Jewish Ethnic Networking

Pariah to Messiah: The Engineered Apotheosis of Baruch Spinoza, Part 1 of 3

Editor’s note: This is a classic article by Andrew Joyce published originally in March, 2013 on how Jewish academic activists created the image of Spinoza as a great philosopher and father of the Enlightenment. I interviewed Andrew Joyce on TOQLive on May 6, 2019. Great discussion! 

A recurring theme here at TOO has been the monitoring of ethnic networking in efforts to establish Jewish figures in positions of scientific, academic, artistic or cultural pre-eminence. Erudite studies by several writers, particularly Kevin Macdonald (a major theme of The Culture of Critique) and Brenton Sanderson, have shed light on individual cases (e.g., Boas, Freud, Trotsky, Rothko, Mahler) as well as the more generic processes involved in these efforts (e.g., promotion in the elite media and the academic world). Typically these efforts can be said to begin with the veneration by a group of Jews of a Jewish intellectual or artist, and is followed by the creation of an authoritarian cult-like aura around his or her personality. The process reaches its completion, in some cases after the death of the guru figure, in an aggressive Jewish marketing effort to convince society at large that this figure, together with his or her ideas, is or was of national or international—if not cosmic—significance. It is predominantly by this process that the notion of “Jewish Genius” is perpetuated. 

Although in some respects the pattern is slightly different in the case examined in this article, where the effort only began centuries after the death of its subject, I argue that the essence and goal of the campaign is consistent with previous cases. I explore what is arguably the most ambitious effort yet attempted to create a Jewish icon for the non-Jewish world. In this, the case of Baruch Spinoza, I will outline the history of the Jewish effort to place him at the very heart of the Enlightenment, and to crown him as nothing less than the founder of the modern West, and even of modern democracy itself.

Although I had been aware for some time of the Jewish emphasis on Spinoza as a prominent and significant Enlightenment figure, I only began to appreciate the scale and complexity of the Jewish effort to canonize him recently when Jonathan Israel’s 2001  Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650–1750 was brought to my attention. In this extravagantly praised tome and its 2006 sequel Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man, 1670-1752,  Israel rejected strictly national interpretations of the Enlightenment, and argued that it was a single, highly integrated intellectual and cultural movement. At the centre of this single movement he posits the ideas of the 17th-century Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza, whom Israel argues we should view above Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Voltaire, Newton and other non-Jews, as the source of modernity. In Israel’s words: Spinoza and Spinozism were “the intellectual backbone of the European Radical Enlightenment everywhere.”[1]

At least compared with the works of ethnic activists like Anthony Julius, Israel’s work is representative of a more subtle and sophisticated way of shaping ‘ways of seeing.’ Much of what he says is at least factually correct. In some cases his assertions are beyond dispute, and are liberally furnished with references to archival documentation. However, Israel’s basic thesis over-reaches the sum of its parts. While his work is meticulously researched, very detailed, and replete with copious amounts of primary and secondary source material, there remains significant doubt about the basic argument of the book — that the support of over seventy 18th-Enlightenment figures for modern democracy, separation of Church and State, freedom of expression, social justice, equality, fairness, and tolerance can be directly linked only to the ideas of Baruch Spinoza. 

The aim of this essay is not to explore the Enlightenment, nor even to directly challenge Israel’s theory of there being one single ‘Radical Enlightenment’. Instead, this essay simply and modestly aims to demonstrate that the effort to place Spinoza at the center of the Enlightenment is much older than the work of Jonathan Israel, and that it has been, and remains, a specifically Jewish effort. On a deeper level, I explore its mechanisms and the motivations underlying it. Read more

Leonard Bernstein and the Jewish Cultural Ascendency — PART 1


2018 marks the centenary of the birth of Jewish-American conductor, pianist, composer and teacher Leonard Bernstein. This milestone has seen a global bonanza of 2,500 concerts, programs, exhibitions and theatrical productions. Bernstein features prominently in the pantheon of “Jewish geniuses” as designated by the West’s Jewish-dominated cultural and intellectual establishment. Bernstein’s centenary year inevitably yielded hagiography: for his Jewish biographer Allen Shawn, he was not just a “genius” but “a powerful cultural and political voice and symbol, transcending all categories.”[1] Mark Horowitz, curator of an exhibition at Philadelphia’s Jewish museum celebrating Bernstein’s “pride of tribe,” fully endorses this view, while for the Jewish music writer for the New Yorker, Alex Ross, Bernstein remains “American music’s dominant figure.”

