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To: H-NET History of Antisemitism List <H-ANTISEMITISM@H-NET.MSU.EDU> Kevin MacDonald seems to believe that the fact that his books on Judaism have been published is evidence of their legitimacy as scholarship. I think it worth reminding list members that Seymour Itzkoff, the editor responsible for the publication of MacDonald's Judaism trilogy, is on record as having expressed serious reservations about the second and third volumes in the set. In January 2000 Itzkoff told Judith Shulevitz, then a columnist for the online magazine *Slate,* "I was instrumental in having him rewrite a number of passages, because I said to the people at Greenwood [Publishing Group] that these would destroy his book--they were so beyond the pale in terms of factuality. But I couldn't censor or ask that he rewrite everything." Shulevitz continues, "Iztkoff didn't think nearly as well of MacDonald's work in Volumes 2 and 3 [as he did of MacDonald's first volume, *A People that Shall Dwell Alone*] ..., but by then Itzkoff felt that MacDonald had 'the right to publish it.'" [http://slate.msn.com/code/Culturebox/Culturebox.asp?Show=1/25/2000&idMessage=4469] In other words, Itzkoff approved publication of *Separation and Its Discontents* and *The Culture of Critique* not because of their merits as serious scholarship, but on principle and in spite of their lack of such merit. We cannot know -- unless one of them is willing to tell us -- how much MacDonald had to rewrite in order to overcome Itzkoff's objections. The best we can do is examine the material that did make it to print and estimate on that basis just how low the bar was set. I have already demonstrated that MacDonald's repeated assertion in *The Culture of Critique* that "the great majority" of Jews in post-war Poland supported the communist government is not only unsupported in his principal source, it is explicitly contradicted in that source. There is, in short, little that disintguishes this assertion from any run-of-the-mill antisemitic slur. [http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/~antis/papers/dl/macdonald_schatz_03.html] Another example, one that goes directly to the issue of the scholar's responsibility to evaluate his sources, is MacDonald's discussion of post-war Hungary in *The Culture of Critique.* MacDonald devotes rather less space to Hungary than to Poland, a decision that can be partially explained by his assertion that "[t]he case of Hungary is entirely analogous to Poland both in the origins of the triumph of communist Jews and in their eventual defeat by an anti-Semitic movement" [MacDonald, *The Culture of Critique,* p. 99]; having put his various distortions about Poland in place, MacDonald now invites the reader to apply them on even less evidence to Hungary. An examination of the two sources MacDonald cites in his discussion of Hungary is illuminating. One is a volume by Stanley Rothman and S. Robert Lichter, *Roots of Radicalism: Jews, Christians and the New Left.* Rothman and Lichter's entire discussion of the history of Jewish radicalism in Hungary runs to less than three pages. The other volume MacDonald enlists in his support is David Irving's *Uprising!* Published in 1981 to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of Hungary's failed anti-Communist revolution in 1956, Irving's book takes the position that the attempted revolt should be properly understood not as a pro-democratic revolt but as an antisemitic outbreak, a thesis tailor-fitted to MacDonald's needs. Irving's volume was criticized in contemporary reviews both for its blatant antisemitism and for its suspiciously high compatibility with the official account of the revolt then being propogated by the communist government in power. [Mink, "David Irving and the 1956 Revolution," p. 120.] In the twenty years since its publication *Uprising!* has been largely ignored by serious historians. A search of the Social Sciences Citation Index in the mid-1990's would have shown MacDonald that it was cited just three times. One of these citations appeared in the popular magazine Smithsonian, and hardly represents serious scholarship; another is harshly and dismissively critical. [Kovács, "La question juive dans la Hongrie contemporaine," p. 51, p. 52 n39.] It should also be said that by the 1990's, as Richard Evans has shown, Irving's reliability as an historian, particularly in areas where Jews are concerned, had already been called into serious question. MacDonald, who is not himself an historian, had that much more reason to consult prevailing professional opinion, as reflected both in reviews of and citations to Irving, before allowing himself to rely on Irving as a source for his own scholarship. That he cites Irving anyway suggests either that he did not perform this basic critical evaluation or that he did not much care about the results; neither possibility reflects well on his scholarship. Having thus prepared himself with a depth of research that would have been unacceptable in a first draft from a mildly dim undergraduate, MacDonald gives himself license to indulge in assertions such as this: Not only were Jewish Communist Party functionaries and economic managers economically dominant, they also appear to have had fairly unrestricted access to gentile females working under them -- partly as a result of the poverty to which the vast majority of the population had descended, and partly because of specific government policies designed to undermine traditional sexual mores by, for example, paying women to have illegitimate children (see Irving 1981, 111). The domination of the Hungarian communist Jewish bureaucracy thus appears to have had overtones of sexual and reproductive domination of gentiles in which Jewish males were able to have disproportionate sexual access to gentile females. [MacDonald, *The Culture of Critique,* p. 99.] For comparison, I have extracted the full discussion -- three paragraphs -- of sexual morality in post-war Hungary as it appears in *Uprising!