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November 30, 2013 1:22 PM Most hilariously tortured and euphemistic New York Times sentence of the day, race & IQ edition

By Kathleen Geier

“Mr. Johnson is no scientist, but he has stepped into the kind of debate over the relationship of I.Q. to race and poverty that has tripped up many others before him.” — from today’s New York Times article about London’s Mayor Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson (a Conservative, of course) is a loathesome human specimen — a Thatcher-worshipping lapdog and wanker extraordinaire. (His Wikipedia entry is here, if you want to know more of the tawdry details of the man’s slither up the greasy pole). If you’re a regular Times reader, you may have noticed that its London correspondent, Steven Erlanger, is soft on the British neoliberal political class — witness his coverage of the death of Margaret Thatcher. But the sentence I quoted above was an outstanding achievement even for him. The “Mr. Johnson is no scientist” disclaimer, in particular, was such a classic exemplar of obfuscating, elite-coddling Times-ese that I laughed out loud.

Johnson’s talk offers revealing window into the unlovely worldview of our global elite overclass. First off, there are the remarks that didn’t get quite as much attention, but are just as offensive, in which Johnson cheerleads for greed and economic inequality. Here he is, sounding for all the world like Gordon Gekko, ca. 1987:

“For one reason or another - boardroom greed or, as I am assured, the natural and God-given talent of boardroom inhabitants - the income gap between the top cornflakes and the bottom cornflakes is getting wider than ever,” he said.
“I stress, I don’t believe that economic equality is possible; indeed, some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity.”

“Top cornflakes and bottom cornflakes”? Blech! I think I just threw up a little in my mouth. I never thought the day would come when I’d feel actual gratitude for the American political elite class, but at least they tend to spare us those nauseatingly twee turns of phrase.

After the “greed is good” comments, Johnson really ladled on the douchery with his infamous remarks about IQ:

“Whatever you may think of the value of IQ tests, it is surely relevant to a conversation about equality that as many as 16 per cent of our species have an IQ below 85, while about 2 per cent have an IQ above 130,” he said

He added:

“I am afraid that violent economic centrifuge is operating on human beings who are already very far from equal in raw ability, if not spiritual worth,” Mr Johnson said.

That bit about “spiritual worth” was mighty white of him, don’t you think?

If you’re interested in some facts about what IQ does and does not measure, see Dana Goldstein and this Guardian editorial for more. Suffice it to say, Johnson is an ill-informed ass who has little understanding of this topic.

The Times article notes that Johnson would like to succeed David Cameron as Prime Minister. To which my response is, dear God, hasn’t that poor country suffered enough? I can’t decide which type of conservative is worse: proud elitists like Boris Johnson, or fake populists of the Sarah Palin variety. Both types are stupid, destructive, and nightmarish, but in different ways. In America, of course, we’ve tended to be plagued with the Palin types. But Boris Johnson is a salient reminder that the other type haunts us as well, and is equally malevolent.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee

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