May 8, 2008
The professor the anti-Semites love
Kevin MacDonald, Cal State Long Beach, and the downside of academic freedom
(Page 4 - Previous Page)"The theoretical viewpoint expressed in MacDonald's books stands in the most extreme contradiction to nearly every contentful core claim of evolutionary psychology," said John Tooby, co-director of the Center for Evolutionary Psychology at UC Santa Barbara and a pioneer in the field.
Tooby's comment, which appeared on Slate.com, was prompted by MacDonald's decision on Jan. 31, 2000, to enter a British courtroom as an expert witness on Jewish behavior. On that day, MacDonald explained his belief that Jewish activists conspire against individuals who threaten the group interest, a model he alleged had been used to suppress, after publication, Irving's biography of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
"Yes, I think that anti-Semitism is, you know, a perennial problem, and Jewish organizations have developed very sophisticated ways of dealing with it," MacDonald said, in what ended up being a very short testimony. "This is one way of dealing with it. Anti-Semitism or any anti-Semitism is fought very, very intensely. They take it very seriously, and they do quite a job, obviously, of suppressing it, yes."
That statement surprised Irving, who didn't like being called an anti-Semite in court, and those few minutes have dogged MacDonald since. On his Web site and that of the Institute for Historical Review (IHR), a Holocaust-denying organizatin based in Newport Beach, MacDonald presented a lengthy explanation for why he agreed to testify.
He claimed that Lipstadt, following a pattern of Jewish activism, had "attempted to prevent the publication of writings conflicting with their constructions of reality" and exaggerated Irving's Holocaust denial. MacDonald also appealed to the academic importance of Irving's book, "Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich."
"He had access to original documents in the Soviet Union that nobody knew about. It was the kind of thing that any historian would have to read. And yet it was rescinded; they actually took it off the shelf. I thought that was ridiculous, just activism stuff," MacDonald added in an interview. "It was just suppression of free speech."
In Lipstadt's memoir, "History on Trial," she recalled the surprise of learning an expert on anti-Semitism would be a witness against her.
"I could not fathom," she wrote, "how a specialist on anti-Semitism would voluntarily testify on Irving's behalf, unless, I thought -- facetiously -- somehow he's for it."
Cal State Long Beach's Jewish studies program is located about 100 yards from Psych 417 on the second floor of a collection of history and sociology offices that looks 70 years old and smells older. The program is identified by a corkboard adjacent to the office of co-director Jeffrey Blutinger, who teaches Jewish intellectual and cultural history and post-communist Holocaust memorialization. Waiting outside, visitors are entertained by the printed phrases of "Jewish Buddhists" -- "If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?" and "Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis." -- and satirical headlines from a backdated issue of The Onion -- "Furher's Slaughter of Millions Blamed on Serious Self-Esteem Issues."
Blutinger's office is stuffed with six bookcases full of Jewish history, from Heinrich Graetz to pioneer Jews of the American West. And lumped on a pile of binders beneath the Encyclopedia Judaica lay first editions of MacDonald's first two books, checked out from the university library, and borrowed copies of "The Culture of Critique" and "Understanding Jewish Influence," an Occidental Quarterly monograph containing three MacDonald essays.
A former lawyer who joined the faculty four years ago, Blutinger has emerged as a leader in the battle against MacDonald, urging colleagues across campus to join the fight and authoring the Jewish studies' program statement denouncing MacDonald's research and the appended 18-page explanation.
"It's important that we take a stand," Blutinger said. "I teach the Holocaust every fall, and the thing I always end the course with is that, God willing, we will never have to make the choice people did back then, but all of us face the choice between what's right and doing what is easy or convenient. I tell them that I hope they will do what is right."
"If we are not willing to stand up when the risks are small," he continued, "why would we be willing to take a stand when the risks are big?"
Unpopular as MacDonald's views are, there appears little the university can do. He is protected by his status as a tenured professor, which he achieved in 1994, the year the first book in his "Culture of Critique" series was published. MacDonald also received a distinguished faculty award in 1995, and there is no record of any student complaint about anything MacDonald has said in 23 years, the administration, ADL and Hillel all reported.
Cal Sate Long Beach has been down this road before.
Nearly 30 years ago, Reinhard K. Buchner, a physics professor who from 1980 to 1983 was an editorial adviser for IHR's now-defunct Journal of Historical Review, drew protests from the ADL and Simon Wiesenthal Center. The journal carried such Buchner essays as "The Problem of Cremator Hours and Incineration Time," which argued, using time-space calculations, that the number of Jews who possibly could have been killed at Auschwitz has been exaggerated.
Buchner eventually returned to Germany, but a former colleague on the editorial board, Arthur R. Butz, remains in American academia. A long-time associate professor of engineering at Northwestern University, Butz was an early Holocaust denier. In 1976, he wrote "The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry."
Many other tenured scholars, from the lowest to highest levels of academia, use their position to share unsavory opinions. The issue is one of academic freedom, designed to encourage bold research by protecting faculty from the political whims of capricious administrators. And even as it promotes experimental research in every discipline, it also frequently puts universities in uncomfortable positions.
MacDonald has publicly warned Cal State Long Beach administrators, responsible for the second-largest student body (population: 37,000) in the country's largest university system (23 campuses scattered from Arcata to San Diego), that the school could expect a lawsuit if he was terminated without just cause.
This is why faculty statements have urged only that the university distance itself from his theories about Jews and his support for ethnostates that create a haven for European American interests. Each of the four departmental statements professed a belief in his freedom to write about whatever he wants.
"We wish to make it clear that we do not seek to impede Kevin MacDonald's First Amendment rights," proclaimed the statement from the anthropology department, released April 28. "However, just as he has rights, we have the right, if not the obligation, to denounce his writings on race, ethnicity and intelligence that promote intolerance, as not only inaccurate, but as professionally irresponsible and morally untenable."
In the second of two recent interviews, MacDonald said he is not a fan of anti-Semitism. But he also described his opinions on a Palestinian American TV news program in 2005 as "rational" anti-Semitism and has joked that being branded a Jew hater was a "badge of honor," the knee-jerk reaction of a scared Jewish establishment.
The chief concern over MacDonald's writings about Jews is directed at his fan base: white supremacists like Stormfront.org and Vanguard News Network -- whose motto is "No Jews. Just Right." The members of these online communities have become his loudest defenders, often in language that is as offensive as possible.
"So the goddam Kikes are getting their way yet again, putting the thumbscrews to a White scholar whose ass they are not worthy to lick.... At least this oppression proves that Prof. MacDonald's great work is hitting the scum hard," a Vanguard commenter wrote in February below a republished story about MacDonald from CSULB's student paper.
"How much more of this humiliation is our race going to take? How long before this motherf---ing plague of repulsive, hook-snouted ticks is given a real Zyklon fumigation, as opposed to the fairy tale one?"
MacDonald repudiated such rhetoric as "crazy stuff" but said he supports the ideology behind it.
"White people have legitimate ethnic interests. To the extent that that is all they believe, then we are on the same page," he said. "I don't like to use words like white supremacists. You could say that Koreans in Korea are Korean supremacists if they want to maintain their culture. It is kind of a loaded word; it is a politically charged word of the left, basically, to pathologize any sense of having an ethnicity and culture by people like me. I reject that."
"I certainly reject the tactics and the rhetoric of these people. It's very crude," MacDonald added. "But to the extent that David Duke is trying to advance a white ethnic interest and so on, I don't have any problem with that."