Category Archives: Holocaust Denial

Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy : A Critical Analysis of Kevin MacDonald’s Theory

By Nathan Cofnas

In the 1990s, Kevin MacDonald wrote a trilogy of books arguing that Judaism is a “group evolutionary strategy,” and the pursuit of this strategy by Jews had far-reaching consequences for world history. In A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy (1994) he proposed that, since its inception, Judaism has promoted eugenic practices favoring high intelligence, conscientiousness, and ethnocentrism. As a consequence, the contemporary Jewish population (at least the Ashkenazi population) is marked by a high level of these traits, including a mean IQ of 117 (weighted on verbal intelligence). In Separation and Its Discontents: Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism (1998b) he argued that anti-Semitism is a reaction by gentiles to competition for resources with less populous but more organized and competent Jewish groups. In The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements (1998a), he argued that post-Enlightenment Jews who abandoned the religion of Judaism invented a substitute: liberal political, intellectual, and scientific movements with the same social and organizational structure as Judaism, and the same ultimate purpose to promote the evolutionary success of Jews.

According to The Culture of Critique, the most influential of these intellectual movements—Boasian anthropology, Freudian psychoanalysis, and Frankfurt School critical theory—were headed by charismatic and authoritarian leaders (analogous to rabbis), they placed great value on verbal brilliance and internal consistency rather than testability or agreement with external reality (analogous to Talmudic scholarship), and they promoted Jewish group interests at the expense of gentiles. The movements advocated separatism and ethnocentrism for Jews, discouraged ethnic identification among white gentiles (in order to prevent group consciousness among white gentiles that might lead to a sense of competition with Jews and thus anti-Semitism), undermined and destabilized traditional European culture to weaken resistance to Jewish control, “pathologized” anti-Semitism, and denied that Jewish behavior plays a role in anti-Jewish attitudes.

MacDonald argues that Jewish intellectual and political movements were responsible for major trends in twentieth-century scientific, political, and demographic history. These movements, he says, were responsible for the rejection of Darwinian thinking among most mainstream social scientists, and also for large-scale nonwhite immigration to European and European-colonized countries (the United States, Australia, etc.).

Do MacDonald’s Theories Merit Scholarly Attention?

MacDonald’s books received some positive and some mixed reviews. Eysenck (1995) called A People That Shall Dwell Alone “a potentially very important contribution.” Masters (1996), while enthusiastic about the prospect of analyzing religions as evolutionary strategies, raised concerns about the depth of the author’s familiarity with the history of religion. Figueredo (1999) gave Separatism and Its Discontents a generally positive assessment. In a favorable review of The Culture of Critique, Salter (2000) attributed “much of the criticism of MacDonald [to] ignorance of his scholarship and a confounding of political and scientific issues.”

MacDonald’s work on Judaism did not receive widespread attention until the year 2000 when Slate journalist Shulevitz (2000) used it in an effort to discredit evolutionary psychology. In response to Shulevitz’s challenge that scientists “can’t ignore bad ideas,” Pinker pointed out that they have no choice. It is impossible to do battle against all bad ideas, of which there are a thousand for every good one.

[D]oing battle against some of them is a tacit acknowledgement that those have enough merit to exceed the onerous threshold of attention-worthiness. MacDonald’s ideas, as presented in summaries that would serve as a basis for further examination, do not pass that threshold . . . (Pinker 2000: unpaginated).

Given this fact—that ideas need to meet an “onerous threshold of attention-worthiness”—what justifies giving attention to MacDonald’s theories, published two decades ago and, with just a few exceptions (e.g., favorable treatment in Wilson 2002; criticisms in Atran 2002:230–33), largely ignored in mainstream literature?

Even if Pinker was right that MacDonald’s theories did not have enough prima facie merit to warrant attention in 2000, developments in the past 18 years have changed the situation. There are at least three reasons to give MacDonald a hearing.

First, some respected psychologists and evolutionary theorists have reported that they found value in MacDonald’s work. For example, David Sloan Wilson endorsed the ideas in A People That Shall Dwell Alone and strongly criticized the representatives of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society who rejected MacDonald: “Even evolutionary psychologists, who have experienced their share of persecution in academic circles, seem more concerned to protect their own reputations than to defend the work of their colleague” (quoted in Salter 2000). Wilson is also thanked in the acknowledgments sections of all three books. And, as noted, Eysenck, Figueredo, Salter, and others have publicly given positive evaluations of some or all of MacDonald’s trilogy. There are also a number of serious scholars who are attracted to MacDonald’s ideas but will not endorse or even comment on them publicly because they fear that they will be perceived as anti-Semitic. This amounts to at least some degree of prima facie evidence that MacDonald’s theory should be considered.

Second, it is an undeniable fact that, in the past few hundred years, Jews have had a disproportionate influence on politics and culture in the Western world, if not the whole world. It might be worthwhile to investigate this phenomenon from a biosocial or evolutionary perspective. So far there have been only a handful of such investigations, including Cochran et al.’s (2005) study on the evolution of Jewish intelligence, Dunkel et al.’s (2015) report of high mean levels of the “general factor of personality” among Jews, and, what is by far the most ambitious, MacDonald’s (19941998a1998b). The idea that Jewish influence resulted, at least in some cases, from their pursuit of a group evolutionary strategy cannot be dismissed a priori. Since MacDonald has defended this theory, he seems to provide a starting point for anyone wishing to investigate the understudied issue of Jewish influence. If he is wrong, it may be useful to know why and how.

Third and perhaps most important, though, is that MacDonald’s work has been influential—enormously so—in a certain segment of the lay community, namely, among anti-Semites and adherents of the burgeoning movement known as the “alt-right.” It is hard to overstate his influence among this group. Some years ago Derbyshire (2003) called him “the Marx of the anti-Semites,” and with the advent of the alt-right his audience has grown substantially. Richard Spencer, whom the New York Times calls “the leading ideologue of the alt-right movement” (Goldstein 2016), introduced MacDonald at a conference with one sentence: “There is no man on the planet who has done more for the understanding of the pole around which the world revolves than Kevin MacDonald” (Spencer 2016). Andrew Anglin, who runs the most popular alt-right/neo-Nazi website, says in his “Guide to the Alt-Right” that “MacDonald’s work examining the racial nature of Jews is considered crucial to understanding what the Alt-Right is about” (Anglin 2016). The New York Times describes MacDonald’s trilogy as “a touchstone” for the alt-right, a movement encompassing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people (Caldwell 2016). MacDonald is also editor of the Occidental Observer, a fairly popular magazine that is devoted largely to interpreting current events in the light of his theories about Jews. Anglin (2016) lists the Occidental Observer as one of eight “sites and people” playing a key role in the alt-right movement.

The refusal of scholars to engage with MacDonald has had unintended negative consequences. Many of his enthusiasts see him as credible because there has never been a serious academic refutation of his theories. The strategy employed 18 years ago—declaring his work to be anti-Semitic and/or to not reach the threshold to warrant scholarly attention—had the doubly unfortunate effect of intimidating scholars with a legitimate interest in the topic of Jewish evolution and behavior, and creating a perception among some laypeople—even if it was false—that MacDonald was being persecuted by the academic community.

This paper attempts to give MacDonald’s theories a fair hearing. It focuses on the argument of The Culture of Critique. This book builds on the previous two, so the whole trilogy stands or falls on its merits. It has also been the most influential of the three books. It defends a radical, interesting hypothesis, and the topic it addresses (Jewish overrepresentation in intellectual movements) is worthy of study in any case. The conclusion, however, will be that the argument of The Culture of Critique is built on misrepresented sources and cherry-picked facts. The evidence actually favors a simpler explanation of Jewish overrepresentation in intellectual movements involving Jewish high intelligence and geographic distribution.

Jewish High IQ and Geography: An Alternative, Simpler Theory That Explains More of the Data?

The mean Ashkenazi Jewish IQ appears to be around 110 (Lynn and Kanazawa 2008)—moderately lower than MacDonald’s estimate of 117. Jewish intellectual accomplishment is consistent with higher mean intelligence. The basic facts are well known. For example, though never more than 3% of the US population (Pinker 2006), Jews constitute 31% of US Nobel laureates in chemistry, 50% in economics, 37% in physics, 39% in physiology or medicine, and 33% in literature (jinfo.org). Lynn and Kanazawa (2008) give a good review of their overrepresentation in high-IQ occupations and in leadership positions in the arts, science, and industry.

But a mean IQ of 110 is not enough to explain Jewish achievement (Nisbett 2009:181). It is likely that Jews also have a geographic advantage. Since the Enlightenment and particularly in the twentieth century, European Jews have been highly concentrated in major urban centers (Warsaw, Berlin, Frankfurt, Vienna, Paris, New York City, Los Angeles, etc.). These areas tended to have the infrastructure to support intellectual achievement. Indeed, even without postulating high Jewish IQ, from their location alone we would expect them to be overrepresented in intellectual endeavors.

The combination of the aforementioned factors suggests an alternative theory—what could be called the “default hypothesis”—of Jewish involvement in twentieth-century liberal movements, namely: Because of Jewish intelligence and geography—particularly intelligence—Jews are likely to be overrepresented in any intellectual movement or activity that is not overtly anti-Semitic. The qualification that Jews are not overrepresented in overtly anti-Semitic movements is important because, in the twentieth century, a higher proportion of right-wing than left-wing movements were overtly anti-Semitic. According to the default hypothesis, Jewish involvement in politics has been somewhat skewed to the left in recent history, but Jews are also overrepresented in right-wing movements that are not anti-Semitic.

The default hypothesis seems to have more explanatory power and to be more parsimonious than MacDonald’s because it posits only two factors—IQ and geography—to explain Jewish overrepresentation in all (non-overtly anti-Semitic) intellectual activities: The two factors explain why Jews are more than half of world chess champions (Cochran et al. 2005) and why they comprised “[a]lmost one-half” of the elite American intellectuals in Kadushin’s (1974:23) sample (MacDonald 1998a:3). Of course, explanatory power and parsimony are not the only consideration: Agreement with empirical evidence is the ultimate arbiter. This paper attempts to determine whether the evidence favors MacDonald’s thesis or the default one.

The default hypothesis is not tied to any particular explanation of the cause of above-average Jewish IQ. Some researchers favor a genetic explanation. In an influential paper, Cochran et al. (2005) argued that during the Middle Ages Ashkenazim were selected for the intellectual ability to succeed in white-collar occupations. However, it is theoretically possible that the Jewish–gentile IQ gap is due at least in part to some yet-to-be-identified cultural factor (Nisbett 2009). Whatever the cause, high Jewish IQ presumably plays a role in Jewish overrepresentation in cognitively demanding activities.

