Comments on Takuan Seiyo’s Screed by Kevin MacDonald

Comments on Takuan Seiyo’s Screed

Kevin MacDonald

June 14, 2009

It seems that lately most of my critics have been Jews associated with the paleoconservative right: Paul Gottfried, Robert Weissberg (see my reply after Weissberg’s comment), and Lawrence Auster. Takuan Seiyo’s critique rehashes familiar arguments in a particularly nasty way, speaking, for example, of my “malice and brain-dead stupidity.”

Such characterizations must be understood as nothing more or less than attempts to draw boundaries of acceptable political discourse in a way that is acceptable to Jewish interests. It’s exactly the sort of thing that Jewish neoconservatives did to vitiate the American conservative movement by excluding people like Pat Buchanan and Sam Francis.

But because Seiyo’s comments have led to much rejoicing among like-minded co-ethnics (see here and here), I feel obliged to respond, if only to restate some points that perhaps need repeating. In general, Seiyo agrees that many Jews have negative attitudes toward and have acted to subvert the peoples and culture of the West. But he frames Jewish behavior as motivated by nothing but the highest morality, or he claims that Jewish behavior is justified because of a long history of persecution. I reject both of these arguments.

Seiyo’s screed begins well enough:

In the fourteen years I spent at three universities in the 60s/70s I acquired a store of memories that resembles Kevin MacDonald’s, if at a greater distance from the radical Jewish milieu. I too perceived the radical politics, feelings of separateness and alienation, attitude of moral and intellectual superiority, hostility to Western cultural institutions, ethnic paranoia and bunker mentality, disdain for capitalism, generic tendency to impute and then combat perceived racism and fascism, disputatiousness and intellectual sophistry, negative attitudes toward Christianity, positive attitudes toward psychoanalysis and Marxism. I too had charismatic Jewish professors with a leftist view of European and American history.

I couldn’t have said it more succinctly. But then he states that he has never met “a single Jew who was motivated by the ethno-biological red-of-tooth-and-claw impulses it has become Dr. MacDonald’s life mission to ascribe to the Jews as a whole.”

This is odd, first because I have always taken great pains to state that I am never making claims about all Jews. “Memories of Madison” deals with Jewish radicals in the 1960s, not all Jews. In The Culture of Critique, I make clear that I am not talking about all Jews on the very first page of that book:

The movements discussed in this volume … were advanced by relatively few individuals whose views may not have been known or understood by the majority of the Jewish community. The argument is that Jews dominated these intellectual movements, that a strong sense of Jewish identity was characteristic of the great majority of these individuals, and that these individuals were pursuing a Jewish agenda in establishing and participating in these movements.

Thus there is no implication that Judaism constitutes a unified movement or that all segments of the Jewish community participated in these movements. … The question of the overall effects of Jewish influence … is independent of the question of whether most or all Jews supported the movements to alter [non-Jewish] culture.

Secondly, what “ethno-biological red-of-tooth-and-claw impulses” are we talking about? Again, if one reads Chapter 1 of CofC, the theoretical basis is social identity theory — the universal tendency of ingroups to view outgroups negatively. But, yes, I interpret social identity theory as describing psychological mechanisms of between-group competition for all the reasons I describe in Chapter 1 of Separation and Its Discontents (see also here).

What Seiyo needs to do is to show that the movements I discuss in The Culture of Critique were not Jewish movements as I define the term or to show that these movements were not influential in lessening the ethnic hegemony of Whites and their culture. He does neither, and in fact seems to agree with me that Jews were a critical force in displacing Whites (see below).

My finding that Jewish intellectual movements are centered around charismatic figures is just that — an empirical finding. However, I do think it’s reasonable to point out that traditional Jewish groups were highly authoritarian, had rigid controls on behavior, and were centered around charismatic figures — a theme of Chapter 6 of  CofC. It is not the case that this is a human universal. It was not true, for example, of the Founding Fathers of the United States who very consciously saw themselves as heirs to a Germanic tendency for representative government and individual liberty, including free speech.  The intellectual background for the claim that this is a real cultural difference stems from the analysis of individualism (characteristic of Western culture) versus collectivism (characteristic of Jewish society). I have commented on this extensively (see here, here, and here). Seiyo should make clear exactly what is wrong with my analysis.

