David Lammy doesn’t sound white; he sounds upper-middle-class

By skepticlawyer

I’ve long maintained that race is almost meaningless when it comes to analysing urban disorder in Britain, and the latest burst of destructiveness has done nothing to change my view. In Britain, class is where it’s at, but not the sort of class you’d recognise from the pages of Karl Marx (who is, I’m afraid, rapidly approaching his use-by date in Merrie Old England).

Rather than go into enormous and tedious detail on this point, I’d like to contrast the comments of historian David Starkey (a man who is, I might add, as queer as a three pound note) with a stand-up routine by comedian Chris Rock. Both videos are below.

Starkey appeared on BBC Newsnight this week; as you can see, Rock’s performance was part of a live show.

I should add that the latter made the ‘looters won’t rob Waterstones’ joke some fifteen years ago; the man is clearly prescient. His spiel is incredibly NSFW, mainly because it uses ‘f*ck’ and ‘n*gger’ as floating nouns, verbs and adjectives, but is still funny and confronting all at once (something that is surprisingly hard to do).

Starkey does not try to be funny, and he also has a serious point. The responses of his co-panellists (particularly the numpty who thinks that chav=working class) are a curious mixture of political correctness and incompetence. I was going to use ‘woolly-headed’ as a modifier for ‘incompetence’, but that goes without saying. Their common referent is Tottenham MP David Lammy; Starkey suggests he sounds white. He’s wrong, of course, but for all the right reasons.

David Lammy sounds upper-middle-class. In other news, welcome to Britain.

Starkey has been pilloried Hell, West and Crooked for his comments, but has also been defended in all sorts of odd quarters (including by many black Britons). Chris Rock was also pilloried at the time (1996) for his performance, which was unscripted and at least in part in response to an attempted mugging on the way to the venue.

The inability to discuss class (or say anything coherent about anything, much) on the part of the Newsnight panel would be funny if it were not so excruciating. There have been quite a few comments on this very blog this week on the tongue-twisting ineptitude of British elites when it comes to talking about class; the proof of the pudding, as they say…

That apart, there are a couple of other interesting elements in the mix.

The fervid response to Starkey indicates the unwillingness of many on the left to engage with morality in addition to class. This is to everyone’s detriment.

See, religious conservatives have a great grasp of moral purpose and a pretty decent sense of when to deploy moral argument. One of the reasons why I make moral arguments on this blog is because when lefties disappear so far up their own fundament when it comes to ‘taking morality seriously’, the people who are able to win the relevant moral arguments are no longer classical liberals; they’re conservative Christians like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann and Christine Odone … and I’m afraid, in a fight between the wet left and the Christian moralists, the latter will win: first time, every time. It’s not even a fair fight. It’s like playing a game of football where one team is composed of giants on a field with a 45° slope in their favour.

Which means classical liberals like me (who are in the awkward position of understanding arguments from both sides) have to make all the moral running first, without letting the religious nutters colonise the debate.

So, first watch David Starkey.

And then watch Chris Rock (NSFW).

And then have a think about why accusing one’s opponents of racism when they’re clearly not racist is quite possibly the stupidist game in town.

(Oh, and Starkey has a point; rap is crap, and that African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans continue to defend it when their culture has previously gifted Western Civilisation a musical heritage that includes Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald is perplexing to say the least).

[NB: I’ve just edited this post to make it clearer, but unfortunately you are going to have to watch both videos if you want to get much out of it; I’m not going to paraphrase two lengthy and complex segments].

47 Comments

  1. Posted August 16, 2011 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Really good post Helen !!!

  2. Posted August 16, 2011 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    They do have problem talking about class, don’t they? Not to mention morality.

    On rap, I’m reminded of a piece I read years ago in The Spectator of an American rap artist rhapsodising about Palestrina. The Spectator writer recorded tentatively suggesting that was an odd enthusiasm, given his own music. The (unnamed) rap artist stopped, sneered and said “What I produce is not music, it’s pre-packaged adolescent angst for teenage white boys”. Gotta love a man who knows his business 🙂

    I notice, in Chris Rock’s performance, his audience loves it: which is surely why he keeps going. The audience (and we) know exactly what he means. And he is very, very funny.

