Philip Weiss on Jewish Success

Philip Weiss, ever (self-)conscious of the power of Jews in American society, has another meditation on the topic (“Jewish success– is it ever a story?). Once again, the larger point is that Jewish power is off limits for public discussion—a theme that goes back at least as far as Wilmot Robertson’s Dispossessed Majority in the early 1970s.

This morning National Public Radio aired a story on the rivalry between Lawrence Summers and Janet Yellen to be the next Fed chairperson, succeeding Ben Bernanke. All three of these economists are Jewish. It is plain evidence of the fact that Jews make up a large segment of the new Establishment, if not the leading segment.

What other identifiable group could possibly be considered to make up the “leading segment” of the new Establishment? The WASPs are long gone, without even one representative on the Supreme Court (compared to three Jews). Joe Biden, among others, thinks that Jews have “immense” influence, so who are we to argue?

The result will be that Jews will have held the most important economic post in the U.S. for thirty years, since Alan Greenspan’s tenure began in 1987. But not a word in the MSM about the fact that Fed Chairman has become a Jewish fief, that the three leading candidates are Jews (the short list, according to Obama, now includes Donald L. Kohn), or that the person in charge of the search, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, is Jewish.

Weiss continues:

I had the same impression Friday night, when the nightly news was also filled with Jews. The sex scandals involving San Diego mayor Bob Filner and would-be New York Mayor Anthony Weiner– their pictures opened the NBC news. Then the lead story was food safety, and Nancy Snyderman was interviewing FDA head Margaret Hamburg, then Andrea Mitchell was interviewing Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post about the sex scandals, and at the end of the broadcast they teased David Gregory’s interview on Meet the Press this Sunday of Jack Lew, Treasury Secretary. All these folks are Jewish or have some Jewish background. They’re all in the center ring.

In recent months, I’ve heard Peter Beinart, Lester Crown, Jane Eisner, and Jeffrey Goldberg exclaim over Jewish success. Crown said that the acceptance of Jews “in almost everything is unbelievable, just remarkable, every place.” But it seems to me that Jews in the media have largely avoided dealing with the implications of our success. They’re embarrassed about it. Or they fear anti-Semitic riots if they say openly what everyone knows. The exception is Marc Ellis, who writes openly about Empire Jews.

This lack of reflection is unacceptable. Elites are traditionally criticized in the American discourse. It’s the price. David Brooks’s book about the “new upper class” is filled with slams of the previous order, the “WASPs,” but has nothing to say about Jews. Nick Lemann wrote a highly-acclaimed book on the meritocracy that described the last ruling elite in religious terms– as “the Episcopacy”– and said that the folks in it got there by birth. It seems to me that the Jewish presence in the establishment merits some scrutiny: what is the role of birth in awarding place in the U.S.? What is the role of social kinship networks? What is the extent of Zionist ideology in the Jewish establishment? And how do successful Zionist Jews justify adherence to an ideology based on separation/colonization when they have done so well here? I’m a liberal and I trust Americans to have this conversation. I don’t remember pogroms against the WASPs.

We’ve been probing these questions at TOO: articles on Jewish ethnic networking in the literary world [Zionism is front and center in promoting the “pro-Israel literary culture], in the intellectual world [e.g., Spinoza, Daniel Bell, and all the major players in The Culture of Critique), the art world, classical music, Supreme Court justices and academic appointments, reviewing books on Jewish history, political power in the 19th-century British Empirefinancial chicanery [see also here], admissions to elite universities), and, yes, NPR [which Weiss highlights] and the media generally.) Not to mention the Israel Lobby with its tentacles in the media and throughout the government.

I think I spot a trend here. The standard Jewish story is that the bad old WASPs were a corrupt elite that favored their own; they obtained their positions not as a result of talent and hard work, but because of their connections. Jews of course are portrayed as the opposite of all that—but it’s completely false.

It’s a corrupt as well as hostile elite—at least as corrupt as the WASPs, and far less representative of the population they rule over. A powerful elite whose power is beyond discussion.

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