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A Jewish Conservative Wonders: Is Free Speech Really A Jewish Tradition?
Almost forty years ago, I had a conversation with a former classmate at Yale, who was praising the greater tolerance in the historical profession that had resulted from “the increasing presence of Jews, women and minorities”. I retorted that this improvement was entirely lost on me. Even then, I had noticed that whatever limited professional opportunities had been open to me as a Jewish conservative came through the assistance of Northern European Protestants or Italian Catholics. Every obstacle to my professional advancement, as far as I could tell, was caused by recognizably Jewish opposition.
This led me to reflect on my friend’s observation about how “closed things were” before the new order took over. I eventually arrived at the conclusion that the Jewish takeover of the humanities in higher education may be the academic equivalent of black majority rule in South Africa.
Thus I was interested to see Peter Brimelow’s comment in January about the liberal lynch mob that gathered after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, reluctantly dispersing only after every last effort to link the shooter to the political Right had failed:
“Why repression? The reason is equally plain: American politics now is profoundly unstable. In effect, the Obama Administration is (to put it brutally) a Minority Occupation Government. At all costs, the Left must keep the historic American nation from uniting—which it nevertheless began to do (no thanks to the GOP leadership) in the 2010 election. This comes naturally, because the Politically Incorrect fact is that neither the Left’s black, Hispanic or Jewish components have any real tradition of free speech. The question is whether they can cow the historic American nation into accepting its subjugation.”
Since neither blacks nor Hispanics have been a major intellectual force in the US, it might be useful to focus on the last of the three ethnic groups mentioned in Peter’s gloomy question. After all, Jews are not the same as most other groups in terms of prominence. They are represented at a ratio of at least 10 to 1 in proportion to their percentage of the total population in the media and higher education.
Jews are also a more cohesive group than WASPs—who may be the least unified and most atomized ethnicity on earth. A diatribe against WASPs will not hurt its author and may even bring him or her admiring recognition. By contrast, adverse comments about Jews, or about the“Holocaust Industry” in the case of Norman Finkelstein, who (despite being Jewish himself) lost his job at Depaul University after Alan Dershowitz weighed in against him, can be professionally fatal.
The late Joe Sobran once observed that denying that Jews are powerless can bring swift retribution. That is precisely because the Jewish community is anything but powerless. The professionally conscious intellectual is also expected to stress the supposed agonies of the American Jewish experience—for example, the virulently anti-Semitic past for which American Christians are considered responsible.
This unpleasantness is, of course, much exaggerated. American Jews suffered far less prejudice in the US than most other immigrant groups, including ethnic Catholics. Before the arrival at the beginning of the twentieth century of masses of Eastern European Jews, who struck even the very tolerant historian Frederick Jackson Turner as “hard to assimilate”, the German and Sephardic Jews who were already here encountered mostly good will from Christians. Were it not for the Jewish newcomers, this older Jewish minority would have totally melted away through intermarriage with upper-class Protestants.
The problem was those Eastern European Jews, who tended to come from unemancipated shtetls in much less modernized societies, generally didn’t like the bourgeois Christian society they encountered. They found it to be alien, threatening or just disagreeable. And, as Kevin MacDonaldaccurately shows in The Culture of Critique, these Jews have played a decisive role in subverting once-established culture.
MacDonald may overstate the continuity of the role Jews have occupied as the grave-diggers of non-Jewish cultures, and the negative response to the host country exhibited by earlier Jewish settlers in the New World. But his treatment of the relentless crusade waged by Jewish intellectuals against bourgeois decencies since the early twentieth century is certainly on the mark.
No matter where one looks at this war against the Gentile heritage—whether it is being fought in the name of gay marriage, feminism, militant secularism, or Open Borders—Jews are invariably in the vanguard. And MacDonald is spot-on when he observes that, when the American Right was taken over by Jewish journalists, the effect was to push “conservatism” toward the left.
The one apparent exception to this tendency: the successful identification of the transformed American Right with Jewish nationalism. Thus the “conservative” media happily treats Connecticut’s socially liberal Senator Joe Lieberman as an honorary man of the Right, apparently because he is working to advance “democracy” in the Middle East—by which is meant that he is good on Israel and on encouraging war against Israel’s presumed enemies.
