Jewish Influence

Mark Rothko, Abstract Expressionism and the Decline of Western Art, Part 3

Abstract Expressionism and the Culture of Critique

Abstract Expressionism was disproportionately a Jewish cultural phenomenon. It was a movement populated by legions of Jewish artists, intellectuals and critics. Prominent non-Jewish artists within the movement like Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell married Jewish women (Lee Krasner and Helen Frankenthaler). Willem de Kooning defied the trend, although he generally had to ingratiate himself with the overwhelmingly Jewish intellectual and cultural elite focused around the journal Partisan Review which was ‘dominated by editors and contributors with a Jewish ethnic identity and a deep alienation from American cultural and political institutions.’[i]

It was an art movement where the culture of critique of Jewish artists and intellectuals, frustrated that the post-war American prosperity based on Keynesian foundations had prevented the coming of socialism, turned inward and instead “proposed individualistic modes of liberation.” This mirrored the ideological shift that occurred among the New York Intellectuals generally who had “gradually evolved away from advocacy of socialist revolution toward a shared commitment to anti-nationalism and cosmopolitanism, ‘a broad and inclusive culture’ in which cultural differences were esteemed.”[ii] Doss notes how this ideological shift manifested itself among the post-war artists who became the Abstract Expressionists:

As full employment returned, New Deal programs were terminated — including federal support for the arts — the reformist spirit that had flourished in the 1930s dissipated. Corporate liberalism triumphed: together, big government and big business forged a planned economy and engineered a new social contract based on free market expansion… With New Deal dreams of reform in ruins, and the better “tomorrow” prophesied at the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair having seemingly led only to the carnage of World War II, it is not surprising that post-war artists largely abandoned the art styles and political cultures associated with the Great Depression.[iii]

The avant-garde artists of the New York School instead embraced an “inherently ambiguous and unresolved, an open-ended modern art … which encouraged liberation through personal, autonomous ‘acts’ of expression.” The works of the Abstract Expressionists were “revolutionary attempts” to liberate the larger American culture “from the alienating conformity and pathological fears [especially of communism] that permeated the post-war era.”[iv] Rothko claimed that “after the Holocaust and the Atom Bomb you couldn’t paint figures without mutilating them.” His friend Barnett Newman remarked that if people only read his paintings properly “it would mean the end of all state capitalism and totalitarianism.”[v] Read more

Mark Rothko, Abstract Expressionism and the Decline of Western Art, Part 2

Creating a new “American” Art

Before the rise of Abstract Expressionism, the American art scene after World War I was defined by two main currents. The first were what one might call the Regionalists (e.g. Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry) who used their own signature styles to portray the virtues of the hard-working rural American population. In the second group were the artists of Social Realism (e.g. Ben Shahn and Diego Rivera), whose work reflected urban life during the Great Depression, and reflected a preoccupation with international socialism.

Neither of these two schools was interested in abstract art. Despite the leftwing view of the social realists, both groups held rather conservative attitudes on figurative representation. Yet, even as these two styles dominated, the artists of the nascent New York School “met frequently at the legendary Cedar Bar, where they discussed their radical theses. They argued endlessly about the problems of art, about how to effect a total break with the art of the past, about the mission of creating an abstract art that no longer had anything to do with conventional techniques and motifs.”[i]

Spring in the Country by Grant Wood (1941)

The Museum of Modern Art did not yet exist; the Metropolitan Museum tended to “look down its WASP patrician nose at modernism”; and the Whitney favoured exactly the kind of American painting young Rothko most despised: scenic, provincial, anecdotal, and conservative.[ii] For a Jewish outsider like Rothko, who in 1970 declared that he would never feel entirely at home in a land to which he had been transplanted against his will, urban America was his America.

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Larry David on Some Jewish Stereotypes

In looking around for inspiration on Larry David, I came across this in an article by Gilad Atzmon (whom I admire):

David spits on everything: you name it, he spits on it. It was David who exposes the Jewish fetish with body organs long before we all started to discuss Israeli organ harvesting. David ridicules the Shoa obsession, the Jewish and anti Wagner fetish [here’s the Wagner video]. David spits on every possible American value one can think of. He mocks the celebrity culture, materialism and greed. He exposes Jewish supremacy, ignorance and arrogance. Yet, he is doing it all by putting himself in the line of fire. He doesn’t just bring to light to Jewish ugliness, he often embodies this ugliness himself.

I can’t say that I have seen many episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but I happened to see the premier for the new season, and it definitely stepped on Jewish sensibilities. (But, as Atmon says, David offends everyone—here giving instructions to a teenage girl on how to insert a tampon. Probably a sign that he is a sociopath at heart.)