  3. Anna Winter
    Posted August 16, 2011 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    “real music”, “real protests”…

    Get off my lawn etc. Kind of refreshing to see that this isn’t as new as it seems.

  4. John
    Posted August 16, 2011 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Here is the take by someone who actually knows a thing or two about “black language”

  5. Posted August 16, 2011 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Yes, many Afro-Caribbeans were utterly infuriated by the behaviour of the rioters, black and white. One of them bailed up London Mayor Boris Johnson and painted him into an impressive verbal corner over discipline (particularly of black children in their countries of origin):

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14481311

    Indeed, it’s been interesting to see–even in the Guardian–pleas from Afro-Caribbean parents to be allowed to raise and discipline their children in their way. I dated a Jamaican man for quite a while when living in London, and was struck by the beautiful courtesy of everyone in his family, until I saw a boy give ‘cheek’ to his mother.

    His father hit him so hard he couldn’t sit down for the rest of the day. I never saw the same child be rude ever again.

    The Bajans (people from Barbados) call it ‘broughtupcy’, and Barbados (if you look at Transparency International’s data) is one of the best-governed, least corrupt countries in the world.

    [I will also add that the misogyny of much rap music is wholly African-American in origin, and is only being copied by Afro-Caribbean youth in England (and, I presume, elsewhere) because it has become fashionable. This is a dreadful bit of cultural seepage, and detracts from one of the most attractive aspects of culture across the West Indies: strong, respected women who do not take rot from men].

  6. Posted August 16, 2011 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Well I don’t agree with ‘rap is crap’ it’s certainly a broken record tho’. What can I say, let someone else say it:

    It’s time for a new day
    An era in rap, conscious styles,
    Makin’ them aware of the happenings
    But their ears seem more steered towards
    self-annihilation

    So many might laugh and write this off, like I’m out here just blowing wind,
    Maybe label us soft or unreal,
    Something they can’t feel,
    While they keep yelling:
    “Murder murder murder,
    Kill kill kill”

  7. Posted August 16, 2011 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    And race matters. When I’m with black friends: the cops and a small but significant slice of the population display markedly different attitudes, and not nice ones either.

  8. Posted August 16, 2011 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Starkey put his case badly: if he had talked about “hip-hop/rap gangsta culture”, he would have been on stronger ground. Especially, as John’s link and [email protected] indicate, it gets across to the white boys and girls from American popular culture, not Caribbean culture.

    In the US, for example, there is a real effort by Jamaican parents to stop their kids becoming “black” (or, in Chris Rock’s language niggarz). It is revealing that, of the two serious African-American Presidential prospects in recent times, Colin Powell is a second-generation Jamaican and Barack Obama is a second-generation East African. So neither culturally descends from (West) African-American slave culture.

    Still, the other panelists reacted in “wet left” ways: we can’t talk usefully about culture or morality, let alone the connection between the two, but boy, we can police language. Police it right out of saying anything useful or grappling with the genuinely difficult. (So, for example, we will shout down anyone who raises issues about Islam because that has to be construed as insulting Muslims: but we can raise issues about any “right wing” beliefs as we like, hopefully in as insulting a way as possible.)

    What all this going to do to the BNP vote is depressing to contemplate.

  9. Posted August 16, 2011 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Starkey’s observations are apt (I’m quite familiar with Chris Rock’s routine thumbs up). His go at Jamaican creole is rubbish that has nothing to do with it.

    This is not an English phenomena it’s global. And it’s not Hip-Hop’s fault, it’s simply what you get when you’ve got social fragmentation. Gangsta rap gives it a style guide, its current style guide, but the phenomena has been there and the trend follows the second World War.

    Blaming it on white people acquiring black culture in the UK is spurious. Truth is that gangsta rap came out of the bad neighborhoods of LA and caught on fire around the world. It’s not just ‘black’. Eminem put out his brand of white trash psychosis and that likewise caught fire. There’s a reason for that and it has nothing to do with the style of music. The music is an expression of something much older.

