Kevin MacDonald (evolutionary psychologist)
MacDonald at American Freedom Party conference 2013
|Born||January 24, 1944|
Oshkosh, Wisconsin, U.S.
|Education||University of Wisconsin–Madison (B.A.)|
University of Connecticut (M.Sc.)
University of Connecticut (Ph.D)
|Occupation||Professor of Psychology at California State University|
Editor of The Occidental Observer
|Known for||Group evolutionary strategy|
|The Culture of Critique series|
|Website||MacDonald's personal site|
Kevin B. MacDonald (born January 24, 1944) is an American anti-semitic conspiracy theorist, white supremacist and a retired professor of psychology at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). MacDonald is known for his promotion of an antisemitic theory, according to which Western Jews have tended to be politically liberal and involved in politically or sexually transgressive social, philosophical, and artistic movements, because Jews have biologically evolved to undermine the societies in which they live. In short, MacDonald argues that Jews have evolved to be highly ethnocentric, and hostile to the interests of white people.
Scholars characterize MacDonald's theory as a tendentious form of circular reasoning, which assumes its conclusion to be true regardless of empirical evidence. The theory fails the basic test of any scientific theory, the criterion of falsifiability, because MacDonald refuses to provide or acknowledge any factual pattern of Jewish behavior that would tend to disprove his idea that Jews have evolved to be ethnocentric and anti-white. Other scholars in his field dismiss the theory as pseudoscience analogous to older conspiracy theories about a Jewish plot to undermine European civilization.
MacDonald's theory has received support from his fellow antisemitic conspiracy theorists and neo-Nazi groups, whose premises and programs he has openly endorsed. He is active in the American neo-Nazi movement, and serves as editor of The Occidental Observer, which he says covers "white identity, white interests, and the culture of the West". He is described by the Anti-Defamation League as having "become a primary voice for anti-Semitism from far-right intellectuals" and by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "the neo-Nazi movement's favorite academic". He has been described as part of the alt-right movement and has spoken at conferences for Holocaust deniers. In 2008, the California State University, Long Beach academic senate voted to disassociate itself from MacDonald's work.
MacDonald claims a suite of traits he attributes to Jews, including higher-than-average verbal intelligence and ethnocentricism, have culturally evolved to enhance their ability to outcompete non-Jews for resources. MacDonald believes Jews are motivated by a hatred and "hostility toward American Christian culture" and have used this purported advantage to scheme to advance Jewish group interests and end potential antisemitism by either deliberately or inadvertently undermining the power of the European-derived Christian majorities in the Western world.
MacDonald was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin to a Roman Catholic family. His father was a policeman and his mother was a secretary. He attended Catholic parochial schools and played basketball in high school. He entered the University of Wisconsin–Madison as a philosophy major and became involved in the anti-war movement, which brought him into contact with Jewish student activists.
MacDonald is the author of seven books on evolutionary theory and child development and is the author or editor of over 30 academic articles in refereed journals. He received his B.A. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1966, and M.S. in biology from the University of Connecticut in 1976. In 1981 he earned a PhD in biobehavioral sciences from the University of Connecticut, where his adviser was Benson Ginsburg, a founder of modern behavioral genetics. His thesis was on the behavioral development of wolves and resulted in two publications:
- "Induction of normal behavior in wolves with restricted rearing", Behavioral and Neural Biology, 33, pp. 133–62 (1981)
- "Development and stability of personality characteristics in prepubertal wolves", Journal of Comparative Psychology, pp. 97, 99–106 (1983)
MacDonald completed a post-doctoral fellowship with Ross Parke in the psychology department of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1983. MacDonald and Parke's work there resulted in three publications:
- "Bridging the gap: Parent-child play interactions and peer interactive competence", Child Development, 55, 1265–77 (1984)
- "Parent-child physical play: The effects of sex and age of children and parents", Sex Roles, 15, 367–78 (1986)
- "Parent-child physical play with rejected, neglected and popular boys", Developmental Psychology, 23, 705–11 (1987)
MacDonald served as Secretary-Archivist of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society and was elected as a member of the executive board from 1995 to 2001. He was an editor of Population and Environment and is an associate editor of the journal Sexuality & Culture. He has written on multiple occasions for The Occidental Quarterly, described by the Anti-Defamation League as "a racist print publication that mimics the look and style of academic journals." MacDonald became the blog's editor and makes occasional contributions to VDARE, a website focused on opposition to immigration to the United States and classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Work on ethnicity
Judaism and Jewish culture
MacDonald wrote a trilogy of books analyzing Judaism and secular Jewish culture from the perspective of evolutionary psychology: A People That Shall Dwell Alone (1994), Separation and Its Discontents (1998), and The Culture of Critique (1998). He proposes that Judaism is a group evolutionary strategy to enhance the ability of Jews to outcompete non-Jews for resources. Using the term "Jewish ethnocentrism", he argues that Judaism fosters in Jews a series of marked genetic traits, including above-average verbal intelligence and a strong tendency toward collectivist behavior, as manifested in a series of influential intellectual movements. MacDonald says that not all Jews in all circumstances display the traits he identifies.