The main plot revolves around the fact that the divorce lawyer hired by David turns out not to be Jewish, but Swedish and Christian. David assumed that with a name like Berg and with Jewish religious paraphernalia ostentatiously decorating his office, that he must be Jewish. Berg also talks with a Jewish accent and liberally drops Yiddish words into his conversation. It turns out that he even hosts Hanukkah parties. David exclaims,  “I get a Swede lawyer. She’s going to get everything…. I got Sweded”—obviously a play on “Jewed” which plays on the stereotype of Jews engaging in sharp business practices/fraud.

(Another stereotype—which I think goes a long way toward explaining the attraction of Jewish men to non-Jewish women: the aggressive Jewish woman. While dining, a Jewish character casually says that if he ever gets divorced, he will be very equitable with the assets. His Jewish wife explodes with a torrent of hostility to the effect that if we ever get divorced, she will take him for every penny he has and nail his balls to the wall, etc. It’s like an earthquake. Everyone at the table sits in stunned silent for a while. Then it passes and things move on smoothly. We later see husband and wife very happy together.) Read more

Quantum Dylan: A Double Act, Part 1

Bob Dylan’s 70th anniversary was celebrated worldwide on May 24th. Hailed as the Shakespeare of his generation, Dylan has sold more than 58 million albums, and written more than 500 songs recorded by more than 2000 artists. Dylan has described himself as “a person who owns the Sixties.”  At the same time, he has spent a lifetime “despising the nineteen-sixties — all the while being held up everywhere as its avatar.”[1] To post-1968 generations, the remarkable success of Robert Allen Zimmerman – alias Shabtai Zisel ben Avraham — remains “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”  While the success of his precursors Elvis and Sinatra is easily explainable, neither looks, nor voice, nor charisma can explain Dylan’s unique and enduring iconic status.  He has been described as diffuse, ugly, even dirty — “His ‘diffuseness’ muddies all the waters whose streams make him up.”[2]

Deconstructing the binary high/low culture divide

In postmodern discourse, the status of ‘high culture’ –- perhaps reaching its historical climax with Clement Greenberg’s 1939 essay “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” –- has been undermined through exposure of its “inherently White, class-based, West-centric, and gendered elements.”[3] Postmodern discourse tends to break down distinctions between subject and object, consciousness and the unconscious, “oppressor” and “oppressed,” spectacle and spectator, “high” and “low,” etc.   The movement of “canon into kitsch, or identification into stylization or exaggeration”[4] can be seen in the art of Andy Warhol —  often seen as postmodernism’s chief avatar, “the locus classicus for the deconstruction of ‘mass production,’ and the figure who summarily disrupts every distinction there is, especially the difference between high and low.”[5] Hence, postmodernism seems to express a kind of cultural logic that sociologist Charles Lemert has described as relativistic:

The most important feature of the matrix is that, being relative, it overthrows the rationalist distinctions between the “big” and the “small,” the “greater” and the “lesser,” the “higher” and the “lower,” and so forth.  In other words, while the principles of complementarity and indeterminacy rebel against the rationalist epistemological distinction between knowing subject and known object, the relativistic principle overthrows the rationalist ontological perspective that views the natural and human world in hierarchical terms.  Relativity radically equalizes all things, persons, events, and facts in reality.  All things become platitudinous and, simultaneously, the platitude reigns supreme.[6]

Bob Dylan seems to fit into this picture as a figure heralded by intellectual elites as erasing the distinction between “high” and “low” culture.  Rock music has oftentimes (stereotypically) been portrayed as ‘low culture’ — as “anti-intellectual, concerned with the sensual, bodily effects of music rather than with rational thought.”[7] Beneath the surface, however, Dylan’s gravitas — attained from being a ”serious” folk artist — has been important for the ideology of rock as a “higher” cultural form. This ideology (or cultural strategy) has been staged through an alloy of myths, branding and cultural codes. Read more

Crypto-Judaism in the Catholic Church

An article in Haaretz (Israeli Jew turned Catholic priest named head of papal court”) describes one David Maria Jaeger who “converted” from Judaism to Catholicism and will now become a member of the highest court in the Vatican. The word ‘converted’ is in quotes because it’s apparent that Jaeger has in no sense ceased being a Jew. Jaeger was born in Tel Aviv and had a Jewish religious education before assuming his high position in the Church.

[A prominent Israeli professor comments:] “He is a special man. … He’s told me about his deep ties to Israel. We didn’t delve deeply into the reasons for his Christianity. He only gave hints.”

When Jaeger was asked yesterday whether he feels Israeli, he replied, “at least as much as you do,” adding, “I’m just like any Israeli citizen who works for an international organization situated outside the country – just like there are Israelis at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, the UN in New York or UNESCO in Paris. I am in a supra-national international body, that’s the only the difference.”

“I’m a loyal and patriotic son of our people and our country,” he said. “After all, that was the whole point of the Jewish people’s emancipation in the 19th century, that we would become a nation, not a religious minority among gentiles. A person can live according to his conscience, he can not believe in any religious faith or believe in one rather than another, all according to his own intellectual conscience.”

