(This is the first in a series of “why I am not” posts, with homage to Bertrand Russell. My plan is to run the political spectrum outside-in. Next: why I am not an anarchist.)
I thought I’d start with this because vacation interrupted me in the middle of an interesting discussion with an an anonymous anti-Semitic commenter.
(I’m not sure if Anon would embrace this adjective, but I am using it in the same sense as, say, “anti-American,” which seems perfectly reasonable to me. While I admire Murray Rothbard’s definition of an anti-Semite as anyone who proposes legal disabilities against Jews, by this definition the creed is basically extinct. So it strikes me as sensible to use the adjective for anyone with negative views on Jews as a whole.)
There are many bad reasons not to be an anti-Semite. For example, anti-Semitism is unfashionable. If you want to be fashionable, don’t be an anti-Semite. Obviously this is not a concern here at UR.
My father is Jewish, at least racially. This does not make me Jewish, but surely it makes me suspect, at least to some anti-Semites. But if this was my best reason for not being anti-Semitic, surely it would tend to confirm rather than refute MacDonald’s theories. If your father is Catholic, are you not allowed to be an anti-Catholic?
In fact, anti-Semitism MacDonald style is probably the most courageous political belief anyone can hold in 2007 – at least if you live anywhere west of Gaza City. This does not make it right, but it certainly does not give anyone who believes in “diversity” and “the environment” any right to sneer. I admire conviction, I despise cant. Anti-Semitism was cant in Munich in 1936, or in 1886 for that matter. It is cant in Tehran today. In California in 2007, it can be nothing but conviction.
Anon’s argument specifically was that, in my classification of American castes and conflicts, and my discussion of the belief system of the ruling Brahmin caste, I neglected Jewish influence. Specifically, as per MacDonald, I neglected the importance of Jewish intellectuals in the transition of the American establishment from 1920s style “super-protestantism” to postwar secularism and multiculturalism.
Basically, the reason I neglected this is that I don’t see it. But the point is certainly debatable – so let’s debate it. The basic question is whether, as I argue, multiculturalism is best understood as a simple development of mainline Protestantism, or whether, as Anonymous believes, it should be seen as a Jewish-Protestant syncretism.
If we use the five tests of belief system classification to ask this question, we get a very interesting result. We have a clear positive on one tests: the cladistic (many multiculturalists come from a Jewish background). We have a clear negative on the nominalist and typological methods (multiculturalism does not claim to be Jewish, and it’s pretty hard to get from massacreeing the Midianites to supporting open borders).
We have what I believe is a false positive on the morphological test. The problem is that not only does Christianity have ancient Jewish roots, but the Puritans of Cromwell’s era for some reason developed an Old Testament fetish and decided they were Israelites, which is why boys are still named “Jacob” or “Ezra.”
What was this reason? Well, Anon argues that this reflects actual Jewish influence. He points to the fact that Cromwell rescinded the expulsion of Jews from England. But it is a little difficult to figure out how this could possibly have been the result of Jewish scheming. How can you scheme when you’re not there? The Japanese, also, have a bizarre fascination with the Jews, and they’re not even Christian. Occam’s razor tells me the Jewish odyssey is just a plain good story, especially if you feel persecuted. (The Christian Identity movement, which is actually anti-Semitic itself, is still pushing this one.)
If we factor out “Hebraic-Puritanism,” the only significant morphological resemblance between Judaism and multiculturalism is the absence of an afterlife. Significant? Perhaps. But, as I’ve pointed out, mainline Protestants have been shedding theological baggage in a frenzy of streamlining for the last 200 years. Emerson had already discarded hell in the 1830s. Rumors that he was born Ralph Waldo Emerstein are, as far as I can discern, unsubstantiated.
We are left with the adaptive test. This, of course, is MacDonald’s favorite.
But MacDonald uses it in a very bizarre way. It’s not just that he believes in group selection – he believes in group action. I believe in human action. A group is not a person.
