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What makes us hate? A new book on prejudice dresses up common sense as scientific theory

You hate to see it. Credit: A Clockwork Orange via IMDB

You hate to see it. Credit: A Clockwork Orange via IMDB


April 22, 2021   5 mins

Back in the day, I knew a smart, handsome fellow student — let’s call him John. John was a talented musician and great company: the sort of person who’d always make a night at the pub more cheerful. We bonded over our mutual undergrad-philosophy-seminar disdain for religion, but other than his jaundiced view of the Catholic Church, John held resolutely mild-mannered, moderate views on most topics — including politics.

So I remember being surprised when, after falling out of touch, I found he had turned into a hardcore libertarian, of the requiring-driving-licences-is-infringing-my-freedom type. But people go through phases. I was sure it wouldn’t last.

Indeed, John’s views did change. He popped up on Twitter in around 2016, suddenly a huge fan (and emulator) of Milo Yiannopoulos and his flamboyant brand of Right-wing trolling. Grimly fascinated, I checked his page every so often, and over the years watched him become more and more extreme, until there was no further he could go. He was a slavish fan of Donald Trump, before getting disillusioned and attacking the President for “betraying” his supporters. Having previously flirted with the alt-Right, he went all the way, making and posting anti-Islam jokes, then anti-Semitic memes, then straight-up White Nationalist propaganda. Eventually, Twitter banned his account. He seems now to have disappeared (though could easily still be posting under an anonymous account).

John’s journey from milquetoast liberal to foaming-at-the-mouth Neo-Nazi genuinely disturbed me. His profile didn’t fit that of the stereotypical online troll: he wasn’t some asocial basement-dweller who couldn’t make it in the real world. He came to mind as I was reading a new book by Cardiff University’s Professor of Criminology, Matthew Williams. The subtitle of The Science of Hate is “how prejudice becomes hate and what we can do to stop it”. Was there something inherent to John’s brain or psyche that made him a prime candidate for the slide into extremism? Or would the kind of internet radicalisation he clearly received have the same effect on any of us?

After describing his own awful experience of being assaulted by homophobic thugs in London, Williams presents other horrific hate crimes, such as the 2016 stabbing attack at a disability care home in Japan which left 19 dead and many more injured (the perpetrator faces the death penalty). He then digs into the research from psychology, neuroscience, and elsewhere to try to explain the fear-anger-hate-suffering conveyor belt.

The trouble is, a lot of that research just isn’t very good. Although he is at times sceptical of results from neuroscience — the brain is an absurdly complex organ and our best attempts to understand it are as yet pretty primitive — Williams lets his guard down for a whole host of dodgy-looking or now-debunked studies. We hear, for instance, about a study where white people’s brain “fear centres” lit up in a scanner when they were looking at a black person’s face — but only while they were listening to N.W.A. and not Slipknot. This is a silly study for several reasons, not least that it had a mere 23 participants and has never been replicated.

We also hear about the “Macbeth Effect”, where people made to remember one of their past immoral deeds were more likely to think of cleaning-related words on a verbal test and were more likely to wash their hands as they left the lab (just as the eponymous queen washed out the damned spot). It hasn’t held up well in follow-up research, and might not really exist — but you wouldn’t know that from Williams’s treatment of it.

And we hear, similarly uncritically, about the Implicit Association Test, which is widely used to identify unconscious biases in the lab and at work. Williams informs us that people’s culturally-shaped automatic preferences for one race or another on this computer-based test can predict prejudiced behaviour (which might include, he says, voting for McCain rather than Obama in 2008). But a review of all the data from 2019 showed that changing people’s implicit attitudes appears to have little-to-no overall effect on their explicit views or behaviours.

And so on. Williams does cover some better studies on prejudice and hate, but The Science of Hate — and perhaps by extension, the science of hate — is shot through with veins of low-quality, unconvincing research. If so many of our attempts to apply scientific methods to understand prejudice fail so badly — and yet are still written up by one of the UK’s foremost authorities on hate as if they explain a great deal about our behaviour — we’re in trouble.

In the past year, we’ve seen with greater clarity than ever before that we can’t always rely on published scientific research. The problem is not confined to medical studies, like those of Covid-19. The patchwork of highly-variable studies cited by Williams reminds us that, wherever we turn, scientific literature fails to provide us with a sure footing.

This is partly a result of the perverse incentives that pervade science: the pressure that so many scientists feel to publish more and more research, with flashier and flashier results, regardless of how solid or robust that research is. Williams could’ve shown a few more doubts about the studies he cites, but the problem goes beyond him: we should be able to rely on the contents of the scientific literature to help us understand the big questions — it has, after all, been through the peer-review filter. But alas, peer-review fails so often that it’s no longer a reliable signal of quality — if it ever was one.

Interestingly, by the end of his book, Williams appears, at least partially, to agree. “There is no getting away from the reality”, he writes, “that predicting the behaviour of individuals is an imprecise science, full of known unknowns, and unknown unknowns”. Quite. But he then assures us that in the book he’s relying on solid, “state-of-the-art” science — a statement that, given the studies I mentioned above, rings rather hollow.

Having given those caveats, Williams goes on to offer advice on how we might prevent and deal with hate before it gets out of hand. One of the more specific ideas is based on so-called “Terror Management Theory”, a concept from psychology stating that reminders of mortality will tend to make people want to defend their worldview — and maybe lash out at those who are different. On this basis, Williams suggests that to reduce hate we should educate children to better cope with death. But (you guessed it), Terror Management Theory has come under serious fire in recent years when large-scale attempts to replicate its basic tenets failed.

So much for that. What about Williams’s other solutions? They include: questioning our instinctive, stereotyped thoughts about other people; putting ourselves in other people’s shoes; bursting our filter bubbles; and always reporting incidents of hate that we encounter. These are good ideas. They’re also common sense. A scientific study is hardly going to conclude that reinforcing our stereotypes is the best way to reduce prejudice. But, as Williams notes, most of these solutions will only work on “suitably motivated people”. Try telling the aforementioned John to put himself in the shoes of the Muslims he’s berating online. Try telling him to emerge from his filter bubble when he believes that a worldwide Jewish conspiracy controls the internet.

