Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Deranged Derogation Toward Single Moms from Alt-Right Propagandists Stefan Molyneux and Onar Åm

Stuart K. Hayashi

Stefan Molyneux on one of his better days...

The alt-right propagandists Stefan Molyneux and Onar Åm have made campaigns where they have dehumanized single mothers, in general, in an especially disturbing fashion. Many figures on the Religious Right have expressed discomfort with single mothers in general -- including mothers who have custody over children following a divorce -- as these Religious-Right figures cite single motherhood as a breakdown of what they call the traditional family. However, Stefan Molyneux and Onar Åm are not merely uncomfortable with this; they have taken this to a frighteningly ugly level.

I do think that, everything else being equal, most children would prefer to have their parents stay together and raise them as a team. I am not one to say that fathers are useless or obsolete, that men are no better than sperm donors. Ceteris paribus, I believe that, as a general rule, it's good for a child to be raised by both her father and mother simultaneously; having them together makes it easier for them to balance responsibilities.

But I must part ways with Stefan Molyneux and Onar Åm in that I don't think that, in every case other than the mother being widowed, single motherhood is necessarily wrong. I cannot say that it is always wrong for parents to divorce. Sometimes it is the case that one spouse is abusive and it's better for the non-abusive parent to raise the children alone. There are also cases where neither parent is fundamentally at fault but, due to their having become incompatible with one another, it's best for the children that the two parents live separately.  (I don't always take the mother's side in a custody dispute; either mother or father could be the more abusive side in a relationship.)

Stefan Molyneux's Grievances Against Mothers
In various podcasts he did from 2006 to 2010, Stefan Molyneux spoke extensively of his continuing resentment toward his own mother, who raised him single and who had a long string of boyfriends whom Molyneux calls "low-rent, idiotic boyfriends." Molyneux projects this rage upon single mothers as a whole, proclaiming that women, in general, prefer "assholes" over truly nurturing male partners (ostensibly because Molyneux's mother consistently chose "assholes," those "low-rent, idiotic boyfriends"). Hence, Stefan Molyneux proclaims that if a woman marries an abusive man, has a child with him, and then divorces the abusive husband to protect herself and their children from him, then this is still largely the fault of the woman. The reason why it is still largely her fault, proclaims Molyneux, is that a truly responsible and moral woman would have refrained at the outset from partnering with an "asshole."  If a woman is ethical, Molyneux asks rhetorically, she wouldn't have shacked up with an abusive man, would she?

Joe Rogan provides a reply to Molyneux that happens to be knowledge common to everyone but Molyneux and his followers: in many cases where a person falls for and commits to an abusive partner, it is seldom obvious from the beginning that the partner is abusive. Normally in the dating process, the abusive person is able to hide most of the abusive qualities. It is after one has come to trust and commit to an abusive and manipulative person, that the abusive and manipulative person feels safer about exhibiting his or her abusive qualities; once there is commitment and children in the picture, there is less of a risk of the abusive partner facing reprisal. This dynamic is at play in the very relationship between Molyneux and his fans: initially, Molyneux's fans are seduced by his voice and seeming confidence; it's only after disowning their parents and siblings, and then joining Molyneux's cult, that the fans come to confront the fact that they were seduced by a highly manipulative man.

Molyneux would have you believe that if you fall in love with a man who is not obviously abusive, have children with him, and then endure the man's abuse during the marriage, somehow you are the bad guy if you finally divorce the scoundrel and raise your children without him. After all, says Molyneux, if you weren't such an evil whore, you wouldn't have fallen for a Molyneux-esque manipulator in the first place. Thus, Molyneux subjects us to this tirade, which tells us more about his own psyche than that of single mothers:

Single moms are terrible, terrible parents as a whole. Statistically, there is no single better predictor of a negative or terrible outcome for a child than if he was raised by a single mother -- it’s worse than being in a [racial] minority, it’s worse than being poor, it’s worse than living in a disadvantaged neighborhood. The single most negative factor for a child’s outcome is to be raised by a single mother. Single moms are terrible, terrible, terrible parents. They consume massive amounts of resources. They’re entitled, they tend to clamor for more [resources], and their offspring tend to cause a lot of social problems. They have much higher rates of delinquency, crime, drug addiction, abuse characteristics, promiscuity, and single mothers reproduce like bacteria in a petri dish because they produce children who tend to become single mothers as well. Basically, they are a blight and plague upon society, which is why, until the welfare-state society put a huge amount of resources into trying to prevent the formulation of single-mother households...

