Jewish Journal

The professor the anti-Semites love

Kevin MacDonald, Cal State Long Beach, and the downside of academic freedom

by Brad A. Greenberg

May 8, 2008 | 6:00 pm

Kevin MacDonald. Photo by David Sprague

Kevin MacDonald had just completed the first in a series of books that would come to define him. Awaiting feedback from his publisher 15 years ago, MacDonald sent his manuscript to a colleague in the psychology department at California State University Long Beach (CSULB). The feedback was not encouraging.

"What troubles me most is that your criticism of Jews may be taken seriously by groups and individuals who both fear and hate Jews," Martin Fiebert wrote in a 12-point reply. "Your manuscript, unintentionally perhaps, reinforces the stereotype that all Jews, be they assimilated or not, are clannish, deceptive, and exploitive. I'm sure you would be dismayed to find that your book has a treasured place in the bookcases of neo-Nazis along with 'Mein Kampf' and the 'Protocols of Zion.'"

How prophetic Fiebert's insight turned out to be.

MacDonald, 64, has been deemed America's "foremost anti-Semitic thinker" by civil rights experts. A tenured psychology professor who lent his expertise to Holocaust denier David Irving, MacDonald has suggested restricting college enrollment and increasing taxes for Jews to mediate what he perceives as inequities with non-Jewish whites.

For continuing updates on this story, keep reading The God Blog by Brad A. Greenberg

His three-volume critique of Judaism as a "group evolutionary strategy" -- known collectively as "The Culture of Critique" and published by Praeger in 1994, 1998 and 1998 -- claims the religion discourages inclusion, eggs on anti-Semitism and uses study of Talmud to thin the reproduction of less intelligent members. The books have become sacred scripture for white supremacists, and a growing number of MacDonald's colleagues have urged the university to denounce his writings.

"He is repackaging traditional anti-Jewish beliefs in contemporary pseudo-scientific language," said Jeffrey Blutinger, a history professor leading the push against MacDonald. "If you think of classic anti-Jewish tropes of Jews as clannish, conspiratorial, opposed to Christendom, a threat to the nation, using contemporary ideas as a way of undermining traditional beliefs -- all of these show up in his writing."

These are strange credentials for a man who in person seems every bit a slice of Midwest Americana. Part German, part Scottish, raised to be a traditional Catholic, though he is now agnostic, MacDonald was reared in a small Wisconsin town best known for the children's clothes that carry its name.

"Oshkosh was a great town to grow up in," MacDonald said in a recent conversation. "There weren't any Jewish families at all. I guess there was one; I knew one Jewish kid in high school. Nobody talked about Jews. There was no anti-Semitism in town. It was an unknown."

He first discovered his future research subjects as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He had a few Jews as roommates, and many more were fellow travelers in the anti-war movement. Almost three decades later, when MacDonald began connecting Jewish power and success to evolutionary strategies, he would identify his leftist years as the first time Jews used his gentile face to promote what he considered their group agenda. It wasn't until the '90s that MacDonald began to see Jewish communities as inimical entities slowly destroying their hosts.

"Jews are inevitably going to be an elite," he said. "They are smart; they are well organized. The problem, from my point of view, is that there is a hostility there, a fear and hostility, that over the past 40 years has resulted in some changes that have not been in the interest of people like me. As simple as that."

MacDonald's core complaint is Jewish influence on immigration laws. He blames passage of the 1965 Immigration Act, which abolished national origin quotas and made immigration easier for non-Westerners, on a Jewish desire to oust European Americans from the majority.

"European people in this country will be a minority in a few years," MacDonald said. "I don't think that would have happened if we had had a sense of ourselves as a culture worth defending. Now, everything is up for grabs."

He sat for the first of two interviews in his cramped office on campus. Tall and lanky, with white hair and a disarming smile, MacDonald hardly looks like America's scariest academic. He is affable, even in light of the vilification he's received, much of it from -- and this shouldn't surprise -- Jewish peers and organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

"Everybody who crosses them, they are going to have a price to pay," MacDonald said. "People won't be seen with me; they won't talk to me; they won't have lunch with me. I am pretty much a nonentity around here."

Until 2000, MacDonald was largely unknown on campus. Testifying for Irving in a lawsuit against Jewish historian Deborah Lipstadt attracted a flurry of attention. But then the storm quieted, and MacDonald was left alone to develop and detail his theories on Jewish strategies to "destroy" Western culture, typing out page after page in his office on the fourth floor of CSULB's 1970s-era psych building.

"He is not the type of guy who is going to dress up in a KKK outfit or swastika armband. The truth is that with his Ph.D and this veneer of respectability, he's very dangerous," said Heidi Beirich, who directs SPLC's research and special projects.

"The Nazi types are reading his stuff like it is the Bible," Beirich continued, "and they're using it to say why Jews should be exterminated, why they should be thrown out of the country -- because he says Jews are responsible for all this immigration that is destroying white culture. His books are like the new Bible of the movement."

Last spring, Beirich wrote a scathing profile of MacDonald for SPLC's magazine, Intelligence Report, and the local chapter of the ADL became more active in raising awareness. Then earlier this year, the ground ruptured beneath MacDonald when a few uneasy colleagues from a range of academic departments coalesced and began to urge CSULB President F. King Alexander to distance the school from its infamous academic.

Alexander so far has declined all such requests on the basis of academic freedom.

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