MacDonald published a series of three articles in The Occidental Quarterly on the alleged similarities between neoconservatism and other movements that he claims are Jewish-dominated. He argues that "Taken as a whole, neoconservatism is an excellent illustration of the key traits behind the success of Jewish activism: ethnocentrism, intelligence and wealth, psychological intensity, and aggressiveness."
Other ethnic groups
Irving v Lipstadt libel trial (2000)
MacDonald testified in the unsuccessful libel suit brought by the Holocaust denier David Irving against the American historian Deborah Lipstadt, the only witness for Irving who spoke on his behalf willingly. Irving said MacDonald would need to be on the witness stand for three days, but his testimony only took a few hours. MacDonald was asked by Irving, who served as his own defence counsel, if he (Irving) was an antisemite an idea MacDonald rejected: "I have had quite a few discussions with you and you almost never mentioned Jews - never in the general negative way." He was asked by the plaintiff if he "perceived the Jewish community as working in a certain way in order to suppress a certain book" and responded in the affirmative asserting there were "several tactics the Jewish organizations have used." MacDonald was quoted as saying he was an "agnostic" in regards to the Holocaust, though he denied the accuracy of the quote.
Deborah Lipstadt's lawyer Richard Rampton thought MacDonald's testimony on behalf of Irving was so unsatisfactory that he did not cross examine him. MacDonald later commented in an article for the Journal of Historical Review, published by the Institute for Historical Review a Holocaust-denying organisation, that Lipstadt and Jewish groups were attempting to restrict access to Irving's work because it was against Jewish interests and agenda.
At the time of its release, A People That Shall Dwell Alone received mixed reviews from scholars, although his subsequent books were less well received.
John Tooby, the founder of MacDonald's field of evolutionary psychology, criticized MacDonald in an article for Salon in 2000. He wrote, "MacDonald's ideas—not just on Jews—violate fundamental principles of the field." Tooby posits that MacDonald is not an evolutionary psychologist.
MacDonald has been accused by some academics in Policing the National Body: Sex, Race, and Criminalization of employing racial "techniques of scapegoating [that] may have evolved in complexity from classical Nazi fascism, but the similarities [to which] are far from remote."
Steven Pinker, the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, wrote that MacDonald's work fails "basic tests of scientific credibility." Pinker, while acknowledging that he had "not plowed through MacDonald's trilogy and therefore run the complementary risks of being unfair to his arguments, and of not refuting them resoundingly enough to distance them from my own views on evolutionary psychology", states that MacDonald's theses are unable to pass the threshold of attention-worthiness or peer-approval, and contain a "consistently invidious portrayal of Jews, couched in value-laden, disparaging language".
Reviewing MacDonald's Separation and Its Discontents in 2000, Chair of Jewish Studies Zev Garber writes that MacDonald works from the assumption that the dual Torah is the blueprint of the eventual Jewish dominion over the world, and that he sees contemporary antisemitism, the Holocaust, and attacks against Israel as "provoked by Jews themselves." Garber concludes that MacDonald's "rambling who-is-who-isn't roundup of Jews responsible for the 'Jewish Problem' borders on the irrational and is conducive to misrepresentation."
In 2001, David Lieberman, a Holocaust researcher at Brandeis University, wrote "Scholarship as an Exercise in Rhetorical Strategy: A Case Study of Kevin MacDonald's Research Techniques", a paper in which he notes that one of MacDonald's sources, Jaff Schatz, objected to how MacDonald used his writings to further his premise that Jewish self-identity validates antisemitic sentiments and actions. "At issue, however, is not the quality of Schatz's research, but MacDonald's use of it, a discussion that relies less on topical expertise than on a willingness to conduct close comparative readings", Lieberman wrote. Lieberman accused MacDonald of dishonestly using lines from the work of Holocaust denier David Irving. Citing Irving's Uprising, published in 1981 for the 25th anniversary of Hungary's failed anti-Communist revolution in 1956, MacDonald asserted in the Culture of Critique:
The domination of the Hungarian communist Jewish bureaucracy thus appears to have had overtones of sexual and reproductive domination of gentiles in which Jewish males were able to have disproportionate sexual access to gentile females.