Of course, a list of common-sense ideas for dealing with hate doesn’t hurt, but one does worry that the “scientific” framing ultimately devalues the science itself. If you were always going to come up with those same recommendations, but pretend (or convince yourself) that you arrived at them through scientific investigation, it raises some fairly serious questions about the point of all that research. It risks reducing science to a mere prop: something that can be used to buttress pre-existing beliefs and commitments, but which you’d never really think of using to question them. This “conclusions first, research later” approach is, of course, a long way from the ultra-sceptical, disinterested ideal of science.

There’s a clichĂ©d way to title an academic paper that begins with “Towards
”. “Towards a dynamic theory of strategy”. “Towards controlling of a pandemic”. It’s intended, I think, to emphasise that the research is far from final, and is merely a stepping-stone on the way to a larger theory or a more solid answer. Perhaps Williams’s book should have been titled Towards a Science of Hate, since — on the basis of the research he cites — there is not, yet, any solid scientific explanation for what goes so tragically wrong for people like John.


Stuart Ritchie is a psychologist and a Lecturer in the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre at King’s College London

StuartJRitchie

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Alison Houston
Alison Houston
3 years ago

What is ‘straight up White Nationalist propaganda’? And why is it the end point, the final example of what it is to be downright hateful? Are white people not allowed to love the nations in which they live, and the culture and traditions and historic arrangements thereof ? Why not, why should such sentiments only be permitted in people with certain levels of melanin in their skin? Are white people not allowed to prefer their own ethnic kin, what about Jewish white people? Are they allowed to prefer other Jews and have a country where only Jewish people can live? Is that white nationalism? Or are Jews ‘black’? (like Jesus, according to the arch cretin of York)

Are elderly people in working class communities, in cities, who have become members of a tiny minority in their old communities, surrounded by Arabs and Asian and African Muslim immigrant young men, members of violent drug dealing gangs, who express horror at the breakdown of law and order and society and the disappearance of their own people, members of this group of beyond the pale, intolerant white nationalists? Does their desire for their own cultural heritage and religion, and their worry for the safety of their granddaughters on the streets make them members of this hateful group, whose ideas must not be allowed to be expressed on the internet? Why are you so intolerant, so embarrassed of your own people, so screwed up, so teenage, so determined to abase yourself and your own people before their detractors?

It strikes me that it is you who is full of one sided hatred, born out of a total lack of imagination, a total inability to put yourself in someone else’s position, a total lack of sympathy and an inability to turn an idea upside down, inside out and back to front and see if it still holds water, not ‘John’.

Last edited 3 years ago by Alison Houston
michael stanwick
michael stanwick
3 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

There appears to me to be a muted bias to this piece that shone through in such phrases as “… watched him become more and more extreme, until there was no further he could go. He was a slavish fan of Donald Trump,…”.
Perhaps my interpretation is off but this reads as if Trump were some degree of political extreme. That would have to be grounded in argument, not just asserted.
Further, mention of personality studies, gender differences and differentiated and undifferentiated thinking, relating to political predilections would have been helpful.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago

The author said Williams asked us to question ‘our instinctive stereotyped thought about other people’ -but then uses the Trump example himself, so he seems trapped within his own group-think. There is also no evidence that supporting Trump or Brexit or other what journalists call far-right ideas leads to the intolerance he describes-indeed one of the groups he mentions has suffered attacks from the far-left.

Jon Walmsley
Jon Walmsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

There is a stark difference between loving your own culture and people and distrusting and hating others for being different from that same culture and people. One does not have to follow on from the other, the difference being that of empathy. You don’t have to be a self-avowed ‘Nationalist’ of any stripe or colour to love your own culture and feel more integrated into that culture than you would living in another necessarily – that is basic human tribal nature – but nor do you have to consider your culture ‘superior’ or close out other cultures and people for being different – that is the lack of imagination you speak of, and which today is often marked as a form of ‘tribalism’.

Ironically enough though, it was those early human tribes that were the most open to outside influences from other tribes – the sharing of technology, crafts and techniques, the inter-mingling of religious beliefs and cultural practices, and the inter-marriage and eventual merging of whole peoples and territories – that ultimately led to the first agrarian civilisations that are the ancient basis of the modern world we live in today. Granted, not all this ‘sharing’ was so peaceful in nature we can fairly assume, as this is also where the utility of war – to gain what your opponent has via conquest and absorption – first emerged, but nor is it reasonable to suppose that early human advancement was based purely on war either, as our own complicated human interactions likely indicate.

Still, in other words, separated human tribes would not have been able to grow and prosper without inter-mixing whatever the cause. Indeed, as we better understand today, all cultures are mixing pots of many sources across historical time and geographical space; the ultimate myth is that of ‘cultural purity’ and this myth is certainly not exclusive to any one race, nationality or religious group today.

Even so, the main reason White Nationalism today, whether as a more insidious brand of organised cultural supremacy in different forms or, more broadly and benignly, a form of basic cultural identification, is nonetheless anathema to many politically and socially, whether warranted or not, has to do with essential socio-historic trends. Namely, that White cultures exerted their power over and above other cultures and races for at least two centuries if not more, driven by a particularly Christianised missionary zeal to ‘civilise the natives’.

Changing attitudes however, brought on by an unprecedented period of lasting peace and socio-economic development, not to mention tenfold increased cultural mixing via immigration across the world at large (but particularly in the West) has led to a re-examination of that previously predominant ideology of White Supremacy that for centuries dictated the goings-on in the world vis a vis the Western world powers (and still has its pervasive influence in the halls of power today, make no mistake).

This ongoing transformation of what is essentially human social consciousness, that has been taking place across millennium – away from isolated tribalism identifying with only one segregated human group to something more inclusive, more integrated, more worldly – continues to be a messy process, with no guarantee of success or surety it will work given the increasing complexity of human societies, and mired in a litany of problems today, especially polemical politicking, fears of cultural diminishment or dislocation, and the waving of many identitarian pitchforks, as cultural and civilisational attitudes clash in the public forum that has become global in scale.

Who knows where this process will lead us truly; you’d have to be a liar to pretend you knew otherwise, but one can certainly dream that human beings will learn they are more than just their individual identities, group cultures, or even animal species – they are the world and the world is them. I think we can at least be thankful that, for the most part (exceptions prove the rule), these most recent clashes have taken the form of verbal battles or that of smaller-scale tensions and incidents across cultural lines, as opposed to the far more devastating forms of outright war and destruction on a large scale
for now at least. Never bet against human nature.

