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Racism in the halls of academia
Some deeply suspect theories are being propagated by an emeritas of one of the most renowned universities in the north.
Eamonn McCann, 01 Dec 2003
Years ago, I used this space to publicise the fact that the University of Ulster was providing a safe house for one of the most dangerous racists in world academia.
The man in question was Richard Lynn, professor of psychology at the university’s Coleraine campus and a hero figure for fascists on both sides of the Atlantic. Lynn’s speciality was analysing surveys of IQ tests from around the world and invariably concluding that black people were stupider than white people, poor people stupider than rich people, women stupider than men, etc.
Anywhere one category of people ranked lower in the social order than another, Lynn would offer “scientific” evidence that this was a natural, inevitable, fair and irreversible state of affairs, about which there was nothing to be done.
This was the reason Africa was poorer than Europe. All campaigns against world hunger and inequity in trade relations were useless, pointless, sentimental tosh.
Since rich people were smarter than poor people, all measures to lift or empower the poor were futile and wrong-headed.
Likewise, if men had bigger brains than women, it was no cause for complaint that men had the bulk of wealth and filled the more prominent roles in society.
Small wonder that David Dukes, one-time leader of the Ku Klux Klan, mentioned Lynn as one of his greatest influences. The Coleraine professor was also something of a pin-up boy for the British Nazi magazine, Bulldog. The last time I was involved in trading punches was with a a group of low-lifes who erupted from a Coleraine pub holding copies of Bulldog aloft to wade into an Anti-Nazi League march calling on the university to kick Lynn out.
The connection between the knuckle-draggers grunting about “white rights” and the fraudulent prof. crunching numbers in his on-campus office lay in his status as a professor at a mainstream university. His position lent a spurious respectability to the guttersnipe attitudes he was speading.
As I argued here at the time, not only were Lynn’s views odious, they were utterly unscientific. His statistical jiggery-pokery was self-evident. And, anyway, the only thing which we can say for certain is measured by IQ tests is the ability to do IQ tests. On these grounds alone, the university ought to have been embarrassed by Lynn’s activities. But it wasn’t.
The Kick Lynn Out campaign was one of the least successful I’ve ever been involved in. As I recall, we managed to convince only two of the hundreds of academic staff at Coleraine to sign a petition to the university council. One of this progressive pair was an ex-member of the IRSP. The rainbow spread of political allegience of the rest of the staff yielded not a single man or woman willing to sign up. “Freedom of speech” was the usual excuse. Others argued that Lynn was due to retire shortly: so why make a fuss?
The official line of the university in response to a formal query was that Lynn’s work on intelligence ratios was conducted outside university hours and was financed not by the university but by notorious US eugenics outfit the Pioneer Fund (PF). So it was none of the council’s concern. When I put it to a spokesperson that the university ought then to forbid Lynn to use its name on his PF-funded publications, I was told that this practice was standard in the academic world and there’d be all manner or repercussions if an exception were made. There the matter rested.
Lynn did retire in 1995, but hasn’t gone away. He has a new book out, Eugenics: A Reassessment. I discovered this as I listened in astonishment a couple of weeks back to an edition of BBC Radio Four’s Today, on which the racist propagandist was announcing its publication. How on earth, I wondered, had the Beeb’s flagship news programme come to give a platform to this disreputable oik? The answer came at the interview’s end. Richard Lynn, it was explained, is emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Ulster.
The tone and tenor of Lynn’s latest effort – its theme is the need for selective breeding so as to raise the intelligence level of humanity – is epitomised in its line on Hitler. The genocidal maniac is a much-misunderstood historical figure, Lynn reckons. OK, he took against the Jews, who generally speaking are actually quite intelligent. That was a mistake. But you have to see it in context. The Jews were perceived to be out for world domination via the spread of communism. The holocaust should be seen as an act of anti-communist war, not of genocide. Other than that, as far as eliminating lesser breeds through cutting off the supply at source is concerned, the Nazi’s behaviour wasn’t particularly reprehensible. Well in line with progressive thinking at the time, in fact.
So, Lynn continues his argument, instead of demonising eugenics programmes by association with Nazism (and a misrepresented Nazism at that), we should be looking at the advantages of mass sterilisation of the dusky-skinned stupid...
The designation “emeritus” is conferred on retired members of university staffs as an indication of the respect in which they are still held. The title is in the gift of the university. It can be withdrawn by the university authorities.
It may be that things have progressed a little in the last decade.Professor Colin Cooper of Queen’s spoke out earlier this month against the UU man’s “horrible fairytale”. And Natalie Caleyron of the Belfast-based Multi-cultural Resource Centre made the apt point in warning of the way Lynn’s anti-scientific racist views were given a seeming plausibility by the imprimatur of the university.
But have things changed sufficiently to ensure that the University of Ulster takes steps to cleanse this stain of filth from its reputation? We shall see. I hope we are not compelled to parade through Coleraine in protest again.
Isn’t there some sort of students’ union at the UU? We couldn’t coax a cheep out of them last time. Is there any among them to shout out now?