YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

February 11, 2015

The Illusion of National Unity

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 4:02 pm


Since many conservatives remain gripped by nostalgia for a traditional America that never was, I am reposting this brief statement as a rebuke to “culturalism,” unmasked in recent blogs.

Originally posted on YDS: The Clare Spark Blog:

Max Beckmann paints Paris 1931 Max Beckmann paints Paris 1931

In this brief blog I will address those still potent divisions that the “turn to culturalism” has masked. I will, as usual, reject the inheritance of the “organic nation,” or the misnamed cultural pluralism that goes by the name of “multiculturalism,” as well as such terms as “national identity,” “group identity” or “zeitgeist.” All these terms are the effluents of German Romanticism, or the “Aufklärung” as it is misleading named. The German” Enlightenment” is a misnomer for it asserted itself against the all-too “bourgeois” “mechanical materialism” of the French and English Enlightenments.

No one with even a passing knowledge of US history can imagine that we are a unified entity unless they are chauvinists who revel in the notion of American superpower status, as opposed to celebrating the good sense embodied in the American Constitution, with its checks and balances, separation of powers, and frankly…

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February 8, 2015

Steven Pinker’s “reciprocal altruism”

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 9:20 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Pinker and Rebecca Goldstein  reading together

Pinker and Rebecca Goldstein reading together

For a short biography of my subject, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Pinker, and a summary of his book here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blank_Slate.
I have been reading large chunks of Pinker’s The Blank Slate (2002), and find it unreadable and so undocumented in its huge claims that I have resisted writing about it. But from what I have read, I can make the following assertions. [Nothing of what I say here should be taken as a criticism of neuroscience; rather I am complaining about what looks like a misappropriation of science for political purposes. “Nature” should never be conflated with forms of human organization.]

1. In his endorsement of “behavioral economics” Pinker echoes Cass Sunstein, who endorses the same vague method of doing economics, based, the reader gathers, on a scientifically revised view of human nature. Heredity, not environment and Locke’s discredited “experience” define who we really are as a species.

2. Neuroscientists have rescued us from the polarization brought on by the rightist “Tragic Vision” and the leftist “Utopian Vision.” Their key discovery: old views of “human nature” neglected the universal propensity for “reciprocity.” Out the window go “The Blank Slate,” “The Noble Savage,” and “The Ghost in the Machine” (Descartes’ mind-body dualisms). Sociobiology, bereft of “nature red in tooth and claw,” rules.

site of behavioral economics

site of behavioral economics

3. There are two kinds of feminists: “gender feminists” (bad) and “equity feminists” (good). On this “hot button” issue, the moderate Pinker swings over to “classical liberalism,” cutting out the crazies to his Right (family-centered social conservatives) and Left (the “social constructivists” who dominate Women’s Studies, and who incorrectly insist that rape is about power, not mixed up with sex). He places among the gender feminists man haters like Dworkin and Mackinnon, but also lesbians and feminist celebrities such as Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem who want equal outcomes, such as no more glass ceilings or equal pay, for sociobiology explains that there are innate sex differences; this reminds me of my zoology textbook in college, describing males as rational, while women are irrational. Those rejected activists are opposed to conservatives who believe that father-headed nuclear families with traditional wives and mothers will prevent social problems (treated in his chapter on “Children”) He has his good feminists (e.g., Christine Hoff Summers), who criticize the excessive gender feminists who deny female “nature.” (I am sorry to be so vague, but this is a short and confusing section in a long book; he names lots of names, but cites no studies discrediting, for instance, androgyny.)

4. Forget Freud and his gloomy prognosis of “everyday unhappiness” based on instincts for sex and aggression, and the need for instinctual renunciation for the sake of relationships. Pinker is an advocate for the “peaceful instincts.” (I.e., conflict resolution). Freud has been dumped into the same ash heap as “social constructivists”, modernists, and postmodernists who spurn objectivity, unlike Pinker & Co. Also discarded are attachment theorists, and expert advice to parents, all of which are bunk, for it is “the peer group” that socializes our children.

