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Twitter piles on Richard Dawkins over Eugenics tweet

The eminent expert in communicating science botches his explanation.


Twitter may not be the best medium for explaining the science of eugenics to a wary public, as the sometime Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford, Richard Dawkins, discovered this week.

Professor Dawkins, now aged 78, renowned as an evolutionary biologist and as the author of best-sellers about genetics and atheism, most recently Outgrowing God, chose to tweet about eugenics. This may have been prompted by a Twitter storm about back room boys at 10 Downing Street (of which more below). His words were not calibrated to endear him to the public:

Reactions? They ranged from “You absolute pin-headed simpleton” to “How’d the application of this play out in 1940s Europe?” to “The thing about people who believe in eugenics is that they always believe themselves to be the superior kind of human. No-one ever thinks that it could make people like them obsolete”.

Dawkins had to back-pedal very quickly to explain himself:

Dawkins was clearly not playing in the First Division this week. Professors in the Simonyi chair are supposed to make the public sympathetic to science, as its website explains:

The task of communicating science to the layman is not a simple one. In particular it is imperative for the post holder to avoid oversimplifying ideas, and presenting exaggerated claims. The limits of current scientific knowledge should always be made clear to the public.

Even scientists were exasperated. Dave Curtis, the editor of Annals of Human Genetics (a journal which was once titled Annals of Eugenics), posted a long Twitter thread explaining why humans cannot be bred like cattle and roses, contra Professor Dawkins. First, “humans have long generational times and small numbers of offspring. This would make any selective breeding process extremely slow”. Second, humans live in very different environments and most of the variation in their traits is due to the environment. It would be very difficult to identify individuals with ideal traits.

“We should bear in mind,” he adds, “that harsh selection pressures have been acting on humans up to the present and that there may be very little scope for overall improvement. In any event, we can confidently say that selective breeding to improve desirable traits is not practicable.”

The long and the short of the matter, in Dr Curtis’s opinion, is this: “People who support eugenics initiatives are evil racists. Also, modern genetic research shows that eugenics would not work.”

It’s surprising that Professor Dawkins thought that his puff for human eugenics would be applauded. James Watson, who won Nobel Prize in 1962 for discovering DNA, has become a non-person after expressing eugenicist opinions which were interpreted as racist.

Just a whiff of eugenics was enough to force the resignation of one of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s advisors recently. Opposition research on Andrew Sabisky, a political “contractor” at 10 Downing Street, uncovered six-year-old opinions which were quickly denounced as eugenic and racist.

For example, in a comment on a 2014 blog post made by a user called “Andrew Sabisky”, it was suggested that compulsory contraception could eliminate a “permanent underclass”. It read: “One way to get around the problems of unplanned pregnancies creating a permanent underclass would be to legally enforce universal uptake of long-term contraception at the onset of puberty.”

Having used internet history to make Sabisksy history, the media moved on to savaging Dominic Cummings, a key advisor to the PM who had hired Sabisky . A blog post from 2014 contained ideas which were described as eugenic. He suggested that the UK’s National Health Service IVF service should offer human eggs sorted by IQ to make a level playing field for rich and poor parents who want babies with a high IQ.

Prof Richard Ashcroft, a medical ethicist at City University, told The Guardian that this was nonsense: “This idea that we can use biological selection to improve individuals and society, and that the state through the NHS, should facilitate this, really is pure eugenics.”

The fracas demonstrates the schizophrenic attitude of the public towards eugenics. On the one hand, the word “eugenics” evokes racism and Nazism. It is this sense which has been weaponized to undermine the new PM. On the other hand, parents who want perfect children are encouraged to eliminate “defective” embryos. The media happily provides a platform for bioethics to promote such ideas. Another Oxford professor, Julian Savulescu has often explained why he supports eugenics:

“We practise eugenics when we screen for Down’s syndrome, and other chromosomal or genetic abnormalities. The reason we don’t define that sort of thing as ‘eugenics’, as the Nazis did, is because it’s based on choice. It’s about enhancing people’s freedom rather than reducing it.”

COLUMN BY

MICHAEL COOK

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge.

FOR MORE ARTICLE ON EUGENICS CLICK HERE.

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EDITORS NOTE: This MercatorNet column is republished with permission. © All rights reserved.

On his 127th Birthday Hitler Takes Selfie with Planned Parenthood

Hitler_Holding_Paper_HashtagPlanned Parenthood activists were reminded today of their organization’s pro-Nazi roots when an unexpected supporter arrived today to join their rally, introducing himself as Adolf Hitler.