Note that I am not saying that all Jews always behave in the way I’m describing. There are Jews who clearly do not. For example, Jewish libertarians Murray Rothbard, Robert Weissberg, Ilana Mercer, Michael Levin, Byron Roth and Alan Kors have equaled any Christian in their support of traditional freedoms.
I could also add to this admirable group some Jewish Marxists or quasi-Marxists like Noam Chomsky, who to my knowledge have never refused to debate those holding opposing views.
And we should also note that, occasionally, Jewish journalist tussle with overly zealous Jewish custodians of PC. Thus, in Canada, Ezra Levanttook the opposite side from the largest representative Jewish organization, the Canadian Jewish Congress, in opposing Canada’s“Human Rights Commissions” and their imposition of “hate-speech” sanctions. These laws currently allow the Canadian government, in clear violation of its own Charter, to monitor the internet and to haunt message boards order to apprehend the speakers of hate speech directed against gays and minorities.
But, despite these admirable exceptions, Jews in public life pose a special problem in the US and in other Western democracies to the extent that they overwhelmingly follow a certain behavioral and attitudinal pattern. The problem is not only that these Jews work collectively to discredit any traditional gentile way of life. They also work reduce the possibility of debate about what they condemn, because they associate (and get others to associate) open discourse with bigotry and anti-Semitism.
For confirmation one need only check the websites of quintessentially Jewish organizations as the Anti-Defamation League and the Canadian Jewish Congress, or such predominantly Jewish organizations as theSouthern Poverty Law Center ($PLC to VDARE.com. There one learns that only bigots and anti-Semites would oppose gay marriage. The CJC has repeatedly used its weight to make sure that anyone who criticizes the desired social innovation will be prosecuted in court for “hate speech”.
We also learn that anyone who balks at the idea of amnestying illegals should be condemned for bigotry. Indeed such ideas, we are told, are linked to the mindset that produced anti-Semitism with all its evil consequences. (See Immigrants Targeted: Extremist Rhetoric Moves into the Mainstream;Brenda Walker and Dan Amato Inject Anti-Immigrant Fervor into the Blogosphere and ADL's Immigration Page.)
Equally evil, according to some Jewish organizations, is any complaint about how the Israelis treat the Palestinians or any sharp expression of disagreement with recognizably Jewish public positions.
One wonders how a new initiative on this war on dissent will turn out now that Kenneth Marcus, [Email him]a civil rights lawyer, has created a national forum for combatting anti-Semitism under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Through his much-publicized, Washington-based “Anti-Semitism Initiative” organized through the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, Marcus, a former Civil rights Commissioner (under Republican G.W. Bush) believes it possible to prosecute those making unfriendly remarks about Jews or Jewish causes as violators of a congressional act prohibiting discrimination against blacks and women.( Civil rights ace now seeks to trump anti-Semitism, www.jweekly.com June 16, 2011)
Moreover, almost all non-Orthodox Jewish organizations have been raging for decades against the Religious Right. In 1994 (see The Religious Right: The Assault on Tolerance and Pluralism in America) the ADL hurled the charge that the apparently philosemitic Religious Right was actually a hotbed of anti-Semitic and fascistoid tendencies. It would seem that Biblically-based Christianity clashes with Jewish values, to whatever extent it interferes with a government-imposed leftist social agenda.
Moreover, predominantly Jewish organizations supposedly designed to defend freedom of expression, like the American Civil Liberties Union, are often disguised vehicles for other purposes.
As William Donohue’s study, The Politics of the American Civil Liberties Union (1985) documents, the ACLU was created after the First World War as a Communist front. Back then, no less than during the anti-Communist 1950s, leftists, particularly pro-Soviet ones, felt obliged to defend the ideal of open discussion out of self-interest. The same tactic was pursued during the “free speech movement” on American campuses in the 1960s.
