Babies: Endangered Animals Pt.2

This is my second post dealing with the documentary “Demographic Winter,” about Western fertility decline. In this post, I want to explore a little deeper into the film’s implications.

First, I’d like to mention that I do not doubt one of the basic facts mentioned in the film: that many Western and industrialized countries are experiencing birth rates below the “replacement level” of 2.1 births per woman. Aside from this basic agreement, the makers of the film and I disagree on just about everything else contained therein.

The film employs an ingenuous arsenal of arguments that just happen to point the viewer to the conclusion that the only way to save the (white) human race is through a massive suppression of women’s rights and a return to an idealized version of 1950s American society. Incidentally, gay rights and immigration must also be suppressed. The narrator and many experts in the film say the conclusions to be drawn from the “science” are not PC (their use of the term, not mine), and that is why these shocking facts about demographic disaster have not gotten more mainstream play. This supposition, of course, depends on your belief that the media is always carefully, perhaps even fascistically, PC. But, to play the devil’s advocate, if the media isn’t unwarrantedly PC, could there be other, more obvious reasons why this film hasn’t seen wide viewership?

Now, what political and social groups present us with similar arguments to justify their goals? Hmmm… social conservatives, Christian fundamentalists, racists, homophobes and male chauvinists. I’m going to hypothesize RIGHT NOW that when I research the Experts and the Funders of this film in my next post in this series, I will find that many are allied with these very groups. Anyone wanna bet me?

Currently, the world fertility rate is 2.61, above replacement rate. That means that while certain countries are below replacement rate, there must be even more above it. About 124 of the 221 countries listed in the CIA World Fact Book are at or above replacement rate, including the US (the chart has 223 entries, but this includes their entries for “world” and “E.U.”). The E.U. fertility rate is at 1.50, but countries such as Japan, Thailand,Turkey and Lebanon are also below replacement.

“DEMOGRAPHIC WINTER” & RACE

Since below-replacement-level fertility (brlf) has been recorded in several areas of the world, why does the film focus on majority-white countries to the almost complete exclusion (with the exception of Japan) of non-white countries? Why does the film include the US in its list of brlf countries, when we are currently at replacement rate? And why are 81% of the experts in the film white, if this is a trend affecting East and West Asia almost as much as Europe?

Race is the elephant in the room throughout this entire film. The US is included as “endangered” for two reasons: 1) historically, our fertility rates are trending downwards, and may dip brlf in the near future; and 2) the main reason our fertility rate is at replacement level is because of recent (Latino) immigrants and their descendants, most of whom are not white, and many of whom have well above replacement level fertility. However, we are told that it is in their best interests that this be considered bad for the US. Why? Because immigrants who come to the US are mostly young males (says the film). This leads to gender imbalance, separated families and brain-drain in their home countries, which is bad.

The Department of Homeland Security publishes an annual Yearbook of Immigration. The 2007 Yearbook, the most recent one available, lists legal immigrants to America as being mostly female, mostly above the age of 30, and mostly married. Huh. While not stating it out loud, the film must have been referring to undocumented immigrants, who are 60-70% male and often young. Some of the “youthfulness” of undocumented immigrants may be attributed to the fact that 1 in 6 is a child.

So when the film is talking about humans going extinct, what they really mean is whites. It just doesn’t say that. There’s a lot of things the film doesn’t say, and what goes unsaid is often more interesting than what is said.

THE “NATURAL FAMILY”

If you aren’t familiar with this political meme, here is a definition from The Howard Center:

The natural family is a man and woman bound in a lifelong covenant of marriage for the purposes of:
*the continuation of the human species,
*the rearing of children,
*the regulation of sexuality,
*the provision of mutual support and protection,
*the creation of an altruistic domestic economy, and
*the maintenance of bonds between the generations.

You can see the relevance to “Demographic Winter.” The combo-deal of continuation of the species, children, sexuality control and economics would be enough, but the fact that the film specifically mentions the decline of the “natural family” as a cause of concern let’s you know what we’re dealing with. This is a phrase used by certain social conservatives of a fundie-Christian bent when they are attacking working women, non-procreative sex, gays, no-fault divorce and birth control. “Demographic Winter” more or less equates the “natural family” with “Patriarchy,” which I find rather accurate, and lists this as the one solution to demographic disaster.

