How To Argue With Hanania – Now With More Nietzsche

by John Holbo on August 6, 2023

Henry’s post on the correct way to argue with Hanania was good. In light of late revelations (probably you’ve heard), revisitation, for extra emphasis, may not be taken amiss. (Or skip it, if it looks like a dead horse.)

Henry’s point, riffing on DD (riffing on Galbraith, riffing on Friedman) is: you don’t want to get too distracted by bits of outrage bait, actually. That’s bait. And then, when you lunge for it – ‘a-HA!’ – Hanania does this ‘no one here but us social scientific centrists’ straight-faced sidestep.

That is, the ‘centrism’ schtick hinges on getting some alleged Big Facts accepted into evidence early, and then the game is rigged. A certain amount of plausible social science something-something and suddenly we are all radically anti-democratic race realists from the get-go.

One might say: well, he can’t pull THAT anymore, now he’s exposed. But bear with me. The lesson is evergreen.

To repeat: the game is to dangle outrage-bait, then that gets twisted at the last second into nothing of the sort, just clear-eyed tough-mindedness. Burkean conservatism. Foolish leftists and their utopian schemes!

More in sorrow than in anger, don’t you know.

Also, to the extent it isn’t Burkean, it is just consequentialist.

Consequentialism is a respectable ethos and obligatory among wonks. What’s the point of being a whitepaper pusher if you aren’t pushing some basically consequentialist calculation about policy past the point that regular folks’ ‘feelings’ extend? So this is how Hanania wants to forge – force – an alliance that runs from Matthew Yglesias to Steve Sailer.

Surely, if that isn’t centrism, it at least isn’t stormfront!

So, as Henry says, you end up missing the anti-democratic, ‘race realist’ face behind the ‘centrism’ mask. And yet, even that isn’t the final face, pinched though its features seem.

As we now know, Hanania isn’t a race realist. Hanania is a race idealist.

From Christopher Mathias’ exposé:

The bulk of Hoste’s [that’s Hanna’s sockpuppet handle] bigotry, however, was directed at Black people. He lamented what he saw as the growing preponderance of “miscegenation,” or white and Black people dating each other. “For the white gene pool to be created millions had to die,” Hoste wrote once. “Race mixing is like destroying a unique species or piece of art. It’s shameful.”

Note the distance between telling people they should respect a Big Fact because, though it is ugly, it is solid, and telling people that they should respect a Big Fact because, although it is fragile, it is beautiful.

So all the Burkeanism centrism and Effective Altruism bean-counting is a mask for an aesthetic vision of politics. It truly is a kind of quasi-Nietzschean Great Politics. (I like Nietzsche, but one must face facts.)

“If they had decency, blacks would thank the white race for everything that they have.”

It’s easy to just recoil from the stink of it. But let’s savour the layers of the stink of it.

This is not harsh consequentialism, though sometimes he talks like it’s that: “The biggest enemies of the Black Man are not Klansmen or multinational corporations, but the liberals who have prevented an honest appraisal of his abilities and filled his head with myths about equality and national autarky.”

It’s not even a mask of harsh consequentialism that masks just plain hate.

It’s not even just passive-aggressive animus, though – yeah.

No, this consequentialism looks like a mask for a deeper feeling that life would be more beautiful, more gracious, if blacks would thank the white race for everything they have. This is a positive aesthetic.

It is almost enough to make a fella believe in the supremacy of whiteness on the strength of the absurd!

“Hoste also commented on the attractiveness of the host of the series, a renowned broadcast journalist who has mixed-race heritage. “Soledad O’Brien has a skin tone and hair that most other blacks would kill for,” he wrote. “I think I understand why mulattos associate with their black side. For a ‘black’ chick, she’s a 10, for a white chick, a 7.”

You know, I’m not even going to analyse this one, except to say it seems too likely Hanania is likewise quantifying possibly schemes for race relations, on a ‘hotness’ scale. And, when he sees a 10, he finds some social science Big Fact why we should get it.

Now, why is this worth hammering on about? He won’t be fooling the NYT any more. He won’t apologise, since no one does (and he has written a paper on why you shouldn’t.)

It’s maybe worth noting the way Henry’s point about bait generalises.

This Graeme Wood piece on Bronze Age Pervert is pretty good. Wood notices that Michael Anton notices about BAP the same thing that Henry notices about Hanania. (Except Anton, being bad, likes it.)

