Bill Whittle, a newly hired commentator for the National Rifle Association’s news outlet NRATV, has promoted the racist notion that black people are inherently intellectually inferior to people of other races and suggested that races could be divided along the lines of “civilized man” and “barbarian.”
Whittle is a commentator for the NRA who appears on a daily basis during the NRA’s live updates, which are broadcast at the top of the hour between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. He typically appears during the 1 p.m. hour, where he discusses issues of the day with host Grant Stinchfield.
According to his website, Whittle began his gig with the NRA on January 3. “Since then, he has guest-hosted for Grant and [NRATV host] Collion (sic) Noir” and co-anchored the NRA’s afternoon coverage of the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference, the site notes. The NRATV website lists more than 80 appearances by Whittle on NRA programming this year. In addition to his employment with the NRA, Whittle is a longtime conservative commentator who is best known for his work with conservative outlet PJ Media.
Whittle will be part of NRATV’s broadcast crew during the outlet’s live coverage of the NRA’s annual meetings, which will be held this year in Atlanta, GA, from April 27 through 30.
During a 2016 appearance on libertarian-turned-“alt-right”-commentator Stefan Molyneux’s webshow, Whittle revealed his acceptance of theories commonly called “academic” or “scientific” racism that tie together IQ scores, race, and crime. He also positively cited a white nationalist to claim people in inner cities “don’t have access to cognition.”
In the February 12 broadcast, which was released with the title “Why Liberals Are Wrong About Inequality,” Molyneux premised his discussion with Whittle with claims that in terms of average IQ scores, Ashkenazi Jews “clock in at about 115” and “after the Jews come the East Asians, right, the Koreans, the Chinese, the Japanese, and so on. They clock in at 105, 106, but very good on visual-spacial skills and very, very fast reaction times, which is another way that they measure intelligence. Caucasians come in at about 100 and then below that are Hispanics, clocking in at around 90, and then American blacks, clocking in at around 85 — partly because they have 20 percent European mixture in their gene pool — and then sub-Saharan Africans, clocking in at around 70, which is obviously very tragic, but this is the reality of what’s happened. And slightly below that are the aboriginals in Australia, clocking in around 67 or whatever.”
The attempt to classify certain races as genetically inferior on the basis of IQ scores is a classic example of academic racism promoted by white nationalists like Richard Lynn, and it has served as the premise for widely denounced “research” by writers like Charles Murray in The Bell Curve and Jason Richwine in his infamous proposal on Latino immigration.
This type of sorting of the races by supposed genetic differences relating to intelligence has been widely discredited by scientists and anthropologists, even as white nationalists have increasingly attempted to revive the theories to push a racist agenda.
During his conversation with Molyneux, however, Whittle accepted and promoted ideas based on these discredited theories.
At the top of Whittle’s appearance, he cited The Bell Curve in indicating his acceptance of the notion there are differences in intelligence between races while offering an analogy he said Molyneux has used — that “you can’t put somebody on a basketball team to make them taller” — and linking race and intelligence to crime:
STEFAN MOLYNEUX: We, of course, have had a whole bunch of experts from both the left and the right on talking about IQ differences between ethnicities, and I think that helped to bring the issue more to the forefront of your thinking, is that fair to say?
BILL WHITTLE: Yeah, I mean obviously that’s the controversial part of The Bell Curve is the IQ difference between ethnicities, but I think the deeper issue is since IQ seems to — general IQ, g, right is the term they use — since it so closely correlates to both poverty and crime on one hand and generally success and wealth on the other, it would be useful to be thinking about what a society that was recognizing these differences looked like. You can’t — I just love your example, I’ve used it every time with attribution, although it’s hard for me because it’s such a damned good analogy, but it’s like you said, you can’t put somebody on a basketball team to make them taller.
Later in the broadcast, Whittle turned to the “enormous societal problems” we have “to solve,” and said of research claiming to show differences in intelligence among races: “It’s not a question of whether or not this is true; it’s a question of what do we do with what appears to be overwhelming information that IQ correlates to a lot of our social problems.”
Whittle then cited Linda Gottfredson, saying, “She said that when you really get down to it, it’s not that we have a — that in terms of like really rigid poverty, it’s not that we have a money problem; we have a cognitive problem. They don’t have access to cognition, I think is what she said.”
Gottfredson is a well-known white nationalist who has received funding from the Pioneer Fund. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), “Gottfredson argues that racial inequality, especially in employment, is the direct result of genetic racial differences in intelligence.” SPLC notes that the Pioneer Fund’s “original mandate was to pursue ‘race betterment’ by promoting the genetic stock of those ‘deemed to be descended predominantly from white persons who settled in the original thirteen states prior to the adoption of the Constitution.’” It says the organization “still funds studies of race and intelligence, as well as eugenics, the ‘science’ of breeding superior human beings that was discredited by various Nazi atrocities.”