Overview of Some Problems with the Arguments in The Culture of Critique

To review, the claim of The Culture of Critique is that “Jewish-dominated intellectual movements were a critical factor (necessary condition) for the triumph of the intellectual left in late twentieth-century Western societies” (MacDonald 1998a:17; see also 214–15).

[I]ndividuals who strongly identified as Jews have been the main motivating force behind several highly influential intellectual movements that have simultaneously subjected gentile culture to radical criticism and allowed for the continuity of Jewish identification. Together these movements comprise the intellectual and political left in this century, and they are the direct intellectual ancestors of current leftist intellectual and political movements, particularly postmodernism and multiculturalism (1988a:213).

While Jewish intellectual movements vary in their details, they have (according to The Culture of Critique) the same broad agenda to (a) subject gentile society to radical critique that undermines its traditional institutions, (b) attack white gentile ethnocentrism and unity (in order to weaken the potential for organized gentile resistance to Jewish domination), (c) “pathologize” anti-Semitism and obscure the fact that anti-Jewish attitudes may be a response to Jewish behavior, and (d) promote multiculturalism for white gentiles (in order to weaken gentile power) while promoting separatism for Jews and racial purity in Israel. Jewish movements are alleged to have been responsible for banishing Darwinian thinking from social science, promoting environmentalism as an explanation for individual and group differences in behavior, and proscribing the study of group differences in psychology. As noted, the way in which Jewish intellectual movements are organized—headed by charismatic, authoritarian leaders such as Freud and Boas—is supposedly analogous to the organization of traditional Judaism.

There are several categories of questionable argumentation in The Culture of Critique. The following is a preview—more detailed examples will be given in later sections.

The Same Behavior Is Interpreted Differently When Exhibited by Jews or Gentiles

A common pattern throughout The Culture of Critique is that the same behavior is given a different interpretation depending on whether it is performed by Jews or gentiles. For example, when gentiles assume leadership positions in radical movements (e.g., John Dewey, Carl Jung), it is because “gentiles have . . . been actively recruited to the movements . . . and given highly visible roles . . . in order to lessen the appearance that the movements are indeed Jewish-dominated or aimed only at narrow Jewish sectarian interests” (1988a:4). MacDonald calls this phenomenon “a major theme” of his book. Another explanation he gives for gentile involvement in radical politics is that “once Jews have attained intellectual predominance, it is not surprising that gentiles would be attracted to Jewish intellectuals as members of a socially dominant and prestigious group and as dispensers of valued resources” (1988a:3).

Of course, it is possible that in all these cases where Jews and gentiles were both involved in radical politics, the Jews were acting as ethnic activists while the gentiles were being manipulated. But this theory requires strong positive evidence to be credible. As shall be argued, MacDonald never provides such evidence.

Sources Are Cherry-Picked and Jewish Involvement in Anti-Jewish Activism Is Ignored

MacDonald says that “there is a broad Jewish consensus [in the US] on such issues as Israel” (1988a:305). Nowhere in the book does he acknowledge that a great deal of Jewish involvement in politics across time and place has been decidedly opposed to narrow Jewish interests, including Israel. The most influential Jewish radical in history, Karl Marx, held extremely anti-Jewish views (Marx 2010). The most influential Jewish radical alive—when The Culture of Critique was published and still to this day—is Noam Chomsky. Chomsky is mentioned one time in The Culture of Critique—in an endnote where MacDonald comments simply that he “could . . . be regarded as someone whose writings were not highly influenced by his Jewish identity and specifically Jewish interests” (1988a:154, n. 15). There is no mention of Chomsky’s extreme anti-Israel positions and opposition to Jewish nationalism. George Soros—possibly the most politically influential Jewish financier in the world and a major promotor of liberalism/multiculturalism—dissociates himself from the Jewish community and opposes Jewish interests (as MacDonald conceives them). He is not mentioned once in the book. MacDonald paints a picture of Jews as hypocrites who impose liberalism on gentiles and adopt nationalism for themselves, but he ignores the fact that many of the most influential Jews seem to promote liberalism and multiculturalism for both gentiles and Jews.

Just as problematically, in a number of cases MacDonald fails to report that Jews whom he identifies as ethnic activists took stands against Israel and other Jewish interests (again, defining “Jewish interests” in MacDonald’s terms as ethnic self-preservation).

The Failure of Jews to Support Overtly Anti-Semitic Movements Is Interpreted as Evidence of Extreme Jewish Ethnocentrism

Many twentieth-century Jews ostensibly abandoned their Jewish identity and sought to assimilate. MacDonald points out that these Jews often did not support gentile nationalist movements—which he acknowledges were anti-Semitic—and he argues that this is evidence that these Jews were insincere in their desire to assimilate and were actually engaging in “Jewish crypsis” (his term).

It is highly questionable whether this inference is justified. Twentieth-century anti-Semitic nationalist movements were generally not welcoming of ethnic Jews regardless of their desire to assimilate. And even if they were, it seems unreasonable to question a Jew’s desire to reject Judaism because he did not want to kill, expel, or oppress his (probably still-Jewish) family and former friends.

Sources Are Misrepresented

In numerous places in The Culture of Critique, references are given to support a claim but no support can be found in the original source, or the original source is misrepresented. Because the present paper is focused on the argument of the book, it only reports some of these misrepresentations where they significantly affect the argument. Also, for considerations of length, it only reports cases of mishandling of sources where the problems can be clearly exposed in a reasonable amount of space. Despite the fact that only some instances of mishandling of sources are reported here, these cases alone raise serious questions about MacDonald’s research practices.

No Evidence Is Ever Acknowledged to Count against the Theory

In many places, MacDonald himself brings up facts that seem to go against the predictions of his theory. While these individual facts may not in themselves necessarily refute his hypothesis, rather than revising his ideas or acknowledging that he cannot explain everything, he dogmatically insists that the apparent counterexamples actually support his views.

For example, he claims several times that Jews are opposed to affirmative action because it is against their ethnic interests (1988a:101, 105, n. 16, 308, 313, 315; see also 240–41). He says that affirmative action policies “would clearly preclude free competition between Jews and gentiles” (1988a:101) and, elsewhere, that they “would necessarily discriminate against Jews” (1988a:315). In a parenthetical, he notes that when an anti-affirmative action measure was put on the ballot in California, Jews voted for it “in markedly lower percentages” than other white groups (1988a:311). That is, Jews voted to support affirmative action. His explanation for this is that “because of their competitive advantage” among whites, “Jews may perceive themselves as benefiting from policies designed to dilute the power of the European-derived group as a whole on the assumption that they would not suffer any appreciable effect.” Again, he shows a facile tendency to spin an apparent disconfirmation of his theory as actually a verification of it.

Hundreds of Years of Gentile Radicalism Are Ignored

The reader of The Culture of Critique who has no knowledge of history is led to believe that European society was traditionally marked by “hierarchic harmony” (1988a:315) and naive, happy acceptance of traditional religion, institutions, and family relations. Then, after the Enlightenment, Jews emerged from the ghettos and commenced what was to be a 300-year war on the foundations of European culture. MacDonald ignores a long history of radical and critical gentile thought from the ancient Greek philosophers to Rousseau to the Social Gospel Movement to French existentialism to Bill Ayers to Peggy McIntosh and countless other examples.

Boasian Anthropology, Environmentalism, and Opposition to the Study of Race Differences

The second chapter of The Culture of Critique is titled “The Boasian School of Anthropology and the Decline of Darwinism in the Social Sciences.” MacDonald sees Boas as having been a strongly identified Jew who pursued (and distorted) science with the goal of preventing anti-Semitism. Boas and his followers in the 1920s promoted the idea that

American culture [was] overly homogeneous, hypocritical, and emotionally and esthetically repressive (especially with regard to sexuality). Central to [their] program was creating ethnographies of idyllic cultures that were free of the negatively perceived traits that were attributed to Western culture. Among these Boasians, cultural criticism crystallized as an ideology of “romantic primitivism” in which certain non-Western cultures epitomized the approved characteristics Western societies should emulate (1988a:28–29).

This passage and others throughout the chapter suggest that Boasians were the first to romanticize primitive cultures as “idyllic” and not subject to the ills of Western civilization. In reality, by Boas’s time this had been a major theme among many gentile intellectuals for more than 150 years. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who popularized the romantic image of “savages” in the eighteenth century, is mentioned once in The Culture of Critique—in passing, in an endnote (1988a:211, n. 35). According to Rousseau:

The more one reflects on it, the more one finds that this state [of primitive life] was the least subject to upheavals and the best for man, and that he must have left it only by virtue of some fatal chance happening that, for the common good, ought never have happened. The example of savages, almost all of whom have been found in this state, seems to confirm that the human race had been made to remain in it always (Rousseau 2011:74).

Not all eighteenth-century European intellectuals agreed that civilization was a mistake. But virtually all seemed to accept Rousseau’s characterization of primitive life as idyllic. His ideas, including his critique of Western civilization, played an important role in triggering the French Revolution and (later) in the development of socialism, especially by Marx. All in all, he was quite probably the most influential thinker of the eighteenth century in both the short and the long run (Durant and Durant 1967).

So, contrary to what is suggested in The Culture of Critique, the tradition of critiquing Western civilization by comparing it unfavorably to traditional cultures was neither developed nor made popular by Jews. But even if he was not its inventor, could it be that Boas promoted the Rousseauian view of “romantic primitivism” to advance Jewish interests? It is true that many of Boas’s students were Jews (e.g., Alexander Goldenweiser, Melville Herskovits, Robert Lowie, Paul Radin, Edward Sapir, and Leslie Spier)—not particularly surprising given the high concentration of Jews at Columbia University at the time. But the most effective and indefatigable “Boasians” were not Jewish. MacDonald (1988a:26) notes that the students of Boas who “achieved the greatest public renown” were the gentiles Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead. He expounds: “As in several other prominent historical cases . . ., gentiles became the publicly visible spokespersons for a movement dominated by Jews.” According to MacDonald (1988a:27), Boas “strenuously promoted and cited” Benedict and Mead as part of a ruse to hide the fact that the whole movement was designed to promote Jewish interests.

But MacDonald does not supply any compelling reasons to think that Benedict and Mead were under the control of Boas. Even if we accept that Boas’s commitment to Jewish interests biased his science and made him critique Western society and promote environmentalist, culture-based explanations of human behavior, both Benedict and Mead were strong-willed, charismatic iconoclasts who seemed to be self-directed. Although MacDonald sees them as puppets of Boas, another possibility is that Benedict, Mead, and Boas were leaders of a somewhat misguided scientific movement, with Boas being technically the “teacher” because he happened to be a few years older, and Mead being the most influential. Criticizing Boas’s scientific standards, MacDonald says that he “completely accepted” Mead’s conclusions derived from a few months of fieldwork in Samoa and “uncritically allowed Ruth Benedict to distort his own data on the Kwakiutl” (1988a:28). But, taking MacDonald’s description of the facts at face value, this suggests that Mead and Benedict were, at least in these cases, taking the initiative to distort science for ideological ends. Perhaps it was the Jewish Boas who made them do this. Or perhaps, in the absence of compelling evidence to suggest otherwise, both Jews and gentiles occupied leadership roles in this movement in anthropology.

