Reading Vox Day So You Don’t Have To

“Cuckservative: How Conservatives Betrayed America” – Vox Day (and John Red Eagle) pitches his version of racial nationalism

Warning: this is long and deals with some extreme political views that many people will (should) find confronting. Also, I waffle a lot. The good news is that it is shorter and cheaper than buying Vox Day’s book.

Introduction

In earlier posts, I have discussed the intellectual gap in the modern US right. With the Cold War gone the capacity for the right to define itself as the opposite of whatever it was the USSR was doing has gradually evaporated. Neo-Conservativism enjoyed a brief moment in the limelight and then systematically discredited itself in poorly thought-out military adventures. While the libertarians, objectivists and anarcho-conservatives either grew up or discovered that their views had very limited appeal – the conservative constituency they attempted to recruit was only interested in rolling back some frontiers of the state and quite keen on rolling other frontiers further forward.

Along with this lack of direction, conservative debate found itself mired by two streams of ideas. Firstly the importance of evangelical Christians and Biblical literalists in the Republican heartland meant that political debate within US conservatism had to take creationism seriously – or at least not be too overtly critical of it. Secondly, industry pressure to limit the impact of medical and environmental legislation meant that cherry-picked hyper-scepticism was applied to a wide range of scientific issues – most notably in recent times global warming & climate change. Together, this led to a form of conservatism in which evidence-based reasoning was inherently suspect.

Meanwhile, the culture war turned into a series of political defeats, wedge issues like same-sex marriage have lost traction and demographic changes in terms of ethnicity and urban/rural divides are changing the electoral landscape. Lastly, the substantial economic malaise that befell America and the world as a result of the Global Financial Crisis has created an atmosphere of distrust of capitalism.

So it is both sad and unsurprising to find the US right (or at least part of it) turning back towards extreme nationalism (something which sadly in Europe never really faded and which is enjoying its own resurgence). One side of the phenomena is the apparently unstoppable rise of Donald Trump – although his apparent popularity is probably highly limited. Other aspects include fear-mongering about Syrian refugees, increased anti-Muslim rhetoric among a range of politicians and to this pile we can add the failed-Hugo coup leader Vox Day.

Vox Day’s previous 2015 political work was ‘SJW’s Always Lie’ – notable for accidentally having two chapter fives, brilliantly satirised by Alexandra Erin as an outlet for Vox Day’s obsession with SF and Hugo Award-winning author John Scalzi. ‘SJW’s Always Lie’ was emblematic of the unintentionally clownish side of Vox Day. It was an easy book to laugh at and when not dealing with Mr Scalzi was just the usual complaints of the internet’s alt-right about all the people who disagree with them. While the modern left is as confused and fractious and factional as it has ever been, it isn’t lacking in the capacity for at least sections of it to engage in critical reasoning. The left mocks itself more effectively than the modern right can and criticises itself more effectively than the modern right can.

Vox Day’s new target is in a much less healthy state. With the modern US Right vague about history, hyper-sensitive to criticism, paranoid about relevance, lacking philosophical underpinnings and almost actively at war against critical thinking, it is not a robust state to handle even a relatively flimsy attack from within. While much that has been said in recent weeks about Donald Trump has been overblown, what has been noticeable is the inability of the rest of the Republican Party to articulate what is so very wrong with Trump’s views. However, there are some signs that parts of the Republican party are beginning to do that but it requires them to break some of their self imposed taboos – such as the recent use of the term ‘fascism’ by people associated with Jeb Bush’s campaign towards Trump.

I was in two minds about reading Vox Day’s book. The obvious downside is that it requires pushing some money his way (and for a slim volume, it isn’t cheap); added to that is the well-known adage about feeding trolls and lastly the issue of whether even a critical review is simply giving somebody with extreme right-wing views even more of a platform. Worse, as the book is a right-wing (arguably fascist) attack on modern conservatism, am I going to find myself having to DEFEND conservatism in the process of critically examining Day’s book? On the other hand, Vox Day is already a repeated topic of this blog, I’ve linked to his site multiple times, the guy apparently has money to burn on vanity projects, and I am genuinely curious about pathological aspects of ideology.