Now, it could be true that single dads are equally toxic to children, but there are so few of them, that hasn’t really been studied. But single motherhood is the single most dangerous environmental toxin for children to be around, so she [any hypothetical single mother] is not a great mom, because a great mom has a father for her children. That is called being a great mom. What you found is a woman who has had sex with a man who is bad as a parent. She has chosen the wrong guy to have children with, because there is really only a couple of possibilities -- don’t talk to me about widows; widows are functionally the same as dual parents when it comes to how their children turn out -- a single mom means someone who is not married or [is] divorced, and not cohabitating with the father of her child. 
So either it’s a "great woman" who chose a really bad man, in which case she can’t be a great woman, because she chose to have children with a really bad man, thus exposing those children to the environmental toxin known as single motherhood; or she’s a really terrible woman who chose a terrible man, in which case, hey, if you get involved with her, there’s going to be a creepy violent ex floating around who’s going to be really angry you’re the "new dad" to his difficult children; or she is a terrible woman who chose a great guy, in which case he can’t be that great a guy because he had kids with a terrible woman. Basically she’s just a very bad decision-maker.

And why is that? Well, um, because if you have kids and married, your IQ is about 101, which is above average. If you’re divorced or separated, 97.8; and if you’re unmarried your IQ is a whoppingly low 93.6 -- that’s for men. For women, it is pretty much the same. Married women: 101.3. Divorced/separated: 98.7. Unmarried women: the same as unmarried men who are parents -- 93.6. So a good reason not to date a single mom is that they’re not very smart, which is why they’re single moms to begin with. And given that intelligence has a significant genetic component, that means that her kids, and any kids you have with her, are likely to be a little bit below the curve as a whole. There are exceptions -- I myself was raised by a single mother [whom Stefan Molyneux has made no secret of despising personally] [Stuart added the boldface to emphasize particular statements of Molyneux's; the italicized parts indicate where Molyneux placed emphasis as he spoke].
Molyneux goes as far as pronouncing that if you don't have a husband, it is your moral duty to give up your children to adoption. Why? Molyneux answers, "If you don't have a husband -- if you chose the wrong guy [with whom to have children] -- to keep the child is abusive, almost always."

For such reasons, Molyneux dogmatically asserts, as if this is some Categorical Imperative, "Society is currently dying on the altar of single motherhood. Children need a father. . . . If you just married some completely unrepentant crazy, you’re putting your needs above your future children’s needs." No, Molyneux: when a sane person marries an unrepetant crazy, it's usually because it wasn't obvious by the wedding day that the partner would be revealed as an unrepentant crazy. (If this were obvious, no one would be beguiled by the manipulative propaganda of Stefan Molyneux and Onar Åm in the first place.) And, for that reason, there are cases where, everything else being equal, children would be safer being raised by their mother alone than they would be if stuck in the same household with both the mother and the father.

What Do the Data Evince About Molyneux's Claims?
Molyneux's assertion, "Statistically, there is no single better predictor of a negative or terrible outcome for a child than if he was raised by a single mother," contradicts the findings of scholars who have studied the phenomenon scientifically. Howard University psychology professor Ivory Toldson explains, a single variable, household composition [single-mother household vs. two-parent household] carries little weight and appears to serve as a proxy for more serious issues, such as teenage pregnancy and incarcerated parents. In analyses, a myriad of co[-]variants (e.g. parents' education and parent practices) nullify the effects of household composition on academic progress cited in the previous section. For example, in my analysis of the High School Longitudinal Survey, a black student from a two-parent household with just one parent who dropped out of high school was three times more likely to repeat a grade in school than a student from a single-parent household where the primary caregiver had an associate's degree or higher.

Citing Christopher Jencks and Sarah McLanahan, a Washington Post piece by Emily Badger notes,

Here McLanahan and Jencks are clear: None of these findings mean that children would necessarily be better off if their biological parents married. 
That's because children of unmarried moms are more likely to have a father in prison, or who's unemployed, or who sells drugs or abuses his partner. "Furthermore," McLanahan and Jencks write, "even when a child’s absent father is a model citizen, the mother often has problems that marriage cannot solve." She has less education than married moms, or she's more likely to have mental health challenges.