Sporting an iconic “drip pad” mustache, Mr. Hitler unfolded his hand-written sign in support of Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger, assuring everyone that he is fully on the side of weeding out the unfit in order to create a cleaner race.

“I admire Margaret Sanger enormously, her courage, her tenacity, her vision,” Hitler told the stunned onlookers. “Mrs. Sanger was a huge proponent of the forced sterilization program of the Third Reich, leading a heroic personal fight to purify the white race by exterminating Jews, Slavs, and especially blacks, through government-mandated abortions.”

Speechless at first, Planned Parenthood supporters finally found words to express their indignation by repeatedly chanting “black lives matter,” hoping to shout down Hitler before any of the media reporters could record his comments.

“I understand,” Hitler nodded. “As Margaret Sanger said, we don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population. We just need to quietly pull out these human weeds and stop all those reckless breeders from spawning degenerate and defective children who never should have been born, nicht wahr? All the feel-good rhetoric aside, this is the purpose of your organization anyway, is it not?”

The group responded with another chant, “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Adolf Hitler go away!”

“The more things change, the more they stay the same,” observed Hitler dreamily, while taking a selfie in front of the Planned Parenthood building with his phone camera. “We used to chant back in the day, just like that.”

After communicating with the activists in this manner for about half an hour, Hitler folded his sign and inquired if anyone knew where the closest chapter of the Ku Klux Klan was, preferably the one where Margaret Sanger used to speak about her views on pure race and eugenics. Since no one could give him directions, Hitler entered “KKK” into Google map search on his iPhone and slowly walked away, looking for the nearest hotspot.

Here’s a blank picture of “Hashtag Hitler” for kollektive usage.

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How States Got Away with Sterilizing 60,000 Americans by Trevor Burrus

Policy Science Kills: The Case of Eugenics by Jeffrey A. Tucker

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The Peoples Cube. While this column is political satire the link between the Eugenics movement in the United State, Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood are real. Please read our column: Planned Parenthood Openly ‘Targets’ Black Community. In this column you will read the words of Margaret Sanger that mirror what is said in this column.

Why the Holocaust Should Matter to You by Jeffrey Tucker

People tour the nation’s capital to be delighted by symbols of America’s greatness and history. They seek out monuments and museums that pay tribute to the nation state and its works. They want to think about the epic struggles of the past, and how mighty leaders confronted and vanquished enemies at home and abroad.

But what if there was a monument that took a different tack? Instead of celebrating power, it counseled against its abuses. Instead of celebrating the state and its works, it showed how these can become ruses to deceive and destroy. Instead of celebrating nationalist songs, symbols, and stories, it warned that these can be used as tools of division and oppression.

What if this museum was dedicated to memorializing one of history’s most ghastly experiments in imperial conquest, demographic expulsion, and eventual extermination, to help us understand it and never repeat it?

Such a museum does exist. It is the US Holocaust Museum. It is the Beltway’s most libertarian institution, a living rebuke to the worship of power as an end in itself.

I lived in Washington, DC, when the Holocaust Museum was being built, and I vaguely recall when it opened. I never went, though I had the opportunity; I remember having a feeling of dread about the prospect of visiting it. Many people must feel the same way. Surely we already know that mass murder by the state is evil and wrong. Do we really need to visit a museum on such a ghastly subject?

The answer is yes. This institution is a mighty tribute to human rights and human dignity. It provides an intellectual experience more moving and profound than any I can recall having. It takes politics and ideas out of the realm of theory and firmly plants them in real life, in our own history. It shows the consequences of bad ideas in the hands of evil men, and invites you to experience the step-by-step descent into hell in chronological stages.

The transformation the visitor feels is intellectual but also even physical: as you approach the halfway point you notice an increase in your heart rate and even a pit in your stomach.

Misconceptions

Let’s dispel a few myths that people who haven’t visited might have about the place.

