Felipe Araujo
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The farmer straddling both sides of the Irish border: "People don't want a return to violence"

To get to the Republic of Ireland, you just have to walk through David Crockett's gate. 

“Right, I will now take you around and show you a different country," says David Crockett as I jump in the backseat of his pickup for a tour of his farm in Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland. "It won’t take long."

Less than 10 minutes later he parks the vehicle on the edge of a muddy field, points across, and says: "See that fence there? That's the Republic of Ireland. All you have to do is walk through the gate.”

That's how David has been running his 300-acre farm for the past 20 years — freely dipping in and out of Irish territory as he pleases. He has no choice, really. Two hundred acres of his land lies on the south. The other 100, which includes his family home, is on the north of the border.

Since the Good Friday Agreement came into effect in 1999, the sinuous 300-mile Irish border between north and south has virtually evaporated. People like David have made the most of the newfound peace, significantly prospering in the process.

"Europe has been very good in terms of grants and subsidies," he says. "They brought the standards up, you are well paid for your stuff, and they won't allow anything from even America to come in."

But that could soon change. As Britain braces for a messy divorce with the Europe Union, residents of Derry — who overwhelmingly voted to remain— believe the split will have devastating consequences. "It will be disastrous for everyone," one local told me.

For David and his farm, big changes loom large once Northern Ireland leaves the EU. For one, toiling the Irish Republic side of his land will become significantly more difficult, as different regulations and a bevy of tariffs apply.

"Before we were part of the EU we would have to go to Dublin to get an export license... and then for an import license we would have to go down to London," he explains.

There is also the machinery. In a post-EU Northern Ireland, he expects he will no longer be able to drive his tractors from one side of the border to the other. The solution?

“I have been told I will have to move my entire business out there and buy new machinery. I will eventually have to split the farm and hand over the Irish side to my son.” 

David (pictured below with his son) is a Protestant. The Troubles started when he was nine years old, and continued until he was in his 30s. For most of his childhood, division and conflict between the Catholic south and the Protestant north was all he knew. He still has vivid memories of a time when, as a young boy, he would have to lay low in the family’s kitchen while fierce gun battles between the British army and IRA militias were going on outside.

“We would go out to the fields the next morning, collect the empty bullet shells, and sell them at school," he remembers.

Now, at 57, when he talks about the possible return of a hard border between the two Irelands, it is his business more than the historical divide between Catholics and Protestants that most worries him.

“People here don’t want a return to the violence," he says. "They are crossing to shop. They are going down there for a pint of milk. As it is, I can go 100 yards down the road to get it. Otherwise [with a border] I would have to go a mile down the road, so convenience wise and everything else that's a total disaster.”

But in this part of the world, politics seldom has only economic implications. Walk down to Derry’s Bogside district, historically the home of the Catholic population, and the colours and symbols serve as vivid reminders of this city’s violent past. 

For the past two decades, those loyal to the Republic of Ireland have grown accustomed to living in the Northern Irish side without fear of a return to a majority British rule. But Brexit, especially among border communities, has come to once again stoke those long-dormant tensions.

Residents don’t want to go back to a time when they had to pass through army checkpoints whenever they wanted to cross to either side of the Irish isle. But with both the UK and the EU failing to offer any concrete alternatives, the border issue is preying on their minds.

“A hardening of the border completely solidifies the separation between the north and the south,” says John Kelly, educational officer at The Free Derry Museum, whose brother was killed in the Bloody Sunday Massacre. “Whereas prior to this [Brexit] happening we have free movement, we can travel without any difficulty whatsoever, in the future that will be much more difficult. It brings back bad memories to everyone around here.”

The museum, which opened a little over a week ago, is a comprehensive explanation of 50 years of the Irish Troubles and the Catholic population’s struggle for civil rights. 

The project was partly funded by the EU Peace programme, which aims is to promote economic and social progress in Northern Ireland and the Border Region.

“The EU money played a major part in the founding of this place,” John tells me. “If the EU had not given us the money to help build it, I don't think we would be sitting here today and that would have been all lost.”

Politicians at all levels of the British government are almost unanimous in their agreement that a return of a hard border on this island is not an option. Last week, however, Peter Hain, a former Labour secretary of state for Northern Ireland who became a peer in 2015, told the House of Lords: “Frankly, I’m not convinced the government has begun to even grasp the political significance of it.”

The words of government officials seem to carry little weight around here. My visit coincides with the Northern Irish election, called after the Democratic Unionist First Minister Arlene Foster, became mired in a public spending scandal, and the deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, resigned. 

“Not matter who’s in power it will just be more of the same,” a local told me on Thursday morning after casting his vote.

Amid the infighting between the sectarian factions of Northern Irish politics, the population of the borderlands remains in the dark in regards to the border issue. Will it be business as usual? And if a hard border is to go ahead who will manage it?

