By Wolfgang Zernik [e-mail him]
Re: Steve Sailer's Column: Christmas, Jews, De-Assimilation and Decline
On 12/11, Steve Sailer, a writer whom I greatly respect, posted a tendentious and ill-advised column on VDARE.COM entitled "Christmas, Jews, De-Assimilation And Decline".
This article made me very angry and has probably infuriated many other Jewish readers. Therefore, I think you should publish a reply.
In the first place, let me make it very clear that VDARE.COM is perfectly justified in defending the right of the adherents of the majority religion in this country to celebrate their festivals joyfully and in peace without objections and legal harassment from anyone. It is absolutely deplorable that that anyone should mount what appears to be a campaign against the free celebration of Christmas.
Jews in particular should be aware of the importance of toleration and good relations between religious groups. To the extent that some Jewish people have chosen to involve themselves in a "war" against Christmas, this is stupid and disgraceful. You are perfectly justified in criticizing such individuals. But it is another thing entirely to use anecdotal evidence to slander an entire community in a manner reminiscent of dreadful examples from not too distant history.
Sailer of all people ought to know better. His article begins by going back to the thirties when Jewish composers like Irving Berlin wrote delightful songs like "White Christmas." Neither Jews nor anyone else, Sailer notes, write such songs today.
To quote his conclusion:
"American Jews, those exemplars of successful assimilation now seem to be de-assimilating emotionally, becoming increasingly resentful, at this late date, of their fellow Americans for celebrating Christmas".
For Sailer, who is known for his rational and well-reasoned articles on ethnic characteristics and who obviously understands the scientific method, to publish such a glaring non sequitur is nothing short of extraordinary.
What he has done is to use the slightest of anecdotal evidence to reach a monstrous conclusion which, if it were true, would bring about a major social explosion in this country with disastrous consequences such as we have not seen for half a century.
To claim at this time that Jews are "de-assimilating emotionally" is absurd and based on no scientific evidence whatever. It is vicious slander on millions of perfectly inoffensive people some of whom are supporters and indeed contributors to VDAR.COM.
Asserting that a group whose intermarriage rate has been running at around fifty percent for a long time is suddenly "de-assimilating" defies logic and common sense.
In my own case, which is not untypical, half my family is Christian at this point and when the children come to visit at Christmastime I put up a tree with presents and the whole spiel. I don't think I am alone in being infuriated by this absurd slander of DE-assimilation. I take it personally; it is a slap in the face from someone that I have previously admired.
I can only hope that Steve will recognize that he has had a bad day and that Peter Brimelow, who also should have known better than to publish such baseless and indeed dangerous nonsense, will recognize that a very serious mistake has been made.
With best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a wiser New Year.
VDARE.COM note: Wolfgang Zernik is one of our favorite Today's Letter-writers.
Steve Sailer replies:
I want to thank Mr. Zernik for his kind remarks about me.
But it is unworthy of him to play the Holocaust Card because I mentioned, in my celebration of the Jewish contribution to the American Christmas, the obvious trend among some American Jews, but by no means all, toward greater resentment of the culture of the Christian majority.
Mr Zernik claims this is a
"… monstrous conclusion which, if it were true, would bring about a major social explosion in this country with disastrous consequences such as we have not seen for half a century."
No, it wouldn't.
There isn't the slightest chance of large-scale Christian pogroms against American Jews. To suggest otherwise is, frankly, a slander on the American people.
(The odds of major anti-Semitic attacks in this country unfortunately rise rapidly farther out into the future, as immigration brings in more anti-Semites—which is one reason I work to cut back on immigration.)
The reality is the opposite of what Mr. Zernik suggests. American Jews feel so secure (rightly) that, for example, last year leading Jewish organizations like the Anti-Defamation League orchestrated an enormous campaign in the news media and Hollywood to demonize Mel Gibson for making The Passion of the Christ.
No movie studio would do business with Gibson. Ironically, that made him the sole owner of a film that earned $370 million at the domestic box office.
No, the plain fact is that the Holocaust Card is simply played to silence any criticism, no matter how constructive, or even any objective outside analysis, of the important roles that Jews play in American life.
Mr. Zernik needs to ask himself whether living in this George W. Bush-like media bubble where critical perspectives are silenced will be, in the long run, good for the Jews.
The usual excuse offered by the anti-Christmas activists for suppressing Christmas is "America's increasing multicultural diversity." Here at VDARE.com, we don't hesitate to point out problems caused by diversity. But in this case, immigration is more of an excuse for than a direct cause of the War on Christmas.
The majority of immigrants are Christian Hispanics who delight in Christmas. Most black immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa are pro-Christmas Christians too. A sizable fraction of Korean and Vietnamese immigrants are Christians. Other East Asians, whose religious leanings are often vague and inclusive, tend to be open to celebrating Christmas as a pleasant holiday of generosity and good cheer. (The Japanese are famously enthusiastic for Christmas.) Armenian and some Lebanese immigrants are also Christians. Plus I haven't noticed Hindus, Buddhists, or Zoroastrian Parsis being overtly anti-Christmas.
Muslim immigrants are of course the exception to this pattern of pro-Christmas sectarian collegiality. But their numbers (probably not more than one percent of the population … at present) are limited, and their direct influence on the American media and public life is almost nonexistent. Their frightening hostility, however, does make them useful pawns for those in the media who wish to push their own War on Christmas by implying that we had better not make these Muslim hotheads mad by wishing anybody "Merry Christmas."