“The affection has been repaid in print by Michael Anton, a former Trump-administration national-security official who wrote a 2019 essay in the Claremont Review of Books sympathetic to BAP, while noting his tendency to be “racist,” “anti-Semitic,” “anti-democratic,” “misogynistic,” and “homophobic.” Anton suggested (correctly, I think) that BAP’s vile utterances, whether sincere or not, serve a purpose: to keep whiny leftists so busy cataloging his petty thoughtcrimes that they overlook his more serious heresies.”

In an age of never-say-sorry, giving people ‘gotcha!’ fodder is an increasingly common rhetorical strategy. BAP hides behind comedy in more or less the same way Hanania hides behind centrism. (Everyone likes a joke! Comedy is, thus, a form of centrism!)

But again, we should push past. Maybe the best way is, first, to push against what I said above. I painted Hanania as a Nietzschean nut. But how can I be sure that the final mask is the real one? Why should someone’s ‘real’ self be the one he sockpuppeted more than 10 years ago. Why shouldn’t that be, instead, just the outrage mask he tried on for recreational purposes, whereas his soul is centrist and bean-counting effective altruism-minded?

Because if centrists edgelord as Ubermenschen, they aren’t centrists even when they aren’t in that mode. Not really.

Let’s put it in Big Facts terms (as Henry does.) Big Facts are hard-to-face. But a Big fact about hard-to-face facts is that people find them – well, hard to face. So if someone keeps facing them, they probably don’t find them hard to face, after all.

If Hanania were truly the sort of person who is likely to face Big Facts, even hard-to-face ones, he would be likely to face the Big Fact of it being unlikely he IS that sort of person. So, if he were honest, he would devote a lot more space to worrying he’s dishonest, and warning the reader he might be. Since he doesn’t, he probably isn’t – honest.

In Hanania’s case, of course, we can now skip liar-paradox-like reasoning because we have receipts. He isn’t honest about his motives.

But in other cases – the world of anti-woke is wide – we have Hanania only as a cautionary case.

One of the worst arguments on the internet is ‘if you are catching flak, you must be over the target.’ Because maybe you are an asshole. But the sheer popularity of alleged Big Fact-based anti-Woke arguments, like Hanania’s, is itself an inductive argument for – well, for Woke. Morally, we are what we want to turn out to be moral.

Should Hanania be cancelled?

There is a norm that you don’t sit down with a Nazi. That is fine, I think, and consistent with being a good, Millian liberal, which I hope I more or less am.

But ideas and arguments are different. I wouldn’t break bread with Carl Schmitt – or Heidegger – but I’ll read their books.

I totally admit ‘I won’t shake your hand but I’ll read your book’ gets kind of hopeless, when pushed. But what’s the alternative, really? Pretending I know it all? I don’t believe immoral ideas are miasma that infects you if you touch them with your mind.

But: you should massively discount Hanania’s ideas and arguments just because he is dishonest.

He’s a race idealist pretending to be a race realist pretending to be a consequentialist pretending to be a centrist pretending to only pretend to be a bit of an edgelord around the edges, which wraps back to the race idealism in some oroborous of bad faith, so who knows what is top and what is bottom. Approach with insulting skepticism.

It’s pretty unlikely others, who are like him, are utterly unlike him.

And if someone protests guilt by association, explain the Big Facts of life are hard. Wouldn’t be woke to ignore them.



Tm 08.06.23 at 10:30 am


John Holbo 08.06.23 at 10:56 am

Truly I have written an unnecessary post, and shall endure being told so.


engels 08.06.23 at 11:58 am

I totally admit ‘I won’t shake your hand but I’ll read your book’ gets kind of hopeless, when pushed. But what’s the alternative, really?

I’ll read your book but I won’t cite it?


steven johnson 08.06.23 at 2:14 pm

“A certain amount of plausible social science something-something and suddenly we are all radically anti-democratic race realists from the get-go.”

As I see it, the problem with the original post on Hanania was that it conceded Hanania’s premises even after correctly claiming that conceding the premises loses the debate. The plaintive objection that Hanania carries things too far just doesn’t do the job. Trying to deny race-science premises while trying to cite a hereditary BS detector in the brain?

The real problem in general is the social science deemed plausible in the first place. The claim Hanania isn’t a plausible social science guy but now outed as an neurotic who feels compelled to talk mean doesn’t mean anything except now he can be dismissed by people who go by reputation….and the supposed plausible social science will still be sold by more respectable salesmen.