So here I go – into the world of ‘Cuckservative: How Conservatives Betrayed America’. Reference to text from the book are given as locations within the first Kindle edition.

Foreword and Front Matter

First of all, I should note that I don’t know who John Red Eagle is. The list of authors lead with his name but there is no author biography in the book or on the Castalia House website. Which bits of the book are his and which Vox Day’s is not clear – although some parts (such as Chapter 7’s arguments against Ricardo & Comparative Advantage) mirror things Vox Day has written before. The only info in the book is that it is implied that he is Native American and in the Chapter 3 section on the ‘Warrior Gene’ we are told:

“One of the authors, John Red Eagle, comes from a family where the 3R variant is common, and for several generations some of his family members have had histories of hot tempers, confrontations, and violent physical fights, while others have never been involved in anything of the kind.” (loc 725)

Which I suppose is something in the way of biography. At other points of the book (e.g. see loc 2372) the text suggests only a single author. On Vox Day’s blog, he has made reference to people doubting that John Red Eagle exists but I can’t see any particular reason why Vox Day would invent a co-author. From what I can gather from here http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2015/12/cuckservative-initial-responses.html the odd domestic-story analogies that are used in the book are indicative of John Red Eagle’s style. Anyway, in the unlikely event that John Red Eagle ever reads this review, apologies that you frequently get second billing next to Vox Day – nothing personal, it is just that it is Mr Day’s views I’ve been following and I assume he subscribes just as much to the bits you wrote as the bit he wrote.

Meanwhile, the foreword is written by Mike Cernovich, who is another right-wing internet person. It repeats the basic theme of the book: immigration is bad for the USA and conservatives are ‘cucks’ for allowing it to happen and that they have betrayed America. He also devotes some energy to denying that the term ‘cuckservative’ is racist. It is an extraordinarily shallow argument based on word derivation (the term ‘cuckold’ for a husband whose wife has cheated on him which has since been adopted as a theme in a particular kind of pornography). Aside from whether word derivation is much evidence that a term doesn’t have racist connotations, the real issue is why even bother making an argument. The book itself overly advances an argument for old-school race-based nationalism (and when I say ‘old-school’ I mean including the notion that different nations are different races – i.e. the odd idea that ‘the English’ constitute some kind of distinct breed of human with some collective inherited characteristics) – so why go to any effort to be defensive about accusations of racism? Either way, Mike Cernovich is keen to tell everybody that the term is not racist, which I think neatly illustrates a point I made earlier. Such an argument is trivially rebuffed if you are on the left but Cernovich uses a style of argument that is common on the US right in general – a kind of argument from irrelevant principle. It is easy for me to be dismissive of it but how will people on the right deal with this style or argument when applied internally?

There is an added danger here for people on the left reading a book like this – a danger of taking delight in the tables being turned. Having put up for years with odd non-sequiturs and dysfunctional logic from the right in general, there is an element of schadenfreude in watching Republicans/ conservatives having to deal with the same irrationality (such as GOP candidates trying to deal with Donald Trump’s impossible promises and bizarre leaps of topic). However, as I’ve suggested, the US right is now poorly equipped to deal with this kind of nonsense and hence more malignant forms of right-wing thought may gain greater ascendancy.

What we do get here are the first hint of the three bogeymen of fascism: betrayal, Bolsheviks and bankers. The theme will reoccur throughout – the book is not just a standard xenophobic complaint about immigration but a claim that immigration is a betrayal of America by conservatives.

Prologue

The book starts in earnest here. After a survey of all the world’s immigrant-related problems with an air of mounting crisis (lots of references to Europe, Syrian refugees etc) it points a finger at blame at establishment conservative politicians and finishes with a plea to think of the children.

“It is, like the cuckolded husband, to raise the children of another man instead of one’s own sons and daughters. It is cuckservative.” (loc 149)

Where we are expected to see ‘the children of another man’ as immigrants. Whatever the derivation of the term, it is silly not to see that it is being used to generate fear of outsiders as well to impugn the masculinity of (presumably) heterosexual male conservatives. Eagle & Day are attempting to troll conservatism in general while invoking the theme of a historical betrayal. Subtle this isn’t.

