The Muggle Problem

The Muggle Problem, by Ross Douhat.

As Western politics has become more extreme and a generation raised on Hogwarts more politically engaged, the Potter novels have been embraced ever more fervently as political allegories and moral manuals for our times. … Hillary Clinton has just given a speech praising the Potter novels for instilling progressive values in the young. …

Lara Prendergast offered a good survey of the proliferation of Potterpolitics, from anti-Trump organizers invoking “Dumbledore’s Army” to J. K. Rowling’s Twitter interventions (“Voldemort was nowhere near as bad,” she wrote of Trump’s proposed Muslim ban) to Hermione Granger’s — sorry, Emma Watson’s — role as a roving ambassador for millennial feminism.

Prendergast also offered a harsh assessment of the trend: “If you have ever wondered why young people are often so childish in their politics, why they want to divide the world between tolerant progressives and wicked reactionaries, it helps to understand” that they think they’re living in a Potter novel.

Admittedly, if you think that the world really is divided between tolerant progressives and wicked reactionaries, you won’t find this assessment all that damning.

But I’m not sure that sort of Manichaean vision is actually the most important political teaching in the Potter novels. Because if you take the Potterverse seriously as an allegory for ours, the most noteworthy divide isn’t between the good multicultural wizards and the bad racist ones. It’s between all the wizards, good and bad, and everybody else — the Muggles.

For the six readers who have never read the Potter books but who have stuck with the column thus far nonetheless: Muggles are non-magical folks, the billions of regular everyday human beings who live and work in blissful ignorance that the wizarding world exists. The only exception comes when one of them marries a wizard or has the genetic luck to give birth to a magic-capable child, in which case they get to watch their offspring ascend to one of the wizarding academies while they experience its raptures and revelations secondhand. …

So even from the perspective of the enlightened, progressive wizarding faction, then, Muggles are basically just a vast surplus population that occasionally produces the new blood that wizarding needs to avoid becoming just a society of snobbish old-money inbred Draco Malfoys. And if that were to change, if any old Muggle could suddenly be trained in magic, the whole thrill of Harry Potter’s acceptance at Hogwarts would lose its narrative frisson, its admission-to-the-inner-circle thrill.

Which makes the thrill of becoming a magical initiate in the Potterverse remarkably similar to the thrill of being chosen by the modern meritocracy, plucked from the ordinary ranks of life and ushered into gothic halls and exclusive classrooms, where you will be sorted — though not by a magic hat, admittedly — according to your talents and your just deserts. …

Thus the Potterverse … is about “the legitimacy of authority that comes from schools” — Ivy League schools, elite schools, U.S. News & World Report top 100 schools. And because “contemporary liberalism is the ideology of imperial academia, funneled through media and nonprofits and governmental agencies but responsible ultimately only to itself,” a story about a wizarding academy is the perfect fantasy story for the liberal meritocracy to tell about itself….

But J.K Rowling’s childish novels don’t really allow for what is happening now:

It was mostly Muggles, not some dark conspiracy by the Slytherin sort of conservatives, who put Donald Trump in power.

It is Muggles who keep turning to parties of the far left and farther right, Muggles who drift into radicalism and set off bombs. Mass migration, rising nationalism, Islamic terrorism, rural despair — many disruptive forces in our era flow from global Muggledom’s refusal to just be a tame and subsidized surplus population, culled for its best and brightest, living only for the hope that occasionally a gifted son or daughter might be lifted up.

This phenomenon of a meritocracy defined by colleges and universities is much, much stronger in the US and even the UK than in Australia. Most of the ruling class in the US went though just a few universities, to which entry is much more fiercely competitive than anything in Australia.

Political Potterverse: Getting Your Owl

Political Potterverse: Getting Your Owl, by Spotted Toad.

Harry Potter has become a surprisingly obsessive allegorical tool for liberals’ opposition to the Trump Administration.

