Mobtown Shank and Bill Bennett

The Mobtown Shank is a free local weekly e-zine but out by Benn of Atomic Books. There’s an old blog post in the archives of an exchange between us, about porn.

The most recent exchange was about William Bennets remarks about race and abortion that got everyone all worked up. Benn posted the following in his Mobtown Shank three weeks ago:

NOT JUST A DEGENERATE GAMBLER, BUT A RACIST TOO!
Bill Bennett, one of the big thinkers in the Republican Party, and former US Secretary of Education:

But I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could — if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.

Sourse: http://mediamatters.org/items/200509280006


To which, I sent this reply:

FORMER LIP-BITER
Dear Benn and readers,
I’ve been biting my lip on the past few Shanks. I’ve deleted more words in the past month than all I’ve sent prior. But it’s midnight on a Saturday night (took me a couple of days to get around to this issue), my girl is asleep and I’m sober as always. The George Bush joke was really funny. How much is a Brazilian. The Family Guy movie is also really funny.
My Responses:
II. AMERICAN STANDARD – Isn’t the protesting of the anti-abortionists the same thing that’s being promoted by the t-shirt? Isn’t it all political activism in the public arena? Those old men were waving signs, instead of wearing t-shirts. If nothing else they’re using a more traditional approach to political activism instead of the “lifestyle approach” used by these “second wave” feminists. Were they “exploiting the images of aborted fetuses“ in a way dissimilar to the way the makers of the t-shirts exploit the bodies of women to bring this political debate into all sorts of social non-political situations? Well, I guess you had a whole class on it. I guess maybe I’ll just try to get into your class next year. Hah, that’d be fun, wouldn’t it? Is there any way to just enroll in one class (I’m not a huge fan of academia, being too infiltrated with leftis… oh, um.. ahem)
XV. WHAT THE FUCK – I see a whole lot of folk condemning what Bill said, but not one person DISPROVING what he said. He was speaking in a hypothetical fashion and his intention wasn’t to promote aborting black babies.  The fact is that blacks disproportionally commit crimes in our country. Blacks are just 13 percent of the population but they commit more than half the muggings and murders in the country. (http://www.vdare.com/taylor/050913_crime.htm ) So if we JUST stick to murder, by killing the offspring of less than 13% of the population our murder rates would probably be cut in half in 18-25 years. It’s pretty simple math. Nothing as complex as what’s in Freakanomics.
I’m not suggesting we do that, BUT neither was Bill. He was using it as an ABSURD notion. Are you REALLY calling him a racist? DO YOU, and I’m asking you to respond in an intellectually honest manner, feel his statement was racist, taking into consideration the CONTEXT of the statement and his qualification of it? Benn, please defend your calling this man a racist because of what he said, not just the sound byte, but the whole picture.
Now in the book Freakanomics, this abortion thing is such a small section in the book, but it deals with race in an honest and open manner, so it’s going to be attacked by people who spend a lot of time polishing their Good-guy Badges.
Thanks,
Kevin I. Slaughter

It was published the next week with his response:

Kevin:
Just a couple quick responses from me, the rest I’ll leave for the Shank should anyone want to reply. If not, cool.
If my responses seem abrasive, it’s only because I don’t appreciate suggestions of dishonesty or demands of defense. It doesn’t put me in a frame of mind to have a gentlemanly discourse (as I believe we have had in the past).
1. American Standard:
A. That was kind of the point I was trying to convey. That both are very similar.
B. I explained in Am Stand that the point of the class discussion wasn’t so much about the political aspects as it was about the message and unintended secondary messages, and how context would change the message.
C. You raise some interesting questions, just as many of my students did. This was the point of the reading/lesson.
D. It’s a CULTURAL Studies class, so while I appreciate your pseudo-interest in the class, I doubt you’d get much out of it or would have any appreciation for it. What, with higher education being a “leftis” [sic] conspiracy an all… (I’m surprised you missed making a joke about putting the “LIBERAL” in Liberal Arts Education.)
E. Your analogy of exploitation doesn’t work.
2. Billy Bennett:
It was the presenting of the parameters of the hypothetical that made his comment racist.
His statement is inherently a true one, but misleading. You abort a substantial portion of any demographic, and it’s bound to have certain societal impacts. The fact the Bennett chose to focus on BLACK children instead of, say, all children, makes it problematic. Bennett is equating BLACK to crime (which is not quite what Freakonomics is doing -http://www.atomicbooks.com/products/-/10736.html). I think the point he really was trying to make was relevant to a socio-economic class. But he translated this as race.
As for my responses, Kevin, they are intellectually honest. Are yours? Are you raising this question from an intellectually honest concern? These questions are rhetorical.
And your statistics are overly simplistic and do nothing but reinforce a bias. For example, you claim that 13% of blacks commit more than half the murders and muggings in the country. And yet the number of blacks living in poverty is THREE TIMES the number of whites (http://www.northwestern.edu/ipr/news/iqgap.html). When you consider that blacks, by your numbers, make up just 13% of the country, that’s a substantial portion of any community to live in poverty, regardless of race. Poverty, Kevin, NOT RACE, is the cause for many of society’s ills. The presumption that it is somehow related to race, even “for the sake of discussion” is, by my definition, racist. Which is why, in the headline, I call Bennett a racist as well as degenerate gambler. (For the record, I don’t consider gambling indicative of a degenerate, it was a reference to what mafiosos stereotypically – and ironically, I might add – call gamblers on TV and in the Hollywood movies.)
Here is the Freakonomics response, which was the book in question on Billy Bennett’s show. Their handling of his comments (which I honestly believe have more to do with trying to take some heat of off the media coverage of the Delay indictments than anything else) is far more diplomatic than mine: http://www.freakonomics.com/2005/09/bill-bennett-and-freakonomics.html
And while I can make assumptions as to what side you will take in this debate on FOX News, I think Juan Williams raises some very valid points. It’s odd watching a black guy trying to explain racism to a group of old white guys (and a chick) who seem to believe they have a better comprehension of it than he does: http://movies.crooksandliars.com/Fox-News-Hume-knows-better-than-Juan-10-02-05.mov
Just as I have a problem with men making claims on what women shouldn’t be allowed to do with their body, I have a problem with whites suggesting, even hypothetically, “for the sake of argument”, that aborting a portion of the population based on race (even as “reprehensible” as he claims to think it is) would be better for the society as a whole is extremely problematic. In a Nazi way. Whoops. There goes that analogy again.
Do I think Billy Bennett is a racist? Of course. That or a Nazi.
-Benn Ray

