LONDON, ONTARIO distinguished itself once again this week as a prime producer of one of the more meaningless forms of discourse which makes communication such an unadulterated pleasure in this golden age of bullshit; the ventriloquistic apology. You doubtless know the asinine drill by now: a ‘woke’ dignitary of the present day expresses his or her regrets for the past behavior of some other person who has never expressed regret for that particular behavior. It doesn’t even matter if the original designated offender is dead or alive. And if they are still emitting a pulse – as was the case two and a half years ago for mayor Matt Brown’s presumptuous apology for what he regarded as the gross moral insensitivity of his mayoral predecessor, Dianne Haskett (you can read all about that shabby bit of chicanery here: Matt Brown is a Very Sorry Mayor Indeed) – it isn’t deemed necessary to obtain a designated offender’s permission to apologize on their behalf.
The delivery of third person apologies is a particularly decadent form of linguistic art which our dependably smarmy prime minister likes to indulge in every chance he gets. And, quite mystifying to me, true believers of the Liberal persuasion find this apologetic shell game a meaningful exercise in corrective right-think. Indeed, it apparently fills their hearts with a virtuous glow to hear Blackie McSparkle-Socks apologize on behalf of the country-at-large. True, all those apologies make Liberals feel worse about living in a country that is so obviously riddled with bigotry and malice. But far more importantly, they feel ever so much better about themselves . . . for a few minutes at least.
It’s interesting to observe that our dreamy PM works a psychologically devious variation on this ruse whenever he is required to apologize for one of his own misdeeds which has come to light; such as the groping of a female reporter or the repeated donning of blackface. When he actually has to apologize for his own behavior, then his grubby little issues are magically transmogrified into systemic problems that the entire country has to atone for. It’s a neat little trick of transactional flimflam which is examined in some detail here: Projecting His Sins Onto the Populace.
London’s latest bogus apology was delivered in a press-release this week by Western University president, Alan Shepard, in response to the Final Report of the campus’ Anti-Racism Working Group, which he himself commissioned. According to a Global News report, the Anti-Racism Working Group (ARWG) was struck, “in the wake of a high-profile incident last fall involving a student who was subjected to racist emails after she raised concerns over a professor's use of a racial epithet.”
The prof in question seems to have pulled a Wendy Mesley, dropping the ‘N’ word in a lecture while quoting a black speaker, and this completely freaked out the student who went public with her complaint and got some push-back for being such a snowflake. Global News concludes, “The report's findings suggested that the anti-Black racism the student endured was ‘not isolated or singular in nature,’ but was part of ‘a deeply entrenched anti-Black legacy that remains pervasive — evident to those who live it, but hidden from, willfully ignored, or denied by those who don’t’.”
The 40-page Final Report is a wonderful, state-of-the-art document, which opens with the brave declaration that Western University itself is located “on the traditional lands of the Anishinaabek, Haudenosaunee, Lūnaapéewak, and Attawandaron peoples, on lands connected with the London Township and Sombra Treaties of 1796 and the Dish with One Spoon Covenant Wampum.”
Ah, good to know, good to know. So does the Working Group propose that it is morally imperative for Western to give that stolen land back? Or to cut a really big cheque to pay for it? No, of course not. That’s not necessary. They just say that to establish the fundamental premise which underlies their understanding of Canadian history and Western civilization generally; to whit: White people of British and European descent are mean and grasping bullies who have no right to be here.
But the acknowledgements of our colonial villainy don’t end there. No siree, Bob. Next up is this: “We also acknowledge that these same lands include a history of exploiting enslaved African peoples whose labour was used for the profit of others, who were bought and sold as property, and who engaged in widespread resistance and protests to reclaim their freedom, dignity and humanity. Black Canadians, whose ancestors fled US slavery and the racial persecution of Jim Crow laws, as well as African and Caribbean descendant peoples, are still considered ‘outsiders’ despite their extensive and important contributions to Canadian society. Anti-Black racism continues to inform the country’s institutions, laws, and policies, evident in, for example, immigration and deportation laws that reinforce a deep sense of un-belonging among African, Caribbean and Black Canadians. The legacies of anti-Black racism are evident today in various types of institutional exclusion and discrimination of the type that Western seeks to remedy.”
That certainly is a peculiar idea of "remedying" racial strife which they've concocted up there on campus, artificially stoking resentment by inventing grotesque scenarios of enslavement and exploitation that were never countenanced in Canada and completely ignoring the elaborate programs of assistance for blacks that were operational in towns like Wilberforce and numerous other stations along the Underground Railroad that are dotted throughout this region. Of course there were occasions when bad people did rotten things to one another. That's a risk that is always run whenever and wherever human beings congregate. But to paint "these same lands" as a veritable hotbed of entrenched bigotry and racism is hysterical calumny..