Last edited 3 years ago by Jon Walmsley
Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Walmsley

‘White’ is not a nation, nor a nationality. There’s no such thing as “white nationalism”, except in the internazÂĄ left’s unhÂĄnged imagination. 

organised cultural supremacy

The wha?? Tell me you’re writing a parody
.

previously predominant ideology of White Supremacy that for centuries dictated the goings-on in the world

Unmitigated ÂĄgnorant drÂĄvel. The concept of “whÂĄte supremacy” – or in fact any race theory / ideology – is a pretty recent idea.

Last edited 3 years ago by Johannes Kreisler
Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago

“The concept of “whÂĄte supremacy” – or in fact any race theory / ideology – is a pretty recent idea. ”

And that should dispose of the frequent assertion that e.g. Martin Luther was ‘anti-Semitic’ on grounds of race. He wouldn’t have had the foggiest idea what that meant, as there was no such pseudo-scientific concept at his time. What he meant by ‘Jew’ was ‘practitioner of Judaism’ i.e. by definition an heretic vis-Ă -vis Christianity. Nothing to do with ‘race’. Not at all attractive of course, but not ‘racist’. A Jewish convert would have pleased him greatly.

Last edited 3 years ago by Arnold Grutt
Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Correct, Grutt.
Likewise, ‘transatlantic slavery’ wasn’t a racist deed but a mercantile endeavour. “Race” and “racism” were not concepts at the time. In fact by the time such concepts were beginning to form, the abolition of slavery was the first obvious thing to happen, due to the emergence of said theories.

Last edited 3 years ago by Johannes Kreisler
Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
3 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

To me the article was NOTHING to do with your comment . The way I read it, it was cautioning against those attempting to understand the concept of hate , purporting it as a science. It’s a human behaviour and there is much to understand about human behaviour and to label it as a science with a definite conclusion would be a mistake. Your comment is a total non sequitur to the article.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago

Yes I am not quite sure why people have got so worked up. A largely irrelevant point to the rest of the article.

Sheryl Rhodes
Sheryl Rhodes
3 years ago

Your point is well-made; the article is mainly about a particular book’s attempts to use junk-science to support its thesis. However, there’s a problem when the author’s chooses to exemplify the problem of “hate” in the personage of his old friend “John” and that’s why there is so much push-back in the comments.
First of all, I didn’t see a good definition of “hate.” Perhaps the subject is actually something like “what drives people to hold extreme positions wherein their entire worldview is centered on animosity towards other groups of people.”
Secondly, the author seems to assume that any trend to the right in a person’s thinking is self-evidently a change for the worse—it’s all just a matter of how “hate-ey” the person will become. John’s interest in Milo Yiannopoulos, of all things, was viewed as a “grim” development; the first step on that slippery slope.
Perhaps we should have a hate-rate system, similar to the Scoville system of ranking the spice-heat of hot peppers. We could base it on “Milos.” Remaining silent on the subject of Yiannopoulos puts you at a “1” on the scale—silence is violence, as we all know. Silently thinking something positive about him puts you at 100 Milos. Actually becoming a “fan” of Yiannopoulos earns you a rating of 100,000 Milos.
Voting for Trump? That’s a Habanero Chili-pepper level of hate, probably 1,500,000 Milos.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Sheryl Rhodes

Brilliant.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Sheryl Rhodes

Love the Scoville hate-scale…
I read the John story as a fairly light-hearted segue into the main topic.
True he doesn’t define hate – but he’s talking of a book titled “The Science of Hate”, and the flawed science behind its assertions. That is the focus, not on defining hate himself. Indeed he ends; “there is not, yet, any solid scientific explanation for [it]”

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

Perfectly said, Alison. 100+ upvotes.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
3 years ago

Oh, shut up! Why is it that I always hear some of the most hateful people on the planet shouting “love trumps hate?” It’s the same old “Oh, I’m so morally pure and intelligent. Anyone who opposes me must be stupid and evil.” Ritchie wants to lecture us on conspiracy theories. How about the one where the United States was supposedly controlled by a secret white nationalist, fascist government for four years? What about the pundits and politicians who make statements about “reeducation camps” for half the country? I am not stupid. People say outrageous things all the time. The problem is that there was a distinct lack of rebuke towards the people who said these things. Hardly anyone on the left denounced these insane statements. How about across the pond? Everyone who voted for Brexit was some racist Neanderthal. I do not even have to read right wing propaganda to know that I am considered evil incarnate for believing in freedom of speech, owning guns, border controls, the United States as a nation state, and thinking woke pop culture is annoying. I can just read or watch any number of left-wing outlets. Vox, Slate, The New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, Medium, The Atlantic, the list just goes on and on.

Last edited 3 years ago by Matt Hindman
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

Eventually, Twitter banned his account. He seems now to have disappeared (though could easily still be posting under an anonymous account).”

Hi Stuart, long time since I heard from you, things are going fine pretty much, ended up moving to central Alabama, married with 3 kids now, bought a Double wide, am playing in a Bluegrass Band called ‘The MAGA Hats’. Anyway, WWG1WGA, and have a good day, loved those old days in the pub.

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

That’s pretty damn funny. Nice one.

Saul D
Saul D
3 years ago

The absence of doubt seems to me to be an issue that plays out online in particular. Someone writes a comment online and then feels like he/she has to defend it furiously because it can’t been seen to be wrong – when sometimes a mea culpa would be more appropriate.
Unfortunately, all our education teaches us that if we just think about things in the right way, we must be correct, and that there are ‘right’ answers, and demerits for being wrong. Real life is often heuristics, hunches, guesses and a bit of luck versus misfortune. A little bit of doubt about our own correctness or the existence of ‘one right answer’ would help everyone cool down.
Of course I could be wrong about this.

Vikram Sharma
Vikram Sharma
3 years ago

A trite article about a trite book.
Nothing has gone wrong with John. He sees the world differently. He dislikes some things. So?
And the silly book makes the childish error that because a brain state on a scan shows something -“area lit up” -it tells anything meaningful about a mental state.
There was the potential for a thoughtful piece here, partly arguing about how debates have become polarised, and partly about the reductionist hubris of pop neuroscience. Instead we get a banal excercise in self -satisfaction.
Best left unherd and unred.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago

What’s with this kindergartener language, “hate”. I hate sugar in my tea or coffee, but i love it in porridge. Betty hates fishfingers. Bob hates to get up early. Etc.
There are myriad words to describe various forms of antipathy, many do not involve ‘hate’. One can be repulsed by, disgusted by, disapprove of, detest, reject, etc. etc. something / someone without hating it.
And even then, ‘hate’ is just a neurological function like all the others (love, sorrow, joy, anger, excitement etc.), a response adequate to external stimuli. There’s no intrinsic negative or positive value attached to hate, it’s just a function. In fact one should be somewhat alarmed when ‘hate’ is not the natural response to certain stimuli, as it may indicate paraphilia. And that can be nasty stuff.

 what goes so tragically wrong for people like John.

