Baker Lee D. - The Cult of Franz Boas and his Conspiracy to Destroy the White Race

Author : Baker Lee D.
Title : The Cult of Franz Boas and his Conspiracy to Destroy the White Race
Year : 2010

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THESE RANK-ORDERED LISTS of Americans who have advanced or damaged white interests appeared in American Renaissance, a magazine that bills itself as the leading journal of race-realist thinking (Taylor 1997:9). Reasonably well argued, and free of the glaring racial epithets and jarring anti-Semitism that pepper much of the white pride literature, American Renaissance is a favorite among the tweed-jacket and sherry set of the white pride movement. The magazine’s editor, Jared Taylor, published this list along with others in an article that reported the fi ndings of an extensive survey he conducted about the views, beliefs, and interests of his readership. After presidents, recent presidential candidates, Supreme Court justices, fi rst ladies, and Civil War heroes are crossed off, the list becomes interesting as it relates to the history of anthropology. On the side that documents those who have damaged white interests, there are two names left—Franz Boas and Martin Luther King Jr. The people left on the other side include an interesting mix of scientists, pundits, and organizers of white supremacist organizations; and, of course, one of the most celebrated heroes of the white pride movement, the American aviator turned Nazi sympathizer, Charles Lindbergh. The survey was wideranging. Taylor dutifully enumerated the number of children, handguns, and years of education of each of his readers. At fi rst glance this survey seems to be of little signifi cance, save for the sentiments of the 391 loyal respondents who deemed the magazine’s editor the most important “American who has advanced white interests” (Taylor 1997:9). One must ask, however, why was Franz Boas even considered alongside such historic fi gures as Martin Luther King Jr., Earl Warren, and Lyndon B. Johnson—people easily identifi able with the civil rights movement? In short, within the quite diverse communities that advocate such things as white pride, Holocaust denial, white supremacy, immigration restriction, and a cornucopia of racisms, Franz Boas is singled out as the one scholar that white supremacists and anti-Semites love to hate. Deemed the “Godfather of the Multi-Cult Nightmare,” and the fabricator of the “equalitarian dogma,” Franz Boas is often portrayed within these circles as the man who somehow singlehandedly perpetuated the myth that all races have an equal potential for achieving intelligence and developing civilizations, as well as the idea that cultures cannot be evaluated against the standard of Western civilization. During the late 1940s through the mid-1960s, scholars, politicians, and pundits who were fearful of desegregation and threatened by the specter of racial amalgamation, more or less, invented or reinvented a Franz Boas who was the evil Jew who attracted a cult following responsible for spreading vicious propaganda about racial equality and cultural relativism. As one pundit opined, the idea that there are no pure races was a “hoax contrived by Franz Boas, a twisted little Jew, who popped into the United States, and was, for undisclosed reasons, made Professor of Anthropology in Columbia University, and founded a school of fi ction-writing called ‘social anthropology’” (Oliver 2003:24–25). That Boas was a Jewish immigrant and was often viewed as the scientist responsible for toppling racial determinism and promoting cultural relativism, somehow continues to push all the right buttons of members of these types of communities. In addition, many of Boas’s students (only some of whom were Jewish) were infl uential in reshaping academic anthropology in the United States in a way that forever changed the social sciences (Frank 1997:731). And it was this new social science that Chief Justice Earl Warren cited as his justifi cation for hobbling Jim Crow segregation when he wrote his opinion for Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Taken together, all of the elements of an old-fashioned Jewish conspiracy converge. The so-called Boas conspiracy, however, has been circulating around anti-Semitic and white-supremacist networks in one form or another for some sixty years (Winston 2001:2). Franz Boas’s infl uence over American anthropology, his public efforts to challenge ideas about racial purity, his assertion that whites are not necessarily biologically or culturally superior, and his belief that amalgamation might actually solve the problems created by racism, all came together in the minds of some to metastasize into one more conspiracy theory for the paranoid, anxietyridden perpetrators of the unfortunately all-too-popular myth that Jews control the banks, the media, the legal system, et cetera. By the late 1950s, anthropology became an unreliable narrator in the story of white supremacy, and Boas was to blame; he subsequently emerged as the likely lightning rod to spark one more version of this incendiary myth: Jews now controlled science! The staying power and wide circulation of this well-traveled lore, I believe, explain why Boas catapults to the top of the list of people who have damaged “white interests.” Ferreting out the provenance and mapping the circulation of this narrative is complicated and diffi cult, although most intellectual historians correctly point to Carleton Putnam’s Race and Reason: A Yankee View (1961) as the catalyst that spawned the most virulent, conspiratorial, and indeed folkloric renditions of the Boas conspiracy (Winston 2001; Tucker 1994:159; Jackson 2001:255). Investigating the history of this conspiracy is diffi cult because it lies in the shadows between myth and science, history and folklore. I am not a folklorist, but I believe it is important for anthropologists and historians of science to be aware of how people read, use, and appropriate anthropology and other behavioral sciences to extend particular projects and ideological agendas. Public intellectuals are usually academics who go beyond the academy to infl uence public policy, public opinion, or popular science and culture. The notions of “a public” and “infl uence” are not stable in the fast-paced and populist world of the Internet. Beyond questioning what constitutes a public, I want to raise several open-ended questions. Can academics become public intellectuals as a result of vociferous detractors? What can we learn about the impact of Boas’s scholarship by exploring the public discourse that continues to deride it? ...

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