A Reasonable Reader Worries About Nordicism

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Alabama Reader Reports New GOP Resolution


Tom Long

I refer to your
commentary in
November last year on a CIS paper presented by a Mr.
Steinlight. I thought that Steinlight`s attempt to
demonize you by misrepresenting your positions was
disgraceful and repugnant. It was a disgusting example
of the "Sista Soulja" strategy invented by Bill Clinton
in 1992, in which individuals attempt to make themselves
appear more "moderate" by pointing fingers at
"extremist" scapegoats.


for more on Steinlight, who seems to have fallen silent

But I do take issue with your
contention (and that of Kevin MacDonald
State University psychologist, author of the

of Critique
that "Nordicism" was a myth, with
regard to the immigration reformers of the 1920s.
Perhaps the most influential scholar in the immigration
reform movement of that era was Dr. Madison Grant, who
was the "ultimate Nordicist.”  Dr. Grant`s two
of the Great Race
(1916) and
Conquest of a Continent
 (1933), greatly influenced the immigration debate before
World War Two. My 95-year old Italian immigrant mother,
who settled in Indiana in 1918 with her family, clearly
remembers the hostile reception in the small town in
which they purchased their first home.

The work of the 1920s immigration
reformers may have been generally
for the country. But some immigrant families still
retain bitter memories of the racial and social
attitudes that were common in that era.

Peter Brimelow

This is an entirely reasonable comment. But I seriously
doubt that Madison Grant was widely read in small town
Indiana in 1918, or even that he had been heard of. My
guess is that the locals just didn`t like strangers
much.  I would also guess that the strangers didn`t
like natives either. I clearly remember an
Italian-Canadian girlfriend telling me about her first
day in Canada – her mother looking out the window and
commenting: “The barbarians are hanging out their
washing” (no mean feat in an Ottawa winter). It took a
couple of generations for these quite natural tensions
to abate, as
chronicled in his brilliant account of Storm Lake, Iowa
– at which point the 1965 Immigration Act introduced a
whole new set of tensions.

Nordicism as a popular ideology has the obvious
limitation that many of its putative supporters, even in
Indiana, don`t match the physical ideal – including, as
has often been pointed out, Adolf Hitler. It haunts the
immigration debate because some immigration enthusiasts
are projecting their own ethnic preoccupations onto the
host American nation.

I asked

for his comment.
His reply:

I stand
by my contention that Nordicism was not a major factor
in the
Congressional debates of the period. I noted this on p.
251 of Culture of Critique:

“Although playing virtually no role in the
restrictionist position in the
congressional debates on immigration (which focused
mainly on the fairness of
maintaining the ethnic status quo; see below), a
component of the intellectual zeitgeist of the 1920s was
the prevalence of evolutionary
theories of race and ethnicity (Singerman 1986),
particularly the theories of
Madison Grant…Grant`s ideas were popularized in the
media at the time of the immigration debates (see Divine
1957, 12ff) and often provoked negative comments in
Jewish publications such as The American Hebrew 
(e.g., March 21, 1924, 554, 625)."  

And I
concluded that

"As indicated below,
arguments related to Nordic superiority, including
supposed Nordic intellectual superiority, played
remarkably little role in Congressional debates over
immigration in the 1920s, the common argument of the
restrictionists being that immigration policy should
reflect equally the interests of all ethnic groups
currently in the country. There is even evidence that
the Nordic superiority argument had little favor with
the public: A member of the
Immigration Restriction League 
stated in 1924 that "the country is somewhat fed up on
high brow Nordic superiority stuff " (in Samelson 1979,

read the Congressional debates, I see no reason to
change my assessment. Grant was part of the zeitgeist
but, even at that time. it started to become
unrespectable to assert Nordic superiority in Congress.

February 13, 2002