This essay serves as the Introduction to Tomislav Sunic’s Homo Americanus: A Child of the Postmodern Age (Second, Revised Edition), published in December by Radix. Available from Amazon.com here.
Perhaps because of America’s role as the world’s lone international “superpower,” Americans live in a rather self-absorbed, egocentric universe in which the opinions of non-Americans really don’t matter much. This is unfortunate, because, just as in one’s personal life, it’s wise at least to know how others see you, and especially so if the other is a keen observer.
Tomislav Sunic is such an observer. As someone who has lived under Communism and has seen first-hand the workings of state terror, he is in a unique position to describe the current slide of America into what he aptly terms “soft totalitarianism.” This regime is maintained less by brute force than by an unrelenting, enormously sophisticated, and massively effective campaign to contain political and cultural activity within very narrow boundaries. Dissenters are not trundled off to jail or beaten with truncheons, but are quietly ignored and marginalized. Or they are held up to public disgrace and, wherever possible, removed from their livelihoods.
The regime is maintained by a consensus that has become part of the furniture of life, repeated endlessly in the major media and reassuringly affirmed by wise-looking professors at prestigious universities. To dissent from this consensus removes one from the mainstream and stigmatizes one as immoral and quite possibly suffering from a psychiatric disorder. One immediately thinks of attitudes on immigration. Even the most fearless mainstream opponents of immigration restrict their opposition to illegal immigrants and are careful to couch their arguments in economic or cultural (but never ethnic or racial) terms. One simply cannot mention in polite company that the end result of this massive influx of peoples into the traditional homelands of European peoples will be displacement, a decline in their power, and ultimately, perhaps, their disappearance as an identifiable people. But there are a host of other issues that are at least as untouchable as immigration.
Soft totalitarian regimes can only be maintained by a sense of moral and intellectual legitimacy—the willing assent of the vast majority of the people. Without this legitimacy, the entire apparatus of cultural control either disintegrates or transforms into hard totalitarianism—the truncheons and the gulags. But here there is a major difference between Communism in Eastern Europe and the current cultural regime in the United States. As Sunic notes, “Behind the Communist semantics in Eastern Europe, there loomed a make-believe system nobody truly believed in and which everybody, including former Communist party dignitaries, made fun of in private. In America, by contrast, many serious people, politicians, and scholars, let alone the masses, believe in . . . the message of the media.” The people who dissent from the American consensus have been successfully relegated to the fringes. The gods are still worshiped.
Sunic sees quite clearly that this moral and intellectual legitimacy is fundamentally the result of the triumph of the left as a result of World War II. This transformation occurred first in Western Europe, which has now mostly moved well beyond soft totalitarianism to the beginnings or a gulag system where there are formal legal sanctions for thought crimes. The thought crimes, enforced by liberal and conservative European governments alike, are designed to enforce the dogmas of leftist orthodoxy, most notably everything related to multiculturalism, race, immigration, and the Holocaust. Even in England, the font et origo of American democracy, academics are removed for stating their beliefs on scientific evidence on race differences in intelligence or criminality. (For example, in 2006 Frank Ellis of the University of Leeds was suspended for statements supporting race differences in intelligence.) Legal sanctions enforce orthodoxies in the area of multiculturalism and anything having to do with the fascist past.
In searching for the origins of this phenomenon, one must begin, as Sunic does, by describing the forcible imposition of leftist ideology and institutions in Germany and France after World War II. As a psychologist, I am always tempted to see the origins of leftist ideological hegemony solely in psychological terms—to wonder what incredible psychological defect would lead to a whole people to adopt an ideology in which they were cast as having a grave moral or psychiatric defect. But first and foremost, the triumph of the left in Europe was accomplished via a purge and re-education of intellectuals, educators, and media figures.
As Sunic notes, the most obvious beneficiaries of this sea change were the major leftist ideologies of the 20th century: Marxism, psychoanalysis, and the Frankfurt School. Since much of my writing deals with Jewish issues, I can’t help noting that these ideologies have in common that they are all part of the “Culture of Critique”: Intellectual and political movements originated and dominated by Jews and intended by their Jewish participants as advancing Jewish interests, such as ending anti-Semitism.
Any claim that an intellectual or political movement is or was a “Jewish” movement immediately raises all kinds of red flags for most readers. Just as the ethnic interests of Europeans cannot be mentioned in discussing the effects of immigration, the Jewish identifications and commitments of the people who originated and disseminated these ideas has been moved to the fringes of intellectual discourse.
But research in the ethnic motivations of people is perfectly respectable. No one would be surprised if Mexican activists proudly and explicitly advocated the interests of Mexicans in immigration and affirmative action. Nor are we surprised if Jewish activists promoted the interests of Israel. By the same logic, we shouldn’t be surprised if Jewish social scientists are motivated by their ethnic interests. It is an empirical question that can be investigated like any other question in the social sciences, and I think that the data confirms the hypothesis that the Jews who were central to the origins and influence of these movements had a strong Jewish identification and were motivated by their ethnic interests.