Adds Katie Roiphe in the New York Times, "And Professor McLanahan’s findings suggest that a two-parent, financially stable home with stress and conflict would be more destructive to children than a one-parent, financially stable home without stress and conflict."

It's not so much that an increase in the rate of single motherhood is the primary driver contributing to poverty and crime in low-income neighborhoods.  Rather, it is more so that poverty and crime in low-income neighborhoods contribute to the likelihood that a female resident of that neighborhood will end up as a single mother.  One might argue credibly -- that is, not argue in Stefan Molyneux's manner -- that there is a positive feedback mechanism at work, where the poverty and crime contribute to the increase in the prevalence of single motherhood, and then the increase in the prevalence of single motherhood, in turn, makes it likelier for the next generation to fall victim to poverty and crime.  But the point here is that Molyneux said, point blank, that single motherhood is the main factor causing all of this -- "The single most negative factor for a child’s outcome is to be raised by a single mother" -- and the data contradict that. It is definitely not a factor as strong as Molyneux would have us believe: University of Maryland sociologist Philip Cohen points out that between 1990 and 2011, as Washington, D.C.'s rate of single-mother households remained steady, the rate of murder, rape, and other violent crimes sharply decreased.

Onar Åm, His Demographic-Winter Rhetoric, and His Slurs About Single Mothers
Given that there is a bigoted clique in Norway that claims to be Objectivist and yet reveres Stefan Molyneux instead, it is no surprise that a thought leader of this clique, Onar Åm, echoes Molyneux's dehumanizing generalizations about single mothers.

As I once did, many Objectivists mistake Onar Åm for being a writer sympathetic to Objectivism; he is actually a eugenicist who repeatedly cites racist pseudoscientists Richard Lynn and J. Philippe Rushton about IQ (for info on the racism and eugenics of Lynn and Rushton, see this). Consequently, the same Liberalistene-endorsed and crankish Norwegian alt-right anti-immigration page, "Libertinius," which approvingly recommended Stefan Molyneux's eugenicist videos, has from 2011 to 2015 created whole shrines to Onar Åm and his pontifications. For years "Libertinius" went on touting Onar's eugenicist blog as "Norway's best blog" (shrines also here, here, and here). Nor is it surprising that Onar Åm cites back the Stefan Molyneux-boosting "Libertinius" page that flatters him this way (here, here, here, and here).

Consistent with the same eugenics promoted by Stefan Molyneux and Richard Lynn and J. Philippe Rushton, this Onar Åm pushes the Demographic Winter/White Genocide scare, a trope of eugenicist rhetoric that I explained in detail here. The Demographic Winter/White Genocide narrative goes, All the low-IQ rabble out there [people who make this argument usually mean poor people in Third World countries] are out-breeding people on our side, and it's really people on our side who need to catch up at least; therefore, people on our side have a duty to have more children, as our children will be better for the human race than all those low-IQ riffraff.

As I showed here, Stefan Molyneux pushes that Demographic Winter/White Genocide trope and endorses white nationalist Richard Spencer besides. Onar Åm peddles his own version of this, as you can see in the enclosed photo from late 2016. Of special note is the evaluation that Onar Åm throws in of single mothers:

The second and fourth paragraphs toe the Demographic Winter/White Genocide eugenicists' party line.  But the third paragraph injects venom that even many eugenicists would wish to avoid:

The number[-]one cause of social ills today is the single mother.  If you could choose between being born to a single mother and having cancer, you should probably choose cancer.

I know people who were raised by single mothers; no one says that that is easy or that the absence of another parent is not felt. I also know people who were raised by abusive fathers who wished their mothers would divorce and get them out of the environment the abusive father created. And I have known people who have contracted from, and died of, cancer. Onar Åm's slur about single mothers is foolish at best.  As one well-known Objectivist scholar put it to me, Onar's slur is "disgusting."

By the way,  Onar Åm actually cribbed that line about "cancer" from then-Alt-Lite-superstar Milo Yiannopoulos, who "asked [sic]" his fans whether they would rather their child "have feminism" or "have cancer." As Milo put it, "It is easy to compare feminism’s effect on women to leukemia. It often affects the young, and once it appears it quickly spreads throughout the entire bloodstream. On the other hand, whenever you see leukemia patients in commercials for charities, the kids are always so cute… Have you EVER heard of a cute feminist?"  Not only is Onar Åm too much of an unimaginative hack to come up with own insults toward his opponents, but he pitifully picked an insult that was trite to begin with.