The acknowledgements page then concludes with a sweeping round-up of other miscellaneously aggrieved peoples who have yet to be given a fair shake when, for some inexplicable reason, they choose to leave their utopias of origin behind and come to this unparalleled hellhole of a country:
“And we acknowledge that throughout Canadian history, immigrants from many enthnocultural groups have been victimized by various forms of racism, including legalized discrimination, lower pay, harsh working conditions, disenfranchisement and internment. ‘Excluding unwanted immigrants is literally foundational to Canadian identity,’ writes Michael Fraiman, ‘while blatant xenophobia, through the decades, has been codified in law and policy at the expense of the Irish in 1847, the Chinese in 1885, the Sikhs in 1914, the Jews in 1939, the Japanese in the 1940s and the Haitians in 1973.’ Today, members of Muslim and Asian communities and other racialized people are among those most commonly subjected to prejudicial and exclusionary behaviour. Regardless of their race, ethnic background, ancestry or religion, we recognize and value the right of all Western students, faculty and staff to pursue their studies, scholarship and work in a safe, respectful, inclusive and welcoming environment."
Oh, we're a despicable country, all right. Thank God we have an institution as immaculately splendid as Western to rub our noses in all of our crimes - past and present, imaginary and real - and show us the way to a glorious new future where nobody will ever feel excluded or judged again. Here is the link if you wish to sample the Final Report for yourself:: https://president.uwo.ca/pdf/arwg-final-report-to-president-shepard-fnl.pdf
But I warn you, it is a long-winded but remarkably undetailed document that does not impress one with the rigour of its findings. In fact, it is downright alarming in its vagary as it credulously builds the harshest of conclusions from a veritable molehill of anonymously sourced accounts of purported acts of discrimination, the vast majority of which, were never reported to University authorities in the first place. It reads like a wispy compendium of subjective impressions and recollections; too filmy and tenuous to serve as the basis from which University policies and procedures will be derived. Just about the only individual who is given a name in all of its 40 pages is Philippe Rushton (1943–2012) so he, of course, is the figure around whose neck Alan Shepard has hung his shoddy apology.
“The Report makes special mention of the research performed by the late Philippe Rushton, a faculty member at Western from 1977 until his death in 2012,” writes Shepard. “For some of his career Rushton pursued work on race and intelligence. That work produced great controversy in several directions: notably heated challenges to the work itself and broad discussions about academic freedom in Canada. The ARWG Report asks me to acknowledge and apologize for the deep harm that has been experienced by many members of the Western community and beyond as a result of Rushton’s work. I do apologize sincerely for that deep harm that has been experienced. I acknowledge how divisive events of decades past can continue to impact the present. And I do so in the hope and conviction that Western has the opportunity to focus on the future, and to participate fully in building a better and more just world.”
When Rushton died from cancer at the age of 68 in April of 2012, I know I was not the only Londoner who was surprised to read in his obituary that he still resided here. I thought for sure he would have fled this town long before that. This once world famous – indeed, many would say, notorious – psychology professor and researcher had earlier discussed his work in very public lectures and debates and happily appeared on mainstream American chat shows hosted by Phil Donahue and Geraldo Rivera. But for the last 23 years of his life, he had been persuaded by his academic colleagues and superiors to keep a decidedly low profile.
Luckily for him he had tenure by the time the controversy hit and though he was repeatedly passed over for promotions and raises and for a period even had to videotape his lectures as his presence in the classroom was deemed too disruptive, he was able to hunker down and play out the remainder of his career at Western. According to a London Free Press report of his death headlined, `Rushton`s ideas died with him`, his once considerable reputation had been so thoroughly expunged that his name drew a blank with the current crop of university students enrolled in the faculty that he once made infamous. So it would appear that the increasingly incessant race-awareness of the eight years since his death, has pulled the once-ghostly Philippe Rushton back into the limelight.
It is small wonder that Rushton kept his head down through the final years of his affiliation with Western. The firestorm of controversy, harassment and demonization that engulfed him in 1989 and into the ’90s must have been perfectly hellish to experience. It all had to do with his researches into genetic and racial differences; a field of study which was suddenly deemed utterly unacceptable.
Always polite and handsome in a bespectacled, Clark Kent-sort of way, Rushton was no slouch as a scientist. He was a Fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Center of Advanced Study in Behavioral Science at Stanford. And in 1988, just a year before he was assailed on all fronts as a racist and a crank, he was the recipient of a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. He authored or co-authored half a dozen books and more than 100 peer-reviewed articles in top flight academic journals.