5. Because of inborn (or pragmatic?) “reciprocal altruism” Pinker clearly abhors income inequality, and, reading between the lines (!), he supports income redistribution, higher taxes, a war on poverty, and of course Green projects, very much like his hero, the moral philosopher Peter Singer, who, like Pinker, is in touch with real Nature. “Reciprocal altruism” as understood by New Dealers and other social democrats: “We will give you, the lower orders, welfare and other inducements not to grab your pitchforks or to cut off our heads.” Progressive sociologists called this “preventive politics,” while fretting over crises of deference. (See http://clarespark.com/2010/06/19/committee-for-economic-development-and-its-sociologists/.)

6. There is no such thing as the “individual.” That construction is an outmoded laissez-faire and unprogressive tic. We are defined by our relationships, specifically by “interactions” with other creatures and institutions. I.e., Pinker is in agreement with the “moderate” New Deal line laid down by prior Harvard professors and socially responsible psychologists (such as Henry Murray and Gordon Allport. See http://clarespark.com/2009/12/12/switching-the-enlightenment-corporatist-liberalism-and-the-revision-of-american-history/, http://clarespark.com/2014/06/11/karl-marx-on-individuality/, retitled “Individuality: the impossible dream?” and http://clarespark.com/2011/03/27/progressive-mind-managers-ca-1941-42/. ) With the advent of such as Professor Pinker we have transcended vulgar empiricism, though his book does not show us where in the brain, or in the human genome, or in rational assessments of self-interest, “reciprocity” might reside. This is a problem.

Altruism is natural

Altruism is natural

It possibly de trop to point out that Locke was buttressing ordinary people and discrediting illegitimate authority with his emphasis on “experience” as a reproach to innate ideas as promulgated by Platonic Guardians. But Steven Pinker is one of the latter, and so he writes lots of popular books to keep the lower orders in their place, all the while instructing them in the latest form of politeness.

February 3, 2015

Jews not killed for “just being Jews”?

SammyrunThis blog continues http://clarespark.com/2015/01/18/is-antisemitism-rational-or-irrational/. I add to the prior blog that such historians as Deborah Lipstadt (in Beyond Belief) have alleged that Jews were killed for “just being Jews.” This is true insofar as all Jews, including the most assimilated or atheistic, are viewed by their enemies as a illegitimately powerful “race” inexplicably surviving and thriving for thousands of years. But as a statement directed at a broad audience, it requires a more complex and contextualized elaboration. (This blog will be different from my previous discussions of antisemitism thanks to my son-in-law Maimon Chocron, whose emphasis on Jewish survival and astonishingly rapid upward mobility, seen as “unnatural” by antagonists, sent me off in unanticipated new directions.)

Briefly, “the Jews” always represented a threat as declared by rulers/demagogues: intellectual combativeness, revolutionary socialism, finance capitalism/the power of money (for Hitler, the real force behind the Soviet Union), modernity, Woman, globalism, the madness induced by urban life, the “anti-race” (Hitler) which means they were internationally cohesive and allegedly not loyal to their “nations” of temporary residence, or worse, “unnatural” and hostile to Nature itself, and to the natural order of things.

And the natural order of things is “The Great Chain of Being,” in which each of us knows her or his place. “It ain’t natural” to defy, let alone “dominate” the Great Mother Nature (see http://clarespark.com/2015/03/21/great-goddess-feminism-the-phyllis-chesler-model/). “Natural harmony,” like “the [tightly woven] social fabric,” must be preserved, at all costs. No wonder Jack the Ripper was surmised to have been a “low class Polish Jew” Aaron Kosminski (as reported in The Independent).

Aaron Kosminski: 19th C image

Aaron Kosminski: 19th C image

In other words, whereas peasants from Southeastern and Central Europe could immigrate to America and gradually climb up the class ladder, Jews seemed to their envious fellow-immigrants to be uncanny; how was it possible to go from poverty to great riches and cultural power in one generation? This is memorialized in Budd Schulberg’s popular novel What Makes Sammy Run. They must be greedy crooks, right? as shown in Once Upon a Time in America (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Once_Upon_a_Time_in_America). After all, Budd’s father, B. P. Schulberg was not an immigrant. Wikipedia doesn’t even see him as Jewish: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._P._Schulberg. For a very recent review of Schulberg’s novel (accurately condemned by the CP for anti-Semitism), see http://inverarity.livejournal.com/265552.html.

