After 20 years of silence from academics, Nathan Cofnas has written a comprehensive critical review of The Culture of Critique in an academic venue. I have been waiting for this to happen and was beginning to think it never would. Academics want their work to be taken seriously, and honest academics value the rough and tumble of academic debate. But what I got was silence, or comments like that of Steven Pinker, who is listed in the Acknowledgements section of Cofnas’s review, saying that it was below the threshold of academic interest—and that he hadn’t read it.
My book was incendiary, and I knew that. What had begun as a theoretical idea on how human groups could become vehicles of natural selection (rank heresy at the time and still controversial but increasingly respectable2) had turned into a life-changing project. As a result of the silence, my response was to continue to expand on my ideas and to keep them out there so people could judge for themselves. I would have much preferred to be a respectable academic with a solid reputation, attending conferences and writing only academic papers and books. But respectability was impossible, so I decided to continue writing in this area outside the academic realm.
Thus I became something of an activist intellectual—following in the footsteps, one might say, of the many Jewish intellectuals discussed in my work, but completely outside the academic system. Hounded out of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society and ostracized at my university, I decided to push the envelope. I started by writing a few blogs on my website related to my three books on Judaism and other topics related to evolutionary psychology. Then, in 2008, I started The Occidental Observer where I could get other writers involved. A few years later, I took over editing The Occidental Quarterly and am proud to have published a great many academic-quality articles over the years, many by Ph.Ds. Sadly most of the writers for both TOO and TOQ have had to remain anonymous because of the reign of terror at universities (and in the private sector) against anyone who dissents from the status quo on race and ethnicity.
A major reason for my activism was because of the reading I had done in writing the trilogy, particularly CofC. A People that Shall Dwell Alone was about how Judaism operated in traditional societies, and Separation and Its Discontents was essentially about anti-Semitism in traditional societies. This is water over the dam, one might say, however one might analyze causes of anti-Semitism in times past. But that changed in reading about the role of Jewish activism on the left over the past century. Misguided intellectual movements like psychoanalysis may be successfully rebutted and eventually fall by the wayside—as psychoanalysis has. Disastrous political ventures such as Communism may eventually self-destruct after wreaking untold horror and dysgenic mass murder. However, the effects of immigration policy are of immediate and critical concern for the entire West. As I noted at the outset of Chapter 7 of CofC:
Immigration policy is a paradigmatic example of conflicts of interest between ethnic groups because immigration policy determines the future demographic composition of the nation. Ethnic groups unable to influence immigration policy in their own interests will eventually be displaced by groups able to accomplish this goal. Immigration policy is thus of fundamental interest to an evolutionist.
In other words, I began to see myself as having a dog in this fight. What was happening was, from an evolutionary perspective, a disaster for the White people of the West. Ethnic displacement is like reducing an extended family or other lineage—a drastic loss of fitness, as Frank Salter has shown, and really no different from displacement on one species or subspecies by another in the natural world. This is natural selection in action (although one hesitates to call a consciously engineered process “natural”), as the gene frequencies, genetic combinations and bio-cultures characteristic of other peoples increase relative to those of the indigenous people of Western European countries as well as their descendants in North America, Australia, and New Zealand. So I was highly motivated to continue my work, even outside the academic setting. And, as Cofnas notes, the books became influential—particularly CofC. I think a lot of that was because of my newfound activism aimed at building an audience and continuing to expand on the trilogy, but also because there hadn’t been any noteworthy critiques of it. The lack of credible criticism created something of an anomaly: What is now called the Alt Right—a movement that is vilified by all sectors of the establishment, from left to right—was embracing an academic book on Jewish activism published by a mainstream academic publisher that had never received a proper hearing in the academic world. One would think that the academic establishment would come down hard on such a book, bringing all its prestige and media access to eradicate this heresy. But nothing. So, it continued to fester and gain popularity.
Whatever one thinks of this reply, I welcome the opportunity to respond. Frankly, a reasoned exchange is long overdue.
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My procedure here is to respond to each of Cofnas’s substantive points in the same order as they appear in his review. I do not respond to the ad hominem attacks. Nevertheless, there are several general points to be made.
1. Much of Cofnas’s critique depends on the claim that I conceive of the Jewish community as monolithic. As a result, he repeatedly brings up examples of Jews who dissent from various intellectual and political views that are common among Jews or those participating in the Jewish movements I discuss (e.g., Jewish critics of Israel, Jewish critics of the left). On the contrary and as will be apparent below, I see the Jewish community as having important diversity of viewpoint. However, the purpose of my book is to study movements that have been influential and to determine the Jewish role in these movements. This is entirely compatible with dissent by some Jews.
As a result, although the theory is falsifiable (e.g., by showing that these movements were not in any interesting sense Jewish or that they didn’t really have any power or influence), it cannot be falsified by providing individual counterexamples.
2. Cofnas in several places characterizes my view as stating that the fact that some non-Jews have participated in Jewish movements implies Jewish manipulation, Machiavellianism, or that they have been blindly indoctrinated (e.g., Margaret Mead as a “puppet” of Franz Boas). These are misrepresentations. My view is that non-Jews who participate in Jewish movements may have a variety of motivations, ranging from sincere belief (perhaps motivated by their own, independently derived hostility to the cultural norms being attacked by the movement) to naked self-interest (non-Jews who see career opportunities by participating). A good example of the latter not discussed in CofC is the neoconservative infrastructure composed of well-funded think tanks and lobbying groups, with multiple opportunities for access to careers, not only in these think tanks and lobbying groups, but in government, the media, and universities (here, pp. 11–12). But even when participating in such a movement has material rewards, there is no implication that the non-Jews involved don’t sincerely hold their beliefs.
3. In general, Jewish support for any particular idea or cause will be sensitive to each generation’s perceived interests given changing circumstances. Cofnas has a static, ahistorical conception of Jewish interests, assuming, e.g., that supporting Zionism is essential to Jewish group interests and self-identity since the origins of political Zionism or perhaps since the origins of the Diaspora (the traditional Jewish phrase: “Next year in Jerusalem”). On the contrary, as discussed in several places here, Jewish support for causes like Zionism, radical leftism, or particular governments have a history—a beginning, a middle, and often an end. If it’s one thing that has characterized Jews throughout their history, it’s that they have been what evolutionary biologist Richard Alexander termed “flexible strategizers.”5 There is no reason to suppose that will not continue in the future.
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