Defamation and Nathan Cofnas

Nathan Cofnas @nathancofnas - Oct 8 v “Hereditarian researchers still call for establishing a two-tiered educational system for White and Black people (Cofnas, 2020, p. 134)." 
| feel | would remember if | had called for segregation. 
O4 1 Ow wf 
@& Be Winegard oePoeis7 23h v Yeah, that's absolutely ridiculous 
2o u Oa & 
@ Lucio Marteiti aLuciovinit Oct 8 They can lie with total impunity 
2 ai Os & 
@ John Geary @squash1688 23 v this qualifies as defamation--you should see a tort attorney-- make some $$$ and defend your reputation at the same time 
O11 ua O3 ag 
@ John Geary asquash1688 23h v I guess no point since no damages-although | wonder... 
O1 a O2 a 
@ Nathan Cofnas @nathancofnas - 23h v This is defamation per se, so | wouldn't need to prove damages. Jackson knows | don't support segregation, since I've already written a whole article about this lie. But it's *very* difficult to successfully sue for defamation in the US. even when the law is on your side. 
O3 a UE fy 
Nathan Cofnas @nathancofnas - 23h v 
This is defamation per se, so | wouldn't need to prove damages. 
Jackson knows | don't support segregation, since I've already written 
a whole article about this lie. But it's *very* difficult to successfully 
sue for defamation in the US even when the law is on your side. 
O3 O44 
Show replies 
: Lucio Martelli v 
@LucioMM1 
Replying to @nathancofnas @squash1688 and 4 others 
That's actually a good thing though , for free speech 
12:24 PM - Oct 8, 2020 - Twitter Web App 
O11 wv g 
[> 
- e Tweet your reply 
Nathan Cofnas @nathancofnas - 22h v 
| don't have highly developed views on this, but | think people should 
have legal recourse when they are defamed (that is, when someone 
knowingly makes damaging, factually incorrect claims about them). | 
think the bar to prove defamation is too high in the US (eg Musk/pedo 
guy). 
Oo} a7 O71 a
Nathan Cofnas does not have “highly developed views” on what counts as defamation.

The paper Andrew Winston and I wrote* on the mythical taboo on race/intelligence research has caused a mini-stir over on Twitter. Nathan Cofnas is particularly upset, claiming I have defamed him. A polite word for Cofnas’s claim is “nonsense.” There are many impolite words that you could substitute for that one. Let me explain why.

Cofnas claims that I wrote he advocated racial segregation. He first made the accusation on Twitter and then wrote a blog post about it. He begins by objecting to this Daily Nous post and claims that I resurrected the idea that he was an advocate of racial segregation. But, here’s what I wrote:

Hereditarian researchers still call for establishing a two-tiered educational system for White and Black people (Cofnas, 2020, p. 134).

Cofnas writes: “John Jackson knew this was false because (a) it’s ridiculous and (b) he was aware of my article in Spectator USA, which explicitly addressed this lie. But now the claim that I advocate segregation has become the go-to smear on Twitter.”

Here’s the problem. The line that so offends Cofnas does not claim that Cofnas advocates segregation.” The sentence does not even attribute the “two-tiered” idea as one advocated by Cofnas, but one advocated by “hereditarian researchers” when they call call for a “two-tiered educational system for White and Black people.” Here is Cofnas making that exact claim:

But the reason that these programs, which Kourany rightly says ought to exist, have never been created is not because of racism but because of the taboo on talking about genetic differences among policy makers. No mainstream politician can acknowledge that there are differences that might call for the creation of a program to “work with the strengths and work on the weaknesses of every [ethnic] group to help make them the very best they can be.” It is hereditarians who have advocated these programs and environmentalists who have resisted them. The abstract to Jensen’s (1969) paper –

It could not be more clear that, in this quotation from Cofnas’s paper, he claims that hereditarians have advocated educational programs based on “ethnic” groups. He then cites the following scholars as evidence that hereditarians advocate such programs:

  • Gottfredson, L. S. (2005a). Suppressing Intelligence Research: Hurting Those We Intend to Help. In R. Wright & N. A. Cummings (Eds.), Destructive trends in mental health: The well-intentioned path to harm (pp. 155–187). Routledge.
  • Gottfredson, L. S. (2005b). What if the hereditarian hypothesis is true? Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 11, 311–319.
  • Jensen, A. R. (1969). How much can we boost IQ and scholastic achievement? Harvard Educational Review, 39, 1–123.
  • Lubinski, D., & Humphreys, L. G. (1997). Incorporating general intelligence into epidemiology and the social sciences. Intelligence, 24, 159–201.

