interesting times

Trump’s Reckless Nuclear Bluffing

Where’s the party of national security? Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

And then, in an instant, he ended America’s nuclear deterrence.

Isn’t that what happened this week? The president of the United States laid down an ultimatum that if the North Korean dictator issued any more threats to the U.S., there would be a response more ferocious than any military action in human history — i.e., presumably worse than Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Within hours, Kim Jong-un issued a threat to Guam. And nothing has happened … or, we are told, will happen. (Friday morning, Trump came back with more bluster, this time warning that “military solutions are in place” should North Korea act “unwisely.”)

This was a nuclear threat that was exposed as a bluff on the same day it was made. Imagine what Reagan would say about that. Or Truman. Or Eisenhower. Or Nixon. Or Kennedy. For when a superpower makes such a threat and doesn’t follow through, its nuclear credibility — the cornerstone of our deterrence — is damaged well below the waterline. That credibility — sustained by successive presidents of both parties, for decades — is integral to our national security and to global stability and peace.

Trump’s reckless nuclear bluff — more terrifying still — was not run by any aides beforehand. It was not coordinated with the Pentagon or State Department. The language was improvised. He was venting. He was winging it. And so this week confirmed what we already knew: There is no one able to control this rogue president, no one who is capable of preventing him, if he so wishes, from consigning hundreds of thousands of people to a nuclear holocaust. If this does not make for an emergency, what would?

For the Republican Party, this is a particularly dark and surreal moment. A party once defined by its edge in national security is now actively, recklessly, impulsively endangering it with a president manifestly unfit for the office he holds and the power he wields. At what point will they say enough? Will it take a nuclear incident to force their hand? Or are they really prepared to pretend none of this is happening?

The 25th Amendment exists for a reason. And at some point, the patriots in the cabinet will have to save us. I’m just wondering at this point if there are any patriots left.

The funniest headline of the week was at the Federalist: “Google Fires Engineer for Noticing Men and Women Are Different.” It’s funny because it’s true.

James Damore — the 28-year-old computing star — was not fired for saying that the women he worked with were not as good at their job as any man. He was not fired because he wrote that all women are “biologically unsuited” for coding. He was not fired for discriminating against women in the workplace. He was not fired for saying that women are somehow “inferior” to men. He was fired because he made the following point: “Note, I’m not saying that all men differ from women in the following ways or that these differences are ‘just.’ I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership. Many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions.”

Notice the extreme modesty of Damore’s argument. “Differ in part” … “may explain” … “differences are small” … “there’s significant overlap.” He is not saying that our culture does not tilt the playing field toward men in many ways. He does not deny that sexism operates against women in the computer field. In fact, he goes out of his way to concede this up front: “I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100 percent fair, that we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of those in the majority.” What he is saying is that gender differences in various professions may not entirely be a function of oppression or sexism. Nature — as generated by evolution — may play a role. It’s vital, in other words, to ensure that you are not placing any artificial barriers to greater gender diversity in the workplace — but assuming that any differential must be entirely a function of sexism is up for debate.

He used no slurs; he backed up his arguments with evidence; his tone is measured, even scholarly; in subsequent media appearances, he comes off as an affable fellow, far from angry or bitter, just refusing to buckle to ideas he believes are worth questioning. More to the point, he is not wrong. You’ll notice that almost none of the media criticisms of the manifesto present data that contradicts Damore, which is the obvious way to debunk someone. They don’t do this because the overwhelming data on gender difference supports Damore’s careful argument. In many rigorous, peer-reviewed studies, scholars — many of them women — have presented evidence that the genders do indeed differ on major personality traits, that men in general tend to prefer dealing with things and women in general prefer dealing with people, and that these differing traits may well lead to different distributions of men and women in certain professions. This does not mean that sexism isn’t also a big factor in these differentials. It posits merely that sexism is not the only factor.

Here is a recent paper, for example, showing that “there are no sex differences in cognitive ability but enduring sex differences in competitiveness, life goals, the relative emphasis on agency versus connection.” Here is another: “Results show that gender differences in Big Five personality traits are ‘small’ to ‘moderate,’ with the largest differences occurring for agreeableness and neuroticism … In contrast, gender differences on the people–things dimension of interests are ‘very large’ … with women more people-oriented and less thing-oriented than men.” You’ll notice that “neuroticism” is not an insult thrown at women by Damore, as many press reports have intimated, but a reference to a clinical term in the literature of human personality. Another study: “Replicating previous findings, women reported higher Big Five Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism scores than men.”

Wait, there’s more. Another peer-reviewed study: “Women reported higher levels of neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness than did men across most nations.” Here’s a story from The Guardian, no less, summarizing the state of research: “Ragini Verma … said the greatest surprise was how much the findings supported old stereotypes, with men’s brains apparently wired more for perception and co-ordinated actions, and women’s for social skills and memory, making them better equipped for multitasking.” This study was not culturally biased. It “used a technique called diffusion tensor imaging to map neural connections in the brains of 428 males and 521 females aged eight to 22.” Here’s a female Ph.D. in sexual neuroscience explaining reality: “Gendered interests are predicted by exposure to prenatal testosterone — higher levels are associated with a preference for mechanically interesting things and occupations in adulthood. Lower levels are associated with a preference for people-oriented activities and occupations. This is why STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields tend to be dominated by men.”

