TAG | Jews
It’s become clear to me that the Fox commentator Glenn Beck has something of a Jewish problem. Actually, he has something of a modernity problem, and people with modernity problems tend to have problems with Jews, who more or less invented modernity (Einstein, Marx, Freud, Franz Boas, etc.).
Many Jews and anti-Semites are focused on the necessary and sufficient role of the Jewish people in the modern West. In the case of Jews I believe it derives in part from the same sense of national pride which is at the root of embarrassing imitations such as Afrocentrism. But the reality is that Jews did not become part of the mainstream of Western intellectual and cultural life until after their emancipation. For most of Europe this was at some point in the 19th century, and for Jews who did not convert to Christianity it was probably later in the 19th century at that.
To put a not too fine point on it, Isaac Newton, Gottfried Leibniz, and Rene Descartes were not Jews. Jeremy Bentham, Immanuel Kant, and David Hume, were not Jews. John Stuart Mill was not a Jew. There were plenty of gentiles involved in the “invention” of modernity, and because of the social constraints placed upon Jews, there were very few of that people of any note before the 19th century in Western public life. The religious minority often seen to be disproportionately involved in the French Revolution were Protestants, not Jews. The exception to the Jewish abstention from early modernity would probably be Baruch Spinoza (I don’t think Moses Mendelssohn would be noteworthy were he not a Jew, while Spinoza would have been).
The enormous Jewish contribution to the 20th century intellectual world is undeniable. Jews were critically involved in the maturation and ripening of Western modernity. But they were not present at, or instrumental, in its birth. Therefore, it is ludicrous to claim that Jews “invented” Western modernity. Whether the invention of Western modernity is something to be proud of depends on your perspective, of course.
Note: In Catholicism and American Freedom the author argues that after World War II American Jews turned away from the tacit “white ethnic” coalition with Roman Catholics, and aligned themselves with the liberal post-Protestant Eastern Establishment in the incipient culture wars. But the narrative seems to indicate that initially Jews were junior partners in the project, even if they eventually became peers, or even dominant, vis-a-vis the old W.A.S.P. coterie.
I have been travelling, and so blogging has been light from my end for a while now. But I thought I would point readers to a long post I put up over at Discover Blogs on Jewish genetics. The post wasn’t long enough really to say everything that needs to be said, so I’ll follow up, but I didn’t have more time than an afternoon to devote to it. Of more relevance to Secular Right readers, I’ll be posting a moderately negative review of Larry Witham’s Marketplace of the Gods: How Economics Explains Religion over there too. Shorter: more a bibliography than a précis, and a bit ill-timed in regards to capitalizing on the boom of economics-explains-everything books (writing began before the 2008 Financial Crisis).
At The American Scene there’s a post about WASPs and their relationship to Israel. Of course, that begs the question, what do you mean by WASP? WASP = White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, but that is a plain and broad-church definition which many self-described WASPs might bristle at, as they self-identify as the scions of the Northeastern gentry. This highlights the reality that there are secret ethnic groups in the United States, ethnic groups which are discussed explicitly only in scholarship, for example Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, but understood implicitly. George H. W. Bush is a WASP. Bill Clinton is a Southerner. Both are white and Protestant and of British ancestry. The type of “white people” which black comedians such as Dave Chappelle mock as without color are WASPs. George H. W. Bush. Not Bill Clinton.
In any case, I wanted to look at possible differences in attitudes toward Israel among American whites separated by region in the GSS. I limited the years to between 1988-1994 (this is the tail end of the survey question). The variable itself is “ISRAEL,” which asks:
You will notice that the boxes on this card go from the highest position of “plus 5″ for a country which you like very much, to the lowest position of “minus 5″ for a country you dislike very much. How far up the scale or how far down the scale would you rate the following countries? g. Israel
In the GSS I decided to look at “mean” score of each class. I recoded the regions so that I combined “Pacific” and “Mountain” into “West,” and simply aggregated the three Southern regions and the two Midwestern ones (you can see the Census regions here) The means are also generated from recoded variables, so that lower scores are pro-Israel, and higher scores are anti-Israel. The most pro-Israel score would be 0, and the most anti-Israel score would be 9. The bold are the means, while below them are the sample sizes. Finally, I limited the “Bible” variable to Protestants alone.
It makes for an interesting conversation. Apparently, many of the lefties don’t much care for Olbermann either. And they hate Marty Peretz, considering him a racist, which we all know is code for “Jewish” among this group of typically America haters who, many of them at least, tend to not exactly like Jews when they are being candid.
Let’s set aside the fact that the individual who runs JournoList, Ezra Klein, is Jewish by background, and so are some of Peretz’s most vociferous critics on the list, such as Eric Altermann, Matthew Yglesias and Spencer Ackerman. It still gives me an excuse to look into the GSS and see if there is a noticeable Left-Right trend in terms of attidues toward Jews.