It is stunning that a very prominent Catholic has a deep Jewish identity and thinks of the Church as just another non-governmental international organization. The ceremony for his ascendancy in Rome will be attended by his sister Leah, an Israeli citizen, bringing a sculpture by Menashe Kadishman, a famous Israeli sculptor. He served as legal adviser to the delegation that negotiated the Vatican’s Fundamental Agreement with Israel–sort of like having Dennis Ross negotiate with the Israelis on behalf of the U.S.

Beginning in the 15th century in Spain, people like Jaeger were called Conversos or Marranos (pigs)—Jews who had the appearance but not the reality of having converted to Catholicism. The Inquisition was designed to ferret such people out and subject them to penalties.  Indeed, a major problem in the eyes of the Inquisition was that the Church itself had been infiltrated by Jews pretending to be Catholics (see here, p. 118; I deal with Jewish apologia on the Inquisition, including denials that crypto-Jews had infiltrated the Catholic Church here, p227ff).

During the centuries of the Inquisition, the Church acted as if it was much more than an international NGO. It was a community of faith where ethnic networking on behalf of non-believers was the ultimate betrayal. In the contemporary world, crypto-Judaism in the Church results in high office and, who knows, perhaps election as the next pope. (Jaeger is so upfront about identifying as a Jew that perhaps calling him a crypto-Jew is inaccurate. Making statements like Jaeger’s could only have been a death wish during the period of the Inquisition.)  Whatever the past successes of the Church in defense of our people, the appointment of a strongly identified Jew to a position in the Church hierarchy is certainly a bad sign indeed of the state of Catholicism in the contemporary world.

Guilt-tripping the Europeans

In May a high-level meeting of Muslim and Jewish leaders in Europe was held to express their concern about the rise of the European anti-Muslim right. The meeting was organized by three Jewish groups, two of them American: Rabbi Marc Schneier’s Foundation For Ethnic Understanding, an important organization aimed at cementing ties between Jews and non-White groups, and its close ally, philanthropist Ronald Lauder’s World Jewish Congress. (See also John Graham’s “American Rabbi: Europe must accept immigration swamping.”) The European Jewish Congress was also involved in organizing the event, but no Muslim groups were involved. This was therefore a Jewish project from beginning to end.

Their formal statement is yet another attempt to justify the death of the West as a moral imperative.  Europeans are urged to live up to their ideals:

We are troubled by the growth of racist and xenophobic movements. We believe that individuals and organizations espousing such malign and hateful ideologies represent a grave threat to the fundamental European values of pluralism, democracy, mutual respect and cooperation.

Such statements always remind me of Israel Zangwill’s statement during the 1920s immigration debate in America: “You must make a fight against this bill; tell them they are destroying American ideals. Most fortifications are of cardboard, and if you press against them, they give way” (see here, p. 266). Destroy them by appealing to their moral idealism.

Pluralism and democracy are wonderful, uniquely European inventions, and they are quite adaptive as institutions among Europeans. However, in the context of massive non-European immigration they are a prescription for cultural and eventual genetic suicide.

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Review of John Glad’s “Jewish Eugenics”

Jewish Eugenics, by John Glad. Washington, DC: Wooden Shore Publishers, 2011; 464pp. (Downloadable at either www.whatwemaybe or These sites also have Glad’s Future Human Evolution.)

John Glad begins Jewish Eugenics by noting that “much of what might be termed  ‘accepted eugenics narrative’ is in crass discordance with the historical facts” (p. 8). In other words, we are about to enter one of those academic minefields where “truth” is rigorously cleansed to make sure it is compatible with ethnic interests. Indeed, “writing books about Jews used to be a far easier undertaking than it is today, with Jewish anxieties over ‘anti-Semitism’ having been so elevated as to render dispassionate scholarly discourse nearly impossible” (p. 8).

I am not so sure that dispassionate scholarship is impossible, but it is surely the case that findings that diverge from the self-image desired by any ethnic group will surely be vigorously contested by academic activists or, more probably, consigned to oblivion. Dr. Glad assures me that in his case, it is the latter, writing of his frustration at the silence that has greeted his work. Welcome to the club.

As a university professor, Glad is quite attuned to the politics of having a good career. Critics of eugenics, like the notorious Ashley Montagu (a disciple of Franz Boas), get fat honoraria for delivering superficial, factually challenged lectures sponsored by numerous academic departments and programs. (Glad characterizes a lecture by Montagu as “an impressive demonstration of indoctrination” [p. 91].) On the other hand, those who defend eugenics “are subjected to academic shunning” (p. 91), their books are not used in classes and not purchased by academic libraries. They get no invitations to attend conferences or deliver lectures. Read more