course of action. Get the parents involved. And the schools. And the local newspaper. Distribute an educational video, with an information pack. Fine. They all make sense. They all help. But what course of action is implied by saying that the perpetrators can be identified by their race? Mass deportation, perhaps. Otherwise, none. It’s a useless diagnosis. It doesn’t help the police or anyone else. As Scott says, it’s a sign of stupidity.

    If medical researchers used statistics the way the Times article does, and Gilligan’s Telegraph article, we’d all be dead. It’s a disgrace. A disgrace to our education system. Have these people never studied the problems of induction? Do they know nothing about black swans?

    The concept of race comes into its own in the hands of someone like Roger Scruton, writing about England, informed by having read just about every book in the world and with a brain considerably bigger than the planet. It’s probably best left out of crime reporting, where we’re looking at individual motivation.

    Individual motivation. The subject of all the best literature in the world. Hugely complex. Not least when it comes to understanding the criminal mind. Acknowledged by all right-thinking people. Only Marxists believe that there is no such thing as individuality, that people are nothing more than ciphers, acting out their part, helpless cogs in the wheels of the laws of history. (George Orwell, whose essays I am reading at the moment, argues that literature is impossible in a totalitarian state.)

    Racism certainly exists. But it has little or no explanatory value in the case of these sick-making crimes. The perpetrators aren’t helpless victims of the genes and the culture of their race. They are criminals and perverts and despicable failures. Appeal to the public for help on those grounds, not on racist grounds, which is stupid and incomprehensible and creates a “damaging taboo”, Detective Chief Inspector Alan Edwards is right, talk about it, release the educational video and don’t suppress it, get all the local newspapers involved and the schools and the parents, and the police will then be helped. Not just the police. More to the point, the children, too.

    ----------

    1. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/crime/article2884564.ece

    2. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article2883087.ece

    3. http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/normantebbit/100052695/willie-whitelaw-was-right-to-protect-fr-james-chesney-the-ira-priest-exposing-him-would-have-led-to-civil-war/
    Saturday, January 22, 2011 - 05:03 PM

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