As usual, there is a double standard here. It is a routine for scientists like Arthur Jensen, J. Philippe Rushton, or Richard Lynn to be called “racists” when they call attention to the biological roots of race differences in intelligence or criminality. And my writing on how Jews have pursued their ethnic interests in the intellectual and political arena has been termed “anti-Semitism” on more than one occasion.
Implicitly, the charge of racism or anti-Semitism assumes that these writers are nothing more than ethnic activists and that their claims of scientific truth are nothing more than a fig leaf covering their ethnic interests—exactly the claim that I am making about the role of Jews in the triumph of Marxism, psychoanalysis, and the Frankfurt School.
Unfortunately, the people making these charges of “racism” and “anti-Semitism” typically feel no need to dispute the scientific accuracy of the theories they are trying to discredit or even try to provide evidence of ethnic motivation of the scientists involved. Simply making the charge is sufficient. Such is the power of the Left.
The Frankfurt School’s Program of Ethnic Warfare
Sunic is quite correct in directing most of his attention to the Frankfurt School. The Frankfurt School developed a devastatingly effective ideology that continues to reverberate in the contemporary world, even after the fall from grace of Communism and psychoanalysis.
Fundamentally the Frankfurt School attempted to develop an ideology that pathologized National Socialism. National Socialism was, first and foremost, a movement of ethnic cohesion; because of this fact, the Frankfurt School called into question all sources of cohesion of Western societies: Family, religion, culture, and race/ethnicity. From the beginning, there was a rejection of value-free social science research (“the fetishism of facts”) in favor of the fundamental priority of a moral perspective, in which Western societies were to be transformed into utopias of cultural pluralism.
According to the Frankfurt School ideology, Europeans who identify with family, nation, or race suffer from a psychiatric disorder. In the ideal Frankfurt School world, Western nations would become therapeutic states. They would be dedicated to rooting out the remnants of adherence to traditional cultural forms of family, nation, religion, and race in their citizens. And they would do so in the interests of promoting mental health, not to mention moral rectitude.
The basic logic pursued by the Frankfurt School stemmed from the fact that positive attitudes toward church, community, nation, and race tend to result in negative attitudes toward people from different religions, communities, nations, and races. As a result, successful families that inculcate family pride in their children were seen by the Frankfurt School as sources of pathology. For example, The Authoritarian Personality—a major work of the Frankfurt School intended for an American audience—claimed that expressions of family pride were “a setting off of a homogeneous totalitarian family against the rest of the world.”
In this upside-down world, families that are proud of their ancestors, concerned with moving up socially, or even having biological heirs are viewed as pathological.In fact, one might conclude that the real agenda of The Authoritarian Personality is to pathologize adaptive behavior in general. Those who value highly committed marriages and cohesive families, who are upwardly mobile and seek material resources, who are proud of their families and identify with their parents, who have high self-concepts, who believe that Christianity is a positive moral force and a spiritual consolation, who strongly identify as males or females (but not both!), and who are socially successful and wish to emulate paragons of social success (e.g., American heroes) are viewed as having a psychiatric disorder.
On the other hand, those who are socially isolated, who have negative and rebellious attitudes toward their families, who are ambivalent and insecure in their sexual identities, who have low self-esteem, who are filled with debilitating insecurities and conflicts (including insecurities about whether their parents loved them), who are moving downward in social status, and who have negative attitudes toward high social status and acquisition of material resources are viewed as the epitome of psychological health.
Psychoanalysis—that other pillar of 20th century leftism and the culture of critique— was obviously an ideal vehicle for creating the upside-down world of Frankfurt School ideology. A central feature of psychoanalysis is the idea that surface appearances can often overlay deep unconscious desires and conflicts. And since psychoanalysis never required any empirical evidence for such claims, it essentially allowed the Frankfurt School authors to make up any story they wanted. If the family relationships of ethnocentric subjects were very positive, Frankfurt School theorists could interpret them as surface affection, masking deep, unconscious hostilities toward their parents. Any shred of negative feelings by ethnocentric subjects toward their parents then became a lever they could use to create an imaginary world of suppressed hostility masked by surface affection.
Yet when another volume of Studies in Prejudice found that anti-Semites had poor relationships with their parents, the results were taken at face value. The result was not science, but it was effective in achieving its political goals.
It is not difficult to suppose that the entire program of research of The Authoritarian Personality involved deception from beginning to end. This is suggested by the authors’ clear political agenda and the pervasive double standard in which ethnocentrism and involvement in cohesive groups are seen as symptoms of psychopathology among non-Jews, whereas Jews are simply viewed as victims of irrational Gentile pathologies and no mention is made of Jewish ethnocentrism or allegiance to their own group.
Although it is difficult to assess the effect of works like The Authoritarian Personality on the culture of the West, there can be little question that the thrust of this work, as well as other works inspired by psychoanalysis and its derivatives, was to pathologize adaptive behavior in general. Good parenting, upward social mobility, pride in family, religion, nation, and race were all suspect.Many of the central attitudes of the 1960s countercultural revolution find expression in The Authoritarian Personality, including idealizing rebellion against parents, uncommitted sexual relationships, and scorn for upward social mobility, social status, family pride, Christianity, and patriotism.