It is perfectly possible that Germans, Sioux or Irishmen are full of Khaldunian asabiya and act collectively in ways that favor Germans, Sioux or Irishmen. But in order for this to work, you need a cohesive belief system that rewards altruism on behalf of the group, and discourages “defecting” actions that would otherwise favor the individual. You need, in other words, an actual movement of ethnic nationalism.
Of course “Judaism” has this in theory. The whole Torah is a story of pure asabiya. The Jews get their asses kicked when they’re divided. They kick ass when they’re together.
But just as Christianity is not the Bible, Judaism is not the Torah. It is an evolving system like any other. Is there Jewish ethnic nationalism in the 20th century? There certainly is. But it is found among Zionists, Hasidim, etc, and certainly not among the Reform and socialist Jews who in the middle of the century became part of the American elite. For example, Reform Judaism is almost nonexistent in Israel.
I think there is a Jewish influence in ultracalvinism. But I think it is exactly the opposite of what MacDonald’s theory suggests. What we’re seeing is not syncretism – it is assimilation.
Basically, the Jews (like my ancestors) who came to the US were people who wanted to get ahead – as individuals. They were done with the ghetto and the shtetl. They wanted money and power. Doesn’t everyone?
It was only natural, therefore, that they would be drawn to the social patterns of the most prestigious class in their new country – the mainline “super-Protestants.” Like most converts, they adopted the most fashionable views of the Brahmin elite, which was already well down the road toward secularization and Unitarianism in the modern sense of the word. Indeed, for the earlier-arriving and (much as I hate to admit it, since my ancestors spoke “jargon”) more cultured German Jews, much of this process had already happened in Europe. Reform Judaism is pretty much Protestantism in all but name, as is of course “scientific” Marxist socialism.
Whereas the Brahmins had no reason at all to adopt Jewish ways of thought. Nor do I see any way in which they did. The assimilation was entirely in the other direction. The daughters of the Mayflower did not learn Yiddish.
There is certainly no denying that the injection of smart Jews into the Brahmin caste made it all the more successful, which presumably has contributed to the incredible arrogance with which it bestrides the world today. But I simply do not see the Jewish asabiya, which is why I will continue to lay the whole trip on the Calvinists.
Now, Anonymous has an advantage in that he has actually read MacDonald’s books, as opposed to just a couple of essays, and he is surely right to note that MacDonald has an enormous mass of “corroborating evidence.”
Because all historians do. A historian is not a mere collator of facts – he or she is creating an interpretation, much like a trial lawyer. The goal of history is to paint a picture of the past. The test, for any reader, is simply whether you find that picture convincing. Volume of evidence has not much to do with it.
In fact, it is often a contrary indicator, because a lawyer with a weak case often feels the temptation to try to inundate the jury with a vast mass of detail. The strategy is essentially to demand that the reader either agree, or do the work of assembling the same detail into a counter-narrative. The canonical example is Johnnie Cochran’s great gambit, “if the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit,” although you often see the same strategy in Holocaust revisionists, such as Germar Rudolf. (MacDonald does not claim to be a Holocaust revisionist, and I am not accusing him of being one.)
Why didn’t the gloves fit? Why weren’t the gas-chamber walls stained blue? The only possible answer is “who the hell knows.” There are all sorts of chemical and physical processes that can cause leather to shrink, Prussian blue to decay, etc, etc. There is no evidence, there can be no evidence, for any particular one of them. Forcing your opponent to prove a negative is not a legitimate rhetorical tactic.
As members of the jury, we have to evaluate the totality of the evidence on both sides. We have to look at both pictures. We have no time machines and we cannot expect perfection.
My view is that the pictures that show OJ as the killer, and the Holocaust as a German war crime, are much more convincing than the pictures that show OJ being framed by the LAPD, and the Holocaust as Allied propaganda. And similarly, I think the history of the American intellectual elite in the 20th century is much more a picture of Jewish assimilation than Jewish infiltration.
But of course, I am perfectly ready to be proven wrong on any of these issues. My patience is not unlimited, but one of the trials of having unpopular opinions is that you find it difficult to condemn others for their own unpopular opinions. (I actually view this as a benefit, rather than a trial, but the Jew in me feels free to complain about it anyway.)