Narratives and Reality with Wilfred Reilly
FAIR Perspectives Podcast | Episode 2
Wilfred Reilly is an associate professor of political science at Kentucky State University. He's the author of Taboo: 10 Things You Can't Talk about, and Hate Crime Hoax: How the Left is Selling a Fake Race War. Professor Reilly has a knack for speaking about forbidden truths, slaughtering sacred cows, and probing the boundaries of political correctness.
In this episode, we discuss the disparities between perception and reality, why these narrative gaps persist, the crisis of expertise, censorship, the true costs of ignoring reality, denying biological sex, and the Stop Asian Hate movement and why it does nothing to address the very real tensions between the black and Asian communities.
To learn more about FAIR Advisor Wilfred Reilly, see his Advisor Spotlight profile by clicking the image below.
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MELISSA CHEN: Welcome, Dr. Reilly, to the FAIR Perspectives podcast with Angel and me. We've been very excited to talk to you, for various reasons. Your Twitter feed is something of a spectacle to be honest, it's very interesting and engaging. The way you ask questions, you're using social media in a way that, frankly. I aspire to. It's great.
I'd love to start with the book you wrote called Taboo: 10 Things You Can't Talk About. And one thing I'm really interested in is this gap between reality and narratives. Could you summarize your book and some of the taboos that you profiled in it?
WILFRED REILLY: Sure. Thanks for the Twitter compliment, by the way. I used to run a small social media brand with my buddy and actually got a fair amount of practice doing this in a big city when the social trend began. And what I've seen from both of you is that you’re actually very good on social. But in terms of the book, in all seriousness, what you just described, the distinction between perception, especially influential upper-middle class perception in the USA today, and reality, is one of the things I focus on in public intellectual and even academic research, because the disparity is very, very big.
For the book Taboo, I picked controversial topics that were trending frequently on, say, Google, Lexis, etc., but that were considered socially nonstarters, things you weren't supposed to talk about, other than to perhaps blindly agree with what was being said. And the focus of the book is looking at how accurate the narratives in these sectors were. So chapter one is Black Lives Matter. And this came out around late 2019, so at this point the general narrative was Cherno Biko on Fox News [claiming that] there were hundreds, if not 1000s, of unarmed black men being essentially murdered every year. I think it's fair to sum it up that way.
Chapter Two is interracial crime. So all these stories we were seeing at this time, such as Pool Patrol Paula, Barbecue Becky, and some of the stuff in right-wing media, and the reverse, saying that there is bloody racial conflict in the streets with whites getting the better of it. And I go on through a couple of these other things, such as systemic racism, the claim that any system that produces a performance gap is racist. And very serious people such as Ibram X. Kendi, Robin DiAngelo, and so on down the line, and I think it's fair to say Derrick Bell did this back in the day, have made this argument. And it's a deeply flawed argument, because the most successful groups in the USA are actually East Asians, South Asians, Jews and black immigrants. And these are populations that are pretty large, they're all well over 1 percent of the population, with Asians around 7 percent now, and that have been known about since our laws in their modern form were written.
So if you're making this argument that any gap indicates brutal structuring of society against blacks, the question is was the goal then to structure it for Asians and Jews? Was that the intent? Because otherwise the argument makes no sense at all. So I talked about that for a chapter, and talk about immigration somewhere down the line. I critique some of the claims on the hard alt-right, like the idea that diversity is rare for big countries, which is just complete nonsense. As a political scientist, it's laughably wrong. That's true outside the West, think of Malaysia, Indonesia, South Africa, and so on. It’s not a thing.
I look at 10 of the more prevalent narratives of our time, and I look at how accurate the storyline of the data behind the narrative is. And what I found was that they were all inaccurate to an incredible degree. I'll shut up in a sec because I see you have more questions along this line, but just the Black Lives Matter one was the most obvious example of this. These claims really were made. I believe Biko’s claim, or Ben Crump's claim, was that there's an unarmed or totally innocent black man that’s murdered basically every day, and that this happens hundreds of times a year. Ben Crump's book is called Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People.
But in reality, when I and others started looking at this, the total number of unarmed black men shot typically a year is about 10. Last year, it was 17, and that was a bad year. All men combined, including the large Caucasian majority, one or two Asian Americans every year, etc., it's maybe 100, usually less—60. So this entire narrative had been based on absolutely nothing. And that struck me not as unusual, but it's pretty usual. Many of the stories that are fed to the mainstream taxpayer in a city by media outlets, which are when you get right down to it, ad delivery vehicles—their goal is to sell Ford trucks and boner pills—most of those narratives are not real.
To shout out to a guy on the left side of the fence, Barry Glassner, who found this out in 1999, it was the same focus, why do my middle and upper class urban friends who have nothing to fear seem so scared all the damn time? So he asked me, and he was trained as a sociologist as I recall, and people explained that they were terrified of plane crashes and inner city black crime and a bunch of things, but the most significant one was young child kidnapping. This is the amber alert era. So the idea was that people are going to literally come into your home and snatch your child away. This is when moms were walking around with kids on leashes. This is the start of the helicopter parenting era. And what Glassner found is that the total number of kids are actually kidnapped in a given year, taken away by a non-relative for more than a week or physically or sexually abused, it's around 100.