Seiyo makes much of the fact that the people and ideas that were discussed among Jewish radicals were in fact discussed by a whole lot of people, including “the entire continental European intelligentsia.” Right. The whole point of The Culture of Critique is that movements that were originated and dominated by Jewish intellectuals eventually became the culture of Western suicide. This implies that they also became the culture of non-Jews. That was the whole point of writing about my memories of Madison.

In CofC, I present a theory of how these movements spread their influence throughout society: These movements succeeded because they were able to dominate the prestigious academic and media institutions of the West. Once this domination was established, people were socialized within a culture dominated by these ideas. And people who wanted to establish themselves in the intellectual hierarchy perforce engaged in status competition within the universe of acceptable discourse established by these movements. People who dissented from these ideas were ostracized and vilified; they were unable to gain recognition or, quite often, employment. Psychoanalysis is a paradigm of this sort of movement. A major theme of CofC is that these movements did not function like scientific movements — a product of Western individualist culture — but much more like politburos and kangaroo courts. In that regard, they were much more like traditional Jewish culture as described, for example, by Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky.

Seiyo writes:

MacDonald evokes the “ingroup bunker mentality” as “a fundamental characteristic of Jewish society.” So it was, and perhaps still is among many older Jews. But to fail to limn why it’s so for exogenous and millennia-long reasons, and how it parallels the same mentality in other middleman minorities, can only be seen as a telling omission. This is even more bizarre when Thomas Sowell has already done the intellectual heavy lifting, e.g. here.

If Seiyo had read A People That Shall Dwell Alone (Chapter 5) where I cite academic sources that long predate Sowell or my monograph Diaspora Peoples, he would be quite aware that I am not stating Jews are the only middleman minority group. The claim that the Jewish bunker mentality results from “exogenous and millennia-long reasons” is argumentative, but Seiyo fails to provide an argument. Seiyo simply accepts as received wisdom that Jews are prone to a bunker mentality because of a long history of persecution as a middleman minority.

My view is that a bunker mentality characterizes all highly cohesive groups, especially when they are under external pressure or perceived external pressure. This is an aspect of human evolved psychology. I deal with Jewish historical memory and how it contributes to the Jewish bunker mentality in several places — e.g., Chapter 7 of  A People That Shall Dwell Alone where I discuss Jewish socialization practices (see pp. 218ff).

In other words, memories of Jewish persecution are a critical part of Jewish socialization, and often these memories are embellished in order to exaggerate Jewish suffering. As I note there, “This evolved response to external threat is often manipulated by Jewish authorities attempting to inculcate a stronger sense of group identification.”  In Memories of Madison I pointed out that organizations like the ADL and the $PLC routinely exaggerate the threat to Jews in order to increase donations.

Seiyo acknowledges that I am correct in linking Jewish activism to the rise of multiculturalism and massive non-White immigration to America. But he doesn’t like my explanation:

The explanation of Jewish radicalism one is treated to — and I am still staying with ‘Madison’ — is that ‘Jews emerged from the ghetto with hostility toward the culture around them’ and ‘Jewish hostility toward the culture of non-Jews has been a constant threat [sic; here Seiyo added the word ‘threat’ to what I wrote, presumably to darken up the passage a bit] throughout Jewish history.’ Has this hostility arisen by immaculate conception?

First, the statement that Jews emerged from the ghetto with hostility is simply a summary of John Murray Cuddihy, and the statement about Jewish hostility as a general feature of Judaism is based on my reading of Jewish history.

Seiyo doesn’t really dispute this, but claims that such hostility is understandable given the long history of the persecution of Jews.

I am certainly not denying that Jewish hostility is based on the reality of Jewish persecution (as altered by typical ingroup exaggerations and omissions). The point of my statement in that particular article was not to provide an analysis of Jewish hostility but simply to reiterate Cuddihy’s point that it has been a very potent motivating force for Jewish intellectuals and activists. In the article, I never address the question of whether the hostility is unwarranted — a topic that goes far beyond what could be covered in an article of that nature.