Moreover, Herman Melville, born a Protestant, invited eternal damnation in Moby-Dick when he referred to the pure and placid face of Nature that only masked “the charnel house within.” For this blasphemy (and others) he was furtively read as a Jew or “Hebraic” by leading critics, such as Henry A. Murray and Charles Olson, while one more daring Princeton professor titled his book Melville’s Quarrel With God. To argue with God is tantamount to deicide.

Evan B. Harris, White Whale and Shells

Evan B. Harris, White Whale and Shells

For these reasons, I rank “intellectual combativeness” (a.k.a. the close reading of texts and political moods) to be the key to Jewish success in America. Returning to “Hollywood,” first generation immigrants read the populist/progressive mood that prevailed in their adopted country, saw that upper-class Protestants were busily uplifting the masses to stave off socialism in America, and such as Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer made movies that catered to popular taste—a backwoods, country taste that Budd Schulberg would hold up to ridicule in A Face in the Crowd, or that Ben Urwand would mock in Sergeant York. See http://clarespark.com/2012/07/03/andy-griffiths-greatest-performance/.

Jon Lomberg's harmonious Great Chain of Being

Jon Lomberg’s harmonious Great Chain of Being

For such reasons, I view antisemitism as both rational and irrational. Jews, as either capitalists or communists, are seen as strange and unfair competitors (the pseudo-“rational” component of antisemitism), while the feelings of Jew haters (the irrational part), contain the residues of ancient, medieval, and modern hostilities.

January 30, 2015

HBO’s “Night Will Fall”

nightadHBO, with the supervision and assistance of Brits (Helena Bonham-Carter narrated, and the Imperial War Museum played a part), threw a bone to “Zionists” this week by airing a documentary about an unfinished film about the Allied liberation of death camps in Germany and Poland. The news value was ostensibly that the film that Sidney Bernstein had put together to provide “evidence” to dubious Germans was shelved owing to the Cold War. The title “Night Will Fall” refers to the final words: should the world choose barbarism of the type shown throughout the doc, civilization will be kaput, hence “night will fall.” (As if we are already civilized.)

Algemeiner, a Jewish website and newspaper, criticized the television offering by noting that the word “Jew” was omitted, but then went on to say that other victims of Nazi barbarism were neglected, such as gypsies and homosexuals, thus minimizing the power of antisemitism in Nazi Germany, especially after the failure of Operation Barbarossa. (Algemeiner also neglected to mention the mentally ill or “socially disabled”, emphasized in Michael Burleigh’s and Wolfgang Wipperman’s The Racial State); see http://tinyurl.com/k2bwbph.).


Actually, there was no doubt that Jewish deaths were the subject of the film, for there were so many scenes of corpses and interviews with Jewish survivors, that I suspected a possibly sadistic motive to the filmmakers. But the all too obvious necrophilia was not the worst flaw in the documentary.

Although it was mentioned that survivors in the British and American zones of conquered Germany were herded together, with many wishing to go to Palestine, there was zero discussion of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry (1946) that inspected these camps and the British Mandate too, but disappointing Harry Truman, who wanted 100,000 refugees to be admitted to Palestine, as it was then called. For it was the British Labour Party’s Foreign Secretary, the arguably antisemitic Ernest Bevin, who put the kibosh on that idea, against the recommendations of the Committee! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-American_Committee_of_Inquiry). As Wiki tells you, the Brits then turned over the problem of Jewish immigration to Palestine to the United Nations, but it is questionable whether they ever intended to abandon the Mandate (see http://clarespark.com/2014/05/17/miracle-man-ralph-bunche-saves-the-un/), for a Jewish state of the kind achieved in the war of 1948 frustrated their desire for an air base in the Negev that would compensate for the evacuation from Egypt and the imminent loss of India.

