In the latest brouhaha over new Nixon tapes, I saw something in passing by Slate writer Jack Shafer that is illustrative of the most fundamental weakness in modern thought. So, let me set the stage for a bit before getting to the key bit that wouldn`t even be noticed by a non-crimethinker.
Jack Shafer writes in Slate
From his throne in hell, Richard Nixon commands our attention once again with newly released White House tapes from February and March 1973 that drop another tanker load of piss and bile on Jews. ...
After recounting various private remarks of Nixon about Jews, Shafer turns to consider the arguments of Nixon`s Jewish defenders:
Nixon has never lacked Jewish defenders. Just six months ago, writer Ben Stein, the son of Herbert Stein, the head of the Council of Economic Advisers under Nixon, pooh-poohed the Jew-counting story that Noah has so determinedly tracked. Wrote Stein:
Now, bear in mind, Nixon was by far the best friend the Jewish people have ever had since Abraham. He had the most Jewish appointees to high offices, the most pro-Israel foreign and defense policy in history, saved Israel in the Yom Kippur War, put Russia at bay about helping Egypt in that warâ€”was just the best friend Jews have ever had, including Jews themselves.
Alas, being actively pro-Israel doesn`t automatically exonerate Nixon from anti-Semitism. For one thing, he and Kissinger were playing a global board game with the Soviets in those years, and the Soviets were backing Egypt. An Israeli defeat would have been an American defeat, too. For another, Nixon didn`t want to go down in history as the American president who "lost" Israel and put the Jewish people in peril.
True, but Nixon and his chief domestic policy adviser Daniel Patrick Moynihan of 1969-70 were also simultaneously playing a domestic board game with New York intellectuals in those years. Nixon and Moynihan had long conversations in 1969 about how they could promote a self-conscious neoconservative tendency among Moynihan`s fellow New York intellectuals. Portraying Israel as a crucial bastion of the Cold War (a position that Ike and, perhaps, JFK would have regarded as objectively silly) was intended by Nixon and Moynihan to encourage at least some intellectual Jews to take the Cold War more personally, just as the British government had found it expedient to issue the Balfour Declaration in 1917 to appeal to Jewish opinion during Britain`s struggle with Germany and Austria. Nixon`s considered judgment was that he didn`t need all the Jewish intellectuals on his side, just some of them, and he devoted a lot of effort to wooing them. As we can tell by reading Commentary
and The Weekly Standard
in 2010, Nixon and Moynihan had a fair degree of success with with wooing a vocal minority of Jewish intellectuals toward supporting an aggressive American foreign policy.
To be open-minded about Nixon, let`s go ahead and put his support of Israel in the asset side of his anti-Semitism account.What then to make of his long list of Jewish appointees? In a newspaper interview last year promoting his book, Why Are Jews Liberals?, Norman Podhoretz beat Stein to the punch on Nixon`s defense of Israel but added that Nixon "was the kind of anti-Semite who thought that Jews were smarter than everybody else. That`s why he had Kissinger. That`s why he had Arthur Burns, Herb Stein. â€¦ A lot of Nixon`s anti-Semitism is talk. ... His anti-Semitism consisted of resentment of Jews for being liberals and hating him. It`s not the traditional kind of anti-Semitism." [Emphasis added.]Podhoretz is half, maybe three-quarters right. Nixon did seem to believe Jews were exceptionally smart, although these views were obviously colored by the fact that most of his encounters with Jews in his adult life were with successful Jews. Did he similarly extrapolate from his encounters with successful Catholics that they were brilliant, too? Mormons? Cubans? Armenians?
This last paragraph is worth re-reading. Shafer is attempting to first construct, then debunk a socially acceptable Occam`s Butterknife defense of Nixon`s opinion that American Jews tend to be smart. Let me flesh out the argument:
How could Nixon have ever come to the conclusion that Jews tend to be above average in intelligence? Well, perhaps he was an unwitting victim of selection bias [as outlined at length by novelist Michael Chabon in the NYT last June], which caused him to be unintentionally wrong. See, Nixon employed brilliant Jews like Kissinger, so he must have wrongly inferred from how smart Kissinger was that Jews on average were above average in intelligence. On the other hand, he also employed brilliant Catholics like Moynihan. And yet he does not appear to have inferred from long talks with Moynihan that Catholics were notably above average in intelligence. Therefore, Nixon can`t be convicted of merely a lesser charge of Anti-Semitism by Error. Nixon was instead guilty of Anti-Semitism in the Highest [contemporary] Degree: noticing that American Jews tend to be smarter than average! Case closed!
Of course, Occam`s Razor would suggest that just maybe Nixon, who was on a national ticket five times, winning four times, actually had a decent empirical grasp of social realities. And, if Nixon had had any questions about average Jewish intelligence, he could have asked Moynihan, who, with Moynihan`s co-author Nathan Glazer, was academia`s leading expert on white ethnics.
Now, you could
say that Shafer`s assumption that Nixon noticing the overwhelming evidence for Jews being smarter on average renders him odious is just an example of the contemporary aversion to realistic thought epitomized by how calling something a "stereotype" is now assumed to automatically refute its empirical truth.
But, over the last decade and a half, the evidence keeps piling up that the Jewish IQ advantage is not just an example of what`s wrong with intellectual life today, but the single most important cause for contemporary thinking going off the tracks.
While I was reading all the frenzied reaction to The Bell Curve
sixteen years ago, I noticed that not much of it was actually coming from blacks. Thomas Sowell had a response, we know now that Barack Obama broke his Vow of Silence to comment on NPR
upon The Bell Curve
, and so forth, but those were mostly the exceptions. There really aren`t that many black intellectuals that other intellectuals pay attention to.
Those most vocally enraged by The Bell Curve
were white intellectuals, especially Jews. To them, the assertion that the average black IQ was equal to the average American IQ serves as the outer bulwark defending the inner sanctum: the belief that the average Jewish American IQ is equal to the average American IQ. If you let the peasants realize that blacks are on average could
be less smart, eventually they`ll figure out that Jews on average could be more smart, and then they`ll be coming for us with pitchforks!
Of course, this dominant belief about smarts held by contemporary intellectuals is about 99% stupid. Practically everybody in America already realizes that Jews tend to be smarter. And, guess what, they`re okay with it
. Most Americans appreciate Jewish intelligence.
Consider the example of, say, Richard Nixon, a powerful and congenitally angry man who was well aware of the facts about Jewish intelligence. What was his response to this knowledge?
He searched out ways to do more favors for Jews.
So, the central, underlying flaw in the edifice of current intellectualizing is pointless.