This reply was originally submitted to but was rejected because of length considerations. The much shorter published version of my reply, along with Laksin's rejoinder is here:

Jacob Laksin’s critique of my work exhibits three basic strategies, more or less in order of presentation: scream that my writing is nothing more than anti-Semitism and bigotry, engage in a bit of guilt by association and character assassination, and finally come up with an argument or two, mainly by rehashing the arguments of other people hostile to my work — arguments that are not at all central to what I suppose is the main focus of  his ire — my book, The Culture of Critique.

1. Screaming anti-Semitism: As an academic, I should probably simply ignore the heated rhetoric and get on to the substantive issues. But the rhetoric is an essential aspect of Laksin’s piece as political propaganda. Particularly egregious are the charges that my writing is "unabashed anti-Semitism" and "stylized bigotry." As John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt noted in their recent article on the Israel Lobby, charges of anti-Semitism are to be expected for anyone who claims that the Israel lobby has significant influence over U.S. foreign policy or even that it exists. Their carefully argued and moderately-toned work has been subjected to a deluge of charges of anti-Semitism and shoddy scholarship.

Such charges are effective because they serve as a warning of the consequences to those who attempt to understand and call attention to Jewish power and influence. The message is clear: Making such arguments would be suicide for people who are economically vulnerable or who write without the protection of tenure. Indeed, Laksin is clearly upset about California State University’s “ignoring altogether the question of why it considers the manufacture of stylized bigotry an appropriate avocation for a tenured scholar.” 

FrontPageMagazine and neocons like Daniel Pipes are leading the charge to put pressure on academics, and it’s quite clear that the main motivation is to prevent criticism of Israel. It's no accident that perhaps the most vitriolic anti-Mearsheimer and Walt piece to date appeared on Abraham H. Miller's The New Protocols.   Laksin obviously wants to extend this to any discussion of Jewish power and influence. The attempt to rid the academy of criticisms of Israel is featured in both Mearsheimer and Walt's work on the Israel Lobby and in my article on neoconservatism as a Jewish intellectual and political movement.

Screaming anti-Semitism also has the effect of framing the reaction of potential readers. Because the charge of anti-Semitism is perhaps the most deadly that can be imagined in the contemporary world, potential readers understand that they must be extremely cautious in approaching such work and in how they discuss it with friends and colleagues. The tactics of writers like Laksin are usually effective because even if they create dark suspicions about the behavior of the organized Jewish community among a few and vague twinges of anxiety among many, these attitudes are kept underground. They occur in the privacy of one’s thoughts or in guarded conversations and coded emails. Because ultimately the soft totalitarianism of the contemporary intellectual and political consensus in the West depends on its moral legitimacy, the danger for the Laksins of the world is that we will ultimately reach the point where the emperor has no clothes. Of course, this is what happened in the Soviet Union, where ultimately the constantly repeated messages of the media and officialdom were believed by no one.

2. Guilt by association and character assassination. Guilt by association is a tried and true technique that ultimately depends for its effectiveness on the same dynamics as charges of anti-Semitism. For example, David Duke has been repeatedly cited as supporting Mearsheimer and Walt. Alan Dershowitz’s 46-page rebuttal of Mearsheimer and Walt contains no less than 14 references to David Duke and 5 references comparing Mearsheimer and Walt’s article to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Charges of anti-Semitism abound. This occurs despite the fact that David Duke is never cited as a source on foreign policy issues or anything else in the mainstream media. However, since Duke is an activist on behalf of European-Americans who is regularly linked in the media with the Ku Klux Klan, Nazism, and “White supremacy,” the technique works to marginalize the work of Mearsheimer and Walt—even though Mearsheimer and Walt have performed the ritual denunciation of Duke.

In Laksin’s case, the main guilt by association occurs in his discussion of my testifying for David Irving: “Thus [MacDonald] maintains that Irving’s attraction to Holocaust denial can be seen in part as ‘a reaction to his demonization by Jewish activist organizations.’” My reasons for testifying for Irving are discussed in detail here. I was  fundamentally motivated by my view that the publication of Irving’s book on Goebbels was inappropriately rescinded because of the activity of Jewish activists, including Deborah Lipstadt. I do not mention Irving’s views on the Holocaust in the passage quoted by Laksin, only his political views. This is the passage: “David Irving is in many ways not an ideal person. There is no doubt in my mind that he has strongly held political views — although the extent to which this is a reaction to his demonization by Jewish activist organizations is at least open to conjecture.”

