I haven`t had anything to say previously
about that fatal Israeli naval
with the Gaza-bound flotilla on May 31, 2010 … because I
don`t much care. Israel is not the 51st state; it`s one of a
couple of hundred other countries. If Israel wants to push
around the Palestinians, well, that`s their
business much more than it is my business.
do care about is America. My particular bias is that free,
insightful public discussion is better for America than
spin, ignorance, or wishful thinking. So I`m interested in
the flotilla frenzy to the extent it has implications for
the quality of American discourse.
Chosen, but not Special
is a long op-ed in the June 4th
New York Times by
the gifted Jewish-American novelist Michael Chabon. He is
author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,
an impressively researched historical novel that manages to
be both literary and entertaining. It`s about two Jewish
teens in New York who invent a Superman-style comic book
superhero during Hitler`s ascendancy in 1939-1942.
NYT, Chabon uses
Israel`s PR disaster to wrestle with the important question
of Jewish intelligence. Awareness of higher average
Ashkenazi Jewish intelligence happens to be the
essential key to understanding the peculiarities of what you
are allowed to write about in modern America.
Chabon discusses Jewish discomfort with
the handful of gentiles who dare
write about the fact of higher median Jewish IQ:
"For we Jews are
not, it turns out, entirely comfortable living with the
consequences of this myth, as becomes clear from the
squirming and throat-clearing that take place among us
whenever some non-Jew pipes up with his own observations
about how clever and smart we are in our yiddishe kops. "
the latter phrase "is
not, alas, complimentary."
"These include people like the political scientist
Murray, author of an
influential essay titled "Jewish
MacDonald, a psychology professor at California State
University at Long Beach who
argues that Jews essentially undertook a centuries-long
program of self-breeding, selecting for traits of
intelligence, guile and skill at calculation, as a kind of
evolutionary adaptation to the buffetings of history and
Chabon frets about the perceived dangers of gentiles talking
about the high average IQ of Ashkenazi Jews:
claims, in mouths of gentiles, are a disturbing echo of the
charges of the
pogrom-stokers, the genocidalists, the
Coughlins, who come to sharpen their knives against the
same grindstone of generalization on which we Jews have long
polished the magnifying lenses of our self-regard. The man
who praises you for your history of accomplishment may
someday seek therein the grounds for your destruction."
Chabon, who is obviously stronger at
analytic thinking, announces, with no cited evidence
other than the flotilla fiasco, that
"Jews are stupid in
roughly the same proportion as all the world`s people."
valuable about his op-ed, however, is how it illuminates
much about the subject of Jewish intelligence that is
normally obscured—such as how convinced Jews are of their
own intellectual superiority.
"`GAZA Flotilla Drives Israel Into a Sea of Stupidity`
declared the Israeli daily
Monday, as though announcing the discovery of some hitherto
unknown body of water. Citizens of other nations have long
since resigned themselves, of course, to sailing those
crowded waters, but for Israelis—and, indeed, for Jews
everywhere—this felt like headline news."
According to Chabon:
" … for Jews the
first reaction was shock, confusion, as we tried to get our
heads around what appeared to be an unprecedented display of
It shouldn`t have appeared unprecedented:
the most obvious
predecessor to Israel`s raid on the flotilla was its
attack in roughly the same international waters on the
USS Liberty, when the Israeli military killed 34
American seamen. Blockheadedness is the most innocent
explanation that has yet been offered for Israel`s
two-hour long air and sea assault on the clearly-marked
American intelligence-gathering ship.
Personally, I care more about the
Liberty than this
Of course, how many other Americans
remember the Liberty?
This event is certainly not frequently commemorated in our
domestic media. Chabon, for instance, doesn`t mention it—is
he even aware of it?—although it might be the best example
he could find in support of his rather flimsy thesis.
has much of value to say on how convinced Jews are of their
own average brilliance:
"… Jews around the
world have long been accustomed to find in contemplating
ourselves and that history: an inborn, half-legendary
agility of intellect, amounting almost to a magical power."
Jewish child I was regularly instructed, both subtly and
openly, that Jews, the people of
Maimonides, Albert Einstein,
Jonas Salk and
Meyer Lansky, were on the whole smarter, cleverer, more
brilliant, more astute than other people. And, duly, I would
look around the
Passover table, say, at the members of my family, and
remark on the presence of a number of highly intelligent,
quick-witted, shrewd, well-educated people filled to
bursting with information, explanations and opinions on a
diverse range of topics."
By the way, Chabon`s mother was a lawyer,
while his father was both a
and a doctor.