Perhaps the reader will dismiss my last paragraph as irrelevant to the project of the film. But it is less arguable that the HBO claim that the Allies were clueless about death camps until 1944, is a blatant cover-up of the historical record. It is true that there were doubters, owing to the existence of German atrocity reports during WW1, but by 1942 at the latest, there was no doubt that the Jews of Europe were being murdered. (See http://clarespark.com/2013/12/07/ben-hecht-v-ben-urwand-the-un-jewish-left-and-assimilated-jews/, also http://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/.)

Finally, in one sequence, women are shown eagerly looking for new clothes as women are wont to do; this supposedly started the process of “healing.” I found this offensive; survivors notoriously never heal, and their family relations, should they be so lucky to have families, usually suffer accordingly, as any psychologist will tell you.

Orwell complained bitterly about the lies perpetuated by journalists and other authorities after the Spanish Civil War. HBO’s contribution to Holocaust Remembrance Day only confirms the notion that the Holocaust is unrepresentable, at least by liberals and leftists.


January 29, 2015

“Bibi” and the human nature debate

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 3:06 am


With Bibi Netanyahu becoming more and more controversial, I thought that this blog would clarify why his enemies are out to get him. It is modernity versus the Middle Ages, all over again.

Originally posted on YDS: The Clare Spark Blog:

CNT poster 1937

Recent historians are acknowledging that the transition from pre-capitalist societies to capitalist societies is prolonged, tempestuous, and violent.  At the bottom of all the fights between political factions in our country (the U.S.), can be discerned sharp differences over the precise content of “human nature.”

For instance, in David Horowitz’s recent book Radicals (2012), he concludes that progress (linked by him to utopianism and perfectionism) is a leftist/fascist illusion; that human nature is evil, and the best we can expect in the route to amelioration is “compromise.” He thus marks himself as a moderate man, and is aligned with some of the figures most criticized on my website, notwithstanding DH’s strong support for Israel and opposition to jihadist Muslims. (For instance, Harvard Magazine is promoting “The Case for Compromise” in its Summer 2012 issue.)

This last week I carefully read George Orwell’s famous work Homage to Catalonia (1938). It…

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January 23, 2015

What is an organic conservative?

Gene  Wilder as young Frankenstein

Gene Wilder as young Frankenstein

I congratulated a well-known conservative journalist for bringing up “multiculturalism” as an obstacle to defeating jihadism. His (misunderstood) response shocked me, for he declared that he was defending a “common culture” against the presumed divisiveness of “multiculturalism.” Some organic conservatives (including “liberals”) will agree with admirers of Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk. For who does not long for “order” and a route to uniting divided families, polarized political parties, and the fragments of our memories and consciousness? The longed for “union” is glamorous, even glitzy.

Such responses, however, alarm me, for I had taken it for granted that this conservative journalist would prefer intellectual and religious pluralism/diversity to the implicit racialism that underlies the term “multiculturalism.” I don’t know if he sees the racialist underpinnings of the now hegemonic pseudo-solution to racism, one that was invented by [covertly racist/German nationalist] German Romantics in the late 18th century to stave off the “mechanical materialism” they saw looming in the French Enlightenment. The French pox was an epistemology that led inexorably to worship of the Goddess of Reason that noted academics condemn today, irrationalist social democrats that they are, despising Jacobinism and its guillotine, you know, the guillotine that to the Gothic mentality resembles a printing press. (I am not nostalgic for Jacobins, but rather favor Condorcet, the Girondist, who was hounded to death by Jacobins.)

German printing press, 1811

German printing press, 1811

But America already has a common culture, and we didn’t need Edmund Burke to invent it, nor the Frankenstein monster to scare us half to death. That common culture is embodied in the social contract that separates church and state, and that guarantees the freedoms in the First and subsequent Amendments to the Constitution, not to speak of the property rights that enable economic growth and equal opportunity. Indeed, the very structure of the American Constitution, with its checks and balances, its separation of powers, enables us to agree to disagree. For conflict is normal and productive, unlike the dogma of “tradition” (unless that tradition favors literacy, numeracy, skepticism and close reading of texts). (Perhaps that is what the conservative journalist meant by a “common culture.” I sent him this blog and he agrees with me: his notion of a common culture is “secular and civic” and he firmly stands behind the First Amendment.)