But once the Left took over our universities, the free speech industry on campuses was closed down. Today PC speech codes and ideologically uniform faculties prevail, particularly in the social sciences and liberal arts, thanks to the victory of these bogus freedom-fighters.
It is obvious to anyone with a knowledge of recent history that those responsible for these changes were predominantly Jewish. The New Left in the US was the basically the work of Jews (as Stanley Rothman easily shows in Roots of Radicalism: Jews, Christians, and the Left). One would have to work overtime and very creatively to hide this palpable connection.
But that work is being done. One attempt to divert attention came from the late Allan Bloom, the best-selling cultural critic. In The Closing of the American Mind (1987), Bloom ascribed student radicalism in the 1960s to the “German connection”. It was not Jewish kids from the suburbs but hippies high on Nietzsche and Heidegger who were wreaking havoc on American campuses.
I lived through this period. And I do not recall meeting any of the Teutonized radicals so irately described by Bloom. The leftists of my acquaintance were all Jews from New York, in whose minds traditional America and anti-Semitism were inextricably linked.
This brings me to the heart of my Politically Incorrect argument. Jews in public life and in academe have trouble living in an intellectually open society, because it would allow those whom they fear and/or loathe to be heard in open forums. This is something that Jewish organizations and Jewish intellectuals seek to avoid at all costs, through “Hate Speech” laws, academic speech codes, and associating dissent with the Holocaust or anti-Semitism.
During forty years in “higher education”, I never ceased to be amazed by how allergic most of my Jewish colleagues were to open discussion. Never did they wish to see opened a question that they collectively decided to close, allegedly for the sake of combatting prejudice and discrimination. (It goes without saying that everything featured on VDARE.com would qualify as off-limits.)
But this war on forbidden thoughts does not end with what VDARE.com dares to discuss. My Jewish colleagues and the ones I read in academic journals never tire of invoking certain guilt-infused taboos, reminding their subjects about how little they had done to atone for racism, sexism, and other currently condemned attitudes.
Watching this spectacle, I am reminded of Nietzsche’s observation inGenealogy of Morals that the “Jewish priestly class” infects others with slave morality but somehow survives its own teachings. Reading the American Jewish historian Eric Foner, I was struck by how vividly in Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, Foner personalizes the evils of racism, depicting white Southern Christians as being almost uniformly despicable. Another unmistakably Jewish historian, Stanley Elkins, in Slavery (1963) pushes the same guilt trip even further, offering an extensive comparison between the journey of black slaves to the New World and the trauma of Jews being dragged to Auschwitz. Absent from these tendentious comparisons are the necessary qualifications that the slaves had been sold by their fellow-blacks; and that their white owners were not intending to exterminate them.
In the work of Italian-American Marxist Gene Genovese by contrast, one finds a very different narrative: an institutional analysis of slavery that does not reflect revulsion for white Christians nor glorify the black slave race as Christ-like heroes, and that does not impute Holocaust-style guilton white Christian Americans.
Cultural differences may be critical for understanding these divergent perspectives. Although Foner and Genovese were both Marxist historians, the latter was also a Christian, who identified to some extent with the planter class and with other Southern whites. Foner’s antipathy, and Elkins’s evocation of Holocaust-analogies even before black activists brought them up, reflect very different sensibilities. They are the very unfriendly ones that I’ve encountered among Jewish intellectuals looking at bourgeois Christian society.
Not insignificantly, gentile audiences, including Republicans, digest this stuff with gusto, as I stress in my Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt. Jewish malice and gentile masochism are well suited to each other. Gentile intellectuals I have known would be flagellating themselves and their ancestors for alleged social iniquities even if Jews were not around to assist them. I have just learned that the Amish, among whom I live in Pennsylvania, have apologized to Orthodox Jews in Israel for their“silence” during the Holocaust. One now sees devout Christians begging forgiveness from Jews for crimes they in no conceivable way were complicit in. [Amish group travels to Israel to ask forgiveness of Jews, November 30, 2010]
I believe two converging circumstances help explain this disintegration of a traditional Western bourgeois identity.