  • The museum is not maudlin or manipulative. The narrative it takes you through is fact-based, focused on documentation (film and images), with a text that provides a careful chronology. One might even say it is a bit too dry, too merely factual. But the drama emerges from the contrast between the events and the calm narration.
  • It is not solely focused on the Jewish victims; indeed, all victims of the National Socialism are discussed, such as the Catholics in Poland. But the history of Jewish persecution is also given great depth and perspective. It is mind boggling to consider how a regime that used antisemitism to manipulate the public and gain power ended up dominating most of Europe and conducting an extermination campaign designed to wipe out an entire people.
  • The theme of the museum is not that the Holocaust was an inexplicable curse that mysteriously descended on one people at one time; rather the museum attempts to articulate and explain the actual reasons — the motives and ideology — behind the events, beginning with bad ideas that were only later realized in action when conditions made them possible.
  • The narrative does not attempt to convince the visitor that the Holocaust was plotted from the beginning of Nazi rule; in fact, you discover a very different story. The visitor sees how bad ideas (demographic central planning; scapegoating of minorities; the demonization of others) festered, leading to ever worsening results: boycotts of Jewish-owned business, racial pogroms, legal restrictions on property and religion, internments, ghettoization, concentration camps, killings, and finally a carefully constructed and industrialized machinery of mass death.
  • The museum does not isolate Germans as solely or uniformly guilty. Tribute is given to the German people, dissenters, and others who also fell victim to Hitler’s regime. As for moral culpability, it unequivocally belongs to the Nazis and their compliant supporters in Germany and throughout Europe. But the free world also bears responsibility for shutting its borders to refugees, trapping Jews in a prison state and, eventually, execution chamber.
  • The presentation is not rooted in sadness and despair; indeed, the museum tells of heroic efforts to save people from disaster and the resilience of the Jewish people in the face of annihilation. Even the existence of the museum is a tribute to hope because it conveys the conviction that we can learn from history and act in a way that never repeats this terrible past.

The Deeper Roots of the Holocaust

For the last six months, I’ve been steeped in studying and writing about the American experience with eugenics, the “policy science” of creating a master race. The more I’ve read, the more alarmed I’ve become that it was ever a thing, but it was all the rage in the Progressive Era. Eugenics was not a fringe movement; it was at the core of ruling-class politics, education, and culture. It was responsible for many of the early experiments in labor regulation. It was the driving force behind marriage licenses, minimum wages, restrictions on opportunities for women, and immigration quotas and controls.

The more I’ve looked into the subject, the more I’m convinced that it is not possible fully to understand the birth of the 20th century Leviathan without an awareness of eugenics. Eugenics was the original sin of the modern state that knows no limits to its power.

Once a regime decides that it must control human reproduction — to mold the population according to a central plan and divide human beings into those fit to thrive and those deserving extinction — you have the beginning of the end of freedom and civilization. The prophets of eugenics loathed the Jews, but also any peoples that they deemed dangerous to those they considered worthy of propagation. And the means they chose to realize their plans was top-down force.

So far in my reading on the subject, I’ve studied the origin of eugenics until the late 1920s, mostly in the US and the UK. And so, touring the Holocaust Museum was a revelation. It finally dawned on me: what happened in Germany was the extension and intensification of the same core ideas that were preached in the classrooms at Yale, Harvard, and Princeton decades earlier.

Eugenics didn’t go away. It just took on a more violent and vicious form in different political hands. Without meaningful checks on state power, people with eugenic ambitions can find themselves lording over a terror state. It was never realized in the United States, but it happened elsewhere. The stuffy academic conferences of the 1910s, the mutton-chopped faces of the respected professorial class, mutated in one generation to become the camps and commandants of the Nazi killing machine. The distance between eugenics and genocide, from Boston to Buchenwald, is not so great.

There are moments in the tour when this connection is made explicit, as when it is explained how, prior to the Nazis, the United States had set the record for forced sterilizations; how Hitler cited the US case for state planning of human reproduction; how the Nazis were obsessed with racial classification and used American texts on genetics and race as a starting point.

And think of this: when Progressive Era elites began to speak this way, to segment the population according to quality, and to urge policies to prevent “mongrelization,” there was no “slippery slope” to which opponents could point. This whole approach to managing the social order was unprecedented, and so a historical trajectory was pure conjecture. They could not say “Remember! Remember where this leads!”

Now we have exactly that history, and a moral obligation to point to it and learn from it.

What Can We Learn?

My primary takeaway from knitting this history together and observing its horrifying outcome is this: that any ideology, movement, or demagogue that dismisses universal human rights, that disparages the dignity of any person based on group characteristics, that attempts to segment the population into the fit and unfit, or in any way seeks to use the power of the state to put down some in order to uplift others, is courting outcomes that are dangerous to the whole of humanity. It might not happen immediately, but, over time, such rhetoric can lay the foundations for the machinery of death.