Note that although the third paragraph slurs against single mothers, the second intends to reproach childless women.  It seems that one cannot win with Onar Åm -- he castigates you as having failed as a woman if you die childless, but he also faults you if you have children and raise them single (as he said, he considers you to be worse than a malignant tumor).  What, then, is left?  The implication is that, for Onar Åm, the only women who can live fulfilling lives are those who marry, have children, and never divorce -- in other words, the only women who escape his condemnation are those who conform to a "traditional" (circa 1950s) model of domesticity.

That is entirely inconsistent with Onar Åm's alleged inspiration, Ayn Rand, who said, "The choice to have children or not is morally optional." That a woman is capable of having children does not obligate her to "commit spiritual suicide by making procreation" into a "primary goal," regarding oneself as a "stud-farm animal." That's the opposite of what Onar Åm said -- that it is your duty to have children and that, if you die childless, he considers you a failure, a waste of DNA (but at least not a single mom, right?😑).

Let's go back to previous post where I touched on this. On behalf of eugenics in 1902, Theodore Roosevelt wrote that

the [First World] man or woman who deliberately avoids marriage and has a heart so cold as to know no passion and a brain so shallow and selfish as to dislike having children, is in effect a criminal against the race and should be an object of contemptuous abhorrence by all healthy people.

Onar Åm agrees not with Ayn Rand on this but with the well-known statist -- and this is not accidental.  Theodore Roosevelt's rhetoric here is informed by the eugenicism that was the inspiration behind the same Pioneer Fund propaganda of Richard Lynn whom Onar Åm has repeatedly cited to bolster his claims about IQ and the "health" of the nation.

Please Stop Reinforcing Stefan Molyneux, Onar Åm, and the Rest of Their Bigot Brigade
One would hope that such callousness on Onar Åm's part is a mere fluke, a rare and momentary lapse of judgment.  But such hope is in vain.  July 22, 2011 was the day on which Anders Breivik murdered other Norwegians.  First Breivik bombed a government building and then he opened fire on adolescents attending a socialist party gathering.  After he heard about the bombing, but before he heard about the shooting, Onar Åm told this to his fans:

News flash:  Terror attack in Oslo, near the government. 8 people are reported injured.  Let's hope that they were tax bureaucrats and not innocent people.

As you can see, 14 people, such as Onar's sycophant Anders Amdal Taftø, clicked "like" on that. Only one Norwegian libertarian reproached Onar Åm for his callousness and, perversely, it was that Norwegian libertarian who ended up apologizing to Onar. After the news came out about Breivik shooting those adolescents at the socialist party assembly, that Norwegian libertarian, still angry with Onar, demanded to know if Onar approved of that as well. Onar replied that he did not, because adolescents are still minors and cannot be held responsible for attending a socialist party gathering. Then Onar added pointedly that he still wishes violent death on Norwegians who work for the government because, as far as he is concerned, they have it coming to them.

I don't agree with Religious-Right conservatives such as Kay S. Hymowitz in the crude and condescending manner whereby they paint single mothers with a broad brush.  But even Kay S. Hymowitz exercises some tact and considerateness; most conservative commentators still know better than to let on to the uninitiated that they harbor contempt for single mothers in general.  That tact is absent from Stefan Molyneux and Onar Åm -- the unmitigated and pathological hostility comes through.  Those who continue to go along with Stefan Molyneux or  Onar Åm as if this sort of fanaticism is acceptable, ought to mull over whether this alt-right bigotry is really something they want to live with.

On July 4, 2017, I added the paragraphs about how Onar Åm also expressed disdain for the childless, implying that the only option for women which could escape his disapproval would be for them to have children and remain married to the same man unconditionally.  July 4 is also when I pointed out that that actually contradicts Ayn Rand's position on the subject.  On July 7, 2017, I added the observation that Onar Åm's talking point about the alleged duty of women to have children and never divorce sounds just like Theodore Roosevelt's statement, which was also a consequence of Roosevelt's belief in eugenics.