When we left off last time, Goldberg’s book was just beginning. Here’s what happened in the States.
Progressives in America approved heartily of Europe turning Red, and they set about duplicating the successes of their foreign brothers. To get a rolling start, they looked to the settled science of eugenics.
Nobody did more to advance the practice of eugenics (in America) than Margaret Sanger. She took her cue from sophisticated intellectuals like Karl Pearson, Ronald Fisher, John Maynard Keynes, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Julian Huxley (founder of the World Wildlife Fund), Adolph Hitler, and others. They thought “undesirables” were breeding so fast that the world would soon be overrun.
Sanger said, “The mass of significant Negroes…still breed carelessly and disastrously, with the result that the increase among Negroes…is [in] that portion of the population least intelligent and fit.” She also said, “We do not want word to go out…that we want to exterminate the Negro population.” Some things are better kept quiet.1
Sanger founded Planned Parenthood whose then mandate was to issue condoms and literature to help slow breeding. She would have had mixed feelings of that organization’s eventual success. Thanks to Planned Parenthood, there are a lot fewer “Negroes” around than there otherwise would be. But most of this surplus population was prevented by abortion, which she did not cotton to. (Blacks disproportionately account for the largest number of abortions in the States.2)
Was Sanger the only American eugenicist? Not hardly. There was also progressive jurist Oliver Wendel Holmes, who thought imbeciles should be sterilized. He was broad minded, however; he wanted degenerates’ tubes clipped, too.
President Woodrow Wilson, PhD, a progressive intellectual, thought himself superior. Before he assumed the American throne, he created in New Jersey a eugenic-minded “Board of Examiners of Feebleminded, Epileptics, and Other Defectives.”3 Progressive Teddy Roosevelt warned of “race suicide.” It wasn’t just whites. W.E.B. DuBois wanted to blow out the racial pipes, too.
True, there was the odd liberal who disputed the consensus, just as there was the occasional right winger who was for it. But it was largely conservatives who had inveighed against the settled science of the day.4 This quotation from G.K. Chesterton is long, but worth reading carefully:
It is necessary to point out the essential fact which the eugenists seem to have forgotten all over again. We breed cows for milk; and not for a moral balance of particular virtues in the cow. We breed pigs for pork…Therefore we cannot, and do not, criticise them in the way in which we criticise our fellow creatures when we call them feeble-minded; or when we betray our own feeble-mindedness by calling them Unfit. For the very word Unfit reveals the weakness of the whole of this pseudo-scientific position. We should say that a cow is fit to provide us with milk; or that a pig is unfit to provide us with pork. But nobody would call a cow fit without naturally adding what she was fit for. Nobody would call up the insanely isolated vision of the Unfit Pig in the abstract. But when we talk about human beings, we are bound to break off the sentence in the middle; we are bound to call them Unfit in the abstract. For we know how varied, how complex, and how controversial are the questions that arise about the functions for which they should be fitted.
How did the scientific consensus of eugenics dissolve when there was such overwhelming support for it? Well, there are two ways to rid yourself of “undesirables.” You can whack or prevent them before they make their first appearance, or you can kill them afterwards. Like Hitler did.
After the Holocaust, progressives looked into the mirror and did not like the evil they saw staring back at them. But they were unable to admit that the faces they saw were their own. So they convinced themselves that what they were seeing were hate-filled Others.
Why? Progressives then, as now, thought themselves both purer of heart and blessed with more intelligence than the other fellow. Accepting these comparators as axiomatic, it followed that the other fellow’s motives were either evil, inferior, or both.
For example, Wilson, PhD, said that the rule “that all just governments derive their authority from the consent of the governed, applies only to those who are capable of self-government.” And since only a few had that capability, the state would have to look after the rest. Intellectual newsman Walter Lippmann, who leg was thrilled by Wilson, said that most citizens were “mentally children or barbarians.” (Nowadays they say we are “ungovernable.”)
Luckily, Wilson, PhD, had the advantage of the War that did not end all wars to mobilize his progressive army. He created a Sedition Act, which banned “uttering, printing, writing, or publishing any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the United States government or the military.”5 (Nowadays we hear of the “Fairness” doctrine.)
His Justice Department created a Night Watch-like group6called the American Protective League which encouraged citizens to rat out their neighbors. APL patrols cracked the heads of those deemed against the government. These culminated in the Palmer raids, where subversive (i.e. non-progressive) elements were rounded up.
Goldberg says, “Hard numbers are difficult to come by, but it has been estimated that some 175,000 Americans were arrested for failing to demonstrate their patriotism in one way or another. All were punished, many went to jail.”7 175,000!
In what must seem like a shocking coincidence, these were the same sorts of things Mussolini was doing.
Looking back on this era, progressives now say, ” .” And they say it often.
In Part III: FDR, the Camelot myth, Johnson, and more!
1 Goldberg, p. 273. (All references are from the 2009 paperback edition.) Amusingly, a whitewasher has been active at Wikipedia (which I won’t link to). The entry on Sanger contains the words “Despite allegations of racism…” Allegations! Sanger is a secular saint, of which no progressive dares speak ill, even anonymously.
2 If you want to have fun with a progressive, remind them of this fact.
3 Goldberg, p. 255.
4 No, I am not comparing climate science with eugenics; just as those who call skeptics “deniers” are not invoking the Holocaust.
5 p. 112.
6 Yet another gratuitous Babylon 5 plug.
7 p. 117.