Showing posts with label H.L. Mencken. Show all posts
Showing posts with label H.L. Mencken. Show all posts

Friday, November 04, 2011

Fact check this!

Mollie Hemingway at Get Religion throws a red-card on the Washington Post's attempt to (a) treat opinions as facts and (b) run interference for Margaret Sanger.

Yesterday we looked at the Washington Post’s “fact check” about Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger’s support of eugenics. In that fact check, Sanger’s distasteful views were contextualized and she was put forth as a “racial pioneer.” What’s more, the person who mentioned her racism was labeled not just a liar but the worst kind of liar.

Not a high point for the already questionable newspaper practice of opining on a given topic and labeling it “fact checking.”

Keep in mind that in addition to the several quotes of hers to this effect that I showcased yesterday (in such obscure newspapers as The New York Times), there are countless others that opponents of eugenics have trouble with. But note the sophistry in’s analysis:

Cain isn’t the first to believe that birth control advocate Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) wanted to stop the birth of black babies. Just do an Internet search and see what happens. Sanger made more than her share of controversial comments. But the quote many point to as evidence that Sanger favored something akin to “genocide” of African Americans has been turned on its head.
Remember, all of that explicit talk about “racial hygiene” and “cultivation of better racial elements,” “a cleaner race” and “the solution for racial … problems” does not back up Cain’s statement. And it has nothing to do with wanting to stop the birth of any black babies. Just trust us on that, OK? It just doesn’t. We can’t explain it right now, but you really have to trust us. We’re “fact checkers.”

But I’m more interested in the last sentence. The “fact checkers” say that the quote “many” point to as evidence that Sanger favored something akin to “genocide” has been turned on its head …

Did you see what they did there?

Rather than address whether, as Cain said, Sanger talked about preventing the increasing number of poor blacks by preventing their birth, they created something altogether different to argue against! We’re no longer discussing whether Sanger talked about preventing black babies from being born and now we’re talking about an isolated quote. One that’s been picked precisely to argue the point that the eugenicist Margaret Sanger isn’t nearly so bad as her critics say.

This means the fact check is devoted to parsing a quote that Cain never even talked about. Seriously, how do they know Cain was referring to that? They don’t. (That quote, by the way, is “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”)

Please also note that despite specifically saying that Sanger didn’t call for “genocide” of blacks, he gets tarred with the allegation anyway. also had trouble finding anyone on the planet outside of a Planned Parenthood affiliate to discuss the reality of Sanger’s eugenicism. But they did find several Planned Parenthood folks to defend Sanger. And they were sure to put those folks’ quotes throughout the piece. This may tell us a lot about what attitudes on abortion are like in a newsroom but that’s not fact checking so much as writing a press release for Planned Parenthood.

And then had the audacity to say that it was Cain who offered an “alternate version of history.”
The disturbing truth is that prior to World War II the best elements of progressive, liberal American society accepted the idea of eugenics, and the proposition that eugenics should be implemented, and the further proposition that "strenghening the human race" meant getting rid of defective strains, i.e., Negroes, Jews, Southern Europeans, Irish, etc., with the easy confidence that they presently accept global warming as an established fact.  Read H.L. Mencken's "The Philosophy of Nietzsche" for some matter of fact tributes to racism, eugenics and Darwin. For example, H.L. Mencken - the darling of skeptics and freethinking progressives - had this to say about the "negro question" -

This doctrine brought down upon Nietzsche's head the pious of all the world's humanitarians, but empiric experiment has more than once proved its truth. The history of the hopelessly futile and fatuous effort to improve the negroes of the Southern United States by education affords one such proof. It is apparent, on brief reflection, that the negro, no matter how much he is educated, must remain, as a race, in a condition of subservience; that he must remain the inferior of the stronger and more intelligent white man so long as he retains racial differentiation. Therefore, the effort to educate him has awakened in his mind ambitions and aspirations which, in the very nature of things, must go unrealized, and so, while gaining nothing whatever materially, he has lost all his old contentment, peace of mind and happiness. Indeed, it is a commonplace of observation in the United States that the educated and refined negro is invariably a hopeless, melancholy, embittered and despairing man.
Mencken, Henry Louis (2008-01-02). The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (Kindle Locations 2361-2368). Evergreen Review, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
Mencken's attitude was very modern, very progressive, and was supported by the very best science -