And it's what you'd expect, because the basic process of walking into a typical armed neighborhood and walking out with a screaming kid over your shoulder actually seems really difficult, even as difficult as, say, a murder, and it occurs much, much, much less often. Any inflated figure for kidnapping that you get includes things like fathers that are caught up in ugly custody disputes taking their son with them for a little bit. So he made this point long ago, and the point still stands. Many of the fear-based narratives in society have no basis whatsoever. And you can really go well beyond this.
The final example would probably be COVID for people under 18, where the total number of deaths in that category over two years of what has been a serious disease epidemic is 621. So most of the narratives I looked at had no factual support whatsoever.
ANGEL EDUARDO: This is interesting, because this dovetails into one thing that I'm particularly interested in talking to you about, which is the way that you engage in these topics with people. Melissa brought up your social media presence and approach. You have this sort of in-your-face bravado way of approaching this. And you're also totally unafraid to call nonsense nonsense. But there's a bit of a difference between you and many other people who engage in this stuff, which is that you're very clearly a numbers and data guy. And most people are not numbers and data people. They like numbers and data when it confirms their priors, but that's not really about the numbers and data, that's more about confirming the priors, right? And you're talking now about how the narratives don't reflect reality, yet the narratives persist.
I'm curious what you think about the motives behind what's going on. Why does this stuff persist? Why do people want to be afraid all the time?
WILFRED REILLY: I think that the final question there is a little above my pay-grade. The human desire for dark excitement is the root of everything, from the BDSM scene to many wars, probably. So I don't really know if I can answer that one. First of all, regarding the numbers point, I'm a political science professor, but one of the courses I teach is quantitative methods at a pretty good State University. So I do think we can empirically examine a lot of questions. And that is part of what I want to make my approach on social media, but for a magazine or journal as well I'm not just giving an opinion. And on the social sciences, even on the hard academic side, that's pretty common. People will title a piece something like “A review of the literature on transgenderism and my thoughts.” I don't really ever want to do that. I want to see what the factual basis for a position would be.
And pursuing what the actual factual bedrock of a debate is, or should be, often comes into conflict with people who say things like, “why are you questioning the experts?” or “the experts seem to disagree with you.” So for example, I just mentioned COVID-19, and the reality that only 600 people under the age of 18 have died of COVID-19 or with COVID might be more appropriate for more than 100 of those cases, that's absolutely non-contested. You can just Google COVID deaths by sex and age. It's a CDC document. But the response when you bring that up very often will be “I live in a blue state and our entire public health administration has argued that children should wear two masks in any enclosed public spaces until they're double vaccinated. Do you think you know better than those experts?” And I think the answer to that pretty often if you're an intelligent taxpayer would be yes, if you're using logic. If you know what the data is and what the quote unquote expert is saying doesn't make any sense, then yeah, you are in the stronger position.
And there are many reasons this might be the case. The first is just that experts disagree. So whenever someone says, “Well, that's the expert position,” then there are a whole bunch of questions like “what's the dissident 40 percent position in that exact same field?” or “what do experts overseas think?” I mean, do people in China or France, or countries have equivalent power, do they believe that there are 67 equally recognizable genders? And if not, why not? What did experts think five minutes ago? These are good questions to ask about a lot of the Great Awokening stuff. There weren't a lot of people outside the fringe that thought that the USA was a systemically and brutally racist country in 1999. So what happened? Did you start giving more PhDs to people that did?
And extreme bias is one of the things that produces these changes and why you see things in the USA today, but didn’t in the USA in 2010, and not in China. The Academy right now, and I'm not going to sit around whining about other faculty members for a long time, but the academy is about 93-94 percent leftist. Econ Live, a pretty serious site, looked at the political views of professors and found that 18 percent of them were just communists. At least in the social sciences that was the number who identified as Marxist, specifically.
I think that for a lot of reasons people who appear very professional and very intelligent can say incredibly dumb things. One reason for this might be that they're dumb, to some extent. In US higher education for something like 60 years we’ve had both legacy programs and affirmative action.
And I've never researched this, and even from the heterodox perspective it might be pretty toxic to do so, but you'd have to assume that has some kind of impact on the thoughts you're getting. But at any rate, one of the reasons that people believe a lot of nonsense is what we're just describing. It's the concentration among experts, usually in very niche fields—niche but influential fields—of people who believe this stuff. And a big part of that also is that there's a fair amount of money associated with believing some of this stuff.
One of the facts—and this is cynical but I think is just obviously and objectively real—that's almost never discussed and kind of American polite life, is that this gigantic apparatus was set up to defeat the old school racism in the 50s and 60s. The NAACP, which I'm actually a member of, the ADL, the SPLC, which has a $500 million brilliantly-invested endowment, all of the different Black Lives Matter and Occupy and so on groups that followed on the heels of that down the road, such as the National Action Network, and these other major entities that are recognized around the world including gay rights organizations and other rights groups such as the HRC, none of these people are going to stop fighting for the thing that they originally committed to fight for, and lose their jobs. And I think that accounts for a great deal of fear in this racial sector.