Laksin provides the following quote as if it is something I wrote: “Nazism, he explains, was only a “mirror image of Judaism, with its emphasis on creating a master race.” The quote is actually a slightly reworded passage from Judith Shulevitz’s critique of my work, where she wrote, “Even the most extreme forms of anti-Semitism, such as Nazism, can be seen not as aberrations but as ‘a mirror image’ of Judaism, with its emphasis on creating a master race.” The fact is that I did not state that Judaism had an emphasis on creating a master race, but by moving the quotation marks, Laksin makes his readers think I did. This was Shulevitz’s attribution, and I reject it as an oversimplification of my views. My comment to Laksin is the same as the one I made to Shulevitz in January, 2000: I describe several ways in which Nazism was a mirror image of Judaism, including a powerful concern with socializing group members into accepting group goals and with the importance of within-group cooperation in attaining these goals. An important part of my view is that anti-Semites often envied Jews’ ethnic cohesiveness. For example, I cite historian Steven A. Aschheim, who noted “the perception that Jews maintained their cohesiveness and sense of identity under all conceivable circumstances was a source of both fear and envy. Indeed, for many antisemites this racial perseverance and historical continuity provided a kind of mirror-image model worthy of emulation.”[1]

Given that Laksin seems to feel free to play fast and loose with quotations, one can only marvel at the following. Laksin writes, “As for Hitler, the worst MacDonald can bring himself to say is that the Führer’s murderous hatred of Jews, ‘although clearly having a basis in reality, may well have been exaggerated.’ Bearing in mind MacDonald’s relentless depiction of Jews agents of cultural subversion, one can’t help but marvel at his restraint.” Once again, Laksin fails to provide the context for the quote. This is the entire quote, from Footnote 25 of Chapter 5 of A People That Shall Dwell Alone: "There is no question that Hitler's perception that Jews and 'Aryans'  were locked in an intense competition was central to his world view (Bracher 1970; Gordon 1984; see discussion in SAID [ch. 3]). These perceptions of economic competition and Jewish economic domination, although clearly having a basis in reality, may well have been exaggerated—a not uncommon aspect of anti‑Semitism and one that is highly compatible with an evolutionary perspective (see SAID, ch. 1)." Obviously, I was not talking about  Hitler's murderous hatred for  Jews but his perceptions of economic competition and domination. I have a more extended discussion of Hitler’s views on Jews in Chapter 5 of Separation and Its Discontents.  The exaggeration of negative views of outgroups combined with some real elements is a well-known consequence of psychological mechanisms of social identity discussed in Chapter 1 of Separation and Its Discontents, but there is no way that I am rationalizing or condoning genocidal ideology.

It is worth pointing out that Laksin sometimes fails to note the surrounding context. For example, in his comments on my treatment of Charles Lindbergh, Laksin leaves out from my summary that Lindbergh also included the Roosevelt administration as a major force leading the U.S. into war. My effort was to show that Lindbergh was correct in his claim that Jews were a force. I never claimed that Jews were the only force or that they were all powerful.

Having prepared the way with charges of anti-Semitism and guilt by association, Laksin can safely assume that he can bring charges of scholarly malfeasance without bothering with small details like marshalling evidence. Laksin refers to “the distinctly conspiratorial manner that pervades [MacDonald’s] work,” referring in particular to my article on Jewish involvement in neoconservatism and in pushing for the Iraq war. The accusation of wild-eyed conspiracy mongering doesn’t even have surface credibility, especially since the well-publicized work of  Mearsheimer and Walt , although of course their article has often been compared to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In my article (which is also part of a monograph on Jewish influence), I go to special pains to deal with the roles and motives of non-Jews in neoconservatism and I pay special attention to the Jewish commitments of key neocons involved in the push for the Iraq war, such as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith. The role of non-Jews in Jewish intellectual and political movements is also a theme of The Culture of Critique and is discussed in Chapter 6 of Separation and Its Discontents as a general aspect of post-enlightenment Judaism’s attempts to manage anti-Semitism. Laksin is particularly irritated with my comment that it “makes excellent psychological sense to have the spokespeople for any movement resemble the people they are trying to convince.” This is merely the psychological basis of a very widespread phenomenon that goes well beyond Jewish issues to areas like advertising and public relations generally. The need for the involvement of non-Jews is especially acute for neoconservatism as a political movement: Because neoconservative Jews constitute a tiny percentage of the electorate, they need to make alliances with non-Jews whose perceived interests dovetail with theirs. Non-Jews have a variety of reasons for being associated with Jewish interests, including career advancement, close personal relationships or admiration for individual Jews, and deeply held personal convictions.