[One reason] why the early Harry Potter books were such crossover hits, breaking out of the Little League of children’s fantasy novels and becoming hugely popular among adults, [is that] Harry Potter, especially the movies, is about the legitimacy of authority that comes from schools.

[US colleges now] obsessively …trumpet their similarity to the imaginary wizards’ school Hogwarts …

Nor is it a surprise that the culmination of all the films comes as a direct attack on the school itself, with the various legitimate teachers coming together to form a shield protecting it from the assaults by the outside world …

From an outside perspective, Harry Potter is a funny fantasy for liberals to cohere around. Going off to centuries-old boarding school where your mum and dad were Head Boy and Head Girl, where tolerance and broadmindedness consists of admitting that lower-class Muggles can occasionally have the same genetically-mediated gifts as the gentry.

Hogwarts as Imperial Academia

Hogwarts as Imperial Academia, by Steve Sailer.

As you’ve no doubt noticed, it has become common to analyze current politics through the lens of the Harry Potter series. …

Muggles are the boring masses of normies born without the genetic capability to do magic. In Harry Potter’s world, magical ability is a recessive genetic trait that is inherited according to rules like those that govern the inheritance of blue eyes. …

Muggles are too stupid to notice that wizards actually rule the world, and the wizards prudently keep them in ignorance. …

Something that is often forgotten about J.K. Rowling’s books/movies is that while they started out being almost equally popular among girls and boys (the authoress chose old-fashioned initials to hide her sex from little girl-hating he-men), by the time the eighth and (sort of) final movie in the series finally came out, their appeal was almost wholly to girls, just as J.R.R. Tolkien’s fans are overwhelmingly male.

Why? Mostly, I think, because J.K. is a girl and J.R.R. was a boy. In the very long run, sex will tell.

Commenter Beckow:

The ‘imperial academia’ is very fond of itself, but it is also scared. Their imperium is based on fancy words and increasingly not much else. It is a world of privilege not that different from their Victorian or feudal predecessors. The words they so endlessly produce are there to hide the obvious – they increasingly serve no other purpose than preserving their own status and good life. That is historically a bad place to be. Once French aristocrats lost the monopoly on fighting and force, Muggles, mayhem and even guillotines were not that far away.

That’s why stirring up the society and bringing in large numbers of new, open-eyed, and aspiring outsiders is the only way forward for them. They must have more and more ‘diversity’ to avoid irrelevance and contempt. And as the inevitable end of their status privilege approaches, the hysteria and silliness of this ‘diversity’ obsession will get worse. And then it will suddenly end and nobody will understand in retrospect why a ‘gender studies professor’ was ever taken seriously. But it is a great life while they can keep it going.

THE GENIUS FAMINE: The Death of Religion Will Lead to the Death of Genius and the Death of Civilization

THE GENIUS FAMINE: The Death of Religion Will Lead to the Death of Genius and the Death of Civilization. By Lance Welton.

Anthropologist Edward Dutton (Oulu University, Finland) and psychiatrist Bruce Charlton (Newcastle University, UK) in their fascinating 2016 tome, “The Genius Famine” [say that] geniuses are a distinct psychological type.

They have extremely high intelligence, meaning they excel at quickly solving cognitive problems. This strongly predicts socioeconomic, educational and even social success. But geniuses combine this with relatively low conscientiousness and low empathy.

They also tend to be uninterested in worldly things — money, sex, power — focused intensely on the intellectual pursuit of solving whatever seemingly unsolvable problem has come to obsess them. New ideas always break established rules and offend vested interests, but the genius couldn’t care less, claim Dutton and Charlton. This is why it is the genius who is able to make original, fantastic breakthroughs.

These kinds of people are fundamental to the growth and survival of civilization, the authors maintain. They are behind all major innovations.

