When History Meets Race Pseudo-Science

“Human Biodiversity” is a euphemism that racists use to lend respectability to their pseudo-scientific claim that white superiority has a genetic or evolutionary basis. Many white supremacist ideas derive from this claim: if white superiority is “natural” and immutable, the argument goes, there is no point in attempting to help non-white people whose inferiority is similarly “natural.” Racist science also suggests that it is impossible for white people to live in harmony with non-white people, that society should (continue to) be organized to give white people more power than other people, and that any demographic change that reduces the percentage of white people in a nation can only be detrimental to that nation’s prosperity. The term “Human Biodiversity,” often abbreviated “HBD,” was coined by Jonathan Marks, a prominent critic of racist science, but quickly became popular with the same racists whose ideas Marks intended to reject. Many of the leading “researchers” in HBD receive funding from white supremacist organizations like The Pioneer Fund and publish their findings in white supremacist journals like Mankind Quarterly, which there is a decent chance your university library subscribes to. HBD embodies the evolution of racist pseudo-science from the measurement of visible features like skulls or noses to the study of genetics as a way of inventing racial differences between human beings. As such it may seem like an area of white supremacy where we would be unlikely to find Greco-Roman Antiquity being invoked. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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The Proud Boys and Greco-Roman Masculinity

During the first debate of the 2020 U.S. Presidential campaign, President Trump was asked to condemn white supremacy. Instead he said “Proud Boys, Stand Back and Stand By…somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left.” Trump’s expression of support for a white supremacist and anti-Semitic organization that promotes and engages in violence is just the latest evidence of the white supremacy in the Trump administration. A former neo-Nazi recognized this as “clear encouragment for continued violence,” coming from an administration that has attempted to downplay the threat of white supremacy in America. It is to be hoped that such a high-profile shout-out to a racist organization will call (further) attention to these facts and to the true nature of The Proud Boys, whose founder claims the group’s focus is not race but “Western Values.” And indeed, the group’s website describes them as “Western Chauvinists” who “refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.” The Proud Boys are thus yet another organization that attempts to conceal its racism behind arguments about the supposed superiority of “Western Civilization.” And wherever such claims are made, Greco-Roman antiquity usually comes up as well. The articles in “Proud Boy Magazine” are no exception.

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The Fall of Rome as “the End of the White World”: Jean Raspail’s “Camp of the Saints”

The Camp of the Saints is a xenophobic novel by Jean Raspail published in French in 1973 and translated into English in 1975. Generally well-received when first published, it imagines a race war in Europe sparked by unchecked immigration. Its author, who died in June 2020, has won two of the most prestigious literary prizes in France, and more recently the book has been praised and promoted in the United States by a Congressional Representative and three senior advisors to the President of the United States, making it one of the most influential white supremacist books ever written, one that Historian and Artist Nell Painter has identified as a key text for understanding “American Whiteness Since Trump.” Unlike other French xenophobic treatises, The Camp of the Saints did not engage much with Greco-Roman Antiquity. Until, that is, it was reprinted 1985 with a new author’s preface.

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Bronze Age Greeks Inspire Violent White Masculinity

Bronze Age Mindset is a book published in 2018 by someone using the pseudonym “Bronze Age Pervert” (abbreviated BAP in this article). Written in the ironic style characteristic of what used to be called the “alt right” but which is more properly recognized as the evolution of white supremacy, this self-described “exhortation” decries modernity as “the most debased of ages” (113). For inspiration about how to survive in “our trash world” (164) it looks to mythological and historical figures from Greek antiquity that provide models for how to defy and ultimately overthrow “the great and suffocating shadow of our time, that smothers all higher life out” (67). The book, which has attracted the admiration of mainstream politicians, is said to have “lit the online right on fire” because it “understands the fundamental draw of right-wing traditionalist ideology…by providing adherents with a sense of their own ‘specialiness’ in a mythic narrative created for them.” It’s a narrative that depends on a toxic blend of misogyny and white supremacy, with the ancient world as its archetype and source of prestige.