Laksin also claims that I have “invented evidence out of whole cloth” by claiming that Jews are “exceptionally aggressive” despite acknowledging a “dearth of scientific studies on this aspect of Jewish personality.” I do indeed claim that there is a pattern whereby Jews have behaved aggressively towards the peoples they have lived among. I acknowledge the thinness of controlled psychological evidence, but that does not mean there is no evidence at all. And it certainly doesn’t imply that I invented evidence. I have marshaled a reasonably convincing (I think) array of examples, including Jewish self-perceptions and the perceptions of their critics in different times and places. To provide a comparison, I also cite evidence that Overseas Chinese have in general been far less aggressive towards the people they have lived among. (Added evidence comes from this recent New York Times article on the behavior of Jews, Muslims, and Hindus who are employees of Wal-Mart in Bentonville, Arkansas. Only the Jews agitated for religious neutrality in the county.)

It is important to understand that the argument here is not really about the psychological traits of individual Jews that might be revealed by psychological studies, but rather how the Jewish community as a whole has acted. A theme of Jewish life is that there are major differences between Jewish activist organizations and the rest of the Jewish population, with the former far more committed, more intense, and more aggressive than the latter. This is a theme of my article “Zionism and the Internal Dynamics of Judaism” and is also a prominent theme in my analysis of neoconservatism as a Jewish intellectual and political movement. The point is that there is a pattern in which the Jewish community tends to be led by its most aggressive, radical elements.

It's also interesting that Jewish aggressiveness has become a point of contention between Mearsheimer and Walt and their critics, including Dershowitz. Mearsheimer and Walt emphasize the aggressive nature of Israel since its beginnings (e.g., the writing and comments of David Ben Gurion and the circumstances of  the creation of Israel), the aggressive nature of Israel's spying against the United States, and the aggressive response of the Lobby to "take back the campuses" by preventing criticism of Israel in the academic world.

3. Some arguments, finally. Given the charges of anti-Semitism, guilt by association, and charges of outright fraud, the reader is now well prepared to find that all of my arguments have been disproved by the most impeccable academic sources and that I am prone to misrepresenting scholarly sources. Before turning to this, it is worth noting that he does not argue against what might be regarded as the fundamental thesis of The Culture of Critique, that Jews were unique as an American immigrant group in their hostility toward American Christian culture and in their energetic, aggressive efforts to change that culture. This is the bottom line, and I completely stand behind this claim. Certainly Laksin does nothing in his article to refute this claim.

There are three substantive arguments, one by Laksin himself and two citations of other bodies of criticism. Laksin’s effort revolves around my claim that strongly identified Jews were the backbone of the battle against the concept of race in Chapter 2 of The Culture of Critique. He seems to think that the proposal that Jewish intellectuals with a strong ethnic identification led the battle against the biological concept of race is a contradiction that I paper over by supposing that these intellectuals were deceiving themselves about their own ethnic commitments.

I wrote about Jewish self-deception in Chapter 8 of Separation and Its Discontents, and I give some evidence for self-deception among Jewish leftists regarding their ethnic commitments in Chapter 3 of Culture of Critique.  Nevertheless, I do not deal with issues of self-deception among the Boasians, although, I must say, it sounds like a great topic. Another possibility, as always, is that these intellectuals were engaged in deception rather than self-deception. Notice that my argument does not depend on providing evidence on deception versus self-deception. It only requires that I find evidence that these intellectuals were strongly identified Jews who saw their work as advancing Jewish interests. Laksin does not dispute the evidence I provide that, for example, Franz Boas had a strong Jewish identity and saw his work as opposing anti-Semitism and the idea of European culture as a pinnacle of cultural evolution.

While self-deception is not necessary to my argument, it’s worth noting that there's nothing at all mysterious or unscientific about self-deception. Indeed it has been of major theoretical interest among evolutionary psychologists beginning with Robert Trivers. Self-deception is subject to the same sorts of proof as much else in the behavioral sciences. Ironically given that Laksin's piece appeared on, a probable example of self-deception among radical Jews mentioned in The Culture of Critique comes from David Horowitz's memoir of his radical parents in his 1997 book, Radical Son. Horowtiz describes the world of his parents who had joined a “shul” run by the Communist Party–USA in which Jewish holidays were given political interpretations. Psychologically these people might as well have been in an eighteenth-century Jewish ghetto in Poland.

What my parents had done in joining the Communist Party and moving to Sunnyside was to return to the ghetto. There was the same shared private language, the same hermetically sealed universe, the same dual posturing revealing one face to the outer world and another to the tribe. More importantly, there was the same conviction of being marked for persecution and specially ordained, the sense of moral superiority toward the stronger and more numerous goyim outside. And there was the same fear of expulsion for heretical thoughts, which was the fear that riveted the chosen to the faith.

