I haven't had anything to say previously about that fatal Israeli naval encounter with the Gaza-bound flotilla on May 31, 2010 … because I don't much care. Israel is not the 51st state; it's one of a couple of hundred other countries. If Israel wants to push around the Palestinians, well, that's their business much more than it is my business.
What I do care about is America. My particular bias is that free, insightful public discussion is better for America than spin, ignorance, or wishful thinking. So I'm interested in the flotilla frenzy to the extent it has implications for the quality of American discourse.
Chosen, but not Special is a long op-ed in the June 4th New York Times by the gifted Jewish-American novelist Michael Chabon. He is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, an impressively researched historical novel that manages to be both literary and entertaining. It's about two Jewish teens in New York who invent a Superman-style comic book superhero during Hitler's ascendancy in 1939-1942.
In the NYT, Chabon uses Israel's PR disaster to wrestle with the important question of Jewish intelligence. Awareness of higher average Ashkenazi Jewish intelligence happens to be the essential key to understanding the peculiarities of what you are allowed to write about in modern America.
Chabon discusses Jewish discomfort with the handful of gentiles who dare write about the fact of higher median Jewish IQ:
"For we Jews are not, it turns out, entirely comfortable living with the consequences of this myth, as becomes clear from the squirming and throat-clearing that take place among us whenever some non-Jew pipes up with his own observations about how clever and smart we are in our yiddishe kops. "
Yiddish kops is, of course, Yiddish for "Jewish brains." In contrast, goyisher kops means "gentile brains." The New Joys of Yiddish notes that the latter phrase "is not, alas, complimentary."
"These include people like the political scientist Charles Murray, author of an influential essay titled "Jewish Genius," or Kevin B. MacDonald, a psychology professor at California State University at Long Beach who argues that Jews essentially undertook a centuries-long program of self-breeding, selecting for traits of intelligence, guile and skill at calculation, as a kind of evolutionary adaptation to the buffetings of history and exile."
Chabon frets about the perceived dangers of gentiles talking about the high average IQ of Ashkenazi Jews:
"Such claims, in mouths of gentiles, are a disturbing echo of the charges of the pogrom-stokers, the genocidalists, the Father Coughlins, who come to sharpen their knives against the same grindstone of generalization on which we Jews have long polished the magnifying lenses of our self-regard. The man who praises you for your history of accomplishment may someday seek therein the grounds for your destruction."
Chabon, who is obviously stronger at creative than analytic thinking, announces, with no cited evidence other than the flotilla fiasco, that "Jews are stupid in roughly the same proportion as all the world's people."
What's valuable about his op-ed, however, is how it illuminates much about the subject of Jewish intelligence that is normally obscured—such as how convinced Jews are of their own intellectual superiority.
"'GAZA Flotilla Drives Israel Into a Sea of Stupidity' declared the Israeli daily Haaretz on Monday, as though announcing the discovery of some hitherto unknown body of water. Citizens of other nations have long since resigned themselves, of course, to sailing those crowded waters, but for Israelis—and, indeed, for Jews everywhere—this felt like headline news."
Why? According to Chabon:
" … for Jews the first reaction was shock, confusion, as we tried to get our heads around what appeared to be an unprecedented display of blockheadedness."
It shouldn't have appeared unprecedented: the most obvious predecessor to Israel's raid on the flotilla was its 1967 attack in roughly the same international waters on the USS Liberty, when the Israeli military killed 34 American seamen. Blockheadedness is the most innocent explanation that has yet been offered for Israel's two-hour long air and sea assault on the clearly-marked American intelligence-gathering ship.
Personally, I care more about the Liberty than this Turkish-organized flotilla.
Of course, how many other Americans remember the Liberty? This event is certainly not frequently commemorated in our domestic media. Chabon, for instance, doesn't mention it—is he even aware of it?—although it might be the best example he could find in support of his rather flimsy thesis.
Chabon has much of value to say on how convinced Jews are of their own average brilliance:
"… Jews around the world have long been accustomed to find in contemplating ourselves and that history: an inborn, half-legendary agility of intellect, amounting almost to a magical power."
"As a Jewish child I was regularly instructed, both subtly and openly, that Jews, the people of Maimonides, Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk and Meyer Lansky, were on the whole smarter, cleverer, more brilliant, more astute than other people. And, duly, I would look around the Passover table, say, at the members of my family, and remark on the presence of a number of highly intelligent, quick-witted, shrewd, well-educated people filled to bursting with information, explanations and opinions on a diverse range of topics."
By the way, Chabon's mother was a lawyer, while his father was both a lawyer and a doctor.
Ockham's Razor would suggest that the reason why smart Jews like Chabon's relatives think that Jews tend to be pretty smart is—because Jews tend to be pretty smart. But William of Ockham's Anglo logic is too simplistic for Chabon. You see, there are exceptions! And that, somehow, disproves the generalization:
"In my tractable and vainglorious eagerness to confirm the People of Einstein theory, my gaze would skip right over—God love them—any counterexamples present at that year's Seder."