More data from last year: “Using Prediger’s (1982) model, women were more interested in people and ideas, while men were more interested in things and data. These results … suggest that large sex differences in work related interests will continue to be observed for decades.” Another particularly salient study lays out some of the core gender differences: “Men showed stronger Realistic and Investigative interests, and women showed stronger Artistic, Social, and Conventional interests. Sex differences favoring men were also found for more specific measures of engineering, science, and mathematics interests.”

The CEO of YouTube, Susan Wojcicki, did cite one study to back up her empirical and absolute denial “that there are biological reasons why there are fewer women in tech and leadership.” It’s here. But that study does not say what Wojcicki says it does. It wisely warns against overinflating gender differences, but rests on a meta-analysis that finds that there are indeed moderate to large gender differences in, as paraphrased in a recent blog post, “aggressiveness, horniness, language abilities, mechanical abilities, visuospatial skills, mechanical ability, tendermindness, assertiveness, comfort with body, various physical abilities, and computer skills.”

More interesting, as Damore noted, is that in more egalitarian societies like ours, gender differences in personality become progressively greater than in less egalitarian and developed societies — because men and women have more freedom in their careers and lives. Give men and women real choices, in other words, and they will become less — not more — interchangeable. True equality of opportunity will not render us all equivalent to, or interchangeable with, one another. It will render our differences more unmissable. And what will the diversity czars do then?

Perhaps the problem is that people have a hard time holding two separate thoughts in their head at the same time. In this case, you have to accept both that there are gender differences in the aggregate and that, nonetheless, you cannot infer anything from that fact when encountering any individual man or woman. That is not easy — and there is a very human temptation to discriminate against an individual based on aggregate group characteristics. But overall, different distributions exist, and they surely have some impact on gender disparities in various professions alongside sexism or general cultural influences.

Why, for example, do “men make up only 10 percent of nurses, only 20 percent of new veterinarians, only 25 percent of new psychologists, about 25 percent of new pediatricians, about 26 percent of forensic scientists, about 28 percent of medical managers, and 42 percent of new biologists”? (Note that “the average computer programmer only makes about $80,000; the average veterinarian makes about $88,000, and the average pediatrician makes a whopping $170,000.”) Do we really have to assume it’s entirely sexism? Why, in college majors, do women dominate men in music pedagogy, but are overwhelmed by men in music technology? Why do women vastly outnumber men in bachelor’s degrees in English, foreign languages, and health professions? No doubt culture and sexism play a role. All Damore is arguing is that biology may have a role as well.

The other problem is that we also have a hard time distinguishing between difference and inferiority. None of the research shows that men are “inferior” to women or that women are “inferior” to men — just different in the aggregate. That’s all. And biology is clearly one part of this. A key proof: Women who, in the womb, were subjected to much higher levels of testosterone than usual end up with interests and personality traits much more similar to men than most women. This tells us nothing about any individual’s skill set or any individual’s humanity or dignity or worth. But it suggests that, as with all other species, the roles of male and female in the aggregate are not interchangeable.

How does the diversity industry engage such science? First off, it simply misrepresents it. The mainstream media does this all the time and did not fail last week. The Atlantic called the memo “an anti-diversity screed.” Here are two sentences Damore wrote: “I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes,” and “I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group (tribalism).”

The New York Times described the memo in a news article as “positing that biological differences explained the tech industry’s gender gap.” Explained? That’s a caricature. How about “play a role in” the gender gap? Here’s Owen Jones in The Guardian: “Damore’s assertions about gender are, frankly, guff dressed up with pseudo-scientific jargon.” What is “pseudo-scientific” about the peer-reviewed studies I’ve cited? Jones doesn’t explain. Google’s diversity chief responded to the memo by telling Google employees that the memo advanced “incorrect assumptions” about gender, but never explained what in the memo was “incorrect.” She also refused even to link to the memo — because it propagated ideas that violated Google’s corporate policies. Whatever else this is, it isn’t rational. There is no ethical or empirical difference, it seems to me, between Jones’s or Google’s statements about gender and any statement that simply asserts that all climate science is a hoax. None. And yet the left forgives itself for the exact same know-nothingism it rightly excoriates on the right.

When all else fails, the diversity promoters argue that science is not salient because it is also merely a function of sexism, racism, ableism, etc. There is no objective truth — just systems of power and oppression. The mob at Middlebury had been properly educated and chanted that science was simply a cloak for white male supremacy. At Slate, you can read a piece directly dismissing any scientific data that complicates the most extreme version of left-feminist ideology.

But the deeper issue is this: A man has been demonized and fired solely for expressing his views in civil language backed up by facts. He used no slurs. He discriminated against no one in the workplace. He was great at his job. Worse, anyone who might share these views now knows they have to keep silent at Google or be terminated. This atmosphere in the American workplace — now backed by some of the most powerful companies on Earth — is thereby increasingly totalitarian. It monitors people’s minds and thoughts — and will fire them for incorrect ones, without any explanation. And it aims to suppress the truth about the world — that humans are a diverse and complex species, that evolution has played a part in who we are, that aggregate differences between groups of people are, in fact, a wonderful aspect of actual human diversity.

In attempting to create “diversity,” left-feminists are attempting to deny actual diversity. They are attempting to argue that all humans are utterly interchangeable, that there are no differences between men and women, which is to say, in some way, that men and women do not actually exist. It’s a crazy idea, barren and empty, bitter and cramped, draining the world of its color and variety and difference. And yet we have to conform to it … or lose our jobs.

You want to see another form of “resistance” to authoritarianism in the era of Trump? Go read Damore’s memo.

See you (if we’re all still here) next Friday.

Trump’s Reckless Nuclear Bluffing