From: John Derbyshire To: Joey Kurtzman Subject: I wish a Jew had written these books
You bet. Though since I broke the bank previously, and am thereby presumably the cause of our moderator bringing down the guillotine, I’ll keep it short.
On empathy for immigrants: yours is not a sufficient explanation. Why haven’t the Irish, or the Italians, been as prominent in fighting immigration restriction as the Jews? MacDonald argues (with bags of documentation) that opposition to the early-20th-century restrictionist movement, which eventually led to the 1924 Immigration Act and quota, was almost entirely Jewish. You might argue that Jews are better at organizing and agitating in causes like this, but then you are just walking into MacDonald’s trap.
You also owe me an explanation of why current immigration-restrictionists are not Daughters of the American Revolution, or hillbilly descendants of 18th-century Scotch-Irish settlers, but people like Mark Krikorian (third-generation Armenian American), Peter Brimelow (immigrant from Britain), Michelle Malkin (daughter of immigrants from Philippines), and so on.
On MacDonald’s picking on the Jews: Well, his excuse is that the Jews provide an exceptionally data-rich set for the kind of study he wanted to undertake. That ought to be convincing. If I decided to embark on an inquiry into human groups’ ability to execute “group evolutionary strategies” across centuries, the Jews would be ideal. Of course, we are not convinced, for the reasons I have mentioned: MacDonald’s disinclination to say anything at all nice about the Jews, as well as his rather (it seems to me) unscholarly language in speaking about “manipulation” of Gentile culture by Jewish intellectuals, and so on.
I find myself wishing very much that someone Jewish had done the kind of study MacDonald did. I agree with you that it was worth doing; I agree that the results are often interesting and often true; I just wish it hadn’t been this guy who wrote Culture of Critique.
On the deracination of young Jews: Slezkine, in his book The Jewish Century (which I wish we had more space to discuss) gives his opinion that following the last influx of Jews (i.e. from the USSR in the years around 1980), the Jews of the U.S.A. are settling down as just another American ethnicity, with an increasingly feeble group identification and high rates of exogamy. (He gives the rate of out-marriage as 3 percent in 1940, 50 percent in 1990.)
Slezkine also makes much of the fact that we goyim are all becoming Jews: “learning how to cultivate people and symbols, not fields or herds… pursuing wealth for the sake of learning, learning for the sake of wealth, and both wealth and learning for their own sake…replacing inherited privilege with acquired prestige, and dismantling social estates for the benefits of individuals, nuclear families, and book-reading tribes (nations).” He quotes Levenson: “A Jewish style of life may be more endangered when everyone eats bagels than when Jews eat hot cross buns.”
All this sounds right to me; so while MacDonald has, I believe, uncovered some interesting truths about twentieth century American culture, I am not sure he has anything to tell us about the future.
Did MacDonald demonstrate that the group evolutionary strategy of the Jews had negative consequences for American intellectual culture? In Culture of Critique I believe he did. One of the most corrosive influences on 20th-century American life has been the collapse of group confidence among white Gentiles.
“These [Jewish-inspired and -led] movements have called into question the fundamental moral, political, and economic foundations of Western society,” says MacDonald in Critique. I think that’s putting it a bit too strongly; but yes, the Frankfurt School, the New York Intellectuals, the Boasian anthropologists, did manage to convince white-Gentile America that there was something deeply wrong with it. That is not to mention the number of lives that must have been wrecked by Freudian superstition, and the unpleasant future consequences that will flow (I believe) from decades of well-nigh unrestrained Third World immigration.
I do think we’d have been better off without all that. You have to put something in the other side of the balance, though: the wonderful vitality of American popular culture, which had a huge Jewish component, the war-winning, disease-curing, and life-improving developments in the theoretical sciences that had so many Jews among their originators. History is all swings and roundabouts. Net-net, would the U.S.A. have been worse off, or better off, without the Great Wave Jewish immigrants? It seems indisputable to me that we would have been worse off. MacDonald would disagree.
Finally, I endorse your call to Jews, and anyone else with an inquiring mind, to give MacDonald a try. I don’t think he is going to go down in history as one of the giants of social science, but he does have some interesting things to say, and he doesn’t give a fig about PC—always refreshing, in this rather stifled day and age. Still, I wish these books had been written by someone else.