But all that changed on January 19, 1989. After delivering a 20-minute talk entitled ‘Evolutionary Biology and Heritable Traits (With Reference to Oriental-White-Black Differences)’ at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco, a career and a body of work which had been chugging along in a very promising way was suddenly being vociferously condemned from every quarter; much to Rushton’s obvious mystification.
While his data concerned and accounted for 60 different variables including time of emergence from ancestral lines, IQ scores, social behaviours, speed of physical maturation, fertility, law abidingness and sexual habits, the bit that creeped everybody out was that Rushton was using UWO students as subjects to collect data on brain and penis size. Well, he was a scientist, data had to be collected and Western was where he worked.
Even then-Premier David Peterson got into the act, calling for Rushton to be fired and Ontario’s attorney general of the day instructed the Provincial Police to go over Rushton’s published writings with the proverbial fine-toothed comb to see if they could lay charges against him under the Criminal Code’s hate literature provisions. They couldn’t and didn’t.
In February of 1989, Rushton took part in a televised debate from Western’s Alumni Hall with geneticist and CBC TV-host David Suzuki. In the opening segment Rushton summarized his research on differences between Oriental, Caucasian and Black racial groups and stated his finding – up to 50% of which, he believed, was genetically based – that Orientals were more intelligent and law-abiding and sexually restrained than Caucasians who in turn scored higher in those three areas than Blacks.
In response Suzuki immediately went on the attack, saying, “I do not believe we should dignify this man and his ideas in public debate.” Later in his response, he said, “There will always be Rushtons in the world and we must always be prepared to root them out and not hide behind academic freedom . . . His claims must be denounced, his methodology discredited, his grant revoked and his position terminated at this university.”
Suzuki’s heated and personal denunciations won him lots of easy applause but could hardly be said to have contributed to the debate intellectually. Indeed, Rushton inspired one of his very few (and far more restrained) rounds of applause when he began his answer to Suzuki’s outburst with the words: “That is not a scientific argument.” But whatever support Rushton may have had with that crowd in its opening segments, was washed away by the emotional tides which the obnoxiously self-satisfied Suzuki conducted like Moses at the Red Sea.
I don’t believe it was bad science that derailed Philippe Rushton’s career. Rather, it was political correctness which was just then starting to achieve its pernicious and censorious prominence as a woolly, self-administered contraceptive that works against the conception of knowledge and truth. Rushton’s findings were never disproved so much as they were suddenly deemed too socially dangerous to tolerate. Nor do I believe that his ideas died with him but perhaps academic freedom did – the freedom to gather data in certain sensitive areas and speak freely about those findings.
In their heart of hearts most people still know that there are measureable and distinctive differences between the races; not absolutely, not always, but generally. Stand-up comedians like Russell Peters build their entire act around universally recognized racial differences. Their routines are only funny because what they say is so manifestly true. And significantly in these last few increasingly censorious years, we’ve seen the thought police start to turn their ham-fisted attention not just on stand-up comics but also on the academic disciplines of STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Like issuing public apologies on behalf of people who don’t feel in the least bit apologetic, it might momentarily feel good to muffle unpopular research in this way but it doesn’t bode well for the future of academia. But then maybe that whole bloated edifice is starting to crumble anyway. Scott Galloway, professor of marketing at the New York University Leonard N. Stern School of Business, predicted this week that he expects to see up to half of the USA’s 4,500 universities pack it in over the next five to ten years as they struggle to recover from the ruptures caused by the Batflu pandemic which have done much to fatally expose the flaws of higher education. “Students across America, along with their families listening in on these Zoom classes, are all beginning to wonder what kind of value, or lack thereof, they’re getting for their tuition dollars,” he said.
Rushton wasn’t a touchy-feely guy and like so many who toil in the vineyards of science, he could often seem emotionally obtuse; incapable of reading the signals of people who found his researches upsetting. Once, in defending the value of his work, he made the rather curious assertion that, “Unless one is a religious fundamentalist and believes that man was created in the image and likeness of God, it is foolish to believe that human beings are exempt from biological classification and the laws of evolution that apply to all other life forms.”
While I guess there might have been some wildly ignorant, God-crazed crackers who took offense at his researches on such fundamentalist grounds, it has been my observation that it is not those religious believers who uphold the sanctity of every human life who found his researches threatening. The ones who couldn’t bear to hear what he had to say were those who really believed that the sort of measurements he was taking and tabulating were indeed the ultimate signifiers of any life’s value.
If you would like to contribute to the ongoing operations of Hermaneutics, there are now a few options available.
THE AQUINAS LECTURE
G.K. CHESTERTON AND THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE
ALL LIFE IS A GIFT :
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRADITION :