May 15, 2013

How anthropology explains the Richwine witch-hunt

Literal witch-hunts remain common in places like Papua New Guinea, and anthropological research into them is useful for thinking about the Jason Richwine witch-hunt.

hbd chick writes:
To disbelieve in witchcraft is the greatest of heresies
what happened to jason richwine this week — and everyone else who’s been watsoned for politically incorrect crimethink, like john derbyshire — was a witch-hunt. no question about it. and it wasn’t even metaphorically a witch-hunt, or even just kinda like a witch-hunt — the event bears all the traits of an actual, honest-to-goodness witch-hunt like they do it in papua new guinea or used to do it in medieval europe, just with less violence, that’s all. 
the politically correct chattering classes, both on the left AND on the right, who went after richwine behaved EXACTLY, in every regard, like png witch-hunters (except, like i said, for the violence). the richwine affair was an irrational ritual so that all those involved — and everybody watching — would be absolutely clear from now on what the acceptable boundaries are when it comes to discussing immigrants or non-whites or … whomever. 
what did we have? “stigmatization”? check. (plenty more examples out there like that one.) “use of simulated evidence”? did anyone actually read jason’s thesis? no. check. “simulated expert testimony”? i don’t have any links on hand now, but i saw appeals to stephen jay gould in rebuttals to jason’s research. definitely simulated expert testimony! “nonfalsifiability characteristic of evidence” and “use of the loaded question technique”? probably, but i don’t have examples (anyone?). we’ll leave those as unknown for now. “resemblance to a fair trial”? well, like in the png examples above, there was no mock trial, but there was certainly a trial of sorts in the press/on the internet. “reversal of polarity” and “non-openness”? oh, yeah! richwine was obviously guilty of being a warlock crimethinker from the moment someone discovered his thesis. and pretty much NO ONE was open to hearing otherwise — no one who isn’t already a crimethinker themselves, that is. 
“climate of fear.” climate of fear is an interesting one because it’s something that sorta feeds back into the whole system exacerbating it all, since what’s going on is that, not only are the richwines and derbyshires of the world afraid (or supposed to be afraid, anyway), EVERYone is afraid — afraid of becoming the next one accused of being a witch/crimethinker. as we saw above from Meaning and Moral Order, witch-hunts occur sporadically, so you can never know when or where the next one will be — or who the next victim will be. witch-hunts are terrorizing — and they’re meant to be. 
from walton [pg. 396 - pdf]: 
“A climate of fear is a third important characteristic of the initial conditions of the witch hunt. First, the witch hunt is based on, and propelled by fear of the stigmatized individuals that are the objects of the hunt. Witches are portrayed, for example, as both repellent and dangerous. But second, the whole procedure of the witch hunt is suffused with fear. Everyone who could be accused is terrified, because they know that targeting is relatively random, and even an innocent person can be accused. But also, they know that once they are accused, and caught up in the tribunal process, the consequences are horrific (for anyone whose reputation matters to them) and the outcome is inevitably certain to be bad. Thus a climate of (well-founded) fear is characteristic of the whole process of the witch hunt.“ 

this is why everyone piles on the accused so quickly and with full force — because they REALLY want to establish in a very public way that they, themselves, are NOT witches/crimethinkers, ’cause none of them want to experience being on the wrong end of a witch-hunt. 
edit: i should’ve mentioned that none of these behavioral patterns are particularly conscious ones for the witch-hunters involved. they’re just acting on some sort of instinct — a herding instinct or something. some people out there might, of course, understand how to get a good witch-hunt rolling and use such events for their own purposes. not saying that that’s what happened this week — just sayin’.
_____
i’m having a hard time figuring out what the “pressure of social forces” factor is for all the politically correct people who take part in these watsonings/witch-hunts. i mean, witch-hunts supposedly take place in eras of turmoil and uncertainty — and, while I certainly feel we’re living in an era of uncertainty with all this mass immigration and rapid changes, what are the pc people concerned about? they LIKE all this change and multiculturalism, don’t they?
and they can’t possibly feel threatened from the alt-right, can they? the left might feel threatened by the right on many issues and vice versa, but since almost all of them are politically correct these days, they can’t feel threatened by each other on that count. or do they? i really don’t know — help me figure this out! 
the only thing i could think of is that maybe they actually are afraid of the brave new world they’re creating (a la putnam [pdf]), but because they want to run with the herd, they don’t want to voice any concerns — and so their concerns/fears are coming out in nervous witch-hunts? i dunno. but check this out — from Moral Panics: The Social Construction of Deviance [pg. 195]: 
“The example of the Renaissance witch craze provides a lesson for contemporary society: Multiculturalism does not eradicate the moral panic. Indeed, the more diverse the society, the larger number of moral panics, as competing symbolic-moral universes produce their own folk devils, each with exaggerated fears and anxieties. In turn, these folk devils resist such definitions, drawing, as they will, on the support from members of competing symbolic-moral universes. The modern scene of moral panics thus witnesses a larger number of moral panics, some in conflict, some potentiating each other, and some flourishing and fading as quickly as they have come into being. The modern, complex moral structure of societies may very well create a social setting which gives rise to a multitude of moral panics.“