Did anything go “wrong” with this John? What, how, where? Going by what’s written about this John in the article, he comes across as a patently normal sane person. It’s not that he went woke or something, now that would be concerning.

Last edited 3 years ago by Johannes Kreisler
Alison Houston
Alison Houston
3 years ago

Excellent comment. John sounds like my kinda guy!

Andre Lower
Andre Lower
3 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

Alison’s comment above – “John is my kind of guy” – betrays a massive clue about hatred: The urge to belong.
People were never as lonely and isolated as we are in this digital age. This feeling of loneliness turns into a feeling of broad exclusion whenever some idea that differs from one’s own gets voiced. Too many people in this mood feel instantly triggered, essentially out of fear of being excluded (have you noticed the closed-loop here?) because of such disagreement.
A scenario like this is ripe for exploitation by irresponsible politicians. It is just too easy: All it takes is a few broad-scope lies (“Mexicans are all rapists”, “The dems want to exterminate american culture”, etc.) to galvanise peoples’ fears into surreal political support. Valid concerns (government corruption, international economic woes, etc.) get quickly mixed up with invented ones (“we need a border wall”) and both suddenly get perceived at the same level.
The dead giveaway is that whenever someone criticizes the absurd concerns, the “converted” instantly change the subject to one of the real/valid concerns, deflecting honest discussion of the manipulation that is magnifying the undeniable issues – the ones that should be discussed (again: corruption, international economic woes, etc).
Once polarization sets in, it is hard to imagine it dissipating. And while polarized, people deem reasonable to direct vile insult to those perceived as “the enemy” (their own compatriots, mind you!), creating a true problem (interpersonal aggression and grievance) that was not there before destructive, inflammatory politicians took advantage of peoples’ loneliness and perceived risk of exclusion.

Last edited 3 years ago by Andre Lower
Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago
Reply to  Andre Lower

People were never as lonely and isolated as we are in this digital age. 

A catchy soundbite, but care to back it up with some credibility? Or may it be just a projection of your own isolation and loneliness?

Andre Lower
Andre Lower
3 years ago

Ask around, Johannes. Formal statistics are not always the best true/false criterion to pull up when discussing feelings. And I am not in the business of twisting people’s arms over statistics.
Mind you, it is OK if we disagree.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago
Reply to  Andre Lower

a massive clue about hatred: The urge to belong.

I don’t think “hatred” has much to do with any urge to belong, let alone a massive one.
Hatred typically boils down to one root, which is envy. If you look at all the genocides – the Holocaust, communism, Rwanda etc. – it’s all about envy. If/when that envy gets collectivised that may appear to you as a communal urge, but it’s just collectivism at work: envy being the primary politics of socialism by any name, national or international.

Last edited 3 years ago by Johannes Kreisler
John Standing
John Standing
3 years ago

Why would any people betrayed and attacked relentlessly by its own own elites, including featherweight, neo-Marxised psychologists called names like Williams and Ritchie, harbour nothing but love for the deeds of their abusers?
Why would any people colonised and replaced by racially alien peoples who have been coerced upon them by said elites and taught by said elites to hate them … would would any people love their colonisers and replacers?
Why would any people accept the hateful charge that their dissent to the above is hate … their preference for kind is hate … their experience-based rejection of the foreign is hate ..?
Why would any man of that benighted people not love his people, have compassion for their unacceptable circumstance, desire freedom for them, and a secure and sovereign existence for their children? What makes, among others, psychologists called names like Williams and Ritchie think they are immoral for rejecting ethnic obliteration on their own beloved soil, and how did psychologists called names like Williams and Ritchie become so self-estranged and alienated, so possessed by a genuine ideology of hate, and so confident in their own obviously fake moral purity?

William Gladstone
William Gladstone
3 years ago

Endless tedious TDS. Completely lacking any sense of self awareness. This guy should ask himself has John changed all that much since university or is it really him? Of course he never will he is full of absolutism and certainty. Still he got money for the article and John’s been driven off social media so he must be the good guy. If feel sorry for John ever wasting his time with you.
Also, social science is not science in any meaningful way and he does a reasonable critique of this however you just know that his solution will eventually be forget all science and trust in me and my “friends”. No thanks.

Last edited 3 years ago by William Gladstone
Colin Colquhoun
Colin Colquhoun
3 years ago

we should be able to rely on the contents of the scientific literature to help us understand the big questions — it has, after all, been through the peer-review filter. But alas, peer-review fails so often that it’s no longer a reliable signal of quality — if it ever was one.”
This is not really true or fair. A scientific sudy is just a piece of evidence. Crucially, it’s evidence written for other experts, not for members of the public. A paper is, naturally, trying to make the best case it can for the most interesting result it can. That’s human nature. Of course the money is going to go to whomever is producing interesting results. But it’s meant to be read by critical experts, not just uncritically believed.
Science works like law, with experts marshalling the evidence on both sides of a case. As far as I can see all human endeavour is like that. Peer review does not end with publication.
Science is in need of reform, but we will never get to the point that you can just read a single paper as absolute truth. That isn’t the aim.
However, If I’m honest, which I am, then most studies involving psychiatry or psychology, especially if they also involve brain scans, are simply worthless. I really do think that.
My job is to develop the brain scanning methods themsleves, using animal experiments. I looked at “Negative stereotype activation alters interaction between neural correlates of arousal, inhibition and cognitive control “.
Honestly I take that paper only very, very slightly more seriously than something I read in the mail or the guardian. That’s unfair of me, but it’s the truth.

David Fitzsimons
David Fitzsimons
3 years ago

Not to mention the replication crisis. Peer review is one thing, being able to replicate the experiment as described in the literature is another.

Colin Colquhoun
Colin Colquhoun
3 years ago

There is a replication crisis because the studies are not very good. Its really that simple.

