a loaded question

when i gave a shot at analyzing the witch-hunt against jason richwine, i said that nearly all of the elements of a classic witch-hunt were present afaict, but i didn’t have an example of “use of the loaded question technique.”

now i’ve got one, provided by jason himself in his excellent article in (above all places!) the national review – “About That Dissertation”:

“I don’t apologize for any of my writing, but I deeply regret that it was used to hurt my friends and colleagues at Heritage. Seeing them struggle on account of me was the most painful aspect of the whole ordeal. I remember a particularly difficult moment when a Heritage spokesman went on Univision to defend the Heritage report. He explained, accurately, that I was just the number cruncher for the study. Here’s the question he was given by the host:

“‘So you’re telling me that you used the numbers from a man who has written that Hispanics have a low IQ and will have a low IQ for generations. So what makes you think, unless you agree with that premise, what makes you think that his numbers are sufficiently good in order for, for them to be included in your study?’

“How can anyone respond to a question as absurd as that one?”

exactly. and, of course, no one is meant to respond to such an absurd question. that’s the whole point.

anybody who puts a question like that to someone is doing so for the exact same reason that other witch-hunters pose loaded questions, for example these papua new guinean witch-hunters:

“Janet, you drank the blood from your husband, when are you going to give it back, so that our uncle can have his life again?”

the aim is simply to illustrate the “guilt” of the witch or crimethinker involved and to shut down rational discussion entirely (if rational discussion was ever an option in the first place).

witch-hunts — whether looking for “actual” witches or religious heretics or even political witch-hunts (and, yes, that includes the mccarthy hearings, too) — while they may vary in the particulars, are all fundamentally the same thing: a method of delineating the boundaries between the in-group and the out-group — between what is acceptable behavior and what is not. they are freakish events, and terrorizing, because they generally occur at moments of crises, so you never know when they’re going to rain down on your head (that’s what the historians/anthropologists have concluded anyway – see previous post and/or Meaning and Moral Order: Explorations in Cultural Analysis, pgs. 114-121).

witch-hunts serve the same function as other normative rituals like weddings and funerals, superbowls and fraternity hazings: to demonstrate for everyone who’s IN and who’s OUT — and what you need to do to be IN. jason describes this perfectly in his article:

“The furor will soon pass. Mercifully, the media are starting to forget about me. But a certain amount of long-term damage to political discourse has been done. Every researcher who writes on public policy over the next few years will have a fresh and vivid memory of how easy it is to get in trouble with the media’s thought police, and how easy it is to become an instant pariah. Researchers will feel even more compelled to suppress unpopular evidence and arguments that should be part of an open discussion.


the witch-hunt is just an emergency version of society’s bonding rituals. (note that they can obviously also be used and manipulated for political ends.) my question still is: what is this emergency that the politically correct crowd is feeling these days?

read jason’s entire piece here: “About That Dissertation.”

previously: “to disbelieve in witchcraft is the greatest of heresies”

(note: comments do not require an email. d*mn witches!)


  1. Who is the politically correct crowd? The politically correct crowd are the creative class, the elite, the only people in America that have benefited from the economic history of the last 30 years. You know, Charles Murray’s Belmonters and super-zips.

    What makes these people uncomfortable? Realizing that they are privileged elite who does not think, act, or have the same priorities as the rest of America. They are an upper caste and at this point in the game it is getting really hard for them to keep up the delusion that they are not.

    Prejudice is for the most part a lower class thing. Same with bigotry. And anti-immigration sentiment. These are not things good people should believe in – but so many Americans do. But it can be tolerated in the underlings; but from another member of the elite – one that went to Harvard?

    No, that cannot be allowed.

    America has a politically system designed to distract from the huge disparities in power and wealth between the superZips and everyone else. But the tipping point is near. People are occupying wall street and setting up tea parties; the man on the street feels no trust for those above him.

    Our elite feel very, very insecure. They cannot stand it when one of their own sounds like a prole.

    What better situation for a witch hunt could you have?


  2. “the witch-hunt is just an emergency version of society’s bonding rituals.” spot on:)
    another loaded question throughout (comedy) history “are you still beating your wife?”
    the culturally PC TV world must have briefly fallen down on the job, & the attacks/witch hunts are so that people don’t notice the man behind the curtain. apologies to another old saying: witch hunts will continue until morale/PC-ness improves. cheers!


  3. In addition to delineating in-groups/out-groups, I think there’s another element to the Richwine Witchhunt: using Richwine as a sacrificial scapegoat in order to atone for collective guilt. White leftists are plagued with guilt. They use two-minutes hate sessions—witch hunts—not only to separate themselves from out-groups but to ameliorate and purify themselves of guilt through the ritual separation. Isolating the individual who has sinned and scapegoating him is essentially an operation to isolate and remove that which brings guilt onto the entire collective.

    Self-flagellation only works so much sanctification. Burning a real witch is so much more effective at purging guilt from the collective.


  4. There are two separate discussions: the socio-political discussion, which revolves around “What is the acceptable answer?” The scientific-logical discussion revolves around “What is the answer that has the best evidence to date?”

    Neither side can win the other’s argument. If you get into this argument, the best thing you can do is to get the other person to see there are two arguments. There is absolutely nothing else that can be done until that is accomplished.


  5. Dear HBD*chick:
    I agree with W.H. Regnery,
    that “Right ” should defend Richwine. On the other hand, Richwine is not an angel.

    I spent about 10 raw hours of reading Richwine’s dissertation, and read it in full.
    Chapters 1 through 6 are excellent;
    they contain very serious analysis of IQ in general and
    of IQ for particular cohorts of immigrants.

    I learned something that I did not understand previously;
    namely, that different IQ tests may have different g-loading,
    and potential relevance of this to Flynn-effect.

    Chapter 7 is called “IQ Selection as Policy,” pp. 123-134.
    On the bottom of p. 126 he writes:
    [ … ] For purposes of this discussion, it is sufficient to say that philosophers have identified both the welfare of the nation and the welfare of potential immigrants as important considerations. Intuitively this conforms to how most Americans view immigration policy. They want a policy that helps themselves, helps other Americans, and helps foreigners, each to varying degrees.
    I [i.e. Richwine] propose the general principle that conforms to that desire. The US should first define exactly what it wants for itself from its immigration policy. Then, design a selection system that meets those goals, while still providing substantial benefits to potential immigrants. In mathematical terms, the US should maximize the welfare of its immigrants, subject to the constraint that the selection system meets the country’s own goals. Literally optimizing this abstract objective function is probably not possible, but it is a worthy ideal to work toward. [ … ]
    So, he forgets about the preamble to US Constitution (hat tip to Sailer) ,

    “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    Nothing is said in the “Preamble” about welfare of immigrants, and everything about
    “ourselves and our Posterity”.

    The rest of Richwine’s Chapter 7 is in the same style:
    the principle is “US should maximize the welfare of its immigrants,”
    while “the country’s own goals” are considered only as
    “constraint that the selection system meets …” !!!

    I wonder if Richwine’s wife considers the principle of their family life as
    and the family own goals just as the “constraints” ?!?

    Besides that, in his desire to invite about 1 million of sub-Saharan Africans with IQ greater than 115 [top of page 131]
    he pretends to have never heard about the notion of “regression to the group’s mean”.


  6. Text of Richwine’s dissertation:


  7. […] and the nature of witch-hunting: – “to disbelieve in witchcraft is the greatest of heresies” – a loaded question – why human biodiversity is true…and why jason richwine is right – something’s rotten in the […]


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