“Politicians have no clue,” David tells me. “They keep saying it’s not going to happen but then I ask ‘what’s the alternative?’ They have no answers.”

Felipe Araujo is a freelance journalist based in London. He writes about race, culture and sports. He covered the Rio Olympics and Paralympics on the ground for the New Statesman. He tweets @felipethejourno.

Spudgun67 via Creative Commons/https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
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It might be a pseudo science, but students take the threat of eugenics seriously

Today’s white nationalists and neo-Nazis make extensive use of racist pseudo-science to bolster their political arguments.

In January, the London Student published my investigation, which showed that the controversial columnist Toby Young attended the London Conference on Intelligence, secretly held at University College London. Shortly afterwards, I mentioned to someone in a pub smoking area that I go to UCL. “Did you hear about the eugenics conference?” he asked me.

He was an international student from Africa. “I applied to UCL partly because I thought it was safer than other universities, but now I’m not so sure. I worry about how many other professors hold the same opinions.”

A protest outside the UCL Provost’s office after the article was published attracted scores of students. “I have a right to come to university and not fear for my safety,” one told the crowd, exasperated. “Nothing has been done, and that’s what really scares me.”

While hecklers derided the protest as an overreaction, students have good reason for taking eugenics seriously. UCL has a long history of support for scientific racism, beginning with Francis Galton, the Victorian polymath who, among other achievements, founded the science of eugenics. UCL’s Galton Chair in National Eugenics, which survived under that name until 1996, was first held by Karl Pearson, another ardent racial eugenicist. Pearson talked about creating a nation from “the better stocks” while conducting war with the “inferior races”, and in 1925 co-authored an article published in the Annals of Eugenics warning of the dangers of allowing Russian and Polish Jewish children into Britain. The London Conference on Intelligence was held in a building named in Pearson’s honour.

Eugenics is most closely associated in the popular imagination with fascism, and the twisted ideology of the Nazi party. Yet racial eugenics was closely linked to wider European imperialism, as illustrated by one object in the Galton collection, contributed by Pearson. Dr. Eugene Fischer’s hair colour scale is a selection of 30 different synthetic hair varieties in a tin box, a continuous scale from European to African. Fischer’s work was used in the early 20th century by Germany to ascertain the whiteness of Namibia’s mixed-race population, even before it was used by the Nazis to design the Nuremburg Laws. In apartheid South Africa, Afrikaans researchers used his tools as late as the 1960s.

Its importance to the imperial project meant that eugenics enjoyed widespread support in British scientific and political establishments. Galton’s Eugenics Society, set up to spread eugenicist ideas and push for eugenic policies, had branches in Birmingham, Liverpool, Cambridge, Manchester, Southampton and Glasgow, drawing hundreds of academics to their meetings. It was a movement of the educated middle class, including leading progressives such as John Maynard Keynes, Marie Stopes and the Fabians. Society presidents hailed from the universities of Edinburgh, Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, and UCL.

With this history in mind, it is easier to understand why students take the UCL eugenics scandal so seriously. Science journalist Angela Saini, who has been researching the history of race science for her upcoming book, argues that the problem lies in the co-opting of pseudoscience for political purposes. “These people are on the fringes, they’re not respected in mainstream academia,” she says. “The problem is when people like Toby Young come in from outside and use these studies to promote their own political agenda.” (Young said he attended the conference purely for research).

The rise of the far-right in Europe and America also means that the tolerance afforded to racist pseudoscience is not a purely academic question. Today’s white nationalists and neo-Nazis make extensive use of racist pseudoscience to bolster their political arguments.

Our investigation into the London Conference on Intelligence uncovered the involvement of at least 40 academics from at least 29 different universities in 15 different countries. Among these was the Oxford academic Noah Carl, a postdoctoral researcher in the social sciences at Nuffield College, who has spoken twice at the London Conference on Intelligence. Carl has also written several papers for Emil Kirkegaard’s OpenPsych, which include two looking at whether larger Muslim populations make Islamist terrorism more likely, and one suggesting that British stereotypes towards immigrants are “largely accurate”.

One external reviewer responded to the last paper by stating that: “It is never OK to publish research this bad, even in an inconsequential online journal.” Nevertheless, the paper was featured by conservative US website The Daily Caller, under a picture of Nigel Farage’s “Breaking Point” poster. The far right European Free West Media cited the paper to claim that “criminal elements are represented by certain ethnic groups”, and on the blog of a far-right French presidential candidate under the headline “Study validates prejudices”. It even ended up on InfoWars, one of the most popular news websites in the USA, and can be found circulating on far-right corners of Reddit. The fact that Carl is linked to Oxford University was mentioned frequently in the coverage, providing legitimacy to the political opinions presented.