Lieberman, who noted that MacDonald is not a historian, debunked those assertions, concluding, "(T)he passage offers not a shred of evidence that, as MacDonald would have it, 'Jewish males enjoyed disproportionate sexual access to gentile females.'"
While most academics have not engaged MacDonald on his views about Judaism, Nathan Cofnas of the University of Oxford published a negative critique of MacDonald in the journal Human Nature in 2018. Cofnas argued contra Pinker that scholars needed to critically engage with MacDonald's work, in part because it had proved "enormously" influential among antisemites. Cofnas's own conclusion was that MacDonald's work relied upon "misrepresented sources and cherry-picked facts" and that the "evidence actually favors a simpler explanation of Jewish overrepresentation in intellectual movements involving Jewish high intelligence and geographic distribution."
Disassociation by his colleagues
In 2008 the CSULB academic senate issued the following statement:
While the academic senate defends Dr. Kevin MacDonald's academic freedom and freedom of speech, as it does for all faculty, it firmly and unequivocally disassociates itself from the anti-Semitic and white ethnocentric views he has expressed.
The senate considered but rejected the use of the word "condemns" in the statement.
Criticism by the ADL and the SPLC
Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) claims of MacDonald that "he put the anti-Semitism under the guise of scholarly work... Kevin MacDonald's work is nothing but gussied-up anti-Semitism. At base it says that Jews are out to get us through their agenda... His work is bandied about by just about every neo-Nazi group in America."
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) includes MacDonald in its list of American extremists, "Extremism in America", and wrote a report on MacDonald's views and ties. According to the ADL, his views on Jews mimic those of antisemites from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
MacDonald claims the SPLC has misrepresented and distorted his work.
A university spokeswoman stated, "The university will support MacDonald's academic freedom and freedom of speech." MacDonald was initially pressured to post a disclaimer on his website: "nothing on this website should be interpreted to suggest that I condone white racial superiority, genocide, Nazism, or Holocaust denial. I advocate none of these and strongly dissociate myself and my work from groups that do. Nor should my opinions be used to support discrimination against Jews or any other group." He has since removed that disclaimer. In addition, the Psychology Department in 2006 issued three statements: a "Statement on Academic Freedom and Responsibility in Research," a "Statement on Diversity," and a "Statement on Misuse of Psychologists' Work."
A spokeswoman for CSULB, said that at least two classes a year taught by all professors—including MacDonald—have student evaluations, and that some of the questions on those evaluations are open-ended, allowing students to raise any issue. "Nothing has come through" to suggest bias in class, she said. "We don't see it." Jonathan Knight, who handles academic freedom issues for the American Association of University Professors said if there are no indications that MacDonald shares his views in class, "I don't see a basis for an investigation" into what goes on in his courses.
CSULB disassociates from MacDonald's views
In late 2007, California State University–Long Beach's Department of Psychology began the process of formally disassociating itself from MacDonald's views on Judaism, which in some cases are "used by publications considered to publicize neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideology." The department's move followed a discussion of MacDonald's December forum presentation at meeting of the department's advisory committee that concerned his ethics and methodologies.
Late in 2006, a report issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center after an on-campus investigation labeled his work antisemitic and neo-Nazi propaganda, and described increasing concern about Macdonald's views by CSULB faculty members (see above). In an e-mail sent to the college's Daily Forty-Niner newspaper, MacDonald said that he had already pledged not to teach about race differences in intelligence as a requirement for teaching his psychology class, and expressed that he was "not happy" about the disassociation. The newspaper reported that in the email, MacDonald confirmed that his books contained what the paper described as "his claims that the Jewish race was having a negative effect on Western civilization." He said in an interview posted on his website by February 2008 that he had been the victim of "faculty e-mail wars" and "tried to defend myself showing that what I was doing was scientific and rational and reasonable — and people have not responded."
The Department of Psychology voted to release an April 23, 2008 statement saying, "We respect and defend his right to express his views, but we affirm that they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the Department." The department expressed particular concern that "Dr. MacDonald's research on Jewish culture does not adhere to the Department's explicitly stated values." On May 5, the school's academic senate issued a joint statement disassociating the school from MacDonald's antisemitic views, including specific statements from the Psychology department, the History department, the Anthropology department, the Jewish Studies program, and the Linguistics department. The statement concludes that "While the Academic Senate defends Dr. Kevin MacDonald's academic freedom and freedom of speech, as it does for all faculty, it firmly and unequivocally disassociates itself from the anti-Semitic and white ethnocentric views he has expressed."
