Monday, 17 February 2020

The Tory Obsession with Eugenics

If you've stayed away from politics Twitter these last few days, I envy you. But it might also mean you've missed the excitement, if that's the right word, about the latest Dominic Cummings appointment. For his "celebrated" advert inviting (self-defined) iconoclasts, visionaries, and weirdos to apply for top positions in the government has, unsurprisingly, yielded up a eugenicist. Andrew Sabisky has, among other things, said black people have low IQs and has advocated "enforced contraception" to prevent the emergence of a permanent "underclass". Sounds like a right charmer. Or just the sort of random racist you encounter during a light skim of a Guido Fawkes comments box.

What then is it about Sabisky that Cummings finds so beguiling? They're obviously like-minded. One of the subterranean strands of conspiracy thinking is the idea scientific and education establishments exclude certain ideas and approaches because they're professionally and politically inconvenient. A bastardised TS Kuhn or a hobbled Foucault might offer this an intellectually respectable gloss, given the linkages (and in the latter's case) the fusion between power and knowledge, but what this operation also does is confer on excluded knowledges a glamorous, subversive quality. Anti-vaxxers, chemtrail enthusiasts, occultists, homeopathists, all pretend to some sort of secret knowledge that has been persecuted and repressed by the authorities, rather than their rejection for being complete bullshit. And so the same applies to eugenics. In Cummings's war on expertise and professionalism, the fact science and education are against it is enough to commend any old "edgy" hokum to him.

And consider the figure of Sabisky himself. In this 2016 profile, we find a tedious dullard who has latched onto a few bits and bobs from eugenics that confirms his prejudices. And someone who fancies himself a galaxy-level master brain because he reckons he can predict politics. Give it up, mate. It's a probabilistic game. I wonder if his predictive powers extended to his departure?

Just a bad apple then, one of Cummings's eccentricities attracting the ear and the ire of the media and politics chatter because it was a prominent appointment? Well, no. Sticking up for Sabisky's appointment on the spurious grounds of free speech was Toby Young. Readers will recall he has an interest to declare on matters eugenic. And also in recent days, we've had the patron saint of atheism, Richard Dawkins, stick up for the crank assumptions underpinning eugenics. We can expect, like clockwork, the scribblers in The Spectator and Brendan O'Neill to come out in Sabisky's defence, another innocent victim of the evils of wokeism. Meanwhile, the pearl clutching decents look aghast at the horrors they've enabled.

Because the Tories won a huge majority, this has two consequences for their self-perception. A sense of invulnerability, which means Boris Johnson can more or less act as he pleases. The second is a boost in confidence for every two-bit racist and promulgator of right wing bullshit. In the case of eugenics, it's curious how we're it's coming out (again) in the wake of the Windrush scandal and last week's deportations to Jamaica. The unthinkable is already happening to wide indifference, so why not let the more objectionable right wing ideas flourish as well, up to and including a say over the running of the government?

In its broad sense, eugenics is the science (sic) of human improvement and therefore all social sciences and managerial discourses are eugenic. Labour, for instance, with its long Fabian tradition and Margaret Thatcher's free market crusade were projects about improving human beings physically, mentally, culturally, of reshaping people around a set of moral precepts determined a priori by folks like The Webbs or Sir Keith Joseph - pick your elite according to political preference. Evidently, as Britain's most successful political party the Tories are interested in any and all biopolitical tools for managing populations. Thatcher didn't break up the huge workplaces of the nationalised industries simply because they were "uneconomical", after all. However, this eugenics was characterised by their focus on social engineering, not the quackery of racial segregation and selective breeding.

It's understandable the 'weak' eugenics of population management appeals to the Tories, especially as many of their leading figures are anticipating a period of hegemony. But why does the biologism keep cropping up? It's embedded in the conceit, the stories they tell themselves to explain their advantage and privilege. If you're from an old moneyed family, how can they have kept their prosperity down the centuries if it wasn't for their being more cunning, crafty, industrious, and cleverer than the common herd? And if you're possessed of humble origins, but ascend the ladder of success it says something about your preternatural abilities that allowed you to rise above. It's interesting that Sabisky and Toby Young, both of whom are mediocrities from privileged backgrounds, should find these arguments beguiling. Eugenics in its broad and narrow terms finds ready support in the Tory firmament because it reflects back to them their distorted assumptions about the world. They are its rightful rulers, and provides one way of looking at how everything works from above.

Therefore, it might be the case not all Tories are eugenicists. But eugenics is an essential and inescapable component of Toryism.

1 comment:

theOnlySanePersonOnPlanetEarth said...

The Tory party is absolutely from the same part of the political family tree as the fascists. The holocaust for example was a project that came straight out of right wing ideology.

An ideology that is shared by all the right wing, without exceptions.

The Tory party always flirts with Eugenics and the basic ideas of eugenics are hard wired into right wing ideology. In the final analysis every right wing argument resolves into some form of eugenics.

The absurd idea that black people are inferior also plays into right wing ideology.

Why am I saying all this? Well firstly, have the board of deputies provided any comment about this and secondly have we thanked them yet for helping to elect a fascistic party that absolutely retains a right wing ideology?