It is perfectly correct, therefore, to cite Cofnas’s paper to evidence the claim that hereditarians advocate a “two-tiered” system of education based on racial or, if you prefer, “ethnic,” groups. There seems to be ample evidence, supplied by Cofnas himself, that hereditarian researchers advocate for these kinds of programs. For a devastating critique of the idea that education should be tailored in such a way, see this wonderful post by Jonathan Kaplan.

Cofnas is spinning the idea that I claimed he advocated segregation out of whole cloth. I wrote an entire book about psychologists who did use their science to advocate for Jim Crow segregation–an ugly history that contemporary hereditarians pretend never happened. In that book, I made quite clear that Jensen disavowed the use of his research to support Jim Crow when arch-segregationist, Carleton Putnam attempted to recruit him to the cause:

William Shockley was soon joined by a quieter and more sophisticated voice, Berkeley psychologist Arthur Jensen, whose 1969 article in the Harvard Educational Review claimed that white and black differences in IQ scores were genetic in nature and impervious to environmental modification. Even before his 1969 article Putnam was writing to Jensen, offering his services as a liaison between Jensen and high-level governmental officials. In 1968, Putnam noted how important it was for Jensen’s findings to be “rapidly disseminated and implemented as quickly as possible.”18 Jensen, however, maintained that nothing in his work lent any support to the racial segregation of schools. A few years after Jensen’s 1969 article was published, in long lunch meeting, Putnam “took pains to explain our view of the inconsistency of [Jensen’s] position on the existence of innate race differences when compared with his stand on school integration.” Jensen, however, was unmoved and continued to insist that his work did not lend support to the segregationist cause.19

Of course, even while denying his work could support segregation, Jensen happily collaborated with them when he testified in front of Congress alongside segregationists, cited a neo-Nazi to define races in his 1969 article, and touted his eugenic fantasies for a notorious white supremacist website. Cofnas was silent when I pointed out that his work was praised at those white supremacist websites.

Hereditarians simply ignore the uses to which the radical right put their work. They prefer to take on the role of innocent victim and attack those who simply read and report on what they have written correctly.

*Andrew co-wrote the paper with me but the passage that offends Cofnas was mine and I take full responsibility for it. Andrew is not writing this blog which represents only my opinions, not his.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

4 thoughts on “Defamation and Nathan Cofnas

  1. “He then cites the following scholars as evidence that hereditarians advocate such programs:

    Gottfredson, L. S. (2005a). Suppressing Intelligence Research: Hurting Those We Intend to Help. In R. Wright & N. A. Cummings (Eds.), Destructive trends in mental health: The well-intentioned path to harm (pp. 155–187). Routledge.
    Gottfredson, L. S. (2005b). What if the hereditarian hypothesis is true? Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 11, 311–319.
    Jensen, A. R. (1969). How much can we boost IQ and scholastic achievement? Harvard Educational Review, 39, 1–123.
    Lubinski, D., & Humphreys, L. G. (1997). Incorporating general intelligence into epidemiology and the social sciences. Intelligence, 24, 159–201.
    It is perfectly correct, therefore, to cite Cofnas’s paper to evidence the claim that hereditarians advocate a “two-tiered” system of education based on racial or, if you prefer, “ethnic,” groups. There seems to be ample evidence, supplied by Cofnas himself, that hereditarian researchers advocate for these kinds of programs.”

    Do any of these articles actually say what you claim that (Cofnas is claiming that) they are saying, though?

    Bless Arthur Jensen for opposing efforts on the part of segregationists to recruit him for their cause. Racial segregation in education is, of course, completely unacceptable due to the wide overlap in abilities between white and black students. (Now, separate classes for smart and slow students might not necessarily be a bad idea–and we already have some of this with special education classes and with Advanced Placement classes–but such classes won’t separate their students based on their race; there could be disparate impact, of course, but that’s different from putting everyone of one race in one class and everyone of another race in another class.)

