Editor’s note: This essay is in response to an article written by Nathan Cofnas — Analyzing Kevin MacDonald’s ‘Culture of Critique’ and the alt-right’s embrace of anti-Jewish ideology. Cofnas replies with: Viewpoint: Kevin MacDonald won’t accept evidence supporting alternative theories about Jewish influence
1.) The “default hypothesis” of Jewish involvement in intellectual movements predicts that Jews should be approximately equally distributed among various intellectual movements apart from ones that are overtly anti-Jewish. Jews are indeed overrepresented among intellectuals generally. However, they are far from equally distributed across various movements. Moreover, my descriptions of Jewish intellectual movements go beyond head counting by showing how the Jews at the center of the movements I discuss identified as Jews and thought of themselves as advancing perceived Jewish interests. And I describe the dynamics of these movements, such as ethnic networking, the “guru phenomenon” where these movements were centered around highly charismatic leaders idolized by their followers, and the authoritarian atmosphere of the movements.
As a result, not all intellectual movements are properly termed Jewish intellectual movements even if there are individual Jews who are prominently involved. In my second reply, I bring up paleoconservatism and populism as examples. I can’t think of any prominent populist Jewish intellectuals, and in general the Jewish movements I describe have been hostile to populism, as discussed in CofC and elsewhere. Moreover, although there is a sprinkling of Jews among paleoconservatives, the movement as a whole does not revolve around a core of strongly identified Jews pursuing perceived Jewish interests, nor is it characterized by the other aspects of these movements mentioned above, such as ethnic networking.
The same goes for other figures put forward by Cofnas, such as Richard Herrnstein whom I mention in The Culture of Critique in a list of Jews doing good science and not involved in a Jewish intellectual movement. There is little evidence to suppose that Herrnstein was motivated by his Jewish identity and a perspective on Jewish interests. Herrnstein’s co-author on The Bell Curve was Charles Murray (not Jewish) who has been left with the task of defending The Bell Curve because of Herrnstein’s death. And alas, the Bell Curve has had very little influence in the long run—certainly no influence on public policy in education. As discussed below, the central goal has been to describe intellectual and political movements that were influential. The participation of individual Jews, such as the Jewish speakers at American Renaissance mentioned by Cofnas, does not make AmRen a Jewish movement, nor does it make it influential.
I do not deny that Jews may develop movements that oppose each other. However, apart from some individuals and organizations critical of Israel (discussed below), the only example that I can come up with is the opposition between Stalinist Jews (Ch. 3) and Trotskyist Jews in the U.S. which eventually led the latter to neoconservatism (recounted here). These movements were characterized by different perceptions of Jewish interests by the main figures, although, because of the universalist nature of leftist ideology, the Jewish left discussed in Chapter 3 often had complex and even self-deceptive Jewish identities.
Finally, the default hypothesis depends on Jewish IQ being higher than the European mean. However, a theme of CoC is that Jewish intellectuals took an adversarial, critical stance toward the people and culture of the West based on their Jewish identity and perceptions of Jewish victimization in Western history. IQ alone cannot explain this. For example, Overseas Chinese, another high-IQ group, have not taken an adversarial stance toward the people and cultures of the cultures they reside in despite often having dominating positions in the economy.
2.) Cofnas makes a series of claims about my scholarship which I have rebutted at length in my two replies. Here he claims that I do not provide evidence that non-Jews were recruited to be the public face of movements dominated by Jews. In my original reply I provided multiple examples in different historical eras (from Ch. 6 of Separation and Its Discontents) where Jews have used non-Jews to promote their interests and be the public face of groups created and funded by Jews to advance perceived Jewish interests in a wide variety of areas, including immigration and foreign policy. Relevant to CofC, I also cited scholarly material related to Freud, Boas, the Jewish left (i.e., Ch. 3) and the New York Intellectuals (promoting Dewey) and immigration policy (Ch. 7). So I provided lots of evidence. Cofnas never refutes this, preferring instead to make an irrelevant claim about Jung’s pseudoscience in his comments on my first reply.
3.) Cofnas claims that “Almost all the Jews MacDonald says advocated multiculturalism in order to subvert gentiles advocated multiculturalism for Jews and Israel, too—there was no evidence that they were anything more than consistent leftists.” In CofC I show that not only were the Jewish intellectual movements I discuss (particularly Boasian anthropology and the Frankfurt School) promoting multiculturalism, the organized Jewish community across the entire spectrum of Jewish organizations from the far left to the neoconservative right (with no exceptions to this day) was avidly involved in promoting multiracial immigration to the U.S. (CofC recounts Jewish activism beginning in the late nineteenth century up to passage of the 1965 immigration law.) None of these groups advocated multiculturalism and non-Jewish migration to Israel or campaigned against the idea that Israel is a Jewish state, whereas they opposed the idea that the US ought to remain dominated by people of Western European descent. Against this very broad-based and powerful array, Cofnas comes up with two interesting names: Alan Dershowitz and George Soros, each of whom may have different, rationally based perceptions of Jewish interests regarding immigration. In neither case is there any evidence that their activism on immigration can properly be labeled as advocating a multicultural, multi-religious Israel open to immigration of all the peoples of the world, and neither of them have been influential in altering Israeli immigration policy.