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Sallust and Juvenal Made Prophets of Racial Decline

Tomislav Sunić sits on the board of directors of the white nationalist American Freedom Party and is a prolific writer and frequent lecturer at white supremacist conferences. In a transcript of one such speech published on The Occidental Observer, Sunić argues that “in view of the large-scale racial replacement of European peoples by the masses of non-European peoples, the old European world seems to be now preordained not to a transient decadence, but rather to a terminal decadence.” His analysis uses ancient Rome, which he calls the first of the “series of decadences [Europe] has encountered over its history,” as an explanatory model for the causes and effects of this supposed decline. The example of Rome, he claims, shows that “once a nation’s heritage, including its heredity, is forgotten or compromised, society begins to fall apart as was observed in Rome and as we can see every day in Europe now.”

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Racist Commemoration of Greco-Roman History as White History

“Today in White History” is a Twitter account that commemorates technological, scientific, athletic, and artistic accomplishments of people that the account’s curator regards as “white,” occasionally adding racist commentary or a  “White Live Matter” hashtag to its descriptions. The account intends to provide daily evidence for one of the fundamental beliefs of white supremacy, namely that white people have made more significant contributions to human history than other kinds of people. And just as many white supremacists regard the histories of ancient Greece and Rome to be exclusively “white” histories, “Today in White History” not only includes Greco-Roman history in its feed but gives the Classical special prominence by using an image of the Roman orator Cicero as its avatar.

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Monsters from Greek Mythology Inspire White Supremacist Activists

“The Hundred Handers” is a network of white supremacists who post racist stickers in public places. It’s a strategy used by many racist groups, including those who use imagery taken from Greco-Roman antiquity. According to an interview with the network’s anonymous founder on an anti-government website, the goal of the Hundred Handers’ stickers is to reassure the “whole population who aren’t as plugged [into] social media and may feel alone against the tsunami of anti-white hatred that they face daily”  that “you’re not alone and there are others like you in close proximity.” The network takes its name from the many-headed and many-limbed monsters who, according to the Greek poet Hesiod’s Theogony, helped Zeus and the Olympian gods defeat the Titans in the battle for control of the universe.

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Anti-Semites Enlist Cicero Against Anti-Racism

“The Noticer” is an anti-Semitic Telegram channel that collects screenshots of anti-racist tweets from people who self-identify as Jewish in order to intimidate them and target them for racist harassment. The avatar for this channel features a bust of the ancient Roman politician Cicero with glowing, laser-like eyes in imitation of a popular photoshop effect found in memes. As of this writing over eleven thousand people subscribe to “The Noticer”.

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Ancient Greece a Symbol to Rally Neo-Nazis

As the worldwide coronavirus pandemic has spread, so have xenophobic and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories blaming the spread of the virus on immigrants or Muslims or calling it a Jewish plot. One of the proponents of these conspiracy theories is Martin Sellner, whom the BBC called “the new face of the far right in Europe” for the influence he has achieved as a leader of the Austrian branch of the white nationalist Identitarian Movement which in some respects is a European predecessor to the alt-right in the United States. Unlike some other white supremacists whom Pharos has documented, Sellner has not invoked Greco-Roman antiquity in his promotion of coronavirus conspiracy theories, but in the weeks before the pandemic struck Europe, he used the Classical past — and his reach to almost 40,000 people on social media — to promote violent xenophobia against some of the most vulnerable people in the world.

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Ancient and Modern Pandemics said to “Cull the Herd”

Identity Dixie has been called America’s “preeminent neo-Confederate hate organization.” In addition to their podcast The Rebel Yell, which Pharos has documented for its host’s use of the Classical pseudonym “Musonius Rufus” and which was originally distributed on the same platform as the neo-Nazi podcast The Daily Shoah, the site promotes the work of like-minded racists, misognyists, and xenophobes on its “Dissident Right Radio” page. One such show, the Z Blog Power Hour, has joined other hate groups and conspiracy theorists in commenting on the coronavirus pandemic, calling the measures taken to limit the virus’ spread “The Great Madness” and downplaying the threat it poses. This widespread minimization of the pandemic takes many forms. On Identity Dixie and the Z Blog Power Hour it means comparing COVID-19 to plagues from Greco-Roman antiquity.

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