Reflections on Some Aspects of Jewish Self-Deception: Part 1. Introduction

‘Reality denied comes back to haunt.’
Philip K. Dick, Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said


A persistent theme at TOO, and in the works of anyone objectively dealing with Jewish historiography, culture and politics, is that of self-deception. A couple of hours spent reviewing the TOO archive reveals more than thirty articles which deal directly with the subject, in addition to countless more which touch upon the obvious and undeniably negative consequences of the phenomenon on our culture and our people. An entire chapter of Kevin MacDonald’s  Separation and Its Discontents: Toward and Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism [1] (hereafter SAID) is devoted to the subject, and self-deception forms a major component of MacDonald’s analysis of Jews and the Left in the third chapter of The Culture of Critique (hereafter CofC).[2] Diverse examples of Jewish self-deception have also featured as a topic of discussion, though to a lesser extent, in Gilad Atzmon’s The Wandering Who? A Study of Jewish Identity Politics,[3] and Albert Lindemann’s Esau’s Tears: Modern Anti-Semitism and the Rise of the Jews.[4]

In the sixth chapter of CofC, MacDonald, noted the scale of the problem, pointing to “a general tendency for self-deception among Jews as a robust pattern apparent in several historical eras and touching on a wide range of issues, including personal identity, the causes and extent of anti-Semitism, the characteristics of Jews (e.g., economic success), and the role of Jews in the political and cultural process in traditional and contemporary societies.”[5]

Put simply, Jewish self-deception is of great and central importance to the problem we face in resisting Jewish influence in the West.

Why another article on the subject? It occurs to me that outside the detailed analyses in SAID and CofC,  the subject is mentioned more in passing than as the focal point of discussion. It is also clear from some of the more recent articles appearing in TOO that we are becoming increasingly aware that Jewish self-deception is even more intricate and widespread than the examples discussed in existing literature. Commenting on arch self-deceiver Stephen Jay Gould, Kevin MacDonald wrote in 2011 that based solely on some of Gould’s comments on his Jewish background “social psychologists could begin to examine Jewish deception and self-deception on all kinds of issues.”

This article is intended to redress this imbalance by making Jewish self-deception the central focus of discussion, by bringing together what we already know, and by widening its application as an analytical tool to different historical and contemporary contexts. This extended article will commence with an explanation of terms and theory, before moving on to case studies and comparatives of Jewish self-deception in historiography, culture and politics. 

Terms and Theory     

It is of course necessary to clarify what is meant by self-deception, and this is not as straightforward as may first appear. One could define it simply as ‘lying to oneself,’ but as a scientifically-grounded analytical tool we may find it too blunt for purpose. After a period of research, I was most impressed by some of the succinct definitions articulated by scholars Ann Tenbrunsel and David Messick in their 2004 article ‘Ethical Fading: The Role of Self-Deception in Unethical Behavior.’[6] While the basic premise of lying to oneself remains central, Tenbrunsel and Messick describe self-deception as the state of “being unaware of the processes that lead us to form our opinions and judgments. Such deception involves avoidance of the truth, the lies that we tell to, and the secrets we keep from, ourselves.”[7] Self-deception, on some scale, is “common, normal, and accepted as constant and pervasive in individual’s lives. We are creative narrators of stories that tend to allow us to do what we want and justify what we have done.”[8]

Crucially, they add that self-deception serves a purpose by allowing “one to behave self-interestedly while, at the same time, falsely believing that one’s moral principles were upheld.”[9] This statement alone will have immediate resonance with anyone remotely familiar with the nature of Jewish interference in the cultural and demographic life of White countries. Tenbrunsel and Messick state that this “internal con game” aids a process where ethical aspects of a situation, and their moral implications, are entirely obscured.[10]

One of the key questions confronting anyone studying self-deception is the relationship between a conscious deception of others and an unconscious deception of the self. Tenbrunsel and Messick state that “it is unclear whether such deception is the result of a conscious act or an unconscious process. Self-deception is paradoxical in this sense, for to deceive oneself somehow implies that one must know that something needs to be hidden or kept secret.”[11] Or as other scholars have asked: “how can the self be both deceiver and deceived?”[12]

For our purposes, we would face the dilemma of whether influential Jewish historians, politicians, etc. are simply lying to us, or whether they truly believe what they are saying.