Another contributor to the London Conference on Intelligence was Adam Perkins of King’s College London, whose book The Welfare Trait proposed that “aggressive, rule-breaking and anti-social personality characteristics” can be “bred out” of society by reducing child support for those on the lowest incomes. Perkins actively engaged with far-right media outlets in promoting his book, appearing in hour-long interviews with Stefan Molyneux and Tara McCarthy. Molyneux doesn’t “view humanity as a single species because we are not all the same”, and argues that “ordinary Africans were better off under colonialism”. McCarthy was banned from YouTube for alleging a conspiracy to commit “white genocide”, and supports deporting naturalised citizens and “killing them if they resist”. Perkins himself attracted criticism last year for tweeting, alongside data from Kirkegaard, that Trump’s Muslim ban “makes sense in human capital terms”.

Perkins is not the first KCL academic to use his platform to promote contested science in the far-right press. In the 1980s, the Pioneer Fund supported the work of Hans Eysenck, whose work has been credited by his biographer with helping to “revive the confidence” of “right-wing racialist groups” such as the National Front by providing an “unexpected vindication from a respectable scientific quarter”. The original mandate of the Pioneer Fund was the pursuit of “race betterment”; it is considered a hate group by the US civil rights group the Southern Poverty Law Center. KCL did not respond to a request for comment.

An association with a high profile university can help bigots to legitimise their beliefs, but the infiltration of mainstream academia by eugenicists is even more complex than this.

After we exposed his involvement with eugenicists, Toby Young pointed out that the conference at which he actually spoke, that of the International Society for Intelligence Research (ISIR), was “super-respectable” and attended by “numerous world-renowned academics”.

He is entirely correct. The ISIR is home to many great scientists, and its journal Intelligence is one of the most respected in its field. Yet Richard Lynn, who has called for the “phasing out” of the “populations of incompetent cultures”, serves on the editorial board of Intelligence, along with fellow director of the Pioneer Fund Gerhard Meisenberg, who edits Lynn’s journal Mankind Quarterly. Two other board members are Heiner Rindermann and Jan te Nijenhuis, frequent contributors to Mankind Quarterly and the London Conference on Intelligence. Rindermann, James Thompson, Michael Woodley of Menie and Aurelio Figueredo, all heavily implicated in the London Conference on Intelligencehelped to organise recent ISIR conferences. Linda Gottfredson, a Pioneer Fund grantee and former president of the ISIR, famously authored a letter in the Wall Street Journal defending Charles Murray’s assertion that black people are genetically disposed to an average IQ of “around 85”, compared to 100 for whites.

The tolerance afforded to eugenicists threatens the reputation of respectable scientists. Stephen Pinker, the world-renowned cognitive psychologist, spoke at last year’s ISIR conference. Another speaker at the conference, however, was the aforementioned Emil Kirkegaard, a “self-taught” eugenicist who has written a “thought experiment” which discusses whether raping a drugged child could be defended, and whose research into OKCupid made international headlines for its “grossly unprofessional, unethical and reprehensible” use of personal data.

Saini spoke to Richard Haier, editor-in-chief of Intelligence, about the involvement of Lynn and Meisenberg. “He defended their involvement on the basis of academic freedom,” she recalled. “He said he’d prefer to let the papers and data speak for themselves.”

Publishing well-researched papers that happen to be written by eugenicists is one thing, but putting them in positions of editorial control is quite another. “Having researched Lynn and Meisenberg, I fail to understand how Intelligence can justify having these two on the editorial board,” Saini said. “I find that very difficult to understand. Academic freedom does not require that these people are given any more space than their research demands – which for a discredited idea like racial eugenics is frankly minuscule.” I contacted the ISIR but at time of publishing had received no response.

UCL has published several statements about the London Conference on Intelligence since my investigation. In the latest, released on 18 January 2018, the university said it hoped to finish an investigation within weeks. It said it did not and had not endorsed the conference, and had formally complained to YouTube about the use of a doctored UCL logo on videos posted online. UCL’s President described eugenics as “complete nonsense” and added: “I am appalled by the concept of white supremacy and will not tolerate anything on campus that incites racial hatred or violence.” UCL management has also agreed to engage with students concerned about buildings being named after eugenicists.

UCL’s statement also stressed its obligation “to protect free speech on campus, within the law, even if the views expressed are inconsistent with the values and views of UCL”.

Yet there is a direct link between the tolerance of eugenicists in academia and the political rise of the far-right. Journals and universities that allow their reputations to be used to launder or legitimate racist pseudo-science bear responsibility when that pseudo-science is used for political ends. As one UCL student put it: “This is not about freedom of speech – all violence begins with ideas. We feel threatened, and we want answers.”

Ben van der Merwe is a student journalist.