Do I have a double standard on Jews and blacks?

Accusing me of a double standard, a reader says that while I energetically protest the anti-Semitism that runs rife in the American Renaissance community, I give a pass to bigoted language about blacks in the same venue and indulge in it myself. He writes:

Greetings, Mr. Auster.

I’ve contributed to American Renaissance’s online forum for the past eight months or so, under this moniker, most frequently to challenge the ideology of racialism. I am new to your essays, but can see instantly that you’re a serious thinker on troublesome topics. As such, please allow me to engage you on this one.

I, too, have been observing Jared Taylor’s intellectual work for more than a decade, and I’ve always been intrigued by his apparent desire to make white nationalism safe for Jews. All the more intrigued given that I met Mr. Taylor in the mid-’90s at a Holocaust revisionists’ conference in Orange Country, Calif. (Not that I’m part of that crowd, nor is Mr. Taylor, I suppose; I was there out of curiosity, especially concerning a young man named David Cole, who at that time was sort of the “pet Jew” of Holocaust deniers.)

I corresponded briefly with Jared Taylor after that, and even attended the AR conference in 2000. (Which is where I purchased, by the way, what you fairly describe as Kevin MacDonald’s “anti-Semitic critique of the Jews”… all three volumes.) I have been waiting for Jared Taylor’s “soul struggle” concerning the Jews-welcoming Jewish speakers (Robert Weissberg is the one I saw) even as he offers anti-Semitic texts for sale-to erupt into an open sore on the AR website, which it now has.

But this isn’t about Jared Taylor. This is about you.

For while you are acutely sensitive to anti-Semitism, parsing people’s language and using that as the key yardstick of their moral legitimacy, you don’t apply the same standard regarding anti-black racism. Is this a hypocrisy?

You curse the “virulent anti-Semites,” the “hate-filled anti-Semites,” the “rabid anti-Semites,” the “extreme anti-Semites” drawn to Jared Taylor’s white nationalist orbit. You condemn Mr. Taylor’s “non-judgemental, relativistic approach to anti-Semitism.” You say it’s not enough for AR to censor overt anti-Semitic commentary from its online forum, as it has done in the past; the mere presence of anyone harboring such thoughts is too odious to bear, and is a de facto invalidation of AR’s moral legitimacy.

Well, Mr. Auster, as I shouldn’t have to tell you, the American Renaissance forum is rife with references to black Americans and Africans as “animals,” “depraved black savages,” “black beasts,” “subhumans,” “degenerates,” “black parasites,” “the sorriest bunch of people on this planet.” But, what… if only they purge the Jew-haters, then Mr. Taylor and his group are a righteous movement that you’d whole-heartedly support?

If it’s morally wrong to despise Jews as Jews, why isn’t it morally wrong to despise blacks as blacks? Perhaps you’d argue that it’s a matter of inaccuracy; that the white racialists are WRONG about Jews, but they’re RIGHT about blacks? Well then, why don’t you encourage an open debate on the question? Let the white nationalists hash out these matters of Jewish power, collective Jewish motives, etc., as freely as you wish to hash out the question of “inherent” black pathologies?

Furthermore, why don’t you encourage the same sort of “blunt language” regarding Jews that you congratulate Michael Levin for when he talks about black intelligence?

After all, you yourself have described blacks as “the savages” on this blog (January 22, 2006), and exhibited a “non-judgemental approach” when one contributor to your site described Africans as “wild beasts.” Perhaps I’m entitled to prescribe for you a dose of the medicine you administered to Jared Taylor: Unless you unambigiously repudiate virulent, rabid, extreme anti-black hatred, Mr. Auster, you are morally unqualified to be taken seriously in a public discussion of the fate of Western civilization.


Undercover Black Man

LA replies:

I don’t know what you mean by calling yourself “Undercover Black Man,” but your question seems sincere so I will answer it.

First of all, I’m barely familiar with the AR online forum. Prior to the past week I’ve looked at it only rarely. I had not seen the kind of language you’re talking about.