If these people thought that they had ceased being Jews when the joined the CPUSA, self-deception certainly seems to be just about the only plausible explanation for it. As historian Paul Lyons notes, during the period 1936–1956 “most Jewish Communists wear their Jewishness very casually but experience it deeply. It is not a religious or even an institutional Jewishness for most; nevertheless, it is rooted in a subculture of identity, style, language, and social network. . . . In fact, this second-generation Jewishness was antiethnic and yet the height of ethnicity. The emperor believed that he was clothed in transethnic, American garb, but Gentiles saw the nuances and details of his naked ethnicity.”[2]


Laksin’s second argument is to cite the critiques of my work by  historian Jaff Schatz and musicologist David Lieberman. I deny any misquoting or misinterpretation and have replied at length to them on my website. Laksin focuses on Lieberman’s complaints about my claim that Jews had an exaggerated role in the security service. My argument, citing Schatz, was that Jewish communists who identified as Jews formed the core of the security service, at least until the mid-1950s, and that efforts were made to minimize the appearance of Jewish involvement in the government generally by, for example, changing their names to Polish-sounding names. The exaggerated role of Jews in the Polish security service from 1944–1956 is also discussed in the November 2005 issue of its Bulletin of the Polish Institute of National Remembrance. A translation of some of this material is available on my website.


Laksin also cites historian Yuri Slezkine as having “much to disagree with” in my review of his book but provides no specifics. I also have a lot of disagreements with Slezkine, although his general point that Jews were an elite in the USSR is quite correct and a welcome addition to the literature. In light of the disagreement about the involvement of Jews in the security forces in Communist Poland, it's interesting that Slezkine emphasizes the special role of Jews in the security service in the USSR. For example, Slezkine notes that “even in the Cheka, Bolsheviks of Jewish origin combined ideological commitment with literacy in ways that set them apart and propelled them upward” (p. 177). And he writes that Leonard Schapiro is “probably justified” in his comment that “anyone who had the misfortune to fall into the hands of the Cheka stood a very good chance of finding himself confronted with and possibly shot by a Jewish investigator” (p. 177). Are those misquotes?


Laksin also mentions the critiques of my views by evolutionary psychologists John Tooby and Steven Pinker. I have previously replied to Tooby and Pinker. Laksin highlights the alternate hypotheses issue — Pinker’s argument that I fail to consider alternate hypotheses or provide a control group. I have compared a number of group strategies in the Diaspora Peoples preface to the paperback edition of A People That Shall Dwell Alone. (This material was published after Pinker’s complaint.) For example, I contrast the relatively aggressive behavior of Jews in America with the relatively passive behavior of the Overseas Chinese. Such differences are doubtless a complex result of preexisting psychological traits interacting with specific environmental contexts.


My work differs from standard dogma in much of evolutionary psychology because I take into account well-documented mean group differences in intelligence (Ashkenazi Jews are a high-IQ group) and other psychological mechanisms (Jews are high in group cohesiveness), and I discuss how these traits influence economic performance and interact with unique events in history. The importance of the environmental context is illustrated by the differing reactions to Jews by, for example, European and Muslim societies. This issue is discussed in Separation and Its Discontents.

At a deeper level, the concept of a control group does not apply to group evolutionary strategies because they are open-ended and therefore able to creatively meet environmental demands, such as unique historical contexts. Fundamentally, critics like Pinker fail to appreciate the power and capabilities of human intelligence in understanding how humans are able to form cohesive groups capable of monitoring group members and punishing cheaters and defectors—both very important processes in Jewish history. Evolutionary psychologists have erected the image of a mythical human brain composed more or less exclusively of modules designed to solve specific problems. I have written extensively to show that this view is deeply mistaken.


What’s needed is to bring the entire discussion of Jewish influence out of the closet into the light of day. The shock waves of the Mearsheimer and Walt piece are still reverberating, but there is a realization, at least by some, that open discussion is long overdue. And if this ever does come about, it would be edifying for all concerned if it could be accomplished without all the invective and guilt by association.


[1] Aschheim, S. E.. (1985). “The Jew within”: The myth of “Judaization” in Germany. In The Jewish Response to German Culture: From the Enlightenment to the Second World War, ed. J. Reinharz


 & W. Schatzberg. Hanover and London: University Press of New England for Clark University, p. 239.


[2] Lyons, P. (1982). Philadelphia Communists, 1936–1956. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, p. 73.