Chapter 1. The Myth of the Melting Pot

I became worried that this book would take forever despite its short length, as I waded into Chapter 1. We begin with an attempt to look at the views of the US ‘Founding Fathers’ on immigration and it  is really, really difficult to care. Having no particular views on what their views may have been and as I’m unclear as to what actual conservatives think the views of Jefferson et al. may have been, it is next to impossible to concentrate. Of course, this is an unfair criticism in so far as I’m not the intended audience. Maybe these bits are palpable hits on the body of conservatism or maybe they are damp squibs. I think the claim here is that the founders of the US were quite reactionary bigots by modern standards – can’t say I disagree but I’m not going to double-check.

Speaking of double-checking, the text finally gets us to the twentieth century and some data! The argument is that the myth of the ‘melting pot’ is a myth because many of the people who emigrated to the US in the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries were not people seeking a new life in America but rather people whose hearts were still in the native countries. To do this we are told about:

“The first comprehensive Federal report on the longer-term decisions of recent immigrants was prepared in 1908,” (loc 288)

….and then presented with this graph.
VDsGraphLoc294
As arguments go, it is self-defeating. The dire warnings that follow in the book about immigration changing the national character or lowering IQ or leading to a Yugoslavian style civil war are all predicated on immigrants STAYING. The fact that many people both historically and now, enter a country for a time and then later return to their countries may be evidence that those people aren’t that interested in becoming permanently American, but it doesn’t suggest that the one who STAYED are equally uninterested in assimilating – if anything it suggests the opposite.

The book then follows up this claim by pointing at the more recent evidence on Mexican immigrant attitudes:

“A 2014 survey by the immigration research group MATT found that of 600 Mexican immigrants to the U.S. surveyed, only 16 percent intended to remain in the United States permanently, while 68 percent said they intended to return to Mexico” (loc 296)

This claim is one of the better-referenced bits of data in the book in that at least there is enough to go on. I assume it is this group http://www.matt.org/ (Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together). Of course, if you follow that link you will find stories on how now more Mexicans are leaving the US than entering (see also here http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/20/us/more-mexican-immigrants-leaving-us-than-entering-report-finds.html?_r=0). What the data provided actually shows is that many immigrants don’t stay and yet the book never deals with this adequately.

But I want to also return to the graph I showed earlier because it illustrates another aspect of this book. There are no references. There are no footnotes, no bibliography, no URLs (except at the end advertising Vox Day’s publishing house) and no simple way of checking the numbers provided. Having said that most of the numbers don’t matter. The first graph provided is an interesting example.

From the text, the data is supposedly drawn from a federal government source from 1908. The data suggests the Gillingham Commission which you can read about here http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/immigration/dillingham.html or here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Congress_Joint_Immigration_Commission_%28est._1907%29 (see, URLs – in an eBook, it is easy to provide references even without footnotes)

The whole report is available and the relevant table (14) is here: http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=umn.31951p00832719i;view=1up;seq=198;size=125

Day’s graph shows eight countries in descending order of rate of return. The original table has about 30 different ethnic/national/language groups. There is no explanation in Day’s book as to why those eight countries were picked out and I assume the reason is that the graph (or the numbers) were taken from some third source that had some more specific point to make. It is odd that Hungary and Finland both make an appearance.

To double-check the source I graphed the same countries:

actualDataDillingham14

The graphs are almost the same except for Italy. However, the difference confirms a couple of things.

  • The source is correct and
  • whoever drew the graph is weak at statistics.

In the original table in the Gillingham report, Italians were split into two groups: North and South. Southern Italy (including Sicily) was/is poorer than the North and had much greater emigration. The return rate for Northern Italians was 37.8% and for Southern Italians 61.0%. If you average those two numbers you get approx 50% as shown in Vox Day’s graph. However, that number is nonsense. To find the correct rate you need to sum the raw number totals for all of Italy for people entering the US and people returning and then calculate the rate. Why? Because there were vastly more Southern Italians in both groups. These return rates are not in the original table and so I assume somebody first calculated the rates and then did the averaging.

Is this a big deal? No. The differences in the numbers make no difference to the argument in the book but then again the other columns which are more or less accurate make no difference either. What it illustrates is that this book is using numbers only for a general effect. Numbers sound convincing but at the very first graph, we find it is poorly sourced, inaccurate and poorly connected logically with the main thrust of the argument.

