Newsletter Articles Stir Furor in High-IQ Group : Opinion: Writers in Mensa publication spark outrage by advocating killing the old, infirm and homeless. Board backs the editor and the authors’ right to express their views.
In what sort of publication would you expect to read:
“Those people who are so mentally defective that they cannot live in society should, as soon as they are identified as defective, be humanely dispatched.”
Or that Adolf Hitler’s greatest offense was not the killing of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust but “the fact that his actions prevent a rational discussion of the creation of the master race.”
These articles recently ran in the monthly newsletter of the Los Angeles chapter of the high-IQ society Mensa. The publication circulates to a readership that claims IQs in the top 2% of the public.
In defending her decision to publish the articles--which appeared to propose extermination of the homeless, the mentally retarded, the old and the infirm--newsletter editor and Mensa member Nikki Frey was unapologetic and surprised that anybody would be offended.
“I would not print anything I thought was truly harmful or offensive,” she said. “I didn’t think it was harmful; I don’t think it’s even that offensive--nobody wants to have a deformed child.
“I personally wouldn’t hurt a fly. Well, maybe a fly. I am the most sensitive person.”
Not everybody thinks so. The articles in the November edition of the Mensa newsletter caused considerable outrage among the chapter’s 2,000 members. Some wrote irate letters, others called to complain. And several attended a board meeting to protest.
“We have these Nazi ideas being published in a publication that goes everywhere,” said Mensa member Betty Schneider. “This is fascism carried to the nth degree. I don’t want to be identified with an organization that condones this type of thing.”
Alan Stillson, puzzle editor of the newsletter, wrote a letter threatening to quit unless an apology was printed.
“As a Mensa member who enjoys the organization and most of the members and as a stepfather of a Down’s syndrome child who loves him and is incensed at the thought of advocacy of his extermination, I insist on an immediate written apology and a retraction of the policy of printing hate articles,” Stillson wrote in his letter, printed in the December newsletter.
In the previous issue, one of the writers, Jason G. Brent, a Tehachapi lawyer, wrote that “society must face the concept that we kill off the old, weak, the stupid and the inefficient.” He concluded that the true travesty wrought by Hitler was that he forever spoiled the concept of a master race.
The other writer, Jon Evans, put forth equally shocking views.
“It is not clear to me just exactly why anyone would expend time and effort and money on the homeless. What good are they? The vast majority are too stupid, too lazy, too crazy, or too anti-social to earn a living,” Evans wrote. “Granted, there are a few people who have fallen beneath the blows of circumstances and are unable to afford any place to live, but they are few and far between. The rest of the homeless should be humanely done away with, like abandoned kittens.”
Nor did Evans show much mercy for the infirm.
“A piece of meat in the shape of a man but without a mind is not a human being, whether the body be deathly ill, damaged by accident, mentally blank because of brain deficiency, or criminally insane.”
Brent said he was merely writing about a crucial reality--the urgent need for population control--that much of the world has ignored. “I’m not a fascist,” he said. “I just have a problem that we better face.”
Evans was unavailable for comment.
This is the second time in little more than a year that the Los Angeles chapter of Mensa, which admits only those with IQs above 132, has been caught in an embarrassing spotlight. In late 1993, Mensa board members were rattled by a string of anonymous letters, including death threats that appeared linked to a personal feud.
Newsletter editor Frey, who works as a legal secretary, and some Mensa board members are quick to point out that the monthly newsletter, called Lament, endorses no official point of view. A disclaimer beneath the masthead reads: “Opinions expressed in Lament are those of the individual contributors.”
Besides, said Frey, “Nobody actually reads the newsletter.” (Well, they do in St. Louis; the newsletter’s circulation was wide enough to attract the attention of a newspaper columnist in that city, who recently wrote an enraged piece.)
Frey also felt the criticism was overblown because it was merely about words. “I don’t know what people are so excited about; it’s not like Evans or Brent have any influence over any laws,” she said.
Nor was it as if Frey had great respect for the opinions of the writers. Evans had published dozens of similar articles in the newsletter before she took over almost two years ago, she said.
“Evans used to have these articles month after month, ‘Kill this group, kill that group,’ ” Frey said. “He used to have this crap in every month. He’s such a blowhard; the things he says are . . . complete garbage.”
Why print it?
“I don’t get that many submissions, so I have to print whatever comes in,” Frey said.
Bruce Kent, publications officer and board member with the national parent organization, American Mensa Ltd., said the group has guidelines for the newsletters that are issued by almost 150 chapters. Those guidelines call for material to be in “good taste” and suggest that editors “avoid publishing material that reflects negatively on Mensa.”
“We officially deplore hate material,” Kent said.
Did Evans’ and Brent’s pieces violate the guidelines? Apparently not.
“I hadn’t seen them as hate articles,” said the chairman of the Greater Los Angeles Area Mensa chapter, a woman who goes only by the name Gowen. While one board member dissented, seven agreed with Gowen during their Dec. 3 meeting. Members rallied around Frey, giving her a unanimous vote of confidence and telling others that the flap over the articles was a waste of the best and brightest’s brain energy.
Gowen said the newsletter and its articles were appropriate for its high-IQ readership.
“It depends on whom the publication is for,” she said. “If you are writing for just anyone, you write it one way. But if you write it to get people to think, you write it a different way.”
Author Brent, who wrote about population control, said, “I don’t want to be portrayed as some weirdo person, though nobody else agrees with me.
“We cannot continue to have population explosion. Growth has to stop. We better face that we have to kill people. There are not unlimited amount of resources.”
The way to trim the population, according to Brent, is to force people to purchase the right to reproduce. In his world view, children would not be allowed to inherit wealth, so everyone would start on a level playing field when it came to buying their reproductive rights.
Many Mensa members say they don’t begrudge anyone the right to express an opinion. But they said the official newsletter was not the correct spot to air views advocating exterminations.
“While I agree with free press, I also believe there’s a certain responsibility,” said member Martin Elkort. “This indicates to me that having a high IQ does not necessarily translate to common sense or wisdom.”