A spectre is haunting Sander Gilman, the spectre of "God's chosen people". The distinguished president of the Modern Languages Association-with more than forty books and many more academic papers under his belt-warns Jews, and especially "the Jewish intellectual", to avoid thinking of "the Jew" as intellectually superior.
"The book," writes Gilman, "is a study in the politics of scientific stereotyping in which the victim is often co-opted into believing that positive stereotypes are accurate comments on his nature. It is a study of philo-semitism and its pitfalls and it is also an attempt to examine the Jewish response and internalization of the image." Yet subliminal unease gurgles constantly just under the surface of the text: Smart Jewish pride contributes to anti-semitism. With Gilman's quote from a black writer, Joe Wood, the unease breaks to the surface:
"Jews had provided the world with intellectual genius. As proof he [a fellow student] ticked off three names: Freud, Einstein, Marx. I got very angry. For a long time I wondered whether the Jews really were chosen by God, as one of my Jewish classmates suggested. The argument seemed watertight. Wherever Jews were given the chance, they have shown themselves to be smarter than anyone else. Look how well we've done in America and everywhere else we've gone. Look at the Jews. Look."
Only those envious of Jewish achievement concern themselves with "Jewish superior intelligence", thought Gilman-until he collided with The Bell Curve of Murray and Herrenstein. Then came the jarring revelation: if it is "racist" to say that blacks (on the left tail of the curve) have inferior intelligence, it is just as "racist" to say that Jews (on the right tail of the curve) have superior intelligence! The Bell Curve, he found, merely reiterates the vicious stereotypes from the past in the pseudoscientific window-dressing favoured by neo-conservatives and Republicans. The "virtuous" Jewish intellectual who bursts with pride (overtly or covertly) at collective Jewish achievement is shown to be a "racist". He must repent, confessing and expiating his most grievous sin. Gilman confesses and expiates in public, delivering the Abraham Lincoln lectures at the University of Nebraska-later published as Smart Jews.
The Bell Curve as reviewed to death by statistically illiterate journalists and devout anti-racists bears little resemblance to the published work. Yet Gilman chooses to read these commentators rather than the original. The Bell Curve that so enrages Gilman is a magical and diabolical magnet that attracts all the Jews, who are smart and virtuous, to the high end; and all the blacks (with opposite characteristics) to the low end. "The black" is labelled stupid. "The Jew" is labelled smart.
In fact, Murray's and Herrenstein's normal distribution of intelligence leaves plenty of room for blacks smarter than the average smart Jew, and for Jews of below-normal intelligence. They review and accept (controversial) statistical evidence that the average oriental is smarter than the average white and that the average white is more intelligent than the average black. The authors point out how intelligence correlates with success at school, success at almost every type of job, income, family stability, low reproductive rate, and low crime rate. Indeed intelligence correlates more highly with future job performance than any other variable. Thus intelligence facilitates survival and indeed upward social mobility. With lack of intelligence comes downward social mobility. Because intelligence has a hereditary component of about 50 percent and because like usually mates with like, the upper strata of society become, on average, smarter and smarter; the lower more and more stupid-an underclass dangerous to themselves and to the rest of society.
Murray and Herrenstein suggest that "Ashkenazic Jews of European origin" have the highest intelligence on average of any group tested. As would then be expected, Jewish occupational success is out of all proportion, ("usually by several orders of magnitude") to the group's representation in the population. For example a surprisingly high percentage of Nobel prize-winners are Jews, especially so in physics, medicine, chemistry, and economics.
Gilman does not explicitly deny the superior intelligence and achievements of the average American Jew. However he points to counter-evidence from Israel and Australia where many Jews are no more intelligent and no more successful than their non-Jewish counterparts. So great are the differences between various subcategories of Jews that he believes it illegitimate to make statements about these people as a "unified category".
Furthermore, claims Gilman, the philo-semite's concepts of "Jew" and "intelligence" are mere self-serving social constructs, constantly revised to enable "researchers" to assume what they have to prove.