Standing apart from these vanguard institutions are the dragons devised to scare us by less attractive conservatives like Mary Shelley, the author of the timeless Gothic thriller, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. Her message, typical of all reactionaries, is reiterated in the popular Showtime series Penny Dreadful, where Victor Frankenstein is an actual character intended to remind us that the evil within us is too powerful to achieve the goals of the American and French Revolutions with respect to human rights. (See http://clarespark.com/2014/06/25/penny-dreadfuls-sinister-significance/.)

Frontispiece to 1831 edition of Frankenstein

Frontispiece to 1831 edition of Frankenstein

It is not only far-Right conservatives who prefer the Terror-Gothic style of social organization, wherein mystical bonds are the source of social cohesion, not the rule of law and individual human rights, including property rights. Social democrats and even revolutionary socialists are just as eager to resuscitate Edmund Burke when it suits them. (On Edmund Burke’s frantic response to the French Revolution, inverting freedom and obedience, see http://clarespark.com/2011/09/17/edmund-burkes-tantrum/.)

Consider the abandonment of class or gender interest as an analytic category by today’s academic leftists. Gone with the wind are the days when revolutionary socialists forbade any social analysis that ignored “class struggle.” We are all multiculturalists now, Trotskyists and Stalinists alike. (See http://clarespark.com/2011/03/26/race-class-and-gender/. Underneath that shift to social democratic tactics is organicism brought about by the worship of the administrative state, the one that brought us permanent divisiveness and opened the gates to barbarian hordes.

All we fallen angels have to look forward to is the apocalypse. Goodbye Areopagitica; goodbye Paradise Lost. When I was a small child, I made a crayon drawing of a “happy harem girl” lacking sharp elbows. Perhaps I was more clairvoyant than Clare Spark.

Amazon ad for Frankenstein

Amazon ad for Frankenstein

January 22, 2015

Orwell’s wartime essays: rethinking his politics

poster by "liberty maniacs"

poster by “liberty maniacs”

Everyone on left or right cites George Orwell when they believe they are being deceived by “authority”. This blog, though, is written to those conservatives who believe that Orwell was an un-ambivalent opponent of statist controls. He was not. He never deviated from his anti-capitalist, populist ways.

Here are some shocking details from Orwell’s wartime essays, reviews, and letters. I consulted them because I wanted to find out if Animal Farm and Nineteen-Eighty-Four were roughly the same book, both directed solely (or largely) at the Soviet Union’s assaults on telling the truth. I read all of the volumes available to me, and was impressed that he admitted to errors of prediction. But the list that follows is about consistent views. I continue to wonder if Orwell identified both with Winston Smith (the victim) and O’Brien (the sadistic persecutor). (On a prior blog quoting Orwell’s pity for the Promethean Hitler of Mein Kampf, see http://clarespark.com/2014/12/27/some-irregular-thoughts-on-george-orwell/; also http://clarespark.com/2012/09/28/bibi-and-the-human-nature-debate/.)

1. Orwell admires the reactionary writers of his period: T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, W. B. Yeats, Wyndham Lewis, Evelyn Waugh, James Joyce, in spite of their awful or neutral politics. I.e., he as much as admits to being an aesthete.

2. A self-described “Socialist” and anti-imperialist throughout the essays, he rails at the lack of artistic freedom in the fascist, “totalitarian” regimes of his time. He wants both “Socialism” and total intellectual freedom. When he uses the word “totalitarian” he refers to the lying mass media, especially journalists who perpetuate lies about the Spanish Civil War, the subject of his favorite book-child, Homage to Catalonia. He describes POUM (the faction he joined) as Trotskyist. This raises the question of why he objects to Emmanuel Goldstein, the character with both a Christian and “Jewish” name, and understood to represent Leon Trotsky, a Bolshevik with Jewish descent.