One of the reasons that we hear so much about these issues is that large organizations exist to promote them, and they have good symbiotic relationships with the media. So perhaps more than half of the time a young black man is shot by the police, there is going to be a concerted effort to get that out into the media ecosystem, to contact CNN, MSNBC, The Post, The Times, etc., to say that once again he too had his hands up, and so on. And there's absolutely no ecosystem like that that exists when a poor whites or Hispanic man is shot. So that's why we hear less about these stories.
So why do we believe this stuff? You have an extremely biased and, in some fields I'd say captured, elite intellectual class. You also have large organizations where people get paid millions of dollars to say certain things. And I'm sure you have some of the stuff on the right too. You really have to show me that illegal immigrants, for example, have a higher crime rate than African Americans of southern whites, because I don't think that's true. The data is very hard to find. I don't believe that. But everyone has their fear points, and it's because people are getting paid. In one sentence, and I've been rambling, people are getting paid good money to spit things they believe to people they're friendly with.
ANGEL EDUARDO: So I can easily see the response to that just being to flip it back onto you and say, “yeah, the reason you think what you think and the reason why you're disagreeing with my narrative is because, you're being fed your stats and your information from people who are being paid to counter the narrative.”
You mentioned that it might be on the right, a little bit, but I think their point of view is that it's overwhelmingly on the right, and that this is all a propaganda campaign, that this is all misinformation or disinformation. So how do you parse that?
WILFRED REILLY: That's not how quantitative methods work. Obviously I know that was a lead-in question, but the police shooting dispute was resolved when the Washington Post open accessed their police database and everyone could see how many police shootings there were. So Black Lives Matter actually did really well with a weak hand there. The people that run the actual BLM Global Foundation aren't idiots, as is signified by the four mansions—they’re doing pretty well. But although they played defense well, once the police department information on shootings was fully and publicly available, we knew how many shootings there were. And the claim was that there were hundreds or that there were thousands. But it turned out that if you're talking about unarmed individuals and fatal shootings, there were 10, or 12, or 17. So that was it. That was the argument. Every argument that had been based on the figure of say 1000 had been defeated.
This is actually one of the more heated conversations I had on Twitter. I posted some statistics on corporate crime, and one of them came from Jacobin, which is a communist magazine on the far left. And one of them, at least allegedly, came from VDARE, which is an alt-right site—and I don't approve of either Jacob bin or VDARE if we're gonna do these goofy disclaimers—but the information on these corporate crimes was absolutely accurate. And my contention would be that that's almost the only thing that matters. If someone on the far, far right or someone the far, far left says something about immigration numbers, the only question is, “are the immigration numbers, correct?” That that's really it. I don't think there's a debate. You can't counter the immigration numbers by saying, “well, those boys at Jacobin and a bunch of communists.” So what? Are they correct about the immigration numbers?
It doesn't really matter what the source of information is unless there's a way to significantly bias that information. And when it comes to most of the things I look at, like murder totals, are you implying that the guys at the Manhattan Institute are hiding corpses? I mean, like people on the center-right are dragging bodies into gulleys or something? Now we know what the murder rate is, and every time there are certain policies adopted, like a decrease in police stops, you see more murder. Now, you might argue that it's worth it, because you do—and I'll give the opponent their argument—see fewer police shootings. But I’m personally less worried about police shootings of criminals than kids getting shot in the head. So at the very least you can have your position and you can argue based on facts. And again, I just illustrated how someone could honorably hold a completely different position, but no one can hold a completely different set of police shootings statistics. You can't just do the stuff you frequently see on social media, where you say, “I don't believe that crap you're saying, let's double it!” No. Bye. That doesn't make any sense, what are you talking about?
No, there is reality. And that at the root is the source of my disagreement with everything from postmodernism to extreme evangelical Christianity on the hard hard, right. Reality just is what it is. If you say the world is 6000 years old, that's not “your truth.” If you say that there are 67 sexes, that's not “your truth.” You're just saying shit that doesn't make sense. And I think it's important that ordinary taxpaying citizens say “No, that really doesn't make sense. These are the figures from last year, which are widely available on literally the US government's websites.” So I think that's the response to “Well, you're just a right wing troll.”
No, not really.
MELISSA CHEN: I do think that this phenomenon that you're describing is actually perpetuated because there is this idea floating out there that somehow even uncomfortable truths can be harmful. And so if those uncomfortable truths are harmful, it is best to actually completely deny it.
I just saw a headline, I think it was in the Atlantic today, Jamele Hill, the ESPN reporter, wrote about Enes Cantor, the Turkish basketball player who's been very vocal about China lately, and the NBA’s hypocrisy, especially considering its response to Black Lives Matter versus the human rights abuses of the Chinese Communist Party. And the title of the of the entire piece she wrote was that “Enes Cantor is being used by the wrong people.”