The history of Jewish persecution is a central topic in Separation and Its Discontents. Seiyo takes the view of a typical Jewish apologist that all anti-Jewish actions throughout history have been the result of evil non-Jews persecuting passive Jewish victims. My view, in a nutshell, is that between-group competition has been fundamental to the most important examples of historical anti-Semitism.

In particular, Seiyo notes that I accurately portray the role of Jews as agents of mass murder in the USSR but that I fail to discuss why Jews would be so hostile that they would willingly engage in mass murder. Leaving aside the question of whether the behavior of the Czarist government could possibly justify the murder of 20 million Russians or the destruction of Russian national culture, it should be noted that “Stalin’s Willing Executioners” is a review of Yuri Slezkine’s book. I do indeed follow Slezkine by emphasizing Jewish economic and cultural domination: “Slezkine repeatedly shows how Jews dominated the economy, the universities, and the culture of Eastern Europe—indeed, his book is probably the best, most up-to-date account of Jewish economic and cultural preeminence in Europe (and America) that we have.”

In other words Seiyo’s beef is with Slezkine, not me. Slezkine fails to buy into the lachrymose theory of Jewish history (i.e., the view that Jewish history is simply a record of persecution of innocent Jews by evil non-Jews). Slezkine does so because he wants to paint Jews in general as brilliant, economically successful Mercurians. In fact, I take Slezkine to task for failing to mention the darker side of Jewish life in Czarist Russia, including the persecution of Jews:

But [Jewish economic and cultural domination] is far from the whole story. A prime force resulting in Jewish radicalism was the grinding poverty of most Jews in Eastern Europe. Jews had overshot their economic niche: The economy was unable to support the burgeoning Jewish population in the sorts of positions that Jews had traditionally filled, with the result that a large percentage of the Jewish population became mired in poverty (along with much higher percentages of the non-Jewish population). The result was a cauldron of ethnic hostility, with governmental restrictions on Jewish economic activity and representation in educational institutions, rampant anti-Jewish attitudes, and increasing Jewish desperation [citing this paper].

Seiyo emphasizes the persecution of Jews in Russia prior to 1917 as motivating Jewish hostility, but he seems unaware that Jews, including many Jewish historians, tend to have a very distorted view of their own history. Consider this passage, from Chapter 7 of Separation and Its Discontents: 

[Albert] Lindemann (1991, 131) finds similar biases in the historiography on Russian Jews written by Jews … [Jewish historians] tended to view the situation as simply an example of irrational czarist brutality rather than spontaneous uprisings. ([Edward H.] Judge [1992] shows that the Kishinev pogrom of 1903 was a spontaneous response to Jewish economic domination, and he shows that the Russian government viewed such pogroms very negatively because they were perceived as a sign of revolutionary activity.) Lindemann notes that these historians also fail to present the problems and dilemmas facing the czarist authorities attempting to deal with the problems presented by Jews during this period. A crucial issue for the Czarist authorities was their belief that the Russian peasants would not be able to compete with the Jews in open economic competition, a belief that is certainly justified by the extraordinary upward mobility of Jewish populations in post-emancipation Europe. Indeed, Jewish economic domination of Russian peasants was apparent even to Jewish socialist radicals of the period. … Lindemann (p. 154ff) also notes that Jewish historians of events in late-19th- and early-20th-century Russia tended to exaggerate Jewish losses as well as unfairly depict the pogroms as the result of conspiracies by the authorities rather than as having any popular roots or economic causes related to competition and the Jewish population explosion.

Seiyo quotes Lawrence Auster as follows:

It is essential to distinguish between anti-Semitic attacks on Jews and legitimate, rational criticisms of Jews. [snip] To portray Jews as the source of all ills [snip] is anti-Semitism. For example, to say that Jews as Jews are “hostile” to our culture and have organized themselves in a campaign to destroy it, is anti-Semitism. What’s wrong with anti-Semitism is, first, that it’s false, and, second, that the flaw can’t be corrected. If Jews, who have been a part of European civilization since before the time of Christ, are the source of all evil in our civilization, there is nothing for them to do but die.