The self-deception paradox is still pondered over by psychologists, and definitive answers remain elusive. However, the most viable solution to the question seems to be that offered by evolutionary psychologists. William Von Hippel and Robert Trivers argue in their 2011 paper ‘The evolution and psychology of self-deception,’ that self-deception is for the most part a behavior which evolved “to facilitate interpersonal deception by allowing people to avoid the cues to conscious deception that might reveal deceptive intent.”[13] Kevin MacDonald summarises the reconciliation of both behaviors by stating that “deception and self-deception are thus interdependent phenomena.”[14] Essentially, we evolved the means of deceiving ourselves so that we could become better at deceiving others.

Von Hippel and Trivers point out that self-deception carries two significant advantages over deception.  The first is that “it eliminates the costly cognitive load that is typically associated with deceiving, and it can minimize retribution if the deception is discovered.”[15] The second advantage is that “self-deceptive self-enhancement allows people to display more confidence than is warranted, which has a host of social advantages.”[16] Importantly for our purposes, self-deception can operate at group level. In Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception, Daniel Goleman writes that “self-deception operates both at the level of the individual mind, and in the collective awareness of the group. To belong to a group of any sort, the tacit price of membership is to agree not to notice one’s own feelings of uneasiness and misgiving, and certainly not to question the group’s way of doing things. The price for the group in this arrangement is that dissent, even healthy dissent, is stifled.” [17] Unsurprisingly then for a group in which self-deception appears to be rampant, Jewish communities have hardly been noted for dissent and inner fragmentation. Rather, they have overwhelmingly tended to be collectivistic, authoritarian, ethnocentric, dogmatic, and especially likely to practice moral particularism.[18] Indeed, historian Étan Levine refers to “Judaism’s authoritarian communality” as entirely “irreconcilable” with Western liberalism.[19] In effect, the sociological nature of Judaism is an ideal incubation environment for self-deception at the group level.

Furthermore, scholars have identified and delineated four enablers of self-deception — in essence, the mental architecture by which self-deception is permitted and carried out.

1.) The first enabler is the employment of language euphemisms. By careful use of language, we can disguise the stories we tell ourselves, editing out information which may have negative ethical or moral implications. Tenbrunsel and Messick state that by “renaming actions we take and relabeling decisions we make, we turn what may be unacceptable into socially approved behaviors.”[20] This article will explore the use of language euphemisms in Jewish self-deception in much more detail later, but one particularly clear example is the barrier erected by Israel. A wall by anyone’s estimation, the Israelis nonetheless persist is describing it as a ‘fence.’ Indeed, this very example is used by Tenbrunsel and Messick, who argue that “a wall connotes that those inside are in a sort of ‘ghetto’…and a ‘fence’ connotes neighborliness, …The fact is that it is very easy to find the words to color a story in such a way that it becomes appealing to the narrator and consistent with the narrator’s morality.”[21]

Of course the idea that Israelis are in any way ‘neighborly’ toward the Palestinians is absurd. In his 2009 article ‘Self-Deception and the Assault on Gaza,’ David Bromwich, a Professor of Literature at Yale, described the self-image of Israeli leaders as “crazed and split” and the Israeli political scene as host to “contradictions and the almost open flaunting of fantasies.” Not least among these fantasies was the assertion of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tzipi Livni, that  the assault on Gaza, which reduced most of the Gaza strip to rubble and left tens of thousands homeless was “necessary, going according to design, that there was no humanitarian crisis, and that the invasion will be good for the Palestinians.”

Thus, it appears that the Israelis are fully beholden to the idea that they are good, helpful ‘neighbors’ to the Palestinians despite a complete disconnect between this fiction and empirical reality. One of the major facilitators of this disconnect is the frequent employment of language euphemisms by Israelis to color the narrative of their relationship with the Palestinians.

