‘Hipster eugenics’: why is the media cosying up to people who want to build a super race?
Self-proclaimed ‘pro-natalists’ don’t go around saying that they only want white babies, but there’s a thin line between their movement and the ‘great replacement theory’Fri 21 Apr 2023 06.00 BSTLast modified on Fri 21 Apr 2023 16.03 BST
Simone and Malcolm Collins are a thirtysomething couple with three kids called Torsten, Octavian and Titan Invictus. (They refuse to give their girls traditionally feminine names because they think that means they’ll get taken less seriously.) The Pennsylvania-based pair plan on having at least eight children and hope each of their children can have eight children so that, in 11 generations, the world will ooze with their bloodline and there will be more Collinses stalking the Earth than there are people alive today.
A bit weird, right? Maybe the sort of fantasy you’d be best off keeping to yourself? The Collinses disagree. They’ve made themselves the poster children of “pro-natalism” and are taking it upon themselves to combat what they describe as “fertility collapse” – not only by having multiple kids themselves but by trying to push for policies that would increase birth rates in the developed world. The media is paying attention to their crusade: Britain’s Telegraph profiled the pair this week, with the headline “Meet the ‘elite’ couples breeding to save mankind”. This followed a long profile on the Collinses last November from Insider and pieces by Entrepreneur and Bloomberg.
The Collinses don’t just want to increase the birth rate; they want to optimize the sort of children being born. They used genetic testing for their own embryos and, as Bloomberg reports, “created a spreadsheet with each embryo’s scores, weighting them according to their desired mental health traits”. This sort of thing has led to the pair being called “hipster eugenicists” online, which they seem to find rather amusing. When an Insider reporter mentioned the moniker to them, Simone called that fact “amazing” but scoffed at the idea that they were eugenicists.
The Collinses might not think of themselves in this way, but it’s hard not to view the modern pro-natalist movement, which is largely situated in Silicon Valley, as a rebranding of eugenics. Pro-natalism may mean pro-birth but the loudest voices in the movement are clearly only pro people like themselves being born. The most famous proponent was one Jeffrey Epstein, who planned to develop a super-race of humans with his DNA, by impregnating up to 20 women at a time. There is a constant refrain in pro-natal circles about how important it is for “really smart people” to keep reproducing.
Dismissing the movement as quirky people with quirky ideas risks glossing over some very regressive thinking
While pro-natalists don’t exactly go around saying that they only want white people to be born, there is a very thin line between their concern about birth rates in the developed world and the racist and antisemitic “great replacement theory”, which posits that white Americans and Europeans are being “replaced” by non-white immigrants. It goes without saying that the global population is currently increasing, not decreasing, and the fastest growth is happening in Africa and Asia. Estimates suggest it is only likely to start decreasing in 2100, by which point there will be 10.9 billion people on Earth.
Dismissing those like the Collinses as quirky people with quirky ideas risks glossing over some very regressive thinking. Indeed, much of the media coverage of pro-natalism is reminiscent of the way in which white supremacists like Richard Spencer were treated as “dapper” style icons in 2016 rather than dangerous Nazis and rebranded as the “alt-right”.
Pro-natalism doesn’t just overlap with racism, but also misogyny. When you start to see women as breeding machines whose job it is to repopulate the Earth, you can justify some very dystopian policies. This week, for example, Elon Musk sat down with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, argued that abortion and birth control might lead to the end of civilization. “[I]n the past we could rely upon, you know, simple limbic system rewards in order to procreate,” Musk said. “But once you have birth control and abortions and whatnot, now you can still satisfy the limbic instinct but not procreate … I’m sort of worried that – hey, civilization, if we don’t make enough people to at least sustain our numbers perhaps increase a little bit, then civilization’s going to crumble.” You can see where this is going, can’t you?
Indeed, you only need to look at Hungary to see the end point. Far-right Viktor Orbán is obsessed with getting Hungarian woman to breed and has devoted a huge amount of resources to pro-natalist policies. Some of these policies are positive (free IVF); many are not. Hungary has recently tightened abortion rules and there has been concern it is trying to limit access to the morning-after pill. Orbán, who is beloved by conservatives in the US, also hasn’t been shy about explaining the racist ideology behind his pro-natalism. “In all of Europe there are fewer and fewer children, and the answer of the west to this is migration,” Orbán has said. “They want as many migrants to enter as there are missing kids, so that the numbers will add up. We Hungarians have a different way of thinking. Instead of just numbers, we want Hungarian children. Migration for us is surrender.”
Are the Collinses worried about the misogynistic aspects of their movement? Not at all – they seem to think they’re doing women a favour. “People often compare our group to Handmaid’s Tale-like thinking,” Malcolm told the Telegraph. “[A]nd I’m like: excuse me, do you know what happens if we, the voluntary movement, fails … ? Cultures will eventually find a way to fix this; how horrifying those mechanisms are depends on whether or not our group finds an ethical way.” It’s a warning that sounds distinctly like a threat.
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