As I discuss in both replies, Dershowitz, who is a strong advocate for Israel, favors the immigration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel where they would constitute around 2 percent of the Israeli Jewish population. This would not alter the idea of Israel as a Jewish state, and allowing this immigration would have public relations benefits in the West where Israel is increasingly seen as an oppressive, apartheid state. This seems like an eminently rational strategy.
Soros is a complex, fairly inscrutable figure when it comes to Jewish identity and interests. He opposes deporting Africans back to Africa where they might be endangered, a position that is compatible with the ADL’s agreement with a UN plan that would stop deportation and resettle about half of these migrants in the West. (The UN plan was eventually scrapped because of opposition from the Israeli right which wants all the migrants removed immediately; because of a border wall, Africans are now unable to come to Israel as illegal immigrants. American Jewish groups have adamantly opposed a border wall in the U.S. but have not criticized Israel’s anti-migrant wall with Egypt [here].)
Soros clearly identifies as a Jew. A biographer notes, “If he [Soros] derived any lesson from the Holocaust, it was that minorities—as the Jews were in Europe—had to be protected in the future and the best way to assure that was by building pluralistic societies where minorities were given their rights” (p. 216)—a view that is entirely mainstream among Diaspora Jews and a theme of the treatment of this issue in CofC. On the other hand, the picture that emerges is of someone with a very weak Jewish identification or even a negative Jewish identification in his early years to an increasing interest in Judaism and Jewish culture in his later years, while still remaining a lukewarm Zionist at best and with a strong desire to see an end to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Of course, promoting peace between Israelis and Palestinians is not the same as wanting Israel to cease being a Jewish state, nor is it the same as promoting the idea that people of all races and religions should be allowed to immigrate Israel. And again, whatever Soros’s views, they haven’t made an impact on Israeli policy, either on immigration or on the conflict with the Palestinians.
Even strongly identified Jews may have different perceptions of Jewish interests. I suspect that many Jewish critics of Israel are similarly motivated to want an end to the 50-plus-year occupation, the ethnic cleansing, and the apartheid but would still want Israel to be a Jewish state and limit immigration to Jews.
4.) Cofnas claims that I ignore gentile-led radical leftist movements, and in doing so never responds to the point in my first reply that these Jewish movements effectively caused the demise of Darwinism in the social sciences. This is the critical issue. If Darwinism had continued its domination, the post-1965 pro-immigration, pro-multicultural dispensation never would have happened.
5.) I don’t deny that there may be Jews prominent on opposite sides of particular issues, but, as Cofnas notes, I am concerned about where the power lies and how it works. This is not a revision of my views; it was always the procedure of CofC. Thus, in Chapter 2 I mentioned Jews who were not on board with the Jewish intellectual movements I discuss and noted that these Jews did good science—Jews such as Richard Herrnstein. So, I was well aware that not all Jewish intellectuals were involved in these movements. These were scientists acting as individuals who may or may not have been attempting to advance Jewish interests (more likely the latter). They were not participating in Jewishly motivated groups, and in the end, their views did not alter the influence of the movements I discuss in changing the nature of social science. I was interested in the dynamics of movements that were clearly Jewish and were decisive for later changes in public policy. There is no evidence that Herrnstein or the other Jews mentioned are engaged in ethnic networking with regard to their intellectual work, nor do we know anything definitive about their Jewish identities or how they perceive Jewish interests.
The same goes for other Jewish intellectuals mentioned by Cofnas as problematic for my theory: their sense of Jewish identity and sense of pursuing Jewish interests are typically not known (but would be good to explore) and there is no evidence that they participated in a Jewish intellectual movement as I defined it, or that their influence eclipsed the decisive influence of the movements I discuss.
Finally, the idea that “luck” can explain the success of particular Jewish movements over others is just plain ridiculous. None of these movements have achieved influence by luck. They have been very well-organized and well-funded, and they have had access to prestigious media and academic institutions, and they benefited enormously from Jewish ethnic networking. They have drawn support from the wider Jewish community. The same cannot be said about the movements I describe as generally opposed by the Jewish movements I discuss. Or, in any case, their previous influence, funding, and access to elite institutions was eclipsed by the movements discussed in CofC. These Jewish-dominated movements simply had more firepower.