2.) A second enabler of self-deception is what has been termed the “slippery slope” of decision making. This consists of at least two separate psychological mechanisms.

The first component is a psychological numbing that comes through repetition. On the most basic level this involves intentional repeated exposures to what may first have aroused strong reactions in order to diminish self-reproof. The repeated behavior for our purposes could be anything from individual examples of Jewish moral particularism, to dubious explanations for anti-Semitism from Jewish historians and social scientists. Regardless of the lie told or the behavior acted out, repetition makes one “less likely to see the ‘ethical’ in the dilemma, and hence engage in more unreflective and potentially more unethical behavior.”[22]

The second component of ‘slippery slope’ thinking is even more important. This is what is termed an ‘induction mechanism.’ In mathematics induction is as follows. If a statement is true for N=1, and if the statement for N+1 is true assuming the truth of N, then the statement is true for all N. Essentially, if what we were doing in the past is OK and our current practice is almost identical, then it too must be OK. This mechanism permits the use of past practices as a benchmark for evaluating new practices. If the past practices were ethical and acceptable, then practices that are similar (not too different) are also acceptable.

In practice, and for our purposes, we could point to the incredibly strong apologetic stance of Jewish historians in relation to Jewish wealth in the past and their irrational but persistent portrayal of Jewish populations as impoverished victims. If Jewish populations could act voluntarily as tax farmers and usurers of the masses in the past and still be seen as moral paragons, then it’s completely acceptable for Jews to continue with similar behaviors in the present. Marc Rich’s practice of robbing the gentiles and pumping cash into the coffers of Jewry was completely in keeping with historical trends, and this explains more than any other fact the vigorous efforts of international Jewry to attain his legal exoneration. It was fine a few centuries ago — why not now? Or, coming at the “slippery slope” from a different angle, if the Jewish community can deceive itself that it was uniquely blameless in the past, why can’t it view itself as beyond all reproach now? The lie of blameless victimhood has thus given birth to a new one – that of Jewish moral exceptionalism. In short, this enabler of self-deception follows the old adage that “one lie perpetuates many more.”

3.) A third enabler of self-deception is error in perceptual causation. Essentially, when manipulation of language fails and recourse to ‘slippery slope’ thinking falls short of convincing us and others, we alter judgments about responsibility and causation. Daniel Goleman expresses it thus: “If the force of facts is too brutal to ignore, then their meaning can be altered.”[23] The meaning and perception of causation of failures can be altered through self-deception in three ways: a focus on individuals rather than systems or contexts, self-interested motives in the assignment of blame, and a blurred moral responsibility involving acts of omission.

All components of this aspect of self-deception are very much in evidence in Jewish perceptions of the causation of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism, particularly where it has resulted in violent actions against Jews, obviously disrupts to some extent the self-image of Jews as dove-like impoverished peace-lovers. It indicates a failure in relations and a breakdown in social harmony which Jews, above all others, claim to want to bring to the world. Explanations for such failures, which are too obvious to ignore, therefore require interpretation and the attribution of blame. In these cases, errors in perceptual causation are obvious. Jewish historiographical accounts of anti-Jewish riots are replete with references to individual incidents which are often seen completely in isolation from wider contexts or ‘systems.’

This narrow focus is a key feature of this aspect of self-deception. Similar to my remarks on the 19th-century Russian ‘pogroms,’ Sergei Pavliuchenkov has noted that Jewish historians have tended to focus on the violence itself rather than attempting to place it in some kind of context or subject it to deeper analysis — which would inevitably bring a Jewish role to light. Pavliuchenkov states that “as a rule…the literature about them simply notes the fact of these pogroms without going into the reasons why they occurred.”[24]

The same point is even more explicitly stated by Albert Lindemann: “Pogroms, anti-Semitic affairs, and descriptions of the ideas of anti-Semitic authors and agitators are described with moral fervor, rhetorical flair, and considerable attention to the details of murder, arson, and rape. Background, context, and motives are often slighted or dealt with in a remarkably thin and tendentious manner.”[25]

These are clear examples of the self-deceptive process involving a “focus on individuals rather than systems” and, as this article will go on to fully demonstrate, it is rife in Jewish historiography. It is also extremely obvious in the Frankfurt’s School efforts to locate the origins of anti-Semitism within the psyche of an allegedly pathological individual. In all cases the focus is narrowed to the most extreme point. Along with truth, all nuance, scale and complexity is lost.