And there is also another, perhaps more important lesson: bad ideas have a social and political momentum all their own, regardless of anyone’s initial intentions. If you are not aware of that, you can be led down, step by step, to a very earthly hell.

At the same time, the reverse is also true: good ideas have a momentum that can lead to the flourishing of peace, prosperity, and universal human dignity. It is up to all of us. We must choose wisely, and never forget.

Jeffrey A. TuckerJeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE and CLO of the startup Liberty.me. Author of five books, and many thousands of articles, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook. Email.

Turkey’s Prime Minister: Hitler’s Germany exemplifies ‘effective presidential system’

It is inconceivable that any Western leader would favorably cite Hitler in any context, but in Turkey, citing Hitler doesn’t bring instant opprobrium. Mein Kampf became a bestseller when it was published there in 2005, and Hitler remains popular. Also, a former classmate says Erdogan used to carry a copy around when he was a young man. Hitler’s antisemitism resonates with Islamic Jew-hatred.

“Turkey’s Erdogan says Hitler’s Germany exemplifies effective presidential system,” Reuters, January 1, 2016:

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who is pushing for executive powers, cites Hitler’s Germany as an example of an effective presidential system, in comments broadcast by Turkish media on Friday.

Erdogan wants to change the Turkish constitution to turn the ceremonial role of president into that of a chief executive, a Turkish version of the system in the United States, France or Russia.

Asked on his return from a visit to Saudi Arabia late on Thursday whether an executive presidential system was possible while maintaining the unitary structure of the state, he said: “There are already examples in the world. You can see it when you look at Hitler’s Germany.

“There are later examples in various other countries,” he told reporters, according to a recording broadcast by the Dogan news agency.

The ruling AK Party, founded by Erdogan, has put a new constitution at the heart of its agenda after winning back a majority in a November parliamentary election.

It agreed with the main opposition CHP on Wednesday to revive efforts to forge a new constitution….

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Washington, D.C. 1943: A Tragic History is About to Repeat Itself

On October 6, 1943, a delegation of American rabbis arrived at the White House for a personal audience with President Franklin Roosevelt. They planned to present to the president irrefutable proof that the Nazis were conducting a wholesale annihilation of European Jews.

As they arrived, the rabbis knew that this was a decisive moment—the last chance to stop the Holocaust before the last of European Jewry was extinguished.  They were denied a meeting.

The ensuing tragedy is, of course, well known. No coordinated Allied rescue was launched. The flames consumed six million Jews. Six decades later, America is ignoring the appeals of the state of Israel concerning Iran’s plans to wipe out the Jews with atomic bombs.

Today, you and I have been chosen by God to stand in defense of Israel. The Jewish people are under attack and facing threats on every side. They need to know that they are not alone, that their Christian friends around the world are standing with them.

The Jerusalem Prayer Team has made our support of Israel and the Holy City plain by building and opening the wonderful Friends of Zion Museum just 600 meters from the Temple Mount. Every day we are telling the true story of Christian love for the Jewish people to hundreds of visitors from all around the world.

We made the decision not to charge people to visit the museum in order to ensure that as many people as possible could be touched by this powerful witness. The operating costs are massive—electricity, maintenance, personnel and more—and we are continuing to improve the experience, including translating the presentation into still more languages. We need your help today so that the light of Christian love will not go out.

Your gift will allow us to continue the wonderful outreach of the Friends of Zion Museum…and feed hungry Holocaust survivors, encourage Believers to join us in prayer, and launch the new Friends of Zion Ambassador Institute. But none of this is possible without your help. Please stand with us in the gap for Israel and the Jewish people with your gift today.

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EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of the historic Rabbis’ March On Washington in 1943 to stop the Holocaust.

On His 127th Birthday Hitler Takes Selfie with Planned Parenthood

Hitler_Holding_Paper_HashtagPlanned Parenthood activists were reminded today of their organization’s pro-Nazi roots when an unexpected supporter arrived today to join their rally, introducing himself as Adolf Hitler.

Sporting an iconic “drip pad” mustache, Mr. Hitler unfolded his hand-written sign in support of Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger, assuring everyone that he is fully on the side of weeding out the unfit in order to create a cleaner race.

“I admire Margaret Sanger enormously, her courage, her tenacity, her vision,” Hitler told the stunned onlookers. “Mrs. Sanger was a huge proponent of the forced sterilization program of the Third Reich, leading a heroic personal fight to purify the white race by exterminating Jews, Slavs, and especially blacks, through government-mandated abortions.”