There's this idea that even though he's right, and even though the statistics that you're pulling out and posting on Twitter are right including all the taboos that you go through in your book, because these facts are likely to be harmful we should just deny them. That seems to me to be what's happening. And how do you respond to that?
WILFRED REILLY: First of all, I think that's absolutely correct. I think the idea in society from the these blue noses on this boring HR centre-left, their response isn’t that the things that are being said are false, it's exactly what you said—they're true, but they might hurt somebody. So the focus of censorship today, and I would actually suspect the focus of censorship throughout history, is not on removing false information, it's on removing true information that powerful people don't like.
And why is that a bad idea? I think this gets back again to John Stuart Mill and all the books that people should have been reading instead of bell hooks in college, but there are a couple obvious points. First, it does a lot of harm to ignore facts that are true, if you're especially concerned about this particular category of harm. And if you're talking about, for example, the police stops case that we just went through, and you don't want to note that there's a very high crime rate and urban and especially African American communities, and so you pretend that the high number of encounters with the police in cities is just due to racism, because it makes people feel good to believe this, and then you pull back the police, what you see is that an additional say 10,000 people per year are going to die. Murders last year jumped from I believe 14,000, something around there, to 20,000. We hit 20,000 homicides last year. COVID had an impact, but it was at least partly due to what I just described for every serious person in criminal justice that I've read. That's the first time that had happened since I believe 1994. So when you say “why would we say something that's risky, that's iffy, that might hurt someone's feelings?” Because if we ignore reality, you might end up with a lot of people dead.
Another point also is that this argument really is just pure power in action, like the idea of Repressive Tolerance from Marcuse, because anyone could make this point. I mean, a traditional Catholic could say, “denying the existence of God and his mother, Mary, to me, feels very harmful, it feels very insulting, shut down the biology department.” I don't think that's a valid argument. So not only can there be actual practical harms associated with the large scale ignoring of reality, we also don't want to let one group of people decide what the acceptable truths are. Right now that might be left-leaning urbanites, but what if in the future it's evangelical Christians who are having more children than anyone else in the heartland? Are we going to simply ignore the realities of science?
And I don't mean to be glib or crude with this, but these debates have come up in odd settings. For example, I was reading some old Thomas Sowell at one point, and one of the arguments against sex education was that if you taught men what a clitoris was then people would start having more sex, essentially. That this was forbidden iffy knowledge that guys didn't necessarily need to know. I think that's probably a good thing for people in society to be aware of. This just swept across sexuality. It has swept across policing. This idea is not new, and it's always bad.
ANGEL EDUARDO: Yeah, I think I think we can all agree that it's a good idea for men to know where the clitoris is.
WILFRED REILLY: We can make a whole bunch of jokes at this point, but no, I was actually dead serious with that. That was a real example, that if you teach kids the basics of sex, to some extent how to be good in bed like “these are the pleasure points for a human,” then they will have sex more, so you shouldn't, and that there should be no classes in college, and certainly not in high school, that touch on this. And I think even there there's a real actual impact, in terms of the effect of divorce on society or something, of just not saying things that are true. So in general I'm pro saying things that are true, and that shouldn't be a radical position.
All of our boy, Colin Wright, was on the Tucker Carlson show the other day defending the radical position that sex is real. And this is interesting because I never thought I'd have to hear someone defend it. But apparently a decent number of people on the hard left don't believe this. There was a famous graphic and Scientific American claiming that sex is a total spectrum, and this idea is leading to a whole range of things. We've recently seen a string of the best women's swimming performances in history. One of the competitors for U-Penn just won an event by 38 seconds, which if you follow swimming even as casually as I do is remarkable. It's something that you've never seen. It's like being a lap ahead on the track. And that's because they're biologically male. They identify as trans, and I have no problem with the pronouns, but the consequence of politely saying, “yes, sure, sex is not real because some people have intersex conditions,” or “some people have these complex gender identities,” is that you have to deal with real problems.
For instance, do you send convicted rapists who are biologically male into women's prisons? That's something a number of states have done. And the conversation about this to me is insane, because the female inmates are saying there have been incidents and “we don't want to be jailed with male rapist,” and they're being described as what's the term? TERF? They're being described as transphobic bigots, like “we need to shut down these prejudiced women who are the equivalent of racists so we can give these trans inmates their civil rights.” This sort of thing is the impact of ignoring reality.
And the entire trans debate, which I'm not going to focus on here, that really gets to the core of this question. There actually is a mental condition where people strongly associate with the gender characteristics that are tied to the opposite sex, and everyone to some extent wants to be polite individuals who are in this position. But does avoiding the hard truth that there are sexes have real implications? And the answer is yes, of course it does. One of the implications could be a rapist in prison with a group of women. So at some point reality has to rear it's not-always-attractive head and people have to pay attention to it. Reality exists.