 A second contributor to error in perceptual causation is self-interest in the attribution of blame. Jews have an obvious interest in portraying Jewish behavior as irrelevant to anti-Semitism, and the result has been the development of a vast body of work, in the form of Jewish historiography, which serves group goals more than it does historical truth. Jewish-authored historical accounts very often confirm and advance existing Jewish beliefs in the blameless victimhood of their people, and do so in a way that enhances group allegiance and the self-esteem of group members. Kevin MacDonald writes that “Jewish historiography, written almost exclusively by Jews, has been characterized by a great deal of self-conscious case making and defense of perspectives that portray Jewish behavior in a positive light.”[26] But, as Lindemann stresses, “history should not be written in the same way that cases are presented to a jury.”[27] Historically cherished myths like Jewish powerlessness are also very intimately related to key Jewish self-concepts in the present. As Lindemann states, “the centuries of powerlessness have provided, they believe, the ultimate foundation for Jewish ethics and a sense of transcendent purpose as a people.”[28] Any acceptance of blame for historical failures would thus have repercussions not only on perceptions of the past, but on the carefully constructed self-concept of modern Jews. Jewish historiography therefore plays a vital role in the self-deceptive process, as it works tirelessly to throw a veil over the uncomfortable and the incongruous, and put a spotlight on real or imagined virtues and achievements.

As a consequence, to the neutral scholar Jewish accounts of anti-Semitism come across as a fundamentally bizarre and disjointed corpus of literature. Lindemann comments on “disappointing intellectual standards,” “doubtful conclusions,” and notes the existence of a “profound aversion to conceptualizing Jews as ordinary or flawed (‘human’) individuals.”[29]

Aside from positive in-group implications, Jewish self-interest in the attribution of historical blame also carries negative implications for out-group members. Lindemann notes a “parallel instinct to view surrounding Gentile society as pervasively flawed, polluted, or sick.”[30] By and large, this particular canon of work is characterized by a marked detachment from empirical reality, with both internal and external repercussions. One of the predominant explanations for this detachment is the strong presence of Jewish self-interest in the attribution of blame. The ‘veiling’ part of this process is essentially the third contributor to error in perceptual causation — the blurring of moral responsibility through acts of omission. Tenbrunsel and Messick explain that “whereas lies of commission are direct misstatements of the truth, lies of omission are acts of deception that occur because someone withholds information that deceives the target.”[31] These elements of error in perceptual causation are important because they enable distance from historical truth and deny the need for change within the group. Jews enable themselves to erroneously believe that changes in their behavior cannot fix the problem of anti-Semitism because it is, exclusively, a problem of non-Jewish society.

4.) The fourth enabler of self-deception is an inability to acknowledge the constrained representation of the Self. Our view of the world is biased, constrained by who we are. In a sense then, any pretensions we may have to uniquely objective comprehension of the world around us would be a form of self-deception. The ability of Jews to form an objective comprehension of outsiders, and the impact of their behavior on outsiders, is likely to be greatly diminished by group traits such as collectivism, authoritarianism, ethnocentrism, and the resultant practice of moral particularism. Nonetheless, historical and contemporary Jewry has been characterized by precisely the same pretensions to uniquely objective comprehension of the world around us that one would expect from a group in which self-deception is dominant.

Examples aren’t difficult to find, and are often breath-taking in the scale of their conceit. For example, in Creating a Judaism without Religion: A Postmodern Jewish Possibility, S. Daniel Breslauer states that American Jews see themselves “as insiders who are also outsiders,” and that this ambiguous status gives them a unique insight into American society and the world at large. Breslauer is himself a victim of this self-deception, writing that “as both insiders and outsiders Jews can look at both sides of [a given social problem].”[32] Breslauer then takes his argument a step further by lauding American Jewry as an “ethical hero” which thanks to its uniquely objective take on American society can “be discriminating in the choice of heroic action.”[33]

Other scholars have noted Jewish claims to a “stranger’s social objectivity.”[34] David Dresser and Lester Friedman endow American Jewish filmmakers with an almost mystical power of objective insight into American culture, claiming that their works “revolve around examinations of the greater society, their insights piercing deeply into American majority and minority culture.”[35] Of course according to Dresser and Friedman, while this unique power derives from the filmmakers’ Jewishness, this Jewishness does not in any way taint the objectivity of their ‘insights.’

