22 October 2007

Science and Racism.

Black people do (on average) score less than whites in IQ tests. So what is the problem with James Watson pointing this out?

There are in fact several problems;

He does more than...
point the above out, he infers that black people are genetically intellectually inferior (he states black employees are inferior), but you cannot deduce this from IQ tests, because for one, they are heavily culturally biased and two; it is clear that socio-economic and environmental factors are the largest determinant of variation in IQ scores in the majority, and this could easily account for the difference.

If you pick two groups of people at random and compare their averaged out IQs, regardless of race, there will be a difference. If you compare one economically disadvantaged group with a more privileged one, then not surprisingly the more privileged group do better, once again, regardless of race. But of course black people are disproportionately socio-economically disadvantaged. And it is clearly cultural and environmental bias (slavery, racism, harsh climate of origins) rather than genetics that has landed them in this group.

We have to ask why Watson is bringing this up. Does he also suggest that whites (who score lower than East Asians on average in IQ tests) are intellectually inferior? Then, what about white boys who are currently scoring lower than black girls in England, are they (by his reckoning) also intellectually inferior? If not, why not?

Then there is the thorny problem of defining race. In scientific terms there are no white or black people. Instead there is a range of genetic difference and differences within culturally defined 'races' are greater than the average differences between them, so EVEN IF Watson were right AND it was possible to determine intellectual differences between 'black' and 'white', the difference would be unimportant because you couldn't label any one individual's intelligence by their race.

In fact, the only explanation for Watson's outburst seems to be nothing more than stereotypical prejudice (thankfully some have said this very publicly). It is very sad indeed that someone so apparently intelligent has made himself the BNP poster boy, and just because he is a hero to some for his great achievement in discovering the double helix of DNA, it is still no reason to defend him (Dawkins - you should be ashamed). Watson should have been intelligent enough to have foreseen the storm he would create and I think he deserves all the criticism and censure he is getting. I for one, do not feel any sympathy for him. I do however feel sympathy for those who have to suffer at the hands of the racists - who Watson has just given his succour towards. It is heartbreaking that someone supposedly so intelligent can still fail to overcome their deep seated prejudices. It is also ironic when it has been shown that prejudice is linked with lower IQ. We have heard this racist nonsense all before with the Bell Curve and Frank Ellis. Isn't it about time we got the message that this is all ideologically driven by racists and in practical terms just a waste of time (and insulting)?

31 comments:

  1. Wow, I couldn't disagree more!

    Let me clear a couple of things before I talk about this. First of all, I have a Thai-Chinese wife and as such my son is very mixed in race. So anyone who brands me "racist" is wrong.

    Secondly, I don't believe the BNP are racist. Hitler was racist, he believed people should suffer pain because of their creed. Black Supremacist groups are racist, they want people to have high ranking jobs based on their colour. The BNP are not racist. They support deportation of illegal immigrants and request resident immigrants respect traditional British culture.

    I am not a BNP voter (I voted Labour last time) but I don't hit them with the knee jerk, intellectually sloppy and hysterical "racist" tag like most media do now.

    Now for the issue at hand. Here's the fact: The doctor is correct.

    Testing shows a difference. You seem to acknowledge this then try to deny it, all in one. You claim the Dr said black employees are "inferior". That is misconstrued.

    What he said was:He said he hoped that everyone was equal[IN THE IQ TESTS], but countered that "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true".

    Secondly you go on to put words in his mouth.You talk about other statistics suggesting people are "intellectually inferior", but the Dr never used these words. I understand that nowadays most of us accept IQ is only one abstract layer of intelligence. You also talk about socio - economic status being a factor in IQ scores but again, nobody has denied this. Why the knee jerk defensive rhetoric? I find it revealing that many left wing media use this language without a direct quotation.

    Your definition of race is puzzling to me. Most people define black or white by the pigmentation of skin. This is obviously what the doctor was doing so other definitions, for the purpose of this debate, are irrelevant.


    What truly saddens me about this is that it serves as an indication of the genuine decline in freedom of speech in England. Freedom of speech does not include freedom to incite violence or hatred, but it certainly does include the right to say something that we might not like to hear.

    It deeply saddens me that people like you i.e. people who are well read and obviously have a sense of justice, understand that science is not PC. Science reports only facts. Yet when science reports something you don't like to hear, you shoot the messenger down in flames and brand him racist.

    The irony of this is that those who do this - politicians, bloggers and activist groups - are not scientists. The only person who is qualified to comment is Dawkins.


    The Dr did not say tests were conclusive, he did not say anyone should suffer, he merely did his job as a scientist and reported on what current experiments seem to tell us. If he had told us the same news in reverse - blacks score above whites - I'll bet the left would be posting it all over the net with glee.