And this matters because “we” don’t all have to be ideologically driven “radically anti-democratic race realists.” “We” just have to concede the premises are plausible and the lower class vulgarians with the bad, bad manners will do the rest.


David Singerman 08.06.23 at 2:55 pm

“If he were honest, he would devote a lot more space to worrying he’s dishonest.”

The most revealing Hanania tweet IMO is this one, about impostor syndrome:


Anders Widebrant 08.06.23 at 3:01 pm

“(Everyone likes a joke! Comedy is, thus, a form of centrism!)”

Parentheticals, too! So pleasingly aligned right between the brackets.


bekabot 08.06.23 at 8:33 pm

WRT impostor syndrome —

Just read the tweet, and gotta say: about the only thing more disturbing than a genuine psychopath is a man who aspires to be taken for one, while knowing that he doesn’t make the grade.


Anders Widebrant 08.07.23 at 6:51 am

“If Hanania were truly the sort of person who is likely to face Big Facts, even hard-to-face ones, he would be likely to face the Big Fact of it being unlikely he IS that sort of person. So, if he were honest, he would devote a lot more space to worrying he’s dishonest, and warning the reader he might be. Since he doesn’t, he probably isn’t – honest.”

Feels similar to my internal grumbling about how these supposed skeptics always seem very sure of themselves. It never felt completely convincing to me as an argument, although I can’t quite put my finger on why. I suppose in this case Hanania might pull out a thee but not for me in response, which seems consistent with his world view at large.


nastywoman 08.07.23 at 8:56 am

Njet Nietzsche –


as Hanania or better said his Alter Ego ‘Hoste’ posted some of the utmost simplistic Racist ‘Dreck’ on the Internet – like:
“If the races are equal, why do whites always end up near the top and blacks at the bottom, everywhere and always?”
This is just what your basic German Neo Nazi mumbles on any ‘Stammtisch’ and to counter it accordingly
PLEASE NO philosophical Mambo Jambo or trying to transform a German Stammtisch into Nietzsches Salon.
It’s like if you would like to discuss the simplistic wish of the dad of FF von Clownstick NOT to rent to ANY ‘Blacks’ like some pretty complicated OP of Prof. Farrell on CT.

(that Clever People discuss the Utmost Stupid Primitivity as IF it would have any sense of philosophical or Nietzschean background)

And so on the 3rd of Oct. hundred of (mostly young) Germans will come together in order to counter ‘straightforward and very, very unphilosophical Racism and Hate on the Internet with a ‘s—storm’ of DIRECT LOVE against the misguided Neo-Nazi as only if you hug them and tell them: Don’t write such stuff – boys –
(or your moms will NOT LOVE you anymore) they slowly might understand?

Right – CT?
(and Engels)


Barry 08.07.23 at 9:39 am

BTW, Chait just wrote an article where he compared Hunter Biden to Clarence Thomas as examples of corruption, so I feel safe in slotting him under ‘troll’.

Noah’s ‘DDOS attack’ gets to the heart of this. ‘Race Realism’, ‘Race Science’, etc. are like ‘PC’, ‘Woke’, etc. They are just updated euphemisms, and should be treated as such.

‘Enlightened Centrism’ turns out to the just the same as ‘Race Realism’ and ‘Race Science’. It’s a shiny new paint job on old, stinking corrupt lies. The fact that it persuades the media doesn’t say much out the intellectual soundness, since the media’s job is to swallow stuff like that.


tm 08.07.23 at 9:53 am

Liberalism is doomed:

My Journey Out of Extremism
And how I became a small-l liberal.

Richard Hanania
7 Aug 2023 · 10 min read
“The reason behind publishing Hanania’s essay below lies in the scarcity of narratives portraying young men’s journey away from extremist ideologies through the processes of maturity and moderation. We need more stories like the one Richard offers to serve as guidance for those who may be falling into radicalism.

Over the years, I have seen many people ‘cancelled’ and have watched as friends and colleagues have become politically radicalised and personally bitter. Because of this, I believe it is essential to highlight individuals who have undergone a transformation through moderating their views — resisting the trap of victimhood and grievance.

As Oscar Wilde famously quipped, every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future. Therefore, if someone who was once an extremist has managed to grow and evolve positively, their narrative holds value and deserves to be shared.
— Claire Lehmann, Editor-in-Chief”

Quillette is an Australian based online magazine that focuses on long-form analysis and cultural commentary. We are politically non-partisan, but rely on reason, science, and humanism as our guiding values.


