Angela Saini, whose book Superior: The Return of Race Science does an effective job trashing racist pseudoscience, has an article in Scientific American summarizing the problem. A lot of it has to do with the poisonous crap on the Internet.
As the media landscape flattens, drawing audiences away from traditional outlets to a plethora of online ones, those with outdated views have found themselves elevated from the lonely shadows into the light. They have moved on from letters in green ink and pulled up a seat alongside reputable writers and academics. The internet has opened the door to racists and sexists, and they have happily walked in. They’re trampling over our carpets with their grubby shoes even as we offer them a drink. They have normalized extremism, pseudoscience and crackpottery.
The blame can be spread widely. Social media corporations, such as Twitter and Facebook, have allowed racist networks to proliferate. Recent research from Western Sydney University, looking at a decade of cyber-racism, has shown that race-hate groups are sophisticated and creative in disseminating racist propaganda to their followers online. The Gab social network and the journal Psych seem to have been set up expressly to give these elements their own unfiltered space. Online magazines such as Breitbart, and the companies that advertise through them, are complicit in presenting a glossy front to bigotry. And then comes the second tier of publicity when, even if only in outrage and disbelief, this content is shared online. This, in turn, has infected mainstream political discourse, lowering the tone a little further every day.
This stuff has been around for ages — a hundred years ago it was in the form of eugenics, it morphed into The Pioneer Fund (established in 1937, a rather telling decade), in the 60s I was exposed to it via the John Birch Society and William Buckley, and we’re still battling it now. It’s just metastasized into a thousand little online outlets, all vying to put up a veneer of respectability over a dungheap of bad ideas.
I feel like Saini could have just said “Quillette!” in 144 point bold Impact font, it’s the same thing. They try desperately to pretend that they hold a legitimate scientific position, when they’re just the Daily Stormer with a facade to shield them from hate crime status.
Blake Stacey says
I learned of Quillette because they publish the pseudo-intellectual trash of James Lindsay and his ilk, but there’s not actually any separation between them and fascist thugs.
Reminds me of research showing that many people can’t tell the difference between comments about sex and relationships made by convicted rapists and articles on the same topics published in magazines aimed at men, like Maxim or FHM. It is always more profitable for media outlets to reify prejudice than challenge prejudice, whether we’re talking print media or online media, so most media companies will not merely give a platform to the worst prejudices in society, but actively protect them.
Eugenics keeps trying to make a come back as well.