    Ain’t no escapin, cause I’m way too young
    Pops is dealin, and on top of that got moms sprung
    Schemin’ off the top, Pops never figured
    That he’d go down by the hands of another nigga
    Now my pops is gone and that ain’t no good
    Got to follow in the foot steps of the homies from the hood
    And where’s the role model?
    Niggaz putting brew in my fuckin baby bottle!
    Damn, and through all the motherfuckin pain
    They done drove my moms in-sane
    So I guess I gotta do work so I ain’t finished
    I grow up to be a straight-up menace, yeah

    If you want a clue as to how Hip Hop fits in with what’s wrong then, yeah, compare it to Miles Davis and Marvin Gaye. Compared to the music those guys put out Hip Hop is derivative and easy to make. Compared to just about everything our ancestors have done our culture is….

    Now most of the people who buy the gangsta thing don’t grow up in such places but for some reason they relate. There’s reasons for that, and they go back a lot further than “Rapper’s Delight” in 1979.

  10. Posted August 16, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Caribbean culture is quite different to Somalian culture is quite different to African American rapper culture etc etc etc.

    This is true. And older African friends of mine don;t like Hip Hop much. The younger ones do however, which is natural. You wanna be ‘cool’ n’ stuff and if you’re black, well…

    But one can say that it’s a problem when alienated youth (both black and white) taken on a violent misogynistic ideal emanating from popular culture (which both black and white figures espouse).

    I think the violence and misogyny well precede Hip Hop. The Autobiography of Malcolm X refers to a culture that is well recognizable in Biggie Smalls’ songs but the soundtrack then was swing there wasn’t much of a mention of the actual attitudes and lifestyles of the musician’s experience.

    A lot of this had to do with censorship. The lauding of marijuana, for example, was evident back before the censorship instinct kicked in in the States.

    The tough guy schpiel, the violence etc are all part of the gang mentality. And that’s about power and community. Stephen Sondheim got it right back in the 50s:

    You’re never alone,
    You’re never disconnected!
    You’re home with your own:
    When company’s expected,
    You’re well protected!

    When you’re a Jet,
    You’re the swingin’est thing:
    Little boy, you’re a man;
    Little man, you’re a king!

    If you want status and your legit prospects aren’t that good? And if a lot of public housing projects get built which concentrate this. And, moreover, said buildings are constructed from some post-Bauhausian twerp’s idea of ‘ideal working class life’ what you get is a bunch of people who believe with some justification that they are a pariah class.

    It’s a war mentality. Mix in globalized distribution of popular culture and it goes global. It’s not that these people have no moral compass, it’s that morality only applies within their set and outside this set anything goes. To them the cops are just another gang.

  11. kvd
    Posted August 16, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Adrien for some very thought provoking comments. Not to keep on the wiki theme, but I went there to look for some ‘further back’ commentary. I found this on protest songs. Your art – in all its visual and musical forms – has a very honourable history of rebellion.

  12. Posted August 16, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Just to be clear, I wasn’t blaming the music, but the memes which music can be a powerful means of spreading.

    And if a lot of public housing projects get built which concentrate this. And, moreover, said buildings are constructed from some post-Bauhausian twerp’s idea of ‘ideal working class life’ what you get is a bunch of people who believe with some justification that they are a pariah class.

    It is always good to see another reminder that Le Corbusier was a peddler of noxious and destructive rubbish. Public housing oh so often destroys communities in order to concentrate social pathologies.

    On cultural antecedents, one of the more dispiriting pieces of social analysis I have read was Peter Turchin’s argument that mass slavery can undermine and pervert social capital for centuries. The American South shows significantly lower levels of social capital than the rest of the US. Some urban areas in the US are truly disastrous, and have been for quite some time: alas, not an unrelated factor. It may matter that slavery was abolished a good generation earlier in the Caribbean than the American South and was not followed by an equivalent of Jim Crow.

    In the category of disturbing arguments, try this one: Africa is the source of homo sapiens, so shows more genetic diversity than the various offshoot populations, so its Bell curves of attributes and traits are flatter, so African-descended populations will have proportionately more males at the extreme end of the aggression spectrum leading to inherently more aggression-and-violence problems, particularly if various social constraint mechanisms are undermined.

    As I remind folk when talking about average heights (all those tall kids because of three generations of good nutrition), genes are a recipe, not a mould. Social policy and trends can make things worse or better (e.g. you can tell that C19th mass migration was not good for locally born Americans because their average heights fall from the 1830s onwards, while African-American poverty rates fell dramatically from c.1950 to c.1965 and then flatlined). But African-descended communities may have a particular propensity to problems of (male) aggression and so be more vulnerable to socially disintegrative policy and trends.