David Fitzsimons
David Fitzsimons
3 years ago

Sure. But the replication crisis is in the social sciences whereas you seem to argue that all science has the same problem – they don’t.
PS. Science does not work like law. How many lawyers were involved in flying a helicopter on Mars recently?

John McGibbon
John McGibbon
3 years ago

Stuart seems to accept disdain for religion and his ex colleagues view on Catholicism but this acceptance of disdain of religion stops when it becomes jokes about Islam at which point it is described as Alt-right extremism and beyond the pale of acceptance. Why? Should all belief systems not be entitled to the same disdain, if not indeed ridicule? Why can’t Islam be ridiculed in the same way as the mainstream ridiculing of Christianity by say, Monty python’s Life of Brian, without it being described as extremist.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
3 years ago
Reply to  John McGibbon

Perhaps his use of “John” is an attempt to keep his woke students and colleagues from cancelling him. Possibly there ARE jokes about Islam in his social media history and he’s terrified.

Tony Reardon
Tony Reardon
3 years ago

According to the web site “websitehostingrating” there are some 4.7 billion internet users and 1.83 billion web sites. If all anyone does to demonstrate “hate” is to post on-line and expresses admiration for President Trump, etc. then so what? Let’s not forget how many millions of ordinary Americans voted for him. If the posting gets a bit more extreme, again so what?
I would draw a line somewhere at a point where some specific individual was being harassed on-line and, of course, at any physical acts against people or institutions. But if someone wants to put out rants and raves of any sort, who cares – there are millions of web sites to visit and I am sure anyone who might be offended can avoid the few where stuff they don’t like is posted. Unless, of course, they are looking to find “offense”.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Reardon

“and always reporting incidents of hate that we encounter.”

I do not get this. People can think what they want, and some thinking they do not like you and your ilk is fine, deal with it, don’t report it, just ignore it or respond, but do not report things which are not Actual Crimes against property or people. Grow up, you are not in school and reporting a bully (which was not done in my school anyway, Omerta was the code).

Mavka Rusalka
Mavka Rusalka
3 years ago

Many words to discuss something that is never defined. I share the author’s skepticism about the science, but I don’t know what “hate” is. 15 years ago, there was less “hate”, at least in the media. Now it is everywhere. Yet, still no definition

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Mavka Rusalka

I would suggest that “hate” is the opposite of “love”.
If “love” comprises feelings of warmth, tenderness, affection and encouragement, then “hate” comprises coldness, aggression, hostility and destructiveness.
Love creates.
Hate destroys.
The strange thing is though it is not uncommon to feel at times the most hate for those we love.
Maybe we should allow people to have feelings of hate instead of trying to make it illegal, which has ended up making it more likely, not less.

Last edited 3 years ago by Claire D
A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago

Agree with Andrew Raiment here. Most people appear to have stopped reading after mentioning Trump and got in a froth of fury.
I think that we can take exactly what Stuart says for what it is – that John started posting some pretty obnoxious viewpoints after his Trump supporting period (and after that subsequent denouncement).
What follows is a good article about the poor scientific rigour behind Williams’ book.
It’s not science’s fault that psychology is applies it so cack-handedly, whilst simultaneously riding on the coattails of the real science that has enabled us to live in the developed world we currently do.

Mark Preston
Mark Preston
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Most people appear to have stopped reading after mentioning Trump and got in a froth of fury.” – I didn’t stop reading after he mentioned Trump but at that point realised the author shouldn’t be taken seriously.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Preston

Precisely. I was surprised at Trump immediately following the preceding term ‘extreme’ and thought this signalled a political bias.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago

You have not read what he wrote correctly at all.

over the years watched him become more and more extreme, until there was no further he could go. 

He is talking how he went from liberal to far right – becoming more and more extreme along the way. I go back to my original point – you seemed to stop comprehending once you assumed he was attacking Trump as extreme.
Whether the author thinks he is or not extreme is irrelevant to the point he’s making about the scale. Yes we can assume from the style and comments that the author leans a certain way, but it doesn’t distract from the points he’s making at all. Unless you make it so.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

He is talking how he went from liberal to far right 

No, he is not. He is talking about what he perceives as “far right”, from his own subjective perspective. Which perspective constitutes for most of the sane majority as grotesquely far-left. From the extreme left, everyday normalcy looks like “far right”.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Preston

So the only people with views that align with yours can make any valid points? Noted.
That the author may not agree with Trump doesn’t distract from the main points he is making.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

that John started posting some pretty obnoxious viewpoints 

Your personal subjective definition of what is “obnoxious” is just that – yours. It exists in your head and there alone. Many of us may find your viewpoints pretty obnoxious.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago

Also missing the point – Stuart is pointing out that he made anti-semitic and white nationalist propaganda comments. This is independent of the point about Trump.
Since we don’t know what he said, we can argue all day whether it was or wasn’t bad or not as we don’t know. All we do know is John went from supporting Trump, to not, to more extreme views.
Perhaps he should have been clearer, but I would argue it’s our responsibility as readers to assume he just means what he says.
And yes actually, if what he said was anti-semitic and white nationalist – then it is obnoxious. I’ll stand by that no matter how much you equivocate with moral relativism.

Last edited 3 years ago by A Spetzari
Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

I admit i only skimmed the article, haven’t read it through – so i missed the ‘antisemitic comments’ part, and normally i don’t take kindly to antisemitism at all. However, in certain circles, “antisemitism” means being critical of a certain person of Hungarian extraction who himself is persona non grata in Israel. And those guardian columnists who screech “antisemite!!” at Viktor OrbĂĄn e.g. tend to be those who would rather see Israel disappear from the face of the Earth.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago

Completely agree with you on that – it is all too often used like many others (supremacist, Alt-right etc).
I guess my point is that Stuart was making a decent point about the poor science behind a lot of phycology and William’s book, but a lot of people have got wrapped around the axle about his Trump/nationalist description.
I just feel that neither his description nor his personal views on anti-Semitism/nationalism really matter to his main argument.

Last edited 3 years ago by A Spetzari
Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Thanks – and now i’m about to actually read the article (since i finished cooking).
(I have a tendency to be rude – or at least quite harsh – in my comments towards perceived wokery, and my perception is not always correct. In fact it turns out pretty incorrect at time. So my unreserved apologies for any undeserved offence caused.)