3. Though in one essay he detaches himself from the notion of “national character”, earlier he describes the “English” as “Christian”, though their allegiance to that religion is unserious. Now comes the most illuminating point: because the “English” are only superficially Christian, lacking the rejection of worldliness in the Catholicism of Chesterton and Belloc (whom he otherwise rejects as bigots), the English no longer believe in immortality. Thus, devoid of heaven and hell, they are prey to the “materialism” he associates with the Soviet Union and its lying, seductive ways. Hence, the English lack the knowledge of the distinction between “good and evil”. Thus bereft, there is no incentive but the search for power. (Enter O’Brien’s speech to Winston Smith, quoted here: http://clarespark.com/2012/10/15/orwell-power-and-the-totalitarian-state/.)

4. I have suspected previously that Orwell’s attachment to the working class was mostly sentimental, as either compensation or reparations for his military family or his early work for the British Empire in India, before he took up the cudgels for “the colored peoples” of the world.

5. His stated admiration for Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, particularly the relations between two characters, Rubashov and Gletkin, corresponding to Smith and O’Brien (?), suggest deep influence in the composition of his last book. (There are numerous internet essays on the similarities between the two books: here is one of many examples: http://www.ehistorybuff.com/koestlerdarknessatnoon08.html.)

Conclusion: In his rejection of materialism, Orwell reminds me of the social democratic inheritance passed on by Disraeli (whom he abhors as an imperialist). But his horror at the mendacious new mass media suggests the line of the counter-Enlightenment Frankfurt Institute refugees, whose critical theory dominates the teaching of the humanities today. Because Orwell is not enthused about the victorious but only weakly socialistic British Labour Party, though he does hate the money power (i.e. the British aristocracy that he longs to expropriate), Orwell should be viewed as a disgruntled artist and populist, neither conservative nor left-wing in any sense. At most, he was probably an organic conservative, hoping for mystical Goldstein-free social bonds and sacrifice to restore order to a permanently warring world.

image arcade

image arcade

As George L. Mosse once observed, populism stands outside politics. As a closet peacenik writing in the 1940s, a dystopia was his only alternative.

The Leader Principle

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 12:10 am


In honor of SOTU, am re-blogging this teaser from my research on social psychologists at Harvard trying to change attitudes about The Leader Principle.

Originally posted on YDS: The Clare Spark Blog:

FDRIn the late 1930s-early 1940s, Harvard psychologists tried to nullify the Führer-Prinzip (detestable) with an FDR version whereby Franklin Roosevelt would embody the Eros they attributed to Democracy, for Hitler was obviously a hater, while the FDR they were promoting was a lover of humanity, as was obvious (to them) by New Deal legislation and its concern for the “common man.”

For instance, Gordon Allport and Henry A. Murray wrote worksheets for civilian morale that advised “Linking of Present Leader to the Idealized Leaders of the Past”: ”The more the present leader is seen as continuing in the footsteps of the great idealized leaders of the past, the better the morale. (Picture of Roosevelt between Washington and Lincoln would encourage this identification.) The more the present leader is seen as falling short of the stature of the great idealized leaders of the past, the worse the identification. By effective leadership…

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January 18, 2015

Is antisemitism ‘rational’ or ‘irrational?’

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 8:12 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,
The Big Sleep: Bacall and Bogie

The Big Sleep: Bacall and Bogie

This blog continues the theme of my last blog: http://clarespark.com/2015/01/15/antisemitism-vs-anti-zionism-is-there-a-difference/.

There is a hot debate among academics over whether antisemitism is rational or irrational. My own position is that antisemitism is both “rational” and “irrational.” Above all, it is the intellectual combativeness of “the Jews” that makes us eternal wanderers, modernists avant la lettre, hence threatened with extinction. http://clarespark.com/2010/08/15/nazis-exhibit-der-ewige-jude-1937/.

The rational position: Historian Alfred S. Lindemann, author of Esau’s Tears: Modern Antisemitism and the Rise of the Jews (Cambridge UP, 2000), comes perilously close to antisemitism when he demonstrates through statistics that newly emancipated Jews were over-represented in the European professions and businesses. I have seen this over-representation argument before, as if meritocracy rather than bean-counting was a Bad Thing. But Lindemann, now emeritus, taught at UC Santa Barbara, and the UC system is not noted for its Jew-friendly atmosphere, unless its “Jewish” professors are on the Left.

