Suspect Science: Today’s Anglo-American EugenicsRoundup
tags: far right, racism, eugenics, Pioneer Fund
Alexandra is a 2019-2020 Fulbright scholar at the University of Reading where her dissertation examines eugenic ideology in post-WWII Britain. Her other research interests include African American history and reproductive justice history.
Each of the three meetings of the London Conference on Intelligence (LCI) were secretive affairs. Organized by University College London lecturer Dr. James Thompson between 2015 and 2017, the conference was invitation-only. Despite efforts to conceal the event and subsequent “disputes that eugenics was a major theme of these conferences,” the London Conference on Intelligence was a lightning rod for modern day eugenic thought. The release of University College London’s internal report on the LCI in February 2020 reveals the depth of this connection and exposes how eugenic ideas of old drive modern ethnonationalism.
A team of university investigators compiled the 110 page report on the conference and cautioned readers that only conference participants could be “certain” of what occurred in its closed meetings. The swaths of material redacted from the report to protect “large amounts of personal information” do little to aid understanding of the event. Outside observers must rely on the internal report’s “verbal accounts” and an appendix containing “publications relating to the London Conference on Intelligence” to evaluate the conference. Taken together, Thompson’s commentary and supporting literature from Mankind Quarterly link the London Conference on Intelligence to a eugenic network where the Pioneer Fund reigns supreme.
Established in 1937 to finance the education of children “descended predominately from white persons” and to “study and research into the problems of heredity and eugenics,” the Pioneer Fund was a rallying point for ideological extremes. Its earliest projects included the distribution of a Nazi propaganda film titled Erbkrank under the English translation Applied Eugenics in Present Day Germany.  In later years, Pioneer Fund financed research provided “intellectual” cover for everything from 1960s era American segregationist movements to 1970s era British fascist movements.
Faced with hard-won civil rights gains in the U.S., the Pioneer Fund funded White Citizens’ Council initiatives including a radio broadcast titled the Citizens’ Council Forum as early as 1959. Founded in July 1954, the White Citizens’ Council was driven by its unashamed opposition to Brown v. Board’s integration decree. Given the breadth and clarity of its resistance, financial contributions to the White Citizens’ Council were financial contributions to segregation. The Pioneer Fund’s financial support for segregationists became collaborative in 1961 when Pioneer Fund grantee Carleton Putnam addressed Citizen Council members on “Race and Reason Day” in Jackson, Mississippi. Standing in the Olympic Room of the Heidelberg Hotel, Carleton Putnam outlined a series of pro-segregation theories for an audience of Citizens’ Council supporters on an October afternoon, including a diatribe against “intermarrying.” A perennial tool of segregationists, Pioneer Fund research reached a transnational audience with the formation of the National Front.
Later, 1970s era British fascist groups including the National Front utilized Pioneer Fund research to underwrite their own prejudice. The National Front formed in 1967 with an electoral platform that opposed immigration and efforts to “destroy” the British Empire. Eugenics was a frequent topic of debate in National Front publications. In particular its magazine Spearhead, cited numerous Pioneer Fund grantees in an attempt to bolster its claims about racial difference in intelligence. In 1976, Spearhead went so far as to describe Pioneer Fund grantee Arthur Jensen’s research as “the most important factor in the build-up of self confidence among ‘racists.’” Time and time again, the Pioneer Fund subsidized research that advanced eugenic theories about racial difference to actively undermine racial equality.