  13. Posted August 16, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Those with more genetic knowledge than I can provide comment on whether the second (genetic-propensity) dispiriting argument has any basis.

  14. Posted August 16, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    On social conditions and height: in the C19th, American slaves had a higher average height than the English lower class. Pro-slavery advocates would claim slaves ate better than workers across the Atlantic.

    European skeletons have their tallest average height before the C20th around 600AD. The population crash after the fall of the Roman Empire was over, some stability had returned and there was plenty of land for everyone, so generally high quality land was farmed while just about anyone and everyone could hunt. History, it’s a complicated thing.

  15. Posted August 16, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    African-descended populations will have proportionately more males at the extreme end of the aggression spectrum leading to inherently more aggression-and-violence problems, particularly if various social constraint mechanisms are undermined.

    That’s interesting.

    It is always good to see another reminder that Le Corbusier was a peddler of noxious and destructive rubbish. Public housing oh so often destroys communities in order to concentrate social pathologies.

    Le Corbusier was a brilliant architect, great drawings of fantasy buildings and cities. You just, like, wouldn’t want to build one or anything. Who’d wanna live there. 🙂

    Gimme Hunterwasser and Gaudi anytime.

  16. Posted August 16, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    KVD – From your link: The 1980s also saw the rise of rap and hip-hop, and with it bands such as Grandmaster Flash (“The Message [1982]”), Boogie Down Productions (“Stop the Violence” [1988]),”N.W.A (“Fuck tha Police” [1988]) and Public Enemy (“Fight the Power” [1989]

    Flash’s ‘The Message’ was my first time.

    About the same time Public Enemy were big there was a group in LA called NWA. After the broke up (because one of them stole all the money) their DJ Andre Young (aka Dr Dre) released a record called The Chronic and Gangsta Rap was born. Dre is also Eminem’s mentor.

    We liked it sure, but we were thinking well there’s gonna be a whole bunch of kids who are going to grow up listening to this. From around 1992 this was the mainstream stuff and the socially conscious stuff went underground.

    Just to be clear, I wasn’t blaming the music, but the memes which music can be a powerful means of spreading.

    And I don’t mean to say it’s entirely innocent. Blackalicious (quoted above), Tricky, De La Soul have all made comments in song and to the press about it. It’s a feedback loop. If you’re tempted in that direction a dollop of this stuff can push you over.

    Lyrics that glorify sociopathic behaviour have become almost compulsory. This is basically because it’s commercial. The ‘gangsta’ look has the right iconography. So the best music producers go with that style of rapper.

    And the the thing is that it all so fake:

    Time and time, a brother asks why
    The rhyme is not laced with a gangsta touch
    I said “Simply because I don’t live that way
    Still kickin’ them rhymes rugged and rough”
    “But that won’t sell,
    cause you gotta keep it real
    so that we can feel
    where you’re coming from
    Because these streets is ill so if you ain’t
    killing niggas in rhymes
    your whole sound’s just bubble gum”

    I’m not trying to convert people to Hip Hop. I’m well used to friends who hate its guts. But the scum rises to the surface and you can’t see the vegetables beneath. Dave Bath was asking about inter-generational culture before and the new school (15-25) are totally swamped in Gangsta poses. But the smart ones know it’s all shite.

    Trouble is they don’t know the history or the heritage. Hip Hop works by quotation. People have forgotten what’s being quoted. There was something that sampled Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song”. And these kids are all swinging along Day-o ze day-ay-ay-o etc.

    Never heard of Belafonte.

  17. Posted August 16, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Le Corbusier was a brilliant architect, great drawings of fantasy buildings and cities. You just, like, wouldn’t want to build one or anything. Who’d wanna live there

    I find Le Corbusier visually quite restful it’s just like all high-end architecture, very expensive to achieve and becomes brutalised when executed ‘on the cheap’. I know the easy joke is usually “A machine for living – but who wants to live in a machine?” but actually I do. Being disabled I know the massive difference that having a properly designed living environment can make. Standard domestic design doesn’t make use of the systems I need to compensate for lack of strength, co-ordination and ability to stand. A more systematised approach (machine-like if you will) makes my daily life a hell of a lot easier.

