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Sam Harris: White supremacy is a fringe belief that we don’t have to worry about too much right now

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Well this is a big relief:

The difference I would draw between Christchurch, a white supremacist atrocity, and what just happened in Sri Lanka or any jihadist attack you could name, the difference there is that white supremacy is an ideology, I’ll grant you. It doesn’t link up with so many good things in a person’s life that it is attracting psychologically normal non-beleaguered people into its fold. It may become that on some level.


It doesn’t have all the elements of a true religion. I mean, there are ways in which it’s entangled with certain forms of Christianity. Again, there’s not a death cult of martyrdom forming there. It’s conceivable that one could form there. I’m not ruling out the white supremacists for causing a lot of havoc in the world. But in reality, white supremacy, and certainly murderous white supremacy, is the fringe of the fringe in our society and any society. And if you’re gonna link it up with Christianity, it is the fringe of the fringe of Christianity. If you’re gonna debate a fundamentalist Christian, as I occasionally do, if I were to say, “Yeah, but what about white supremacy and all the …” He’s not gonna know what you’re … It’s not part of their doctrine in a meaningful way.

I don’t want to be rude, but what I find most annoying about the New Atheist schtick is that these GUYS present themselves as the epitome of rational reflection and insight when, as soon as they start talking about politics or really any sociological phenomenon, they sound like total morons.

I mean who doesn’t recognize that white supremacy is absolutely at the ideological core of the political movement that at the moment happens to control the government of the most powerful nation in the world? Sam Harris, that’s who!

And as for the claim that there’s no connection between white supremacist ideology and fundamentalist Christianity, that would seem to be belied by the fact that fundamentalist and/or evangelical Christians make up by far the most significant voting bloc in the coalition of white supremacists and conservative ethno-nationalists (but I repeat myself) who have taken over the Republican party and most of the government of the United States.

Harris, by contrast, goes out of his way to claim that two plus two isn’t actually four:

[White supremacy] is a fringe phenomenon in the United States. We’re not talking about 30 million white supremacists and we’re not talking about 30 million people who are likely to become white supremacists. Or certainly not violent, militia-joining white supremacists. But it doesn’t take a lot of people to create a lot of havoc.

In fact if you assume, quite reasonably, that about half of Trump voters are conscious or semi-conscious ethno-nationalists of some type — let’s call them “deplorables” — while the other half are potential or nascent members of this movement, then the “obviously” absurd numbers Harris posits to attempt to discredit the idea that white supremacy is some sort of serious political problem in the USA today constitute nothing but a quite reasonable estimate of the actual situation.

And now the punchline: when asked what can be done about getting white supremacy off Twitter etc., here’s what Harris describes as an “insuperable problem”:

[T]here’s just no way for us to keep track of what’s on our platform, right? So you know, the AI can’t do it. If we turn up the filter on white supremacy, we’re going to catch too many ordinary Republicans and we’re even going to catch certain Congressman, right, and we might even catch the president, and so that doesn’t work.

See, if Twitters censors white supremacists, it could end up censoring a bunch of super-prominent Republican politicians, and that would be bad because that would mean you were treating those politicians, including most notably the president of the United States, as if they were actually white supremacists. And that is obviously absurd, because that would mean white supremacy was actually the opposite of a fringe ideology in the USA at the moment, which is obviously false, because Sam Harris just said it was, and he’s like this super-rational dude, whose mind isn’t addled by obviously false beliefs (just ask him).

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