Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Payton Gendron's Antiliberal White Supremacist Violence Deserves Punishment--But Also Refutation

19-year-old Payton Gendron is an antiliberal white supremacist who murdered 10 Black men and women in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, last May 14th.  Today, he was sentenced to life imprisonment with no chance for parole.

The anger directed at Gendron in the courtroom today was so powerful that one person charged toward Gendron and attempted to strangle him.  Police restrained the attacker, Gendron was whisked out of the room, and the court was brought back into session after a 10-minute delay.  An article in the Washington Post relates what happened.

Gendron had pled guilty to murder.  Today, he read a prepared statement of apology:

"I'm very sorry for the pain I've forced on the victims and their families to suffer through.  I'm very sorry for stealing the lives of your loved ones.  I cannot express how much I regret all the decisions I made that led up to my actions on May 14.  I did a terrible thing that day.  I shot and killed people because they were Black.  Looking back now, I can't believe I actually did it.  I believed what I read online and acted out of hate and now I can't take it back, but I wish I could.  I don't want anyone to be inspired by me and what I did."

If you view the video of his statement, you can see that he displays no apparent emotion that would indicate true remorse.

It is right that he is being punished in this way, because we have the natural right to punish murderers with life-time imprisonment, and perhaps even execution.

But we also need to refute the arguments he made in a 180-page manifesto posted online to justify killing of Black people.  Journalists and others commenting on Gendron have casually dismissed this manifesto as too poorly argued to deserve any serious response.  Notice, for example, that the Washington Post journalist says that Gendron "posted a rambling online statement that included antisemitic rants and far-right conspiracy theories."

This is mistaken for two reasons.  First, if you read his manifesto, you will see that even if it is a little "rambling," it does make a series of arguments rooted in the biological science of race and human biodiversity.  Second, by not refuting his arguments, we encourage white supremacists to believe that his arguments are correct in justifying white supremacist violence.  Despite what Gendron said today, we should assume that others will be inspired by him to do what he did, just as he was inspired by the manifesto of Brenton Harrison Tarrant, who murdered 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 14, 2019.

Last June, I published my refutation of Gendron's five main arguments in his manifesto: white supremacy, ethnic nationalism, replacement theory, anti-Semitism, and inegalitarianism.

Perhaps the most fundamental assumption in Gendron's manifesto is that human beings cannot have equal rights if they are not biologically identical (158, 165).  "No two different things can ever truly be equal, especially humans.  There is no one person equal to any other, not identical twins, not countrymen, not workers within a class group and certainly not those of differing races."  "Diversity is anathema to equality.  One cannot exist with the other."

This ignores the fact that no liberal theorist of human equality of rights has ever asserted that this means that all human beings are the same.  Natural differences in the average propensities and traits of the human races is compatible with the Lockean liberal principle of equal liberty.  Lockean equality means not that all people are identical--in intelligence or in many other respects--but that all people are similar in resisting exploitation by others, so that no human being is good enough to govern any other human being without that person's consent.  Equal liberty requires not equality of outcome, but equality of opportunity in the pursuit of happiness.  In a society of equal liberty, those individuals who are naturally more intelligent or talented than others will reap the benefits of those superior traits, but those superior individuals will have no right to exploit those of lesser abilities.  In such a society, everyone can find valued places for themselves.

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