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago

On the science:
The problem is not the ‘publish or perish’ pressures, or failures of peer review – though they do not help. It is a matter of what science can and cannot do. Scientists are generally too sure about their own conclusions, but even that is ot some extent built in. The reality is that when you do not (yet) understand something and do not have the necessary data (new diseases, human opinion-forming) *nothing* can be concluded with certainty. The best you could really do is to say ‘our data suggest it is plausible that…’, but people who look for patterns and publish the results canot be taht wishy-washy.

If a field is well understood and 90+% of the practitioners agree, you can rely on the conclusions – but it takes time to get there. By now global warming qualifies. Short of that you have to limit yourself to probabilities (I am 80% sure that), and take into account also conflicting views. And accept that no matter how scientific you are, it can not get around a baisc lack of information or understanding.

Last edited 3 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Colin Colquhoun
Colin Colquhoun
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“The best you could really do is to say ‘our data suggest it is plausible that
’, but people who look for patterns and publish the results canot be taht wishy-washy.”

No. That’s not true. If you actually read these papers, “our data suggests it is plausible” is exactly what they do say, unless the matter is clearer than that, which is quite rare. People word these things in a lawyerly way so they dont get caught out.

Its the media and third parties who present it as harder fact than it is. Its the media and sometimes the public who hype poorly conducted studies in obscure journals, just because they like or dislike the result. Scientists themselves absolutely know that results are noisy and provisional. They bend over backwards to avoid making claims they cannot back up. If you read it carefully thats what you’ll find.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago

I’d say your reply is only half true. People may well ‘word these things in a lawyerly way’, but they do believe what they are writing, and that belief tends to shine through, at least to the extent that each article shows more certainty than the total knowledge of the field would justify. Sure, the professionals have a better appreciation of how uncertain each paper is, and how many inputs it takes before something is settled, but they, too, have their own idea of what they think is correct, without necessarily keeping track of just how uncertain it is.
Examples:

  • The first demonstration of the expansion of the universe, by Edwin Hubble, had several serious errors, and his stellar distances were wrong by an order of magnitude. His conclusions were extensively confirmed later, but is that not hindsight?
  • Early Cryo-EM reconstructions could be biased towards the assumed model, to the point that someone could ‘prove’ that a given protein had the exact shape of Einstein’s head (!), but the published articles did not reflect this uncertainty.
  • In the matter of COVID, professional epidemiologists, Nobel prize winners, etc. have expressed themselves with considerable certainty, so that pretty much any opinion on COVID could find professional scientific backing, if you looked.
  • As for implicit bias tests, it is surely the inventors and practitioners as much as the press who had hyped the potential of the test.

I do not think we can put all the blame on the media. Should we not admit that for things that are still insufficiently understood, there will be lots of self-assured, incompatible opinions even in science (for the media to amplify), and we (and downstream users) would need to have some idea of how settled matters are in any given area, before deciding how much to trust those opinions?

Colin Colquhoun
Colin Colquhoun
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“They do believe what they are writing”

That’s now how it works at all. I’m writing one right now. I am walking around thinking of what to write. What I am doing is building a case. I think it is probably true but it is very complicated and so it is more of a discussion with colleagues than a “belief”. We are trying to work something out. We do get credit if we make a very strong case for an important new idea, but no one “believes” in the way you suggest. Maybe physicists do but life sciences are too messy for that kind of faith. It does exist but honestly not nearly as much as the tv would have you believe.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago

Poor John… Ostracised for having the wrong opinions.

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

John sounds like a very boring person, and one whom I would avoid because his views come across as obsessive. The same way I would avoid people with obsessive woke or left wing views – or zealous adherence to any belief system.
Such people tend to have no sense of humour, and a night spent in the pub with them would very quickly get me snoring into my beer.

jeff kertis
jeff kertis
3 years ago
Reply to  Eleanor Barlow

Hre is a tip for you, it wasn’t John who was boring, or who changed. It was the author who was too deluded to see it.

mark taha
mark taha
3 years ago

When it comes to humour- anything goes. I am basically pro-Jewish but anti- Islamic – the history of the Jews and Israel on the one hand and of Islamic regimes on the other should explain this.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago

As long as someone doesn’t attack anyone else, why should anyone care how ‘prejudiced’ he is? And if he does attack someone, there are already legal processes in place. The ‘prejudice’ is utterly irrelevant.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Precisely.

Mark H
Mark H
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

The problem usually comes with the second generation, people who have been brought up in an environment where all they hear is prejudiced views.
A case in point is 2nd generation Muslim immigrants to the UK.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark H

Are you referring to the views of their parents and the imam at the local mosque or to the views of ‘islamophobes’ ?

jeff kertis
jeff kertis
3 years ago

It’s very likely that John never changed. What ware liberal viewpoints in the 90s, free speech, tolerance, equality, and legal immigration to name a few, are now considered to be hard core right wing beliefs. The author failed to see his metamorphosis from a liberal into an authorataian progressive.

Simon Baseley
Simon Baseley
3 years ago

“Stuart Ritchie is a psychologist and a Lecturer in the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre at King’s College London”
What else did you expect? Would there be anyone on the faculty at KC (or more or less any other University) who, say, voted for Brexit, gave Trump a modicum of credit or doesn’t support BLM? It is an article of faith among academics and especially those whose role is prefixed by any of the words ‘social’, ‘genetic’ or ‘developmental’, yet alone all three that to be left wing is to be on the side of the angels.
As one correspondent commented. There was room for a thoughtful article on this subject. This wasn’t it.

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
3 years ago

It seems that people have only read the first half of the article, ignoring the rest of it. It’s a similar piece to the one Tom Chivers wrote a while back on the quality of scientific research and the difficulty of applying it to psychology.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Raiment

Agreed. I had to scroll back up to see what I missed. I didn’t.

Last edited 3 years ago by A Spetzari
Martin Price
Martin Price
3 years ago

“It risks reducing science to a mere prop: something that can be used to buttress pre-existing beliefs and commitments, but which you’d never really think of using to question them. This “conclusions first, research later” approach is, of course, a long way from the ultra-sceptical, disinterested ideal of science.” That’s the nub of the article right there which has been cruelly exposed in recent months. When the public lose faith in experts, when theories such as “personal truths” become mainstream, where all media use clickbait headlines to stay in business, when politicians stop listening, is it any surprise that some people get anxious or even frightened?