Viewed at its most abstract level, the fundamental agenda of the Frankfurt School is to influence European peoples to view concern about their own demographic and cultural eclipse as irrational and as an indication of psychopathology. People who do not identify with the basic social categories of family, religion, nation, or race would not be concerned with their demise.
The Jewish Intellectual And Political Infrastructure
In the aftermath of the Second World War, many values akin to those of The Authoritarian Personality were imposed on Germans though the U.S. military and occupying powers. However, the success of the Frankfurt School, and other varieties of leftist orthodoxy, do not stem solely from their adoption by governments and authorities. After all, this forcible imposition did not happen in the United States or other areas of Europe.
In the absence of a conquering army, another important source of influence, at least in America, is what one might term the Jewish intellectual and activist infrastructure of the post-World War II era. Despite its scientific weakness, the ideology that positive attitudes about family, nation, and race resulted from disturbed parent-child relationships was promulgated by the most prestigious institutions throughout the West, and especially by elite universities and the mainstream media, as the essence of scientific objectivity.
One aspect of this effort was the production of a great many other writings that reinforced the basic ideas found in The Authoritarian Personality and other works of the Frankfurt School. This general intellectual onslaught is important because it produced a zeitgeist that was far more effective than one or two works by isolated authors.
A good example is The Politics of Unreason (1970). This volume was part of the Patterns of American Prejudice series funded by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and written by Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab. (Raab and Lipset also wrote Prejudice and Society, published by the Anti-Defamation League in 1959.)
First and foremost, we see the close relationship between Jewish activist organizations and academic writing on ethnic relations. In the same way, the Studies in Prejudice series that produced The Authoritarian Personality was funded by the American Jewish Committee. Obviously, there is a link between academic research on ethnic relations and Jewish activist organizations like the AJC and the ADL. Raab’s career has combined academic scholarship with deep involvement as a Jewish ethnic activist. He was associated with the ADL and is Executive Director Emeritus of the Perlmutter Institute for Jewish Advocacy at Brandeis University. He was also a columnist for the San Francisco Jewish Bulletin.
The Politics of Unreason analyses political and ideological expressions of ethnocentrism by European-derived peoples as irrational and as being unrelated to legitimate ethnic interests in retaining political power. Movements aimed at retaining or restoring the power of the European-derived majority of the United States are labeled “right-wing extremism.” Their politics is “the politics of despair.” For Lipset and Raab, tolerance of cultural and ethnic pluralism is a defining feature of democracy, so that groups that oppose cultural and ethnic pluralism are by definition extremist and anti-democratic.
The Politics of Unreason may therefore be seen as an argument that the European peoples in the United States and other areas of the Western world should not resist declines in their cultural and demographic dominance. (Analogous arguments rarely seem to surface among Jews contemplating whether Israel should remain a Jewish state.) Attempts by majorities to resist the increase in the power and influence of other groups are contrary to “the fixed spiritual center of the democratic political process.” Extremism is anti-pluralism. . . . And the operational heart of extremism is the repression of difference and dissent.
“Right-wing extremism” is also condemned because of its populist tendencies—its distrust of institutions that intervene between the people and their direct exercise of power. Indeed, in the post-World War II era, The Authoritarian Personality was an important ideological weapon against historical American populist movements, especially McCarthyism.
[T]he people as a whole had little understanding of liberal democracy and . . . important questions of public policy would be decided by educated elites, not submitted to popular vote.
The conclusion of this analysis is that democracy is identified not with the power of the people to pursue their perceived interests. Rather, government is to be the province of morally and intellectually superior elites who have no commitment to the ethnic interests of the European majority; in an Orwellian turn, “democracy” is defined as guaranteeing that majorities will not resist the expansion of power of minorities even if that means a decline in their own power.
The moral and intellectual elite established by these movements dominated intellectual discourse during a critical period after the Second World War and leading into the countercultural revolution of the 1960s. As a result, college students during this period were powerfully socialized to adopt liberal-radical cultural and political beliefs. These effects continue into the present era.
The importance of the intellectual infrastructure can also be seen with other intellectual and political movements. Neoconservatism illustrates the common features of this intellectual infrastructure: It has been championed by a well-defined group of mainly Jewish authors writing with shared assumptions, a common institutional base in universities and think-tanks, access to major media, and mutual admiration. The power of the movement comes not from the work of a few individuals but from its dissemination in the media, its legitimacy in the universities, its promotion by Jewish activist organizations, and its constant repetition in slightly different forms and for different audiences by like-minded intellectuals and writers.
