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Self in Society Roundup 27

Hanania, agency, changing minds, zoning, accidental geoengineering, Roy Orbison, and more.

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
August 7, 2023; ported here on January 24, 2024


Last time, I mentioned the HuffPost article by Christopher Mathias revealing that popular right-wing commentator Richard Hanania was, a little over a decade ago, writing grotesquely racist commentary under a fake name, Richard Hoste.

[He wrote] articles where he identified himself as a "race realist." He expressed support for eugenics and the forced sterilization of "low IQ" people, who he argued were most often Black. He opposed "miscegenation" and "race-mixing." And once, while arguing that Black people cannot govern themselves, he cited the neo-Nazi author of "The Turner Diaries," the infamous novel that celebrates a future race war.

On August 6, Hanania addresses this matter. He says he now finds his former views "repulsive." He writes, "My posts and blog comments in my early twenties encouraged racism, misogyny, misanthropy, trolling, and overall bad faith." Then, starting in his third paragraph, Hanania attacks the messenger, saying Mathias is a "supporter of antifa"—as if that were remotely relevant. A bit later he complains about the "cancellation effort" against him.

I definitely agree that people are able to reform their beliefs. Certainly I have said some stupid shit in the past that I now regret. Nevertheless, I doubt the sincerity and fullness of Hanania's repentance.

Here are some things to look for. How long has it been since articulation of the "old" beliefs? Did the person independently and publicly repent, or was the repentance largely a reaction to public criticism? How strongly has the person distanced himself from the previously held beliefs?

I'll leave it to readers who are interested to look up and read Hanania's essay, and his other, more-recent commentary, and judge for themselves. Quillete republished Hanania's piece.

Here is the sort of recent comment by Hanania that makes me doubt his sincerity: "I don't have much hope that we'll solve crime in any meaningful way. It would require a revolution in our culture or form of government. We need more policing, incarceration, and surveillance of black people. Blacks won't appreciate it, whites don't have the stomach for it."

Here I want to record some reactions by others.

Bryan Caplan writes, "I meant what I said five years ago. In his early 20s, [Hanania] anonymously said some bad things about me. I won him over, met him in real life, and he is now my good friend. And I stand by my friends."

Caplan, along with Tyler Cowen and Christopher Rufo (among others) provided (before revelations about Hanania's past came to light) promotional quotes for Hanania's new book.

Interestingly, Caplan once argued against "Hoste" on immigration.

Paul Matzko writes, "What's missing is any sense that his words were harmful. There's no apology for spending a decade encouraging others to despise women and minorities, just an expectation that we ought to reward him for (somewhat, recently) correcting his views. The implicit narcissism is thick."

Radley Balko likewise is not impressed: "The revelation in the expose of Hanania wasn't about Hanania. His racism was always right there in the open. The revelation was the determination with which mainstream pundits and outlets refused to see it." "I hope all the people who kept pushing this insecure twit as a refreshing, heterodox thinker are embarrassed. Probably not. But a guy can hope. It was always clear who Hanania was."

Paul Crider writes, "In his post Huffpo expose post, Hanania identifies as a 'small-l liberal.' Bullshit. He is in no way a liberal. Hanania is a reactionary. This is an inherently antiliberal position."

Quick Takes

Agency and Crisis: Ray Girn: "[In a crisis o]ur school leaders acted with poise and decisiveness. They communicated calmly with staff and families. They took all sorts of practical actions that the crises demanded. And, all along, they managed their own emotions and minds. Faced with disorienting trials, they kept themselves oriented and maintained their capacities for independent judgment and for wisdom." A good model.

Changing Minds: Recently a friend recommended Russ Roberts's 2022 talk with David McRaney on How Minds Change. Outstanding. One key idea is that, in having a discussion with someone, it is easy to push them into "reactivity" mode in which they are extremely resistant to listening to you. Also consider a roundtable discussion that McRaney hosts.

Walsh on Rousseau: Bryan Caplan has helped make available 1989 lectures by George Walsh critical of Rousseau (audio only, about 2.5 hours total). Highly recommended.

Homelessness: Jerusalem Demsas: "Homelessness is primarily a function of the broader housing-unaffordability crisis, which in turn is primarily a function of how difficult local governments have made building new housing in the places that need it the most."

NIMBY: Nathaniel Meyersohn: "In the 1910s, US cities began enacting policies that would shape neighborhoods and, unintentionally, lay the roots for the severe housing shortage today: single-family zoning laws."

Accidental Geoengineering: via Alex Tabarrok: The United Nations imposed strict regulations of sulfur emissions by ships. The regs worked, resulting in fewer reflective clouds and more global warming.

Orbison: Black and White Night is one of my all-time favorite albums. "A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs" podcast has two episodes on Roy Orbison. The second one discusses the many tragedies he faced, including the deaths of his wife and two children and his own untimely demise. His music, at least, will live forever.

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