A 2006 article in the American periodical The Nation reported that MacDonald's 2004 Understanding Jewish Influence: A Study in Ethnic Activism "has turned MacDonald into a celebrity within white nationalist and neo-Nazi circles."
A colleague of MacDonald, Martin Fiebert in 2007 criticized MacDonald for "bigotry and cultural insensitivity" and called it "troubling" that MacDonald's work was being cited by white supremacist and neo-Nazi organizations. Heidi Beirich of the SPLC noted MacDonald's association with Virginia Abernethy, a self-described "white separatist" and member of the white nationalist organization Council of Conservative Citizens which, according to Beirich, has described blacks as "a retrograde species of humanity."
In October 2004, MacDonald accepted the Jack London Literary Prize of $10,000 from The Occidental Quarterly, which the SPLC states is a white supremacist organization. He is now also a member of the publication's Editorial Advisory Board, as well as the main contributor to its website and editor of its blog. In his acceptance speech, he stated, "The best way to preserve ethnic interests is to defend an ethnostate—a nation that is explicitly intended to preserve the ethnic interests of its citizens." According to MacDonald, one of the functions of such a state would be to exclude non-European immigrants who are attracted to the state by its wealth and prosperity. At the conclusion of his speech, he remarked:
The alternative faced by Europeans throughout the Western world is to place themselves in a position of enormous vulnerability in which their destinies will be determined by other peoples, many of whom hold deep historically conditioned hatreds toward them. Europeans' promotion of their own displacement is the ultimate foolishness—an historical mistake of catastrophic proportions.
Max Blumenthal has written that MacDonald has an extensive following among white nationalists and neo-Nazis, which Blumenthal claims is inherently linked with MacDonald's political leanings (i.e. "Republicanizing the Race Card"). Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke praised MacDonald's work on his website. MacDonald has appeared on Duke's radio program on multiple occasions saying he agrees with the "vast majority" of Duke's statements.
When MacDonald won his award from The Occidental Quarterly, the ceremony was attended by David Duke; Don Black, the founder of white supremacist site Stormfront; Jamie Kelso, a senior moderator at Stormfront; and the head of the neo-Nazi National Vanguard, Kevin Alfred Strom. In 2005, Kelso told The Occidental Report that he was meeting up with MacDonald to conduct business. MacDonald is featured in the Stormfront member Brian Jost's anti-immigration film, The Line in the Sand, where he "blam[ed] Jews for destroying America by supporting immigration from developing countries."
Heidi Beirich told the Los Angeles Times in an April 2007 interview that "Not since Hitler's Mein Kampf have anti-Semites had such a comprehensive reference guide to what's 'wrong with Jews.' His work is widely advertised and touted on white supremacist websites and sold by neo-Nazi outfits like National Vanguard Books, which considers them 'the most important books of the last 100 years.'"
In January 2010, it became known that MacDonald had accepted a position as one of the eight members of the board of directors of the newly founded American Third Position (known from 2013 as the American Freedom Party), which states that it "exists to represent the political interests of White Americans". A statement on their website reads, "If current demographic trends persist, European-Americans will become a minority in America in only a few decades time. The American Third Position will not allow this to happen. To safeguard our identity and culture, and to secure an American future for our people, we will immediately put an indefinite moratorium on all immigration."
In November 2016, MacDonald was a keynote speaker at an event hosted in Washington, D.C. by the National Policy Institute, a "white nationalist think tank" led by Richard Spencer. The event concluded with Spencer leading the chant, "Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory."
In a commentary in The Wall Street Journal, political scientist Abraham Miller wrote that MacDonald's theories about Jews were "the philosophical and theoretical inspiration" behind the slogan "Jews will not replace us" used at the 2017 white supremacist Unite the Right rally.
- MacDonald, K. B. Individualism and the Western Liberal Tradition: Evolutionary Origins, History, and Prospects for the Future (self-published)
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- Burgess, Robert L. and MacDonald, K.B. (eds.) Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Development, 2nd ed., (Sage 2004); ISBN 0-7619-2790-5
- MacDonald, K.B. The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements (Praeger 1998); ISBN 0-275-96113-3 (Preface online)
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- MacDonald, K.B. (Ed.) Sociobiological Perspectives on Human Development, (Springer-Verlag, 1988)
- MacDonald, K.B. Social and Personality Development: An Evolutionary Synthesis (Plenum, 1988)
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On Sept. 1, Trump Jr. retweeted alt-right movement leader Kevin MacDonald, who runs The Occidental Observer website. According to the site's mission statement, it is focused on issues of 'white identity, white interests, and the culture of the West.' ... MacDonald has often written about how anti-Semitism is a logical and justified reaction to Jewish success.
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