[Note to culturally-deprived immigrant Editor: The title references a classic HBO comedy called "The Larry Sanders Show."—Steve.]
[Peter Brimelow replies: Oh.]
Nothing exemplifies the corruption and decay of American intellectual culture more grotesquely than The Larry Summers Show Trial.
At a private academic conference, the Harvard president dared to suggest that discrimination might not be the only explanation why men outnumber women as professors of math, science, and engineering at elite universities.
The horror! No matter how many times Summers apologizes for telling this truth, and no matter how much in other people's money and other men's opportunities he offers up as reparations for his "gaffe," it just hasn't been enough.
When the former Clinton Administration Treasury Secretary finally released the transcript of his off-the-record talk, it turned out to be a humble but devastating demolition of the reigning cant about the need for more diversity in hiring.
And that only exacerbated the frenzy. Precisely because Summers's talk was a model of how the intellectual leadership of America ought to be thinking about important issues, he has been endlessly excoriated.
For example, the front page of Friday's Wall Street Journal featured a typical article, Harvard Clash Pits Entrenched Faculty Vs. Brusque Leader, by Robert Tomsho and John Hechinger, reporting that Summers said:
"'It does appear that on many, many different human attributes — height, weight...overall IQ, mathematical ability, scientific ability — there is relatively clear evidence that whatever the difference in means' or average levels of ability 'there is a difference in the standard deviation and variability of a male and a female population…'"
Thus, for example, it's a well established fact that, while male and female IQs are about the same on average, there are far more male morons…and geniuses. [VDARE.COM: See here for Ilana Mercer's discussion of Richard Lynn's alternate theory that men enjoy a 5-point advantage in average IQ.]
"Mr. Summers also told participants at the conference that women weren't the only group underrepresented in an important activity. 'To take a set of diverse examples,' he said, 'the data will, I am confident, reveal that Catholics are substantially underrepresented in investment banking, which is an enormously high-paying profession in our society; that white men are very substantially underrepresented in the National Basketball Association; and that Jews are very substantially underrepresented in farming and agriculture.'
"According to the transcript, Mr. Summers cited no sources for these assertions …"
No sources? In other words: when it comes to whether or not white men are statistically underrepresented in the NBA, who (to paraphrase Richard Pryor) are you going to believe: the President of Harvard and your own lying eyes—or the Axiom of Equality that says that the world would be infinitely homogenous if not for discrimination by the White Male Power Structure?
And since the WMPS would want to hog the money and fame that goes with playing in the NBA, then it must obviously be an unsubstantiated "stereotype" that most players are black!
Give me a break.
One of Summers's earlier gaffes has been repeatedly brought up again over the last month. The WSJ reporters write:
"Many at Harvard are still bitter that Mr. Summers singled out one of the department's stars, Cornel West, three years ago for a highly unusual presidential scolding of a tenured professor. Among Mr. Summers's issues, according to Prof. West's associates: making a hip-hop record and allegedly missing classes to help with a political campaign. At the time, a person close to Mr. Summers said he was only trying to encourage Prof. West to concentrate on scholarship and teaching. The incident inspired widespread publicity, and Prof. West ultimately left for Princeton University."
But Summers' racial "insensitivity" spared Harvard the embarrassment engendered by Professor West's next feat of scholarship: playing the role of a "Councillor of Zion" in those two unbelievably awful sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.
In "The Education of Larry Summers" in the Feb. 28th edition of The American Conservative (now available on newsstands, but not online), I explore the brouhaha in depth.
One topic in my essay that deserves more consideration is: Where are all the female geniuses that the feminist revolution was supposed to unleash upon the world?
Virginia Woolf claimed long ago that often a female genius—"some mute and inglorious Jane Austen" — had been silenced by male oppression.
Yet after decades of strenuously celebrating women's achievements, such as they are, we don't seem to have gotten many new Jane Austens, for our troubles—or even many new Virginia Woolfs.
We're about 35 years into the age of feminism, but how many new geniuses do we have to show for it?
In contrast, by the time 35 years had passed after Jackie Robinson had integrated baseball in 1947, the game had benefited from Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Bob Gibson, Roberto Clemente, Maury Wills, Reggie Jackson, and countless other black stars.
Lets look at some hard numbers for the hard sciences. The first human being to win two Nobel Prizes was a woman: Madame Curie (Physics laureate in 1903 and a Chemistry laureate in 1911). Through 1964, women had won five times in Physics or Chemistry.
Since then, out of the 160 laureates in those two fields, women have numbered … zero.
Women have done better in Medicine/Physiology, but, overall, women made up 2.5 percent of the laureates in the three hard science Nobels up through 1964 … and 2.3 percent ever since. (No woman has ever won a Fields Prize, the Nobel equivalent for mathematicians.)
In Economic Sciences (I'll remain silent on whether that term is an oxymoron), women have accounted for none of the 44 Nobel Laureates since that Prize was instituted in 1969.
When I look at fields I'm more qualified to judge, it's evident that women are not currently storming the heights of genius in the numbers Woolf expected.
As a reviewer of nonfiction books, I would probably pick Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae as the single most brilliant work by anyone, male or female, over the last 15 years. After that, though, the pickings get slim.
As a film critic, I've noted that while the number of female Hollywood executives has soared, the number of top women screenwriters has declined since the 1960s, the number of consistently strong female directors is very small (women have earned only three of the last 84 Academy Award nominations for Best Director), and the number of outstanding woman cinematographers is nonexistent (no woman has ever been nominated for an Oscar in cinematography).
Since the death of Pauline Kael, there haven't even been many leading women film critics.
Or consider a brand new field, one too young for an Old Boys Network to control: blogging.
Of course, noting the recent lack of female geniuses may be unfair to women, since we don't appear to be living in an age of male geniuses either.
The most rigorous attempt to measure the number of great discoverers and creators over time is Charles Murray's 2003 book, Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950. It uses the citations of individuals in leading reference books in order to rank their importance.
Around 1400, Western Europe became a perpetual motion machine for the creation of geniuses. But Murray's statistics show, on a per capita basis, a falling off of individual accomplishment beginning in the second half of the 19th Century and continuing up through 1950 (when Murray stopped in order to prevent ephemeral recent fads from warping the data).
Murray's subjective view is that human accomplishment has dropped even more sharply in the last half century, and I have to agree.
I asked my blog's readers to nominate works of art from the post-1950 era that would likely meet Murray's challenge of still being appreciated 200 years from now. Strikingly, a large fraction of the nominees turned out to be from the 1940s.
For example, the first play I thought of as likely to win a place in the permanent repertory was Eugene O'Neil's Long Day's Journey into Night, which debuted on Broadway in 1956. Yet it turned out to have been written 15 years earlier.
Of the nominated works that were actually created in the second half of the century, by far the most came from the 1950s, with the 1960s in second place.
So, it could be that the current feminist era is just unlucky to have happened during an overall slack period.
But, it's also likely that feminism—with its emphasis on self-pity, resentment of greatness, hatred of logic, insistence upon social validation of personal feelings, and demand for lying and browbeating the honest into silence—has contributed to the general decline in quality.
Modern feminism and modern decadence are results of the same general trend. Feminism emerged at the end of the 1960s precisely because the cultural leaders of the era had rebelled against the traditions that had made Western Civilization such an incubator of geniuses for over 500 years— above all, the preference for truth over ideology.
Larry Summers is merely the latest, and perhaps the least, victim.