Good Friday Morning! I’m taking a bit of a different direction this week, writing a bit of a longer piece on a topic I’m introducing called: cultural eugenics. I’ve written at length both here and elsewhere on how the practice of eugenics has returned to the forefront — Clarence Thomas’ recent opinion agreeing with that point created an explosion of pieces on the history of eugenics. This opinion is a healthy development, but what I’d like to examine is how eugenics has worked its way into our culture — links to follow.
For quick hits, the big news this week is on the foreign policy front: the mass protests in Hong Kong and the tensions between Iran and the US ratcheting up after Iran allegedly bombed a ship in international waters. The WSJ Editorial board correctly called on Trump to speak out on behalf of the Hong Kong protestors (who rightly fear abductions by Chinese authorities). And on Iran, the US is accusing Iran of the bombings which, if true, are serious because according to international law, the law of the sea (of which the US is not a signatory), Iran’s actions demand a military response. Keep an eye out for military action against Iran in the coming weeks.
Where you can find me this week
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It was a week of free speech pieces focusing on YouTube’s removal of “hate speech.” YouTube’s purge is failing in the most predictable ways, and the NYT is trying to defend that purge in the worst ways.
Eugenics has reentered the public consciousness for the first time in a while with help from Clarence Thomas. Eugenic abortions, whatever the critics of Thomas may say are real, are happening, and are ignored by the public writ large. Targeting babies for abortion on the grounds they have Down’s Syndrome is but one example of a more significant trend.
At the height of the early 20th Century Progressive era, eugenics in the United States focused on getting “good stock” men and women to breed with other “good stock,” on the positive eugenics side. Negative eugenics tried getting the state to step in and prevent the “imbeciles” from breeding. Either way, the focus was a form of population control — both in size and in “quality.”
Today our eugenics is more private and driven by the medical profession. In IVF treatments, when a couple is looking for a sperm or egg donor, they look at the characteristics and education of that potential donor. Designer babies, once science fiction, are another growing form of eugenics.
The point is — eugenics, though only now returning to the public consciousness — never went away. Only the terms changed. The while the state-driven physical side of eugenics may have gone out of favor, the cultural impact of eugenics has only gotten stronger.
And that’s what I’d like to move to here — eugenics is more than just a biological concept from the eugenics era. It has real cultural impacts that are being felt today, though by other names, but still from the progressive side.
When Francis Galton, father of eugenics and cousin to Charles Darwin, first began introducing the concept of eugenics in America, he said its purpose was, “[T]o bring as many influences as can be reasonably employed, to cause the useful classes in the community to contribute more than their proportion to the next generation.”
Galton didn’t see eugenics as just a scientific enterprise. He wanted it to permeate the culture in every conceivable way, like a new religion, as he explained to a group in 1904, which included H.G. Wells:
Persistence in setting forth the national importance of eugenics. There are three stages to be passed through: (1) It must be made familiar as an academic question, until its exact importance has been understood and accepted as a fact. (2) It must be recognized as a subject whose practical development deserves serious consideration. (3) It must be introduced into the national conscience, like a new religion. It has, indeed, strong claims to become an orthodox religious, tenet of the future, for eugenics co-operate with the workings of nature by securing that humanity shall be represented by the fittest races.
What nature does blindly, slowly, and ruthlessly, man may do providently, quickly, and kindly. As it lies within his power, so it becomes his duty to work in that direction. The improvement of our stock seems to me one of the highest objects that we can reasonably attempt. We are ignorant of the ultimate destinies of humanity, but feel perfectly sure that it is as noble a work to raise its level, in the sense already explained, as it would be disgraceful to abase it. I see no impossibility in eugenics becoming a religious dogma among mankind, but its details must first be worked out sedulously in the study. Overzeal leading to hasty action would do harm, by holding out expectations of a near golden age, which will certainly be falsified and cause the science to be discredited. The first and main point is to secure the general intellectual acceptance of eugenics as a hopeful and most important study. Then let its principles work into the heart of the nation, which will gradually give practical effect to them in ways that we may not wholly foresee.
The point wasn’t just to push a scientific theory on the masses — Galton wanted society to reorient itself around the concept of eugenics for all the “weakest” members of the community to get pushed out. The state pushing policies like enforced sterilization wasn’t the goal — people choosing eugenic ideas like they did virtues in the Bible was the purpose.