Of course, this meme ignores some small matters, like human history and reality. Historically, family has taken many different forms: tribes and clans based on kinship, extended family groups who live in a single dwelling, polygyny, and the occasional matriarchal society. Wikipedia: “The popularity of the nuclear family in the West came about in the early 20th century, prompted in part by business practices of Henry Ford, such as the “8 hour day, $5 week”, and later the New Deal policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt. This enabled more and more families to be economically independent, and thus to own their own home.”

Huh, but if the nuclear family (similar to “natural family”, but with a slightly wider definition that could include same-sex partners, or unmarried parents) is a family structure of recent popularity, and demographic decline is a recent phenomena, how can certain experts in the film claim that it is the weakening of this sort of family that is causing the decline? This question is not answered because believers in the “natural family” meme claim without thorough research that their family model is the only successful one that has existed throughout history. The most cursory glance into the history of family structure proves otherwise.

“DEMOGRAPHIC WINTER” & WOMEN

The insistence on the primacy and necessity of this very specific family structure nicely supports an important part of the demographic disaster argument: that women bear an enormous part of the burden for the recent listing of humans as an endangered species. Treating women as equal and as human beings is one of the direct causes of brlf, as listed in Part 1. Allowing (white) women birth control, abortion, control of their own sexuality, equality in marriage and careers is causing them to have fewer children. These are not parts of the “natural family” of Patriarchy and idealized 1950s America, because in that model women are carefully controlled by the men in their lives. Their life choices are restricted to the private sphere of marriage, house-keeping and child-rearing while dependent on a man, who is the dominant head of the family. Interestingly, 3/4 of the experts in the film were male. Coincidence?

Of course, the film doesn’t come out and say that men need to roll back women’s rights. Instead, they give you all the supporting arguments and leave the conclusion to you, the viewer. Do you want whites to become extinct, or don’t you? If you don’t, you know what to do. *wink*

“DEMOGRAPHIC WINTER” & GAYS

Strangely, a few experts in the film mention gay rights, but without further explanation. They are just grouped in with things that are “progressive,” things that weaken the family, things that were all the rage in the 70s.

What are gays doing in a discussion of white fertility rates? We can only guess. Are we to assume that by allowing gays some civil rights, we are glorifying a non-reproductive lifestyle that many impressionable young people will want to join, thereby taking even more people out of the breeding pool? Or that by entertaining the thought of allowing gays to marry, we are weakening the “natural family” and contributing to the extinction of whites? The unexplained inclusion of gays in this conversation seems to unintentionally flag the politics of this allegedly apolitical film. Who else bands the “threat” of women’s rights, secularism and equality for POC together with gay rights quite so frequently as social conservatives and fundie Christians?

“DEMOGRAPHIC WINTER” & RELIGION

Yet another thing left unsaid in this film is the religious beliefs that quite clearly form the bedrock of much of the argument. Though they are ever-present, they are not explicitly stated. Instead, the film plays at being objectively non-religious. An expert just happens, in his objective scientific pursuit of facts, to notice that religious people (in the US) have more children. Based on this fact, he can, without being accused of bias towards a certain set of beliefs, state that non-religious people will go extinct first. It just so happens that 84% of Americans are Christian. So completely coincidentally, objective scientific inquiry has shown us that Christians may yet save whites by going forth and multiplying (in America), while non-religious people can be blamed for declining white fertility.

The obvious duplicity of not mentioning the Christian foundations of much of their argument cripples their pretenses at objectivity. The inclusion of memes like the “natural family” which is often supported by biblical arguments, the tirades against women’s unrestrained sexuality but not men’s, the essentialist gender behavior statements, and the random inclusion of gay rights as bad are some of the bread crumbs that lead to the fundie Christian beliefs hiding behind the “science.”

So there you have it, some of my deeper analysis of what lies behind the science of “Demographic Winter.” My final installment looking at the experts and funders behind this film will appear in the next day or two or three.

In this series:
Part 1 on my initial reactions to the documentary Demographic Winter
Part 2 digs deeper into the meaning of the film
Part 3 looks at who is in and behind the film
Part 4 examines partisan media coverage of DW

12 thoughts on “Babies: Endangered Animals Pt.2

  1. This is really a silly post which reflects a complete ignorance of the subject.

    First, it is those who wish to limit population (i.e., the number of people) who have long focused on race. Anyone who has read what Margaret Sanger actually wrote on the subject cannot help but see that she was a racists as well as someone who judged others based on their utility. That is, she favored efforts to limit the birth of those who were not white and likely to have disabilities. I suggest you read what she wrote before criticizing those who oppose what she worked to have accepted. What she wrote is very disturbing.