    You say it is "heartbreaking" that this man reports the truth. I find it equally heartbreaking that we engage in so much duplicity. Some imams living in the UK are preaching violence and lesser rights for women, but of course we must not talk about that because it is freedom of speech (for them) and we should respect either culture.

    How sad our nation has become when a qualified scientist suffers for reporting on his honest findings.

    With your permission, I might link or paste over your blog on to my own.

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  2. R&W If he had told us the same news in reverse - blacks score above whites - I'll bet the left would be posting it all over the net with glee.

    Neil H what about white boys who are currently scoring lower than black girls in England, are they (by his reckoning) also intellectually inferior?

    Said is said!

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  3. R&W: Why do you think having a Thai/Chinese wife will make you immune to racism? One of my previous girlfriends was Sikh, but that didn't stop me from being racist at the time, (she was also racist). I know someone who had an Indian dad but (in a fit of teenage rebellion) they joined the National Front to have him sent home (they would have been murdered - probably literally - if the NF had found out their true identity). It is just completely idiotic (and ironic), but those who support the far right are not thinking that clearly are they?

    Racist ideology permeates our culture and affects all of our thinking (even non-whites) and that is why Watson's comments are so dangerous and people are so disgusted with him.

    As for suppressing free speech, Watson can say whatever he likes but shouldn't expect to hold positions of responsibility when he is acting so irresponsibly. Exclaiming loudly (for no apparent reason) that white people do worse in IQ tests has no connotations of racism because it does not reinforce a stereotype, whereas deriding black people loudly (and what else could his sneering comments about black employees and IQs have been? It was hardly a complement was it?) is quite clearly supposed to be disparaging about their intelligence. In this situation, we cannot just ignore the historical and prejudicial context (slavery and discrimination has been pretty much one way traffic). There is nothing wrong in outlining statistics, but Watson did more than that. He wants us to make a judgement on an already vulnerable minority group. If not, what else was the purpose of his comments? Why bring it up? I think you and I agree that the science does not support the assertion that the colour of someone's skin determines their intelligence, so this is not about science being un PC, it is about Watson being un PC. This is not about Watson's scientific findings, it is about his prejudice. Watson has conducted no experiments to back up his views. Watson is clever enough to know exactly what he was doing, so I have no sympathy for him, now it has all backfired in his face. Maybe he did it, just to get publicity for his book, in which case he is even worse than a bigot, he is despicable.

    Finally when you state that the BNP are not racists, I find it difficult to take the rest of your argument seriously. People don't vote BNP for their economic policies! If the BNP are not racist, why don't they allow black and Asian people to join?

    Like every political party, the BNP have ideals that are more extreme than their stated policies. They are more careful now not to let their guard slip, but there is no doubting their ideology is racist (although they do win some votes from people who might not knowingly be racist).

    PS Everyone is free to quote whatever they like from my site, and thanks for asking, but no permission is needed.

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  4. Neil H People don't vote BNP for their economic policies!

    Woah! That is not as true as you'd like it to be. The BNP have got this whole national-socialist command-economy 'British jobs for British workers' protectionist stuff off pat! They know how to appeal to the economically uneducated voter.

    As opposed to us gentlemen in UKIP, who are very much pro-free trade, or course.

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  5. Mark, the protectionist BNP policy (although wrong) is probably more honest than UKIP's in some ways. UKIP have pretty similar policies to the BNP when trying to stop the movement of people, but unlike the BNP, UKIP want movement of goods and capital totally unregulated (regardless of how global speculation damages economies and the democratic will of the people (the EU are a bulwark against this damage), we don't want to harm wealthy speculators do we?). The invisible hand of the free market however is not good enough for immigration policy in UKIP's eyes (when to comes to immigration, UKIP are a sort of middle class BNP).

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  6. Neil, people wouldn't vote BNP for their economic policies because they are socialist!

    R&W, excellent points on freedom of speech.

    Neil, where's the evidence global speculation harms economies? There's plenty of evidence from around the globe that command economies and socialism damage economies. North Korea, Cuba, the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe for starters!

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  7. Snafu, you have walked right into Neil's trap there.

    North Korea, Cuba, Venezuala, Zimbabwe et al would be blossoming Socialist paradises, but for the Evil Capitalists imposing a trade blockade on them.

    Because, obviously, free trade benefits Socialist economies but harms democratic/capitalist economies.

    Bugger, does not compute.

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  8. Hi Neil
    I can't find an email address for you. Can you drop me a line with your address...want to send you s'thing.