Lindemann’s book is not that different from Hannah Arendt’s linking of European Jewry with the Rothschild family, whose grossness presumably rubbed off on them—a detail in The Origins of Totalitarianism that I have not seen challenged, even among Arendt’s critics.


A somewhat less obnoxious position would be found in Christian antisemitism: that Biblical Jews remained guilty of deicide; while after the Reformation, those unwilling to convert were a constant threat to the credibility of Christianity in Europe. Uriel Tal pointed this out in Christians and Jews in Germany (Ithaca and London: Cornell U.P., 1975): 16 on post-Reformation class anxieties. Tal describes two strategies to deal with the corroding skepticism fostered by persistence of the obdurate Jew: one should either convert them or humiliate them so that their “abject state” testified to “the triumphant religion of Christianity.” (It was not until after WW2 that “the Judeo-Christian heritage” was devised to reconcile Judaism with Christianity: see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judeo-Christian. By emphasizing the Ten Commandments, the drastic differences between the two religions were erased, and a measure of organic unity was achieved, notwithstanding irreconcilable differences over immortality, free will, and worldliness.)

II. Irrationalist explanations:
In British press coverage of The Wandering Jew exhibition in Germany (der ewige Jude, linked above), journalists frequently described Goebbels as the gentlemanly “moderate”, relegating Streicher to the extremist pile. It is most peculiar that the Western press could have separated Goebbels from Streicher; in the spring of 1937, Goebbels propaganda department distributed a pamphlet to students and party leaders, calling for the recapture of “a lost identity” (to overcome the skepticism and despair of an industrialized world). Uriel Tal wrote, “political faith needs an anti-hero,” a scapegoat, a devil. Indeed it was the Jew who “having been a degraded sufferer for ages” was supposed to make the myth somewhat tangible and acceptable. Through the “universal conspiracy of the Jew” as well as the “defilement of his blood” the Jew brings about “the systematic decomposition of the Aryan race and the Germanic Folk.” In “Political Faith” of Nazism Prior to the Holocaust” (Annual Lecture of the Schreiber Chair of Contemporary Jewish History, Tel Aviv University, 1978): 19. But would such appeals have had any impact unless they benefited individuals and social classes in material ways?


Finally, George Orwell, to my dismay, knew little about antisemitism in his wartime essays, but considered antisemitism to be a “neurosis,” hence irrational. To this day I wonder why he gave his Trotsky character the name of “Emmanuel Goldstein” in his masterwork Nineteen-Eighty-Four (1949). Perhaps Orwell, the anti-“totalitarian” par excellence, was unaware that his politics were populist, hence opposed to the evil “money power.” I can’t account for his hostility to Jesus (a.k.a. Emmanuel), however, for he lamented the modern loss of faith in immortality, which vitiated the distinction between good and evil, encouraging the search for power as an end in itself.



All scapegoating explanations for antisemitism are irrationalist, assuming mass political emotions to be instigated by demagogues and the mass media who facilitate them. I have written about “projective identification” here: http://clarespark.com/2014/09/08/why-progressive-social-psychologists-make-us-crazy/. The illustration for this blog emphasizes the seductive mother, who has too much power in the modern world. Both men and women may be troubled by this usually unexamined ambivalent bond. Is Woman the Jew of the Home?

January 15, 2015

Antisemitism vs. “anti-Zionism”: is there a difference?



http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/France-envoy-to-JPost-Jewish-crisis-nothing-to-do-with-Israel-and-the-Palestinians-387738. Headline: “France envoy to JPost: Jewish crisis has ‘nothing to do with Israel and the Palestinians’.” Michael Wilner’s column, quoting French Ambassador Araud, dated January 14, 2015 in The Jerusalem Post, disturbed me, so I am writing a short summary of the distinction between antisemitism and anti-Israel propaganda and sentiment (i.e., “anti-Zionism.”) (The discussion of antisemitism is continued here: http://clarespark.com/2015/01/18/is-antisemitism-rational-or-irrational/.)