  18. Posted August 16, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    Well, there goes this bloke’s practicing certificate:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/8703443/UK-riots-Oxford-University-graduate-and-RAF-hopeful-in-court.html

    I think we really need to ditch the poverty explanation now. RAF cadets, Oxford graduates, the two sons of the vicar of Purley (that’s in lovely green Surrey, by the way).

    That’s the Radcliffe Camera in the background, btw; he’s clearly standing in the cafe run by St Mary’s, the Oxford University Church.

  19. Posted August 16, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    A more systematised approach (machine-like if you will) makes my daily life a hell of a lot easier.

    I like the machine. I also like Huntertwasser’s maxim that there are no straight lines in nature. Can’t we have both at the same time?

  20. kvd
    Posted August 16, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    SL – any statements anywhere from any of these people? As to why they took part, how they now feel about their actions, etc.? Don’t mean “I’m sorry I got caught” stuff, which I’ve read sometime. Just what do they say posessed them? And btw a sixth form girl who has applied to join the RAF is not ‘a RAF cadet’ – although I’d say it would probably do her the world of good.

  21. Posted August 16, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Bell curves of attributes and traits are flatter, so African-descended populations will have proportionately more males at the extreme end of the aggression spectrum leading to inherently more aggression-and-violence problems, particularly if various social constraint mechanisms are undermined.

    Doesn’t that mean we should also see more at the positive extremities as well?

  22. Posted August 16, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    Doesn’t that mean we should also see more at the positive extremities as well?

    I think so, yes. There’s a reason why Barbados is a fantastically well run country, and in its unadulterated form, West Indian culture is very impressive. Cast your mind back to the skill, grace and intelligence of the West Indian cricket team in the 1970s and 1980s.

    I will add here that the criminalisation of Jamaicans in Britain arose out of the fact that their home culture is far more tolerant of smoking dope (ganja), while Britain is engaging is a particularly stupid junior version of the ‘War on Drugs’. Now, on one level that suggests that Jamaicans living in Britain have to adapt their culture to that of the country to which they have immigrated (that criticism applies to many Muslims from the subcontinent, too, when it comes to the treatment of women and apostates). However, the Jamaican taste for dope is far less destructive than the misogyny and bigotry present in parts of British Islam.

    The ‘War on Drugs’ needs to be shelved as a matter of urgency.

  23. Posted August 16, 2011 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    Barbados is a fantastically well run country, and in its unadulterated form, West Indian culture is very impressive.

    Sometime ago a bod in Britain made a controversial comment that no doubt he was reprimanded for. He stated that if you wanted to curb alcohol related violence Britain hand out marijuana.

    Given SL’s observation about Barbados one has to wonder … .

    BTW, in my now past extensive experience with the marijuana culture, pot smokers are nothing like what you see on TV or the image portrayed by many specialists. I encountered some remarkably intelligent pot heads with whom I could have hours of fascinating conversation. Pot certainly mitigates against hard work but I also encountered many regular pot smokers who ran their own businesses, maintained regular employment, and were likable, easy going types.

    Shock of the night: if you look at the extensive literature on cannabinoids, both THC and CBD are amongst the most potent neuroprotective agents on the planet. You won’t hear the specialists say that. I even used to say to people that good protection against dementia might be possible through getting quite stoned once a week.

  24. Posted August 17, 2011 at 1:26 am | Permalink

    Here’s one strange explanation for the riots which will undoubtedly invite scorn. Some years ago myself and a friend were trawling through data looking for associations between behavior and weather fronts, EMFs, and other unlikely causative factors. One of the more unlikely things we came across was changes in rates of heart attacks with approaching weather fronts. Just a few days ago he sent me an email regarding Atril Fib, a serious heart condition, correlating with meteorological events. All this is rather speculative because the data is too sparse. After all, anyone who does research like this is already regarded as half crazy. Fortunately there is a relationship between high intelligence and being quirky so some have bothered.

    http://www.newsdaily.com/stories/tre77b3ox-us-britain-solar/

    Riots, wild markets: Did space storms drive us mad?

