Quillette: What the Alt-Right Gets Wrong About Jews

Jonathan Anomaly and Nathan Cofnas write:

George Orwell understood the psychological benefits of directing disdain toward an out-group in order to foster social cohesion among an in-group. In his great novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, he gives the character who would receive “two minutes of hate” every day among the proletarians a Jewish name: Goldstein. It is obvious why. Orwell’s implication was that the Soviet Union and other regimes were capitalizing on a human need to have some group to hate in order to foster loyalty and obedience to the leader of the in-group.

There is some evidence in political psychology for a correlation between high IQ and liberal political beliefs. So we might suspect that Ashkenazi Jews, with the highest average IQ in the world, would lean liberal. Interestingly, though, IQ correlates positively with classical liberalism, which emphasizes both social and economic liberty. This seems to be because those with higher intelligence tend to exhibit personality traits like openness to experience and tolerance for different ways of living. But those with higher IQ are more likely to support free-market economic policies (“liberalism” in the old sense of the word). Intelligence is required to understand how trade can be a positive sum game, and how order can emerge from individuals freely interacting with one another.

There are also obvious historical reasons why Jews would tend to gravitate toward liberal and cosmopolitan political philosophies that emphasize the protection of minority rights. In the early twentieth century, socialists rejected natural human hierarchies and urged persecuted minorities to overthrow their oppressors. To many Jews, socialism meant doing away with the legal and social barriers they had faced for more than a millennium. While socialist societies didn’t live up to their promises in practice, the values they espoused were easy for Jews to identify with. The Holocaust reinforced the feeling among Jews that nationalistic movements were dangerous, and that salvation lay in liberal cosmopolitanism.

Can MacDonald Save His Theory?

Popper’s famous criterion to distinguish science from non-science was “falsifiability.” Any legitimate scientific theory, he said, should specify some state of the world which, if it is observed, would make us logically compelled to reject the theory. One of the problems with Popper’s criterion is that there is no such thing as falsification in the strong sense that he envisaged. Any theory can be salvaged in the face of any evidence, though this may require some fanciful theorizing. In practice, we just have to use our judgement to decide which of the competing theories we are considering explains our observations in the most sensible way. As far as MacDonald goes, no single one of the numerous factual errors documented in Cofnas’s paper can be said to “falsify” his theory. Nor can any single example of right-wing Jews or radical gentiles. We just have to use our judgment to decide whether his conspiracy theory is a better explanation of Jewish liberalism than the simpler high-IQ-plus-persecution theory that we advocate.

No amount of evidence can disprove a theory. But as the influential Jewish philosophers of science Thomas Kuhn and Imre Lakatos argued, eventually the number of ad hoc assumptions we have to make in order to sustain a theory in the face of counterexamples becomes so large that the theory shows itself to have no predictive or explanatory value. Maybe MacDonald has an ad hoc explanation for why the most liberal countries in Europe, which in the past few years accepted the largest number of immigrants relative to their population—Sweden and Germany—have a very small number of Jews. Maybe he has another ad hoc explanation for why Jews like Noam Chomsky are the world’s leading critics of Israel. And for why gentiles who were not under the influence of Jews, like Rousseau and Sartre and countless others over the past couple thousand years, have been political radicals. As to whether these ad hoc explanations are convincing, we will have to use our judgment.

We don’t think MacDonald will be able to rescue his hypothesis, built as it is on misrepresented sources and distortions. But for some dishonest alt-right leaders, the literal truth of his ideas is probably not that important. They need an enemy to unify their movement. There is no more convenient a people to play this role than Jews.

Jonathan Anomaly is a core faculty member of the Department of Political Economy, and Assistant Professor in the PPEL Program, at the University of Arizona.

Nathan Cofnas is reading for a DPhil in philosophy at the University of Oxford.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
This entry was posted in Alt Right, Jews. Bookmark the permalink.