Second, everything depends on context. There is certainly savage behavior in the black community, much of it documented in AR over the years, and if someone was referring to that, I might not have objected.

Third, back when I was associated with Jared Taylor and AR, I objected very strongly and repeatedly to prejudicial and demeaning language about blacks. In October and November 1994 I wrote two long letters to Mr. Taylor, adding up to 4,700 words, in which I pointed out that his materialist reductive way of speaking about race sometimes made it sound as though blacks were not human beings, and that he sometimes wrote as if denying that anything bad had ever been done to blacks. I said he needed to avoid this way of speaking about blacks, and that, whatever he thought of blacks, he should not write in such a way as to deny their humanity. I also said that he must absolutely avoid any association with Holocaust denial. I took the time to write those letters because, as I said to him, I felt the viability of the movement of which we were a part depended on it. Responding to me in his friendly and polite way, he seemed to acknowledge my concerns.

Then in April 1995 AR published an article by Michael Levin on blacks that embodied the very things I had warned Mr. Taylor against. I wrote a public letter to AR about this, criticizing the article and AR in very strong terms. (In fact, my letter was so harshly worded that in a subsequent exchange with Michael Levin in AR I apologized for the harshness, while standing by the substance of what I had said.)

Here is my letter to the editor in the May ‘95 issue, responding to Levin’s article in the April ‘95 issue.

As for comparisons between my statements about Jews and my statements about blacks, I think my standard is the same in both cases. What is permissible and necessary is rational criticism; what is not permissible is bigotry, meaning, among other things: the readiness to believe and repeat any negative statement or generalization about a group, regardless of reason and evidence; the unwillingness to say anything positive about members of a group or acknowledge them as fellow human beings; the invocation of contempt and hatred against an entire group; the consigning of an entire group to a non-human status.

Jeff in England writes:

Just read your reader’s attack on you as being hypocritical and racist. I’ve had some of those accusations towards me, especially from my old left counterculture buddies:

1) Closer to your specific scenario, I was also recently attacked by a couple of old counterculture buddies for condemning blacks and Muslims all the time while not condemning whites and Jews. I replied it was perfectly logical and not unfair at all. If Muslims and blacks didn’t behave barbarically I would have no need to condemn them as such. I always try to do so in a respectful way and I deplore haphazard nasty insults to cultures or individuals. But if millions of Muslims are baying for Rushdie’s blood or for the cartoonists’ blood, I am going to call a spade a spade: they (the Muslims) are acting like savages. Ditto if a significant number of members of a community continually commit violent crimes of the most sordid nature with great frequency as many black communities do, I am going to call the black community a savage one. . I recognise that many individuals with those accused communities are decent people. They may even suffer from the behaviour of others in their community. If Jews or whites or Americans or the English behave savagely, I will also describe them as such. I certainly described the Irish as savages when they were slaughtering each other in Ireland; ditto the whites of the Balkans. For me, the white clubbers of baby seals in Canada are evil savages for sure. If the majority of Canadian whites were into clubbing baby seals, I would call the Canadian white culture a savage one. But as far as I understand it the Canadian culture is mostly against the clubbing. If I am shown different, I will judge accordingly. By their works you shall know them (is that right?) and by their works you shall describe them.

2) Some communities or cultures may be more genetically predisposed to act “savagely.” This is a concept many white liberals don’t want to discuss let alone agree with. Yet many white feminists were happy to call all men genetically programmed savages. Certainly the huge majority of violence against women was by men so I agreed with them on one level, though it was debatable how “genetic” was the problem with men. The key point is that few objected to that sort of name-calling.

3) On a more extreme level, the name-calling targeted at the Nazis by non-Nazis was widely accepted, rightfully so. Yet if Communists were called names for their equally barbaric behaviour many white liberals became incensed. So there was hypocrisy at work by white liberals. For yesterday’s Nazis, read today’s Americans, for yesterday’s Communists read today’s Muslims. Americans can be called every name under the sun without much condemnation. While the slightest nasty descriptions of Muslims are usually widely condemned as Islamophobic. Again the hypocrisy of the white liberals. And just to retort to VFR’s Under Cover Black Man, does it annoy him that black regularly call themselves niggers in rap music lyrics. Can you image the furor if Lawrence Auster used that term? Or many of the terms which some black people use in describing whites or Jews?