In his appearance, Whittle also made a racist characterization of aboriginal Australians, claiming that members of that ethnicity would be unable to learn how to do a job such as Molyneux’s to make the point: “That’s the thing about intelligence is it can adapt down, but you can’t adapt beyond your ability”:
WHITTLE: Well it’s interesting when somebody would say that a bushman in Australia survives in the desert much better than you could — that’s undoubtedly true — but the part that they’re leaving out is that with several months or weeks or a year of being with the Aborigines, you could learn those techniques about as well as they could or certainly well enough to survive. The question is could they learn the techniques that you use in order to do what you do for a living and the answer apparently is not. That’s the thing about intelligence is it can adapt down, but you can’t adapt beyond your ability.
Arguing that an IQ difference among the races “certainly seems to be real,” Whittle also offered an analogy to a Star Trek episode in suggesting his claims of IQ differences among races is like comparing a “civilized man” to a “barbarian”:
WHITTLE: If this IQ difference is real — certainly seems to be real — then it is not a two-way street. Forgive me for going back to my entire studio, which is nothing but a museum of Star Trek, right, but I mean there was a really fascinating point and I remember hearing it when I was probably 7, 8, 9 years old when I heard it. And it’s from the classic, classic episode called Mirror, Mirror where they teleport into the alternate universe and Spock has a goatee … and Kirk in the alternate universe succeeds because of his savagery and his ruthlessness, right? Here’s the whole line — they finally solve all the stuff, they beam back to their own ships and the universes go their separate ways and Spock says to Kirk, he says, “You as a civilized man had a much easier time portraying a barbarian than a barbarian ever could as a civilized man.” And I thought yeah, yeah, yeah that’s it, right?
Perhaps most disturbingly, Whittle made clear that his beliefs about intelligence differences among races should inform public policy, claiming during his appearance that “if we don’t understand, as you said, that this cognitive ability has an impact on society in the same way that a height ability has an impact on the society of the NBA, for example, we’re going to just be throwing money at problems.”
The week following Molyneux’s broadcast, Andrew Anglin, the neo-Nazi operator of The Daily Stormer, celebrated the episode with an article headlined “Stefan Molyneux has Gone Full Shitlord.” (Although “shitlord” seems like an insult, neo-Nazis have appropriated the term as a compliment.)
The Daily Stormer is a virulently racist and anti-Semitic website. For example, it recently characterized offensive claims about the Holocaust made by White House press secretary Sean Spicer by saying Spicer “confirms Hitler never gassed anyone” while joking (warning: disturbing image) that Nazis instead drowned Jewish babies “in buckets.” Anglin was recently sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center for allegedly orchestrating a harassment campaign against a Jewish woman.
In his write-up of Molyneux’s broadcast, Anglin said, “Here’s a good interview with Bill Whittle,” and wrote, “As I predicted would happen, Stefan Molyneux has pretty well entirely abandoned his libertarian claptrap and family counseling nonsense and gone full shitlord. Ultimately, everyone who is honestly looking for the truth is going to come to the same conclusions that we have, and he has, for the most part, come to these conclusions.”
Claims that genetic differences make certain races inherently less intelligent, often linked to the IQ test — like those pushed by Whittle and Molyneux — have been discredited by mainstream science.
To begin, race is no longer viewed as a biological phenomenon by the majority of scientists. As explained in a 1992 article in peer-reviewed academic journal Ethnicity & Disease, “For some time, biologists and anthropologists have overwhelmingly rejected the partitioning of modern humans into biological ‘races.’ An examination of recent human evolutionary history suggests that the zoological definition of race, based on significant genetic differences, cannot be legitimately applied to contemporary humans.”
As Ta-Nehisi Coates explained at The Atlantic, claims that are premised on supposed racial differences in intelligence proceed “from a basic flaw — no coherent, fixed definition of race actually exists.” The leading view among scientists is that race is a “social construct without biological meaning.”
On race and intelligence specifically, research published in 2012 found that “heritability of IQ varies significantly by social class,” and that “almost no genetic polymorphisms have been discovered that are consistently associated with variation in IQ in the normal range.” Put another way, the findings offered strong evidence that non-genetic factors are primarily responsible for intelligence.
According to the late Robert Sussman, who worked as an anthropology professor at Washington University, “There is no indication from any scientific evidence that different populations have any specific physical or intellectual attributes, or abilities. Those characteristics relate back to one’s socialization or upbringing (or nutrition).”
Strong evidence that intelligence is a product of environmental factors rather than genetics is found in the Flynn effect, which is “the observed rise over time in standardized intelligence test scores, documented by [psychologist James] Flynn … in a study on intelligence quotient (IQ) score gains in the standardization samples of successive versions of Stanford-Binet and Wechsler intelligence tests.”