Stacey Bancroft
Stacey Bancroft
3 years ago

The expert ‘debunking’ industry is in full swing, with booksellers’ shelves peppered with popular works claiming to have unearthed ‘science fictions.’ Critical appraisal of science is of vital importance, but it needs to be as rigorous as the good work it defends. While some debunking efforts hit the mark, a few of them are simply misleading, guilty of the very sloppiness they claim to find in their targets. Ritchie’s review here falls into the latter set. Like in his book on the topic, he cherry picks a few areas of study (undoubtedly out of hundreds of cited studies in Williams’ book), on which to hang his unfair negative assessment. Scientific discovery is designed to ‘snowball’, always growing and adding new evidence to fields of study. It doesn’t end, but Ritchie’s criticism bank on there being a definitive ‘truth’ out there that can be found with science. Meta-analyzes help edge us toward these truths, but as in all science, nothing is ever fully proven beyond all doubt. It is therefore simply unscientific and misleading to write off works solely by stating other studies have shown the results to be debatable. This doesn’t mean they are wrong and therefore irrelevant, as Ritchie so blithely claims, just that they cannot be replicated in a few subsequent studies, that themselves may be flawed. No doubt, in the near future studies will be published that support the theories Ritchie slams Williams for referencing uncritically, and the cumulative science endeavour will continue, as it always has. You’d think Ritchie, despite being a junior academic, would know this. Alas he is guilty of the very thing he unjustly criticizes Williams of. Maybe Ritchie let his own guard down in order to serve his emerging local reputation as a science ‘debunker’ (he does have that book to sell!).

Last edited 3 years ago by Stacey Bancroft
Tara Sarka
Tara Sarka
3 years ago

This comment is spot on. Why is this guy writing for UnHerd?!

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago

If WIlliams book contains only solid results and generally agreed theories, it would indeed take more than a few selected results in the other direction to cast it into doubt. If, as Ritchie suggests, the theories are still controversial and a significant proportion of the material is in doubt, that should be enough to demote it to unreliable – until such a time as more evidence is provided.
The criticism may be wrong – but why is it unfair?

Stacey Bancroft
Stacey Bancroft
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

A cursory glance and search of the ebook version shows that Williams does cite many meta-analyzes of prominent theories, indicating their results are solid and generally agreed, although I dare say there are studies that find contradictory results – that is science. There are also large sections that are critical of the neuroscience work (so Ritchie is wrong here, again), a final chapter that takes a critical stance on all the science of hate, and a set of suggestions for stopping hate that are well referenced with established and accepted scientific sources (again, contrary to Ritchie’s assessment). This is why, in my humble opinion, it’s an unfair review.

Last edited 3 years ago by Stacey Bancroft
Stacey Bancroft
Stacey Bancroft
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Since reading more I can also see that Ritchie didn’t do his homework on the points of criticism in the review. On the TMT replication reference, there has been a convincing rebuttal by some of the original authors. A quick glance at Wikipedia summarizes the poor design of the replication study:

“Many Labs 4 failed to replicate mortality salience results in one TMT study. A large scale effort to test the theory[52] failed to obtain support for the mortality salience effect on worldview defense, i.e. a greater preference for an essay writer adopting a pro-U.S. argument than an essay writer adopting an anti-U.S. argument. The test is a multi-lab replication of Study 1 of Greenberg et al. (1994).[23] Psychologists in 21 labs across the U.S. re-executed the original experiment, among a total of 2,200 participants. In response to the Many Labs 4 paper, Tom Pyszczynski (one of the founding psychologists of TMT), stated ML4 “deviated from their pre-registered protocol and failed to mention these deviations” and further “failure to follow their (highly justified) preregistered protocol has led to incorrect conclusions that have become widely publicized and have inadvertently done more damage than good to our common goal of improving psychological science.”[53]”

In addition, Ritchie’s point about the Macbeth effect, that it hasn’t been replicated in a few studies, while true, doesn’t invalidate the original study. Williams actually states in the book, the jury is still out on this research.

Ritchie’s claim about the failure to replicate the prejudiced behavioural outcomes of the IAT seems true. But Williams does state in a footnote that the test is not meant to give a definitive result in one go, and the authors suggest taking it multiple times over months and averaging the score. Also, there are some pretty convincing studies on some prejudiced behavioural outcomes cited in Williams’ book, including variation in medical treatment.

Ritchie’s claim that the ‘silly’ brain scanning study that had a ‘mere 23’ (I imagine this is not an unusual number for a study like this where people’s brains are scanned in very expensive machines) has not been replicated yet doesn’t mean the results are invalid. They are just yet to be replicated – no surprise given few researchers have access to the required expensive equipment! Also, I recall Robert Sapolsky writing uncritically about this study in his book Behave (a fabulous read by the way) – he’s the world’s most eminent neurological scientist based at Stanford.

On Ritchie’s claim that Williams did not base his ‘seven steps to stop hate’ on science (I didn’t like the title of this chapter as it’s a bit ‘self help’) I can’t see how that conclusion was reached. Most of the chapter is based on the contact hypothesis that is a huge area of study in psychology that has hundreds of studies evidencing the value of positive contact under certain conditions for reducing prejudice. It reads like all the ‘steps’ are based on the science cited in the book, much of it confirmed by solid meta-analyzes.

Last edited 3 years ago by Stacey Bancroft
Tara Sarka
Tara Sarka
3 years ago
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago

I do not have time to do all the required reading for this, but take note that there is a solid defence, at least, and I should not assume that Richie is necessarily correct in his criticisms (much as I found them plausible). Thanks for reducing my certainty on this point.
You do sound like you are misunderstanding the workings of science, though. Sure, even if a study involved very few people or has not been replicated, or could not be replicated the first few times it was tried, that does not prove that the result is false. It does mean, though, that the study is pretty useless as a way of providing evidence. If you already think you know the answer, the quality of the study does not matter much (that might be why an eminent neuroscientist could accept a possibly dodgy study). But if you are trying to show something new and non-obvious, it is not enough that it has not yet been disproved. You need reliable evidence, and lots of it. And if a large part of your evidence is from tiny samples or hard-to-reproduce experiments, that puts your theories much closer to the category of ‘unproved speculation’.