However, this intellectual infrastructure did not occur in a political vacuum. Also of critical importance was the “intergroup relations movement,” which was dedicated to passing legislation and disseminating these ideas in the schools. The Frankfurt School was a critical part of the intellectual justification for the “intergroup relations movement” in its effort to “eliminate prejudice and discrimination against racial, ethnic, and religious minorities” in the period following World War II. The intergroup relations movement was a multi-faceted effort, ranging from legal challenges to racial bias in housing, education, and public employment; legislative proposals and efforts to secure their passage into law in state and national legislative bodies; efforts to shape messages in the media; educational programs for students and teachers; and intellectual efforts to reshape the intellectual discourse of academia.
As with the other movements with strong Jewish involvement, Jewish organizations, particularly the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, and the Anti-Defamation League, were the leaders. These organizations provided the major sources of funding, devised the tactics, and defined the objectives of the movement.
As was also the case with the movement to open up the United States to immigration from all areas of the world, a conscious aim of the intergroup relations movement was to prevent the development of a mass anti-Jewish movement in the United States: Jewish activists
saw their commitment to the intergroup relations movement as a preventive measure designed to make sure “it”—the Nazis’ war of extermination against European Jewry—never happened in America.
A consistent theme emphasized the benefits to be gained by increased levels of intergroup harmony. But there was no mention that some groups, particularly European-derived, non-Jewish groups, would lose economic and political power and decline in cultural influence.
Based on the writings of the Frankfurt School, the intergroup relations movement disseminated the ideology that ethnocentrism and discrimination against outgroups was a mental disease and thus literally a public health problem. The assault on negative attitudes toward other groups was likened to the medical assault on deadly infectious diseases. People with the disease were described by activists as “infected” and terms like “virulent anti-Semitism” were invented. Negative attitudes toward groups were viewed not as the result of competing group interests but rather as the result of individual psychopathology.
The story of the Frankfurt School and the intergroup relations movement are paradigmatic examples of Jews producing formidable, effective groups—groups able to have powerful, transformative effects on the peoples they live among. In the modern world, these traits of Jewish groups have resulted in great influence on the academic world, the political process, and the world of mainstream and elite media. In my book The Culture of Critique and monograph on neoconservatism, I have identified several influential Jewish intellectual and political movements: Boasian anthropology and the campaign against the concept of biologically based racial differences; Jewish involvement in the political Left; psychoanalysis; the Frankfurt School; the New York Intellectuals; U.S. immigration policy; and neoconservatism.
The end result of the triumph of these movements has been a tremendous increase in Jewish power and influence, and a concomitant decrease in the political and cultural power of European-derived peoples—ethnic warfare by any other name. In general, this body of work is decidedly on the left, but a Left that is now fundamentally concerned with the dispossession of Europeans, rather than the classical Marxist emphasis on the class struggle. At the base of this activism is an understanding that the way to achieve their ethnic goals is to be able to control the culture. In reading the views of the Frankfurt School on the importance of cultural control, it struck me that those of us attempting to preserve the traditional peoples and culture of the West are in a similar situation to the Frankfurt School and the New York Intellectuals. Their complaints about the American culture of the 1930s through the 1950s are mirror images of the complaints that we have now.
Whereas the New York Intellectuals and the Frankfurt School felt alienated from the culture of the West, now we are the ones with feelings of alienation from the culture that has been so strongly influenced by these Jewish intellectual movements.
We are dismayed at the failure of the media to properly address White interests or even to allow expressions of White identity to be seen or heard in the mainstream media.
We are well aware that when there is a failure of media self-censorship, there are powerful campaigns to punish the guilty parties and get them to recant.
Just as the Frankfurt School theorized, the West has come under the control of soft authoritarianism. But now the shoe is on the other foot: Power resides in the soft totalitarianism of the multicultural, multi-racial, anti-White Left.
Prior to their ascent to power, these intellectual movements decried the passivity, escapism, and conformity of American culture. Indeed, Tom Sunic mentions “the often stated European cliché about the alleged American conformism.” Looking at the present situation, I would have to agree that Americans are conformists. Those of us who are White advocates are horrified that the vast majority of White Americans passively accept media messages filled with distorted images of Whites and their history. We are appalled that so many White Americans are far more interested in escapist entertainment, ranging from sporting events to sci-fi thrillers, than the future of their people. And we are dismayed by the conformity of the great mass of White Americans who are terrified of being called a “racist” or in any way violating the current taboos of political correctness. We deplore the pathetic conformists striving to uphold the rules of a society deeply hostile to their own long-term interests.
But is it really any different in Europe? Quite clearly we see the same conformity to the moral imperative of mass Third World immigration, multiculturalism, and the ideology that the traditional peoples and cultures of Europe have no legitimacy. For example, in Sweden there is enforced silence on any criticism of multiculturalism in the above-ground media. Discussing the cancellation of a talk because it was sponsored by a politically incorrect newspaper, Swedish journalist Ingrid Carlqvist comments, “That’s the way it works in the New Sweden, the country I call Absurdistan. The country of silence.” Violating the silence is met with moral outrage intended to produce shunning and ostracism:
The situation in Sweden is far worse than in Denmark. In Sweden NOBODY talks about immigration problems, the death of the multiculti project or the islamisation/ arabisation of Europe. If you do, you will immediately be called a racist, an Islamophobe or a Nazi. That is what I have been called since I founded the Free Press Society in Sweden. My name has been dragged through the dirt in big newspapers like Sydsvenskan, Svenska Dagbladet and even my own union paper, The Journalist.