    Second, even today we see many of the folks who support limiting the number of people born focusing their efforts on sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, such as Afghanistan. That is, they believe there are too many sub-Saharn Africans and Afghanis being born. Those are the ones who you should condemn as racists.

    On the other hand, I know of no one who is warning of the potential consequences of sustained sub-replacement rate fertility who has ever suggested that non-whites should lower their fertility rates. In fact, many of us are thankful for immigration from high fertility rate countries to our own as a source of younger people who have actually helped sustain our population growth, both by their own numbers and their higher fertility rates once they arrive. Admittedly, some conservatives decry immigration, but those conservatives are not necessarily of the same group of people who are concerned about sub-replacement rate fertility. My concern (and it is shared by others who are concerned about falling fertility around the globe) is not too many immigrants, but too few as many of the nations which have been the sources for immigrants to the U.S. over recent years are themselves now experiencing rapidly declining fertility rates.

    I would suggest that you keep the issue of sub-replacement fertility in mind in a few decades when you are in need of assistance in your old age only to discover that there are too few people of working age to care for you.

  2. “This is really a silly post which reflects a complete ignorance of the subject. ”

    Starting a comment with an insult is not advisable when engaging in honest conversation. Please do not post any more insults on this blog. Comment only if you wish to engage in a respectful discussion.

    “Anyone who has read what Margaret Sanger actually wrote on the subject cannot help but see that she was a racists”

    The “Margaret Sanger was a racist!!!!!!!!!” argument is not sound. The fact that an early birth control advocate had some troubling views does not lead to the conclusion that no woman should have access to birth control, or that all birth control is bad, or that all women who use birth control are racist. We still drive Volkswagens, don’t we? Obviously, many WOC use birth control, and would like to continue to do so, and are aware that Sanger was racist. It’s called a Straw Man.

    “Second, even today we see many of the folks who support limiting the number of people born focusing their efforts on sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, such as Afghanistan. That is, they believe there are too many sub-Saharn Africans and Afghanis being born. Those are the ones who you should condemn as racists.”

    I shockingly agree with this statement. Efforts by Western whites to curb brown and black births in the West or in developing countries are suspect. I didn’t support these efforts in my post, BTW.

    “I know of no one who is warning of the potential consequences of sustained sub-replacement rate fertility who has ever suggested that non-whites should lower their fertility rates.”

    That is not my argument. Another Straw Man. I am discussing the pearl-clutching over the dwindling white population.

    “I would suggest that you keep the issue of sub-replacement fertility in mind in a few decades when you are in need of assistance in your old age only to discover that there are too few people of working age to care for you.”

    Another thing I don’t recommend on this blog: condescension. It also impedes honest conversation. I believe in my OP I state that the one thing I don’t dispute is that white birth rates are below replacement level.

  3. First, I apologize for giving offense, even though I found your initial post equally offensive in its implication that those concerned about sub-replacement rate fertility are motivated by foul ulterior motives, such as racism. Let me, then, begin by addressing some of what you have said:

    >>>The “Margaret Sanger was a racist!!!!!!!!!” argument is not sound. The fact that an early birth control advocate had some troubling views does not lead to the conclusion that no woman should have access to birth control, or that all birth control is bad, or that all women who use birth control are racist. We still drive Volkswagens, don’t we? Obviously, many WOC use birth control, and would like to continue to do so, and are aware that Sanger was racist. It’s called a Straw Man.<<>>Since below-replacement-level fertility (brlf) has been recorded in several areas of the world, why does the film focus on majority-white countries to the almost complete exclusion (with the exception of Japan) of non-white countries? Why does the film include the US in its list of brlf countries, when we are currently at replacement rate? And why are 79% of the experts in the film white, if this is a trend affecting East and West Asia almost as much as Europe?

    Race is the elephant in the room throughout this entire film.<<<

    Why is my pointing out that Margaret Sanger was a racist inserting a strawman while your implying that the producers of Demographic Winter are racists is not? Assuming, arguendo, that the producers of Demographic Winter are racists, it does not take away from the merit of what they had to say about the impact of sub-replacement rate fertility in a growing number of nations any more than Margaret Sanger being a racists would take away from the merits of non-racists arguments for birth control.