Yet all concepts of science are social constructs, many of which are constantly under revision. It is exactly such scientific constructs that enable us to predict! Predictions or not, Gilman denies to science any exalted role in the creation of knowledge. Not the twentieth-century science of statistics, he says, but the psychological hang-ups of the nineteenth-century scientists created the "image" of Jewish superior intelligence. The brilliant scientist, weak of body and oblivious to anything outside his narrow specialty, feels inferior to the manly humanistic thinker who grasps Being in all its spirituality and sexiness. Feeling himself a geek, the scientist projects his brilliant "queerness" (Gilman's term) onto the outsider, the "Jewish intellectual". The Jew must then respond to this image of his flawed intelligence. Yet Gilman produces a passage from Nietzsche completely at odds with this pained psychohistory:
"[The Jews have produced] the noblest human being [Christ], the purest sage [Spinoza], the mightiest book, and the most efficacious moral code in the world. In the darkest periods of the Middle Ages, when the cloud banks of Asia had settled low over Europe, it was the Jewish freethinkers, scholars, and physicians who, under the harshest personal constraint, held firmly to the banner of the enlightenment and intellectual independence and defended Europe against Asia."
Gilman does not consider this Nietzschean Jew, who transcends rather than joins the culture he inhabits, virtuous. Can a "racist" be virtuous?
Nietzsche is the most enthusiastic of the philo-semites Gilman parades across the stage of his historical drama. The very large cast also includes anti-semites, non-Jews ambiguous about Jewish intelligence, proud Jews, self-doubting Jews, and self-hating Jews. The author warns:
"Goethe, in his autobiography Dichtung und Wahrheit, commented that a poor portrait of Spinoza, one of the standard figures evoked in the eighteenth century to prove `Jewish superior intelligence', was used by his detractors to prove that Spinoza `bore the sign of corruption in his face.'"
We see that Gilman's "image of Jewish intelligence" is not merely "how Jewish intelligence is perceived by others." The image is also a picture of "the Jew's body" (the title of a previous book of Gilman), and a picture of how the Jew's mind is read off from the Jew's body. Unfortunately none of the fascinating pictures (mostly anti-semitic) from the previous work have been reproduced in Smart Jews. So the reader cannot view the composite photograph that Francis Galton, the father of statistical psychology, constructed from the portraits of Jewish students.
From this composite photo and from his field observations in Jewish neighbourhoods, Galton concluded that Jews were cold, shrewd, calculating, and without empathy. The Nazi anthropologist Gunther found the face gazing at him from Galton's composite picture sensual, threatening, and crafty: "reflecting the essence of the Jewish soul". The economic historian Werner Sombart invokes this crafty, calculating Jew to explain "the economic hegemony of the Jews over the Christians from the Middle Ages to the early twentieth century." For the rabid anti-semite, the Jew has a "squirrel-like [mental] agility" rather than a genuine intelligence.
Less anti-semitic writers granted the Jew a high, productive intelligence. But they cast the Jewish mind as female, neurotic, parasitic on the work of others, not truly creative. Bismarck is brought on to say, "The German stallion must be bred upon the Jewish mare." The "mare", slight (or clumsy) of body and often sickly, is not really capable of virtue or strenuous work.
No self-hating Jew internalized such anti-semitism as thoroughly as Freud's contemporary Otto Weininger-who killed himself in 1903. Jews, he wrote, lack genius, humour, genuine values, genuine religion. "The Jew is a parasite who is a different creature in every host and yet remains himself...a disease on the body politic, a violation of the very premises of civic virtue."
For Weininger and the anti-semites the Jews were a race whose mentality was innate. Others grounded Jewish intelligence variously in their urban habitat and in culturally transmitted traits: strong family values, compulsive drive to education, survival skills necessary for life in a hostile environment. To Gilman's horror, several philo-semites and Jews attributed Jewish intelligence partly to heredity. ("Racism"!)