According to The Culture of Critique, Boasian anthropology was only the first Jewish salvo against hereditarianism and the study of race. A major theme in the book is that Jews were responsible for tabooing research on race differences, particularly in intelligence. MacDonald ignores the fact that influential gentiles have been well represented among environmentalists studying race differences in intelligence, and Jews have been clearly overrepresented among prominent hereditarians.

MacDonald (1988a:314) approvingly cites Ryan’s (1994:11) speculations on the psychology of the authors of The Bell Curve (Herrnstein and Murray 1994):

Herrnstein essentially wants the world in which clever Jewish kids or their equivalent make their way out of their humble backgrounds and end up running Goldman Sachs or the Harvard physics department, while Murray wants the Midwest in which he grew up—a world in which the local mechanic didn’t care two cents whether he was or wasn’t brighter than the local math teacher.

(Incidentally, Ryan’s article was published in the New York Review of Books—a journal that MacDonald repeatedly identifies as being an organ of Jewish interests.) This illustrates a blatant double standard applied to Jews and gentiles by MacDonald. The Jewish Richard Herrnstein, then head of the psychology department at Harvard, was the most prominent academic defender of hereditarianism regarding race differences in intelligence since WWII. Instead of accepting that Herrnstein is an example that does not support his thesis, MacDonald spins the facts by implying that Herrnstein supported the theory of race differences in intelligence because it would promote his ethnic interests. In contrast, the gentile Murray is portrayed as having no such sinister motivations—only a wish, in MacDonald’s words, for “a society with harmony among the social classes and with social controls on extreme individualism among the elite” (1988a:314).

A reasonable list of the most high-profile advocates of hereditarianism might be the following: Hans Eysenck, Arthur Jensen, Richard Lynn, Linda Gottfredson, J. Philippe Rushton, and the aforementioned Herrnstein and Murray. Eysenck had a Jewish mother, making him Jewish by both Jewish law and MacDonald’s standards. Jensen was one-quarter Jewish, so he can be counted as a gentile. That means that two out of seven of the most prominent hereditarians were Jewish, making Jews extremely overrepresented in this group relative to their numbers in the general population.

Freud and Psychoanalysis

According to The Culture of Critique, “There is . . . evidence that Freud conceptualized himself as a leader in a war on gentile culture” (1988a:117). Psychoanalysis was a pseudoscientific movement designed to pathologize anti-Semitism and undermine gentile culture and social cohesion by attacking institutions regulating love and sex. “Psychoanalytic assertions [that sexual repression prevented relationships from being based on love and affection] were never any more than speculations in the service of waging a war on gentile culture” (1988a:126). Jews, led in the US by the “New York Intellectuals,” turned Freudianism into a secular religion, using it to attack the philosophical and institutional foundations of Western culture.

Let’s consider first Freud’s influence via the New York Intellectuals. MacDonald notes that of the top 21 American intellectuals according to peer ratings in the 1970s (Kadushin 1974), 15 were Jewish (and most were New York Intellectuals). Eleven of these 15, he says, were “‘significantly influenced by Freudian theory at some point in their careers,’” and 10 of those 11 held “liberal or radical political beliefs at some period of their career” (MacDonald 1998a:141, quoting/citing Torrey 1992:185). The implication is that these influential Jewish intellectuals promoted Freudianism to undermine gentile culture and advance their ethnic interests. But MacDonald leaves out some crucial information.

The 15 Jews among the top 21 intellectuals were (1) Daniel Bell, (2) Chomsky, (3) Irving Howe, (4) Norman Mailer, (5) Robert Silvers, (6) Susan Sontag, (7) Lionel Trilling, (8) Hannah Arendt, (9) Saul Bellow, (10) Paul Goodman, (11) Richard Hofstadter (Jewish father), (12) Irving Kristol, (13) Herbert Marcuse, (14) Norman Podhoretz, and (15) David Riesman. A closer look shows that only two or three of these cases support MacDonald’s thesis, and several are clear counterexamples. First off, five of these intellectuals are, by MacDonald’s criteria, unambiguously anti-Israel and therefore opposed to Jewish interests. Chomsky was (and still is) arguably the world’s leading critic of Israel. Mailer tended to sympathize with the Palestinians (Theodoracopulos 2015). When Sontag accepted the Jerusalem Prize in 2001, she used the occasion to condemn Israel (Cockburn 2001). Marcuse (who will be discussed in more detail below) advocated the return of Arab refugees to Israel, ending Jewish control of the country (Marcuse 2005:181). Arendt was the student, promoter, and lover (in a romantic sense) of the Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger. She was best known for her book Eichmann in Jerusalem (Arendt 1963), in which she argued that Israeli laws were comparable to the Nazi Nuremberg laws and that holocaust-orchestrator Eichmann had been given a “show trial” and was not a particularly bad person (just that he was prompted to do bad things by circumstances beyond his control—though she faults him for not being brave enough to protest). In 1948, Arendt (along with Einstein, Sidney Hook, and 24 other prominent Jews) signed a letter to the New York Times which described the political party of Menachem Begin as “closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties” (Shatz 2004:65).

Another intellectual on the list, Saul Bellow, was a conservative who opposed feminism, multiculturalism, and political correctness. Bellow urged Allan Bloom, another Jewish academic at the University of Chicago, to write The Closing of the American Mind (Bloom 1987), one of the most influential pro-traditionalist academic books in the past few decades (Ahmed and Grossman 2007).

It is ironic that MacDonald casts Robert Silvers as a part of a nefarious Jewish Freudian movement. In the paragraph immediately following the one in which he introduces this list of 15 Jewish intellectuals, MacDonald writes:

The link between psychoanalysis and the political left, as well as the critical role of Jewish-controlled media in the propagation of psychoanalysis, can be seen in the recent uproar [over] Frederick Crews’s critiques of the culture of psychoanalysis. The original articles were published in the New York Review of Books . . . (1988a:141).

Silvers is the longtime editor of the New York Review of Books, and one of the 11 whom MacDonald identifies as being influenced by Freud.1

Bell, Hofstadter, and Riesman were liberals, though not particularly extreme, not known for promoting Freud, and not seriously involved in Jewish causes. (Bell 1962:16 described his perspective as “anti-ideological, but not conservative,” and he criticized utopian schemes such as Marxism as well as aspects of the prevailing social order.) Trilling may have been a nominal Marxist in the 1930s (D. Sidorsky, personal communication), though he evinced little interest in Jewish causes and his ethnic awareness seemed to be triggered mainly when he faced anti-Semitism. Goodman had no apparent interest in his fellow Jews, though he identified as an anarchist, so by MacDonald’s criteria might be considered an enemy of gentile culture. Howe was a liberal who supported as well as criticized Israel. That leaves the neoconservatives Kristol and Podhoretz. Kristol and Podhoretz became decidedly anti-liberal, though later in their careers they openly and aggressively supported Israel, Jewish interests, and, in Podhoretz’s case, unfettered immigration to the US.

The naive reader of The Culture of Critique would think that 11 of 15 top Jewish intellectuals were using Freudianism to attack the traditions of gentile culture while promoting separatism for Jews in the US and in Israel. MacDonald makes this conclusion fairly explicit:

Of these [15 Jewish intellectuals], only Noam Chomsky could possibly be regarded as someone whose writings were not highly influenced by his Jewish identity and specifically Jewish interests. The findings taken together indicate that the American intellectual scene has been significantly dominated by specifically Jewish interests and that psychoanalysis has been an important tool in advancing these interests (1988a:154, n. 15—partially quoted earlier).

But the evidence reviewed above suggests that this is a serious distortion of the facts. Even if it is true that 11/15 of these intellectuals were influenced by Freud “at some point in their careers,” virtually none of them comes close to conforming to MacDonald’s paradigm of a Jewish radical. Only one—Podhoretz—could be accused of hypocritically advocating different immigration policies for the US and Israel, though he was/is not a liberal and Freudianism played no meaningful role in his thinking. On the other hand, we clearly find that several people on the list—a list cited by MacDonald himself to support his thesis—are serious counterexamples to the theory of Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy. We find on this list possibly the world’s leading critic of Israel (Chomsky), a liberal who advocates the same immigration policies for the US and Israel (Marcuse), a leading advocate of traditional Western values (Bellow), and several others who, to varying degrees, were opposed or indifferent to Israel and Jewish interests.

MacDonald brings voluminous evidence that Freud strongly identified as a Jew. Based on numerous sources, he argues that Freud was unconditionally committed to promoting Jewish interests, that he “pathologized” anti-Semitism, and that he attacked gentile culture because he saw it as a threat to Jews (1988a:146). MacDonald emphasizes numerous times throughout the book that “scientist-activists” like Freud developed theories to show that “Jewish behavior [is] irrelevant to anti-Semitism” (1988a:17; see also 142, 146). He claims that Moses and Monotheism “contains several assertions that anti-Semitism is fundamentally a pathological gentile reaction to Jewish ethical superiority,” citing Freud (1967:114–17) (MacDonald 1998a:120). However, while pages 114–17 of this edition of Moses and Monotheism do discuss anti-Semitism, there is nothing about ethics/morality at all, let alone the ethical superiority of Jews or Judaism. (MacDonald did not respond to an email asking what he was referring to.)

Although Freud certainly did have a Jewish identity—if only because he was continually reminded of it by anti-Semites—MacDonald does not tell the full story. Consider the following incident (not described in The Culture of Critique). In 1929, Jews attempted to erect a partition screen to separate men and women at the Western Wall. In response, Arabs killed 29 Jews in Hebron, which led to riots in which 120 Jews and 87 Arabs were killed. A representative of the Zionist organization Keren Hayesod asked Freud to sign a petition condemning the Arabs for initiating the violence. Freud refused to sign, explaining that the Jews were partly responsible for inviting violence on themselves: “I concede with sorrow that the unrealistic fanaticism of our people is in part to be blamed for the awakening of Arab distrust” (Freud 2004). This episode undermines MacDonald’s caricature of Freud as a monomaniacal activist dedicated to excusing Jewish behavior and pathologizing anti-Semitism.

