The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead
A Book Review of The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead by Derek Freeman, Westview Press, 1999
Freeman’s exposure of the false assumptions and faulty “research” behind Margaret Mead’s book, Coming of Age in Samoa, is certainly significant in view of the sainted status that liberaldom has conferred upon Mead.
The book’s weakness is that it is written in the dull academic style of an anthropologist, which is, of course, what the author is. And indeed, Freeman admits, he himself was a Mead enthusiast when he began his follow-up research, until he discovered that Mead’s research was flawed and inaccurate. He even includes, in the book, a letter from Mead to himself in which she concedes that her research was inaccurate.
What Freeman unearths is that Samoa was not the uninhibited sexual paradise that Mead described in her book. Mead spent most of her time “researching” the Samoan culture in a Navy hotel and never really lived with the Samoans. She got her information about the sexual practices of young Samoan girls from two girls, who, Freeman reveals, were just indulging in the Samoan custom of telling tall tales. They never dreamed that Mead would take them seriously.
But Mead, who had studied under the cultural determinist Franz Boas, was determined to give her mentor the research he wanted. And the liberal world wanted to believe that there was a tropical paradise devoid of Western cultural guilt about sexual matters.
Mead’s ridiculous book should be exposed as the travesty it is, but I should note that Freeman is not on our side (that of the good guys with the Christian crusader outfits on) either. He criticizes Mead’s inaccurate research, all well and good, but he also criticizes her for not being up on the latest research which reveals that heredity is more important than culture. This is less acceptable to a Christian than the cultural determinism of Boas and Mead; the Biology-is-Destiny school of thought usually ends up studying apes to learn about man. Christianity rejects the false ‘either/or’ of nature vs. nurture and instead claims that spirituality determines nature, which then must be nurtured by a Christian culture.
Nevertheless, Freeman’s expose is worth reading. It is indeed incredible that a few tall tales told by some adolescent Samoan schoolgirls should be the rallying cry for feminists and part of every textbook in America.
Freeman does mention Mead’s early lesbian affair with a kindred academic and her failed marriage, but he doesn’t dwell on the details of her private life. Instead he focuses on her research, or rather, her lack of it. In the end, we are left with a Madame Bovary-type character: too pathetic to hate and too shallow to love.
Some interesting quotes:
This then was the quintessentially Samoan response to which Fa’apua’a and Fofoa had resort when Mead advanced what was to them the ludicrous notion that despite the traditional emphasis on virginity in the fa’aSamoa and within the Christian church, the adolescent girls of Nau’a were, in fact, sexually promiscuous. As Fa’apua’a remarked to Galea’I Poumele, the then Secretary of Samoan Affairs of American Samoa, when he interviewed her in Fitiuta on November 13, 1987: “As you know Samoan girls are terrific liars when it comes to joking, but Margaret accepted our trumped-up stories as though they were true.”
If only Mead had arranged to live with a Samoan family in Manu’a, as she easily culd have done, she would have known from direct observation just how false were the conclusions set out in her letter to Boas of March 14, 1926. However, because of the Spam and other comforts that she felt she could not do without, she chose to reside
with fellow Americans in the United States Naval Dispensary at Luma, where, cut
off from the realities of Samoan existence, she relied for the most part on informants who came to visit her there. And so, lacking the experience of Samoan behavior and values, she was quite unable to appraise the tales of Fa’apua’a and Fofoa for what they were.
In The Republic, Plato wondered if it might be possible to contrive a convenient story of magnificent myth that would carry conviction with the whole community. It was just such a myth that Margaret Mead created in Coming of Age in Samoa and although it was based on entirely false information derived directly from her hoaxing on the island of Ofu on March 13, 1926, this myth, after Coming of Age in Samoa had been vouched for by Franz Boas, Bronislaw Malinowski, Ruth Benedict and other cogniscenti, came, in America as elsewhere in the world, to carry conviction with a whole community of anthropological and other cognitively deluded believers. Such magnificent myths, once a sufficient number of individuals have come fervently to believe in them, achieve an aura of invincible propriety and are defended, when challenged, with the utmost vehemence, as were Mead’s demonstrably erroneous conclusions about Samoa when, early in 1983, they were seriously questioned for the first time. Indeed, before the year was out the scientific standing of Margaret Mead’s Samoan research had become the ruling cause celebre of the twentieth century anthropology.
The liberals' failure to go back and change all the textbooks in which Mead's research is taken as gospel and to rethink their basic assumptions about the glories of a guilt-free, sexually permissive culture tells us something about the men and women who make up Academia Satania. They are not interested in truth; they are only interested in advancing their demonic vision of a society that is a mirror image of hell.
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