Again, Nietzsche got the law of natural selection from Darwin, and with characteristic daring, gave it a universality from which Darwin shrank. ((4)) In his later years he was fond of berating the English biologist, but the fact that he was a Darwinian cannot be disputed. The superman, indeed, is the crowning stone of the pyramid rising from the ultimate protoplasm, and truncated today at man.

Mencken, Henry Louis (2008-01-02). The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (Kindle Locations 3555-3558). Evergreen Review, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
And who did Mencken and Nietzsche blame for impeding progress?  Why Christianity, of course -
Nietzsche saw all this clearly as early as 1877.((20)) He saw that what passed for civilization, as represented by Christianity, was making such an effort to defy and counteract the law of natural selection, and he came to the conclusion that the result would be disaster. Christianity, he said, ordered that the strong should give part of their strength to the weak, and so tended to weaken the whole race. Self-sacrifice, he said, was an open defiance of nature, and so were all the other Christian virtues, in varying degree. He proposed, then, that before it was too late, humanity should reject Christianity, as the "greatest of all imaginable corruptions," and admit freely and fully, that the law of natural selection was universal and that the only way to make real progress was to conform to it.

Mencken, Henry Louis (2008-01-02). The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (Kindle Locations 216-217). Evergreen Review, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
 And does that put a different spin on Mencken's puckish role in the Scopes Monkey Trial or what? 

Particularly when you consider that Mencken cited Nietzsche approvingly for his condemnation of Christianity's purported opposition to "science," which in the 1920s meant "race science" -

Nietzsche pointed out further that everything which makes for the preservation of the human race is diametrically opposed to the Christian ideal. Thus Christianity becomes the foe of science. The one argues that man should sit still and let God reign; the other that man should battle against the tortures which fate inflicts upon him, and try to overcome them and grow strong. Thus all science is unchristian because, in the last analysis, the whole purpose and effort of science is to arm man against loss of energy and death, and thus make him self-reliant and unmindful of any duty of propitiating the deity.

Mencken, Henry Louis (2008-01-02). The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (Kindle Locations 1975-1979). Evergreen Review, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
And then consider this last bit as eerily sounding more than a bit like a certain German politician who would rise to fame at around the same time -

The Jews. - For the Jewish slave-morality which prevails in the western world today, under the label of Christianity, Nietzsche had, as we know, the most violent aversion and contempt, but he saw very clearly that this same morality admirably served and fitted the Jews themselves; that it had preserved them through long ages and against powerful enemies, and that its very persistence proved alike its own ingenuity and the vitality of its inventors as a race. "The Jews," said Nietzsche, "will either become the masters of Europe or lose Europe, as they once lost Egypt. And it seems to be improbable that they will lose again. In Europe, for eighteen centuries, they have passed through a school more terrible than that known to any other nation, and the experiences of this time of stress and storm have benefited the individual even more than the community. In consequence, the resourcefulness and alertness of the modern Jew are extraordinary.... In times of extremity, the people of Israel less often sought refuge in drink or suicide than any other race of Europe. Today, every Jew finds in the history of his forebears a voluminous record of coolness and perseverance in terrible predicaments - of artful cunning and clever fencing with chance and misfortune.

Mencken, Henry Louis (2008-01-02). The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (Kindle Locations 3276 -3285). Evergreen Review, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
The conjunction of racism, eugenics and Darwin were progressive and scientific.  Progressives may not like that fact, and they are entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.
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