The Frankfurt School and Critical Theory

Chapter 5 of The Culture of Critique is titled “The Frankfurt School of Social Research and the Pathologization of Gentile Group Allegiances.” It focuses on the alleged hypocrisy of members of the Frankfurt School in advocating for collectivism among Jews in both Israel and the diaspora, and pathologizing any feelings of group allegiance in white gentiles. MacDonald sees the Frankfurt School as having influenced the field of psychology particularly through the publication of The Authoritarian Personality (Adorno et al. 1950), a book published as part of a series called Studies in Prejudice. He concludes that “the agenda of the Frankfurt School” was to facilitate “radical individualism . . . among gentiles while retaining a powerful sense of group cohesion among Jews” (1988a:215). “[T]he central agenda of The Authoritarian Personality is to pathologize gentile group strategies while nevertheless leaving open the possibility of Judaism as a minority group strategy” (1988a:172). The Frankfurt School influenced the humanities through the development of “critical theory.”

The main problem with MacDonald’s argument is that he interprets criticism of nationalism in gentile groups to indicate approval of Jewish nationalism as long as the latter is not explicitly condemned. He never cites positive evidence that representatives of the Frankfurt School approved of Jewish nationalism, and he ignores evidence that they in fact disapproved of it. Leaving aside the question of the scholarly merits of the Frankfurt School or The Authoritarian Personality, there is no positive evidence that members of the Frankfurt School were hypocrites who condemned collectivism in gentiles and promoted it for Jews.

In his critique of The Authoritarian Personality, MacDonald emphasizes “the double standard in which gentile behavior inferred from high scores on the F-scale or the Ethnocentrism Scales is viewed as an indication of psychopathology, whereas precisely the same behavior is central to Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy” (1988a:168). But nowhere does he present evidence that Adorno et al. approved of this behavior in Jews, which is what would be necessary for them to have a “double standard.” MacDonald just assumes that they approve of this behavior because they were Jewish. Regarding the claim in The Authoritarian Personality that anti-Semitism is associated with a strong in-group ideology, MacDonald comments that “the implication is that strong ingroup ideologies should be reserved for Jews and are dangerous in others” (1988a:170). But nowhere is this actually stated in The Authoritarian Personality. It seems the “implication” is strong in MacDonald’s mind because of the nefarious motives he attributes to the Jewish authors. This does not count as evidence.

To illustrate how The Authoritarian Personality is anti-gentile, MacDonald singles out a chapter by R. Nevitt Sanford (who, incidentally, was a gentile). In MacDonald’s words:

R. Nevitt Sanford . . . finds that affiliation with various Christian religious sects is associated with ethnocentrism, and that individuals who have rebelled against their parents and adapted another religion or no religion are lower on ethnocentrism. These relationships are explained as due to the fact that acceptance of a Christian religion is associated with “conformity, conventionalism, authoritarian submission, determination by external pressures, thinking in ingroup-outgroup terms and the like vs. nonconformity, independence, internalization of values, and so forth” (Adorno et al. 1950:220). Again, individuals identifying strongly with the ideology of a majority group are viewed as suffering from psychopathology, yet Judaism as a viable religion would necessarily be associated with these same psychological processes (MacDonald 1998a:174–75).

MacDonald cites Sanford out of context and totally misrepresents his conclusion. First, when Sanford refers to “conformity, conventionalism, authoritarian submission . . .,” he is notcharacterizing Christian belief. He says that to understand the relation between religion and ethnocentrism, we must consider what psychological factors play a role in the individual’s acceptance or rejection, such as “conformity, conventionalism, authoritarian submission.” He is not talking specifically about Christianity, and he says explicitly that these factors do not play a role in “genuine” Christianity. He clearly distinguishes between nominal Christians who adopt the religion of their parents or of the majority simply because they tend to submit to authority, and those “whose religion would appear to be ‘genuine,’ in the sense that it was arrived at more or less independently of external pressure and takes the form of internalized values” (Adorno et al. 1950:220). Sanford says that the latter—the “genuine” Christians—“tend to score low, often very low, on ethnocentrism.”

Second, Sanford characterizes traditional Christianity in a positive, not a negative, way. He refers to “Christian humanism which works against prejudice” (Adorno et al. 1950:215). He writes that “in America today,” the “traditional Christian values of tolerance, brotherhood, and equality” appear to be “more firmly held by people who do not affiliate with any religious group,” though “genuine” Christians low in ethnocentrism “probably predominate in [certain] Protestant denominations” (Adorno et al. 1950:219–20). Thus Sanford identifies the values promoted by the Frankfurt School with Christianity, not Judaism.

MacDonald (1998a:240) approvingly cites Jay’s (1973:32) statement on the Frankfurt School: “What strikes the current observer is the intensity with which many of the Institute’s members denied, and in some cases still deny, any meaning at all to their Jewish identities.” MacDonald sees this denial as “crypsis”—members of the Frankfurt School “conceal[ed] their Jewish identities . . . [and] engage[d] in massive self-deception.” Jewish intellectual movements “typically [occur] in an atmosphere of Jewish crypsis or semi-crypsis in the sense that the Jewish political agenda [is] not an aspect of the theory and the theories themselves [have] no overt Jewish content” (1988a:241). But again, in the case of the Frankfurt School, there is no positive evidence for this, and MacDonald ignores the evidence against it. For example, in his discussion of Erich Fromm, a leading proponent of the Frankfurt School, MacDonald writes: “The irony (hypocrisy?) is that Fromm and the other members of the Frankfurt School, as individuals who strongly identified with a highly collectivist group (Judaism), advocated radical individualism for the society as a whole” (1988a:142). Here is what Fromm said about Israel: “The claim of the Jews to the land of Israel cannot be a realistic political claim. If all nations would suddenly claim territories in which their forefathers lived two thousand years ago, this world would be a madhouse” (Woolfson 1980:13). As mentioned earlier, Marcuse, one of the principal leaders of the school, is on record advocating exactly the same policies for Israel as he advocated for majority-white-gentile countries. Marcuse suggested that Arabs who were displaced when Israel was created should return, even though “such a return would quickly transform the Jewish majority into a minority.” Marcuse explained:

[I]t is precisely the policy aiming at a permanent majority which is self-defeating. . . . To be sure, Israel would be able to sustain a Jewish majority by means of an aggressive immigration policy. . . . [L]asting protection for the Jewish people cannot be found in the creation of a self-enclosed, isolated, fear-stricken majority, but only in the coexistence of Jews and Arabs as citizens with equal rights and liberties (Marcuse 2005:181).

Again, by MacDonald’s own standards, this makes Marcuse anti-Israel and opposed to Jewish interests.

Communism

One Jewish radical who is conspicuous for not being labeled an ethnic activist in The Culture of Critique is the most influential of them all: Karl Marx. Marx not only rejected his Jewish heritage, he went out of his way to express and promote viciously anti-Semitic views. In private correspondence, he smeared his socialist rival Ferdinand Lassalle (another Jew) with extremely anti-Semitic slurs and described Lassalle’s physical appearance, mannerisms, and habits as exemplifying unflattering Jewish characteristics (Gilman 1984:37). (The target of these obloquies, who was a major figure in his time, also held anti-Jewish views. In Lassalle’s words: “I do not like the Jews at all. I even detest them in general. . . . I have no contact with them”; Gilman 1984:37.) Most notorious is Marx’s 1844 essay, On the Jewish Question, which contains the famous lines: “What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money. . . . An organization of society which would abolish the preconditions for huckstering, and therefore the possibility of huckstering, would make the Jew impossible” (Marx 2010:170).

According to MacDonald (1998a:54), Marx held that “Judaism, freed from the principle of greed, would continue to exist in the transformed society after the revolution (Katz 1986:113).” However, page 113 of Katz (1986) makes no reference or allusion of any kind to Marx or his ideas. In regard to Marx’s views on Jewish peoplehood, Katz (1986:122) cites only his view that (in Katz’s words) “Jews qua Jews would become liberated from their Judaism to take up their place as human beings in the socialist society of the future.”

Marx, Lassalle, and many other Jewish radicals who espoused anti-Semitic views might seem to be counterexamples to the thesis that Jews are uniquely ethnocentric. In any case, although MacDonald says little about Marx himself, he sees Marx-inspired ideologies, particularly Bolshevism, as bona fide Jewish intellectual movements designed to undermine gentile society and preserve Jewish separatism. The evidence for this claim, however, is not compelling.

MacDonald (1998a:80) cites Pipes’s (1993:112) suggestion that Jewish overrepresentation among Bolsheviks requires no special explanation because Jews were overrepresented in many fields—science, business, art, and so on. MacDonald rejects this idea with the following argument:

[E]ven assuming that these ethnically Jewish communists did not identify as Jews, such an argument fails to explain why such “de-ethnicized” Jews (as well as Jewish businessmen, artists, writers and scientists) should have typically been overrepresented in leftist movements and underrepresented in nationalist, populist, and other types of rightist political movements: Even if nationalist movements are anti-Semitic, as has often been the case, anti-Semitism should be irrelevant if these individuals are indeed completely deethnicized as Pipes proposes. Jewish prominence in occupations requiring high intelligence is no argument for understanding their very prominent role in communist and other leftist movements and their relative underrepresentation in nationalist movements.

This response to Pipes seems unconvincing. First, anti-Semitic nationalist movements generally targeted Jews regardless of their self-identity. Jews who identified as “Russian” or “Polish” would still have been discouraged, if not outright prohibited, from joining these movements as equal participants. Second, even “de-ethnicized” Jews might find it difficult to accept anti-Semitic caricatures of Jews due simply to their close contact with Jewish family and former friends.

For MacDonald, having a strong Jewish identity appears to be the only reason not to support anti-Semitic movements. As he says:

Even the most highly assimilated Jewish communists working in urban areas with non-Jews were upset by the Soviet-German nonaggression pact but were relieved when the German-Soviet war finally broke out . . .—a clear indication that Jewish personal identity remained quite close to the surface (1988a:62).

On the Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact:

The nonaggression pact provoked a great deal of rationalization on the part of Jewish [Communist Party USA] members, often involving an attempt to interpret the Soviet Union’s actions as actually benefiting Jewish interests—clearly an indication that these individuals had not given up their Jewish identities. Others continued to be members but silently opposed the party’s line because of their Jewish loyalties (1988a:73).

Again, he interprets any objection to anti-Semitism—even silent opposition—as evidence that Jews are uniquely ethnocentric.

MacDonald devotes eight pages to “communism and Jewish identification in Poland” (1988a:61–69). A key claim in this section, based on work by Schatz (1991), is that the communist power structure was dominated by Jews seeking to preserve “Jewish group continuity in Poland while . . . destroy[ing] institutions . . . and . . . manifestations of Polish nationalism that promoted social cohesion among Poles” (1988a:68). He emphasizes repeatedly—based on Schatz (1991)—that the security service was devoted to this goal:

The core members of the security service came from the Jewish communists who had been communists before the establishment of the Polish communist government, but these were joined by other Jews sympathetic to the government and alienated from the wider society. . . . Jewish members of the internal security force often appear to have been motivated by personal rage and a desire for revenge related to their Jewish identity (MacDonald 1998a:66).

