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Doing Justice to the Classics

White Supremacist takes Inspiration from Ancient Eugenics

Guillaume Durocher has contributed articles that invoke classical antiquity to several white supremacist sites that Pharos has documented, including American Renaissance and Counter-CurrentsHe has also written more than one hundred pieces for The Occidental Observer, a site focused on “themes of white identity, white interests, and the culture of the West.” One of these, entitled “Biopolitics, Racialism, and Nationalism in Ancient Greece: A Summary View”, argues that we should imitate ancient eugenic practices so that “our race and civilization may forever flourish” and “Civil War II” may be avoided in the United States. Like many historically-minded racists who enlist the classical past in support of their politics, Durocher cloaks this hateful message beneath a superficially attractive but ultimately uncritical message that we should be “inspired by the Hellenic experience.”

Durocher argues that the ancient Greeks possessed an “Aryan ethos” that “held up the ideal of being the best” rather than “trying to achieve impossible or fictional equality in an endlessly vain attempt to assuage…pity or guilt.” He bases this claim on what he calls the “racial theory” of the Greeks, which he derives from two pieces of evidence from antiquity. The first is a passage from the ancient Greek historian Herodotus where the Athenians tell an envoy from Persia that the Greeks are “one race speaking one language, with temples to the gods and religious rites in common, and with a common way of life.” The second is a favorite topic for contemporary race pseudo-scientists, the widespread application in ancient Greece of “environmental determinism,” by which a person’s origin is assumed to determine essential traits such as courage or intelligence. Such “biopolitics, racialism, and nationalism,” according to Durocher, were “integral to the Hellenic way of life.” He’s not wrong about this aspect of ancient culture, and when he says it “prefigure[s] Darwin’s later evolutionary theory” he may be claiming “scientific” support for his hateful politics but he’s not misrepresenting the origins of modern pseudo-scientific racism in evolutionary thought. What is wrong is his idealization of racist theories that he complains are “taboo in the West” even though they offer, he claims, the best way to achieve “the ideal being the best as a whole society.”

At every turn Durocher’s conception of antiquity intersects with those articulated by sites Pharos has documented previously

It quickly emerges that Durocher believes this “ideal” is best achieved through an “exclusionary…ideal of citizenship” and eugenics. He praises Periclean Athens, which in another article he calls “a spirited and nativist democracy”, for limiting citizenship “to those with two full-blooded Athenian parents” and for “adopt[ing a] racial notion of citizenship” when they claimed their ancestors “sprung from the earth” as opposed to coming from somewhere else. This notion was as much a fantasy in antiquity as is the modern fantasy of a racial continuity between the ancient Greeks and modern white Europeans. He then turns to Sparta, whose “strongly xenophobic attitudes…functioned to prevent foreign influences on their way of life,” and praises it for being “an ethnostate” and for forbidding marriage between citizens and helot slaves. In his admiration for the politics of ancient Athens and Sparta Durocher echoes other hate sites Pharos has documented.

Durocher’s description of citizenship in Athens and Sparta is more or less accurate, hence adding a false sense of legitimacy to his claim that we should imitate ancient eugenic practices. He admits that “infanticide through exposure” is “cruel” but says it was necessary and “accepted…due to economic difficulties.” And he makes no equivocation when he remarks baldly that “in Sparta and Rome, the killing of deformed children was mandatory,” suggesting that such requirements are desirable for a society such as the one he envisions. From killing undesirable children (“negative eugenics”) he turns to practices that promote the production of racially “pure”, desirable offspring, claiming that in ancient Greece “it was often said that men should choose the best women as wives so as to have the best children possible.” Quoting from the work of Fustel de Coulanges, whose major books were adapted in English with the title Aryan Civilization: Its Religious Origin and its Progress (1871), Durocher celebrates the “patriarchal and exclusionary ancestor cult” of the “Indo-European religion” that made “marriage mandatory,” “celibacy a crime,” and “turned the family household into a sacred and inviolable sanctuary, under the authority of the father, obeyed by wife, children, and retainers.”

In ancient Greece the "best" society was one that embraced slavery, xenophobia, and infanticide. For us it means something different

At every turn in this article Durocher’s conception of antiquity intersects with those articulated by sites Pharos has documented previously. His celebration of the “warrior ethos of the Indo-Europeans” is commonplace among those who continue to propagate racist 19th century theories about European origins. His use of antiquity to promote eugenics echoes those who believe that ancient Sparta, in particular, began as a racially pure ethnostate of “Nordic” invaders. He justifies his admiration of ancient Greece by saying, as many white supremacists do, that it is “at the founding of our Western civilization.” And this emphasis on “purity” and preservation of an ancestral “ethos” intersects with contemporary (but long-standing) white nationalist fear-mongering about “white extinction,” which the prominent xenophobe Pat Buchanan called “an ideology of Western suicide” that threatens to “alter forever the political and demographic character of our nations and our civilization.” It is exactly what one would expect from an article on a site founded by Kevin MacDonald, “the Neo-Nazi movement’s favorite academic” and a scholar who is cited by multiple white supremacists and anti-Semites that Pharos has documented.

Many of the hate groups that Pharos documents alter antiquity or its narratives in some way, often by distorting literary evidence, in order to make them support their hateful politics. But Durocher is of another extreme. The scholarship he cites may be outdated, but he knows his history and he doesn’t misrepresent the ancient past. His problem is that he assumes that past is admirable and worthy of emulation. It might be worth emulating the ancient Greek city-states’ “collective ideal of being the best as a whole society” but this won’t mean the same thing for us that it meant for them. For them the “best” society was one that embraced slavery, xenophobia, and infanticide. For us it should mean something different, something more just, more equitable, and more humane. Antiquity needs to be continually reinterpreted: it’s not a one-way street where we take what the ancients did as an ideal. Apparently that’s a modern lesson Durocher has yet to learn.

We have linked above to an archived version of the article to avoid giving traffic to The Occidental Observer. You can visit the original version of the article here.

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