Bernstein lived during the heyday of the recording industry, at the dawn of the television era and of video recording. He left behind what is possibly the most extensive documentation in recordings, films, and on paper of any musician in history. His archive at the Library of Congress already lists some 400,000 items.[2] During the 1950s and 1960s Bernstein was not only the best known of all American classical musicians; his fame rivalled that of Elvis Presley or Marilyn Monroe. Attitudes to Bernstein varied dramatically during his lifetime, and many responded negatively to the fact he was so visible, so outspoken, so dramatic, and so politically active on the left.

Famous for his flamboyantly extroverted temperament, Bernstein was a “personality on such a big scale that he would naturally manage to offend many people along the way. … His self-regard and need for attention were also, to be sure, extreme.”[3] Bernstein’s brash self-confidence and monstrous ego incurred the enmity of many of those he encountered. He “loved to be the center of attention, even if it meant being obnoxious” observed a fellow student at the Curtis School of Music who noted that his “extroversion was extreme.”[4] John Rockwell, writing for the New York Times in 1986, observed that “It is quite a remarkable personality, for better and for worse, the defines every aspect of his near-manic existence. There are those who still find him inherently annoying — when he shoots off what he likes to call his ‘big Jewish mouth,’ when he prances and gyrates on the podium, when he seems to squander his compositional gifts in flashy trivia or overwrought excess.”[5] Bernstein’s own children pointed out his unsurpassed ability to become emotional on his own behalf, to “move himself.”[6]

Bernstein’s unusual, extremely emotional, visual presentation was his trademark as a conductor. He conducted with his entire body in a style that led to much criticism and derision over the years. German composer Gunther Schuller, for example, observed that Bernstein was “one of the world’s most histrionic and exhibitionistic conductors.” Schuller saw Bernstein as a musician with “very little discipline and no shame,” whose interpretation of Brahms’ First Symphony contained “too much of an ‘oy-vey’ Weltschmerz to be bearable.”[7] Read more

“Modify the standards of the in-group”: On Jews and Mass Communications — Part Two of Two

Go to Part 1.

“Millions of leaflets, pamphlets, cartoons, comic books, articles
and more recently radio and movie scripts — have been produced and disseminated in the propaganda war.”  Samuel H. Flowerman, Mass Propaganda in the War Against Bigotry, 1947.[1]

The Protocols of Samuel H. Flowerman

Samuel H. Flowerman, as Research Director at the American Jewish Committee, as colleague of the Institute for Social Research, and as a kind of hub for the expansive Jewish clique of mass communications scholars, was at the center of the drive to put Jewish “opinion research” initiatives into practical action. The clearest articulation of what this practical action would look like was articulated in his 1947 essay, “Mass Propaganda in the War Against Bigotry.” Flowerman’s foremost concern was that, although millions of dollars were being spent by organisations like the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League on propaganda, propaganda may not by itself be sufficient for the mass transformation of values in the host population — in particular, for the weakening of its ethnocentrism.

