People want to know why Michael Gove owns 'racist' and 'antisemitic' books
Leon Neal / Getty Images / Roland Schlager / Getty Images

People are noticing something sinister about the bookcase shared by cabinet minister Michael Gove and his wife, Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine.

Visible in a photo Vine posted to Twitter is a notoriously racist book on intelligence and IQ, and a book by a prominent Holocaust denier.

Tenth from the left on the bottom row is The Bell Curve by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray, a dubious work of 'political science' which claims that a person's intelligence is determined by their genetics. The book was instantly controversial on its publication in 1994 for arguing that factors like race and class have an impact on a person's intelligence.

The Bell Curve draws heavily on the idea that a person's IQ is an accurate indication of their intelligence, something that is not only widely disputed, but has been used to attempt to justify racist beliefs since at least the 1960s. The book's authors indeed argue that there may be a genetic explanation for the differences between the IQ scores of people from different races.

They also correlate a lower IQ with factors like being born out of wedlock, living in poverty and being incarcerated.

As well as drawing criticism for racism, the book prompted backlash for presenting itself as a scholarly work of science despite not being peer-reviewed. Critics also pointed out that much of the research behind the book's conclusions was funded by the Pioneer Fund, a group which aims to advance the theory that people's differences are hereditary and that has been labelled "white supremacists" and a "hate group".

Of course, the fact that Gove and Vine own a copy of this book does not necessarily mean that they agree with its conclusions, or even that they've read it. But there does appear to be a pattern when it comes to their ownership of controversial books.

Thirteenth from the left on the top row is a book by Holocaust denier David Irving.

Irving wrote a biography of Adolf Hitler in two volumes, Hitler's War and The War Path, characterising the dictator as a rational leader who has been misrepresented and slandered throughout history. He also made much of the fact that he could not find a written order for the Holocaust to be carried out, offering a £1,000 reward to anyone who could.

Numerous historians have written rebuttals to Irving's work, calling his assertion that Hitler was too busy with the war to even notice the Holocaust "contradictory to all historical evidence" and Nazi "apologism".

Irving was told by a court that his books distort historical evidence to place Hitler in a favourable light, and that he is an antisemite and racist, after the failure of his libel case against a historian who accused him of falsifying and bigotry.

People are questioning why Gove would even own such books.

They also pointed to the copy of Atlas Shurgged by Ayn Rand, a novel that praises individualism and defends capitalism.

It would appear that Vine and Gove have some pretty specific interests.

It's not the first time Michael Gove's bookcase has sparked controversy.

An earlier tweet of Vine's revealed a glimpse of shelves stacked with books about Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Vine later defended her bookcase, labelling criticism of her photo "censorious".

But no-one appears to be saying that she and her husband shouldn't be allowed to own any of these books — just that it's a little odd that they do.

And that they display them so proudly: Vine's initial comment that the photo was for her "trolls", and indicates that she knew exactly what kind of reaction she would get.

So no, owning any particular book is not a crime, but choosing to publicise the fact that you own books by Holocaust deniers and racists is questionable for a journalist and senior cabinet minister.

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