But, frighteningly, levels of genius have been in decline during the twentieth century. Measured from 1455 to 2004, macro-inventions — those that really changed the course of history — peaked in the nineteenth century and are now in on the slide. So, what has happened? Why is genius dying-out? …

Until the Industrial Revolution, we were subject to Natural Selection. This meant that every generation 50% of children did not reach adulthood. And there were two crucial points about the children who did. Firstly, they were more likely to be the children of the rich and educated. The wealthier 50% of 17th century testators in England, for example, had about 40% more surviving children than the poorer 50%. Secondly, they would be physically fit; they would have the lowest numbers of ‘mutant genes,’ which accrue each generation and are almost always damaging. In that social status is predicted by intelligence (which is 80% genetic) and intelligence is negatively correlated with genetic signs of high mutational load — such as an ‘asymmetrical’ (ugly) face — it seems that we would have been becoming cleverer and cleverer every generation and this is documented by proxies for intelligence such as literacy or numeracy

But we were also selecting for religiousness, which is around 40% genetic. In terms of individual selection, knowing God loves you and is watching you, you’ll be less stressed, more pro-social, and less likely to be ostracized. Dutton and Charlton use the example of a peacock. A peahen sexually selects a peacock with a big, bright tail because the tail displays his genetic quality. He must have good genes to be able to grow nice plumage and cope despite being weighed down by it. In much the same way, it has been shown that in humans both sexes sexually select for religiousness. Religiousness is a sign that you are cooperative, have self-control, can be trusted, have access to a useful network of people and are industrious enough that you survive despite making material and other sacrifices to the religious group.

And then there is group selection. All things being equal, the more religious group — convinced that a moral God is watching it, that non-believers are Satanic, and that the group, and life, has eternal significance –- will dominate the less religious one, the authors show. It will cooperate better, be more aggressive to outsiders, and be more likely to engage in extremes of self-sacrifice for the good of the group. In computer models of group selection, groups with these qualities always triumph.

The triumph of human ingenuity led to technology but also to the downfall of religion and the people who invent the technology:

So, this all meant that we achieved a cooperative, stable, wealthy society which could provide a space for geniuses to flourish. And that the genius minority themselves became cleverer and cleverer. Then a tipping was reached where their innovations were so brilliant –- in the form of the Industrial Revolution — that their impact on the standard of living was able to outpace the negative impact of population growth, leading to a soaring population with ever improving material standards. …

The Industrial Revolution heavily reduced environmental harshness — combating disease, injury, starvation and everything that removed mutant genes. So, where once only the physically fittest, with almost no mutant genes, survived to have children, now almost all of us do, meaning far more mutant genes interfering with brain functioning and thus intelligence. Being religious is predicted by genes and by stress. So, as our stressors were combated and Natural Selection stopped, the percentage of us who believed in God decreased.

This had a knock-on effect. It meant that we no longer had to have large families to guarantee the survival of some of our children. So, large families became associated with people who were impulsive (i.e those with low intelligence) and there is a negative relationship, in Western countries, between IQ and fertility.

It is fashionable to bash IQ tests, but scores correlate with objective measures, like reaction times (how quickly you respond to a stimulus). Large families are also associated with religious people — because they believe it is God’s will for them to multiply — but it seems that the stress-reduction of modernity has outpaced the fertility advantage of the religious. And the more intelligent are anyway more likely to not believe in God, reducing their fertility in comparison to the less intelligent.

The emancipation of women only worsened this fall in IQ … But with the fall of religiously-inspired conservatism, the more intelligent women dedicate their twenties to their careers. They have far fewer children than less intelligent women, who are more likely to become pregnant young and by accident.

All of this has come together to mean that IQ — the very engine behind the Industrial Revolution — is falling.

Based on representative samples, the authors show that reaction times are getting longer and have been getting longer since about 1900. Between 1900 and 2000, IQ — using this proxy — seems to have gone down by about 15 points. This means that the doctors of today are the high school science teachers of 1900. The result of this is that for purely genetic reasons there would be a far smaller percentage of [genius Alan] Turing-types today. …

Since the 1960s, the authors note, universities have become bureaucratic businesses. This reflects the anti-intellectual, anti-religious attitude that their purpose is to make money. Academics contribute to this by getting funding, publishing frequently, and attending conferences.