However, MacDonald leaves out a key fact noted by Schatz (1991:225), which is that 40% of the victims of the secret police were Jewish. Since the Jewish population of Poland at the time was miniscule (less than half of 1% of the population in 1949; see Schatz 1991:208), Jews were extremely disproportionately likely to be attacked by the security service. These data are more consistent with the thesis that Jews were simply more likely to be in positions of power—more likely to be in the position to persecute others, and more likely to be perceived as rivals by those in power, so more likely to be persecuted. There is no convincing evidence supporting the tale of Jews qua Jews victimizing gentiles for revenge on a significant scale.

Diversity and Immigration

According to The Culture of Critique, “[the Jewish Horace] Kallen’s idea of cultural pluralism as a model for the United States was popularized among gentile intellectuals by John Dewey . . ., who in turn was promoted by Jewish intellectuals” (1988a:250). MacDonald points out that the editors of Partisan Review “published work by Dewey and called him ‘America’s leading philosopher’” and Dewey’s student, Sidney Hook, “was also unsparing in his praise of Dewey, terming him ‘the intellectual leader of the liberal community in the United States’” (1988a:250). Notice that, earlier, MacDonald argued that Margaret Mead was a puppet of her less-famous Jewish teacher, Boas. Here he argues that Dewey was being manipulated by his less famous, albeit Jewish, student, Sidney Hook. What is the reason why Dewey’s actions should be attributed to Jews?

Dewey was highly influential with the public at large. Henry Commager described Dewey as “the guide, the mentor, and the conscience of the American people; it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that for a generation no issue was clarified until Dewey had spoken” (in Sandel 1996:36). Dewey was the foremost advocate of “progressive education” and helped establish the New School for Social Research and the American Civil Liberties Union, both essentially Jewish organizations (MacDonald 1998a:250).

MacDonald concludes that Dewey “represented the public face of a movement dominated by Jewish intellectuals.”

Of course, any intellectual in late-nineteenth-to-mid-twentieth-century New York City was going to have a lot of Jewish associates. Where is the positive evidence that Dewey’s monumental success was the result of being propped up by Jewish ethnic activists? MacDonald (1988a:250) quotes Sandel’s (1996:35) opinion that Dewey’s “lack of presence as a writer, speaker, or personality makes his popular appeal something of a mystery.” But one explanation for Dewey’s success is that people were taken with his ideas rather than with his personal charisma. This would explain how he came to be extremely influential in China, where he was known as “a Second Confucius” (Grange 2004), even though there were no Jews there to promote him.

The President’s Commission on Immigration and Naturalization (1953:92–93) cited five experts who submitted testimony denying innate race differences in psychology. Two of these experts were Jewish (Ashley Montagu and Philip Hauser). One of the three gentiles was Mead. Another gentile—former president of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Ralph L. Beals—reported that the AAA unanimously rejected innate race differences. To MacDonald (1998a:254), the followers of Boas were using the “ideology of racial equality [as] an important weapon on behalf of opening immigration up to all human groups.” (Boas himself died in 1942.)

An irony here is that the issue under consideration in this section of the commission’s report was not whether there were innate differences between whites and nonwhites, but whether there were innate differences between “Nordic” whites and other whites that justified limiting immigration from the latter group. The report cites Madison Grant:

The new immigration . . . contained a large and increasing number of the weak, the broken, and the mentally crippled of all [European] races drawn from the lowest stratum of the Mediterranean basin and the Balkans, together with hordes of the wretched, submerged populations of the Polish Ghettos. Our jails, insane asylums, and almshouses are filled with this human flotsam, and the whole tone of American life, social, moral, and political, has been lowered and vulgarized by them (President’s Commission on Immigration and Naturalization 1953:92).

MacDonald repeatedly cites Grant complaining that Jews opposed his (Grant’s) ideas. But in opposing the theory of Nordic superiority, Jews were effectively promoting, not undermining, white unity. Of course, many “Boasian” Jews argued that there were no differences between any races, but in the early twentieth century they were advocating immigration from all white countries whereas their opponents wanted to restrict immigration from non-Nordic white countries such as Italy and Poland.

According to The Culture of Critique, “American Jews have had no interest in proposing that immigration to Israel should be . . . multiethnic, or that Israel should have an immigration policy that would threaten the hegemony of Jews” (1988a:320). Regarding Jewish hypocrisy, MacDonald says:

Whereas American Jews have been in the forefront of efforts to ensure ethnic diversity in the United States and other Western societies, 40 percent of the [Israeli] Jewish respondents [in a 1988 survey reported in Smooha (1990:403)] agree that Israel should encourage Israeli Arabs to leave the country, 37 percent had reservations, and only 23 percent objected to such a policy. . . . Moreover, immigration to Israel is officially restricted to Jews (1988a:321).

Hypocrisy is when a person or group espouses values but applies them inconsistently. In order to attribute hypocrisy to people, it is necessary to identify the inconsistency in those people. MacDonald says that American Jews support multiculturalism, then cites a survey suggesting that many Israeli Jews advocate policies that are inconsistent with multicultural values. To justify the charge of hypocrisy it is necessary to find individual Jews advocating multiculturalism for the US and opposing it in Israel. Such Jews may exist, but there is no evidence that this is the norm. MacDonald treats the positions espoused by one Jew or group of Jews as a statement on behalf of the Jewish community and concludes that Jews are hypocrites because different Jews advocate policies that are mutually inconsistent. An alternative interpretation of the data is that Jews vary to some extent in their views among individuals and groups, in a way typical of other ethnicities.

Furthermore, the claim that immigration to Israel is restricted to Jews—even nominal Jews—was and is false. Since 1970, Israel will give automatic citizenship to anyone with one Jewish grandparent and their non-Jewish spouse and children (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2013). Hundreds of thousands of gentiles were granted Israeli citizenship because of this policy (Felter 2009). (An exact estimate is difficult to give since Israelis with no Jewish ancestors, or only a distant one, may identify as Jewish in surveys.)

It is also false that liberal Jews do not promote ethnic diversity in Israel. MacDonald says that Jews have supported black integration in the US “because such policies dilute Caucasian power and lessen the possibility of a cohesive, nationalist anti-Semitic Caucasian majority . . . while pursuing an anti-assimilationist, nationalist group strategy for their own group” (1988a:257). “American Jews have had no interest in proposing that immigration to Israel should be . . . multiethnic” (1988a:320). The Culture of Critique makes no mention of the fact that many of the same liberal Jews who advocate on behalf of blacks in the US pushed for the immigration of large numbers of nominally Jewish Ethiopians who have no genetic relation to other Jewish populations (Lucotte and Smets 1999). Israel, with around six million self-identified Jews (including at least a few hundred thousand who are not halachically Jewish), now contains a rapidly growing population of more than 135,000 Ethiopians (Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute 2015). Alan Dershowitz, whom MacDonald (1998a:244, 318) identifies as an ethnic activist, played a leading role in pressuring the Israeli government to accept Africans who identify as Jews. In Dershowitz’s (2007) own words: “we have filed lawsuits, helped raise money, pressured leaders, and argued in the court of public opinion in favor of increased [multiethnic] immigration into Israel.”

At the end of The Culture of Critique, MacDonald asks what the ultimate consequences of Jewish-instituted liberal policies are likely to be in America. He suggests: “An important consequence—and one likely to have been an underlying motivating factor in the countercultural revolution—may well be to facilitate the continued genetic distinctiveness of the Jewish gene pool in the United States” (1988a:318). It is difficult to square this claim with the fact that Reform and unaffiliated Jews—the ones who participated in these liberal/multicultural movements—have an intermarriage rate of 50% and 69%, respectively (Pew Research Center 2013:37). (This may be an underestimate of intermarriage rates since Reform converts were counted as Jewish in Pew’s survey.) In fact, it is only those Jews who, as a group, were much less involved in national politics—the orthodox—who have low intermarriage rates and high fertility. MacDonald states that Jewish activists have increasingly started to see traditional Judaism as a better means of preserving group continuity. “Reform Judaism is becoming steadily more conservative, and there is a major effort within all segments of the Jewish community to prevent intermarriage. . . .” But contemporary Reform Judaism defines “intermarriage” as marriage between someone who identifies as a Jew and someone who identifies as a non-Jew. They care nothing for ethnic purity, and MacDonald never provides any evidence to the contrary.

Conclusion: Evidence Favors the Default Hypothesis, and MacDonald Does Not Represent Evolutionary Psychology

MacDonald claims that several major twentieth-century liberal intellectual and political movements were consciously or unconsciously designed by Jews as part of a group evolutionary strategy to undermine gentile societies while preserving cohesion and continuity among themselves. High intelligence and ethnocentrism are supposedly genetic adaptations that help Jews pursue this strategy. According to the “default hypothesis” proposed in this paper, Jews, having relatively high mean levels of general intelligence and being concentrated in major cities, tend to be overrepresented in cognitively demanding fields, activities, and movements that are not overtly anti-Semitic, regardless of whether they are liberal or conservative. Anticipating this alternative explanation for Jewish overrepresentation in liberal movements, MacDonald seeks to protect his theory from being falsified by evidence that supports the default hypothesis:

As anti-Semitism develops, Jews begin to abandon the very movements for which they originally provided the intellectual impetus. This phenomenon may also occur in the case of multiculturalism. Indeed, many of the most prominent opponents of multiculturalism are Jewish neoconservatives, as well as organizations such as the National Association of Scholars (NAS), which have a large Jewish membership (1988a:313).

After arguing so strenuously that liberal movements were designed to advance a Jewish group evolutionary strategy, he acknowledges that Jews are also in the vanguard in the fight against those same movements.

In recent years, Jews have continued to produce examples favoring the default hypothesis. The most high-profile opponent of liberal activism in social science is, without question, Jonathan Haidt (see Duarte et al. 2015), who is Jewish. The most high-profile advocate of incorporating Darwinism into the social sciences is another Jew, Steven Pinker (e.g., Pinker 2002). The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)—the most prominent organization that defends free speech on campus, primarily the speech of conservatives—was founded by Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate, both Jewish. There is reason to believe that Jews played a significant role in Donald Trump’s election and, specifically, in his anti-immigration policies (Dolsten 2017). The term “paleoconservative,” referring to a pro-white, pro-Western-tradition political doctrine, was coined by Herbert Marcuse’s PhD student Paul Gottfried, who is Jewish. Gottfried was also the first person to publicly use the term “alternative right” to refer to a race-conscious conservatism that opposes immigration and multiculturalism (Siegel 2016). The only major white nationalist organization that is not anti-Semitic is American Renaissance. Out of the 10 invited speakers at the first American Renaissance conference in 1994, four were Jewish (American Renaissance 2017).