In Sweden, as in America, having a non-conforming opinions immediately results in ostracism as a moral reprobate.
Rather than see a culture controlled by the “late capitalist” media,” White advocates see the culture of the West as controlled by a hostile media elite that advocates multiculturalism, the displacement of Whites, and the culture of Western suicide.
There is thus a common thread between these Jewish intellectual movements and those of us attempting to preserve the traditional people and culture of the West. We all agree in the importance of media control. Paraphrasing a Bill Clinton campaign slogan, “It’s the culture, stupid.”
Control of the media is critical. If there were strong media messages advocating White identity and the legitimacy of White interests, things would turn around rather dramatically and rather quickly. This is because the psychological power behind a movement of ethnic defense is far greater than the motivation that can be mustered for a multi-racial, multi-ethnic communist revolution.
Such media messages would be able to tap into the natural wellspring of ethnic feeling. There is a deep psychological attachment to one’s people and culture—even among us individualistic White people—that can easily motivate a mass movement of ethnic defense.
Often these feelings are implicit and unconscious rather than explicit and conscious. They manifest themselves in moving to neighborhoods where their children can attend school with other Whites. Or they manifest themselves in activities where they are able to enjoy the company and camaraderie of others like themselves.
These feelings are real. And they are potentially very powerful. The revolution needed to reverse the cultural tides of the last decades would therefore be far easier to pull off than the Marxist one so ardently deasired by the Frankfurt School.
Responding To Breaches Of Decorum
Because the Jewish community has been so intimately involved in creating the therapeutic state, it is noteworthy to examine how the Jewish community responds to breaches of decorum—that is, to challenges to its hegemony. Here, the methods are quite similar to those used in post-World War II Germany, as described by Sunic:
When silencing their critics, the German authorities do not need to resort to violent means. They usually create a cultural smearing campaign whereby a cultural heretic is portrayed as a funny, pseudo-scientific crank who does not merit a place in mainstream publishing houses. Moreover, the heretic is often induced into a self-muzzling behavior making impossible any portrayal of himself as a martyr.
A good example is the response to the unflattering portrayal of the Israel Lobby by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. The power of the Israel Lobby is legendary and has had a major effect on U.S. foreign policy, including the recent war in Iraq. The typical response has included an argument or two aimed at small pieces of the edifice erected by Mearsheimer and Walt, but the real common denominators are intimidation, guilt-by-association, and charges of anti-Semitism. The guilt-by-association tactic appeared in the very earliest media accounts of the article and has continued to be invoked regularly. For example, David Duke has been repeatedly cited as supporting Mearsheimer and Walt. Alan Dershowitz’s 46-page rebuttal of Mearsheimer and Walt contains no less than 14 references to David Duke and five references comparing Mearsheimer and Walt’s article to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Charges of anti-Semitism abound. This occurs despite the fact that David Duke is never cited as a source on foreign policy issues or anything else in the mainstream media. However, since Duke is an activist on behalf of European-Americans who is regularly linked in the media with the Ku Klux Klan, Nazism, and “White supremacy,” the technique works to marginalize the work of Mearsheimer and Walt—even though Mearsheimer and Walt have performed the ritual denunciation of Duke.
The sad reality is that discussing a whole host of issues related to Jews, even in a rational, informed manner, brings charges of anti-Semitism and incompetent scholarship ringing down from the highest reaches of academia and the elite media. One can easily see that this is a recipe for paranoia, frustration and ultimately anti-Semitism.
But the tactics of the Jewish intellectual and political infrastructure are effective because, even if they create dark suspicions about the behavior of the organized Jewish community among a few, and vague twinges of anxiety among many, these attitudes are forced to remain underground. They occur in the privacy of one’s thoughts or in guarded conversations and coded emails. And because there is more than a grain of truth to these attitudes, for some they readily give rise to apocalyptic, impossible conspiracy theories. After all, if the reality of Jewish power on issues such as Israel is as plain as the nose on your face, and you know that this power is ultimately maintained by intimidation, smear tactics, and endlessly repeated propaganda emanating from the mainstream media and elite academic institutions, at some point informed people start thinking that there’s probably a whole lot else they aren’t being told.
There is an old saying that “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” The sad reality is, however, that the vast majority of Americans in politics, the media, and academia are terrified of being labeled an anti-Semite or compared to bogey men or infamous books to which they have no connection. (Obviously, the same can be said for Europeans.) This is ironic (at the least) in the case of academics, who cultivate an image of being apolitical, fearless truth-seekers. Unlike politicians, who must continue to curry favor with the public in order to be reelected, and unlike media figures who have little job security, academics with tenure have no excuse for not being willing to endure labels such as “anti-Semite” or “racist” in order to pursue the truth. A large part of the rationale for tenure in the first place is that academics are supposed to be willing to take unpopular positions, to forge ahead using all their brain power and expertise to chart new territories that challenge popular wisdom.
