Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Tribe And Anti-Tribe

     Persons who’ve looked into the still-fractious community called the Alt-Right have surely noticed that, though those who’ve adopted the label aren’t exactly united on policy, they do exhibit a disturbing commonality of conviction in one regard: their anti-Semitism.

     I’ve never understood anti-Semitism. I tend to view it as an expression of “consolation-prize power:” the sort a bullying victim, by choosing a target even smaller and weaker than he, uses to console himself. The Jewish people have known more oppression and brutality than any other identifiable demographic, yet they’ve advanced and achieved beyond any supposedly more fortunate people: academically, professionally, and financially. For example, there are about 15,000,000 Jews worldwide by the most generous estimates. That makes them about 0.2% of the world population. Yet Jews have won 22% of the Nobel Prizes awarded in the post-World War II era. I doubt that it’s because of pro-Semitism on the Nobel committees.

     Is anti-Semitism founded principally in envy? It seems a good case could be made for that notion. Hundreds of millions of Muslims worldwide espouse a passionate hatred of the Jews...but for what? For rejecting Muhammad’s bloodthirsty, openly ethnicist ideology? For operating the only reasonably free nation in the Middle East? For making its desert bloom and its people prosperous despite a complete lack of natural resources?

     If it isn’t envy or the bullying victim’s consolation prize, what could it be? And why would persons who claim to be American patriots and advocates of freedom have made it into a tenet of their position?

     Oppression evokes defensiveness. Thus it is no mystery why the Jewish people should exhibit a degree of insularity in those lands where they’re a small minority. Moreover, such defensive insularity tends to outlast the oppressions that provoked it, for psychological and strategic reasons. Unfortunately, insularity, regardless of the justifications for it, tends to evoke suspicion from those “not on the island.” Such suspicions are exacerbated by envy. The combination often manifests itself in conspiracy theories.

     Devil theories are forever popular among persons displeased with the state of their nation or the world. He who is looking for a devil to blame for what he dislikes will be likely to look at tight-knit groups for one, especially if they’re doing better than he is.

     But devil theories are indispensable to one who seeks to attain power through division: i.e., by setting part of the populace against the rest. That’s the method of the demagogue. If such a demagogue is clever, he’ll select a devil that’s numerically small and generally unable to resist. As I wrote in 2003, at the late and deeply lamented Palace of Reason:

     Among historians, the attempt to blame a malign figure or group for the ills of a nation or the world is called a devil theory. The purest such, a monocausal devil theory, will imply that all evil, all unhappiness, and all deprivation can be traced to its chosen devils. The best-known modern promoter of a devil theory, Adolf Hitler, explicitly blamed all of Weimar Germany's many problems on the Jews. Whether Hitler himself believed this is irrelevant, for he sold it magnificently well.

     Hitler was able to sell his devil theory because Germans were ready for one. Indeed, they demanded one. They were desperate to believe that their humiliation in World War I and the chaos flooding over the Weimar Republic could be traced to a delimitable source of malevolence. For once the source had been identified and isolated, it could be expunged. The great irony there, of course, was that the accelerating disorder in the Weimar Republic, from which the Germans turned to the Nazis to save them, was mostly the work of the Nazis themselves, unwittingly aided by Germany's Communists and anarcho-syndicalists.

     Devil theories are becoming more important every day. Apparently, the failed cultures and ideologies of the world -- Islam; Marxian socialism; social-welfare fascism -- need to see their failure as someone else's fault, just as inter-war Germans did. There's no hiding their failures. No exertion of wishful thinking could convince Middle Eastern Muslims that they've seized the brass ring of human progress. Socialists cannot abide the suggestion that there was some error in their theories about state control of the means of production; the theory was too appealing, too elaborate, too perfect. American social-welfare fascists -- a.k.a. left-liberals -- cannot be dissuaded that, once the government has made everything either compulsory or forbidden and bludgeoned everyone into accepting their definition of "tolerance," there'll be full employment, wide-screen HDTV, and copious disease-free orgasms for everyone.

     So all these groups are looking for someone to blame.

     The demagogues are thick on the ground these days, and every one of them has his preferred devil. Demagoguery, however, is incompatible with a wholesome, provably effective ideology. Such an ideology could be adopted by any individual, group, or nation. It would prove beneficial without regard to the adopter’s race, religion, ethnicity, or any other characteristic. That indicts the demagogues’ prescriptions even before they get out of the starting gate.

     Let’s imagine that the Alt-Right community has a wholesome ideology that prescribes wholesome policy decisions. Perhaps it’s so for some, and we can afford to exclude the others for the purposes of this argument. Then they don’t need a devil; they merely need to present the reasoning and historical evidence for their positions. Moreover, the adoption of a devil both taints them morally and calls into question the efficacy of their proposed solutions to the problems we face. In other words, it weakens their appeal.

     So why albatross oneself or one’s beliefs with such a thing? Especially since just as large a percentage of Jews as of any other religion or ethnicity would favor a truly wholesome policy. Indeed, when we look at some of the positions more commonly discussed as Alt-Right positions, we find that Israel itself exemplifies them, even if a number of American Jews might not.

     I yield the floor to my Gentle Readers.

1 comment:

furball said...

I've read several alt-right blog posts. I find myself generally agreeing with things til I get to the comments section. I'm then surprised and dismayed at the large number of anti-Semitic posts.

In fact, I was so impressed with some of the arguments of the alt-right, I figured they couldn't be so reasonable about some things and so unreasonable about Jews. So I did quite a bit of reading.

I was wrong. They *can* be reasonable about some things and unreasonable about Jews.

Tim Turner