* Irving's own citations are reproduced verbatim in the brackets. Sexual morality became lax. While during the first years of the Communist rule standards had been puritan, these soon changed. Procuring an abortion had been punishable by life imprisonment, couples were arrested for kissing in public, hotels were raided to root out unmarried couples. As a twenty-three-year-old female factory worker scornfully apostrophized: "They preached water?but they drank wine." [28. Columbia University Oral History Project, 209, Flora Plotz, factory worker.] Most of the prominent funkies kept mistresses, and official policy shifted until immorality actually flourished. [29. CUOHP, car worker.] A car industry worker said: "About eighty or ninety per cent of the women in the factory were available." The birthrate slumped and had to be promoted by unusual means. [30. Radio Budapest, January 25th, 1958; CUOHP, 203, 223, 615, 625.] Childless couples were penalized with extra taxes, and girls were encouraged to enter into casual sexual relationships. In clinics throughout the country posters dropped a broad hint: "To give birth is a girl's glory and a wife's duty." [31. Lányak szülni dicsöség, asszonynak kötelesség.] Until about 1953 unmarried mothers were rewarded with two thousand florins for each bastard child born. Early divorces were frequent and facile: marriages could be dissolved by either party if for example there were held to be "irreconcilable ideological differences." Simultaneously, prostitution increased. A staggering proportion of Hungarian males questioned in confidence by American sociologists admitted losing their virginity to prostitutes. [32. CUOHP, hospital official.] "One night," said a hospital official of fifty-four, "I was sitting in an espresso bar on Saint Stephen's Boulevard. A good-looking girl sat down at my table, and after a few moments she told me that for fifty florins I could come up to her place." She turned out to be a country girl, drafted to the capital to work on the till in a state-run store for a monthly pay of only 720 florins. Prostitution flourished, although illegal; the brothels were closed down in 1950, and the girls were re-trained as taxi-drivers (and used as informers by the security police). "The result was that in Budapest nobody dared to take a taxi driven by a woman," said Dr. Paul Hoványi, a fifty-one-year-old civil servant, "because she wouldn't know how to drive and wouldn't know the streets either." [Irving, *Uprising!*, p. 111] Comparison of MacDonald's lurid assertions about Jewish males and their "unrestricted access" to gentile females with his "source data" as it appears above suggests some observations: 1. Apart from Irving's reference to "prominent funkies" (by which he means Jews, "funkies" being his term of abuse for communist party functionaries) keeping mistresses, there are no references to the ethnic identity of those who exploited the availability of woman factory-workers or who visited prostitutes (or, for that matter, to the ethnic identity of the woman factory workers or the prostititues themselves). Indeed, if Irving can be taken at his word about the "staggering proportion of Hungarian males" who "lost their virginity to prostitutes," the reference is almost certainly *not* to Hungarian Jewish males who, in the years after the Second World War, hardly amounted to a "staggering proportion" of the Hungarian or any other European population. Nor is there any reason to conclude that the availability of the woman factory workers described by the car worker was "disproportionately" restricted to any particular group. 2. Even had he not bothered to check Irving's primary sources for himself, it ought to have been clear to MacDonald from the context that the sources, a collection of individual interviews with refugees from the October Revolution, can hardly be taken as reliable documentation for Irving's own sweeping cultural generalizations, much less for the even more tenuous generalizations MacDonald himself extracts from Irving. For instance, Irving documents the assertion that "most of the prominent funkies kept mistresses" with the interview with the unnamed "car worker." Even if the worker made such an assertion himself (and there is no evidence in Irving's text that he did), a responsible social scientist would have to ask, how could the worker have known this? He could have had direct knowledge only of what was going on in his immediate environment; information about what was going on in the rest of Hungary would have come to him, if at all, as rumor. A serious historian does not build his own assertions about widespread social phenomena upon such information, and neither, I imagine, would a responsible social scientist. It would, of course, have been perfectly legitimate to report the car worker's comments as evidence of contemporary *perceptions* of the cultural environment, but neither Irving nor MacDonald seems inclined to make the crucial distinction between *documented* behavior and *perceived* behavior -- particularly not when an opportunity to attribute unappetizing perceived behavior to Jews is in the offing. In fact, all of Irving's assertions about social phenomena in this passage operate on this model: Irving himself posits the phenomenon, then quotes an interview that is at best tangential to the point, giving no real data (apart from the unnamed car worker's off-hand remark about the availability of "eighty or ninety per cent" of the women in his own factory), but instead relaying a refugee's personal anecdote. In some cases, such as the assertion that unmarried mothers were "rewarded for each bastard child born," the documentation supporting the point is entirely unclear. (And yet this last is a key selling point for MacDonald, who construes it to mean that gentile women were paid to allow themselves to become impregnated by Jewish men.) 3. In sum, the passage offers not a shred of evidence that, as MacDonald would have it, "Jewish males enjoyed disproportionate sexual access to gentile females." It offers evidence only that not even David Irving is exempted from Kevin MacDonald's capricious misuse of his sources, and, in conjunction with that, that whatever the aspirations that motivate MacDonald's writings about Jews, the production of sound research that deserves to win acceptance within the scholarly community is not among them. * * * * * Sources Irving, David. *Uprising!*. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1981. Kovács, András. "La question juive dans la Hongrie contemporaine." *Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales* 56 (1985): 45-57. MacDonald, Kevin. *The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements.* Westport, Conn.: Praeger: 1998. Mink, András. "David Irving and the 1956 Revolution." *Hungarian Quarterly* 14 (Winter, 2000): 117-128. Rothman, Stanley and S. Robert Lichter. *Roots of Radicalism: Jews, Christians, and the New Left.* New York: Oxford University Press, 1982. -- _____________________________________ David I. Lieberman Doctoral Student Department of Musicology Brandeis University Software Engineer Multimedia Group, ITG Cotting House 211 Harvard Business School Soldiers Field Boston, MA 02163 617.495.6389 firstname.lastname@example.org _____________________________________