Speechless at first, Planned Parenthood supporters finally found words to express their indignation by repeatedly chanting “black lives matter,” hoping to shout down Hitler before any of the media reporters could record his comments.

“I understand,” Hitler nodded. “As Margaret Sanger said, we don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population. We just need to quietly pull out these human weeds and stop all those reckless breeders from spawning degenerate and defective children who never should have been born, nicht wahr? All the feel-good rhetoric aside, this is the purpose of your organization anyway, is it not?”

The group responded with another chant, “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Adolf Hitler go away!”

“The more things change, the more they stay the same,” observed Hitler dreamily, while taking a selfie in front of the Planned Parenthood building with his phone camera. “We used to chant back in the day, just like that.”

After communicating with the activists in this manner for about half an hour, Hitler folded his sign and inquired if anyone knew where the closest chapter of the Ku Klux Klan was, preferably the one where Margaret Sanger used to speak about her views on pure race and eugenics. Since no one could give him directions, Hitler entered “KKK” into Google map search on his iPhone and slowly walked away, looking for the nearest hotspot.


Here’s a blank picture of “Hashtag Hitler” for kollektive usage.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The Peoples Cube. While this column is political satire the link between the Eugenics movement in the United State, Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood are real. Please read our column: Planned Parenthood Openly ‘Targets’ Black Community. In this column you will read the words of Margaret Sanger that mirror what is said in this column.

Real Hero Katharine Atholl: She Warned the World about Hitler by Lawrence W. Reed

Some people can smell a rat a mile away. Others don’t notice even when the odor wafts right under their noses.

Olfactory proficiency by itself doesn’t make you a hero. But if you’re among the first to pick up the scent and warn others, and then you put your political future on the line to save society, you’ve got something that makes you heroic. As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Magician’s Nephew, “What you see and hear (and smell) depends a good deal on where you are standing; it also depends on what sort of person you are.”

Katharine Margory Ramsey combined courage and character with a great nose for rats. She had principles and the guts to stand by them.

Born of Scottish noble blood in Edinburgh in 1874, “Kitty” (as she was known to close friends) was an accomplished composer and pianist. She became the Duchess of Atholl after her husband succeeded his father as the Duke of Atholl in 1917. Author Lynne Olson, in her superb 2007 book, Troublesome Young Men (about the Tory upstarts in the 1930s who challenged their elder and leader, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain), describes her as a “diminutive woman with large, expressive blue eyes … cultured, diffident, and unworldly, with little interest in calling attention to herself.”

At the urging of her husband and former Prime Minister David Lloyd George, the Duchess stood for a seat in Parliament in 1924. She won. Only two other women had ever before been elected to the House of Commons. She became the first Conservative Party MP to hold ministerial office when Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin appointed her to a junior post in education.

Who was this Scottish Cassandra who dared so publicly to question the subsidies coming their way from the government of her own party?

The men in government assumed Atholl would be quiet and do the womanly thing: whatever she was told. Even Winston Churchill snubbed her at first, telling her directly, “I find a woman’s intrusion into the House of Commons as embarrassing as if she burst into my bathroom.” Many now think of Churchill as the sage who bravely opposed Chamberlain’s policy of appeasing Hitler, but Kitty Atholl was one of those few who worked to stiffen Churchill’s spine when it was still pliable. Churchill later came to appreciate her greatly.

As her years in Parliament wore on, Atholl’s principles deepened, and her courage blossomed. In 1935, she resigned from the leadership position of whip for the Conservative Party because of what she derisively labeled the government’s “national socialist tendencies” in its domestic agenda. She was, in her own way, a precursor to Margaret Thatcher, who was just 10 years old at the time.

The first big rat to catch Atholl’s attention was ensconced in Moscow. Less than a decade after the Bolshevik revolution, the Soviet experiment had attracted naïve acolytes in the West. Reporter Lincoln Steffens famously wrote after his 1919 visit to the USSR, “I have been to the future and it works.”

One of the worst of what Lenin would term “useful idiots” was New York Times reporter Walter Duranty, who, at the height of the Stalin-induced famine in Ukraine that killed millions, denied there was a hunger problem. The Duchess of Atholl was no such fool.

In 1931, Atholl published a 200-page book titled The Conscription of a People. It was a blistering, well-documented indictment of the savage collectivization of life in the Soviet Union. Her investigations revealed that

Russia has carried through revolution on a scale which knows no parallel, and which, even after thirteen years, is as ruthless as in its early days. She has undermined marriage and is rapidly breaking up family life. She wages ceaseless war on all religion. She is responsible for the most comprehensive and continuous experiment in the nationalization of industry, banking and trade that has ever been seen.

