Few lines from my book have generated more rage and ridicule than this one. It’s all over the lefty blogosphere. A friend of mine who keeps abreast of the lefty blog discussions of the book — largely so I don’t have to — asked me if I could explain what I meant since so many people are riffing off it out of context. Similarly, this was the one the line that Will Wilkinson wanted me to explain in our bloggingheads discussion, which I did:
But since I have room here to explain here, I will. One of the more under-appreciated motives of the Nazi extermination campaign against the Jews was how it was driven by paranoia. Nazi anti-Semitism wasn’t merely bigoted, it was conspiratorial. The Nazis and affiliated intellectuals firmly believed that the Jew was behind the scenes, pulling strings, manipulating events, rigging the system — even the language — in profound and pernicious ways. Carl Schmitt — quite popular on the left today — was tasked with the job of purging the Jewish spirit from the law. Other similar projects were launched across the political, economic and intellectual landscape. Jeffrey Herf recently wrote an absolutely brilliant book on this exact point, bringing to the fore what was long considered mere background noise of the 12 year Reich. I wrote about his book, The Jewish Enemy, here.
This paranoia itself had roots in Marxist thought — though hardly exclusively so. Marx himself was one of many ur-socialists who considered the Jew, figuratively and literally, to be the fullest realization of everything that was wrong with capitalism or the status quo. The Jew, as the classic middle-man minority (as Tom Sowell would say), seemed to stand in the way of every utopian and nationalist aspiration. When you read Nazi intellectuals discussing the influence of Judaism on Germany it’s deeply metaphysical. The Jew and by extension the “Mediterranean religion” of Christianity had poisoned the authentic German spirit and mind to the very foundations. Politically, the Nazis insisted that “the Jews” had attacked Germany first. Every bad circumstance or inconvenient fact could be laid at the feet of the Jews. Hitler even proclaimed that the conscience itself was a Jewish invention designed to keep the oppressed Aryans and others down.While still a Nazi collaborator, Paul de Man— the revered postmodern theorist who eventually taught at Yale and Cornell—wrote of the Jews, “Their cerebralness, their capacity to assimilate doctrines while maintaining a cold detachment from them,” is one of “the specific characteristics of the Jewish mind.”
I could go on, but you probably get it.
Now look at today’s culture. In academia you have the proliferation of “Whiteness Studies,” simply the most absurd discipline dedicated to purging the “white mind” from society. Here’s the full and subsequent paragraphs where I begin to explain that sentence that has annoyed so many:
The white male is the Jew of liberal fascism. The “key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race,” writes the whiteness studies scholar and historian Noel Ignatiev. Whiteness studies is a cutting-edge academic discipline sweeping American higher education. Some thirty universities have WS departments, but many more schools teach the essentials of whiteness studies in other courses. The executive director of the Center for the Study of White American Culture explains, “There is no crime that whiteness has not committed against people of color . . . We must blame whiteness for the continuing patterns today . . . which damage and prevent the humanity of those of us within it.” The journal Race Traitor (ironically, a Nazi term) is dedicated “to serve as an intellectual center for those seeking to abolish the white race.” Now, this is not a genocidal movement; no one is suggesting that white people be rounded up and put in camps. But the principles, passions, and argumentation have troubling echoes.
First, there is the left’s shocking defense of black riot ideology and gangsterism. The glorification of violence, the romance of the street, the denunciations of “the system,” the conspiratorialism, the exaltation of racial solidarity, the misogyny of hip-hop culture: all of these things offer a disturbing sense of déjà vu. Hip-hop culture has incorporated. On college campuses, administrators routinely look the other way at classically fascist behavior, from newspaper burnings to the physical intimidation of dissident speakers. These attitudes ultimately stem from the view that the white man, like the Jew, represents every facet of what is wrong and oppressive to humanity. As Susan Sontag proclaimed in 1967, “The white race is the cancer of human history.” Meanwhile, Enlightenment notions of universal humanity are routinely mocked on the academic left as a con used to disguise entrenched white male privilege.
The discussion goes on for a while, addressing the tendency of the left to conflate white male privilege with traditional religion and the like. Then I move to Hollywood where I discuss how in movie after movie white men are the problem. It’s only by getting over their white maleness that they are redeemed. I’ll post some passages later. But the basic point is this, from Charles Beard’s An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States to critical legal studies, to the campaign against “dead white European males,” to popular culture, there is an abiding belief that “das system” was set up to benefit The Man and that The Man continues to pull the strings and rig the system for his own benefit. I don’t argue anywhere that liberals want to put the Pale Penis People in Prison. But I do note, going back to Theodore Adorno in the Authoritarian Personality straight through the most recent studies of conservative brains that many on the left consider the traditional white male mindset, variously defined, to be a malady in need of curing, which is scary enough.