Rejecting claims that linked race and intelligence on the basis of IQ scores, science journalist John Horgan wrote in 2013 that “to my mind the single most important finding related to the debate over IQ and heredity is the dramatic rise in IQ scores over the past century. This so-called Flynn effect, which was discovered by psychologist James Flynn, undercuts claims that intelligence stems primarily from nature and not nurture.”
Whittle has offered racist commentary during appearances on Molyneux’s other broadcasts, in videos released under his own brand, and on NRATV:
- Whittle claimed that there is a “Muslim invasion” of Europe during a November 2015 appearance on Molyneux’s show. Whittle’s comments came during a discussion of r/K selection theory. The theory posits that r-selected species emphasize having large numbers of offspring, and investing few resources in each offspring, while K-selected species have fewer offspring to which they devote more resources. Humans are a K-selected species under the theory, although Whittle and Molyneux attempted to brand Muslim immigrants as an r-selected species.
- While discussing “black America” during a December 2015 appearance on Molyneux’s program, Whittle described African Americans who support the Democratic Party as literal slaves who prefer to remain in captivity. He said that that the party has “30 million” slaves and the “terms of their slavery are very simple — there’s a word for somebody who is fed, and clothed, and housed, and whose health care is taken care of by another person, and that word is slave.” Whittle then suggested that African Americans commit voter fraud on behalf of Democrats as a condition of their slavery, claiming, “On the voting plantation that the Democratic Party has set up in America, we demand two hours of work from you every two years. Every two years we demand that you go down to the voting places and vote, once, twice, three, four times, however [many] times as you can imagine, or manage, and that’s the work we expect for you in exchange for keeping you in bondage.”
- During another 2015 appearance on Molyneux’s show, Whittle compared the “Islamic invasion of Europe” to “inner cities” in America “that are absolutely toxic, violent, enraged, bitter, [and] racist.” He went on to claim Black Lives Matter is “the street muscle” of the Democratic Party and that the group will make sure “everything’s gonna burn” if welfare is reduced. Again drawing a comparison between Europe and the United States, Whittle said, “We have the exact same problem here with these same kind of communities. They’re unemployable — unemployed and unemployable — they’ve been on assistance their entire lives, they’ve never had to work before,” and he said that these people should get jobs because a job “beats the laziness” out of people and “disciplines” them into “civility.”
- Whittle called President Obama an “unqualified, unknown individual” who was elected “specifically and only because he is black” and said that electing Obama was “atoning for our slavery” during a January 2016 appearance on Molyneux’s show. Moments later he said, “I didn’t own any slaves, and therefore I’m not responsible for slavery. I’m not benefiting from slavery because I never owned any slaves,” and he said, “There’s nothing in this country that survived the Civil War that was the result of slavery.” Continuing to discuss the Civil War, Whittle said the “greatest tragedy in American history” is “not slavery, it’s not the Civil War, it’s what happened after,” before complaining about the philosophy of W.E.B. DuBois.
- In 2013, Whittle published a video for PJ Media with the title “The Lynching” that discussed the February 2012 shooting of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. Whittle suggested that George Zimmerman, who killed Martin, had an experience tantamount to a lynching. Whittle said that text messages found on Martin’s phone, which he said were “not ‘airable’ here for extreme graphic content,” showed that Martin was “violent and highly sexualized.” What was “airable” on Whittle’s video, however, was an image (warning: disturbing image) of Martin’s body after he had been shot, which Whittle left on the screen for several minutes.
- Whittle bizarrely labeled CNN anchor Don Lemon “racist” against white people because Lemon pointed out that President Donald Trump sounds different when he is using a teleprompter, as compared to when he speaks without one, during a March NRATV appearance.
Whittle’s outlet, NRATV, was launched in October 2016 as a rebranding of the NRA’s long-running news outlet NRA News with the aim of offering more live programming created by the gun group and its advertising firm Ackerman McQueen.
While NRA News flagship program Cam & Company, which continues to air on NRATV, serves as a font of misinformation about the debate over guns in the United States, new NRATV programming, such as the live updates on which Whittle appears, are better characterized as pro-Trump propaganda with a heavy dose of xenophobic commentary, particularly on the topic of Islam.
NRATV is strident in its defense of Trump, and the overall NRA organization has said that it will serve as “Donald Trump’s strongest, most unflinching ally.” For example, shortly after launching NRATV, host Grant Stinchfield attacked the media for covering numerous reports of sexual assault against Trump, saying outlets should instead cover instances where guns were used in self-defense.
While the NRA has long claimed that the media are part of a conspiracy against everyday Americans, the group’s attacks against the press in defense of Trump have entered new territory in recent months, with the gun outlet labeling both dissent against Trump and protected-speech reporting about Trump and his administration as oppositional to the U.S. Constitution and American values.