The Fringe & The Far Right: Racist Pseudoscience Conference in Norway

01 11 19

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Tomorrow, an assortment of far-right activists and crackpot “scientists” from around the world will descend on Oslo for the Scandza Forum. Founded by Faroese neo-pagan Fróði Midjord, the Scandza Forum has served for two years as one of the premier talking shops of the international far right.

The theme of the event is ‘Human Biodiversity’, the latest in a long line of re-brands for what is essentially Victorian-style race science. The event will feature Edward Dutton, an English aristocrat living in northern Finland, who will discuss physiognomy – the discredited attempt to link facial features with personality traits.

After being removed from his post at the University of Oulu for plagiarising a student’s dissertation, Dutton took up vlogging and freelance eugenics research. Dutton has since written articles for a number of fringe far-right journals including the Quarterly Review, the Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies and OpenPsych. Since January, he has sat as editor-in-chief of the notorious Mankind Quarterly.

Along with Dutton and Midjord, the event features two of America’s most infamous far-right figures – Kevin MacDonald and Greg Johnson. 

MacDonald, a retired psychologist at California State University, is best known for efforts to place antisemitic conspiracy theories on a scientific footing through evolutionary psychology, arguing that in-breeding enabled Jews to evolve capacities to work together for material gain and to manipulate their host societies. (A writer for the blog MacDonald edits, the Occidental Observer, once wrote that as a Jewish student at Oxford I would “not be studying at a top university if the Jews had not… rigorously practiced eugenics for centuries.”)

MacDonald is also a director of the white nationalist American Freedom Party, and memorably described Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik as a “serious political thinker with a great many insights and some good practical ideas on strategy.”

Also speaking is Greg Johnson, a white supremacist from San Francisco who runs the popular blog Counter Currents, as well as its publishing arm. Johnson has called for expelling non-whites and Jews, placing bounties on the heads of those who remain, and described ‘excessive kindness’ as ‘Hitler’s greatest flaw’.

Greg Johnson, photographed by HNH researcher Patrik Hermansson. Johnson wrote following Anders Breivik’s trial that he had a “new respect” for him.

Mankind Quarterly and the Revival of Race Science

With the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, the scientific community began to turn its back on the race science which had been so popular in the late imperial era. The horrors of Germany’s eugenics programme led the scientific community towards critical reflection on both the ethical and empirical failures of race science. Even after decades of effort, no firm definition or taxonomy of races had been settled on. Instead, scientists were still relying on crude and visible differences in order to map human variation.

As detailed mapping of the human genome would later confirm, race is a social construct – useful for understanding outcomes produced by racism, but not much else. (This excellent primer by a number of distinguished geneticists on the real science of race was published just this week.)

One scientist who refused to budge was Reginald Ruggles Gates, a Canadian geneticist who blamed the shifting political tides on a Jewish conspiracy. After years in the scientific wilderness, in 1960 Gates took matters into his own hands and founded his own journal, Mankind Quarterly.

The journal received funding from reclusive segregationist billionaire Wickliffe Draper’s Pioneer Fund, established in 1937 with the express aim of promoting racial eugenics and distributing Nazi propaganda in American schools. The Pioneer Fund was influential well into the 1990s, with known recipients of its generosity including anti-immigration lobbying groups and the openly white supremacist American Renaissance, at whose conferences both Greg Johnson and Helmuth Nyborg, another speaker at this week’s Scandza Forum, have spoken.

Race Science and the Far-Right Today

Today, Mankind Quarterly is published by an obscure British thinktank called the Ulster Institute for Social Research (UISR). The UISR’s income stream is opaque, although it has certainly received large sums from the Pioneer Fund.

Mainstream scientists have broadly steered clear of Mankind Quarterly throughout its history. Author and journalist Angela Saini highlights in her book Superior: The Return of Race Science that: “Most [contributors] are largely unknown outside their circle but highly prolific within it. They have managed to build a thin veneer of scientific credibility that comes from getting published and cited, almost entirely by citing one another.”

It may surprise some that Dutton, the current editor of Mankind Quarterly, has no formal qualifications in the area of population genetics but is instead trained in religious studies. Dutton is far from alone in this respect in the world of race science, however. His predecessor Gerhard Meisenberg is a biochemist working at a private medical college in Dominica, while the editor of OpenPsych, Emil Kirkegaard, has only an undergraduate degree in linguistics to his name.

In fact, not one of Saturday’s speakers has any qualifications in the area of population genetics – confusing in the least, given that the far right like to portray scientists in this area as struggling to break free from the stranglehold of political correctness. Only Helmuth Nyborg, a retired developmental psychologist, could lay claim to any expertise tangentially relevant to the topic of ‘human biodiversity’.

Nyborg being interviewed by far-right vlogger Stefan Molyneux in 2016

This group of race scientists centred around Mankind Quarterly, and its embarrassing cousin OpenPsych, have rarely let slip their extreme politics quite so brazenly – a tactic which has served them well in their search for mainstream respectability. In 2018, I revealed that they had been holding an annual conference at my university, attended by a government adviser. I later found out that both of the Pioneer Fund’s directors, Richard Lynn and Gerhard Meisenberg, the latter formerly editor of Mankind Quarterly, sit on the editorial board of Intelligence, the major journal in the field of intelligence research (Lynn and Meisenberg have since left the board).

Now it seems that at least Dutton and Nyborg have given up the ghost of respectability and are openly courting the most extreme elements of the far right. Many far-right figures wouldn’t want to be seen dead in a room with Johnson or MacDonald for their openly neo-Nazi affinities.

Scandza Forum is closely linked to Johnson in particular, taking his side after their 2017 launch event in Stockholm sparked a bitter feud between major figures of the international far right. Prior to the launch, Greg Johnson vetoed the attendance of Daniel Friberg, an influential Swedish far-right figure and owner of Arktos Media, the chief competitor to Johnson’s own publishing house. The Forum’s organisers were later mysteriously doxed to antifascists, which Johnson publicly blamed on a vengeful Friberg. Johnson further accused Friberg of embezzling money from Arktos, a charge he denied, while Friberg accused Johnson of peddling “toxic resentment”.

This year’s conference will be overshadowed by the renewal of the feud, with Johnson tweeting in March: “The US and Nordic Alt Right are run by a mafia of alcoholics & their enablers. Pot, cocaine, meth, & other illegal drugs, as well as adultery, cuckoldry, wife-beating, doxing, & embezzlement are also indulged in & enabled.” Friberg hit back, denouncing Johnson’s “involvement in police informing, extortion and homosexuality.”

The feud between Johnson and Friberg has also put Johnson and his partners at the Scandza Forum in an awkward relationship to those major figures around Friberg, including American alt-right figures Jason Jorjani and Richard Spencer.

Nonetheless, the Scandza Forum has managed to hold three events this year and continually expand its networks, playing host in March to American Renaissance’s Jared Taylor,  Britain’s Mark Collett and a representative of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi Azov Battalion. Given the Scandza Forum’s ability to forge links between far-right activists from across the world, its new links to existing networks of race scientists should trouble us all.

By Ben van der Merwe


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