But of course, I am not saying that Jews are the source of all ills, and I am certainly not saying that all Jews are hostile to the people and the culture of the West. Along with John Murray Cuddihy (Mark Rudd agrees), I am merely saying that this was typical of the Jewish intellectuals and activists who have been so important in erecting the culture of Western suicide. (Seiyo himself seems to agree, since at the beginning of his essay he states that in his experience he has indeed noted “negative attitudes to Christianity” and “hostility toward Western cultural institutions” among Jews.)

Jews, and particularly the organized Jewish community, could change their behavior and attitudes, but at this point there is no evidence that they are doing so to any significant degree. Immigration is a good example. Despite the fact that a handful of Jews like Auster oppose massive non-White immigration into Western countries, there is no question that the organized Jewish community and the vast majority of Jews are very much in favor.

I also provide a great deal of evidence that hostility toward the people and culture of the outgroup is a general characteristic of Jewish culture. (In addition to my writing, see, for example, Peter Schafer’s Jesus in the Talmud.) And I see it as the expected result of the evolutionary psychology of between-group competition.

Seiyo claims that I am hypocritical in endorsing White ethnic consciousness while condemning “Jewish ethnic chauvinism in Israel.” I have replied extensively to this line of argument here. Briefly, my argument is that my advocacy of White ethnic consciousness certainly does not imply that I should support Jewish ethnic chauvinism, either in the US (where it has been a strong force against the interests of European-Americans) or in Israel (where, as  a result of the Israel Lobby, it has compromised the foreign policy of the United States). Does being a Jewish ethnic chauvinist logically commit one to favoring Palestinian ethnic chauvinism? Seiyo’s claim is a wild non-sequitur.

Seiyo, after admitting that he really hasn’t read much of my work, tries to save the day by citing other people who have criticized me — John Derbyshire and Lawrence Auster. I have replied to both Derbyshire and to Auster. As I said of Auster, his “role as a Jewish activist seems to be to advance the cause of Israel within what he calls the “traditionalist, politically incorrect Right.’” In adopting such a stance, he is not alone. Seiyo would seem to be another example.

Seiyo concludes his essay with a long-winded comment basically saying that I am right about the corrosive effect of Jews but that Jews have had the best of intentions in their opposition to the ethnic hegemony of Whites and the cultural institutions of the West: “One begins to worry less about the veracity of the MacDonald hypothesis and more because of the veracity of his facts.”

I rejected the altruistic motive theory of Jewish radicalism in Chapter 3 of Culture of Critique. As Benjamin Ginsburg notes, such humanistic motivations are “a bit fanciful,” especially given that Jews have participated in ““ruthless agencies of coercion and terror,” including especially a very prominent involvement in the Soviet secret police (as also noted by Slezkine). And as Slezkine shows, Jews became a dominant elite throughout Eastern and Central Europe, and they opposed the national cultures of all these countries — just as they have erected a culture of critique in the US. Are we really supposed to believe that the rise of Jews as a dominant, anti-nationalist elite in all these countries was motivated by nothing but the most noble moral impulses? Call me a cynic, but I can see a whole lot of much more mundane reasons for attaining elite status and suppressing the traditional culture and  nationalistic aspirations of the country.

Seiyo’s attempt to paint Jewish morality as universalist  and individualist is a wonderful example of ethnocentric blinders. “Is it good for the Jews” is much closer to the reality of Jewish written law and the actual behavior of Jews throughout history. Jewish ethics is based on the good of the group, not the individual. (See Chap. 6 of PTSDA.) As Salo Baron, dean of Jewish historians wrote, “Judaism stresses the general aims of the Jewish people. . . . to this day orthodox Jewish ethics has remained in its essence national rather than individual, and this accounts, incidentally, for the otherwise incomprehensible legal theorem of the common responsibility of all Jews for the deeds of each.”