In this post: http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2015/12/cuckservative-initial-responses.html, Vox Day and John Red Eagle have answered criticism of their lack of footnotes.

Vox Day: “The only people who actually need the footnotes are those who are attempting to undermine the arguments presented in the book by disqualifying the source data. Red Eagle and I simply made their task more difficult by denying it to them. If you want to cite a source, then cite our book. That is sufficient.
But perhaps my chief reason for not providing my sources, which are, of course, impeccable, is my experience with TIA. Simply because I cited my source, many people who read the book took my original arguments and credited them to the source, who, ironically enough, made precisely the opposite argument in the face of the data they had collected.”
John Red Eagle: “This isn’t an academic treatise, it isn’t a book report we’re submitting for approval and critique by authority, and it isn’t a defensive, plaintive rearguard work in the cuckservative style. We’re on the attack. Let the lefties and cuckservatives be on the defence. Let them impotently quibble and whine about us failing to cite our sources. Let them do their own homework if they want to argue or nitpick, and let them be the ones who try to qualify themselves.”

Yup, footnotes are for sissies it seems but also I suppose it provides Vox and his co-author with some cheap labour. I just wasted several minutes tracking down that data and finding links and re-graphing it. Now I’m good at that sort of stuff but do I really want to spend my days tracking down all of the numbers used? No, apart from anything else it means Vox Day’s critics end up providing the missing footnotes! Will some of the data be wrong? Probably, based on the first example but it won’t really matter because the data is just being used as window dressing. The data from the Gillingham report doesn’t actually help Day’s argument and even if it said the exact opposite he could just adapt his argument in the other direction. If immigrants don’t stay then Day can argue they aren’t sincere about becoming American and if immigrants do stay then Day can say are trying to invade – and in fact, he will say both either way.

This is not a book based on data-driven arguments or evidence-based reasoning. It is polemic. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t look for other errors, because that in itself can be entertaining.

Chapter 2 Magic Dirt

In this chapter, Vox struggles with socioeconomics, geography and categories just not behaving the way he wants them to. Although Vox is not a Catholic he subscribes to the same pseudo-scholastic reasoning that I covered in my review of Edward Feser. This style of reasoning only overtly accepts syllogisms as a valid form of logic but naturally, nobody can really get very far on syllogisms alone. Syllogistic reasoning needs nice, neat categories and as a consequence people who follow the scholastic style can struggle with anything that involves complex categories or categories with fuzzy borders or categories (e.g. ‘sports’) based on a sequence of family resemblances.

The other part of this style of reasoning is causality. Aristotle offered a complex and interesting notion of cause with four different perspectives, which attempts to deal with the ‘why’ of an event or a thing. While interesting and multilevelled, Aristotelian causality does not cope well with events having multiple causes, or propensities or environmental conditions.

So we have a chapter devoted to a giant straw man. A major thrust of Vox Day’s argument will be that national characteristics are effectively genetic. In this theory, England is how it is because it is full of English people and, America is sort of like England primarily because of all the people who were descended from English people. Not just generic modern English people who might (like myself) be somewhat Irish etc but some ideal mix of Anglo-Saxoniness that makes you just that bit more likely to think the Magna Carta was a good idea, think common law is a good basis for a legal system and just generally be into that sort of thing (e.g. Appendix A loc 2691 “The whole Magna Carta, limited government, Rights of Englishmen and all that sort of thing is totally and utterly foreign to the European immigrant populations that came in the later waves.”)  Put like that it not only sounds absurd but it sounds primitive even by the standards of racism. So to give his position a fighting chance Vox build a straw man alternative. His alternative (of which only Vox’s old fashioned national racism is apparently the only other choice) is the Magic Dirt theory. This theory (which nobody holds overtly) is that it is the physical nature of the country that creates national character. So under the Magic Dirt theory, England’s soil exudes Englishness out into the people that live there and so the people become more English. Under Magic Dirt, new immigrants will likewise be turned into English people.