    Cheers!
    humanistsforlabour@yahoo.co.uk

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  9. Whether the BNP's policies are 'socialist' is entirely beside the point. The BNP is the British Nazi Party. Like the original Nazi party, their strategy is to pick up support from the disaffected on both sides of the political spectrum, hence the portmanteau name 'national socialism' - nationalism to appeal to the petty bourgeois rentier class and socialism to appeal to the disillusioned social democrats. It is this outright cynicism that informs BNP policies and it is rather naive to take their policies at face value. This is what makes them fundamentally different from the constitutional parties from UKIP to the Socialist party.

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  10. A word about IQ testing, why the hell do we still invest these tests with such significance. IQ testing was developed originally to identify those with remedial educational needs. It was not developed to rank the whole human population in intelligence. Undoubtedly, being able to achieve a high score in an IQ tests indicates a form of cognitive ability. So does being able to do crossword puzzles or play monopoly well but we don't talk about the inheritability of crossword or monopoly scores.

    As a mathematician, my problem with IQ testing is that it attempts to quantify something that is essentially qualitative in nature. People do have different cognitive capabilities but these are best described qualitatively not quantitatively. What would comparing Einstein's IQ with Darwin's IQ tell you?

    So what if black IQ scores are lower on average than white scores? Why does a scientist like Watson want to talk about it? Why does he think it significant? What's his agenda?

    As a sidebar, I take a personal interest in this becuase I failed te 11+ and have never managed to score > 100 in any IQ test I have taken. Yet I won an open scholarship to Oxford & took a first in Mathematics, and one might have thought that IQ tests would be good at detecting latent mathematical aptitude. So I have my own special reasons for thinking that this debate is a bag of spanners!

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  11. Stephen, couldn't agree more with your excellent comments. IQ scores are rubbish at determining intelligence. As you suggest, the real question is what is Watson's agenda and it is this obvious agenda that he rightly deserves censure for.

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  12. Stephen, I, too failed my 11+ and did my first IQ test when studying for my A levels. Failure to grasp the concept meant that my scores were appalling. I've since learned how to master them, which rather makes a mockery of the whole thing. I tend to treat them with derision.

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  13. Thanks Neil. Looks like we do agree sometime!

    I agree Longrider. Like you, I am sure that were I to practise IQ tests I could achieve excellent scores. But what would be the point? I am sure that if practised playing Bridge I would become an excellent player, but like IQ tests, it is an area of life in which I have little desire to cultivate competence. I have no false modesty about my cognitive abilities, which are well demonstrated in the successes I have had my career. I just see no reason why I or anyone else should want to measure them like the volume of a liquid is measured. It's nerdy, stupid and meaningless. And it also distracts us from the wondrously complex thing that is the human consciousness. Read The Emporer's New Mind, by my old professor Roger Penrose.

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  14. Neil, thanks for taking the time to read my comments. I'm sure we could both debate this much further but maybe we can agree to disagree on this one, we have both typed a lot already :-)

    Mr Wadsworth, we could also point out that Laos and Libya (now) are not under sanctions but Laos is still relatively poor, while Libya is still relatively rich due to its oil, so I don't think it is just a question of Socialism and/or sanctions.

    Stephen, you may have some very valid comments on IQ testing but I think your comments on the BNP are preposterous. Firstly, I think they would be surprised to hear they are set up to appeal to socialists, since they have a strong opposition to (and from) Communist groups.

    Also please explain how they are "different from the constitutional parties from UKIP to the Socialist party." given that we have no codified constitution and the BNP are a legally registered party. As you may have gathered, I certainly don't believe the BNP are Nazis and in my opinion it is lazy to brand them so. I am no a BNP member either.

    Finally, neither "national socialism" nor "nationalism" is a portmanteau, the former is a noun phrase. The two expressions have a different etymology.

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  15. Stephen, the only reason I took the time to master IQ tests is because I faced a barrage of the damned things during the early nineties when the Rail Industry seemed to think that it meant that I would make a good operator. Unfortunately, there is s till an element of this going on.

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  16. Red, if you have the stomach for it, read the BNP's manifesto - they advocate among other things, state ownership of the railways. That's not what I'd call a right wing philosophy. Stephen's remarks about them seeking support from the disaffected from across the political spectrum is pretty accurate.

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  17. Ok, Red, I think you are being a little pedantic in objecting to my use of 'portmaneau' - I was attmepting to use the word figuratively, extending it beyond its common grammatical meaning. But no matter, I don't want to get into a spat about the usage of English.

