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In Explaining Dylann Roof’s Inspiration, the Media Ignore Ties to Evolutionary Racism


We haven’t said anything yet about the horrific church massacre in South Carolina because the terrible event did not seem, at first glance, to touch on the scientific issues that we typically deal with here. True, confessed mass murderer Dylann Roof’s apparent “manifesto” deals a little with themes of pseudo-scientific racism:

Negroes have lower [IQs], lower impulse control, and higher testosterone levels in generals. These three things alone are a recipe for violent behavior. If a scientist publishes a paper on the differences between the races in Western Europe or Americans, he can expect to lose his job. There are personality traits within human families, and within different breeds of cats or dogs, so why not within the races?

A horse and a donkey can breed and make a mule, but they are still two completely different animals. Just because we can breed with the other races doesnt make us the same.

But beyond that there was none of the evolutionary chatter you find at some neo-Nazi and white supremacist sites. Now, though, the mainstream media are rejoicing at the revelation that a racist group that evidently inspired Roof is headed by a man who is also a donor to Republican candidates.

“‘Supremacist’ Earl Holt III and his donations to Republicans,” announces the Washington Post. “Council of Conservative Citizens Promotes White Primacy, and G.O.P. Ties,” says the New York Times.

Guilt by association is a nasty business. It’s often very selective, too. It leaves things out that don’t fit the desired narrative.

When I read these articles, I noted that the official spokesman for Holt’s group is a person called Jared Taylor, best known for leading another, slightly more polished white nationalist web publication, American Renaissance. These organizations have their different emphases and preoccupations. While the Council of Conservative Citizens is obsessed by “black-on-white” crime, American Renaissance has as one of its specialties science-flavored, notably evolutionary, justifications for racism. In the media coverage I’ve seen, the latter fact has gone unmentioned.

I have written about Taylor’s group before:

American Renaissance is fully as obsessed with the insights of evolution and eugenics as the prominent neo-Nazi website Stormfront, except the material is presented in a superficially objective and scholarly fashion and the anti-Semitism is kept more under wraps — though evidently this last element comes out more freely in person at the conferences.

Here, for example, is Jared Taylor on Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance:

Most importantly, Mr. Wade points out that “brain genes do not lie in some special category exempt from natural selection. They are as much under evolutionary pressure as any other category of gene.” And since human evolution is “recent and copious,” the brains of different populations function differently. This is the book’s main heresy: After the races separated, they evolved different mental patterns that gave rise to different social patterns.

The language isn’t scabrous as you’d find on the Council of Conservative Citizens website, but the message amounts to the same thing. Taylor is praised as a “race-realist” by our old nemesis John Derbyshire, kicked out of National Review for his own racialism. Derbyshire, last observed when he was granted space in The American Spectator to denounce intelligent design in absurd terms, now hangs his hat at a series of racist publications.

Of course, no one I’ve referred to endorses Dylann Roof’s murderous rampage. I don’t doubt that they are all sincerely mortified by the association, however unintended, with such unapologetic, undisguised evil.

I mention this at all not to blame them for Roof’s crime, in any way, but simply to note — because the mainstream media covers it up — how certain ideas tend to hang together.

The racial elements in Charles Darwin’s writing, the eugenicist implications, are often brushed aside as ugly but incidental, a mere byproduct of his time and place. Yet the myth of European superiority over inferior dark peoples continues to percolate in some evolutionary thinking, a century and more after the close of the Victorian era. It seems to have found an eager student in a disturbed young man named Dylann Roof.

Image: Steeple of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, by Spencer Means from New York City, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.