All of this is anathema to the genius, who wants to be left alone to solve his problem. He also won’t tick the bureaucratic boxes that get you an academic position — Francis Crick, discoverer of DNA, was rejected from Cambridge, failed to get a top mark in his bachelor’s degree, and dropped out of assorted PhDs.

As such, universities are less likely to appoint genius types. They will appoint what Dutton and Charlton call the ‘head girl’ (at UK schools) — quite intelligent, socially skilled, conscientious; absolutely not a genius. This person will be excellent at playing the academic game and will make a great colleague. But they won’t innovate; won’t rock the boat. Once upon a time, they note, a ‘country vicar’ had lots of free time to research, but with the shrinking of the Church, the days of the Victorian ‘scholar-rector,’ are long gone as well. The genius has no institution to nurture him and his potential will not be fulfilled.

Genius not needed any more?

And with the downfall of religion, life is no longer serious. In a world in which people have to struggle, the genius could be tolerated because of the benefits his innovations would bring to society. …

But we have reached a point where our lives are so secure, and where death is so remote, that we no longer believe that our lives, or our society, has eternal significance. Indeed, many believe quite the opposite: Western society is selfish; the human race is damaging the Earth.

In addition, our high level of comfort means that the problems with which a genius may now grapple are either too theoretical to care about or too long-term to think about now. He will cause offence and question the dogmas which give us the comfort of certainty all for the sake of a problem so distant that most of us can postpone thinking about it. In this context, of life not being serious, we would expect the genius to be pilloried. And geniuses are more sensitive than most.

So what happens then?

Accordingly, Dutton and Charlton’s book predicts that genius will continue to decline and civilization will collapse because it is ultimately underpinned by intelligence and genius. Technology will reach a peak, stagnate, and go backwards, as there are fewer and fewer people intelligent enough to maintain and eventually even use it. Life will become harsher and simpler and, eventually, more religious.

hat-tip Stephen Neil

Frankfurt Becomes First German City Where Natives Are Minority

Frankfurt Becomes First German City Where Natives Are Minority, by Virginia Hale.

For the first time, more than half of Frankfurt residents now have a migrant background, according to official data from the city’s Office of Statistics and Elections.

Presenting the figures, which show that 51.2 per cent of people living in Frankfurt have a migrant background, the city’s secretary of integration Sylvia Weber said: “We have minorities with relatively large numbers in Frankfurt but no group with a clear majority.” …

A book published last year which predicted native Germans would soon be reduced to a minority in Frankfurt, Augsburg, and Stuttgart — joining other “majority minority” cities in Europe which include Amsterdam, London, Brussels, and Geneva — celebrates the demographic transformations as providing greater opportunities for “social justice”.

Noting that two-thirds of young people in many of Western Europe’s major cities are of foreign origin, the authors of Super-Diversity: A New Perspective on Integration slammed politicians’ calls for newcomers to assimilate, stating: “If there is no longer an ethnic majority group, everyone will have to adapt to everyone else. Diversity will become the new norm.”

The left is pulling our universities off centre

The left is pulling our universities off centre, by John Anderson, deputy prime minister of Australia, 1999-2005.

For all the benefits they continue to bring us in so many vital areas, Western universities can no longer be regarded as bastions of free thought, open inquiry and vigorous debate. The evidence is copious and irrefutable — now, in the early part of the 21st century, it is true to say that too many univer­sities in general are enemies of free speech, enclaves of intellectual narrowness and conformity, and purveyors of political propaganda and bureaucratic oppression.  …

[Jonathan Haidt] recently published a study showing that in 1990 in the US about 20 per cent of faculty tended right politically, with more than 40 per cent of faculty tending left (the rest occupying the moderate middle ground). By 2014 those on the right had fallen to nearer 10 per cent and those on the left had jumped to about 60 per cent. A similar tendency can be ­observed right across the Western academy, including Australia.