TM 08.07.23 at 10:08 am

“What I can say with a lot of confidence, is just about everybody in the vanguard of the right-wing, among its intellectuals, its staffer class, its journalists, etc. is in daily close proximity to some form or another of fascist or white supremacist propaganda. And I don’t mean this in the “woke,” everything-is-kinda-white-supremacy way, I mean this in it literally bubbled up from Nazi message boards and the like… This is what you have to realize about these people: It’s all lies, all the way down; to themselves and to others. The other thing: there is a reason why people don’t say “alt-right” anymore, there is no more “alternative”, this is just the Right. This is who they are.”


Phil H 08.07.23 at 12:40 pm

Huh. I commented on the last post that I’ve read Hanania and he didn’t seem like a racist to me. I guess I was wrong.
People can change their minds and grow, and I hope he has. But… he’s not interesting enough to read knowing that there’s all that horrible baggage behind him.
Chalk another one up to No, The Right Is Just Thin Cover For Bigots.


Person With A Memory of Andrew Sullivan 08.07.23 at 6:10 pm

Wow, big brain academia and six-figgie editors-in-chief got skunked by yet another guy Just Asking Questions About Black People’s IQ. Wonder what’s gonna happen when the next version of this guy comes along? Just kidding, I don’t wonder; the same thing happened to the last twenty versions of this guy who came along – they’ll be paid more money than you or I will ever see in our lives to Just Ask Questions About Black People’s IQ. And if they get busted on a livestream screaming about “the Jews” and can’t find enough tech trillionaires to fill their substack coffers anymore, Klaire’s Kaliper Kwarterly will always have a place for them. None of these people will ever suffer even a moment of discomfort for their dogshit views. Not even in the slightest. Hanania will die rich. All these guys do.


kent 08.07.23 at 6:24 pm

Henry has an updated post, in light of Hanania’s mea culpa. Worth taking a quick look at for those who are interested.


Barry 08.07.23 at 8:10 pm

“My Journey Out of Extremism
And how I became a small-l liberal.”

‘I did not leave the Democratic Party; it left me’.
As I said, same old same old.


tenacitus 08.07.23 at 11:53 pm

I honestly don’t see the point of debating people like him. It seems like debating the humanity and right of other people to exist. People like him and his friends keep allowing they are dishonest and enjoy trolling. Once you spend time debating them you’ve already conceded they have someone to say. It would be great if people who want a more just and humane world just talked more with each other about creating the utopia they want instead of devoting time and energy to conservative movement building through trolling.


Fake Dave 08.08.23 at 8:11 am

The “just ignore him”/ “don’t feed the trolls” thing doesn’t really work if the biggest media companies in the world are giving someone a platform or granting him legitimacy. The list of respectable (or at least respected) publications that feted him but never vetted him is staggering. The Washington Post seems to bear particular culpability for catapulting an obscure post-grad to the heights of the punditocracy for reasons that remain frustratingly unclear.

He’s not an exceptionally talented or insightful writer even in his field, yet he appears to have entered some kind of media express lane reserved for “gadflies” and was seen all over the spectrum making bold and thrillingly crypto-fascist pronouncements about all manner of topics. He got more bylines and buzz in his three years as a “legitimate” columnist than many more skilled and qualified writers get in their whole careers. It’s worth understanding how something like that happens, even if only because we dearly wish it would stop happening.

Some of us saw a couple lines of his schtick (like the tweet about black crime Musk found so “interesting”) and immediately grasped what kind of creature we were dealing with, but here and the other blogs linked you can find people — good, thoughtful liberal-minded people — who confess to having not a clue. No white supremacist writing for a mainstream audience in our era is likely to use racial slurs or call for racial purity laws, yet many readers can’t seem to recognize anything less explicit. This language about lQ, heredity, and criminal demographics is not “code” for racism but the thing itself — a difference in degree rather than in kind — and yet a large part of the chattering class won’t see it for what it is. That blind spot is itself interesting.


Person With A Memory of Andrew Sullivan 08.08.23 at 6:41 pm

“How it happens” is, simply enough, white supremacy. We understand it just fine. The mechanisms of white supremacy will simply catapult a nice looking academic Just Asking Questions About Black People’s IQ to widespread chin-stroking fame and unimaginable riches every few years. There will be another one after Hanania’s forgotten. The Washington Post and the New York Times and the Atlantic and the New Yorker all have their roles to play in the white supremacist system, and they will play that role. They’re literally paid to!