Flowerman begins by explaining the format and extent of existing efforts: “Millions of leaflets, pamphlets, cartoons, comic books, articles — and more recently radio and movie scripts — have been produced and disseminated in the propaganda war (429).” Flowerman’s use of the language of warfare is of course interesting in itself and will be discussed further below. For now, we should focus on what Flowerman lists as the five aims of the “propaganda war”:

1. “The restructuring of the attitudes of prejudiced individuals, or at least their neutralization.”
2. “The restructuring of group values toward intolerance.”
3. “The reinforcement of attitudes of those already committed to a democratic ideology perhaps by creating an illusion of universality or victory.”
4. “The continued neutralisation of those whose attitudes are yet unstructured and who are deemed “safer” if they remain immune to symbols of bias.”
5. “Off-setting the counter-symbols of intolerance.” (429)

Flowerman concedes that the level of work and control required to achieve these aims would be extensive, and that the project was highly ambitious, seeking nothing less than “successful mass persuasion in the field of intergroup relations (429).” But he is equally clear in the conditions required for such success. Read more

“Modify the standards of the in-group”: On Jews and Mass Communications — Part One of Two

“To be successful, mass propaganda on the behalf of out-groups would have to modify the standards of the in-group.
Samuel H. Flowerman, Mass Propaganda in the War Against Bigotry, 1947.

“The whole story is transparently barmy.” This is what Guardian journalist Jason Wilson had to say in a 2015 article discussing “conspiracy theories” about Cultural Marxism. Barmy, for the uninitiated, is a British informal adjective with the meanings “mad; crazy; extremely foolish.” Wilson continues by attempting to explain “the whole story”:

The vogue for the ideas of theorists like Herbert Marcuse and Theodor Adorno in the 1960s counterculture culminated with their acolytes’ occupation of the commanding heights of the most important cultural institutions, from universities to Hollywood studios. There, the conspiracy says, they promoted and even enforced ideas which were intended to destroy traditional Christian values and overthrow free enterprise: feminism, multiculturalism, gay rights and atheism. And this, apparently, is where political correctness came from. I promise you: this is what they really think … The theory of cultural Marxism is also blatantly antisemitic, drawing on the idea of Jews as a fifth column bringing down western civilisation from within, a racist trope that has a longer history than Marxism.

Re-reading this article recently, I wondered what Mr Wilson would say if I told him I possessed a document wherein an influential Jew linked to Marcuse and Adorno unambiguously sets out a scheme for the capture of the media, the mass brainwashing of White populations with multicultural propaganda, the manipulation of in-group culture to make it hostile to its own sense of ethnocentrism, the spreading of a culture of political correctness, and, ultimately, the co-option of the West by small ethnic clique pursuing its own interests under the guise of “promoting tolerance.” I wonder what he’d say if I told him the same Jew operated a network of hundreds, if not thousands, of other Jewish intellectuals engaged in the same single task — unlocking a psychological “backdoor” to White culture in order to completely reorient it. I think I’m correct in assuming that Mr Wilson would call me “barmy,” and accuse me of regurgitating the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. I suspect he would believe I’m a fantasist and an anti-Jewish conspiracy theorist. I know he’d dismiss even the possibility that such a document might actually exist. And yet it does exist. Read more

The Jewish Ethnic Nexus of Bill Browder’ Financial Operations

A tweetstorm consisting of quotes from Israel Shamir’s excellent article on Bill Browder showing how he operated in an entirely Jewish milieu. Jewish ethnic networking is alive and well in the twenty-first century.

Review: The Jesuit Order as a Synagogue of Jews — Part Two

Everard Mercurian (1514-1580)

Being children of this world, pompous, cunning, fake, self-seeking, etc., it is certain that they fit religious life very badly and that it is impossible to maintain union with them. If those of this blood are made superiors, they employ almost all their government in external things: they promote genuine mortification and solid virtues very little, and seem to be merchants, seeking first seats and being called rabbis; they are hardly eager to seek perfection that is described in the parts 5 and 6 of the Constitutions; and readily admit others of the same blood who are very unworthy.”
Manuel Rodrigues, Jesuit curia in Rome.

Go to Part 1.

The Racial Struggle for the Jesuit Order

The complaints of native Spanish members of the Society of Jesus, regarding the crypto-Jewish Jesuit elite, are remarkably uniform. Predominant among their concerns was the Jewish tendency towards monopoly, nepotism, arrogance, aggressive ambition, and an air of insincerity in the practice of Christianity. Of particular concern was the fact that the Spanish Jesuit Order was becoming an exclusive enclave of influential Jews that stretched out even into the heart of Rome.