ANGEL EDUARDO: What's interesting to me, and this dovetails nicely into your book about hoaxes and the whole “Juicy” Smollett thing, which is happening right now, a little bit anyway. There's a little bit of the inverse going on as well. It's not even wanting to deny ugly realities, but wanting to deny significantly, objectively better realities. We seem to want to have a reality that's worse. That's kind of what's going on with the hoax hate crimes and wanting to hang on to this narrative even in the face of all evidence to the contrary. It's very interesting.
I'm wondering what you think about the dynamic there. Why do we want some ugly realities suppressed, but want other ugly realities to take center stage, even if they're not actual realities?
WILFRED REILLY: I think in one sentence, the shared characteristic of these kind of quasi-religious, and I would throw in actually religious, movements is a denial of objective reality in favor of power. So the idea is that what's true doesn't matter as much as what our agenda is, and if you really get into Foucault and postmodernism, our agenda defines what is true. And these traits are shared across all of these philosophies. Again, certainly some parallels with traditional religion, which has a role in society, which I'm not always all that fond of, but I don't necessarily see a difference in outcomes between the two sets of lives. On the radical left where you most often see this stuff, one set of lies is associated with moving society forward as the activist perceives it. So the lies about the non-existence of sex, and changeability of humanity, the lies about the blank slate, those are designed to facilitate moving society forward toward goals that the person promoting this stuff wants.
Another set of lies is designed to remove the impediments to that. So, if what's being said to justify moving society forward is not only claims about how human nature is, but also that there is this block of evil that my solutions are needed to deal with, you can attack that either at the “my solutions are needed to deal with it” or “there's this block of evil.” That was a little rambling. But the basic idea with the Jussie Smollett case is that, obviously, there's still an extraordinary amount of active violent racism in society. And that's not true. I'm actually probably going to end that there. The important thing is the denial of reality. In most cases it's fairly simple to figure out what reality is.
A brief note on interracial crime. We have an annual crime report. It's the Bureau of Justice Statistics or BJS Report, and it's actually one of the better pieces of social science the USA does annually. We survey something like 200,000 people with anonymous generally same-race interviewers, and we asked them about their experiences with crime, it's specifically emphasized that they’re getting a chance to help the country, and that this isn't going to result any in any direct arrest. And people detail the criminal experiences that they've had, to some extent. There's, there's no one who has argued this isn't pretty reliable. So we know how many, for example, white on black, black on white, etc., crimes there are in a typical year. And first of all, interracial violent crime is not a major problem. One of my dinner speech lines is that the person most likely to kill you is your ex-wife. But that's actually true. Or your current husband, which I think says something interesting about the differences between men and women there. Men more stupid brutality, in the moment. Women have smart thoughts about what's going to happen. But at any rate, I'm interested.
MELISSA CHEN: Or it says something interesting about the institution of marriage. That's my theory.
WILFRED REILLY: That spouses are very likely to kill each other?
MELISSA CHEN: Yeah.
WILFRED REILLY: Well, if we're all social scientists, you'd have to demonstrate that spouses are more likely to kill each other than lovers who spend the same amount of time together but that aren't married. That's actually an interesting question. I'd be fascinated in looking at that actually, like is a husband safer to have around than a boyfriend or a lover, or is he worse? I don't know. That's actually an empirical test of the value of marriage, I haven't seen a lot of those from the feminist side.
But at any rate, interracial violent crime between blacks and whites is 3 percent of serious crime, and it's also 80 plus percent black on white. That's one of those things that's never discussed, but if you just go into the BJS report, last year there were only about 600,000 violent interracial crimes if you're confining that to blacks and whites, and this is out of 20 million crimes. This is the 2019 report. But of those crimes, if you're going to focus on this sort of niche thing at all, there's almost no argument from the left. There are five times as many whites, they have more money, there's a higher overall black crime rate. So of those crimes you're literally talking about 500,000 black on white as versus a little under 100,000 white on black. There have been years where white on black has gone down to 59,000-60,000. So objectively, again, the claim that there's a lot of violent racism, that incidents like what Smollett experienced are common, there's no argument for that at all, there are only about 7,000 hate crimes specifically in a typical year.
But again, the purpose there is the lie about the evil of current society, as opposed to the lie about the achievability of future society. And when you combine those two things—lies about the problems of current society and lies about the potential of the future—you've got most of the woke agenda. I mean, very little of it is actually functional and fact-based in my opinion.
MELISSA CHEN: I think, especially in the last year, it's pretty obvious that the media has been drumming up the anti-AAPI hate crimes. I think now the acronym is AAPI & H. A few more letters that have been added on. And what you see is that it’s not only reporting that drums up this phenomenon, but also foundations that are newly created and touted by celebrities and funded to the tune of almost a billion dollars to counter AAPI hate. This term has really cemented in the public discourse, and the media is also very specific in how it chooses to cover this kind of hate.
In terms of, for example, the tale of two cities, what happened in Kenosha versus Waukesha, when we insert the perpetrator’s race into the headline, it was obvious that the media had a field day when it was that Asian spa shooting that happened to kill not just Asian women, but two other people of different races who were completely ignored. This kind of reporting seems to cement and drive this perception that the United States is gripped by white supremacist racial violence.