26 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's "exactly" like a New Guinean witch hunt... except for all the ways it isn't? Kind of a sloppy, thrown-together post. That Cato guy may have been throwing crap against the wall, but so is HBD Chick. At least the Cato guy had an editor. This isn't going to convince anyone.

FirkinRidiculous said...

She took a long time explaining what a witch-hunt is.

Dave Pinsen said...

Maybe Tom Stoppard or David Mamet will write a play inspired by the Richwine affair.

Anonymous said...

HBD Chick is awesome. I don't know where she came from, but what a gem.

Simon in London said...

A feature of actual witch hunts though is that the 'witches' normally have not done what they are accused of having done. AFAICT Richwine has done exactly what he is accused of having done. In this way it more resembles the hunt for Heretics in order to maintain religious Orthodoxy. I don't know Richwine's religion/ethnicity but it seems to me that gentiles in the employ of neocon organisations like Heritage have a particularly shaky status, like Converso ex-Jews in medieval Spain. Fellow Conversos like Torquemada can demonstrate their moral purity by the zeal with which they persecute them.

The Trayvon Martin/Zimmerman case has a closer resemblance to the classical Witch Hunt, I think.

Anonymous said...

Max Read translates Sullivan's writings.

Sullivan writes: "The Study Of Intelligence [has] been strangled by p.c. egalitarianism."

Translation: "The 'politically-correct' belief that all people are equal, is preventing the study of intelligence, which is best done by cherry-picking sociological data about how black people are stupider than white people."

Sullivan writes: "The right response to unsettling data is to probe, experiment and attempt to disprove them—not to run away in racial panic."

Translation: "Probing, experimenting and disproving 'unsettling data,' as dozens of researchers, sociologists, geneticists and scientists have done over the last several decades, is the same thing as running away in racial panic, because it does not confirm the hypothesis that black people are stupider than white people."

Sullivan writes: "[R]esearch is not about helping people; it's about finding out stuff."

Translation: "Research is not about helping people; it's about finding out stuff, in particular, if that stuff confirms that black people are stupider than white people."

Sullivan writes: "[W]hen public policy holds that all racial difference in, say, college degrees, are due to racism, a truth claim has already been made[.]"

Translation: "It's important to study this so we can stop trying to help black people get college degrees."

Sullivan writes: "No one is arguing that "that black people are dumber than white," just that the distribution of IQ is slightly different among different racial populations, and these differences also hold true for all broad racial groups[.]"

Translation: "No one is arguing that black people are stupider than white people, just that black people are stupider than white people in a slightly more complicated way."

Sullivan writes: "No, not 'only for Africans'. The differential between Caucasians and Asians - or between Ashkenazi and Sephardim Jews - is also striking in the data."

Translation: "How can I possibly be racist if I'm saying that Asians and Jews are more cunning than white people?"

Sullivan writes: "It was provoked by empirical data acquired from the measurement of intelligence in the 20th Century—immediate liberal hysteria denying that race as a biological construct existed at all. Piffle."

Translation: "Let me disprove the agreed-upon fact that race is social, not a biological, construct: Piffle."

http://gawker.com/5863453/a-readers-guide-to-andrew-sullivans-defense-of-race-science

http://www.ln.edu.hk/philoso/staff/sesardic/Race2.pdf
http://infoproc.blogspot.fi/2013/05/nature-news-chinese-project-probes.html

Anonymous said...