The epigraph above, from Manuel Rodrigues, highlights all of these themes, some of which have been empirically demonstrated. For example, the body of research compiled by Maryks and other scholars, and discussed in Part 1, more than provides sufficient evidence in support of the accusation that crypto-Jews were “readily admitting others of the same blood.” Moreover, Benedetto Palmio, an Italian assistant to two native European Jesuit Superior Generals (Francisco de Borja and Everard Mercurian), complained of the “multitude and insolence of Spanish neophytes,” whom he described as a “pestilence (133).” Stressing that “where a New Christian was found, it was impossible to live in peace,” he added that “those who governed in Rome were almost all neophytes. … This sort of people and almost no other were being admitted in Spain (133).” King Phillip II of Spain had by the 1570s taken to describing the Jesuits as a “Synagogue of Hebrews.” (133)

The method of leadership employed by this crypto-Jewish elite was further described by Palmio as despotic. The crypto-Jewish elite in Rome was behaving “not as fathers but as masters (135).” Reflecting age-old Jewish ethnic networking, there were gross ethnic disparities in promotions to high office, with Palmio stressing that “the neophytes want to dominate everywhere and this is why the Society is agitated by the tempest of discords and acrimonies (138).” Conversos were “overly ambitious, insolent, Janus-faced, pretentious, despotic, astute, terrible, greedy for power, and infamous.” (142) Lorenzo Maggio, an Italian Jesuit curia in Rome, complained that “those from the circumcision subverted the entire house of the Society.” (117) Read more

Review: How the Jews Defeated Hitler: Exploding the Myth of Passivity in the Face of Nazism, Part One of Two

At the close of my review of the late David Cesarani’s Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews, 1933–1949, I remarked that “the Holocaust,” as a cultural concept, had performed one of the greatest vanishing acts in history — the disappearance of the Jews as active participants during World War II.[1] Faced with an almost blanket portrayal of Jewish victimhood and passivity during the period, I commented: “Examining the thousands upon thousands of histories of World War II, one would get the impression that there was not only one war, but also only one aggressor. Quite how and why “the Jews” leave the historical stage as belligerents in 1939, when the preceding six years had witnessed them engaging in international propaganda wars, political maneuvering, and targeted assassinations in several European countries, has been surprisingly overlooked.” Benjamin Ginsberg’s relatively short but efficient work, How the Jews Defeated Hitler (2013, First Paperback 2016), may be considered a significant exception to this overwhelming omission, offering an argument that Jews played “a major role in the defeat of Nazi Germany.”[2]

In the introduction to his text, Ginsberg, a Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University, outlines the structure of his argument along with his definition of Jewish resistance to the advance of National Socialism in Europe. Ginsberg’s definition of Jewish resistance is important because it differs significantly, in terms of its discursive parameters, from those generally employed in Holocaust historiography and its offshoots. For those interested in a more detailed exploration of the issue of Jewish resistance during World War II, as a subject of historiographical debate, The Holocaust in History by Michael R. Marrus (Penguin, 1989) and Histories of the Holocaust by Dan Stone (Oxford University Press, 2010) are perhaps the best and most succinct introductions to the most pertinent themes. However, in brief, historiographical argument prior to the 2010s was limited to two strands of thought, each biased and deeply flawed. The first strand of ‘resistance’ historiography was the negation of the idea of Jewish resistance. This involved lachrymose assertions that Jews offered no opposition to an unprovoked and irrational German hostility, and were led to sensationalized forms of mass murder like ‘lambs to the slaughter.’ A prime example within this strand is Martin Gilbert’s The Holocaust: The Jewish Tragedy (Harper Collins, 1986), and is also strongly associated with Raul Hilberg’s assessment that “the reaction pattern of the Jews is characterised by almost complete lack of resistance.” This first strand of argument was particularly popular in the diaspora, and in the United States and Great Britain in particular. The Holocaust developed as a cultural trope in these countries in tandem with the development of this lachrymose strand of historiography. Read more