Note, I’m not joking. This is what this chapter is about. Demolishing a stupid theory that nobody (I hope) believes in the hope that people will accept an almost equally stupid alternative. To this end he even manages to unintentionally make the straw Magic Dirt theory look marginally credible by stating some false things:

“The important lesson to be learned from this brief historical summary is that nothing about the geography, nothing about the British Isles themselves, or about the pre-existing political institutions of the native inhabitants dictated what culture would eventually survive…” (loc 482)

Nothing about Britain’s geography influenced the culture? Nothing? Well certainly not everything was affected by geography, perhaps very little, but nothing? Really? Not even that Britain is an *island*? No, living on an island isn’t going to magically turn people into self-deprecating writers of excellent TV comedy (pick your British trope here) but it is absurd to claim that geography had no impact on British history and hence British culture (and hence English, Welsh, Scottish culture and neighbouring Irish culture). Does geology make people keen on a National Health Service? Nope, but the availability of coal deposits definitely helped the Industrial Revolution.

Geography and environment matter and they play *some* part in historical and cultural development. So does economics. So does a bunch of historical contingent stuff and just plain old accidents. Might genetics play a part? Possibly – e.g. Queen Elizabeth I was a redhead and red hair is more likely in the British Isles than is Italy. Does it have an obvious influence on ‘national character’? No, or at least nobody has shown it and probably never will.

Of course, here we hit another left-right difference. Economics affecting culture and vice-versa? A commonplace idea for most people but once you start heading rightwards…well that is a notion a bit too close to the person who most famously asserted the notion of economics and culture and social-class, Mr Karl Marx.

So while this chapter is an exercise in choosing between absurdities it illustrates the intellectual trap the right is in. If it isn’t all that lefty sociological stuff that shapes culture ten what is it? Can the right simply declare ala Margaret Thatcher that there is no such thing as society? Perhaps Thatch could but in a climate in which Republicans must proudly stand for American values it is hard to simply deny the existence of culture altogether – particularly when conservatives want to do indulge in the softer forms of Islamophobia.

Chapter 3. DNA and the Breaking of the Blank Slate

Some years ago, not long after it was released, I read The Bell Curve by Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein. I wasn’t impressed but then I was young and left-wing and perhaps in denial. I read it again recently and I found it had got relatively a lot better – not in terms of the fallacious reasoning it employed or in its erroneous conclusions or distorted world-view (I guess I still am just as much of a leftist) but in how much better written and argued it was than what was passing for right-wing thought this century. The Bell Curve is a weak book but it is a towering work of integrity compared to what passes for intellectual debate on the right now.

In this chapter, the authors go on a tour of various pop-science links between genes, behaviour and ethnicity. Geographic/ethnic distributions of height, skin colour etc. plus the usual examples of genetic differences e.g. lactose tolerance, sickle-cell anaemia, long-distance running. There is a specific focus on the monoamine oxidase-A gene and the variant on it sometimes called the ‘warrior gene’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monoamine_oxidase_A#Aggression_and_the_.22Warrior_gene.22) which has been linked to aggression and appears to have different frequencies of occurrence among various ethnic groups. While some concession is made for individual differences (see the loc 725 quote from earlier) naturally there isn’t much in terms of the interaction of genes and environment.

From there we get a graph of supposed national IQ levels as a simple column graph. Naturally, it is unreferenced but I assume it is Richard Lynn’s cobbled together comparison which used different tests administered in different ways to differently combined groups and sort of smooshed them altogether. However, with IQ Vox feels like he is on firmer ground as there is evidence of IQ being significantly heritable. This notion will help form the theory promulgated by the book that immigration lowers IQ but we’ll get to that in time.

From Lynn, it is a simple step to The Bell Curve (loc 781) which the authors praise. They steer well away from Murray’s conclusions about social class, even though this was a big part of the book i.e. that societies will cluster themselves into social class based on IQ. Day’s book wants to make an appeal in part to the white working-class of America and pitching his theory on the basis that class is even more genetically deterministic than the national character wouldn’t go down well. Does Day believe that I wonder? Maybe, but a corollary of Murray’s theory is that the rich are rich basically because on the whole, they are smarter and that they are smarter because of their genes.

4. From Conservative to Cuckservative

This chapter starts with a weird, rambling analogy around some MRA fantasy about a psychotic woman and a ‘milquetoast’ man. Turns out the psychotic woman is meant to be the left and the man is conservatism or something. It is very odd.

