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Jörg Albrecht's Drive-By Insult of Charles Murray

If Germans often have peculiar ideas about the rest of the world, you can often chalk it up to the journalists on whom they rely for information.

Case in point: I open up German's leading broadsheet, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and there's a long article (g) by the German science journalist Jörg Albrecht.* Much of it is a detailed discussion about Nicholas Wade's recent book A Troubled Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History. Albrecht prefaces the discussion thus (my translation):

Since the book has been on the market, there has been a reprise of the discussion triggered twenty years ago by the psychologists Richard Herrnstein and the political scientist Charles Murray. Their message, put forward in an 800-page doorstep called 'The Bell Curve', was, to abbreviate slightly, that negroes (Neger) are on average dumber than whites, that this is true from birth onward, and that therefore there's not much reason to invest in their education.

Wade's book is not quite this coarse (grobschlächtig).

There is no higher responsibility for a translator or someone writing about a book in a foreign language than to give a reasonably fair representation to his or her readers. I read The Bell Curve shortly after it was published to see what all the fuss was about, and I can say Albrecht's characterization is, as it was intended to be, nothing but a drive-by insult. Like so much German journalism, his description of The Bell Curve is not meant to enlighten readers, but to condescendingly warn them away from ideas the journalist disagrees with. 

Also, importantly, the word Neger, which I translated as 'Negro', is a racial insult. In context, in German, it's not as explosive as 'nigger' in English, but it's regarded as intentionally insulting and is never used in polite conversation. Blacks are never referred to by racial insults in The Bell Curve, except in quotations from other works. Whatever you think of Charles Murray's ideas, he never uses racially insulting language.

I think I'll tweet this to Charles Murray in case he might wish to pursue matters.

* Like most online articles in Germany, this one does not identify 'Jörg Albrecht' or give us any background information which might indicate why we should pay attention to his views. There are plenty of Jörg Albrechts in Germany, I presume this one is the science journalist.

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