  25. conrad
    Posted August 17, 2011 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    “so African-descended populations will have proportionately more males at the extreme end of the aggression spectrum ”

    The assumption here is that agression is what is coded for, when it’s more likely to be testosterone (or indeed something even lower). If I remember correctly, then if you look at testosterone levels in adults and then look at behavior within groups in normal populations, I believe that you don’t find increased levels of things that people associate with testosterone in animals (like aggression — sorry I can’t find the reference now). I also think that even if there really were genetic effects for this, their influence on complex behavior like this would be tiny — you can just look at differences between countries with similar genetic populations and the variance is huge.

  26. kvd
    Posted August 17, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    A fourth defendant, Linda Boyd, 31, who has 62 previous convictions, was given a 10 month jail term suspended for two years after she was caught trying to drag away a £500 haul of alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco.

    But a couple of days ago, there was this

    A college student with no criminal record was jailed for six months on Thursday for stealing a £3.50 case of bottled water during a night of rioting.

    It is just depressing and confusing to read about this sort of inconsistency.

  27. Posted August 17, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] What I get from your comment is
    (1) it’s complicated; and
    (2) probably not.

  28. Posted August 17, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Something to make us feel better about long run trends in us hominids.

  29. Posted August 17, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] The poverty explanation has, indeed, got to the point and laugh stage.

  30. Posted August 17, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Something to make us feel better about long run trends in us hominids.

    Ah but Lorenzo the trend has reversed. Human cranial capacity has been decreasing since 20,000 years ago. Three probable causes.

    1. Warming. There is a clear correlation between cold climates and brain size, an article released last week illustrated this and in my archives is a very old anthro article showing that even within Africa one can see differences in cranial capacity relative to temperature.

    2. Reduced body size.

    3. I have long considered brains to be at the metabolic limit. I call it the “hungry brain hypothesis”.

    The other issue is that since 2000 there are clear declines in IQ scores.

    Damn, shit, bugger …. .

  31. Posted August 17, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    [email protected]: I think the point being made by the judge there was that a middle-class college student knows or ought to know better. I can understand the logic, even though the lenience of the £500 luxuries haul seems patently unfair and there is the gender issue – in the UK magistrates often won’t jail women simply because they have kids for example.

  32. Posted August 17, 2011 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Yes, sexism in justice runs both ways. There is still evidence of it (against women) when it comes to rape allegations, and there is still evidence of it (against men) when it comes to sentencing.

    More lenient sentences for women is also a characteristic of developed legal systems; the Romans had it too, and the common law soon developed it. One of the giveaways that there’s something wrong with Sharia (and, indeed, some of the legal structures in medieval Europe) is the harshness directed at women.

  33. Posted August 18, 2011 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    [email protected]

    Human cranial capacity has been decreasing since 20,000 years ago.

    The period when we have done all the major intellectual breakthroughs! Cue jokes about it is not size, it is how you use it.

    The other issue is that since 2000 there are clear declines in IQ scores.

    Among which populations?

  34. Posted August 18, 2011 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    [email protected] On well run West Indian countries, one of my favourite queer films, Children of God, is a product of the Bahamas, which Wikipedia tells me is the third richest country in the Americas and the richest country with a predominantly African population.

  35. Mel
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    SL:

    “Yes, sexism in justice runs both ways. There is still evidence of it (against women) when it comes to rape allegations, and there is still evidence of it (against men) when it comes to sentencing.”

    On the other hand, women who make false rape allegations often get off with nothing more than a stern lecture from Constable Plod.

    The False Rape Society blog catalogues literally hundreds of cases each year, mostly in the Anglosphere, of false rape accusations. As we saw with the “Clare”/Matthew Johns media kerfuffle a couple of years ago, false accusers may be turned into media celebrities while the falsely accused is publicly vilified.

  36. Posted August 18, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Mel, I think it’s worth making the following observations on the ‘false allegations’ point (dons Procurator Fiscal hat):

    1. There are a certain percentage of false allegations for all crimes, and these numbers are fairly steady across violent crimes. Crimes where there is the possibility of an insurance claim or a claim in delict in addition to the criminal prosecution on foot have a higher ‘false allegation’ rate than crimes where there is no possibility of decent financial recovery (criminal compensation doesn’t count; the sums are too paltry). Therefore rape, like assault and mugging, has a relatively low rate of false accusations.