In Britain,right at this moment, we are living through a real witch-hunt, not of academic heretics mind you, (Italian clerics who questioned the Vatican in the 15th century and who were burnt at the stake for their impertinence, are a better comparison of the Richwine brou-ha-ha than Salem), but of the mainstay of British 'light-entertainment' of1970s TV the 'vaiety men'.
Basically a lot of the icons of the 'golden age' of British TV in the 70s (the days when the old-school music hall acts of the 1950s dominated programming)are being accused of being child molestors.
'Tarby' (gap-toothed, rotund Liverpudlian comic, Jimmy Tarbuck, improbably called the '5th Beatle') has be charged with being a 'nonce' (ie a child molestor and the most hated word in UK prison slang. In his case, Tarby, is accused of interfering with a young boy, rather than girls which is typical.
Growing up in the '70s Tarby was on Thames TV practically every evening doing his bow-tied, ruffled shirt stand-up schtick - in those days he TV pace was set by a lot of bigotted 'good old boys'. With the unlikely pairing of Bruce Forsyth and Kenny Lynch, Tarby formed a very inferior and piss-poor imitation of the 'rat-pack'. Standard joke, whenever Kenny Lynch performed a tap-dance on stage, Tarby would invariably comment 'the last time you did that it didn't stop raining for 10 days'.
Other fallen idols are Ken Barlow (real name unknown, has done the same drippy part every day for 53 years) and Aussie favorite Rolf Harris.

Warlock Richwine said...

Everything that has transpired has done so according to my design. Your friends in the media are walking into a trap, as is your Gang of 8. It was I who allowed the media to know the contents of my Harvard thesis. It is quite safe from your pitiful little band. An entire legion of my best bloggers awaits them. Oh, I'm afraid the army of Yahoos will be quite prepared when your immigration bill reaches the floor.

Julian O'Dea said...

Can I just throw the point in that "witch hunts" were not, as hbd chick indicated, a feature of mediaeval times. They were more a feature of early modern Europe, and, as Hugh Trevor-Roper details in his book "The European Witch-craze of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries", they were supported by the most learned men of the time.

Just as the most learned men of our time support the modern scholarly form of the witch-craze.

It is not perhaps an absolute coincidence that an institution named after a 17th Century divine should still be rich ground for a good old-fashioned witch-hunt.

eah said...

OT

From Refugee Resettlement Watch , a great and too little appreciated blog:

Rumblings on the Hill are that Speaker Boehner wants a bill,...

And:

One stop I made was to Rep. Michele Bachmann’s office...Her new staff person on immigration is Javier Sanchez...

I guess that's one way you show you're not a racist -- hire a Hispanic staffer to handle immigration matters for you.

Anonymous said...

IQ was a trap to move the subject of the debate from the amnesty killing heathcare costs issue to IQ. You fell into the trap.

Anonymous said...

I keep waiting - wishful thinking, really - for younger straight white people (18-29's) to figure out who the bad people really are. Its not Rush Limbaugh or some elderly lady in the "Tea Party." The Tea Partiers and Rush Limbaugh can't and won't hurt you but run afoul of the liberal academics, the neocon liberal media, the special interest victim minorities - do something, anything that they can use to ruin your life and they will not give up the chance. All your goody-two-shoes "I'm for gay marriage" crap isn't going to help you if these vicious people can use you as a their designated monster.

John Mansfield said...

It takes a lot away from a writer when she refuses to start sentences with capital letters. Such devotion to one's own idiosyncracies against a simple little convention that enhances readers' navigation through the text makes her look like a self-absorbed fool who should probably stick to analysing multi-volume fantasy novels or debating computer programming techniques rather than trying to tell people how the real world works. She sabotages herself with such presentation before even the first paragraph has been finished.

Svigor said...

and they can’t possibly feel threatened from the alt-right, can they? the left might feel threatened by the right on many issues and vice versa, but since almost all of them are politically correct these days, they can’t feel threatened by each other on that count. or do they? i really don’t know — help me figure this out!

Well, they certainly don't fear the alt-right in the boots on the ground sense. But they fear the alt-right in the ideological sense, if they're smart. Race-realism and HBD will pretty well smash the left, if they ever obtain.

Anonymous said...

monothesism

Anonymous said...

This is more like human-hunt carried out by witches(like rubin)

Svigor said...

and they can’t possibly feel threatened from the alt-right, can they? the left might feel threatened by the right on many issues and vice versa, but since almost all of them are politically correct these days, they can’t feel threatened by each other on that count. or do they? i really don’t know — help me figure this out!

Well, they certainly don't fear the alt-right in the boots on the ground sense. But they fear the alt-right in the ideological sense, if they're smart. Race-realism and HBD will pretty well smash the left, if they ever obtain.


A feature of actual witch hunts though is that the 'witches' normally have not done what they are accused of having done. AFAICT Richwine has done exactly what he is accused of having done. In this way it more resembles the hunt for Heretics in order to maintain religious Orthodoxy.