    Let me answer the two main points raised by your post. Is the BNP a Nazi party and are my comments about Nazis valid? Taking the second point first, Orwell in his political essays recognised that both the Nazis and the fascists were attempting to appeal to disillusioned socialists. I am NOT saying that fascism is socialist but that it is quite happy to adopt some of the language of socialism to advance its cause. It is also an historical fact that some totalitarian former communists did not find the transition to the Nazi party all that difficult. Hitler in his table talk said that he would prefer to have as a recruit an ex-communist than a bourgeois trade unionist.

    As for the BNP not being Nazis, well I think you just have to look at the lineage of the party, which came out of the more muscular extreme right politics of the National Front in the 1970s. The most compelling evidence that the BNP is Nazi under its carefully ultivated polite exterior is the company its leaders choose to keep. Griffin has shared a platform with David Duke, the Klan leader. Holocaust deniers such as Gunter Deckert and david Iving have addressed BNP meetings. The BNP maintains links with other neo-nazi groups in Europe. The Tory party may have had some unsavoury connections via the Monday club but it can't be compared with the number of connections the BNP has to extreme right politics.

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  18. OK I'm conscious that this could appear to be promoting the BNP which is not the case, I just don't see them as nazis.

    Longrider, point taken about the railways but I don't think one policy of privatisation makes a socialist group :-) You could argue that maintaining state control of transport is right wing.

    Stephen, I do agree that the BNP have associated with some highly unlikable characters and this should be monitored carefully. Let us not forget that most leaders including Blair and Bush have associated with highly undesirable characters too including Saddam, Bin Laden, Pol Pot (actually Pol Pot was during Tory rule)and Pervez Musharraf. However I would certainly not class Blair as a dictator or pogrom advocate and I do not believe the BNP are holocaust deniers, they have simply made some very bad choices for company in the past.

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  19. Sorry longrider that should have been:

    "I don't think one policy of non-privatisation makes a socialist group :-)

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  20. stephen, longrider, I failed my 11+ and was born in the late summer - a double whammy in life according to this report.

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  21. Snafu, Mark. Global currency and stock speculation runs into many trillions of dollars and is dominated by a surprisingly few wealthy individuals and multinationals who flood hot money here and there to avoid tax etc. It can have little to do with the real economy and do much damage, and is especially damaging to developing countries desperately trying to get fledgling industries off the ground or establish essential social provisions and infrastructure. There used to be controls on this in the 1980's until Thatcher and Reagan abolished them - much to the detriment of democracies around the world. I am a supporter of the Tobin tax.

    Of course I have no truck with dictatorships like Cuba (paternalist or not), N. Korea, Zimbabwe, (Venezuala is a democracy, is it not?). I was never a supporter of the USSR either. Sweden is more of a democracy than our country and certainly more than the US, and that would be more of the socialist model for me, so critique that country.

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  22. much to the detriment of democracies around the world

    Er, Neil, aren't there on the whole more democracies now that twenty years ago, what with the USSR having collapsed, South Africa back to majority rule, that sort of thing?

    I take your point on Sweden, it would be unfair of me to accuse you of sticking up for Castro, Mugabe, but FFS, please don't put me down as a Thatcherite.

    BTW, Chavez is a total nutcase of a dictator, this will all go horribly wrong over hte next five-to-ten years, you mark my words. Mugabe et al were democratically elected as well, that proves nothing.

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  23. Babies are babies, on average, all have the same brain capacity regardless of race.

    .
    Support GLBT Rights! Fight back against those that stone gays to death! Democracy NOT Theocracy!

    STOP KUFFARPHOBIA Demonstration at Whitehall in London, 12pm Friday 10/26/07!

    I think we all must start calling the Islamofascists 'racists'. We should scream that they are hateful towards the Christian race, and the Jewish race, and the Hindu race, and the Atheist Race, that they are Christianityphobiasts. They will scream that Christianity is not a race, and we'll say:

    "See, Islam is NOT a race either.
    And by the way, the Bible doesn't say to convert, conquer or kill non-Christians; like the Koran says to do to non-Muslims. So there YOU RACIST hater of non-Muslims! You're a Kuffarphobic!"

    Be careful all you in London Friday 10/26!

    absurd thought -
    God of the Universe says
    don't call a spade a spade

    Islamist terrorism
    not related to Islam


    absurd thought -
    God of the Universe says
    you have NO rights

    to hate religions
    that demand to convert you


    absurd thought -
    God of the Universe calls
    for sick ideologies

    that deny human rights
    KILL adulterers and gays


    absurd thought -
    God of the Universe says
    be very afraid...

    of saying the wrong things
    TRUTH is especially BAD


    http://absurdthoughtsaboutgod.blogspot.com

    :)
    . .