Ockham`s Razor would suggest that the reason why smart
Jews like Chabon`s relatives think that Jews tend to be
pretty smart is—because
tend to be pretty smart. But William of Ockham`s
Anglo logic is too simplistic for Chabon. You see, there are
exceptions! And that, somehow, disproves the generalization:
"In my tractable and
vainglorious eagerness to confirm the People of Einstein
theory, my gaze would skip right over—God love them—any
counterexamples present at that year`s Seder."
has a more complicated (and, thus, in his mind, better)
to a Jew, it always comes as a shock to encounter stupid
Jews. Philip Roth derived a major theme of
Goodbye, Columbus from the uncanny experience. The
shock comes not because we have never encountered any stupid
Jews before—Jews are stupid in roughly the same proportion
as all the world`s people—but simply because from an early
age we have been trained, implicitly and explicitly, to
so smart it`s stupid.
If meeting stupid Jews always comes as a
shock to Jews, even to one as brilliant and scornful as the
Portnoy`s Complaint, then the straightforward
explanation is that they are, indeed, relatively rare.
Exceptions don`t disprove tendencies. In
fact, when exceptions are famous for their exceptionality,
that`s evidence for
the pattern. Unfortunately, in an intellectual climate where
pointing out that a generalization is a
many people have noticed it) is consider a crushing
refutation of its truthfulness, few grasp these logical
Chabon is just being blockheaded in the socially approved
do modern people congratulate themselves on being smart
when they proclaim that something as interesting and
important as Jewish intelligence is just a socially
constructed myth? Do they have any idea how much work it
requires to come up with a
reasonable theory for Jewish brains?
"Face it. We Jews don`t bear fools lightly. Who had time?
So is it surprising that we have more words in Yiddish for
fools than there are
Yiddish is the world`s best language for pointing out
fine distinctions in your neighbor`s cognitive impairment:
schlub, golem, nar,
reality, characteristic Jewish mistakes tend to arise from
overthinking, from their facility at intellectually bullying
dissidents reliant merely upon common sense.
Consider how many
Jewish Communists spent the 22 months from the signing
of the Nazi-Communist Pact on August 23, 1939 to Hitler`s
invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 thinking up
reasons to denounce Churchill`s resistance to Hitler. That
astonishing doublethink inspired George Orwell`s
Tellingly, even though most of Chabon`s
& Clay, is set in 1940 and 1941 in Jewish New York City
cultural circles, and even though Kavalier has recently
escaped from Nazi-occupied Europe through the Soviet Union
to Japan, the characters never mention the
Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. In reality, the Hitler-Stalin
accord was an obsessive topic for New York Jews at the time,
but it`s a little too disturbing for modern readers.
In essence, as Chabon`s Passover stories
imply, Jewish liberal egalitarianism is a hoax. Jewish
leftist intellectuals like
Jay Gould and
Rose have been the foremost volunteer thought policemen
on IQ differences, not because leftist Jews believe that all
ethnic groups are equal in average intelligence, but because
The root of political correctness is the
Rube Goldbergian fear that if the
are allowed to be exposed to realism about human
differences, they will eventually realize that Jews tend to
be smarter than them, and then they will come after the Jews
with torches and pitchforks.
It`s a characteristic example of Jews using all those IQ
points to overthink what`s increasingly a non-problem, only
to wind up exacerbating bigger problems, such as
contemporary immigration policy.
Of course, worrying about peasants with pitchforks in 2010
is laughable. And that`s what everyone—gentiles and
Jews—should do with this line of thinking: laugh at it.
Satire is the solution. If Jews were as amenable to kidding
by gentiles as WASPs had been to Jewish comedians, they
would be less prone to inflicting their complexes upon
Sadly, Chabon doesn`t get the joke. He
concludes with a long peroration about how everyone, Jew and
gentile alike, should just forget the
Jews tend to be smarter and just hold Israel to the same
standard as everywhere else.
fine with me, but what about America?
Allow me to suggest a completely different moral. The
clear evidence of higher average Ashkenazi IQ implies
that American Jews should take to heart an admirable bit of
20th Century Jewish wisdom, one with which an
expert on comic books like Chabon ought to be familiar—Stan
Lee`s line in Spider-Man: "With
great power comes great responsibility."
If, say, as reported by the
Jewish Telegraph Agency, Jews make up over 1/3rd
of the 2009 Forbes 400, and if Jews make up half of the 2009
Atlantic 50 of most influential political pundits,
then that implies that Jews, owing in part to their higher
average cognitive functioning, should embrace greater
Instead of viewing themselves as beleaguered victims, they
should admit that they now comprise an elite within
America—and that they should apply to themselves an
updated version of the old cavalier concept of