But that image of academia is simply not based in reality, as shown by an article appearing almost two months after the publication of Mearsheimer and Walt’s essay and appropriately titled “A hot paper muzzles academia.”
Instead of a roiling debate, most professors not only agreed to disagree but agreed to pretend publicly that there was no disagreement at all. At Harvard and other schools, the Mearsheimer-Walt paper proved simply too hot to handle— and it revealed an academia deeply split yet lamentably afraid to engage itself on one of the hottest political issues of our time. Call it the academic Cold War: distrustful factions rendered timid by the prospect of mutually assured Professors refused to take a stand on the paper, either in favor or against. As one Ivy League professor noted, “A lot of [my colleagues] were more concerned about the academic politics of it, and where they should come down, in that sense.”
Bear in mind that the vast majority of the professors unwilling to take a stand on this issue have tenure and literally cannot be fired. They are afraid not of starvation but of having their career ruined by being associated with the wrong side in this debate. The downside is that they won’t be invited to deliver papers at other universities or important conferences. They will not be able to publish their work at prestigious academic or commercial presses, or they may even have difficulty having their work published at all. They won’t be invited to the good parties or get nice summer fellowships or get asked to serve as dean or in a future administration in Washington. Or maybe their sources of funding would dry up.
And it’s pretty clear that the “wrong side” of this debate is to express publicly approval of a paper that has been denounced in the elite media as “anti-Semitic.” Can anyone believe that the Alan Dershowitzes of the world are not taking names and will not hold dissidents accountable?
It’s not that professors don’t want to opine on public-policy issues. When there are opportunities to spout righteous leftism, professors leap to the front of the line. A good example is a recent case where three White men from the Duke University lacrosse team allegedly gang-raped, sodomized, and choked a black woman who had been hired as a stripper for a party. Despite considerable evidence that the charges were spurious, three academic departments, 13 programs, and 88 professors at Duke bought an ad in the campus newspaper in which they asserted the guilt of the men and stated that “what happened to this young woman” resulted from “racism and sexism.”
But, of course, in this case, the professors who went public with their indignation knew they were part of a like-minded community and that there would be much to gain by being on the politically correct side (and little to lose if they were proven wrong). Indeed, a university committee charged with looking into the response of the Duke administration to this incident recommended hiring more minorities in order to increase the diversity of the Duke administration.
Sadly, there is now a great deal of evidence that academics in general are careful to avoid controversy or do much of anything that will create hostility. In fact, some researchers are pointing to this fact to call into question whether tenure is justified. A recent survey of the attitudes of 1004 professors at elite universities illustrates this quite clearly. Regardless of their rank, professors rated their
reluctant to engage in activities that ran counter to the wishes of colleagues. Even tenured full professors believed [other full professors] would invoke academic freedom only “sometimes” rather than “usually” or “always”; they chose confrontational options “rarely,” albeit more often than did lower ranked colleagues. . . . Their willingness to self-limit may be due to a desire for harmony and/or respect for the criticisms of colleagues whose opinions they value. Thus, the data did not support the depiction of Professorus Americanus as unleashed renegade.
Seen in this context, the reaction to Mearsheimer and Walt makes a lot of sense. As one professor noted, “People might debate it if you gave everyone a get-out-of-jail-free card and promised that afterwards everyone would be friends.”
This intense desire to be accepted and liked by one’s colleagues is certainly understandable. It is probably part of human nature. There have been times when I have had to endure charges of anti-Semitism, most recently in an article by Jacob Laksin titled “Cal State’s Professor of Anti-Semitism,” published by David Horowitz’s FrontPageMagazine.com. It’s perhaps worth nothing that the same webzine also published perhaps the most vitriolic anti-Mearsheimer and Walt piece to date, Abraham H. Miller’s “The New Protocols.” (Miller begins by stating “Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s recently disseminated anti-Semitic screed has been ripped apart by both prominent scholars and literary figures showing it to be an intellectual fraud being passed off as serious scholarship.” The essay ends with “Anti-Semites have now found the new Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”)
It didn’t really bother me much that such an article was published if the discussion was confined to the impersonal world of the Internet. I would write a detailed reply and circulate it among the people who read my stuff, and I knew that people who support my writing would rally to my defense and say nice things about me and my reply to Laksin. And I knew that I would get a few pieces of hate mail and maybe a couple of death threats, but that is to be expected. And it’s all rather abstract, since I basically sit in solitude at my computer and read it all, and it pretty much ends there. Frankly, there is a part of me that feels good about it; I hope that the word is getting out, even if by means of an attack piece.