6.) Cofnas writes:[MacDonald] has very little evidence to support this claim [that anti-Israel Jews may be acting on their perceptions of Jewish interests] besides his unsupported assumption that everything Jews do must be motivated by their drive to promote Jewish interests.
It’s not up to me to explore the motives of Jews critical of Israel given that my purpose was to explore the movements that were/are influential. As of this writing, the Israel Lobby still dominates public policy in the U.S., and my work on neoconservatism as a Jewish movement shows that it is a critical linchpin of the Israel Lobby.
I also mentioned in several places in my replies that some Jews may have only a weak Jewish identity and sense of pursuing Jewish interests—quite possibly including the list of Jewish scientists mentioned in Ch. 2 and discussed above. Or they may rationally perceive Jewish interests differently (e.g., the Israel Lobby versus Jews who believe that Israeli actions are reckless and suicidal in the long run or simply immoral). These groups and individuals are like different factions of the Knesset with different perceptions of Jewish interests. As I proposed in my second reply, a survey of anti-Israel Jews would be a good idea in order to probe their motives. But the main point as always is that we do know where the power lies, and we know that the Israel Lobby is composed of strongly identified Jews with a sense of Jewish interests. I’ll leave it at that for now.
Regarding Cofnas’s claim that in CofC I regarded Israel as “of central importance to Jewish ethnic interests” but changed my mind later: I was merely referencing J.J. Goldberg’s point that support for Israel (along with liberal immigration and refugee policy and church-state relations) were consensus attitudes among American Jews. This consensus leaves room for disagreement by some Jews, and it leaves open the possibility that the situation has changed over the last 20-plus years since Goldberg’s book, as indeed it has regarding Israel (but not the other points of Jewish consensus). Although the power still lies with the Israel Lobby and its neoconservative and liberal interventionist supporters, criticism of Israel has grown within the Jewish community (e.g., Philip Weiss and Mondoweiss) and on the left generally. This is not a problem for anything I have written about Jewish intellectual and political movements and their influence. Times change, and Jewish perceptions of their interests change. But again, it’s quite clear where the power lies currently.
7.) Re intermarriage among secular Jews: as I noted in my second reply, “Intermarriage is of course more likely among secular, non-religious Jews … . [T]his does nothing to argue against the evidence that the Jewish figures I discussed in CofC did indeed identify as Jews and pursued what they perceived to be Jewish interests. So far as I know, none of the figures I discussed intermarried,” including the half-Jewish Theodor Adorno. And, with one exception, Cofnas doesn’t dispute the points I made about intermarriage in my first reply:
A major goal of Zionism during the early decades of the twentieth century was to prevent intermarriage and assimilation (here, p. 157), and in large measure that has succeeded in Israel. Secondly, to my knowledge, the leadership of the American Jewish community remains ethnically Jewish. Third, intermarriage and conversion have benefits for the Jewish community (e.g., here), including the advantages of marrying into prominent non-Jewish families, such as the families of presidents Trump and Clinton—a centuries-old phenomenon. Some authors have suggested that relatively high rates of intermarriage, low fertility, and the various levels of Jewish identification in modern Western societies are highly functional for Judaism because they serve as a bridge to the surrounding culture because of family ties with non-Jews. Finally, there remains a highly fertile core of Conservative and Orthodox Jews who reject intermarriage.
Cofnas claims that my point about the benefits of intermarriage to the Jewish community shows that I spin the data as supporting evidence when in fact it contradicts my theory. However, the benefits of intermarriage, whether one agrees that the exist or not (I am simply calling attention to the literature), are not relevant to anything in CofC. (Benefits of intermarriage are also discussed in Ch. 9 of Separation and Its Discontents relying on the views of several commentators.) This is not to deny that on average intermarried Jews likely have less of a Jewish identification, but so what? Cofnas needs to show that the movements I discuss were not dependent on strongly identified Jews with a sense of perceived Jewish interests (most commonly: ending anti-Semitism) and that they were not influential.
I conclude that Cofnas has not provided any reason to reject the thesis of CofC—that beginning in the 1920s, Jewish intellectual and political movements have been a necessary condition for the reshaping of American culture away from a strong sense of being a European Christian society in the direction of globalism, multiculturalism, and mass immigration of non-Europeans and non-Christians.
Kevin MacDonald is professor emeritus of psychology at California State University–Long Beach. He edits The Occidental Observer and The Occidental Quarterly and is working on a book on the peoples and culture of the West. Contact him by email. Follow him on Twitter @tooedit