The rest of the chapter is a sort of historical survey of post-war conservatism. The takeaway message is the conservative establishment have been pushing marginalising the people with the will to do something about the left. You can safely skip this chapter without missing any of the guts of the argument. It is primarily a lead up to the next bit in which the first of the three b-bogeymen of fascism appear: betrayal!

Chapter 5. Fifty Years of Failure.

This book is an extreme nationalist fable and like any such fable, it needs the infamous villain known as the stab in the back. How else can the best country in the world (which ipso-facto has the best people in the world in it based on the theories presented in the book earlier) have failed at anything? How can things be bad when Americans are inherently the best? This is the conundrum for the would-be Donald Trumps who offer to ensure American wins again. The answer is the country must have been betrayed and hence there has to have been an act of betrayal.

“That change was the Hart-Celler Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.” (loc 1088)

The Hart-Celler Immigration and Nationality Act was a change in the way the US practised immigration. Basically, the rules became less arbitrary and immigration was opened up to a wider spread of nations. The changes in rules meant that more immigrants would come from places other than Europe but, as the authors concede, European emigration was changing as living conditions improved.

However, to the authors, this is the central pivot of their story. Weak conservatives letting liberal change immigration policy which in turn reshaped America. We get the reveal of Vox Day’s national IQ theory:

“But without question the worst effect caused by 50 years of failure, and the one most likely to have the most severe long-term consequences, is the negative effect immigration has had on the collective national intelligence. Researchers around the world have observed that the nations of the West have been gradually becoming less intelligent; the Danish military measured a 1.5 point decline in the average IQ of its soldiers between 1998 and 2014, while the average British 14-year-old lost two IQ points from 1980 to 2008. The same is true for the USA, where a three-point average IQ gain that took place after the Melting Pot migration ended has been entirely reversed as a result of immigration from lower-IQ nations.” (loc 1299)

This is a newer variety of the dysgenic theory of changes in intelligence based on the notion of intelligence being a simple inheritable trait. The older version went that as people with lower IQs tended to have higher birth rates and the better educated (hence higher IQs) had fewer children, society overall would show a dysgenic effect – average IQ would drop. This never happened, which rather ruins the whole story and should make a rational person question the premise it is based on. However, the basic numbers in the quote aren’t wrong. A couple of studies have found some evidence of a levelling off in what is known as the Flynn Effect. The Flynn Effect is the apparent improvement in IQ scores that can be discovered by looking at relative scores over time. In either case, the studies are attempting to wrangle data out of instruments poorly designed to do cross-comparisons. IQ tests are designed to provide a comparison of an individual against a notional population against which the test has been normed. Using it for other purposes is a bit like using a thermometer as a barometer – there are ways to do it but unless you are both clever and careful you are probably not going to get useful information. Day here has to make multiple connections based on weak or flimsy evidence and in each case ignore the multiplying errors.

From here the argument continues into chapter 6.

Chapter 6. The Madness of Open Borders

We start with another story. It also rambles.

So the authors have posed this dysgenic threat – immigration will make our national IQ go down they warn. This continues in this chapter but is mixed in with the classic immigrants will take our jobs claim.

“In just one very recent example, favourable immigration treatment for tech workers, bolstered by the H-1B and other temporary visa programs, has allowed the technology industry, including tech giants Intel, Microsoft, and Qualcomm, to fire tens of thousands of American employees and replace them on American soil with recently imported foreigners for far lower pay.” (loc 1414)
“Moreover, the vast majority of immigrants today are coming from nations with an average intelligence level that is considerably lower than that of the American citizenry, in some cases more than a standard deviation lower.” (loc 1427)

So, let’s assume the Vox Day theory of IQ is correct, what could we infer? Well if it was correct then IQ would be closely tied to a person’s specific genes. In addition IQ (according to The Bell Curve) relates closely to academic success and even general job performance. People tend to marry partners of similar education and so their children should show limited regression towards the mean (i.e. they might not necessarily be smarter than their parents but they aren’t likely to be much less smart). Put aside for a moment whether any of this is true, but instead just assume that this much is correct.

