Diversity Didn’t Destroy OceanGate’s Sub; Libertarianism Did

I’m not sure if any of you noticed but last week a handful of billionaires imploded themselves trying to go see the wreck of the Titanic. Did you see that? Were you aware that that happened? If you weren’t aware, please let me know in the comments your secret to living a happier life than me, because I try to have a healthy number of offline hobbies and experiences but inevitably the algorithm just pulls me back in.

Anyway, there’s a lot to talk about in regards to the tragedy of the Titan submersible’s destruction: the fact that this dominated the news cycle while the media more or less ignored the drowning of hundreds of migrants in a capsized boat off the coast of Greece, there’s the debate over whether we’re allowed to laugh at this considering that these people paid a quarter of a million dollars to be locked into a drainage pipe controlled by a $30 video game controller or if that’s gauche because there was a teenager on board and also the death of any human should diminish us all bla bla bla bla…that’s all interesting enough but I’m here today to have the truly important conversation that really matters: did these guys implode themselves because of wokeism?

Charlie Kirk: Again, I don’t want overly politicized it. That’s the left’s job. What the left did yesterday was they were saying “Well, OceanGate has a history of donating to Republicans,” as if that’s like a super relevant thing, right? There are six people that are running out of oxygen, thirteen thousand to surface, we think, and the Daily Beast sends out a story, but you have to know about their political donations. These people are repugnant, repulsive, and disgusting for publishing an article like that. It is, however, separate to say that, do you get your best in life, do you get excellence, if you care about things that don’t matter?

If it is true, this person tragically passes away, the CEO of OceanGate and he says that he was choosing and selecting his personnel based on not wanting to have fifty-year-old white guys, then you could make the argument, albeit rather cruel and blunt, he killed himself and his customers with wokeness.

Let this be a warning when we say that, “we want to hire more Black pilots.” Hold on, slow down. People could die if you embrace the poison of wokeness.”

Charlie Kirk and his impossibly tiny-huge baby face have a point, here: if we assume wokeness is inextricably linked with gayness, and a submersible is an awful lot like a submarine, and submarines are used by the US Navy, which everyone knows is the gayest branch of the military, or at least they WERE until Trump made Space Force, then yes, wokeness definitely killed these men.

But no, he’s actually referring to audio of Oceangate’s CEO, Stockton Rush, talking about how he didn’t want to hire 50-year old white guys to pilot his submersible because they aren’t “inspirational.”

Now, I understand why Kirk, along with Fox News and the other usual alt-right suspects, heard that and ended up thinking “this happened because of wokeness.” It’s because today’s conservatives are extremely naive, and they believe every word a billionaire tells them. Why did Rush not hire competent professionals to pilot his vehicles? Well, of course it’s because those were all old white guys and that’s just not innovative enough!

With just a tiny spark of skepticism and three seconds of research, these guys could have figured out that that’s a ridiculous lie. He didn’t hire competent professionals because every one he involved in his harebrained scheme saw straight through his bullshit and called him out on it. Consider this middle-aged white guy by the name of David Lochridge, who once worked for Oceangate as director of marine operations but was fired after he raised safety concerns, like how the Titan’s viewport was only certified to go down to 1,300 meters but the Titanic trips required a depth of about 4,000 meters.

Or there’s this 50-something white guy, Rob McCallum: he’s a deep sea exploration expert who was one of three dozen industry leaders to sign a letter to Rush begging him to stop offering commercial tours using a vessel that was unclassed and not certified by an independent agency to verify it meets basic standards of strength, stability, and safety. McCallum gave the BBC emails he exchanged with Rush in 2018, where he tells the CEO that he is “placing yourself and your clients in a dangerous dynamic.”

Rush defends himself by saying “I have grown tired of industry players who try to use a safety argument to stop innovation and new entrants from entering their small existing market. Since Guillermo and I started OceanGate we have heard the baseless cries of “you are going to kill someone” way too often. I take this as a serious personal insult.”

Well, he didn’t just kill someone, he killed four someones plus himself. And he did it NOT because he was woke, but because every “old white guy” expert repeatedly told him the truth: standards exist for a reason.

McCallum also may have been correct when he told Rush he was putting the entire deep-sea exploration industry at risk, leading people to believe that the entire business is unsafe and frivolous. Now we can see that the collateral damage may also extend to diversity quotas and affirmative action, which is a hot topic this week as the Supreme Court prepares to hand down a ruling on whether or not colleges can use race as a factor when admitting students. The right desperately wants you to believe that for every minority accepted to a good university or hired to a good job, a more skilled, more qualified white person is left behind. If you have the logical reasoning of a 4-year old, that makes sense: if all things are equal and the black kid gets into the school instead of the white kid just because he’s black, that’s not fair, is it?

But all things aren’t equal–the scales have been tipped in the favor of white people since this country was founded, and to this day colleges continue to hand out “legacy” admissions to mostly rich, mostly white kids whose parents attended the school and have a dining hall named after them, leaving behind countless poor, black, hispanic, or indigenous kids with better grades. The mostly rich, mostly white kids whose parents can afford SAT tutors get in as well, leaving behind their peers with more skills, more creativity, or more ambition. And these “affirmative action” programs for wealthy white kids will continue indefinitely, to the detriment of everybody.

And I really mean that: when we stop prioritizing diversity in education and the job market, everyone suffers. And I have the science to back that up. To make this argument as compelling as possible, I’m going to look at a measurement that conservatives themselves say is really, really important to them: worker productivity. Personally, I think humans are productive enough and we could all benefit from being a little less productive, but I accept that our society is capitalistic, and that requires a constant increase in worker productivity. So it goes. 

Mentoring and the Dynamics of Affirmative Action” was published last year in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy. In the study, researchers created a mathematical model based on previous research that shows that students and workers from underrepresented minority groups tend to perform better when they form relationships with mentors that are from that same group. They found that the worst outcomes in terms of productivity were when an industry or university had no kind of affirmative action OR a short-term “solution” that stopped once they hit a certain level of diversity.

According to Yale’s press release describing the study:

“In fact, the model suggested that achieving maximum productivity would often require overrepresenting the minority group in the workforce. For example, if the general population was composed of a 70% majority and a 30% minority, then the profession would need to be tilted toward the minority—say, 65% majority workers and 35% minority workers.

“At first glance, such a system might seem unfair. But the researchers explain that it simply takes into account minority students’ ability to recruit talented junior members of their group in the future.

“For example, if a majority and minority student have the same qualifications on paper, they might seem equally valuable. And both can effectively mentor others from their group once they rise through the workforce. But the majority student’s mentoring ability “is not in short supply,” Müller-Itten says. The minority student’s mentoring ability, in contrast, is a sparse resource. “One has a rare skill, and the other one does not,” she says.”

Sorry, average white people! The science proves it: you are lacking a rare skill that will increase worker productivity. The market has spoken. Sashay away.

Okay, okay, that was just one study of a mathematical model, not ironclad proof that white people are a net drain on society to the point where we’re even fucking things up for ourselves. But researchers do now have a whole lot of data on the effects of affirmative action and it shows that it has been immensely helpful at improving the lives of the people it was meant to help: when California outlawed affirmative action in college admissions in 1998, black and Latino student populations were cut in half. An economist at Berkeley found in a 2020 study that the ban led to a 3% drop in the number of minority Californians earning six figures, and that overall Black and Hispanic college applicants earned 5% less than before the ban while white and Asian salaries remained the same.

To sum up, affirmative action works to improve lives. It does NOT lead to billionaires committing the most expensive possible murder-suicide in history. That would be “disruptive” libertarian capitalism.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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