Salter (2000) notes that many of the sources cited in The Culture of Critique are “mainstream.” Indeed, while the Judaism-as-a-group-evolutionary-strategy trilogy has the accoutrements of sound scholarship, such as detailed endnotes and extensive bibliographies to sources that are themselves credible, the evidence reviewed here suggests that this is a smokescreen. MacDonald’s theory is built on misrepresented sources, cherry-picked facts, and assiduous refusal to consider the more parsimonious default hypothesis that the evidence actually supports.

Finally, let us turn to the question of MacDonald’s relationship with evolutionary psychology. Some opponents of evolutionary psychology have taken his conclusions as the more or less inevitable outcome of applying evolutionary theory to Judaism. Some supporters of evolutionary psychology (such as D. S. Wilson and others listed earlier) have also claimed that MacDonald is correctly applying evolutionary psychological thinking to Judaism. But misrepresenting sources and distorting history are not part of the methods of evolutionary psychology, or any other legitimate academic discipline. Those who have competently applied insights from evolutionary theory to the study of Judaism (e.g., Goldberg 2009; Konner 2003) have come to very different conclusions than we find in The Culture of Critique. It is they, not MacDonald, who should be treated as representatives of evolutionary psychology and biosocial science.

Footnotes

  1. 1.

    MacDonald’s (1988a:154, n. 15) list of the four who were not influenced by Freud does not include Silvers.

Notes

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Jonathan Anomaly, Steven Pinker, Neven Sesardić, David Sidorsky, and two reviewers for Human Nature for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

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This essay was originally published at Human Nature.

Peak Alt Right: How the Far Right Has Already Lost

For Richard Spencer, the Republican National Convention was a return to relevance, a coming out party for those who had been out for years before anyone cared.

This was not the first Republican event for Spencer, who spent his early professional years following the small paleoconservative niches blazed by people like Pat Buchannan and Taki Theodoracopulos.  After penning a defense of the student Lacrosse players at Duke University who were accused of sexually assaulting a sex worker of color for the William Taft society, he was brought on as an Assistant Editor of arts at the American Conservative.  The magazine made a name for itself through Scott McConnell’s attempt to channel Old Right politics into a world disgusted by most of the excess of Neoconservative foreign policy, coming out against the Iraq War while few on the right were.

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McConnell eventually helped Spencer to land a job further to the right at Taki’s Magazine, which keeps the overflow of racists let go from places like Forbes and The National Review.  As Peter Brimelow left behind his career attacking teacher’s unions for white nationalism and anti-immigrant extremism with his website VDare and John Derbyshire decided to go public with his with race and IQ arguments, Taki’s Magazine became a place where they could continue to rant to an audience that was almost relevant to beltway Conservatism.

It was here that Spencer decided to make a final transition to the fringes based on the community that he was seeing take shape out of the ashes of paleoconservatism.  Greg Johnson, the editor of the neo-fascist publishing house Counter Currents described the early days of Alternative Right, which Spencer founded as a “big tent” for these dissident right-wing movements, as a place for ideas often conflicting to find a common ground.

[Alternative Right] will attract the brightest ‘young’ conservatives and libertarians and expose them to far broader intellectual horizons, including race realism, White Nationalism, the European New Right, the Conservative Revolution, Traditionalismneo-paganismagrarianismThird Positionismanti-feminism, and right-wing anti-capitalistsecologistsbioregionalists, and small-is-beautiful types.

Though it has gone through several iterations, the Alt Right is the most recent stage of the process started by Spencer several years ago.  Together, it makes up an ideological fascist kernel of ideas, ones that drive the political movement of the racialist right.  While it is largely undefined, it can loosely be thought to encompass anti-egalitarianism, anti-democracy, elitist, racialist, anti-feminist, and other forms of anti-equality thinking that make up its ideological core.  Whether these are arguments to restore the monarchy, to return to the “Ethnic religions” of pre-Christian Europe, or simply proclamations that people of color are more prone to crime or have lower innate IQs, it is the ideological position in favor of hierarchy that drives its ranks, from the white nationalists to the Men’s Rights activists.

While they often mock the neo-Nazis, Klansman, and old guard of the insurrectionary racist movement, they share the same ideological ideas even if the Alt Right are more upper middle class and concerned with a different strategic orientation.

An Intellectual Tradition?

As Spencer walked the streets surrounding the convention in Cleveland he held above him a sign that said “Want to talk to a “racist?”  This is a strategic move for Spencer, who wants to reframe “racism” as simply a preference for one’s own “identity” and “tribe.”  He attempts to liken himself to Latino organizations looking to advance what he calls “ethnic interests,” or Black Nationalists looking to retain a culture that was robbed during colonial slavery.

His arguments, while ignored for years, have finally found an audience in the mainstream press who are trying to make sense of the ideological current that has been associated with the rise of Donald Trump.  HBO, shooting a documentary looking at racialist groups in the U.S., was following him around, and even set up a conversation between him and news anchor Jorge Ramos.  While this may seem like cheap controversy baiting, and it is, Spencer was presented as a reasonable point of debate with Ramos.  Instead of just a spectacle, the message has been sent that Spencer represents a growing point of view that must be considered in the debate.  Previously his ethnic nationalist message would have been considered so obviously repulsive as not to be considered relevant for inclusion, but these are apparently the times we live in.

The Alt Right has pushed itself into the discourse through a few convenient openings.  The first, and most obvious, is the self-destruction of the Conservative Movement.  As Spencer has discussed, at length, the Conservative Movement as we know it today is more of an invention of William Buckley and the National Review as a Cold War ideology.  Here it mixed Christian social conservatism, hawkish foreign policy, and free market economics into something that appeared as a coherent ideology for decades.  Right-wing scholar Paul Gottfried, who consorts with Spencer and company often, calls this ideological pairing “idea clusters,” where the ideas themselves are not necessarily ideologically related yet are put into a bunch and labeled as “conservative.”

As demographics change, capitalism heads into permanent crisis, and the culture shift dramatically, Buckley’s idea cluster is failing to resonate.  It is in this space that alternatives have been tried, with libertarianism being the ideological position popular in the younger areas of the GOP for the last few years.  This headed into decline as Ron Paul faded from view and places like Reason Magazine and the Caito Institute lost power or uniqueness.

Now, in the search for an identity, many of the edgier “dissidents” allied with American Conservatism have found Brietbart, post-Tea Party racial anger, and Donald Trump.

Now That’s What I Call Edgy

When mixed with the second key factor for the Alt Right, the horizontal nature of social media, you can see why the edgy “Shitlords” found a voice.  In an attempt to out offend each other, the culture of the Alt Right was formed on 4Chan, Reddit, and Twitter, where the need to find uniqueness and to rebel against what they believe orthodoxy to be (in this case it is “political correctness”), they united with old-fashioned white supremacy to form a semi-coherent white nationalism that is based in ironic catch phrases, internal jargon, trolling, and unrestrained anger.

With Twitter they can cut through to mainstream discourse by trending hashtags like #Cuckservative, using every media mention as a way to slowly seep in Nazi talking points with kitschy memes and constant trolling.  Gone are the days of concerted organizing around crossover topics like immigration and affirmative action, now it is better to dominate comments sections on articles and post blogs arguing in favor of slavery and Holocaust Denial.

This is perfectly fine with Spencer, who was always looking to foment a fascist cultural movement more than a political one.  As he often proselytizes, he is not a materialist, he is an idealist in the German tradition.  He believes the change starts in the minds and the culture, and “politics are a lagging indicator.”  This is why his movement starts with a tweet, not with a sign, and you will not see concrete goals listed as how to get to the Ethnostate he envisions on the North American continent.

It is all of these peculiarities and contradictions that lead to why the Alt Right is failing before it ever really begins.

What drew out Alternative Right and its successor, the Radix Journal, as well as the entire sphere of neo-fascist publications and publishers was its ability to create a philosophical foundation to the racialist and neo-fascist movement.  It was not just its congenial style, we have had suit and tie racists before (see David Duke wearing suits at Klan meetings), but what Alternative Right attempted to do was do have a real set of philosophical, academic, and new religious interventions.  This was a smart white nationalism, one that was attempting to find some coherence.  As you would expect, this has had mixed results as those with credentials and ideas are few and far between inside of the far right, as is art, music, and literature.

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Radical Traditionalist and esoteric fascist, Julius Evola.

In their pursuit a few key threads came out, from celebrating paganism to the Radical Traditionalism of Julius Evola, Spencer and his ilk worked hard to carry on the legacy of people like Alain de Benoit and Guilluime Faye.  This was to make fascism just as much of a philosophic project as Marxism and anarchism, and one that they hoped to decouple from the more obvious forms of violence and ugly racism that it usually resorts to.  While those on the anti-fascist left will usually point out that this is merely an act, and it is, there is often a deeper process here.  What they are searching for is to give reason and purpose to the bigotry that they feel, and they want to prove that it is not hatred but deep philosophical ideas and socio-biological identity that is driving them.  Spencer has constructed a culture that looks as much as possible like the academic left, using jargon and rhetoric that feels more like the Frankfurt School than like the National Alliance.  Oswald Spangler, Ernst Junger, and Carl Schmidt were pulled off the shelf, mixed with misreadings of Nietzsche, and an “intellectual” fascist tradition was continued in the few conferences the Alt Right had the money to muster.

With the innocuously named National Policy Institute, Spencer hosted conferences that were overpriced and set in posh venues, all with the idea of gaining legitimacy.  With Washington Summit Publishers, the NPI book publishing wing, he basically republished books by scientific racists of the past like Madison Grant as well as “new school” race and IQ ideologues like Richard Lynn and Kevin McDonald, all with names like the “Global Bell Curve” that both try to ride the wave of popular right-wing books in the mainstream and to sound as if they could blend into the world of scientific publishing.  Going further, with the launch of the Radix Journal website, Spencer created a Radix imprint for Washington Summit Publishers to print books that were more cultural.  Here they published a slick journal with themes like “The Great Erasure,” looking at the “global delegitimization of the white man.”  They republished crossover authors like Samuel Francis, who has the strange achievement of being published regularly in the Washington Times as well as for white nationalist publications like the Occidental Observer, American Renaissance, and the Citizen Informer, the newsletter of the Council of Conservative Citizens.

Similarly, Greg Johnson of Counter Currents has tried to create an academic tone with his publishing, mixing in the pseudo-spirituality of Heathens like Stephen McNallen, the racial mysticism of Savitri Devi, and tribalists like Jack Donovan.  Going even further, publishers like Arktos Media have tried to build a culture on republishing Julius Evola and French New Right thinkers as well as neofolk records, all with the idea that they can create a far-right wing culture of art and philosophy.

