Lords of the Lie

by James A. Bacon

I never imagined it possible to exceed the vitriol heaped upon University of Virginia board member Bert Ellis over the past few months. I thought for sure that the nastiness would die down. I was naive. Yesterday the Democratic Party of Virginia labeled him a “eugenicist” — an advocate of the philosophy of sterilizing the genetically unfit. The philosophy was adopted by racists to purge the gene pool of Jews, Blacks, Roma and other groups deemed undesirable. In so doing, the attack groups Ellis with the worst racists of history.

The charge appears in a press release lambasting Governor Glenn Youngkin’s education policy, primarily in K-12 education. While most of the criticisms were tendentious and wrong-headed, at least they were directed toward Youngkin’s policies and actions. But in Ellis’ case, the Democratic Party of Virginia engaged in a vicious personal attack with zero factual foundation. Indeed, the DPV elevated previous libels of Ellis as a “White supremacist” to new heights of malice.

Here is what the press release says.

Appointment of a Eugenicist to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors

On July 1 of last year, Youngkin nominated Bert Ellis to the UVa Board of Visitors, which was immediately met with resistance after learning that during his time at UVa, Mr. Ellis helped organize an event called “The Correlation Between Race and Intelligence,” featuring William Shockley, an unabashed racist and eugenicist apologist. Nearly 50 years later, Ellis has failed to acknowledge the irreparable damage caused by that event, and Youngkin failed to withdraw his nomination.

Here is what Virginians should consider when they evaluate the DPV statement:

  1. Ellis never endorsed Shockley’s eugenicist theories. Privately, he found them deplorable.
  2. He, with two other co-chairmen of the University Union, invited Shockley to a debate with African-American biologist Richard Goldsby.
  3. Far from causing “irreparable damage,” the event hastened the discrediting of Shockley’s racist theories by showing the weaknesses of his arguments. Ellis believed then, as he believes now, that free speech and debate are the best antidotes to racism.
  4. No one can produce a shred of evidence to corroborate the libel that Ellis is racist. And they never will. Because he’s not.
  5. The Cavalier Daily (UVa’s student newspaper), the UVa faculty senate, the UVa student government, and the Democratic Party of Virginia have persistently and knowingly perpetuated their libels even though the full context of the Shockley incident has been reported on blogs and aired on talk radio.

The DPV must apologize, and heads within the DPV organization must roll. News media must correct the record. Columnists must issue denunciations. Politicians must demand a retraction.

If the political/pundit class cannot enforce the most basic standards of decency, civil discourse in Virginia is dead.