CONSERVATIVES AND RACE HYGIENE: short comment on the persistence of eugenics

Racism won’t disappear as long as there are wealthy conservatives to fund the production and distribution of racist thought.

It’s a matter of historical record that there have been several links between conservative parties and racist theory and pseudoscience such as eugenics – which can be briefly summarised as the belief that there are genetically based differences of IQ between races, and the idea that public policy should be changed accordingly. For instance, in the U.S, several individuals associated with positions of power in the Republican party have been noted for their eugenics activism, as pointed out by Robert Wald Sussman in his powerful book The Myth of Race. The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea, and also by the Southern Poverty Law Center on their website.

In Norway, it’s notable that in 2007 an MP for the conservative party Høyre, Halgrim Berg, was the first to publish a Norwegian contribution to the international Eurabia literature, as documented by Sindre Bangstad in Anders Breivik and the Rise of Islamophobia. The Eurabia theory, while not being directly related to eugenics, is currently the most virulent and pervasive racist conspiracy theory present in public discourse, one that sent the Oslo and Utøya terrorist on his murderous rampage in 2011.

With this background, it might not be such a surprise to learn that journalist and education activist Toby Young, whom the conservative UK government recently appointed to University Regulator and who withdrew eight days later after controversy about sexist and homophobic statements, has been a participant in conferences on eugenics not just once, but twice. This was revealed on Monday this week, and Young resigned on Tuesday, and one wonders if it was not this revelation that was the real reason for his resignation. Sexist and homophobic statements certainly do not seem to be too much of a problem for conservatives lately.

At any rate, the University College of London is now opening urgent investigation into how a conference on eugenics could be secretly held on their premises three years in a row. As Steven Jay Gould pointed out in his seminal and important refutation of eugenics The Mismeasure of Man, these things just keep coming back, no matter how forcefully it’s proven to be utterly false.

This ties in with the fact that racism at its core is not mere ignorance, but a deeply psychologically rooted hatred which is more or less conscious or unconscious, depending on the individual. The various theoretical rationalisations of this, such racist lies as eugenics or the Eurabia conspiracy theory, serve only to justify this hatred, and this hatred is continuously reproduced in our current way of organising society. As Sussman has documented in his book, there are a number of very wealthy individuals who offer financial support for the production and distribution of eugenics, just as we see billionaire Robert Mercer funding Breitbart and the Trump campaign.

There is, in other words, little reason to believe that these forms of hatred can be removed by simple rational discourse. After all, the first refutation of eugenics arrived as early as 1911, when anthropologist Franz Boas published two thorough articles on the matter, and a substantial amount of work has since contributed to and strengthened this refutation. Yet, it continues to emerge, and will do so, as long as there are rich people willing to finance racist lies. And we ought to keep that in mind.

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