UBM then replied with an extremely long e-mail, the first part of which is:

Hello, Mr. Auster.

I appreciate your response. I’ve been debating with myself whether to respond in detail, thus drawing you into a deeper discussion which you might have neither the time nor interest to indulge. But here goes:

Your 1995 letter to AR regarding Michael Levin does demonstrate that you make moral demands of white nationalists apart from their rejecting anti-Semitism. Good to know.

But I must point out that, after having concluded that Levin trafficked in “insubstantial,” “egregious” and “offensive” theories about blacks as a race, you did not consign Michael Levin to the leper colony of morally unfit intellectuals, as you have Kevin MacDonald for his theories about Jews as a class, or as you would Jared Taylor for his (let us say) “laissez-faire” stand on Jew-hatred.

In fact, on January 10, 2003, you presented on your blog a lengthy “exploratory” essay on blacks and intelligence. In it, you hail Michael Levin as a “pioneer” in the public discussion of this “forbidden” topic; you endorse Levin’s “blunt language” concerning the inherent mental inferiority of blacks; you conclude that “there are intrinsic [sic] racial differences in civilizational abilities,” which is Levin’s position in a nutshell.

Further confusing the issue, your essay is dated February 1995, which is PRIOR to your May ‘95 letter to American Renaissance. If, as your AR letter indicates, you considered Michael Levin’s ideas on the “moral” (as opposed to cognitive) inferiority of blacks to be egregious and offensive—and if you cite that letter now to establish your anti-racist bona fides—why did you, in 2003, post such a glowing assessment of Michael Levin as a public intellectual on your website? And why does that glowing assessment remain there? (Perhaps you underestimated my cognitive capacity to perform a Google search?)

I ask again: Is this a hypocrisy?

I replied:

You fundamentally mis-state the issue. You’re saying that, because I criticized Levin’s article, and because I have said that there are racial differences in civilizational ability, therefore I’m “hypocritical.” But I was not criticizing Levin for saying there are racial differences in civilizational ability; obviously I believe that there are such differences. I was criticizing him for engaging in broad statements about a black moral inferiority with no argument and no evidence. He basically came out of the blue and said, blacks are morally inferior to whites. It was a dreadful article. My whole point is that in discussing these sensitive topics, we need to argue as carefully as the nature of the subject matter allows.

May I also say that it does not assist in intellectual clarity to make the search for “hypocrisy” one’s main goal. The atrocious Michael Kinsley exemplifies this. Finding “hypocrisy” in someone doesn’t really tell us anything useful. I just means that the writer has noted the following:

A has condemned a statement about racial differences.

A has himself said there are racial differences.

Therefore, A is a hypocrite.

The problem with this type of specious reasoning is that it is not looking at why A condemned that statement; it just lumps all statements about racial differences together. Instead of trying to understand what A is really saying, instead of looking at the whole content of A’s first statement and A’s second statement, it just looks for an apparent contradiction between some element in the first statement, and some element in the second statement, then leaps on the contradiction and says, “Aha, hypocrisy.” There’s a reason the word sophomoric was coined, and this is it.

However, the deeper problem between us is that if you see no difference between the Levin article and my article on race and IQ, then you’re obviously going to reject what I just said. To me, they are very different.

UBM then wrote back. Notice his oh so polite and respectful tone, and then the accusations he makes of me:

Thank you once more, Mr. Auster, for taking the time to write back. Ours is a rare conversation between black and white in America (I trust you’ll agree), and I do value it greatly.

Rather than slicing any finer the distinction between Michael Levin’s evaluation of the moral defects of blacks as a class and your own, please address my more crucial point regarding your intellectual consistency. That is: Who does Lawrence Auster wish to banish to the leper colony?