    2. Many rapes go unreported to the police (they are nearly always reported to the British Crime Survey, however).

    3. Conviction rates for rape are improving all the time, and are actually quite high; the very low figures one sees for rape conviction rates come about when people contrast British Crime Survey or reported crime data with conviction rates, leaving out the important second stage — number of COPFS or CPS prosecutions. The BCS is, as suggested, a survey, and none of the claimed crimes are ‘tested’ as such. Historically, BCS data was used to indicate how much ‘actual crime’ there was in society (as opposed to just crimes reported to the police), but it has become less accurate over time as it seems that people are now telling researchers about violent crimes that may not have happened. This did not happen in the past and seems to have arisen because being a victim of crime attracts status rewards that it didn’t before. This applies to all violent crimes, not just rape, however.

    4. The solution to the arms race between false criminal accusations and low conviction rates after reputational destruction seems (to me) to be adoption of the civilian system in sexual assault cases, where both accuser and victim remain anonymous before trial, but that rape is made easier to prove: the woman should only have to prove she didn’t consent, and not that the man knew that she didn’t consent.

    5. England is moving towards the latter position: the man’s belief in the woman’s lack of consent must now be ‘reasonable’ (copying a similar Scottish principle); we have not yet gone as far as France or Germany, however. Both accuser and victim remain anonymous in France until trial. This latter is why the French were so cross about DSK, and why the French press went to some trouble to reveal his New York accuser’s identity. In France, as I said, both victim and accuser remain anonymous, and many French people were annoyed that DSK was put through an American ‘perp walk’ while his accuser’s identity remained a secret, so they went out of their way to reveal who she was.

    6. Civilian countries have higher rape conviction rates and few to no complaints about false rape allegations, so I think that picking a solid civilian rape prosecution model (France, Japan and Germany are all good) and sticking with it would be a reasonable place to start.

    On a related point: FA Hayek (who was trained in both systems) maintained that the Romans did a better job of criminal law, but the English were better at commercial and constitutional law, and thought that an ideal legal system would blend the two along those lines. It’s an interesting thought, although I’m not sure how practical it is.

  37. Chris Bond
    Posted August 20, 2011 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    Starkey has taken an opportunity to answer his many critics…
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/8711621/UK-riots-Its-not-about-criminality-and-cuts-its-about-culture…-and-this-is-only-the-beginning.html
    I agree with his contention that we need to have the debate despite it needing to cover some very uncomfortable areas… nothing good came of the recent period in the UK when cries of “racist” were sufficient to quell comment and discussion. As one of the comments to the post says, “To solve a problem, you first have to acknowledge that it exists.”

  38. Posted August 21, 2011 at 3:16 am | Permalink

    Is there some other aspect which is telling, like ratio of cerebellum to other parts?

    It was once thought the cerebellum was about fine tuning of movement. It is about everything, so much for modularity … . The climbing fibres can have up to 10,000 synapses on them. An old friend of mine reckons the cerebellum is sadly neglected, he even asserts that it was Andreasen who established that the primary mode of anti-psychotics in schizophrenia was in the cerebellum. The cerebellum contains more neurons than the rest of the brain.

    Among which populations?

    A number of populations, Denmark, Norway, Australia, Britain, with some studies suggesting the decline has been happening for many decades. There are lots of confounders here but the trend is emerging with no clear explanation. Some scientists suggest it is because of toxins. Not sure but it is known that the average person now has 200+ chemicals in the body that did not exist prior to last century. Others suggest that the iq scoring adjustments are just plain wrong. Some people I know are very suspicious of iq. There is a philosophical issue here. “Intelligence” doesn’t exist, there are behaviors which we describe as “intelligent” but “intelligence” is an operational concept. The problem with that perspective is Spearman’s G concept but many people also don’t like that.

    So what we need is some measures much more subtle than iq. Then we might have a better idea of what is going on.

  39. Posted August 21, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    [email protected] What you have to say seems to contradict the the Flynn effect, though I note there is reference in the Wikipedia entry to a plateauing and some recent declines in IQ results.

  40. Posted August 21, 2011 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Historian James Heartfield has some very apposite points about inappropriate policing and breakdown in work and rewards in the UK.

  41. Posted August 21, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    What you have to say seems to contradict the the Flynn effect,

    Not really, it qualifies it. People simply assume the Flynn Effect is universal and ongoing without looking at the relevant data.

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