Now consider immigration. Vox Day cites above that immigrants might come from countries with “an average intelligence level that is considerably lower” but so what? This is an average of a numerical variable which is assumed to be normally distributed not a simple on/off quality. Immigration is not a random sampling of a given population and so the average IQ of a nation has no necessary relation to the average IQ of immigrants from that nation. Furthermore, if Vox Day is right about the highly deterministic genetic nature of intelligence/IQ, then that variability of IQ in a nation won’t be reflected in individuals – if you are smart then according to the theory it will be because you have smart genes.

Immigration isn’t easy, so in consequence, immigrants tend to not be people with severe intellectual disabilities. That isn’t a hard and fast rule but on average, immigrants from a given country have disproportionately fewer people from the lowest end of the IQ distribution. Skilled migrants, such as the people in the scare story about H-1B visas and Microsoft would be from a higher than average IQ section of the whole population. Regardless of what nation they came from the net effect would be to boost the average IQ of the receiving nation. If you aren’t sure about that, imagine importing Chinese basketball players and the effect on average height.

Vox Day doesn’t just want a quasi-scientific genetic IQ theory, he wants it to also act as a kind of national miasma as if educated IT workers from India bring not only their own brains and their own genes but some kind of infectious low-Indian-IQ cloud. Or more likely it was just another scare story to add to the mix. The whole doesn’t need to add up to a coherent model but rather a big bunch of scary.

Speaking of scary, we’ve only had one of the three B-bogeymen, betrayal. Where are the other two? Oh, here they come:

“And so it seems that utopian leftists and libertarians, the most cynically realist business interests, and ever eager-to-please Cuckservatives are all in agreement that it would, on the whole, be better if you, Mr. American Worker, made less money and faced a lot more recently imported competition for your job.” (loc 1575)

Betrayal by Bolsheviks (aka utopian leftists) and Bankers (cynically realist business interests) – it is the trifecta. Vox Day may be many things but he isn’t ignorant or stupid or poorly read. He is self-aware enough to know that he is doing a kind of flirtation with fascist rhetoric – a kind of applied trolling to ideological debate. What the point of it is I don’t know. Pretence? A kind of wind up to make people call him rude names or an actual dalliance with fascism? It doesn’t really matter – it is the ideas that are the problem rather than the unknown motives of the man pushing them.

Chapter 7. Immigration and Economics

Speaking of which, one of the key fascist economic principles was the notion of autarky or national economic self-sufficiency. I don’t know if Vox day adheres to that notion but he does flirt with it. In this chapter, we are treated to Vox Day’s anti-Ricardo argument and his anti-comparative advantage argument. You can get the general gist from his blog http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2015/07/the-illusion-of-knowledge.html

From about location 1735  onward there is an attempt to make a statistical argument against the economic benefits of immigration that fails to take into consideration other economic factors in play.  Later (loc 1765) he criticises the paper “Are Immigrants a Shot in the Arm for the Local Economy?” (National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 21123, April 2015 by Gihoon Hong and John McLaren.) for cherry picking economic conditions. However, the paper at least gets a reference, so well done. For acknowledging that immigration might not be the only relevant parameter for a paper he disagrees with but ignoring that for his own analysis – not so well done.

Chapter 8. Immigration and War

This chapter  is really more filler. It treats historical invasions and population movements as ‘immigration’ in the same sense as modern immigration. It covers a range of historical population movements before an inevitable focus on Islamic history. Surprisingly the section on Islamic history is not as gob-smackingly awful as I was expecting. Is this just because I’ve read so many half baked, confused and just plain wrong accounts on the internet that Vox Day’s attempt seems less bad? I don’t know. Maybe he just doesn’t like to get his history wrong as much as John C Wright does – I can’t say. There is even this observation:

“Saudi oil money is why Salafism, a relatively minor branch of Sunni Islam that professed by only 4 percent of the Muslims in the Persian Gulf compared to the 23 percent Sunni minority and the 73 percent Shia majority, is growing explosively in the West. This fundamentalist form of Islamic orthodoxy, also known pejoratively as Wahhabism, is not only professed by most of the jihadists from the older groups, but is also the ideological fuel behind the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, better known as ISIL or ISIS.” (loc 2085)

Day is almost in danger of speaking what would be heresy on the far-right but he catches himself before he goes too far and still manages to mutter darkly about Islam in general.

