Racial Animosity and Calculated ‘Academic’ Controversialists

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Generally, top academic institutions are known for harboring scholars that put out stellar studies on important issues — as opposed to being known as places that harbor people who formulate needless racial controversies. (The latter is what we expect from the NAACP, Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and Al Sharpton’s entire existence). A London School of Economics (LSE) psychologist, however, provided an exception to that rule. In a silly and poorly reasoned “academic” article for Psychology Today, Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa (pictured left) argued that black women are uglier than other races because they allegedly have higher testosterone levels.

More insulting than the patent racism of this research was the offensive lack of scholarly rigor that Kanazawa displayed during his “study.” To arrive at his dazzling conclusion, Kanazawa conducted a survey of people without divulging the critical information needed to assess the validity of his chosen method: the race of the people being surveyed and the amount of people being surveyed. Even if this information was divulged, serious academics would want to know the sampling method that he utilized so they could assess whether his method contained sampling bias.

Leaving all that academic research parlance aside, the fundamental fact of the matter is that Kanazawa attempted to dress up people’s opinion as a basis for ascertaining facts. Irrespective of however many people he surveyed, to assert that, scientifically, black women are uglier than women of other races is fallacious, inasmuch as there is no objective or scientific metric to test beauty. Thus, his entire research endeavor was an embarrassing fool’s errand.

It’s unfortunate that this wasn’t just a mere mistake or an anomaly. Kanazawa’s nonsense is emblematic of a more troubling trend in academia and the public intellectual scene.

Sadly, there exists a pseudo-academic trend where intellectual lightweights simply choose to trot out poorly reasoned material in order to fan the flames of racial animosity, as this is the quickest way to become a popular controversialist. What Kanazawa did in this case was the “academic” equivalent to Al Sharpton’s life’s work: exploit race in a painfully idiotic way to raise his own public profile.Noted race-hustler,

Despite the fact that he was a lecturer at the esteemed LSE, the unassailable reality is that he was a complete no-name academic before he started this uproar. Perhaps he believed that by writing about race in such an inflammatory and offensive way he’d suddenly launch himself into Noam Chomsky’s public intellectual status. Evidently, he thought wrong.

In his shameless quest for his cheap fifteen minutes of fame, what Kanazawa did not think through was how he would ever be taken seriously for anything scholarly he ever decided to write again. For a university lecturer to make such an elementary mistake like not publishing the amount of people in a sample, which would undoubtedly cause any undergraduate in any accredited school in the world to flunk a research methods paper, is the equivalent of staging a public and televised burning of his Ph.D. certificate. To produce such sloppy research with the imprimatur of LSE is just astonishing.

Of all the endless and fascinating sociological questions that Kanazawa could have conducted research on, he decided to take the route of conducting an utterly vacuous “study” on race that, even if it were academically sound, would serve absolutely no meaningful purpose to society. Even if Kanazawa wanted to conduct a study on beauty and race, why not conduct one that investigates the perceptions of beauty vs. any number of other interesting social factors? (Answer: because that would involve real scholarly work, and Kanazawa just wanted his name in the news.)

The best controversialists are always people that bring about controversy organically by thinking in a way that is different to accepted modes of popular thought. These are genuine academics and writers that have a lot to offer to their respective fields. From my perspective, there is nothing worse than a calculated controversialist that fastidiously plans out the most controversial positions to take on every issue rather than simply writing what they believe.

Calculated controversialists, despite their careful planning, invariably end up looking like simpletons, inasmuch as they are incapable of formulating cogent arguments to back up their controversial positions – as is clearly the case with Kanazawa. It is easy to manufacture controversial points, but not so easy to manufacture convincing arguments to back them up.

The most lamentable thing about this whole controversy is that there are people who are not academically astute enough to ascertain the difference between true scholarly work and dressed-up pseudo-academic hokum – especially when an LSE logo is slapped on such shoddy work to lend it credibility. It calls into question the intellectual acumen and academic depth of some of the people being invited to teach at top universities all over the world.

The fundamental reason why academia is slowly losing respect – and causing people to turn to alternative underground (conservative) think-tanks to read truly innovative and scholarly work – is because of an infestation of mental midgets, like Kanazawa, whose intellectual capabilities are much more suited to finding Waldo in picture puzzles than conducting serious research and writing academic papers.

Black people should be deeply offended by this “study”; however, everyone, irrespective of race, who takes academics seriously should be offended all the same.