All of this together brought a certain tone that, while masking the guttural racial hatred and genocidal justifications, was meant to make arguments for their position in a world disgusted by racism, sexism, and homophobia.

It wasn’t this culture, however, that gave the Alt Right the name it has today.

Blind Ideology, White Anger

The current state of the Alt Right is one that is based on a certain online cruelty, a culture built almost entirely on the insult.  This did not start with The Right Stuff and their headline podcast The Daily Shoah, but it certainly was popularized with it.  The Daily Shoah was created by a group of former libertarians who had turned towards white nationalism and wanted to create an Opie and Anthony styled radio show for their crew.  As they had built most of their ideological foundations on message boards rather than in political situations out in the real world, they had developed a caustic online culture of racial epithets and angry misogyny.  Uniting the worlds of white nationalism, Men’s Rights Activism, anti-disability blame-rage, and other indulgences of reactionary toxicity, they used the Alt Right philosophical underpinnings as a foundation for their anger.  They hate black people, and call them the N-word and other creative insults, and then pick at “Human Biological Diversity” terminology to justify their anger.  Kevin McDonald’s anti-Semitic conspiracy theories fuel their bizarre belief that everything in the culture that pulls progressive or against systemic white supremacy is done by Jews, who conspire in their genes to undermine “Western Civilization.  They bring on other Nazis and right-wingers to indulge in esoteric Hitlerism, strange Euro-paganism, and the intermix of Christian orthodoxy, paleolibertarianism, and secular authoritarianism with their own angry racism to create a culture of Internet trolling rather than political organizing.

Through The Right Stuff, the Daily Stormer, and a slew of blogs and podcasts, we have seen the two cultures, the pseudo-academic and the vulgar anger, unite into one “Alt Right,” with a single soul and two dramatically different faces.

As Spencer walked in circles around the Quicken Loans Arena he tried to turn “stereotypes” about racists on their head, fighting to shake Jorge Ramos’ hand.  In an earlier interview, Ramos had a conversation with a KKK member who refused to lock palms with him, and Spencer wanted to show that he, in fact, respected Ramos.  In their conversation, Spencer wanted to prove that Ramos was an “Identitarian” just like Spencer, fighting for his people.  This is a common talking point among white nationalist who try to argue that they are fighting for white interests just like the NAACP fights for “black interests” and La Raza fights for “Latino interests.”  This is context denial, a term that the Alt Right loves to use, in that they do not like to admit that when it comes to Black Nationalism, it is an attempt to reclaim a stolen culture and identity, while white nationalism actually obliterates European history in an attempt to reconstruct formal white supremacy. One is organizing against verifiable oppression, and the other is the reactionary anger of a group who is having their privilege eroded by progress.

That evening Spencer was invited to Milo Yiannopoulos’ evening party, where he lived out one of the most profound paradoxes of the Alt Right and their participation at the RNC.  Milo has made a name for himself as the most high profile people donning the Alt Right label, though his version is the most watered down by most Alt Right standards.  Many on the Alt Right denounce Milo because he is a gay man with a Jewish ancestry; though the more savvy of the crowd like that he is mainstreaming their iconoclastic views at Breitbart.  Milo was there to lead the anti-Islamic charge, claiming that it Islam was not only irreconcilable with queerness, but incompatible with Western Civilization as a whole.  LGBTrump founder Chris Barron continued this rhetoric during the evening, which echoed the angry scapegoating of Jewish immigrants in 1920s Germany.  While comparisons to Nazi Germany are often obvious and overwrought, this situation seemed obvious as the contempt towards Muslims was explicit and there were open calls for their forced expulsion.

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Matt Forney (Middle)

While Spencer was softening the blows of his racism, Milo was riding the wave of this own offensiveness, all the way to being banned on Twitter.  Spencer was one of many Alt Right people at Milo’s events, including MRA clown Matt Forney reporting for Red Ice.  The party was an RNC associated event that openly invited people who argue that Black people should be forcefully returned to Africa in a “peaceful ethnic cleansing.”  If this doesn’t reveal the current orientation of the GOP, nothing does.

After the first couple days of the party, Spencer joined Jazz Hands McFeels at Fash the Nation, one of the other most popular white nationalist podcasts on the growing Right Stuff podcast network.  After telling Jorge Ramos that he respected all races and cultures, he used racial slurs to refer to black people and laughed along at comparisons between people of color and animals.  Fash the Nation enjoys using the n-word, calling black people “feral” and various types of apes, and laughs about killing Jews.  This is what has spiked its numbers, as its Alt Right Twitter army laughs with glee as they are given permission to revel in the darkest parts of their reactionary bigotry.

Appearance vs. Reality

It is here that the contradiction in the Alt Right has grown to proportions it cannot ignore: it wants to be both an inoffensive political and ideological movement while also being an angry and virulently offensive brand of political theater.  While Spencer previously found racial slurs offensive and idiotic, he dropped his standards once it was those qualities that gave the Alt Right legs.  While he was developing an “ideological” movement built on intellectual credibility, it was words like Dindu, Triggered, Echoes, and Merchant that gave it the culture to grow.

As it hits its zenith, many on the inside of these circles are beginning to realize that you cannot have both.  You cannot have an inoffensive “identitarianism” on one side, that argues that is simply wants its own identity and is not reveling in hatred of “the other” while also indulging in angry insults at people of color and mocking their suffering.

Holocaust Denial has come in waves as a sort of “crossover” topic for white nationalists, one that is intended to find some converts in conspiracy theory circles.  In the early 1990s it saw a peak with organizations like the Institute for Historical Review and the Barnes Review trying to legitimize “Holocaust Revisionism” as just another form of historical inquiry.  They argued that it was simply about uncovering truth and had no social or political agenda besides finding out what really happened.

If this was true, why was it that most of those involved in the revisionism were also involved in racial nationalist projects?  Why were the same people questioning the existence of gas chambers also presenting race and IQ arguments?  Could it be simply that they were repackaging the racial hatred of the past in new pseudo-intellectual arguments?  This became such an obvious sham that places like the IHR shut their doors, and Holocaust Denial became (until recently) an almost forgotten task left to basement dwellers on BlogSpot.

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Mark Weber

They attempted to say that their arguments were disconnected from all of the aspects that society finds repulsive: insulting racism, racial violence, genocide, persecution, and oppression.  Instead, they could not cover their tracks well enough, and it took only the briefest look to reveal them for who they were.  Mark Weber, the most well known front-man for the IHR (after wrestling it away from ignominious racist Willis Carto) often donned a suit and tie and used academic jargon when stating his case for reimagining the second World War.  If he really was just another historian who stumbled on this “inconvenient truth,” then how come he had been a member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance since he was a teenager?

A similar situation marks the two-storied history of American Renaissance (AmRen), one of the largest and most established white nationalist projects in the country.  AmRen began in the late 1980s as a newsletter from Jared Taylor as a pseudo-intellectual white nationalist voice, intending to be an alternative to the toxic influence of neo-Nazi organizations that engaged in murderous fits of violence over the 1980s.  Taylor focused in on race and IQ arguments mainly, riding the wave of The Bell Curve and the candidacies of people like David Duke and Pat Buchanan, creating a “high brow” culture for their conferences.  Over the years they have hosted every scientist who has made arguments about the differences between races, often arguing that the organization is simply dedicated to getting out a clearer view of science, heredity, and biological difference.

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Donald Templar, speaking at American Renaissance.

If this were true, then their list of speakers would not be a “who’s who” of nationalist far-right political organizations, ranging from fascist organizations to ones with a history of racial terror.  If it was simply an organization for the scientific study of race, then you would not have “academics” like Donald Templar stepping to the podium to yell about how tired he is of black people “complaining” and how they need to be worked 60-hour weeks in prison so they will stop “giving aids to each other.”  If you listen to a large cross section of American Renaissance speeches, or read their newsletter, the only connective tissue is anger towards non-white people and the value-laden language meant to disparage anyone without pure Aryan ancestry.  All of the “difference” that they outline puts black and brown people in a negative light, and most of the terms and categories used are either antiquated or non-scientific in orientation.   Plainly put, American Renaissance is an organization dedicated towards developing white nationalism through the denigration of people of color, and the “science” is piecemeal, out of context, and almost always discredited.

Why American Renaissance has dropped its scientific veneer in recent years is that it did not work.  They attempted to gain credibility for its beliefs on the one hand, yet empowered a sub-intellectual culture of racial slurs, anger, and insults.

Spencer has spent years disassociating himself with the KKK and neo-Nazis of the world, but that is a surface act at best.  In his most recent podcast, Spencer interview former KKK leader David Duke about his upcoming big for the Louisiana legislature.  He often has Kevin McDonald, the sort of Karl Marx of anti-Semitism, who was on the board of the skinhead-associated American Freedom Party, a place where Spencer has also been interviewed.  He often joins The Daily Shoah, or invites them on his own show, where they do not skimp on the denigrations against Jews, transgender people, and all non-white people.  Spencer may play his rhetorical game, but the only difference between him and a KKK member is that his house is worth almost $4 million.  When it comes to every ideological point, from the “subhuman” nature of black people to the secret power structure of Jews, Spencer is identical to all of the neo-Nazis that the general public finds so repulsive.  When it comes to rhetoric, he is of the same circles as those calling Black people “Dindus,” making monkey sounds during Black History month, and applauding the murder of Mike Brown.

As Donald Trump publicly implodes going into the general election, he is continuing to drum up an “anti-PC” culture of racial animosity and fighting words.  This peak has given the Alt Right a place in the public discourse, but it has discredited all legitimacy it had hoped to gain.  While they main gain converts through their toxic discourse and rhetoric, they have undermined all ability to actually have an influence on even the broader American right wing.  While trying to take on both faces, that of the academy and of the bully, they have failed to actually benefit from either, and now they are seeing peak influence.  Even if Donald Trump was to pull a Hail Mary and win in the general election, their rhetoric will continue to fade as Trump’s administration heads to a socially conservative platform, bought into the same neoliberal interests that he has been tied to throughout his career as a bourgeois inheritance baby.  The Alt Right has played all of its cards, and its limited contributions to discourse will not withstand its self-destruction.

For anti-fascists going forward, the biggest lesson is that the Alt Right has rebranded the far right, and will make up the cultural touchstones of fascist organization for years to come.  Broad nationalism, Internet trolling, and silly jargon are what neo-Nazis are today, which gives a great sign of what to look for.  As far as influence, they have created a cap that they will never be able to move past.

Pop Conspiracy: B.O.B., Tila Tequila, and the Digitizing of Old School Anti-Semitism

b-o-b

A Twitter-storm is now the new headline factory, which is no surprise since silliness often hits the top of CNN and the New York Times based on trending hashtags.  While the Malheur rebellion was hitting its twilight, and the police standoff ended in a fatal shooting, B.O.B. was stealing some of the spotlight with his geological ideas.