Atholl’s book was one of the earliest and most detailed critiques of the communist regime from a high-level British official. Forced labor, the liquidation of the kulaks, mass seizures of property, an extensive secret police network, and an unprecedented diversion of resources to the military meant one thing: the Bolsheviks were a menace to their own people and a growing threat to world peace.

The Duchess decried the British government’s extension of credit to Moscow. “Can those in any country who value liberty regard such a position with equanimity?” she asked. “Are the citizens of the United Kingdom in particular to tolerate any longer the guaranteeing by taxpayers’ money of a system so utterly repugnant to British traditions?”

The rats in Moscow were alarmed at Atholl’s denunciations. Who was this Scottish Cassandra who dared so publicly to question the subsidies coming their way from the government of her own party? (In The Fall of Troy by Quintus Smyrnaeus, Cassandra desperately tried to warn the Trojan people about the peril of a certain large wooden horse.)

After 1933, Atholl’s wrath turned against the rats in Berlin. When she read Hitler’s Mein Kampf in 1935, she entertained no illusions about where he was headed. “Never can a modern statesman have made so startlingly clear to his reader his ambitions,” she noted. She was now on her way to becoming, in Olson’s words, “the boldest Tory rebel of all.”

Even more vigorously than Stanley Baldwin, Neville Chamberlain kowtowed to the Nazi dictator. Those “troublesome young men” in his Conservative Party — such as Churchill, Antony Eden, and Harold McMillan — formed an opposition to appeasement, but at first they focused exclusively on Hitler. They sought to placate Mussolini in Italy and Franco in Spain. Atholl saw all fascist dictators the same way she saw all communist dictators: as evil men not to be trusted, let alone subsidized. She was a constant thorn in the side of men in power who wanted to cut deals with unsavory thugs of any stripe.

In September 1938, the infamous Munich conference gave Hitler a green light to forcibly incorporate the Sudetenland (a Czech region along the border with Germany) into the Third Reich. The hopelessly naïve Chamberlain famously waved the agreement on the tarmac on returning to London. “Peace in our time,” he declared. War seemed to be averted. As much of the world breathed a sigh of relief, Atholl was strongly advised by her husband and others to endorse the Munich accord. She not only refused to do so; she wrote and widely distributed a pamphlet that castigated it.

The prime minister reacted furiously. He strong-armed the local Conservative Party officials in Scotland to select a new candidate for Parliament to replace Atholl, who then resigned from the party and announced she would run as an Independent in the special by-election set for December 1938. The country’s attention was riveted on the fierce campaign that ensued. The prime minister saw to it that Atholl’s opponent received showers of cash and endorsements.

Cowed by Chamberlain, the male anti-appeasement MPs of the party wouldn’t go to Scotland to campaign for the Duchess. Churchill first accepted and then, under pressure, rescinded his approval of an invitation to speak on her behalf. As reported in Olson’s book, he at least sent a letter of endorsement that she distributed before the voting. Churchill wrote,

You are no doubt opposed by many Conservatives as loyal and patriotic as yourself, but the fact remains that outside our island, your defeat at this moment would be relished by the enemies of Britain and of freedom in every part of the world. It would be widely accepted as another sign that Great Britain … no longer has the spirit and willpower to confront the tyrannies and cruel persecutions which have darkened this age.

She lost by a heartbreakingly slim margin. Chamberlain was delighted, but after all the pressure and resources he had brought to bear against her, the verdict was no ringing endorsement of his appeasement policy. When Hitler invaded Poland less than nine months later, Kitty Atholl was vindicated. A humiliated Chamberlain sulked through the remaining few months of his tenure. Out of government, Atholl spent the war years working mightily to relieve the awful conditions of European refugees. She died in 1960 at age 85.

Katharine Atholl had smelled danger and said so, years before the elite of her own political party mustered similar courage. How different might history have been if there were more people like her?

For further information, see:

Lawrence W. Reed

Lawrence W. (“Larry”) Reed became president of FEE in 2008 after serving as chairman of its board of trustees in the 1990s and both writing and speaking for FEE since the late 1970s.

EDITORS NOTE: Each week, Mr. Reed will relate the stories of people whose choices and actions make them heroes. See the table of contents for previous installments.