While some African-Americans celebrate Kwanzaa (December 26-January 1) as a racial pride holiday, those who don't also celebrate Christmas must be very few, confined to the Hate Whitey lunatic fringe.
By process of elimination that leaves one ethnic group with enough members with both the motives and the means to denigrate Christmas.
Mr. Zernik should take his complaint up with television writer Burt Prelutsky, who has been observing cultural change in America, especially in the media, for a lot longer than I have. He wrote recently in The Jewish Grinch who Stole Christmas [WorldNetDaily, December 10, 2005]:
"…I blame my fellow Jews. When it comes to pushing the multicultural, anti-Christian agenda, you find Jewish judges, Jewish journalists, and the American Civil Liberties Union, at the forefront... It is the ACLU, which is overwhelmingly Jewish in terms of membership and funding, that is leading the attack against Christianity in America... I should point out that many of these people abhor Judaism every bit as much as they do Christianity. They're the ones who behave as if atheism were a calling."
Perhaps Prelutsky's being too harsh. But there's abundant evidence that some American Jews (far from all, but more than a few, and often among the most energetic and influential) are becoming increasingly intolerant of what they perceive as slights to themselves, or even to their ancestors.
And their perception of what qualifies as a slight has grown ever more sensitive as their position in American society grows ever stronger.
This kind of de-assimilation is a perfectly natural process, and there's nothing particularly Jewish about it. Every group competes for social status. It's simply that Jews have risen so high in American society, and thus have both so little tangible discrimination to worry about anymore and so much influence in the media and business worlds (significantly including retail), that they have both an inclination to take offense at being wished "Merry Christmas" and the means to render disreputable those who offend them.
Jewish Americans make up no more than three percent of the U.S. adult population. But in the 1995 book Jews and the New American Scene, the prominent social scientist Seymour Martin Lipset, a Senior Scholar of the Wilstein Institute for Jewish Policy Studies, and Earl Raab, Director of the Perlmutter Institute for Jewish Advocacy at Brandeis University, pointed out
"During the last three decades, Jews have made up 50% of the top two hundred intellectuals, 40 percent of American Nobel Prize Winners in science and economics, 20 percent of professors at the leading universities, 21 percent of high level civil servants, 40 percent of partners in the leading law firms in New York and Washington, 26% of the reporters, editors, and executives of the major print and broadcast media, 59 percent of the directors, writers, and producers of the fifty top-grossing motion pictures from 1965 to 1982, and 58 percent of directors, writers, and producers in two or more primetime television series." [pp 26-27]
American Jewish organizations, intellectuals, and media figures have managed to blackball constructive criticism from non-Jews by demonizing anyone offering even the mildest criticism as an anti-Semite—breaking a number of careers to make their point. (Recall the firing of liberal columnist Gregg Easterbrook from the New Republic in 2003.)
But, unfortunately, when any group of human beings becomes immune to criticism, its members' behavior on average naturally tends to deteriorate. And this in turn leads to increased resentment from others. This is already visibly true in the rest of the world, where the American media's writ does not run and anti-Jewish attitudes are growing. Thus, in the long run, immunity from criticism is not good for the Jews.
For all their intelligence, their tragic track record suggests that Jews have not always been the wisest decision-makers (especially when compared to the much happier history of the single most similar high IQ group, the Parsis of India).
For instance, the House of Representatives voted 423-0 last week for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's (D-FL) proposal to ask President Bush to declare January to be "Jewish History Month."
As you know, February has long been "Black History Month." But is it truly prudent for American Jews to engage in such blatant one-upmanship over blacks in their long-running battle over who has been the most oppressed?
Allow me to speculate on what African-American reactions will include when they hear about January becoming Jewish History Month:
Of course, unlike in the 1960s, when many Jews were shopkeepers in black neighborhoods, most Jews are now physically insulated from black resentment. But this move is still unwise—and it reflects a distressing recent tendency among American Jews to let self-pitying nostalgia get in the way of clear thinking about upcoming threats.
Or note the recent declaration of war by the Anti-Defamation League's Abe Foxman against Christian conservatives…notwithstanding the fact that they tend to be fervent supporters of Israel.
Or, similarly but more substantially (and much to the distress of Steven Steinlight), American Jews tend to be enthusiasts for the current mass immigration system—even though it is both admitting anti-Jewish terrorists like the Egyptian who got in on his wife's Diversity Lottery Visa and then shot up the El Al counter at Los Angeles International Airport in 2002, and also gradually reducing Jewish political power.
Unfortunately, Jewish attitudes toward immigration today appear more driven by nostalgic emotion about their Ellis Island forebears than by rational calculations about the future. (Exhibit A: the current designated enforcer for immigration enthusiasts, Tamar Jacoby.)
It is obvious that the War Against Christmas waged by heavily Jewish organizations like the ACLU appears to be rooted in resentments of perceived past slights more than on any intelligent assessment of what is good for the Jews now.
And attacking the Christian majority at their single strongest point—their wonderful holiday of joy to the world and peace on earth to men of good will—will likely turn out to be ill-advised.
In the long run, if Jews would allow gentiles to offer constructive analyses like this, they could avoid a lot of grief.