For those who have not seen the flurry of articles and late-night monologues about this: B.O.B. believes the earth is flat.  We don’t mean this as a Friedmanesque analogy about 21st century corporate globalization, but literally that it is a disc.  The Flat Earth Society has existed for over a century continuing to play on contemporary conspiracy theories to argue that the Earth is not a globe as all of contemporary science proves.  Instead, they make strange arguments about the angling of the horizon and fundamentalist readings of the Bible to argue against what has been the consensus for hundreds of years.  In this view the Arctic Ocean and North Pole reside at the center of this spinning disc, Antarctica is a 150-foot ice wall that holds the oceans in from falling off the edge, and the Sun is about 3,000 miles above Earth.

Those who do ascribe to Flat Earth Theory are not your regular Alex Jones type crackpots, or even those who believe world leaders to be secret Reptilian Humanoids from the lower fourth-dimension.  No, this is the fringe of the fringe, and it would be hard to believe that their numbers are larger than a few hundred in the whole world.  Now, they have a few celebrity cohorts.

This began several weeks ago with former reality-star Tila Tequila going to Twitter to post that the earth was, in fact, flat.  “I WILL STOP MY #FLATEARTH TALK IF SOMEONE CAN SEND ME A GOD DAMN PHOTO OF THE HORIZON WITH A CURVATURE! OTHERWISE IT IS FLAT!,” read one of these.

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B.O.B., the rapper also going by Bobby Ray, then took this idea and ran with it, quoting silly talking points from Flat Earthers about the edge of the horizon, the angle of the sun, and the angles of vision.  Both Tila and B.O.B. went on to basically insult the world’s intelligence and call non-believers sheep, which is why it has been easy to focus on the level of stupidity at pla.  The unfortunate part is that neither Tila nor B.O.B. are simply parroting innocent eccentricities.

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 11.01.13 AM

After being made fun of by famed physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, B.O.B. released a new track called Flatline.  Beyond being barely produced and sung, the song basically strung together various inane conspiracy theories.  Here he insinuates that NASA is a government control plot and pays Tyson for his participation.  Later B.O.B. tweeted him asking if he was a Freemason.  In Flatline, he goes on to discuss cloning, which he says is being done to black celebrities, and that science is a cult of liars.  At midpoint during the song he drops the following line:

Before you try to curve it, do your research on David Irving.

Stalin was way worse than Hitler.

That’s why POTUS gotta wear a Kippa

There is really only one thing that David Irving is famous for today: Holocaust Denial.

Irving began as a semi-respected historian of the Second World War, especially of Nazi Germany.  Though he was certainly allied with neo-fascist political programs while in college, he went on to publish major works on the Third Reich that were on cutting edge in terms of legitimate scholarship.  It was true that his work was problematic and sympathetic to Nazism even from the earliest publications, and he eventually began saying that the Holocaust was not on the direct order of Hitler.  After the Canadian trial of Ernst Zundel, who was being tried for “inciting racial hatred” for publishing the pamphlet Did Six Million Really Die?, Irving was swayed by the debunked testimony of Fred Leuchter.  He has associated with far-right and neo-Nazi groups, both in speaking for them in talks that blame Jews for their own persecution and for openly stating his own racial nationalist ideas.  Today, he is the most famous Holocaust Denier in the world as he is one of the only deniers who had a historical pedigree ahead of the denial.  He gained further notoriety after suing Deborah Lipstadt in the early 1990s after her book, the seminal work on holocaust denial, Denying the Holocaust, claimed that he was, in fact, a racist and a liar.  He then went through an embarrassing trial where he was forced to try and defend his claims about the Holocaust as a planned program for Jewish extermination, which he could not do.  He eventually lost both his claims and the counter-suit that Lipstadt leveled against him.  Later he was imprisoned in Austria for denying the Holocaust, where it is actually a serious crime.

What B.O.B. seems to be referencing here is a common claim on the far-right that Hitler’s numbers in terms of extermination and oppression were inflated, and in fact it was the Soviets who were the bigger criminals.  Part of this comes from the inclusion of German casualties to Soviet troops in WWII, as well as the numbers from political repression and incompetence in Stalin’s Russia.  The purpose of this comparison is to dethrone ethnic nationalism as an immediately recognized genocidal force and to instead list Nazi Germany as just one of the many violent regimes that have blanketed human history.  B.O.B. goes on to label the Jews specifically by mentioning the Kippa, saying that world leaders have to have Jewish allegiances.

This is not a coded message about Holocaust Denial, but an open reference to anyone that researched his message.  This took several days, and Salon was essentially the first source to go deep into his comments to analyze their background.  B.O.B. has referenced things like “false flag” U.S. attacks, bringing up the Alex Jones type conspiracy theories about 9/11.

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B.O.B. might seem like an outlier even to the conspiracy theory crowd, but, as Tila Tequila has shown previously, the connection to open anti-Semitism is much more ingrained.  In 2013 she inspired a massive controversy by posting a picture of herself in a modified Hitler costume.  Many people thought this was an ill-tempered attempt at provocation, but it was quickly put in context as she posted multiple blogs on her website showing admiration for Hitler and doubting the “official story” of the Holocaust.  If you were to then go through her forums and comments section, this connection became even more explicit.  Over and over again she said that contemporary Jews were in fact not Jews at all, but Khazars.  This is a less known conspiracy theory to the broad tinfoil hat crowd, and one that comes from the most violent annals of white nationalism.  Often present in Christian Identity churches, which also believe that people of color are not fully human and without souls, they believe that the ancient Israelites of the Bible were actually the European white race.  Jews were in fact a demonic tribe of people, sometimes considered to be a tribal band known as the Khazars.  They converted to the Babylonian Temple religion, a perverted version of the Old Testament, and its devious plans are fully revealed in the Babylonian Talmud.  In this theory, their main function is to leech on dominant national populations, trying to destroy the white race by inspiring race mixing.  This may sound too extreme for Tila Tequila to believe, and it is most likely from reading her mixed posts that she probably only read parts of a few blogs and articles before deciding Jews were evil, but this is certainly at the heart of her ranting.  Anyone that disagrees with her she calls a “dirty Jew” and a “Kike.”  She repeatedly says that Jews lie to get the State of Israel, that they tarnished great men like Hitler, and that they are in control of the media and the investment banks.  She was even thrown off of Celebrity Big Brother in mid-2015 after her comments surfaced, especially that she was the reincarnation of Hitler.

Hitler was a good man and it takes some f*****g balls for someone to say this out loud in this day and age, especially for a public figure like myself…Here is a man who was not a coward, stood up for his country in a desperate time of need… and yet not only did he try his best to help his country and people get out of what was a time of depression, economic collapse, high unemploymeny(sic). He lost the war and was painted out to be a monster after his death. This is what breaks my heart. (From her blog)

When speaking about the Jews in WWII specifically she was pretty candid.

What do you think war is about? People DIE in wars that is why I am against wars… I understand the Jewish people went through some s**t too, but hey guess what?? SO DID THE MAJORITY OF THE PEOPLE WHO SUFFERED IN EVERY SINGLE WAR THAT TOOK PLACE! You were NOT the only ones! So please, if the rest of us can forgive and forget maybe it’s time you do also!!!

The question that comes up from many media outlets right now is how two folks of color, B.O.B. and Tila Tequila, would be parroting extreme genocidal racists who would likely want to see them in camps just as much as Jewish people.  This is complex, but anti-Semitism itself has been ever present inside conspiracy theories that are still common in some communities of color.  Often deeply held inside black nationalist groups like the Nation of Islam, the Black Hebrew Israelites, and the Nuwabian Nation, Jews are vilified and seen as a primary agent in the colonial slave trade.  Anti-Semitism has historically been a main focus of conspiracy theories, from the identification of Freemasons as controlling the secret government to the trans-national Illuminati that is repackaged for every ideological specific development.  In How to Overthrow the Illuminati, which was a popular pamphlet discussing conspiracy theories in African American communities, anti-Semitism is able to unite working class people against their own interest in the same way that general racism can unite the white working class against their class unity.

Anti-Semitism united poor workers with small business owners, despite their opposed interests. The poor workers were angry about their treatment under capitalism, but saw Jews as a bigger enemy than their exploiting factory bosses. The small business owners worked to become the big-time exploiters of the poor workers, and felt Jews stood in the way of their goals. These two classes were fundamentally opposed to each other, but temporarily joined together in a populist movement, because of their mutual, misguided anti-Semitism. Populist movements join poor people with the petit-bourgeoisie, against imagined elite enemies. They speak in the name of the “common man,” but they’re guided by middle class elements, and screw over poor and working participants in the end. Contemporary examples of populism include the Tea Party, some parts of Occupy Wall Street, and the Nation of Islam. Illuminati theories are often populist in character. Many populist theories draw on anti-Semitism to identify an evil elite that runs the world.

Anti-Semitism is so ingrained in the history of conspiracy theory that any new conspiracy theory that has any continuity to the past will lead back to the blaming of Jews.  This is present in the notion that it was Israelis who committed 9/11 as well as the David Icke presented idea that there are certain “bloodlines” that control banks and who benefit from global violence.  This brings us right back to B.O.B., who uses the lyric “there’s no superior bloodline” in Flatline’s chorus, which, in this context, seems like a clearly coded reference to Jews and their supposedly “secret bloodline” that allows them to control global affairs.

B.O.B. is continuing to mention online that there are cloning centers that he himself has witnessed and that he is “going up against the greatest liars in history.”  He will likely be dismissed as a crank, which he is, yet his return to very traditional anti-Semitic conspiracy theories is a frightening reminder that this caricature of Jews is on the tip of people’s tongues.  When David Irving was questioned about B.O.B.’s reference to him in his song, he said, “[B.o.B] does not quite go along with what the media (and shortly, Hollywood) says about me, quite right.”  As Salon pointed out, Hollywood in this context is likely a snide reference to Jews.  It took all of two days before B.O.B. was added to the Wikipedia list of Holocaust Deniers.

Neil deGrasse Tyson responded to the recent Flat Earth claims by discussing the failure of American education, especially when it comes to the physical sciences.  He kept it pretty light with an appearance on the Daily Show, basically making fun of B.O.B. for his statements.  This is part and parcel of a media representation that has largely missed the depth that his comments.

This actually presents a challenge to anti-racists in that it requires a certain understanding of the history of anti-Semitism, its role in conspiracy theory and economic populism, and how we can continue to highlight how it goes unchallenged in many political spaces.  As we hit Holocaust Remembrance Day, it is a critical time to remember what has come before and what unchallenged hatred and scapegoating can result in.