Chapter 9. Christianity and Cuckservatism

Even more filler. Christians should stop being nice to people because that isn’t what it is all about.

Chapter 10.

Phew! Made it to the end! Reprise all the themes from above and lastly close on the big three B-Bogeyman of fascism:

“America is under ongoing attack from the Globalist Left and the Corporate Right, both of whom have interests that are diametrically opposed to the American national interest” (loc 2487)

Conclusion

Is Vox Day a fascist? I don’t know and don’t care. It is rather like the question I looked at recently as to whether he is a psychopath based on his own claims one way or another. There comes a point where it doesn’t really matter whether he posting these things for cheap laughs, to drum up business, as part of some super-complex master plan that I’m way too stupid to follow or whether he is honestly trying to put together a chimaera of extreme nationalism and libertarianism in a form he could call ‘National Libertarianism” with all the overtones of past ideologies that carry with it. In an interview in Appendix A he says “I would describe myself as a Christian Western Civilizationist.” (loc 2500) and later in the same interview (loc 2545) actually does use the term National Libertarianism.

What matters is whether others take this nonsense seriously and that is what makes books like this poisonous.

22 thoughts on “Reading Vox Day So You Don’t Have To

  1. Well, I’m very glad you read that so I didn’t have to. I did actually read the Amazon sample out of a sort of horrified curiosity, and the “no footnotes because we’re just so right” defence did get trotted out at some point in the part I read. I think it’s because they’re beyond the use of mere single points of evidence, and are relying on some sort of inherent correctness that transcends whether a particular stat is reliable or not, with something something Aristotle to explain it.

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      1. “The only people who actually need the footnotes are those who [would like to determine whether what we’re saying is true or not]”

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  2. Wow. And whoa. I am impressed and thankful for you doing this, and I agree wholeheartedly with your final point that this stuff is poisonous and needs watching (as well as with not caring if this is posturing or what), but, mostly, I’m stunned.

    It’s all incredibly predictable (except for I thought FDR was sure to be the Great Betrayer) and astonishing at once.

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  3. Does VD’s knowledge of history genuinely not extend as far back as the formation of English/British culture and language as a result of a wave of migrations intermingling with native Britons?

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    1. To be fair, he does have a lengthy account of that, of varying degrees of historical accuracy. His point from that being that the people who eventually became ‘the English’ arose out of that combination of people. The implication being that somehow the right blend hit some genetic jackpot which led to a nation with some genetic bias towards a set of values. What he claims is that this therefore disproves his straw man ‘magic dirt’ theory as geography had nothing to do with it.
      I can only imagine VD doesn’t know many English people.

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      1. Yeah that column of JCWs was what I was referring to. The account of Islamic history in VD’s book is nowhere near as bad as that – which is faint praise I suppose. Still the fact that VD promotes historical nonsense demonstrates how irrelevant facts are to his argument.

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  4. Ah, I knew something about this “essential englishness” argument was tickling my memory, and here it is:
    https://popehat.com/2014/10/10/strange-seeds-on-distant-shores/
    Scroll down a bit to the discourse on the English Civil War. This is by Clark@Popehat, their token rightwinger, not any of the amusing legal bloggers. It’s not the same argument as such, but at its core there’s the same belief that English emigration was and still is the defining feature of the creation of the USA. Interestingly Clark and VD occupy similar spaces politically, and are twitter buddies to some extent.

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    1. Sadly despite being apparently very English (or so I’m told) my genes are all horribly Irish. I’ve been letting national stereotypes down all over the place.

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    2. All a bit odd considering how many American’s collect ancestral nationalities like stamps. I should think that would be a strong argument against inherent Englishness forming the national American character. (Besides, aren’t the far right-wingers in the USA still complaining about tea?)

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      1. Even odder considering one of the key US right issues is gun control – and you’d be hard pressed to find a bigger socio-political difference between England (being specific) and the USA than that. Maybe only the people with the anti-gun control gene emigrated to America?

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  5. Camestros

    Thank you! This is your ‘Tale of Two Cities’ moment:

    ‘Tis a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done’

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  6. I hope you treated yourself to something after wading through all that nonsense. 🙂

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