Norbert Wiener was the Jewish mathematical genius who founded cybernetics, and who warned union leaders about structural unemployment as long ago as 1948. He suggested that wealthy Jewish merchants of the Middle Ages had married their daughters to the most intelligent young Talmudic scholars. These intellectuals were then rich enough to devote themselves to study and to create large families. Meanwhile the most intelligent Christians became "celibate" priests without offspring, or at least none they could acknowledge and educate.
Enough of these historical esoterica! For his final act Gilman transports us to Hollywood, that "empire" created by Eastern European Jews which brainwashes us with images thrown onto the giant screen. We meet Morton Starr, hero of Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon, whose real life counterpart is the Jewish Hollywood emperor and genius, Irving Thalberg. Starr is Sombart's business Jew with a difference: a genius, but without formal education; materialistic, but not stingy; a heart condition indicating body weakness. Such geniuses, writes Gilman, seek not only to make money, but strive as well "to reshape themselves and the culture in which they live." If, like Starr, they flash their expensive jewellery, they are simply and crassly showing off their success.
Gilman finds numerous other "images" of Jewish intelligence in the American mass media: the intellectual Jew as good husband; the smart athletic compassionate Jew desperately trying to pass as a non-Jew; the smart, tough Mafioso; "the smart Jew who pisses on everyone;" "the smart Jew doctor", who needs to prove himself physically; the female talmudic scholar in drag.
The nineteenth-century myth of the "smart Jew", weak of body and lacking in virtue, lives in late twentieth-century America. But the post-Shoah variety, finds Gilman, has achieved victim status. Spielberg's enormous "morality play", Schindler's List (1993), engraves this stereotype deep in the consciousness of both Jews and non-Jews. The self-indulgent German, Schindler, of little intelligence and mediocre business ability, somehow transcends himself. At great personal risk, this manufacturer shelters and saves Jewish victims inside his Nazi slave labour camp. Among these is "smart Jew" Stern, smart enough to run Schindler's business, but not smart enough to save himself from the Holocaust. The rescue, Gilman tells us, requires both Schindler's brainless virtue, and Stern's acute though virtueless business smarts. The German stallion is the hero. The Jewish mare is merely one of the victims.
Yet it is a Jewish hero, the Senate investigator Goodwin, who triumphs in Quiz Show (1994). He unmasks a corrupt TV program (The $64,000 Question) and its two "star" contestants, who were given answers in advance. Contestant Stempl is the stereotypical Jew who looks like a Jew, a crafty, well-read, but unattractive member of the working class. Scripted to beat Stempl is contestant Van Doren, a most handsome high-mucky-muck Wasp professor, "the smartest man in the world". Gilman almost hints that the quiz show (the play within a play) was staged as a morality piece. The dark shrewd conquering Jew is defeated in turn by the golden Wasp knight in shining intellectual armour. Shattered is this sham when Goodwin, the smart "Uncle Tom of the Jews", finally chooses "virtue" over status.
The image of the non-Jewish Jew crying out, "Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!", has slipped out onto Gilman's printed page. He avoids the image, he hides, he obfuscates: "In Quiz Show both Jews and Gentiles are shown to be neither smart nor virtuous...." Gilman is right to be evasive. The image of the Jew who, without joining, beats the members of diverse cultures at their own games is infuriating enough. The Jew who points out to his host cultures that their "world order is based on a lie" risks arousing the most dangerous kinds of anti-semitism. For Gilman, the brilliant Jewish Freudian literary theorist, repression is the better part of valour. He is a creative but traditional scholar most at home in his beloved turn-of-the-century Vienna. This politically astute author must work in a "diverse", enthusiastically "anti-racist" environment not friendly to the "dead white males" who constitute his life's work. His book is a valuable warning to the Jews, an expedient curtsey to the politically correct.
Henry Lackner, born in Vienna, bred in Philadelphia, is a Halifax business journalist and a student of the philosophy of science.