    With all due respect, you were applying a different standard to my reply to your post than to your original post. I simply pointed out Sanger’s racism to assert that birth control advocates who accuse birth control opponents of racism based on the fact that some birth control opponents are racists are either ignorant of, ignoring, or deliberately concealing the racism of the most important figure in the history of the birth control movement. By the way, Clarence Gamble, another early proponent of birth control, also had some troubling racists and anti-disabled justifications for his support of birth control. And, as you admit, the foul odor of racism veritably reeks even today from those who are so concerned about high fertility rates in places like sub-Sahara Africa and Afghanistan. If the producers of Demographic Winter are racists (which I have no reason to believe), then what of the groups who are fignting to assure fewer black and brown babies are born?

    If you would like to discuss sub-replacement rate fertlity on the merits, I would be happy to do so. If you will drop the implication that those of us concerned about sub-replacement rates are motivated by racism, I will cease pointing out the racist history of the birth control movement and the racism barely concealed in efforts to reduced ferility in the Third World.

  4. Well that was a reasonable response, thank you.

    I see your analogy.

    However, threatening to derail discussion about the makers of D.W. by bringing up the Sanger was a Racist argument against b.c. again and again — to ‘punish’ me for my views on D.W. — is a rather odd way to try and make a point. Why not just try reason?

    Again, near the top of my post, I make this statement:
    “First, I’d like to mention that I do not doubt one of the basic facts mentioned in the film: that many Western and industrialized countries are experiencing birth rates below the “replacement level” of 2.1 births per woman.”

    I AM AGREEING WITH THIS POINT.

    The point of the film is not to prove whites or others have brlf. There is no disagreement on that point. It is to provide and promote solutions to reverse white brlf.

    I frequent blogs across the political spectrum. I know what “brown flood” means. And when I see arguments about how to stanch the brown flood, I see commenters refer to Demographic Winter.

    When I hear people discussing restricting any number of women’s rights, Demographic Winter comes up on blogs where social conservatives post.

    When I hear people discussing immigrants as though they are subhuman, on sites where social conservatives post, sometimes Demographic Winter is cited as an example of how “they” are outbreeding “us”.

    When I hear talk fearfully of Islam “eclipsing” Europe because “they” are out-breeding white Europeans, people reference DW.

    So I watched the film to find out why people would reference DW when making such spurious statements.

    No one is questioning the demographic trends it depicts. The film is using these troubling demographic trends to try and sell a brand of extreme social conservatism. And that is why I feel DW is dishonest- masking a political/social/religious agenda as “science” and “we just care about the babies!” It’s a bait-and-switch.

    Name one solution approved-of by an expert appearing in the film that doesn’t fall concisely within a socially conservative agenda. One solution approved-of by an expert during the film that doesn’t categorically benefit white men more than any other group. The experts, 79% of whom are white and male, all agreed that the only viable solution was Patriarchy, a system which historically benefits white men and disadvantages women, people of color, and gays. That ain’t no accident. And that ain’t scientifically supported neither.

  5. [Part of this comment was removed by the Administrator]

    I take it that you agree that at least some of the concerns raised in DW related to long-term below replacement rate fertility are valid concerns and portend potentially serious problems.  If that is the case, what do you propose as the solution(s)?  If you do not so believe, explain why the concerns raised about too few workers being required to support too few non-workers are not valid?

    I would maintain that immigration from high fertility rate countries to low fertility rate countries offers a potential short to intermediate term solution, but as fertility rates fall in many other parts of the world (in part because of intense efforts to cause them to fall), that solution fails as a long-term one.  Indeed, since the immigrants tend, on a whole, to be young adults in their fertile years, their migration serves only to exacerbate the problems created by falling fertility in their nation of origin.  That is, if, for example, Mexico’s fertility falls below replacement rates and if many of the young adults from the next generation migrate, then there are even fewer young adults in Mexico to procreate to replacement themselves in the next generation. Eventually, this will lead to Mexico ceasing to be a reliable source for young adults to supplement our low fertility rates. If folks like those in the Gates Foundation are successful, this will eventually be the case in the remaining high fertility rate countries.

    Again, my concern is not too many immigrants. Immigrants have been our stop gap over the past two decades. My concern is too few immigrants.

    Show me why my concerns are invalid or offer alternative solutions for our problem of too few people in the next generation.

    Thanks.

  6. Pardon the typos.  I meant to type:  “too many non-worker” as in too many non-workers as a percentage of the overall population.  I also meant to type “even few remaining young adults in Mexico to procreate to replace themselves . . . .”