The mere fact that you describe one of Michael Levin’s articles as “dreadful” doesn’t establish your fair-mindedness and straight dealing on race, not when you turn around and extol Levin as a “pioneer” in this public discussion. Levin’s offensive essay (“He basically came out of the blue and said, blacks are morally inferior to whites”) didn’t earn him a plane ticket to your leper colony, did it? It seems the only people you wish to banish are the anti-Semites.

Absent a justification for this on objective grounds, I’m left to conclude that your argument springs from ethnoreligious partisanship, from Jewish self-interest. Which is okay, if only you’d admit it.

Of course, to admit it would color your opinions about everything else, so I see why you’re avoiding it. But please, don’t suggest that I’ve spent hours formulating my thoughts for this correspondence simply to play a facile game of “Gotcha!” What could be more fundamental to “intellectual clarity” than the demand that one’s arguments be consistent, that they cohere logically?

Believe me, I didn’t have to break out the pincers and magnifying glass to find inconsistencies in your treatment of anti-Semitism and anti-black racism. In your 1995 letter to AR, which you cite so proudly, your problem with American Renaissance seems to be that it “damaged its prospects of ever reaching out beyond a small fringe” by publishing Levin’s essay. You’re protesting on grounds of political pragmatism. But in the latest dust-up over anti-Semitism, you invoke the language of objective morality; anti-Semitism is intrinsically evil, and AR is tainted by that evil until it banishes the anti-Semites. As double standards go, that’s a big, fat one.

My reply:

UBM has perfectly demonstrated the kinds of failures of logical thought I described above. Let me sum up UBM’s “argument.” I said that an article Mike Levin wrote in 1995 was “dreadful.” Therefore I should relegate Levin to the “leper” colony, i.e., I should treat him as I treat the anti-Semites at AR, regarding him as someone beyond the reach of reason and decency, someone to be shunned. But, far from doing that, I have written that Levin was a “pioneer” in advancing an understanding of race differences in intelligence. This contradiction confirms the charge of hypocrisy that UMB made of me at the start. Further, the nature and motivation of my hypocrisy can be readily explained. If I were rational and fair-minded, I would treat all types of bigots the same. But since I am more hostile to anti-Semites than I am to people who unfairly attack blacks, the only explanation for my contradiction is that my argument is motivated by Jewish self-interest.

How do I respond to someone who believes that if Levin wrote one bad article, therefore Levin could not have also written good and useful articles? How do I respond to someone who believes that if I’ve condemned extremist anti-Semites, then I must also condemn in exactly the same terms someone who has written one article making too hasty generalizations about blacks (someone who, moreover, has written a major, carefully reasoned and scientific work on blacks, Why Race Matters)? And how do I reason with someone who, on the basis of this single supposed contradiction, reaches the definitive conclusion as to my motives, namely that I only oppose the anti-Semites because I am of Jewish background?

Just like the anti-Semites whom he spends his time confronting at the AR website, UBM is able to speak in something that sounds like the language of reason, which enables him to get his foot in the door of a conversation. But then you realize you’re dealing with someone who, while he can go through the motions of rational thought, is actually incapable of it. UBM might potentially be capable of it, given enough instruction and practice, but I’m sure not going to spend my time trying to teach him.

Gintas writes:

The whole discussion about criticizing or not criticizing certain groups has reached nearly-comical levels: if you don’t criticize all groups equally, you’re a racist. It’s not even “stop criticizing this or that group,” it’s “you didn’t criticize that group!”

Undercover Black Man writes:

I apologize for having wasted your time, Mr. Auster. I feared I had gotten in over my head by attempting to critique your reasoning. Alas, as you’ve persuasively illustrated in your blog—and with such surgical precision!—I am incapable of rational thought, and therefore the merits of my critique are unworthy of a rigorous, good-faith response. You have put me in my place, sir. This is the last you’ll hear from me. I’ll be staying at the shallow end of the pool.

I also apologize for making assumptions as to your motives, “namely that I only oppose the anti-Semites because I am of Jewish background.” Such a mendacious leap of logic on my part! I must be on drugs or something!

[Note: I subsequently apologized to UBM for my overly harsh comment at the end of this exchange.]

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 22, 2006 03:24 PM | Send

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