- Firstly, the emergence of a post-communal and largely post-Christian collection of consumers, who receive their view of reality from the Main Stream Media, the entertainment industry, and public education.
This agglomeration has no real sense of the past (as I learned first-hand from teaching Western Civilization in college) but they have memorized the prescribed tags about prejudice and the need to celebrate diversity. The intellectuals who instruct these cultural illiterates have even less interest in the Western past, except as a fever swamp of prejudice that we are expected to dredge as an “unfinished revolution”.
Not all these consumers/ ignoramuses feel really guilty about what is alleged to have happened in the past. But they simply repeat, even if they don’t internalize, what they pick up from prepackaged news reporting, entertainers, and public educators. Authorized“conservatives” do not entirely break from this official version but they mix references to a prejudiced past with tributes to the US as a global democracy that wages wars for “human rights”. Here national (really post-national) identity is seen to flow from universal abstractions and from being a showcase “pluralist” society that is slowly surmounting the burden of its past.
- Secondly, these problems are complicated by the Jewish intelligentsia and mediacrats, who try to sensitize the Gentile population to an alternative reality in which the sensitizers feel safe from Gentile prejudice.
The predominantly Eastern European Jews who settled in the US the firstGreat Wave of immigration (1880-1920) have never abandoned this missionary urge. They came with recent, bitter memories of persecution in Christian societies and were cognitively gifted and skillful at networking. But, far more than German Jews who had arrived earlier, they distrusted the culture of the European-American Christians who formed the majority of the New World as well as of the Old.
At first, the American Jewish strategy for coping with the outsiders was to neutralize their culture, by relegating it to some private realm. Thus the older pluralist view, embraced by Jewish newcomers, was to tolerate traditional lifestyles at home (for Christians as well as for Jews) but to make sure the public square was kept religiously neutral. This seemed the appropriate strategy to pursue when traditional Christian views still prevailed and when many Jews were still wedded to what today is called“family morality”.
But the erosion of both these conditions, and the rise of a Jewish organizational ideology focusing on Christianity as the cause of the Holocaust, nurtured the more radical anti-Christian and anti-Western position that is today characteristic of Jewish organizations and Jewish publicists and intellectuals. This is not the same as the call for denominational neutrality or even the forced, antiseptic “separation of church and state”. In the new offensive, the war must be waged against any attempt to resist radical social transformation carried out in the name of “anti-discrimination”.
This tendency is not likely to stop on its own. There is no reason to hope that, once some future threshold measure is passed—perhaps punishing discrimination against interspecies marriage partners?—these alienated, embattled Jews will cease their efforts to radicalize society even further. There is only way that this process can be ended, and freedom (in the traditional sense—as opposed to forced celebration of what is weird or alien) restored: the majority population, while it is still the majority, must say “no” to coercive social radicalizers.
It may also be necessary for non-Jews to call attention to the problem of Jewish alienation and to the disruption it continues to cause.
The current guilt trip that liberal and neoconservative Jews have disproportionately encouraged must be undone in the name of freedom. The social engineering and forced ideological instruction that American Jews in the public sphere have pushed for decades is incompatible with true liberal ideals of intellectual inquiry and freedom of association.
One cannot have both a free society and one controlled by the current crew of Jewish intellectuals and journalists. There is a contradiction here and one that will only be resolved once the teachings and taboos of this priestly class are emphatically rejected.
Of course, this article will cause me to be denounced as a “self-hating Jew”. I could respond with Murray Rothbard's quip: "I don't hate myself". For the record, I have never taken anti-Israeli positions. My son-in-law was an Israeli military officer; I speak (a by now deteriorating) Hebrew and have spent considerable time in Israel. Even my Jewish opponents have never accused me of being an opponent of the Jewish state.
But Jewish intelligence should express itself in open debate—not in an America that the ADL, the $PLC and other kindred organizations struggle to close.
Paul Gottfried (email him) recently retired as Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College, PA. He is the author of After Liberalism, Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt and The Strange Death of Marxism. His memoir,Encounters: My Life With, Nixon, Marcuse, and Other Friends and Teachers, was reviewed by Steve Sailer here.