Sunday, April 15, 2007

Follow the Money

For some reason, I know several people who might be considered academics without portfolio, or, more precisely, without academic positions. These are people who regularly behave as scholars, scientists, or mathematicians, even to the point of publishing papers in academic journals, but who nevertheless do not have positions at any university or similar scholarly institution. I grant you, this is a little weird, to publish without the prod of “publish or perish,” or really, any of the other usual incentives. But there you go.

In some cases, the lack of apparent incentive is just that, appearance, which is to say that they are still keeping their C.V.s polished in the hope of some future connection. Others, by contrast, do it just because they can, and they got into the habit of doing so at some time or another. I think I’m probably in this latter group, in that I’ve got a few unpublished papers that I update from time to time, and every now and then I begin another. Maybe I’ll get around to publishing them someday, maybe not. It all depends on how I feel about it, I suppose.

Anyway, long introduction out of the way, one such friend of mine once had a paper that he wanted to publish in the Journal of Indo-European Studies. For those in the know, this publication was long associated with Marija Gimbutas, the originator of the “Kurgan hypothesis” connecting the archeology of Neolithic burial mounds in southern Europe with the linguistics of the “proto-Indo-European” languages, to some acclaim (from Joseph Campbell among others) and considerable skepticism. Both the acclaim and the skepticism were linked to some pretty spectacular leaps she made in the formulation of “The Goddess hypothesis,” suggesting that Neolithic European cultures were matriarchal, later to be overwhelmed by invasions of patriarchal Indo-Europeans.

My scholar friend is a “Red diaper baby” and sometimes referred to Gimbutas’s “impeccable leftist credentials,” for reasons that will soon become evident.

The Journal of Indo-European Studies has a “sister journal,” Mankind Quarterly. Both were founded by a fellow named Roger Pearson. I forget whether it was Pearson or his co-editor who suggested to my friend that his paper might be published in Mankind Quarterly. It may have been the co-editor, J. P. Mallory.

My friend had never heard of Mankind Quarterly, but I had. Why? Because a large number of the citations given in The Bell Curve are from Mankind Quarterly. And the reason for that is that Mankind Quarterly is the go-to journal for papers dealing with the scientific basis of race, or, put another way, the primary purveyor of scientific racism in U.S. academia.

I’m going to get lazy here and just quote the Wikipedia entry:

Pearson was brought to the United States in 1965 by Willis Carto of the Liberty Lobby, and contributed to some of Carto's publications, such as Western Destiny and at Noontide Press. At the end of the 1960s, he parted with Carto, and successively taught at Queens University, the University of Southern Mississippi and Montana Tech. During his tenure as dean at Montana Tech, Pearson received $60,000 from the Pioneer Fund.

In 1975, he left academics and moved to Washington, D.C., where he founded the Council on American Affairs. He also joined the editorial board of Policy Review, the monthly Heritage Foundation publication in 1977, but was forced to resign in 1978, after the Washington Post exposed Pearson's background following the 11th Conference of the World Anti-Communist League — which he chaired.

Pearson also held the directorship of the Institute for the Study of Man, a group which was alleged by Searchlight magazine to have received $869,500 between 1981 and 1996 from the Pioneer Fund (Mehler 1998) and which under Pearson acquired the peer-reviewed journal Mankind Quarterly in 1978. Pearson simultaneously took over as editor and has remained editor through to the present day, though his name has never appeared on the masthead...Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele's advisor, Otmar von Verschuer, was on the editorial advisory board of this journal before his death in 1970.

Pearson is a former officer in the British Army, serving in India when it was still a colony. He’s also a member of the Eugenics Society. I knew of maybe half the stuff mentioned in the Wikipedia article, having seen a piece on The Bell Curve in The Skeptic magazine. I conveyed all this to my friend.

So my friend had run across the fact that Marija Gimbutas, one of the patron saints of the neo-Pagan movement, was academically in bed with a guy promoting eugenics and scientific racism. More to the point, my Jewish, Red-diaper baby friend, was being asked to publish in a journal that had once had a Nazi on its board.

He was in a quandary. My opinion was basically, a publication is a publication. Both journals were academically respectable, despite everything, and neither would be a blot on his C.V. He did ask other opinions, and, interestingly his African-American colleague in the anthropology department of a nearby university was perhaps the most telling. Said colleague opined that anthropology journals were all so racist anyway that it barely made any difference. Not exactly confirmation of my opinion, but pithy nonetheless.

My friend finally made the decision to hold out for his first choice and his paper appeared in the Journal of Indo-European Studies, not Mankind Quarterly. Fair enough, but it got me thinking.

Roger Pearson, whatever his vices or virtues, pulled in a lot of money from various sources, sources that I personally find more than a tad “icky.” Is there such a thing as “tainted money?” One might ask a neo-Pagan about that. I have no idea what sort of strings were attached to the money Pearson got; most likely there were none, at least not in the sense of quid pro quo. It’s just that Pearson is who he is, and the people with the money thought he was a good person to spend some of theirs. I doubt he disappointed them.

There’s a saying about politics: “If you can't take their money, drink their booze, eat their food, screw their women, and still look them in the eye and vote against them in the morning, you don't belong here.” I’ve always thought more or less the same thing about science and academia, but the fact is that if you play it that way, you don’t necessarily get to have a long career, not unless you get tenure, and the early plays in that game separate a lot of sheep from goats. There’s a lot of money out there for anyone who genuinely believes that tobacco is harmless, that global warming isn’t caused by fossil fuels, or that rich people are rich because of virtue and intrinsic worth.

But there’s just as much money for anyone who doesn’t believe those things, provided they’re just as able at making the case as those who believe them. And cynics don’t have any problem jumping from one funding source to another. The ones who are really committed to the King are the courtiers, and many of them don’t care who’s the King, so long as there is one.

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