Like An Impure Being

More on the Richwine witch-burning, from VDare’s Peter Brimelow, here.

This really matters, folks, and people (at least on the more mainstream, non-HBD Right) are starting to realize it, I think. This man was awarded a doctorate from Harvard on the basis of a carefully researched, quantitative analysis of empirical data. His review panel was a trio of academics of unimpeachable credentials. Yet this meticulously prepared, 166-page thesis is now Exhibit A in his heresy trial.

At the end of Brimelow’s piece, he writes:

Earlier this week, I was talking to a Harvard academic who is familiar with Richwine’s work. He commented that there were simply some subjects the study of which is incompatible with an academic career.

“That’s a remarkable thing in a free country,” I said.

“This isn’t a free country,” he replied.

To be clear: of course it is important that individuals and civil institutions be free to associate or dissociate themselves from other individuals and institutions as they see fit, and there is certainly a still a distinction, here in America, between what has happened to Dr. Richwine and the actual suppression of speech by force of law (for now, at least; not so much in Canada and Europe). But the man has been subjected to serious punishment, including the loss of his livelihood, for doing exactly what I thought we were supposed to be doing: engaging in an “honest” discussion about immigration and race — and for bringing to the discussion not wishful thinking, idealistic bromides, and fashionable opinion, but empirical data, painstakingly gathered under the supervision of America’s foremost academy of higher learning.

We might imagine that this represents a sudden descent into P.C. madness, but in fact it’s nothing new. In Democracy in America (published in 1835), Alexis de Tocqueville wrote:

In America the majority raises very formidable barriers to the liberty of opinion: within these barriers an author may write whatever he pleases, but he will repent it if he ever step beyond them. Not that he is exposed to the terrors of an auto-da-fe, but he is tormented by the slights and persecutions of daily obloquy. His political career is closed forever, since he has offended the only authority which is able to promote his success. Every sort of compensation, even that of celebrity, is refused to him. Before he published his opinions he imagined that he held them in common with many others; but no sooner has he declared them openly than he is loudly censured by his overbearing opponents, whilst those who think without having the courage to speak, like him, abandon him in silence. He yields at length, oppressed by the daily efforts he has been making, and he subsides into silence, as if he was tormented by remorse for having spoken the truth.

Fetters and headsmen were the coarse instruments which tyranny formerly employed; but the civilization of our age has refined the arts of despotism which seemed, however, to have been sufficiently perfected before. The excesses of monarchical power had devised a variety of physical means of oppression: the democratic republics of the present day have rendered it as entirely an affair of the mind as that will which it is intended to coerce. Under the absolute sway of an individual despot the body was attacked in order to subdue the soul, and the soul escaped the blows which were directed against it and rose superior to the attempt; but such is not the course adopted by tyranny in democratic republics; there the body is left free, and the soul is enslaved. The sovereign can no longer say, “You shall think as I do on pain of death;” but he says, “You are free to think differently from me, and to retain your life, your property, and all that you possess; but if such be your determination, you are henceforth an alien among your people. You may retain your civil rights, but they will be useless to you, for you will never be chosen by your fellow-citizens if you solicit their suffrages, and they will affect to scorn you if you solicit their esteem. You will remain among men, but you will be deprived of the rights of mankind. Your fellow-creatures will shun you like an impure being, and those who are most persuaded of your innocence will abandon you too, lest they should be shunned in their turn. Go in peace! I have given you your life, but it is an existence in comparably worse than death.

Tocqueville ascribes this frightful power to “the majority”, but he also notes that “those who think without having the courage to speak, like him, abandon him in silence.” Given that Dr. Richwine’s heretical utterances are nothing more than expressions of what appears to be empirical truth (and truth having a way of making itself apparent, even if people don’t like to talk about it), the “majority” behind his excommunication may in fact be smaller than we think. We must refuse to abandon Dr. Richwine in silence; perhaps we may embolden others to do the same, and so put an end to this suicidal folly.

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One Comment

  1. Kevin Kim says

    Prophetic. Who knew a Frenchman could understand America so well?

    Posted May 12, 2013 at 2:52 am | Permalink