The subject matter in books like 'The Bell Curve' is inherently racist, yet popular in Trump's America (Image via YouTube)
Culture x
The subject matter in books like 'The Bell Curve' is inherently racist, yet popular in Trump's America (Image via YouTube)

The promotion of pseudoscience in the vlogosphere is contributing to a culture of hate on YouTube.

One of the wonderful components of mass access to the internet is its ability to give voice to a much broader spectrum of the population than in the past. Historically, increasing the scope of voices that are heard in the public discourse has sparked massive progressive changes, like the civil rights movement and women’s liberation.

The expansiveness of information’s reach via personal blogs and YouTube has created a culture of content sharing that has birthed a modern phenomenon I like to deem the “YouTube intellectual.”

YouTube intellectuals have found their hub in the vlogosphere and largely dominate the political discussions on YouTube. While many of these public intellectuals are contributors to larger publications and news organizations, the majority of people’s exposure to them is on YouTube.

YouTube intellectuals hold a diverse range of political opinions, from left to right to centrist, but there has been a trend of conservatism in the YouTube community in recent years. This would be perfectly fine, except that in Trump’s America, conservatism has almost become synonymous with racism, or at the very least, some forms of intolerance.

Pollsters and pundits have been examining the culture that led to Trump’s America since the election of the POTUS. Ultimately, they have blamed everything from third-party voters to the poor working class.

Being an Ohio native, I am all too familiar with these kinds of arguments, and frankly, I find it bothersome that many pollsters define my political leanings in relation to my proximity to the “rust belt” region of the U.S.

The truth is, it’s not so easy to blame the modern phenomenon of American racism associated with Trump culture on working-class whites or Southern folks.

A culture exists on YouTube specifically that attempts to legitimize racist ideas about IQ under the guise of science and intellectualism. Take a deep breath rational, scientific thinkers, because it’s time to reopen the debate about Charles Murray’s pseudo-scientific book “The Bell Curve.”

Cover of ‘The Bell Curve’ (Image via Simon & Schuster)

The Bell Curve” is a 1994 sociological study written by the psychologist, Richard Hernstein, and the more recognizable public figure, Charles Murray.

“The Bell Curve’s” basic thesis set forth by Murray is that, in the modern era, the ability to achieve academic success through conventional forms of Western education, in addition to heritable IQ, were the greatest predictors of economic success in the future.

The book argues that though environmental factors play a role in predicting IQ and that biological factors largely determine IQ at birth. According to Murray, one’s IQ is mostly fixed at birth and does not deviate much after that. This is where the book’s thesis begins to get dangerous, and many would say, outright hateful.

An entire portion of “The Bell Curve” is dedicated to racial differences in IQ. The books suggest that, based on flawed research, that people of different races, score higher or lower on IQ tests on average, based on their ethnicity.

According to Murray’s blemished research, whites, Asians and Jews score the highest on IQ tests on average; according to him, this is an observable indicator of why their cultures experience a high level of success.

On a different note, Murray suggests there is evidence to prove that black African and Hispanic populations score on average, a standard deviation of 10 – 15 points lower on IQ tests, which contributes to higher poverty rates in these ethnic communities.

Just writing that last sentence has me cringing, because not only is it disgustingly hateful and dismissive of the struggles faced by those communities, but it is also so thoroughly incorrect it’s embarrassing.

“The Bell Curve’s” claims about inheritable IQ, its importance and its differentiation in races, were debunked only a year after the book’s release. Academics largely treated the book as a joke because of its sloppy research and flawed thesis; ultimately, these ideas went underground.

Over the past few years or so, Murray has re-emerged in intellectual communities as a prominent figure. Specifically, on YouTube, Charles Murray’s ideas are being revisited as fresh and compelling in post-Trump America.

This group of YouTube intellectuals, deemed the YouTube right, have dominated political discourse on YouTube. Their cavalier peddling of misinformation is having a dangerous effect by encouraging racism.

Alt-right leaning YouTube intellectuals, like Stephen Molyneux, express their ideas in an academic and scientific way, even though these ideas are scientifically flawed.

Even Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson, whose success as public intellectuals is largely attributed to their YouTube followings, are espousing misinformation about the heritable nature of IQ.

It is also important to expose the political-themed YouTube shows that promote the spreading of these ideas.

Show host Dave Rubin, of “The Rubin Report” for example, recently gave voice to alt-right commentator, Lauren Southern, a women who has referred to the idea of a white ethnostate as “Utopian” and has openly apologized for, and even encouraged, the ideas of racists like Jared Taylor of The American Renaissance, and even white nationalist Tara McCarthy.

This movement of misinformation is reminiscent of the flat earth movement. “Flat Earthers” believed their ideas were based on science because of deliberately misleading documentaries published on the free and open space of YouTube.

Fortunately, enough prominent scientist immediately refuted these ideas before they spread, and now flat earth theorist are mostly viewed as a joke.

A similar movement needs to happen in regards to the nature of IQ. Unfortunately, I don’t think many prominent scientists understand the nature of this debate on YouTube or its underground popularity.

The truth is, IQ is largely correlated with academic ability. The quality of schools in a region has an enormous effect on the average IQ in that region. Most would also be fascinated to learn that IQ is mostly dependent on environmental factors, meaning that IQ can change if certain stresses, like poverty, are removed.

This explains why certain African countries score so low on IQ tests on average. The educational system in those countries is simply not developed.

The same is true for gypsy populations in Europe and aboriginal Australians. The academic success of Nigerian immigrants, however, a population in America that holds the highest percentage of masters degrees per capita, is proof that IQ is malleable.

Arguments about the lack of development in African countries are also unfounded. Unfortunately, African history isn’t properly taught in the U.S., and advanced civilizations like that of the Nokian civilization in what would be modern day Nigeria, are shrouded in obscurity.

The civilization of Nok had advanced judicial systems, ancient forms of technology, and was even among the first to domesticate horses.

The reality remains that the impoverished state of many African countries today is due to European colonization. This is a fact that alt-right seems to overlook.

It is incredibly important to refute this movement of misinformation on YouTube because it perpetuates hate. Many in favor of these ideas were already racist and simply looking for confirmation bias of their ideas.

Their minds may not change. But the people we need to reach are the naive followers of YouTube intellectuals like Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson.

Their audiences are emboldened by the intellectual capacity of their arguments and follow their ideas like sheep. While some of their ideas might be grounded in truth, unfortunately, much of what they’re peddling is nonsense and needs to be shut down. You can do this by scientifically refuting these ideas one by one.

This isn’t to say that YouTube shouldn’t remain a free and open space for sharing ideas. It is simply to say that truth should always be upheld in these spaces. Now that these ideas are exposed, they can be refuted.

Writer Profile

Tabitha Prisinzano

Columbia College of Missouri
English Literature

Leave a Reply