Measuring the impact of eugenics solely in state and federal policies, or in effect on science only measures a part of the goal. You have to look for the “religion of eugenics” to tease it out its modern impact. If people are willing to engage in eugenics abortions and ignore that it is a eugenic abortion — they’re getting that acceptance from church and culture, not a debunked pseudoscience.
If biological eugenics was about getting the “useful classes” to contribute more than their proportion, to outweigh all the less useful classes, culture eugenics attempts to do the same thing in service of progressive ideology.
Take the latest cultural fight over free speech and de-platformization. Illiberal progressives are pushing tech companies to deplatform anyone they harmful to public discourse. The point of deplatforming is to prevent the dissemination of ideas, and to encourage those same tech companies to push “better ideas.”
If these tech companies algorithms were pushing progressive ideology — which is more anti-Semitic every day — progressives wouldn’t have a problem. Think of deplatforming as a cultural form of sterilization — preventing political opponents from spreading ideas.
But deplatforming is just one aspect. Galton wanted a religion — a cultural shift, “in ways that we may not wholly foresee.”
Take a recent New York Times column that made waves in March. The author, Christopher Rivas, said he broke up with his girlfriend because she was white. He is black. He says:
But the real reason I think I can no longer date white women isn’t any of that. It’s because in today’s hashtag-woke society, there is mad pressure to be hashtag-woke. To be aware of the implications of whom you’re attracted to and why. Which means that in the eyes of others, the color of the women I date is a big deal. Like I’m the problem. Like I’m betraying my people if I date white women.
His job, according to woke-culture, isn’t just to be woke, but to propagate with woke relationships. Are his comments “separate-but-equal” but only in woke terminology, or are they cultural eugenics? Does it matter? It’s interesting how there’s not much difference between the separate but equal standard of Plessy vs. Ferguson and the eugenic mindset. Rivas ended his piece saying,
So here I stand, trying to be woke, and not dating white women, and feeling kind of bad about that. Because I’m definitely dating, and thinking that the decision to no longer date white women might not be my own, that any decision to choose a side doesn’t help the whole hashtag-woke thing because how do we solve anything if we just separate and isolate? … Anyway, this is me yearning, praying, journaling, writing, dialoguing, putting up a one-man show, wishing, trying to pick a side, wondering how to choose myself and trying to wrap my head around this, hoping that I’m doing woke right, because something just doesn’t feel right.
The woke-culture isn’t based on any form of science — it’s a quasi-religious morality that praises the separation of classes and looks down on many groups of society (progressivism hasn’t changed).
And if woke-dating doesn’t show you the underpinnings of cultural eugenics, take the idea of cultural appropriation. Under that regime, racial and ethnic cultures are supposed to separate, and one group can’t share in another. Mixing cultures, like the great mixing pot of American lore, is seen as a social evil.
Cultural appropriation seeks to keep groups clean from outside interference. If one culture gets introduced into another, anti-cultural appropriation types will claim that the minority culture is getting diluted.
Culture is passed down by an older generation passing down their ideas, beliefs, and culture to the next generation. If you’re spending all that time keeping cultures separate, and ensuring “pure” lines of culture free from contamination, you’re enforcing a kind of cultural eugenics. You’ve identified those who we need to keep in our society, elevated them, encouraged their ideas to continue, and focused the rest of your efforts on deplatforming and sterilizing the evil.
Cultural eugenics is the world of Aldous Huxley come to life. Cultural eugenics is an attempt to ban the “slings and arrows,” as Huxley’s Savage puts it: “Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it. Whether ’tis better in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows or outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them…But you don’t do either. Neither suffer nor oppose. You just abolish the slings and arrows.”
And like Huxley’s Savage, the response to this is to demand all the awfulness of humanity back — because it’s the only way to have a free society:
“All right then,” said the savage defiantly, I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”
“Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat, the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.”
There was a long silence.
“I claim them all,” said the Savage at last.”
Allowing the awfulness of certain people to have platforms like Richard Spencer, Louis Farrakhan, neo-Nazis, BDS, KKK, and the rest isn’t a sign that our culture is contaminated and awful. It’s a sign that we’re free.
We allow these people to exist in our culture and propagate because to ban them requires us to become the worst of them. To enforce a tyranny, we swore, in our founding documents and beliefs, to never become. As the US Supreme Court has said, we’ve chosen a different path, “Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and—as it did here—inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker. As a Nation we have chosen a different course—to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.”