Beware: it is illegal in eleven or so U.S. states to notice the above facts within 500 yards of a college campus.


politicalfootball 08.08.23 at 7:13 pm

Hanania’s apologia for his racist extremism includes one of the classics of that genre: the liberals made him do it.

When I try to reconstruct my emotional status and reasoning of 12-15 years ago, a few things stand out. First, there was the desire to just adopt a posture that was the polar opposite of those I considered political enemies. So if liberals lied a lot about race, I needed to speak “harsh truths,” without much careful thinking about whether I was actually getting at truth or simply being similarly dogmatic. … There’s been a long stream of young right-wingers who have recently been exposed for having once held extreme views on race and gender, and it’s an easy trap to fall into given the absurdity of liberal lies on these topics.


anon/portly 08.08.23 at 7:38 pm

But: you should massively discount Hanania’s ideas and arguments just because he is dishonest.

He’s a race idealist pretending to be a race realist pretending to be….

I thought Henry Farrell’s earlier post, while obviously very thoughtful and well-argued, was also somewhat over-complicating things. And this one does the same thing. Farrell was specifically referencing a Hanania piece that described Steve Sailer as an “enlightened centrist” and then added – apparently, for CT posters, in vain – this:

I really like Steve Sailer.”

In the follow-up post mentioned by kent in 15, Henry Farrell says:

Hanania seems to believe that Black people are on average more stupid than white people.

When someone says, “I really like Steve Sailer,” isn’t that the precise point they are trying to make? People on the left often allow themselves unwonted liberties with the “dog whistle” thing, but this to me is less a dog whistle and more like writing “I believe that Black people are on average more stupid than white people” on your forehead with a magic marker. That’s “dishonest?”

(Am I just wrong about Sailer? – I thought that was his whole deal).

Contra what Fake Dave says in 18, Hanania didn’t get published by the WaPo and get compared to Friedman and Davies by Farrell because of vetting issues, but because he’s capable of writing smart and funny things. Isn’t that at least kind of “enlightened?” – I don’t think Holbo and Farrell are necessarily wrong to not dismiss him out of hand. I think it’s too bad that most of the pushback he’ll get will be “you’re a bad guy” (or even worse, “this other person is a bad guy if they don’t hate you”) and not enough of it will be aimed at the shortcomings of his thinking.


anon/portly 08.08.23 at 7:42 pm

So, as Henry says, you end up missing the anti-democratic, ‘race realist’ face behind the ‘centrism’ mask. [Emphasis mine].

I thought the real “troll” in Henry Farrell’s earlier post was this one, lumping Brian Caplan in with Steve Sailer. That’s way beyond any “‘no one here but us social scientific centrists’ straight-faced sidestep.”

From the “Big Facts” link in the OP:

A Haitian really can make twenty times as much money in Miami the week after he leaves Port-au-Prince – and the reason is clearly that the Haitian is vastly more productive in the U.S. Which really makes you wonder: Why would anyone want to stop another human being from escaping poverty by enriching the world? Giving this starting point, anti-immigration arguments are largely attempts to explain this big blatant neglected fact away.

Does a guy who comes up with arguments – maybe wrong, maybe wacky, think what you will – to allow more Haitian immigrants deserve to be lumped in with a guy who comes up with arguments – stupid, not wacky, just stupid – to allow fewer Haitian immigrants, or (for all I know) to promote Haitian-American emigration?


engels 08.09.23 at 11:26 am

I had never heard of Hania before this series of posts and when it peters out I hope (and trust) I never shall again.


hix 08.09.23 at 6:37 pm

Wow, save your time, save your intelectual energy. He is so obviously not worth it, any engagment based on simplest heuristics. No need to find the writing under pseudonym. Race iq come on? What more do you need to just top reading and start screaming at anyone that gave him a platform.


TM 08.10.23 at 9:57 am

John Ganz’s latest is a must read (unless you don’t want to hear about Hanania any more, which is perfectly understandable):


engels 08.10.23 at 10:21 am

The “just ignore him”/ “don’t feed the trolls” thing doesn’t really work if the biggest media companies in the world are giving someone a platform

Where has he been published outside of the US?


Eli Rabett 08.12.23 at 2:18 am

In the D^2 spirit, why do these clowns come on telling you that judging people as groups is evil (can’t have affirmative action) and then merrily proceed to do exactly that.

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