This absurd, yet widely subscribed to, theory of uniquely unbiased Jewish populations acting selflessly to rescue the world is another strong indicator of self-deceptive processes within the group. It is also closely related to the concept of Jews as a ‘light unto the nations’; Yuri Slezkine in The Jewish Century points to the “strong sense of moral superiority over the host society” prevalent in Jewish populations.[36] Essentially, since Jews believe they stand outside and above non-Jewish society and its codes, they also adhere to the fiction that they are uniquely qualified to pass judgment on that society and its codes. Here one sees the interplay between two self-deceptive enablers: ‘slippery slope’ thinking and claims to unique objectivity.

Having established and clarified these theoretical concepts and definitions, we can now proceed to a deeper analysis of Jewish self-deception in historiography, culture, and politics.

Go to Part 2 of 5.

[1] K. MacDonald, Separation and Its Discontents: Toward and Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism (1st Books, 2004).
[2] K. MacDonald, The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth Century Intellectual and Political Movements, (1st Books, 2002).
[3] G. Atzmon, The Wandering Who? A Study of Jewish Identity Politics, (Zero Books, 2011).
[4] A.S. Lindemann, Esau’s Tears: Modern Anti-Semitism and the Rise of the Jews, (Cambridge University Press, 1996).
[5] MacDonald, CofC, p.238.
[6] A. Tenbrunsel and D. Messick, ‘Ethical Fading: The Role of Self-Deception in Unethical Behavior,’ Social Justice Research, Vol. 17, No. 2, June 2004, pp.223-235.
[7] Ibid, p.225.
[8] Ibid, p.225.
[9] Ibid, p.223.
[10] Ibid, p.224.
[11] Ibid, p.225.
[12] W. Von Hippel & R. Trivers, ‘The Evolution and Psychology of Self-Deception,’
Behavioral and Brain Sciences, (2011), 34, pp.1-56, (p.1).
[13] Ibid.
[14] MacDonald,
SAID, p.298.
[15] Von Hippel and Trivers (2011), p.1.
[16] Ibid.
[17] D. Goleman,
Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception, (Simon and Schuster, 2005), p.13.
[18] See
CofC, p.xxxi.
[19] E. Levine,
Martial Relations in Ancient Judaism, (Otto Harrassowitz, 2009), p.335.
[20] Tenbrunsel and Messick, (2004), p.226.
[21] Ibid.
[22] Ibid, p.228.
[23] Goleman,
Vital Lies, Simple Truths, p.17.
[24] S. Pavliuchenkov, “The Jewish question in the Russian revolution, or concerning the reasons for the Bolsheviks’ defeat in the Ukraine in 1919,”
Revolutionary Russia, 10:2, 25-36, (25).
[25] Lindemann,
Esau’s Tears, p.12.
[26] MacDonald,
SAID, p.262.
[27] Lindemann,
Esau’s Tears, p.x.
[28] Ibid, p.7.
[29] Ibid, p.13.
[30] Ibid.
[31] Tenbrunsel and Messick (2004), p.230.
[32] S. D. Breslauer, Creating a Judaism without Religion: A Postmodern Jewish Possibility (University Presses of America, 2001), p.237.
[33] Ibid.
[34] P.C. Albert, Essays in Modern Jewish History: A Tribute to Ben Halpern (Associated University Presses, 1982), p.151.
[35] D. Dresser and L. Friedman, American Jewish Filmmakers, (University of Illinois, 2004), p.20.
[36] Y. Slezkine, The Jewish Century, (Princeton University Press, 2004), p.42.

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