Speech, ideas, culture, and people deserve that freedom to be what they want to be — within the confines of that law. If our culture starts pursuing a cultural form of eugenics, it changes our course in ways that will harm us.
As such, I claim that we have the right to live in a culture of horrid people. Biological eugenics led to some of the greatest atrocities in our history. Cultural eugenics will end no different — it sits on the same morally rotten foundation of Galton’s eugenics. We’re still experiencing the aftereffects of Galton’s religion more than a century later.
Links of the week
The rule that Kellyanne Conway broke should be unconstitutional: The First Amendment should be interpreted to protect a federal employee who is talking politics in a public forum.– Noah Feldman, The St. Louis Tribune
Media Promote Abortion Hotel, Ignore Help for Moms Choosing Life– Katie Yoder, Catholic Vote
What Democrats Can Learn From Steve Bannon– Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine
Gun-Free Zone Stopped Va. Beach Victim From Carrying Pistol to Work, Lawyer Says: Victim told husband she wanted a gun in her purse due to concern about attacker– Stephen Gutowski, The Washington Free Beacon
The Scenario predicted for decades: Social Security Is Staring at Its First Real Shortfall in Decades– Jeff Sommer, The New York Times
Instagram’s Diversity Wars Revisited– Kathrine Jebsen Moore, Quillette
The Stacey Abrams Myth Becomes the Democratic Catechism: Democratic presidential candidates continue to swear her race was stolen.– Jonathan S. Tobin, National Review
Red, white, and gray: Population aging, deaths of despair, and the institutional stagnation of America– Lyman Stone, The American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
No, We’re Not Doing That Communism Either– Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review
Rep. Omar filed joint tax returns before she married husband– Amy Forliti, The Associated Press
Gillibrand Compares Being Pro-Life to Being Racist– Alexandra DeSanctis, National Review
The Oberlin Trial Is a Blueprint for Fighting Back– David French, National Review
With Labor Market Tight, Some States Loosen Rules for Licensed Jobs: Arizona and North Dakota have passed laws recognizing qualifications attained in other states– Eric Morath, The Wall Street Journal
The South’s Economy Is Falling Behind: ‘All of a Sudden the Money Stops Flowing’: Policies that once drove the region’s growth have proven inadequate in an economy shaped by the forces of globalization– Sharon Nunn, The Wall Street Journal
The most popular social media networks each year, gloriously animated– Callum Booth, The Next Web
‘They Happen To Be Our Neighbors Across the Span of a Century, But They’re Our Neighbors.’: One hundred summers ago, black Chicagoans were terrorized by whites during the Red Summer. Poet Eve Ewing talks about reaching out to her neighbors across time in “1919.”– Adam Morgan, Longreads
Meet the Money Whisperer to the Super-Rich N.B.A. Elite: Who’s the guy Klay Thompson and other N.B.A. stars trust to manage their wealth? One who knows how to rebound with $8,000 stuffed into his underwear.– Devin Gordon, The New York Times
Nestlé Makes Billions Bottling Water It Pays Nearly Nothing For The company’s operation in Michigan reveals how it’s dominated the industry by going into economically depressed areas with lax water laws.– Caroline Winter, Bloomberg Businessweek
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire piece of the week
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Over a year into her incredibly long tenure in the Trump administration, Sarah Sanders has finally resigned after a tense, awkward White House press briefing in which she was forced to defend recent comments made by the president in which he claimed The Last Jedi was the best Star Wars film “by a long shot.”
Sanders has had to defend extremely controversial comments made by the president for many months, but finally cracked under the pressure of having to defend Trump’s latest claim.
The White House press secretary was visibly frustrated throughout the briefing as reporters grilled her on Trump’s obviously indefensible comments, before finally screaming at the reporters gathered and announcing that she quit. “Trump absolutely is correct in his, uh, in his statements that The Last Jedi is the best… you know what? I can’t do this anymore. Trump’s a frakkin’ liar. I can’t believe he thinks Last Jedi is better than any of the original trilogy. I mean, the prequels, yeah, OK, you might have an argument there. But if you think TLJ is better than Empire, I just can’t in good conscience serve on this administration anymore. I QUIT!”
Thanks for reading!