First, the notion that antisemitism in Europe is limited to Muslim immigrants and their offspring flies in the face of history, particularly in the history of France, where antisemitism, often associated with the French Revolution (Napoleon, to be precise), flourished on the reactionary Right. It is well known that wartime Occupied and Vichy France showed little resistance to shipping off Jews to concentration camps and death. As the late David Wyman has shown, all of the West abandoned the Jews of Europe, including the United States. Nor did any of the “anti-fascist” combatants in WW2 call a conference after the war to conduct some soul-searching.  Instead, multiculturalism was increasingly institutionalized and allied with the United Nations. Indeed, the very first issue of Commentary publicized and supported the New Deal notion of “intercultural education”; see http://clarespark.com/2011/06/16/the-antiquated-melting-pot/.

Despite some efforts to credit Harry Truman with recognizing the Jewish State in 1948, it was the competition between the US and the Soviet Union (plus the willingness of Sabras and refugee Jews to take large casualties in the 1948 war) that enabled Israel’s existence as something more than a binational state controlled by Brits, Arabs, and Jews expected to limit immigration and hence aggressive “expansionism” as UN rapporteur and Acting Mediator Ralph Bunche feared. http://clarespark.com/2014/05/17/miracle-man-ralph-bunche-saves-the-un/, and http://clarespark.com/2014/06/18/how-ralph-bunche-sold-out-and-failed-in-palestine/.

As long as the Soviets expected a Jewish state to join the Eastern bloc, they supplied weapons to fighting Jews fending off invasion from five Arab neighbors, much to the horror of Bunche, the UK, and the US Department of State.  But when Israel allied itself with the West, communists everywhere lost their enthusiasm. Today’s New Left apes the revised Soviet line, equivalent to what is now called “the Palestinian narrative.”  (The Palestinian narrative in one sentence: “rooted” poor Arab farmers (the majority) were uprooted by rootless cosmopolitans (a few urban Jews), especially the “maximalist,” modernizing Jabotinsky faction whose ideological descendants now dominate Israeli politics, thus inspiring Left cadre in US academe to mount boycott campaigns.)

Palestinian narrative in  maps

Palestinian narrative in maps

In today’s liberal political discourse, “the Left” refers both to social democrats and to communists. I usually draw a sharp line between these incompatible “left” factions, but with respect to Israel, it is hard to maintain a distinction. Social democrats (many of whom represent themselves as moderates or “neocons”) support Israel to the extent that Israel will acquiesce to a “peace agreement” with “Palestinians” even as “the right of return” is a condition of “peace” from the Arab side. Because of this attitude, many conservative Jews, horrified by the end of a Jewish homeland and haven-state, conflate antisemitism with “anti-Zionism” on the grounds that Israel is “where the Jews are.” I believe that this is mistaken.

Look at today’s liberal or “moderate”-dominated mass media, even those with intellectual pretensions:  even after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris (along with the kosher grocery store killings), the tenets of multiculturalism reign undisturbed—except that radical Islam is split off from moderate Islam, thus maintaining a reactionary ideology (multiculturalism) that suits the United Nations and its internationalism and ostensibly peaceful globalism; i.e., mechanisms are now in place to stop wars through “inclusion,” toleration of “difference” and international law.

Alas, it is considered to be a fringe belief that female genital mutilation is widely practiced in Muslim countries. What is at stake is the refusal to accept modernity, so that the Arab-Israeli conflict is not about resistance to modernity that has elevated the status and influence of women, Jews, and ordinary people; rather, even our most public intellectuals continue to describe the Mid-East conflict as a fight over the control of a small strip of land. Nor do they trouble themselves over the intertwining of antisemitism and misogyny, let alone the exact character of Nazism, whose baleful influence is still felt throughout much of the Nazified Arab world and Iran.

honor killing

honor killing

Much of this website is devoted to the study of antisemitism, which is not taught in our schools, though token gestures are made toward teaching “the Holocaust” particularly when other “genocides” are included to discredit “the [capitalist imperialist] West.” The particular threat offered by intellectually combative Jews (either secular or observant, viewed as catalysts of change) is thus buried in a populist offensive against capitalism, “materialism,” and science. (See my index on antisemitism here: http://clarespark.com/2012/09/29/index-to-blogs-on-antisemitism/.)

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