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  24. Mark, Chavez is redistributing to the poorest in Venezuela and this is resented by the middle class who tried to overthrow him in a US supported coup. Chavez has been elected comfortably and there is a majority of the media (like in this country) that supports the right-wing opposition. What has Chavez done that makes you call him a dictator?

    I think there may well be more democracies (in terms of number of countries) but not more democracy in total. I would argue that democracy overall has decreased. In the UK and US it is weaker than 2-3 decades ago. Look at the erosion of local democracy in the UK, look at electoral turnout, look at the narrowing of choice between the political parties on offer. Look at how inequality has grown despite the majority of populations in both countries wanting more redistributive policies.

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  25. I'll agree with what USpace says. A bit off-the-wall, but I like his/her style.

    Neil, you can keep telling yourself that Chavez is a nice chap. He's not. I've read history books, I know how this will end. Let's discuss Chavez again in five years' time and you'll ask me how I knew.

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  26. Neil, you can keep telling yourself that Chavez is a nice chap. He's not. I've read history books, I know how this will end. Let's discuss Chavez again in five years' time and you'll ask me how I knew

    Mark - yes we do know how the Chavez story might end. With a right wing coup sponsored by the CIA, the appointment of a totalitarian vassal of the US, like Pinochet, and the murder of tens of thousands of political opponents. This is the US way of dealing with governments in Latin America that it doesn't approve of. And before you blame the Cold War for US imperialism in South America, remember that the US has been interfering in the affairs of South American states since 1900. There was no Soviet Union to blame in 1914 when the US occupied Vera Cruz and killed hundreds of mexican civilians and the Soviet union was certainly not a threat to the US in 1926 when it helped establish a form of near slavery in Haiti. Or indeed when it sponsored the larcenous Somoza regime in Nicaragua which came to power in fraudulent elections.

    To be honest, i don't know enough about Chavez to say whether I think that he is a dangerous authoritarian or not. But I do know that many on the right who attack him would have no moral scruples about putting a murderous tyrant in charge of Venezuela, provided that he did what the Americans wanted.

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  27. Yes, I have read the history books and I know all this stuff.

    Can you put your ad hominem attacks to one side please? Just because I don't like dictators like Chavez, Castro et al does NOT mean that I in any way approve of what the US has been doing down there. There is a middle way, y'know.

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  28. Don't be so thin skinned. I didn't make a personal attack upon you. I chose my words carefully to say that 'many on the right' are relaxed about US sponsored tyrants. I am glad that you are not one of them. However your choice of words, which implied that the only trajectory for Venezuela was that Chavez would become dictator did invite that interpretation.


    There is a middle way, y'know

    There is a right way, rather than a middle way, which is to attack authoritarianism and abuse of human rights where ever it is found. I have deliberately avoid commenting on Chavez because it is difficult to find objective testimony about him. But I would still vehemently oppose any attempt by the US to destabilise Venezuela as I would oppose any military attack against Iran.

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  29. But I would still vehemently oppose any attempt by the US to destabilise Venezuela as I would oppose any military attack against Iran

    Completely agree with you there.

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  30. Mark, Chavez is redistributing to the poorest in Venezuela and this is resented by the middle class who tried to overthrow him in a US supported coup. Chavez has been elected comfortably and there is a majority of the media (like in this country) that supports the right-wing opposition. What has Chavez done that makes you call him a dictator?


    Closing down radio/TV stations that are opposed to him, installing himself on state TV for 3-hour long monologues about whatever's on his mind that day - these aren't really the actions of a man who encourages political debate.

    Yes, Chavez is popular. He has widespread support from the poor in Venezuela, for rather obvious reasons. So what - nobody said that a dictator had to be unpopular.

    Someone who rules by authoritarian diktat is a dictator even if the choices he makes are popular.

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  31. Sam, As far as I can tell, only one TV station has had its terrestrial licence revoked (it was revoked in May this year but it still broadcasts widely on cable and satellite). This was due to its extreme bias and support for the 2002 coup against the elected government. Probably far worse would happen to a TV station that did that in any Western country (in Britain such a biased channel would never have been allowed to broadcast)?

    The majority of press and media are still vehement opponents of Chavez, there is no suppression of freedom of speech.

    'Allo Presidente' is a LIVE weekly show on a Sunday where members of the audience and public ask Chavez questions. It is not a 3 hour monologue. We have a similar programme called Question Time over here (though I think it is pre-recorded).

    This is not to say that Chavez couldn't go the way of Castro or Mugabe and become a dictator - anything is possible, but he is certainly not a dictator at the moment, far from it.

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