Then, I sent this follow up, published in this weeks edition:

Benn,
I don’t see your response as harsh, just lively debate… if I didn’t want a spirited response, I wouldn’t have hit the “send” button. Again, for you and the readers, this is about debate and ideas and not personal.
I’m going to skip the cultural studies thing… the “leftist” was not a typo but the ellipses were used as an intentional break in the sentence. Are you intimating that I couldn’t appreciate your “cultural” studies class because you believe I have no interest in culture, or the class is so extraordinarily biased to the left? Maybe it’s not the work “Cultural” or “Liberal”, maybe you’re saying I just don’t have any “class”.
XV. WHAT THE FUCK…
“You abort a substantial portion of any demographic, and it’s bound to have certain societal impacts.”
True, of course, but the point he was making was that if you aborted black children it would have a disproportionate impact on crime than if you randomly selected any baby to be aborted. And this is true. I’m not arguing WHY, but WHO. Your argument doesn’t hold too much water because poor blacks commit more crimes than poor whites.
You misquoted/misstated my statistic. I didn’t say 13% of blacks, I stated that blacks are only 13% of the population and they commit more than half of the total of murders and muggings. You responded with the statistic that blacks are three times more likely to be impoverished than whites. By saying 13% of blacks, you are WOEFULLY under representing the number of blacks that commit crime.
(Benn)“Poverty, Kevin, NOT RACE, is the cause for many of society’s ills. The presumption that it is somehow related to race, even “for the sake of discussion” is, by my definition, racist.”
I would argue that IQ is society’s problem, not race or poverty. The lower a groups intelligence, the more prone to criminality they are and the less likely to succeed. It is NOT inherently racist to make the statement that he did. He didn’t say that BECAUSE they were black the are more criminally prone – THAT would be racist. If poverty is the primary factor in criminality, and blacks are 3x more likely to be poor than whites, then the statement still holds true.
He said (paraphrasing) – if you want to cut crime you can abort black babies.
If poor people commit more crimes, and blacks are more likely to be poor, then by aborting black babies you’d be reducing crime.
But here’s the rub- If you have a population of 100 people. 13 of those people are group A, and 87 people are group B. If group A commits 50 crimes out of a hundred, I believe that’s significant. That’s just facts. As in Bennets analogy, if you wanted to reduce crime, and that was your only goal, then if you got rid of group A then crime would be significantly reduced.
Nowhere above is it stating WHY group A is ASTOUNDLY more criminal prone than all of group B, it just says they are.
I’m not recommending that black babies be aborted, and neither was William Bennet. William Bennet wasn’t implying that blacks committed more crimes BECAUSE they were black, so it’s not a racist statement. You cannot infer that he is a racist based on that comment. Just because race is mentioned, doesn’t mean that that is the deciding factor..
Now, what FREAKONOMICS is arguing is different than what we are discussing here, and the statement that William Bennet made. FRAK… maintains that because abortion was legalized, crime went down. The exact opposite occurred. The first generation of children born after abortion was legalized in 1970 went on a major killing spree, due largely to the crack cocaine epidemic (I mean, really, look at DC, it had the highest abortion rate in the US and then a crack-head mayor!) . 14-17 year olds in 1993 had 3.1 times GREATER murder rate than children their age one decade prior (those born pre-Roe v Wade).
Now, as FREAK… points out, black women have 3 times the abortions than whites per capita. BUT, black 14-17 year olds in 1993 were killing at an astounding 4.4 times that of black 14-17 year olds a decade prior (this statistic higher than the overall 3.1 mentioned above, implying that blacks committed more crimes).
As for your nature v nurture link, Levitt himself sides with the nature side in FREAK…:
“… IQ is strongly hereditary… Studies have shown that a child’s academic abilities are far more influenced by the IQs of his biological parents than the IQs of his adoptive parents…”
You give me a link to Levitt’s response to Bennet, and in that he states:
“Race is not an important part of the abortion-crime argument that John Donohue and I have made in academic papers and that Dubner and I discuss in Freakonomics. It is true that, on average, crime involvement in the U.S. is higher among blacks than whites. Importantly, however, once you control for income, the likelihood of growing up in a female-headed household, having a teenage mother, and how urban the environment is, the importance of race disappears for all crimes except homicide.”
BUT, that scholarly paper written in the Harvard Quarterly Journal of Economics states rather bluntly”
“Teenagers, unmarried women and African Americans are all substantially more likely to seek abortions. Children born to these mothers tend to be at higher risk for committing crime 17 years or so down the road, so abortion may reduce subsequent criminality through this selection effect.”
Juan Williams is interpreting the statement from an emotional standpoint. Like you, he is taking it out of the context in which it was presented. Juan states that Bennet, in making his statement, “Gives power to a deeply offensive idea”. He states that he’s afraid of the idea, and at no point made any statement that counters the actual theory. None of them do, and I haven’t seen anyone in the media do it. They’re all saying that “it’s a terrible thing to say, the idea is bad bad bad. They may say it’s wrong, but nobody in the media is making a credible rebuttle to the actual concept. So, what it comes down to is yet again, Juan Williams is one more asshole on television polishing his good-guy badge. He reiterates time and again that it’s bad to VOICE that opinion, that he was a bad person for SAYING that thing because it’s taboo. Well, good for you jumping in the wagon with others that want to castigate others for saying something bad, making Ad Homonym attacks on people who’s opinions you disagree with but cannot, or do not dispute. It’s so much easiedr to discredit a person by calling them a racist, even though they have a history of helping people of other races (as Juan Williams and the others point out).
Oh, how I’m sure you love to see “old white guys” squirm, but he doesn’t make a point. He is doing the exact thing that I said in my first response.
You call him a racist because he brought up a theory that he himself claimed as being “morally reprehensible”. He stated that he didn’t agree with the theory, it was not his. Simple as that. I can talk about open heart surgery, but that doesn’t make me a doctor. I had a conversation about the Book of Job last night, but I’m fucking far from being a Christian.
-Kevin Slaughter