Chabon has a more complicated (and, thus, in his mind, better) explanation:
"… to a Jew, it always comes as a shock to encounter stupid Jews. Philip Roth derived a major theme of Goodbye, Columbus from the uncanny experience. The shock comes not because we have never encountered any stupid Jews before—Jews are stupid in roughly the same proportion as all the world's people—but simply because from an early age we have been trained, implicitly and explicitly, to ignore them."
That's so smart it's stupid.
If meeting stupid Jews always comes as a shock to Jews, even to one as brilliant and scornful as the author of Portnoy's Complaint, then the straightforward explanation is that they are, indeed, relatively rare.
Exceptions don't disprove tendencies. In fact, when exceptions are famous for their exceptionality, that's evidence for the pattern. Unfortunately, in an intellectual climate where pointing out that a generalization is a "stereotype" (i.e., many people have noticed it) is consider a crushing refutation of its truthfulness, few grasp these logical rules.
In sum, Chabon is just being blockheaded in the socially approved manner.
Why do modern people congratulate themselves on being smart when they proclaim that something as interesting and important as Jewish intelligence is just a socially constructed myth? Do they have any idea how much work it requires to come up with a reasonable theory for Jewish brains?
Moreover, it's absurd for Chabon to say that Jews have been brought up to ignore stupid Jews. Calling each other stupid was the favorite pastime of Eastern European shtetl Jews. AISH.com says:
"Face it. We Jews don't bear fools lightly. Who had time? So is it surprising that we have more words in Yiddish for fools than there are Golden Arches?"
Yiddish is the world's best language for pointing out fine distinctions in your neighbor's cognitive impairment: schnook, schlemiel, schmo, yutz, putz, schmuck, yekl, schlub, golem, nar, yold.
In reality, characteristic Jewish mistakes tend to arise from overthinking, from their facility at intellectually bullying dissidents reliant merely upon common sense.
Consider how many Jewish Communists spent the 22 months from the signing of the Nazi-Communist Pact on August 23, 1939 to Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 thinking up reasons to denounce Churchill's resistance to Hitler. That kind of astonishing doublethink inspired George Orwell's 1984.
Tellingly, even though most of Chabon's masterpiece, Kavalier & Clay, is set in 1940 and 1941 in Jewish New York City cultural circles, and even though Kavalier has recently escaped from Nazi-occupied Europe through the Soviet Union to Japan, the characters never mention the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. In reality, the Hitler-Stalin accord was an obsessive topic for New York Jews at the time, but it's a little too disturbing for modern readers.
In essence, as Chabon's Passover stories imply, Jewish liberal egalitarianism is a hoax. Jewish leftist intellectuals like Stephen Jay Gould and Steven Rose have been the foremost volunteer thought policemen on IQ differences, not because leftist Jews believe that all ethnic groups are equal in average intelligence, but because they don't.
The root of political correctness is the Rube Goldbergian fear that if the goyisher kops are allowed to be exposed to realism about human differences, they will eventually realize that Jews tend to be smarter than them, and then they will come after the Jews with torches and pitchforks.
It's a characteristic example of Jews using all those IQ points to overthink what's increasingly a non-problem, only to wind up exacerbating bigger problems, such as contemporary immigration policy.
Of course, worrying about peasants with pitchforks in 2010 is laughable. And that's what everyone—gentiles and Jews—should do with this line of thinking: laugh at it. Satire is the solution. If Jews were as amenable to kidding by gentiles as WASPs had been to Jewish comedians, they would be less prone to inflicting their complexes upon American policy.
Sadly, Chabon doesn't get the joke. He concludes with a long peroration about how everyone, Jew and gentile alike, should just forget the "myth," the "nonsense," that Jews tend to be smarter and just hold Israel to the same standard as everywhere else.
That's fine with me, but what about America?
Allow me to suggest a completely different moral. The clear evidence of higher average Ashkenazi IQ implies that American Jews should take to heart an admirable bit of 20th Century Jewish wisdom, one with which an expert on comic books like Chabon ought to be familiar—Stan Lee's line in Spider-Man: "With great power comes great responsibility."
If, say, as reported by the Jewish Telegraph Agency, Jews make up over 1/3rd of the 2009 Forbes 400, and if Jews make up half of the 2009 Atlantic 50 of most influential political pundits, then that implies that Jews, owing in part to their higher average cognitive functioning, should embrace greater responsibility.
Instead of viewing themselves as beleaguered victims, they should admit that they now comprise an elite within America—and that they should apply to themselves an updated version of the old cavalier concept of noblesse oblige.
[Steve Sailer (email him) is movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog. His new book, AMERICA'S HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: BARACK OBAMA'S "STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE", is available here.]