WILFRED REILLY: Yeah, I think the Stop Asian Hate case is a classic example of a lot of the stuff that we're talking about. So, just going from the top, first of all, I find the different racial acronyms in the post-BIPOC era almost entertaining. A new one just dropped today, and it's the worst I've ever heard. It's MASA, and it stands for Muslim Arabic and South Asian. I could be wrong about the composer's, but it's MASA pronounced like “massa.” If you pronounced it another way it would sound like Spanish for tortilla flower, and it would be mocked just as much by people from Latino communities. So this is this is another like “Latinx” attempt by white progressives to define these minority communities. And I know that you're lumping together South Indians with Muslims and so on.
MELISSA CHEN: Exactly.
WILFRED REILLY: These are people who were fighting wars when Westerners were still painting themselves blue. And there's a lack of knowledge about the other great cultures of the world that underlies a lot of this blasé suburban upper-middle class fake revolution. But leaving aside the fact that MASA is an actual racial acronym, and one of the funniest ever, the stop AAPI Hate movement illustrates a lot of the problems with this sort of woke/anti-woke back-and-forth today, and especially with the woke position within it.
First of all, violence against Asian Americans is a problem. We did see an increase in hate crimes last year. Different groups fought more just as people within the same group did, during a very tough year defined by COVID, defined by an increase in crime. We absolutely want to lock up the bums that were abusing these elderly Asian women. But the immediate media narrative was the easy cheap one. Of course we oppose violence against Asians. I'm sure they did, and I'm sure the entire Times newsroom does. But we're gonna pin it on a culprit that no one will get mad at us for describing, and that's white supremacy. Certainly, some of the people involved in these anti Asian cases were moody white losers.
The spot shooter actually seemed to have some kind of weird sexual fetish, and felt compelled to go to these happy-ending massage parlors. But he hated these women who he thought were dragging him in there. I'm sure they would have been glad not to see him again. But he went in there and attacked and killed, as you mentioned a number of people, not all of them Asian American. But the reality of the attacks on Asians, which I think everyone who has a computer knows, and I wrote a piece about this for Commentary where again I use standard methods to break down the 200 most prominent cases, the reality is that 60 percent or 70 percent of the people involved in these cases were black. And they were actually pretty diverse. These are large integrated cities with large black populations, so the over representation was real and substantial, but it wasn't total. There were also Hispanic criminals, there were white criminals, but these just seem to be diverse city kids attacking Asians. Many of them had mental conditions that have probably been exacerbated by COVID.
White supremacy had almost nothing to do with the problem, not a single person identified as a member of an organized white supremacist group. And again, I minimized this a little but do want to repeat it—60 percent of them were black. So the real story was out there, that a diverse, mostly black, group of people were attacking Asians for money, or because they're scumbags.
But that's not what the press went with, the press went with “this is another example of whiteness.” And when you call people on this, and one of the useful things about FAIR and about other organizations like 1776 Unites is that the people involved are pretty clearly diverse, normal taxpayers who aren't racist. So when you stand up as someone who's an equal on the debate stage and you say, “Look, we all oppose racism, obviously. But the basis of your narrative doesn’t make a lot of sense. This is a very diverse group of people.” the responses revealed this crazy dissonance.
I've been told many times that black people were doing this because they had been provoked by Fox News. For example, this stuff with Donald Trump talking about the “Kung Flu” and Tucker Carlson being xenophobic, allegedly, all that's out there, and black people see it too. And that's the cause. But in reality, if you spend a day on Black Twitter, you know that's not true. There are substantial black-Asian tensions in big cities, there are entire hit songs, like Meet the Flockers, that are just about how to rob Asian people. There are at least four. There's a famous line from Dragon from the Rough Riders that was on a song I used to work out to before high school sports, it went like “you know how many bleeps [a word for Asian Americans] and Jews dragged and dragged out, on my cash route,” and he goes into this minute-long description of robbing small storekeepers, which is the thing that happens.
So that reality is simply as you said, Angel, it's too ugly to discuss, and so you fall back to poor whites, the group you can always criticize. But that's not helpful, because there aren't a whole lot of poor white Nazis in San Jose.
MELISSA CHEN: I think Spotify ended up removing those songs, by the way. They did in the posts stop AAPI Hate movement that bubbled up. Spotify did remove it, but is this more a matter of life imitating art or art imitating life? I personally think it's the latter.
WILFRED REILLY: Hold on I'm going to screen share actually, because I went out when I had YT up instead of Spotify, but I just pulled up YouTube and it's back up. Meet the Flockers, 139,000 views by YG.
MELISSA CHEN: No way!
WILFRED REILLY: This whole Stop Asian Hate thing, this lasted like a couple of weeks, the virtue signaling. YG Meet the Flockers, so they'll they actually have the one with TC 4800 where he goes through the whole thing about how to rob Asians, like “Pick your Chinese neighborhood, they got fat wallets.”