The point is that when this article came out, almost all my anxiety stemmed from worries that the article would be picked up by people on my campus or in professional organizations in which I am involved. I wasn’t worried that I would lose my job, although Laksin was clearly upset about California State University’s “ignoring altogether the question of why it considers the manufacture of stylized bigotry an appropriate avocation for a tenured scholar.” What I dreaded was coming into my office and being greeted by cold shoulders and hostile stares, by colleagues not wanting to go to lunch or nervously looking away when I passed in the hall. I worried about reading sensationalistic articles in the campus newspaper.
I imagined going to academic conferences and receiving the same sort of reception. I worried that people wouldn’t invite me to write academic papers or wouldn’t cite my writing in other areas not related to Jewish issues.
This little bit of personal experience is doubtless typical of the forces of self-censorship that maintain the political order of the post-World War II West. It’s the concern about the face-to-face consequences of being a non-conformist in the deeply sensitive areas related to race or to Jewish influence.
Consider the response of Anne Morrow Lindbergh to the torrent of abuse heaped upon her husband, Charles Lindbergh, for stating that Jews were one force promoting war against Germany in 1941. The speech threw her into “dark gloom”:
Will I be able to shop in New York at all now? I am always stared at—but now to be stared at with hate, to walk through aisles of hate!”
Again, what is most feared is the personal, face-to-face contact. As an evolutionary psychologist, it’s tempting to speculate that our evolved psychological mechanisms are triggered far more by the close and personal context of day to day interactions, not in the cold and impersonal world of communicating on the Internet.
And it’s not just that it is in the face-to-face world of everyday life. It is that the areas of non-conformity we are talking about here have huge moral overtones. If one dissents from the reigning theory of macro-economics or the main influences on 19th century French Romanticism, one may be viewed as a bit eccentric or perhaps ill informed. But one is not likely to be viewed as a moral reprobate. One is not likely to be subjected to torrents of moral outrage.
Evolutionary theorist Robert Trivers has proposed that the emotion of guilt is a sign to the group that a person will mend his ways and behave in the future, whereas shame functions as a display of submission to people higher in the dominance hierarchy. From that perspective, a person who is incapable of shame or guilt even for obvious transgressions is literally a sociopath—someone who has no desire to fit into group norms. Such sociopathy would usually be a death sentence in the small groups that we humans evolved in. Only the most dominant individuals would be able to resist the moral outrage of the group, and even they must be concerned about coalitions rising against them.
What is striking, and perhaps counterintuitive, is that the guilt and shame remain even when we are completely satisfied at an intellectual level that our beliefs are based on good evidence and reasonable inferences. Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes,
I cannot explain my revulsion of feeling by logic. Is it my lack of courage to face the problem? Is it my lack of vision and seeing the thing through? Or is my intuition founded on something profound and valid? I do not know and am only very disturbed, which is upsetting for him. I have the greatest faith in him as a person—in his integrity, his courage, and his essential goodness, fairness, and kindness—his nobility really. . . . How then explain my profound feeling of grief about what he is doing? If what he said is the truth (and I am inclined to think it is), why was it wrong to state it?”
Her reaction is involuntary and irrational—beyond the reach of logical analysis. Charles Lindbergh was exactly right in what he said, but a rational understanding of the correctness of his analysis cannot lessen the psychological trauma to his wife who must face the hostile stares of others. In psychological terms, the trauma is the result of implicit, unconscious processes stemming from our evolved psychology and a long history of successful socialization.
Puritan Moralism and Christian Universalism
The preceding discusses the “push” of movements that have attempted to alter American and other European-derived societies into defenseless entities with no ethnic or cultural identity. But the other side of the equation must also be examined—the traits that predispose Westerners to accept their own oblivion as a moral necessity. Here, Sunic emphasizes the heritage of Christian universalism and, especially in the case of America, the heritage of Puritan moralism.
Several writers have discussed the Puritan spirit, which combined of egalitarianism and democracy, religious hierarchy, and (sometimes violent) crusades against immorality. In the 17th century, Puritan areas had low levels of personal violence but the highest levels of public violence directed at heretics and those suspected of witchcraft. I have suggested that this emphasis on relative egalitarianism and consensual, democratic government are tendencies characteristic of Northern European peoples as a result of a prolonged evolutionary history as hunter-gatherers in cold, harsh environments. But the Puritans added a high degree of group cohesion, made possible by a powerful emphasis on cultural conformity (e.g., punishment of religious heresy) and public regulation of personal behavior related to sex (fornication, adultery), public drunkenness, etc. One might say that the Puritans tried to square the circle by combining egalitarianism and democracy—both strongly associated with individualism—with high levels of cultural control, a collectivist trait.
But as Sunic emphasizes, it is the Puritan tendency to pursue utopian causes framed as moral issues that stands out—their susceptibility to utopian appeals to a “higher law” and the belief that the principal purpose of government is moral. New England was the most fertile ground for “the perfectibility of man creed” and was the “father of a dozen ‘isms.’” There was a tendency to paint political alternatives as starkly contrasting moral imperatives, with one side portrayed as evil incarnate—inspired by the devil. Puritan moral intensity can also be seen in their “profound personal piety”—their intensity of commitment to live not only a holy life but also a sober and industrious life.
