Pickbait: How to Argue with a Racist and How to Be a Fascist

Adam Rutherford and Michela Murgia take genetic and satirical approaches to race

Civil Rights activists  blocked by National Guardsmen brandishing bayonets while trying to stage a protest on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee: People wrongly attribute certain qualities to particular cultures and skin colours.

Civil Rights activists blocked by National Guardsmen brandishing bayonets while trying to stage a protest on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee: People wrongly attribute certain qualities to particular cultures and skin colours.

The title of Adam Rutherford’s new book, How to Argue with a Racist, is tempting and ticklish, though ultimately it’s not much more than literary clickbait, designed to entice browsers to pluck the book from a shop’s display table (perhaps pickbait would be a better term).

That is because, naturally, there is no mileage to be made in arguing with a racist; racism is illogical, and as Jonathan Swift recognised 300 years ago, “Reasoning will never make a Man correct an ill Opinion, which by Reasoning he never acquired.” This will not be news to anyone who has read Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind, which showed how hard it is for any of us to change our views about emotionally charged issues – or indeed to anyone who has foolishly ventured outside their filter bubble on social media.

The Irish Times
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