The Guardian October 4, 2000

Fascism's "scientific" face

by Tom Burghardt, Editor, Anti-fascist Info-Bulletin

Under cover of "national security", gruesome Nazi-like projects were 
carried out by the US National Security State throughout the Cold War 
period and beyond.

When revelations emerged several years ago that the US Atomic Energy 
Commission (AEC) sponsored "medical" research that injected gravely ill 
patients with radioactive plutonium with neither their knowledge nor their 
consent, a firestorm gripped Washington.

It forced the Energy Department to release thousands of pages of files 
documenting the hideous trail of suffering and death inflicted by 
government-funded "research". (See Eileen Welsome's 1993 Pulitzer Prize-
winning series, "The Plutonium Experiment" in The Albuquerque 
Journal, November 15-17 1993.)

Now a new book slated for release in October by investigative journalist 
Patrick Tierney, Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists 
Devastated the Amazon (New York, W W Norton & Co), threatens to rip the 
mask of respectability from the faces of several prominent anthropologists.

Tierney's book claims certain scientists conducted genocidal experiments on 
the Yanomami people of Venezuela in the late 1960s  with funds provided 
once again by the AEC.

According to The Chronicle Of Higher Education, "The Yanomami have 
attracted the intense interest of scholars since the 1960s, in part because 
they seemed relatively untouched by the influences of modern industrial 

These scholars particularly documented their violent nature "and suggested 
that such behaviour is natural in pre-modern societies".

At the centre of the controversy is James V Neel, a human geneticist based 
at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Neel died last February.

According to Tierney, Neel and his colleagues injected the Yanomami with an 
experimental vaccine for measles  with predictable and disastrous 

According to galley proofs of Tierney's forthcoming book provided to 
anthropologists opposed to such "research", Neel and his team knew well in 
advance that the vaccine, which medical researchers maintain must never be 
given to people such as the Yanomami who lack any natural immunity to the 
disease, would produce measle-like symptoms.

The resulting epidemic proved fatal "to hundreds, perhaps thousands" of 
Amazonian tribespeople. Even after the epidemic began, according to the 
book, Neel prevented the afflicted from receiving medical treatment.

In a circular letter to members of the American Anthropological 
Association, Terence Turner of Cornell University and Leslie E Sponsel of 
the University of Hawaii-Manoa infer from Tierney's reporting that Neel 
caused the measles epidemic in order to test his eugenic theories about the 
evolutionary utility of male domination.

They write that in Neel's view, "`natural' human society ... consisted of 
small, genetically isolated groups, in which ... dominant genes 
(specifically, a gene he believed existed for `leadership' or `innate 
ability') would have a selective advantage, because male carriers of this 
gene could gain access to a disproportionate share of the available 

Turner, who was chairman of an anthropological commission on the Brazilian 
Yanomami, and Sponsel, who has edited several volumes on endangered 
indigenous cultures, speculate that Neel was hoping to prove, against the 
scientific consensus, that small, genetically isolated groups were not, in 
fact, more vulnerable to diseases spread by other populations.

Tierney's book also implicates a former colleague of Neel's, Chagnon, who 
participated in the vaccine project and fabricated evidence of the 
Yanomami's "violent nature".

Now retired, Chagnon has been subject to claims for years that he had 
encouraged Yanomami villages to stage "fights" with each other so that he 
could film them.

Turner and Sponsel describe the charges in Tierney's book as a scandal 
"unparalleled in the history of anthropology in its scale, ramifications, 
and sheer criminality and corruption".

There is also evidence that Neel and others, in collaboration with corrupt 
Venezuelan officials and US multinational mining corporations conspired to 
"open-up" Yanomami lands to illegal gold-mining concessions with the 
anthropologists providing necessary "cover" for developers.

While one wing of the National Security State showered cash for unethical 
"medical research" described by one experimenter as having "a little of the 
Buchenwald touch", another wing virtually invented the field of "mass 
communications research" as a component of US "psychological operations" at 
home and abroad.

That wing was the US Central Intelligence Agency. (See: Christopher 
Simpson, Science of Coercion, New York, Oxford University Press, 

According to Simpson: "Government psychological warfare programs helped 
shape mass communication research into a distinct scholarly field, strongly 
influencing the choice of leaders and determining which of the competing 
scientific paradigms of communication would be funded, elaborated, and 
encouraged to prosper.

"The state usually did not directly determine what scientists could or 
could not say, but it did significantly influence the selection of who 
would do the `authoritative' talking in the field."

That "scientists" such as Neel and others would engage in experiments that 
held the potential of genocide in order to "prove" fascistic theories of 
"genetic male dominance" with its unmistakable subtext of white supremacy 
should come as no surprise to Guardian and Anti-fascist 
Information Bulletin readers.

Indeed, the origins of eugenics research and its heinous application by 
Hitler's Nazi regime are inextricably linked to racist practices in the US 
by American-based eugenics researchers and lawmakers during the 1920s and 
'30s. (See: Stefan Kuhl, The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, 
and German National Socialism, New York, Oxford University Press, 

Spurious ideologies of "sociobiology" and eugenics are enjoying a 
resurgence among European and North American academics tied to the US 
National Security State and neo-Nazi outfits such as the Pioneer Fund.

Racist and fascist discourse on an allegedly "criminal black underclass" is 
tailored to the "lock 'em up and throw away the key" mentality that 
permeates the US ruling class and well-funded "scholarly" pit-bulls at a 
score of North American universities.

Is it really a surprise that those who today deem an entire generation of 
black and working class youth "expendable", so much fodder to be trampled 
underfoot by killer cops, racist courts and the so-called "prison-
industrial complex", trace their theoretical lineage to "scientists" who 
deserve nothing less than the fate dished out to Hitler's underlings at 

At the very least, those who conducted genocidal experiments on the 
Yanomami people must be brought to book for their crimes. But those who 
funded and clandestinely approved of such "research" as a means to preserve 
a criminal American capitalist order rooted in a history of genocide, 
slavery and plunder must also be exposed, confronted and brought to 

As the "world's sole superpower" continues to bask in the glory of having 
"won the Cold War" against an alleged "Evil Empire", once more we ask: when 
will "glasnost" force imperialism to reveal the full extent of its heinous 
crimes against humanity?

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Anti-fascist Information Bulletin

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