  7. I write to respond to an inaccurate statement in the December 16, 4:44 p.m. comment: “The experts, 79% of whom are white and male, all agreed that the only viable solution was Patriarchy, a system which historically benefits white men and disadvantages women, people of color, and gays. That ain’t no accident.”

    I was one of the individuals interviewed for the film. My remarks in the film pertained solely to how rising medical costs and (to a lesser extent) the low birth rate are projected to cause Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid spending to grow faster than federal revenue. Those facts have been documented by economists of all political persuasions. In other remarks that the film makers did not include in the film, I discussed possible tax and benefit changes that could address that imbalance. Such changes have also been discussed and analyzed by economists of various political persuasions.

    At no time did I make any endorsement of patriarchy. I was never asked about any such topic and was never informed that the film intended to address that topic. If I had been asked about it, I would have reiterated my firm support for women’s rights and gay rights and my unalterable opposition to any form of patriarchy.

    Indeed, I was not asked about any steps to increase the birth rate. If I had been, I would have stated that, despite its implications for the federal budget, a low birth rate is not necessarily undesirable on balance and that, in any event, no reasonable and morally acceptable government policies are likely to significantly change the birth rate. As I made clear in my remarks, I believe that the budgetary implications of the low birth rate (and, more importantly, of rising medical costs) should be dealt with through appropriate budgetary policies.

    As my published writings indicate, I support increased immigration, including immigration from developing countries.

    The December 16 description of “all” of the interviewees’ views is, with respect to my views, completely unsupported by my statements in the film (or any of my other statements) and is completely false.

    Alan Viard, Resident Scholar
    American Enterprise Institute

  8. @Alan

    Thank you for your thoughtful response.

    I am glad to have your individual view on the matter- which makes it clear that you do not support the idea that “Patriarchy” is the only way to solve below replacement level fertility.

    I apologize that my comments mischaracterized your views. I will rephrase my posts now that I have newer and better information!

    My experience as a viewer is that the film made it appear as though the experts were in complete agreement with the conclusion, stated in the film, that we must reinstitute Patriarchy to reverse brlf. No other solution is evaluated by the other experts as viable and likely to succeed. However, Patriarchy, (which is described in detail throughout the film, and the description includes suppression of women’s rights and gay rights), receives as both a named and unnamed-but-strongly-implied system a large amount of positive attention by the narrator and several experts.

    This viewing of the film, which I approached from a social justice standpoint, is what informed the comments I have made in my posts.

    So there’s my opinion. If you like, what are your impressions of the thrust of the film, beyond stating the facts of brlf?

  9. @Alan

    I have corrected inaccuracies in the OP that made it seem as though all experts were in agreement as to brlf solutions. I am letting my Dec.16 comment stand, as a testimony to my capacity to err.

    @Anon

    While it was weird that you included a little threat in your second comment, the fact that you decided to actually carry out the threat in your third is extremely creepy. I deleted that part of your comment. If you use another insult or threat (no matter how harmless) in a comment, you will be banned. Keep discussion to the topic of the OP.

    You did not reply to my questions in comment #4, which, an inaccuracy (as pointed out by Alan) aside, still stand.

  10. Population growth is not just a function of birthrate, but death-rate or survival rate. While most countries in 3rd world do in fact have a high birthrate, giving rise to a high overall global rate, if you go to the CIA website and look at the survival rates overall, populations are declining (more so in developed areas).
    Just do the unbiased math.

  11. @sformby:

    “Population growth is not just a function of birthrate, but death-rate or survival rate.”

    Yep, that’s correct.

    “While most countries in 3rd world do in fact have a high birthrate, giving rise to a high overall global rate, if you go to the CIA website and look at the survival rates overall, populations are declining (more so in developed areas).”

    Yes, infant and child mortality is higher in 3rd world nations. However, their populations are not declining because enough children survive to adulthood and reproduce. Most industrialized nations also have increasing, not decreasing populations. Perhaps you meant to say that fertility is declining?

    “Just do the unbiased math.”

    I think that the math says that populations are increasing globally. The CIA world factbook says that the world’s population is increasing at 1.188% per year. But I do love me some ‘unbiased’ math. (What is biased math? Is that like 1×1=3 or something?) So if you have any math you’d like to post, go for it.

  12. Pingback: Population and patriarchy « The Words on What…

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