Agreed. Which answers hbd chick's question rather neatly: the inquisitors fear having their orthodoxy overthrown and replaced with a new, incompatible one. They fear the spread of heresy.

Anonymous said...

HBD Chick is awesome. I don't know where she came from, but what a gem.

Beta male spotted.

Anonymous said...

You know, I can't help but wonder if this Richwine affair ends up backfiring on the pro-immigration crowd. We've been told that the connection between Race and IQ is
not something we are supposed to think about, let alone discuss in public. Richwine and the rest of the Heritage crowd understood this, and certainly never would have raised the issue on their own. It took someone digging up dirt in the form of Richwine's Harvard thesis for it to come to light. The left thinks the public crucifixion of Richwine will send a stern warning that the topic of Race and IQ is absolutely taboo. However, there is one thing they overlooked:

People are now thinking about it.

People who may never have thought about it otherwise are now having it thrown in their face so that it is otherwise impossible to ignore. They may hem and haw in agreement, but perhaps a seed has been planted deep in their minds and sooner or later they will come to the conclusion that Richwine was right.

As Steve has said, what goes unspoken eventually goes unthought. Perhaps the pro-immigration crowd should have taken this to heart. If they had left well enough alone, far fewer people would be occupying their thoughts with the topic of Race and IQ.

Anonymous said...

Re: "I keep waiting - wishful thinking, really - for younger straight white people (18-29's) to figure out who the bad people really are."

I've been waiting for exactly the same thing with my own generation
(30-40s) to do the same.

I hope you don't have to wait as long as I have...

pat said...

I suspect that at least one cause of witch hunts in Europe was the reality of serial killers before police were well organized enough to catch them.

If you live in a village and someone of the villagers is butchered in a spectacular way the way many serial killers do, what are you to think? You know personally everyone who could possibly have done it. Yet everyone seems as normal as say -Ted Bundy. The only explanation must be that they are periodically possessed by the devil or they turn into a beast under the full moon.

We know that some serial killers remain undetected for years. Even modern police forces with computers and polymerase chain reaction machines can't find them.

This kidnapper Castro acted in such a way that who could blame the peasants if they came after him with torches and pitch forks.

As for Papua New Guinea which is now well known to all literate Americans because of Jared Diamond. They don't seem well enough organized to mount a hunt. They certainly never fashioned any tool as sophisticated as a pitch fork. They seem to kill one another for no reason at all.

Albertosaurus

Whiskey said...

The Salem Witch trials were fairly well studied. They started with accusations of witchcraft by young, low status girls, against older women without family and powerful protectors. The accusations grew and grew, as the accusers gained more and more power. Until they accused the wife of the Governor of Massachusetts of Witchcraft. At which point the accusations stopped.

As such, the classic witch hunt is a measure of power. Hunting witches gives the hunter POWER. REAL Power. Power to destroy people. That power is always in conflict with existing power structures. The Witch-hunt against Richwine is simply the power of marginal media figures to become feared and powerful. The dynamic is that the accusations are made against those without power to make the accuser think twice.

No witch trials occurred in the Backwoods. Amongst the Scots-Irish. Why? Because everyone was related to everyone else, and willing and able to feud endlessly. Arms, independence, clan-relations? No witch-hunts. Witch hunts DEPEND on plenty of targets without allies to defend them and PUNISH accusers. This means weak tribal groups; like stone age primitives, or atomized Westerners. It is a feature of traditional tribal/clan societies seeing the erosion of clan-protectors via modernity/technology: Indonesia, PAkistan, and Nigeria come to mind.

The answer to witch-hunts in America is to PUNISH by informal protection networks accusers. Punish severely.

Julian O'Dea said...

When I studied Anthropology, the first year it was offered at the Australian National University, in 1974, a lot of the tutors and lecturers had done their field work in Papua New Guinea.

Sorcery is endemic in Papua. I remember being told of a tribe in which there is essentially no belief in natural death. All deaths are presumed to be due to sorcery.

There are probably few "witch hunts" as such. Most of the sorcery would be done on an individual basis, with experts consulted.

To see a really sophisticated witch hunt, with large-scale panics and piling-on, you would have to go somewhere truly exotic, like North America.

ben tillman said...

That's the best contribution Whiskey's ever made to this blog.

Sideways said...

As mentioned, this is burning a heretic, not a witch.

Dr. Phillip Barbay said...

Chick might do well to invest in a copy of Strunk & White. Since she didn't feel it was important to write orthographically and succinctly I didn't deem it important to finish reading her post.