Puritans waged holy war on behalf of moral righteousness even against their own cousins. Whatever the political and economic complexities that led to the Civil War, it was the Yankee moral condemnation of slavery that inspired the rhetoric and rendered the massive carnage of closely related Anglo-Americans, on behalf of slaves from Africa, justifiable in the minds of Puritans. Militarily. The war with the Confederacy rendered the heaviest sacrifice in lives and property ever made by Americans. This Puritan moral fervor, and its tendency to justify draconian punishment of “evildoers,” can also be seen in the comments of the Congregationalist minister at Henry Ward Beecher’s Old Plymouth Church in New York, who called for “exterminating the German people . . . the sterilization of 10,000,000 German soldiers and the segregation of the woman.”
This Puritan moralism and its deep roots in America account for the importance of moral legitimacy in maintaining the current cultural regime. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in expressing her thoughts on her husband’s controversial speech, related,
I would prefer to see this country at war than shaken by violent anti-Semitism. (Because it seems to me that the kind of person the human being is turned into when the instinct of Jew-baiting is let loose is worse than the kind of person he becomes on the battlefield.)
In other words, the thought that even a disastrous war that might kill hundreds of thousands of Americans (and, as her husband believed, might result in the destruction of European culture and the White race) is preferable to the possibility of an outbreak of violent anti-Semitism. For Puritans-at-heart like Mrs. Lindbergh, the moral demeanor of Americans is more important than their survival.
Elsewhere I have argued that this tendency toward moralistic punishment is a form of “altruistic punishment” described recently by research on group behavior in individualistic cultures. Because Europeans are individualists at heart, they readily rise up in moral anger against their own people once they are seen as morally blameworthy—a manifestation of their much stronger tendency toward altruistic punishment deriving from their evolutionary past as hunter-gatherers. But these tendencies are also present among Europeans, as the example from Sweden discussed above indicates.
Hence the current moralistic crusade of the Left so characteristic of contemporary Western civilization: Once Europeans were convinced that their own people were morally bankrupt, any and all means of punishment should be used against their own people. A major theme of The Culture of Critique is that the most influential intellectual and political movements of the 20th century presented European civilization as morally bankrupt and the proper target of moralistic punishment. Western culture had become the culture of guilt whose central icon had become the Holocaust and African slavery.
The forces maintaining the current cultural regime are multi-layered. Because this culture of guilt has seized control of the pinnacles of moral and intellectual authority, resistance carries huge costs, which go far beyond practical considerations like keeping one’s job.The costs are also psychological and deeply personal.
But resistance does serve a function. As Sunic notes, there is a real prospect of social breakdown given the increasing ethnic divisions in the United States. In The Culture of Critique, I predicted that the current regime would lead to increased ethnic strife and an increased sense of group consciousness among European peoples. As an evolutionist, it is difficult for me to believe that a racial group would be unconcerned with its own eclipse and domination.
I believe that in the United States we are presently heading down a volatile path—a path that leads to ethnic warfare and to the development of collectivist, authoritarian, and racialist enclaves. Although ethnocentric beliefs and behavior are viewed as morally and intellectually legitimate only among ethnic minorities . . . the development of greater ethnocentrism among European-derived peoples is a likely result of present trends. . . .
[E]thnocentrism on the part of the European-derived majority in the United States is a likely outcome of the increasingly group-structured contemporary social and political landscape—likely because evolved psychological mechanisms in humans appear to function by making ingroup and outgroup membership more salient in situations of group-based resource competition. The effort to overcome these inclinations thus necessitates applying to Western societies a massive “therapeutic” intervention in which manifestations of majoritarian ethnocentrism are combated at several levels, but first and foremost by promoting the ideology that such manifestations are an indication of psychopathology and a cause for ostracism, shame, psychiatric intervention, and counseling. One may expect that as ethnic conflict continues to escalate in the United States, increasingly desperate attempts will be made to prop up the ideology of multiculturalism with sophisticated theories of the psychopathology of majority group ethnocentrism, as well as with the erection of police state controls on nonconforming thought and behavior.
At some point the negative consequences to the European population of the U.S. of multicultural ideology and massive influx of other peoples will become so obvious that current levels of control will be ineffective. We will be in a situation similar to that of the Soviet Union, when it became, in Sunic’s words, “a make-believe system nobody truly believed in and a state everybody, including former Communist party dignitaries, made fun of in private.
And if at this point, Europeans stare into the abyss and voluntarily cede political and cultural power, they will have no one to blame but themselves. And they will be cursed by their descendants. Perhaps they will one day read Tomislav Sunic’s excellent book and think about what might have been.
KEVIN MACDONALD is Professor of Psychology at California State University-Long Beach. He is the author of more than 100 scholarly papers and reviews, as well as A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy (1994), Separation and Its Discontents: Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism (1998), and The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements (1998). He is Editor of The Occidental Observer and The Occidental Quarterly. Cultural Insurrections, a collection of essays, appeared in 2008.