MELISSA CHEN: But there's a subtlety here, right? Is this driven by racial prejudice specifically, or opportunism? In the sense that a lot of the Asian community lives in these highly urban areas, they open Bodegas, small markets, and there are these tensions as you describe with working class that goes all the way back to what happened with Rodney King, where the Korean store owner shot a black woman, I think a teenager who she thought was shoplifting.
ANGEL EDUARDO: Yeah, I remember this. I grew up in and around New York City, so I'm very in the middle of all this stuff. And I remember growing up watching In Living Color on TV, and there are plenty of gags about the Korean grocery store owner and the racial tensions the minute someone who is racialized black comes in, and they're staring at them, following them around saying “you're walking around too long,” and that sort of stuff. That that tension has been around for a long time. It's definitely real.
MELISSA CHEN: That should be where the conversation is, right? And now those tensions are bubbling up into school admissions, into what's happening with affirmative action and all these other issues that we're seeing now take over the K to 12.
WILFRED REILLY: Absolutely. The thing that's interesting about this is, again, none of us is a bigot, and I'm sure there's fault on both sides in terms of the race relations in a big city. Although really I think there's less fault on the Asian side in a lot of these cases. There's more targeting of Asian now. Obviously Asians are just as racist as black people. It's not a contest! I think all people have pretty much the same level of racial bias in the USA right now, at the group level. By the way, it seems to be about 10 percent to 12 percent bigots in most groups. I don't think Asians are ahead of that.
First of all, I think that this illustrates the problems with a lot of these stupid terms like POC or even BIPOC. When a black New Yorker walks into a Korean New Yorker’s store, they don't slap each other on the ass and say, “Hey, teammate!” You know? There's a substantial amount of conflict between those two communities, with sins on both sides that parallels the conflict between either and the white community. People are just people. So this idea that white people invented racism, or class, or caste, in the past 150 years for quasi-scientific reasons is nonsensical. I've read “The Laws of Manu.” Human tribalism is one of the oldest tendencies among humans.
So basically in one sense, regardless of what you think either side could do to reduce tensions, and I do personally think robbing storekeepers is worse than being mildly personally racist, the discussion should be about this, it should be on comity meetings between black and Asian business communities and that kind of thing. Though white outsiders suburbanites, who might be white supremacists, have nothing to do with the conversation. They're just brought in there because they're an easy foil for the people that are leading the conversation. And we see that we see this sort of thing over and over again.
An old joke on the right is that no matter what the problem is, you're gonna see the same three or four left-wing solutions, like we need a more socialized governmental policy to tackle this, climate change must have played a role, this kind of thing. We recently saw a rise in suicides among young Americans, which is tragic, but the obvious cause of this is the COVID lockdowns, in my opinion and the opinion of most people I know in professional psychology. But the official US government statement about it from Dr. Gupta included all these other things like the stress caused by climate change. And the reality is that may be a very latent background factor, but that didn't increase last year, so that has nothing to do with the issue. So similarly, just as there's always going to be a focus on communalism or climate or something like that in a document that comes from the left, it's always going to be very easy to pick one of the old enemies like white racism.
What FAIR needs to do, what similar organizations need to do, is kindly guide the hand toward newer problems, I think. Today in America, traditional KKK style white racism is not one of the 50 biggest problems in the country, and no one could seriously think that it is. There are residual problems in black communities that are due to past racism, like street gangs and working class communities of all colors, including Asian communities and very specifically in the black community, often evolved to protect that neighborhood from outsiders and fo the black community that often was white people. But it's not 1950 anymore. If you have a very prevalent gang culture in urban black areas now, you need to stop the gangs, whether that's by offering jobs or by offering prison or death. But you can't just keep saying, “Well, the reason for this is that long ago, a race war was lost.” So what?
Large countries like ours have an endless litany of sins committed by everyone against everyone else. We put the entire Japanese community in concentration camps. That's not good, but we did our best to make amends and now people proceed forward. So the question is how to solve the problems of today with the solutions of today, to quote the great political scientist Dave Chappelle.
ANGEL EDUARDO: All right. So before we start wrapping up here with our final question that we ask everyone, I'm curious, because you're an educator and you deal with students, given your approach and all the data that you have in your head that you use to make your arguments, how you’re received by your student body? What's the climate for you there?
WILFRED REILLY: Actually, it's pretty good. I think that in terms of how all of us on this panel would be received at a diverse event in New York or Chicago, which is quite well, because I'm not a racist. That's basically the point. One of the things that I do get from my students is deep surprise. So Angel, we’ve both argued with a lot of the people on the sociological leaning left, right now: Rod Graham, Mansa Keita, Kevin Bird, and so on, online as well as in person, and I use some of that work in my classes. I wouldn't bother to argue with someone I thought was a fool. But I also use Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Shelby Steele, John Stuart Mill, and so on down the line, and people are often very surprised that they've never heard these arguments before. I think that's the most shocking reaction. They are totally unaware. And someone like Charles Murray would just be an evil ghost on the horizon.