We are indebted to the Institute of Public Affairs for its work last year revealing that only one Australian university places no ­restrictions on free speech. (It was the University of New England.) …

Haidt’s ­insights seem to point [out] that progressive politics is morally trun­cated, failing to account for all the innate moral concerns that universally occupy humanity. … Progressives mostly place value on only three of the six universal moral foundations — care, liberty and fairness — with a particular emphasis on care. Conservatives, conversely, value all six moral foundations pretty equally, supplementing their moral palette with the added social relational concerns of loyalty, authority and sanctity. …

PC is certainly fact-truncated.

Vietnamese blogger gets 10 years jail

Vietnamese blogger gets 10 years jail, by AP.

A prominent Vietnamese blogger has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after being found guilty of distorting government policies and defaming the Communist regime in Facebook posts and in interviews with foreign media, her lawyer says.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, also known as “Mother Mushroom,” was sentenced at the end of a one-day trial in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa, lawyer Vo An Don said on Thursday.

Her conviction relates to the content of 18 articles on her Facebook page and interviews with foreign news outlets such as Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, Don said.

Quynh, 37, co-founded a network of bloggers and is very popular in Vietnam. She has written about human rights, civilian deaths in police custody and the release of toxic chemicals by a Taiwanese-owned factory that killed thousands of fish in one of Vietnam’s worst environmental disasters.

Quynh, the single mother of two young children, maintained her innocence throughout the trial, her lawyer said. “Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh did not admit that she committed any crime, saying she has a right to freedom of expression,” Don said.

Tony Abbott warns of regional ‘arms race’, calls for Australia to consider nuclear-submarines

Tony Abbott warns of regional ‘arms race’, calls for Australia to consider nuclear-submarines, by Claire Bickers.

“Not more robustly challenging the nuclear no-go mindset is probably the biggest regret I have from my time as PM,” Mr Abbott told the Centre for independent Studies in Sydney today.

He highlighted the time he was told Australia’s two Collins class submarines were unable to shadow a fleet of Russian warships when they appeared north of the country at the time of the Brisbane G20 in 2014.

“They simply couldn’t get there in time,” he said of their underwater cruising speed of just 10 knots. …

Nuclear-powered subs could stay submerged as long as the crew could endure, never have to refuel and can travel at nearly 40 knots, Mr Abbott said. …

Australia in a decade or so might face a security crisis in its region and be faced with an inadequate means to fight back, Mr Abbott said.

He warned of the growing numbers of “nuclear-powered attack subs” based in our region. “Our region is building more and bigger submarines,” he said.

“Indonesia has two, with three more coming; Singapore has four, with four more coming; Vietnam has six and Korea has 14.

“Japan has 19 very advanced conventional subs; India has two ballistic missile subs, one nuclear attack sub and 13 conventional subs with six more coming.

“The Russian pacific fleet reportedly has five ballistic missile subs, ten nuclear-powered attack subs, and eight conventional subs.

“And then there’s China, with four ballistic-missile subs, five nuclear-powered attack subs and over 50 conventional subs with more and more coming all the time.”

The DCNS Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A design is a conventionally-powered derivative of France’s nuclear-powered Suffren-class submarines.

French barracuda submarine Australia might get in the 2030s

In his speech today, Mr Abbott stressed the time it took to build submarines domestically. He called for a plan B or a “parallel plan” to the government’s decision to award a $50 billion new-fleet contract to French shipbuilder DCNS. The company is planning to design and help build 12 conventionally-powered Shortfin Barracuda submarines for the navy. …

But he questioned whether the best of the bids was chosen, given the absolute soonest the first submarine could be received was the early-2030s.

“We don’t build our jet fighters here, for instance (although we do build parts for them) so why insist on a local build especially if there’s a big cost penalty?”

hat-tip Stephen Neil