Stacey Bancroft
Stacey Bancroft
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I agree with all of that. But it seems Ritchie based his criticisms on there being either i) no replication yet; or ii) replication that deviated from pre-registered protocols (or no pre-registration at all). In relation to the former, yes Williams will need more research to confirm the finding, but in the meantime why should he not cite the original findings as they are? Educated readers, like me, you and Ritchie, will know how to take the findings for what they are. In relation to the latter, the original TMT researchers took the data from the replication study cited by Ritchie, excluded the substandard samples, and actually replicated the original results with the samples that met the protocol. TMT seems like a well established area of study with several meta-analyzes providing support across groups and cultural contexts. So it seems Ritchie’s criticism here (as with some of his others) is invalid. His review just reads like an advertisement for his ‘debunking’ efforts, including the book he released last year. I’m afraid, for me, all things considered, Ritchie’s review is as misleading as the bad science he tries to uncover. You should read Williams’ book and decide for yourself.

Tara Sarka
Tara Sarka
3 years ago

It sounds like Ritchie is spreading misinformation to serve himself at the detriment of others and science itself.

Last edited 3 years ago by Tara Sarka
Tara Sarka
Tara Sarka
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

This

Sidney Falco
Sidney Falco
3 years ago

Yet another sad indication that Unherd is veering towards Medium.com territory, publishing twaddle like this.

Lindsay Gatward
Lindsay Gatward
3 years ago
Reply to  Sidney Falco

Yes Medium is disappointing. Reading their catchy headings does give a further view on how mad and feeble much of the West is becoming to actually subscribe would only encourage it.

Don Gaughan
Don Gaughan
3 years ago

The public education system., including the research arms of the universities, are entirely dominated by the leftwing progressive cult.
Its had been commsndeered to promote the left woke progressive political agenda.
The sciences are deployed to support left wing dogma and its myopic tunnel visions and issues lile systemic racism and climate change.
“Listen to ( our left wing )the scientists” the lefts child icon Greta urges ,as dissenting scientists get muzzled, defamed and cancelled.
When the once respected compendium of Pyschiatric Disorders came out with its Toxic Masculinity piece , almost verbatim from the left feminist political meme, one witnessed the replacemrnt of scientific objectivity with political propaganda.
The articles author describing Johns reaction to the racial scapegoating and persecution of his tribe as ” white supremacist” and Neo Nazi revealed his own woke bias and prejudice, as all moves and acts to defend and preserve ones tribe is natural, except one color , in the eyes of the woke.
We see the injustice and racist malice of the hypocritucal malicious woke left progressive tyranny.Now what are we going to do about it?

Cynthia Neville
Cynthia Neville
3 years ago

Not all who admire libertarians are basement-dwelling, alt-right degenerates. Talk about fuelling hatred – why do woke folk always assume that those who do not share their views must be Nazis, trolls or ‘far-right’ (whatever that means).

Athena Jones
Athena Jones
3 years ago

Hate is sourced in rage and rage is sourced in fear. Fear does not need to be conscious to fuel hatred and perhaps, often is not, hence the power to hate. People tend to hate that which they fear whether as an individual, member of a group or nation.

Last edited 3 years ago by Athena Jones
Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago

Towards … the boilerplate conclusion that “more research is required”. Please send the research grant to …

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
3 years ago

Whether real or fictional ‘John’ .with his equal opportunities hatred of muslims and Jews, seems a useful tool to convince Stuart Ritchie’s students that his heart’s in the right left-liberal place and they needn’t cancel him.

Last edited 3 years ago by Alan Osband
hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
3 years ago

If your mate John was listening to a gay jew (Milo Yiannopolis) he can’t be that extreme. And what exactly is rightwing about Milo Yiannopolis, exactly? Sounds to me like a bog-standard libertarian, but I suppose anything right of Vladimir Lennin these days is the new “rightwing”.

Alex Delszsen
Alex Delszsen
3 years ago

Honestly, I would like a bit more evidence that John is spouting “straight up” white nationalist theory, or is a hater for voting for Trump.
I know you have probably come to this conclusion after hours of thought. I hear Emily Bazelon and David Plotz aurally hand-wringing over not being able to understand this and that…after collecting “evidence” from things they have read from writers they think pass muster. I want to yell at them that, if they do not understand, then they should actually speak to a few more people, and not the straw man, ideologically-opposite types, so they can claim that they have heard what the other “side” thinks. So,yes, they also demonstrate that hours of thought might still steer one to conclusions they already have.
I listen to all sources critically. Things do not follow from what sentence was set about before, whether from Kamala Harris to Tucker Carlson. Last night, TC mocked Fauci/Biden for “knowing” that the Covid-causing virus cannot be spread outside, say, at BLM demos, and followed that by saying something to the effect of, “but they won’t let you go to church.” Sorry, Tucker, church is held inside buildings.
To continue on this side topic, I am pretty unconvinced that children are somehow poor carriers of this virus. This flies in the face of lived experience that children carry home all sorts of colds and virii to their working parents, and to their teachers. Yet somehow, for this one virus, they will not act as a productive, disease-spreading vector? This could be so, but pardon me for not wanting to go with the folk wisdom on this one, even if your “my child” is “scientifically not a spreader.”

Last edited 3 years ago by Alex Delszsen
mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

I think the Williams book is a classic case of “if i were going to Dublin, i wouldn’t start from here”. People who have been exposed to fear and hate tend to fear and hate, and those that are not tend not to. As far as being beaten up by “homophobic thugs” goes perhaps this Williams character is simply not a nice guy so attracts a higher number of people willing to kick his head in than the rest of us. As the post modern left is so riven with hate (and fear) i’d be more worried if people didn’t want to do something to stop them. The UK’s lack of a genuine police or judicial system leaves direct action as the only option, and hate crime is much more likely to be the chosen path since you can’t educate lefties out of their hate any more than you could “educate” a Milwall fan to support West Ham.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

I suppose a lot depends on which Slipknot song you listen to: XIX is a song full of love and Surfacing a song full of hate. I presume people like the author Williams can’t understand that People=Mierda is ironic humor which is pretty common in blue collar Iowa but not so much in the world of NWA who were a wierd mix of smart college kids and not so smart street crims.

Pascal Bercker
Pascal Bercker
3 years ago

I am getting increasingly disappointed with UNHERD. I feel there is more content in the responses than in the article itself which struck me as mostly a puff piece, and not at all deeply thought out.

wpm327
wpm327
3 years ago

Your premise is that if one is of the right then they must hate. Childish thinking and a silly paper overall.