In fact, depictions of Jewish ethics as individualist and universalist are post-Enlightenment inventions aimed at presenting Judaism in a more acceptable light to Western intellectuals. (See SAID, Chapter 7.)  In resurrecting this fiction, Seiyo is in a long line of Jewish apologists who attempt to cast Jewish ethnic competition as nothing more than applied universalist morality in an attempt to appeal to Western intellectuals.

I agree with Seiyo that Jews have made contributions to civilization — although I can think of none that were unique and irreplaceable. In A People That Shall Dwell Alone I mention some of the consequences of high Jewish IQ, including a vastly disproportionate number of Nobel Prizes. In saying that I should weight Jewish contributions more highly, Seiyo is making the same argument as Derbyshire. But as I said in my response to Derbyshire:

For Derbyshire, evaluating Jews is like a business ledger: There are positives and negatives, and for him, the positives vastly outweigh the negatives. However, providing a balance ledger of credits and debits is not a purpose of The Culture of Critique. My purpose is to document Jewish intellectual and political movements — movements led by Jews and motivated by perceptions that these movements would advance Jewish interests. …

Seiyo must understand that inevitably I must value the continued survival of my people and culture above any Jewish contributions to civilization. However, I do agree with him that “If the Jewish community won’t wake up to criticism from friendly parties, it will eventually face criticism from the growing number of unfriendly parties.”

Finally, Seiyo makes the claim that Jewish advocacy of the dissolution of White ethnic hegemony and culture is actually bad for Jews. In this he may be right, but, as usual, his argument is not new and I have addressed it previously. Stephen Steinlight has been arguing the same for quite some time, and I have commented on his ideas in several places (e.g., here, here, and here). Jews like Steinlight, Seiyo, Auster, and several other Jews who are active in White advocacy or immigration restriction are certainly to be welcomed as allies.

[However,] the absence of a commitment to change the Jewish community or refusing to acknowledge the historical role of the organized Jewish community in producing our present malaise invites the skepticism that the Jews involved in pro-European-American movements are simply trying to make these movements safe for Jews in the event that such movements gain traction. It’s a fall-back plan and an escape hatch if things start to get sticky.

Moreover, when pro-European-American groups feel it judicious to be silent about the role of the organized Jewish community in our current malaise, this must be seen as an expression of Jewish power. Much of our task on behalf of European-American civilization and our people is the promotion of historical understanding. Many Jews will inevitably find an honest discussion of the history of European abdication threatening because of the prominent role of Jews revealed by any objective account of that history. However, silence on the role of Jews in our current malaise forces these groups to live in a sort of ahistorical present—avoiding a realistic discussion of the past and preventing any attempt to understand this past in an objective manner.

This forces these pro-European movements into a major departure from all other ethnic activist movements we are aware of, including Judaism: Ethnic identity and commitment are deeply interwoven with an understanding of history. Indeed, Jews’ understanding of their own history as victims of Europeans is an important wellspring of Jewish identity and Jewish activism against European-Americans. …

Even worse, it prevents these organizations from making explicit attempts to oppose the very real power that the organized Jewish community and other strongly identified Jews continue to exert in a wide range of areas in opposition to the interests of European-Americans. Again, the best role for Jews in these movements is to be vocal critics of the Jewish community and its role in the dispossession of European-Americans. But the unfortunate reality is that, just like mainstream politicians forced to never mention the power of the Israel Lobby, these pro-European-American groups end up ignoring the 800-lb gorilla in their midst — a wonderful comment on Jewish power in America.

In guarded optimism, we might look to the future and hope that some influential Jews will be able to look at this history without their ethnic blinders and come to see their own best interests lie with a renewed European America.

Seiyo is part way there. He understands that Jews have been a critical force in promoting Western suicide and he says he deplores this result. But he can’t quite take the last step and acknowledge that the rise of Jews to elite status in the West is fundamentally about ethnic competition and displacement of previously dominant elites — typically motivated at the psychological level by fear and loathing of the people and culture of the West. I rather doubt anyone can persuade him. C’est la vie. That’s what ethnocentric self-deception is all about.

Kevin MacDonald is a professor of psychology at California State University–Long Beach.  Email him.

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