Coulter on Kagan

Ann Coulter writes about the intellectually self-enclosed New York leftist Jewish milieu that produced Elena Kagan, an environment in which the followers and enforcers of absolute ideological conformity imagine themselves to be free thinkers of forbidden thoughts and bold questioners of repressive authority.

Note: Coulter doesn’t mention the Jewish side of Kagan’s leftism, but it is inseparable from the phenomenon she’s discussing.

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Alexis Zarkov writes:

Ann Coulter’s essay better describes Berkeley, California than New York City. Like Kagan, I was born and raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and I’m all too familiar with the left-liberal Jewish milieu one finds there. Many of the Jews who migrated to NYC in the 1920s were Russian Mensheviks (Russian Social Democratic Labor Party) who had split off from the more radical Bolsheviks. They brought their Russian and Polish socialism with them and passed it on to their children. In her Princeton undergraduate thesis, Kagan laments the internal strife that rendered American socialism ineffective. She leaves us with little doubt about the intellectual atmosphere in which she came of age. Nevertheless I believe her aunt’s story that nothing was sacrosanct at the Kagan dinner table. Jews love to argue, and they will play the devil’s advocate in conversation. Judaism (at least the Judaism I know) encourages skepticism and eschews dogma. To be sure you are expected to come back into the fold after your foray to “the dark side.” Of course many never make it back, and that’s why you see so many hard core Jewish conservatives. Once you taste the delicious fruit of unconfined thought, you can never go back.

None of this applies to Berkeley where I have also spent considerable time. No place in the U.S. can match this dreary, conformist, intolerant, suffocating social milieu. Think the wrong thoughts, and say the wrongs words and you will find yourself ostracized. People often speak in a halting manner as they must always watch what they say. One has to experience this to believe it.

Coulter is 3,000 miles off the mark.

June 29

Rick Darby writes:

I was raised in New York City and spent seven years in Berkeley, and must partially take issue with Alexis Zarkov.

He is right about Berkeley (I lived there in the ’60s, and then it was exactly as he describes, and I expect equally so now). And only because it is relevant to this subject, I will mention that my mother is Russian Jewish, her father was a Menshevik, and I was surrounded in my youth not only by Jewish relatives but also by Jewish schoolmates and teachers.

Yes, many Jews like to argue as a kind of sport—the more intellectual of them debate ideas; the rest, whether Jones Beach is better than Atlantic City and that kind of thing. I heard plenty of raised voices in “discussion” when I was growing up among Jewish relatives and neighbors. Insofar as the subject was politics, however, I almost never heard anyone suggest a position that could be described as conservative. I did have a Jewish friend who was pro-Goldwater, maybe because the thought Goldwater was Jewish. To this day my Jewish relatives think I’m mad.

“You see so many hard core Jewish conservatives”? Yes, there’s probably one on every block in Manhattan up to 95th Street. Or (I admit this is possible) they keep their protective coloration unless they know they are in company where they’re safe. But I can’t help thinking that “hard core” conservatives make up at most 5 percent of Jews with serious political interests.

I admire many things about Jewish culture: the concern with justice and morality, the high value placed on literary and scholarly interests, a deep feeling for music and art. American Jews’ tragic flaw, in my view, is a near-complete blind spot about toxic left-wing politics. They continue to act as though they are a persecuted minority, a pogrom about to fall on them any minute, and that their best defense is to turn the country into an ethnic patchwork of “majority minorities.” So much intelligence, so little political wisdom.

James N. writes:

Most Jewish New Yorkers that I have known REALLY BELIEVE that they are open-minded, and that they fearlessly argue, and listen to, all points of view.

This is, of course, a charade in some cases, and a self-flattering delusion in most others.

The point of it is to cause their white Christian neighbors or interlocutors to surrender THEIR beliefs, traditions, or attitudes. The NY Jews that I have known are the most close-minded people in the world—and most of the ones I have known would have been right at home at Elena Kagan’s family dinner table.

Tim W. writes:

Hearing liberals from ideologically repressive communities brag about how open minded they are would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic. It reminds me of those Hollywood types who boast about pushing the envelope and shattering taboos, but they always do so in the same direction.

“Let’s see, they just released five films mocking Christianity, so I’ll make one that mocks it even more, proving that I’m willing to challenge the status quo and speak truth to power. What’s that? Make a film mocking Islam? Do you think I’m crazy? It would be torn to pieces by the New York Times, and I’d be uninvited to all the right cocktail parties, and maybe even physically endangered. No, I’ll make a film that mocks Christianity really, really harshly, and then boast about my courage when Christians write letters to the editor objecting to my film, and to my awards, and to my invitation to the White House. Oh, it’s so liberating to be an open minded non-conformist!”

Of course, the problem with non-conformists nowadays is that they all non-conform the same way.

Alexis Zarkov writes:

I suspect I’m older than Rick Darby, and that might at least somewhat account for our different experiences with Jewish liberalism. While the overwhelming number of my colleagues, teachers, classmates, friends, and friends’ parents were liberal, I did encounter a non-trivial number of Republican and conservative Jews. I also suspect Mr. Darby mainly knew Reform or secular, and not Orthodox Jews. On the whole, the Orthodox are not liberal at all. Neither are the Jews who lived in Communist countries and emigrated to the U.S. after the 1950s. There are lots of conservative Jews out there, just look for them.

What I do find alarming is the attitude of today’s younger (non-Orthodox) Jews, generally those under 30. They don’t identify with Israel the way liberal Jews used to. In some cases, they are even hostile to Israel, if not actually pro Palestinian. However they don’t seem to reproduce much, and they will die out. The future belongs to the Orthodox with their large families.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 28, 2010 07:13 PM | Send

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