Baratunde Makes BBC Debut!


This past Monday, show producers of global call-in show "World Have Your Say" on BBC World Service contacted Jack & Jill Politics, inviting us to comment on the James Watson story. Jill and I both wrote about the nutty professor last week.

The show topic is represented on the BBC blog.

The show was broadcast live, worldwide (except for Africa) from 1pm-2pm eastern time this past Monday. I managed to get about 40 seconds in at the very end of the show (minute 51). There was a second broadcast starting at 2pm (covering the African continent) in which I was able to comment a bit more at length. However, there is no online version available for the 2pm show.

Here's the 1pm version of the show, streaming (Real Player required).

What was most troubling about some comments made on the show were people who insisted that "scientists should have a right to ask the question 'are black people less intelligent?'" It became less about Watson and more about so-called academic freedom and free speech. I maintain that such "freedom" is really a smokescreen for pursuing harmful, discriminatory and racist policies.

The points I tried to make in both shows:

  • The Dr. is beyond the science completely. There's no scientific definition of race and no scientific consensus for a measure of intelligence. He's wrong on both sides of his statement
  • Unsubstantiated statements have no place in this discussion and no bearing on the real world. I happen to believe a good test for witchcraft is whether or not a woman floats when tossed into a lake. Should my concept be seriously considered??
  • As a Nobel prize-winning doctor, Watson's statements get more attention and credibility than they deserve. He may have a theoretical right to say what he wants, but he does not have a right to spread bad science
  • Whenever inflammatory situations like these arise, we are always tempted to focus on the white man who said the bad thing. This is misguided, because we forget the victims. Dr. Watson may be a crazy old man, but his words cause real harm to black people around the world. He provides aid and comfort to those who seek to dehumanize black people and will use his statements to justify their own prejudices and unequal treatment.
  • Here we go again. There is always some so-called scientist looking for support for their little racist perspective on the world. Such bad science was behind "eugenics" and countless other attempts to dehumanize black people. If we can prove black folks aren't as intelligent, then we can prove they are less human and thus less deserving of human rights. We can enslave them, deny them justice, etc.