And he finishes with this:

This is where I find the argument racist:
If poor people commit more crimes, and blacks are more likely to be poor, then by aborting black babies you’d be reducing crime.
See, because you’re also willing to, “for the sake of arguement”, abort black babies who may not commit crimes BASED ON RACE. You could also reduce crime by raising people out of poverty, but Bennett and his ilk are clearly not interested in that.
This is also where I find the argument racist:
But here’s the rub- If you have a population of 100 people. 13 of those people are group A, and 87 people are group B. If group A commits 50 crimes out of a hundred, I believe that’s significant. That’s just facts. As in Bennets analogy, if you wanted to reduce crime, and that was your only goal, then if you got rid of group A then crime would be significantly reduced.
It’s not “just facts” and insisting it is so does not make it so. Again it is an oversimplification for racist reasoning. Replace “group A” with BLACK and “group B” with white and restate that. You don’t see a problem with arguing that, do you? It’s based on race, making it RACIST.
And also here:
You call him a racist because he brought up a theory that he himself claimed as being “morally reprehensible”.
I call him a racist for equating crime with unborn black babies AND – please follow here – I call him a racist because he NEVER CLAIMED THE THEORY WAS REPREHENSIBLE, just ACTING ON THAT THEORY. So racist thoughts are okay as long as you don’t act on them is the message and rationale. And before we get sidetracked by a whole “thought crime” argument, I don’t think thinking these thoughts is a crime. Acting on them is. Thinking them is just something RACISTS DO.
If my response seems short it’s 1: I’m fighting a lot of battles these days, and 2: We’re covering the same ground over and over now, and 3: Do you really think there’s a point to this? Do you really think you’re going to agree that Billy Bennett’s comments were racist? Do you really think you’ll be able to prove to me that they weren’t?
Here, this sums it up nicely:

I’m not sending another response.. three weeks is long enough on this one…

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