That half of the discussion hasn't been had is a big problem in higher and secondary education. Like, the question about the 1619 Project, when they won the Pulitzer, and I don’t hate the 1619 Project as much as some people do, but the award was ridiculous. And there's just a very basic question: was this the most factually based solidly done piece of reporting in 2020? As versus, say, anything on COVID? Anything on BLM and racial conflict? And the answer is no.
If you present only the bell hooks, Nicole Hannah Jones, Ibram X. Kendi, Robin DiAngelo school of thought to people, people are going to think these must be the brightest out there. And I don't think that's the case. I think any of us would do at least as well in a conversation with any of the people I just named. So you present “any of us” and students are in general pretty receptive to that.
MELISSA CHEN: So, Dr. Reilly, if you didn't have to constantly talk about basic truths and what cannot be said, or race issues, your research is actually pretty interesting, right? You do academic research on things like terrorism and war. What would you be talking about if you didn't have to talk about this stuff?
WILFRED REILLY: Well, in a world where none of it had ever existed, I would probably focus on the internal causes and international causes of conflict, especially military conflict. But I think that in any world that resembles this one, I would be interested in empirical tests of some of the broader stuff here. For example, a project I've been working on for a while that keeps getting delayed but that I want to get out this year, is giving the standard scale of privilege to thousands of people and seeing whether whiteness, quote unquote, has a significant effect on people's performance, and what else does. When I've done this in small scale classroom administrations, and so on, about 70 percent to 75 percent of quote unquote “privilege” seems to be just pure social class. That's what I would suspect is true. But I would still be interested in doing something like that, absent the latest round of wokery.
But my next professional paper for the Midwest and probably American political science conferences looks at COVID-19. It looks at what predicted national success against COVID. I look at a range of variables from background characteristics such as mean temperature in the country, over to leadership styles—is the country autocratic, democratic, etc.—and then their response to the disease. Did lockdowns do anything? And by the way, so far the data indicate lockdowns didn't do anything at all, assuming that you encouraged logical NPI like maybe a mask before you get vaccinated or something like that. But certainly trust in the government actually had a major effect on COVID-19 deaths, and seems to be one of the reasons that the USA trailed some other major countries. The less people believed the talking heads on television, which I think is the problem with Trump and Fauci and so on, probably the less they responded to encouragement to stay home or something like that.
So in the Asian states, which tend to be homogeneous, brutally but fairly well-governed, a high level of institutional trust did quite well against the disease. Japan, South Korea, and so on are world leaders we really should be looking at. And for whatever reason, we aren't. Asian hate maybe. But the West did terribly. Actually, Africa did better than the West. And stable Africa, by the way, Nigeria and South Africa is I think a region we're going to have to contend with in the next couple of decades, certainly a century. But they protected seniors, they had a young population, and it's hot, and they didn't do some of the stupid things we did. The large western states, the UK, Belgium, and so on, probably turned in the worst performances in the world.
ANGEL EDUARDO: Our last question for you Wil, before we let you go. You kind of touched on it a minute ago, but our focus here at FAIR is providing a pro-human alternative to approaching the issues that we've been talking about. All these issues of the day. So I'm curious, what does being pro-human mean to you? How do you conceptualize that, and how do you think everyday people can take a pro-human approach to doing these things in their lives and their communities?
WILFRED REILLY: I've got to answer quickly because I've got to get a jump off in about two or three minutes, but I think that the essence of being pro human is recognizing that the smallest and most persecuted minority is the individual. So when you actually do good quantitative research, I never for example, when I'm sampling, pick a certain number of blacks or a certain number of whites for a survey, because there's so many characteristics about individuals, such as class, sexual orientation, sex, urban, rural north south region, political attitudes, and so on that each person is a unique individual. So if you try to sample along one axis, you almost always screw up what you're doing. In fact, that's a fascinating, almost mathematical insight that I've had for quite a while.
So the basis of being pro-human is treating each person as an individual. Sometimes at the governmental level you might quietly implement a policy—class based affirmative action—that will help one group for a period of time, and I'm not always against that. But when you look at a policy or at a person, you should ask yourself, “Is this moral when it comes to its effect on individual human beings that I'll be interacting with?” And I think a lot of the things that are being currently proposed right now, especially on the political left, really don't meet that standard. It's almost always end justifies the means logic. Like, yeah, we're keeping the kid of a struggling Asian immigrant family out of Princeton, but we're doing that because this other kid has also experienced some kind of trouble in life. I think that's very rarely justified. Being pro-human means trying to do the things that you would want done to you as an individual moving forward in society. I think that's a very good simple way of putting it.
ANGEL EDUARDO: Beautifully put. Dr Wilfred Reilly, thank you so much for joining us on FAIR perspectives.
WILFRED REILLY: Thanks, guys.
ANGEL EDUARDO: Thanks for listening to FAIR perspectives. If you'd like to join the pro-human movement, visit us at FAIRforall.org/join us. You can also support the show by subscribing on YouTube or on your favorite podcast platform, and by following us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. For transcripts of podcast episodes, as well as access to exclusive fair perspectives content, visit us at FAIRperspectives.org.
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