Sunday, May 14, 2006

John Gibson: Fool

The internets lately have been abuzz about the Fox News segment by John Gibson in which he makes the effectively racist claim that we need more babies in this country, and by "we" he means white people. Media Matters has the scoop.

Gibson, by the way, is the demagogue who came up with the phony War on Christmas. Or rather I should say, he didn't come up with the idea, but he did milk it for all it's worth, even going to far as write a book (just in time for the holidays) blaming "secularists" for trying to ban Christmas. So you know he's an idiot already. But this new bit really does take the cake. I'm going to go through it and point out the errors, ignoring the racist undertone for the most part. He begins:

First, a story yesterday that half of the kids in this country under five years old are minorities. By far, the greatest number are Hispanic. You know what that means? Twenty-five years and the majority of the population is Hispanic.
Um, no. A funny thing is, not all minorities in this country are Hispanic, and 45% is less than half. If Gibson would bother to read the Washington Post article from which he gets this information, he'd see that only 22% of children under 5 are Hispanic. That's a large percentage, but it's nowhere close to half. Moreover, our entire population doesn't turn-over every 25 years. Most of us will still be alive by then (I hope). If you really want to know what the percentage of Hispanics will be 25 years from now, you can look at the Census Bureau estimates. In 2030, Hispanics will make up 20% of the population. In 2050, it will be 24%.

Why is that? Well, Hispanics are having more kids than others. Notably, the ones Hispanics call "gabachos" -- white people -- are having fewer.
This is true, but the Hispanic birth rate will fall down to near that of whites over the next two decades, meaning that there is a limit to how large their numbers will grow. The same thing happened to the black birth rate. It was once significantly higher than the white rate (which caused racists to freak out and tell white people they should have more babies), but now it's nearly the same.

Now, in this country, European ancestry people, white people, are having kids at the rate that does sustain the population. It grows a bit.
Wrong. The total fertility rate among whites in America is about 1.8, which is under replacement. It's only slightly higher than that of Europeans. Not that it matters much anyway, but it's important for people like Gibson to believe that white Americans are more virile than their decadent European counterparts. The fact that we're below replacement is rather inconvenient on that score, hence he chooses to believe a fiction instead.

Why aren't they [Europeans] having babies? Because babies get in the way of a prosperous and comfortable modern life. Peanut butter fingerprints on the leather seats in the BMW. The Euros are particular -- in particular can't be bothered with kids. Underscore that second point.
People choose not to have kids for all sorts of reasons. The desire to live a less burdensome life is certainly one of them, but it's hardly the only one. It's rather insulting to insinuate that Europeans have low birthrates out of mere selfishness.

But Gibson probably speaks from his own experience. He has only one child himself, and at age 60, he's probably not having any more. That's fewer children than the average white European. You have failed us John. You couldn't endure a little more peanut butter on your BMW, and as a result, there aren't enough white babies. Although in your case, we forgive you. The gene pool is polluted enough already.

A second story, today, reports that [Russian President] Vladimir Putin is so concerned about the declining and imploding population of Russia, he is paying couples to have babies. Imagine, procreating for cash in Mother Russia.
Yes, imagine. That's basically what a lot of countries do, especially in Europe. Augustus Caesar did the exact same thing in ancient Rome. It doesn't work, but it's a common ploy.

Putin has taken this step because at the rate things are going, Russia will lose close to 45 million in population in the next 45 years. Russia will be two thirds of today's population. This is not a good trend for Russia and it won't be here either if that should happen.
It's true that Russia will be losing a part of its population, but his numbers are wrong. It's not one third, it's more like one fifth. In 2050, about 45 years from now, Russia's population will be roughly 110 million. That's about what it was 45 years ago in 1960. Is that some sort of disaster? I don't think so.

Russia is an extreme case. In the United States, our natural fertility is at replacement, so ignoring migration, we're not losing people. If you take migration into account, then of course we're gaining people, and rather quickly too. Where does this frightful nonsense about losing our population come from? Assuming for some strange reason we did lose one fifth of our population by 2050, that would put it back to where it was in the mid-80s. Were we dangerously underpopulated in the 1980s? I don't think so. But of course it's all moot, because our population is projected to soar to 400 million or more by 2050. Gibson seems to have gotten the problem backwards.

Forget about that zero population growth stuff that my poor generation was misled on. Why is this important? Because civilizations need population to survive.
For some reason, civilizations with only a tiny fraction our of current population have survived just fine. The Roman Empire, at its height, had perhaps 60 million people. Iceland today has fewer than 300,000 people, yet they manage to get by. There is no inherent virtue in having a higher population. The United States contains only 5% of the world's people yet that doesn't stop us from being a superpower.

Gibson is echoing an old movement know as "natalism", the belief that a country's future was threatened by lower birth rates, and that unless population continued increasing, then the country's continued dominance, particularly in the military sphere, would be threatened. It was in many ways tied in with the eugenics movement, and was championed by the Nazis and other nationalist movements. It's rather disturbing to see that sort of thing being taken seriously today. Well, sort of -- it's not like Gibson is taken seriously by thinking people, but still.

So far, we are doing our part here in America but Hispanics can't carry the whole load. The rest of you, get busy. Make babies, or put another way -- a slogan for our times: "procreation not recreation"
This is the bit that gets Gibson pegged as racist, but of course the logic of the whole thing pretty much requires it. As anyone can see with a quick google search, the United States is in no danger of losing any population; our population is expected to grow quite a lot over the next 50 years. The only way it could possibly make sense to exhort white people to have more children is if the prospect of a majority Hispanic population is somehow frightening. Either it doesn't matter what color the babies are, in which case we've got nothing to worry about population-wise, or Gibson's real problem is that there will be fewer white people as a percentage of the population than there is now.