    As for Arthur Jensen’s American Renaissance interview, I don’t view it as being particularly problematic. Do you? Perhaps Jensen should have encouraged single mothers (of any race) to use sperm from smart sperm donors (of any race) as opposed to completely discouraging low-IQ single mothers from reproducing at all, though. After all, a lot of people want to pass on their genes, even if their genes–like my own genes (I suffer from ADHD, anxiety, and high blood pressure, for instance)–aren’t the best genes in regards to everything. (I personally want to reproduce exclusively through IVF and to do embryo selection for desirable traits such as intelligence 20 or 30 years down the line once this technology will become much more advanced. Is this a wrong or bad desire on my own part?)

    Like

  2. Cofnas has a history of incorrectly claiming people have “defamed” or “libelled” him. He doesn’t know the definition of those words. He legally threatened me and other individuals over his RationalWiki article a year ago (https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Nathan_Cofnas), but his legal threats never materialised of course. Cofnas also has little to no understanding of UK defamation law:https://twitter.com/nathancofnas/status/1314744271388377088

    Cofnas oddly claims “Any statement, whether true or false, that damages someone’s reputation is “defamation” in UK law.” This is incorrect. In English defamation law, there is presumption of falsity – this means a defamatory statement is presumed to be false, unless the defendant can prove it is substantially true which provides an outright defence to defamation. A true statement therefore cannot be defamatory, otherwise substantial truth wouldn’t provide a legal defence. Aside from substantial truth, another legal defence to defamation is honest opinion. It seems Cofnas is also misunderstands that completely as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think Cofnas’ tweet where he said he doesn’t have “highly developed views” on “where the line ought to be drawn between opinion/defamation” is based on the lawsuit, Kirkegaard v Smith where I was defendant. If we go to his website we find:

      “In 2018 he posted the false claim on several Internet message boards that independent scholar Emil Kirkegaard is a pedophile (e.g., “it’s obvious to anyone, Kirkegaard is a paedophile”). In 2019 Kirkegaard sued him for libel in England. ODS argued that, although his statements were false, they were “expressions of opinion” rather than “statements of fact.” (The bar to win damages against someone for defamatory expressions of opinion is much higher than for defamatory statements of fact, since you must prove that the opinions were not “honestly held.”) An English judge made the bizarre ruling that ODS’s statements were “defamatory” but “expressions of opinion,” so Kirkegaard dropped the case. Besides getting banned from contributing to some websites, there is rarely a penalty for libeling people on the Internet.”

      Most of this is inaccurate. While it’s true a judge ruled my comments were “expressions of opinion that are defamatory”, Cofnas has quote-mined this preliminary ruling and does not mention the judge clarified “For the avoidance of doubt, I am not deciding the question of serious harm under s 1 of the Defamation Act 2013.” https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2019/3393.html
      There are two requirements for comments to be defamatory – the comments must be false (not substantially true) and must also cause serious harm. Serious harm in the sense of reputational harm is an absolute prerequisite in a defamation action. The judge never ruled on this issue because it was a preliminary hearing concerning the meaning of my comments (fact versus opinion and the judge ruled in my favour they were opinions). So my comments were never ruled to be in toto defamation. The serious harm question was never ruled on or even discussed, all the judge was saying is my comments passed the first (not second) perquisite – my comments were false. There’s nothing “bizarre” about the ruling, the problem is Cofnas is an imbecile who either never read the preliminary judgement properly, or worse, is lying. Probably a mixture of both.

      I filed for a summary judgement that was meant to take place on 2 June 2020. The summary judgement would have decided the serious harm question i.e. did my opinions that were ruled to be false cause Kirkegaard reputational harm. A little over a week before that hearing, Kirkegaard discontinued the lawsuit knowing the judge would have almost certainly ruled my comments did not cause him serious harm and were honest opinions providing me with a legal defence to defamation. So he discontinued and the hearing was cancelled. He then became liable to pay my legal fees while winning no damages. I’m still waiting for the final costs order.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s