May 21, 2022

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Israeli philosophy journal publishes article by an antisemite claiming Jews control Western culture to gain evolutionary advantage

Daily Nous, a philosophy news blog, writes:

Have Jews insinuated themselves into positions of power and influence in politics and culture because they are innately gifted with higher IQs, or is it also because they are ethnocentric and hypocritical networkers good at using non-Jews in their self-serving mission of “transforming America contrary to white interests”? Race science and/or conspiracy theory? This—pardon the editorializing—outrageous question is currently under discussion in the pages of the academic philosophy journal Philosophia.
Welcome to 2022.
January 1st saw the online publication of “The ‘Default Hypothesis’ Fails to Explain Jewish Influence” by Kevin MacDonald, who is described on Wikipedia as an “anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist, white supremacist, and retired professor of evolutionary psychology.” MacDonald’s 32-page article is a response to a piece by Nathan Cofnas, “The Anti-Jewish Narrative,” that Philosophia published last February, and which is one of a series of pieces in which Cofnas critiques McDonald.
Both MacDonald and Cofnas are preoccupied with the question: “Did Jews create liberal multiculturalism to advance their ethnic interests?” (Cofnas, p.1332).
The summary may be a bit unfair to Cofnas. Let’s backtrack a bit.
Kevin MacDonald is described in Wikipedia as “an American antisemitic conspiracy theorist, white supremacist,and retired professor of evolutionary psychology at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). In 2008, the CSULB academic senate voted to disassociate itself from MacDonald’s work.”
In one of his books, he has a chapter called ” “National Socialism as an Anti-Jewish Group Evolutionary Strategy”. In other words, Nazism arose as a logical counter to Jewish supremacy, and antisemitism is justified as an evolutionary counter-strategy for the supposed Jewish evolutionary strategy of dominating non-Jews.
However, MacDonald is influential among the modern alt-Right as an intellectual support for their bigotry and antisemitism. 
The abstract of a 2021 article in Antisemitism Studies titled “A New Protocols: Kevin MacDonald’s Reconceptualization of Antisemitic Conspiracy Theory” says,
Kevin MacDonald is a key figure in shaping contemporary antisemitism for the Alt-Right. He repackages classic antisemitic beliefs for the twentieth and twenty-first centuries by cloaking them in a language of evolutionary psychology. His most important innovation is to reject The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as factual but retain them as a metaphor for Jewish anti-white activism. By arguing that it is Judaism itself as “a group evolutionary strategy” that leads Jews to tear down white society (European-derived Christian majority states in the Western world), he is able to present an image of the Jews akin to that of The Protocols, but one that obviates the need for any actual conspiracy. Once Jewish culture and genetics become the driving force of this effort to destroy white society, one only needs to show that individual Jews are acting on its behalf, not that they are conspiring together to do so.
Nathan Cofnas, who works with the philosophy of biology and ethics at Oxford, decided to write a full paper in Philosophia – which is an Israeli journal – last year to rebut MacDonald’s arguments from within the evolutionary psychology framework that MacDonald uses. He defends his choice to treat MacDonald seriously and not dismiss him as a crackpot in an earlier 2018 article in Human Nature:
There are at least three reasons to give MacDonald a hearing.
First, some respected psychologists and evolutionary theorists have reported that they found value in MacDonald’s work. For example, David Sloan Wilson endorsed the ideas in A People That Shall Dwell Alone and strongly criticized the representatives of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society who rejected MacDonald: …. This amounts to at least some degree of prima facie evidence that MacDonald’s theory should be considered.
Second, it is an undeniable fact that, in the past few hundred years, Jews have had a disproportionate influence on politics and culture in the Western world, if not the whole world. It might be worthwhile to investigate this phenomenon from a biosocial or evolutionary perspective…. The idea that Jewish influence resulted, at least in some cases, from their pursuit of a group evolutionary strategy cannot be dismissed a priori. Since MacDonald has defended this theory, he seems to provide a starting point for anyone wishing to investigate the understudied issue of Jewish influence. If he is wrong, it may be useful to know why and how.
Third and perhaps most important, though, is that MacDonald’s work has been influential—enormously so—in a certain segment of the lay community, namely, among anti-Semites and adherents of the burgeoning movement known as the “alt-right.” It is hard to overstate his influence among this group. Some years ago Derbyshire (2003) called him “the Marx of the anti-Semites,” and with the advent of the alt-right his audience has grown substantially. Richard Spencer, whom the New York Times calls “the leading ideologue of the alt-right movement” (Goldstein 2016), introduced MacDonald at a conference with one sentence: “There is no man on the planet who has done more for the understanding of the pole around which the world revolves than Kevin MacDonald” (Spencer 2016). Andrew Anglin, who runs the most popular alt-right/neo-Nazi website, says in his “Guide to the Alt-Right” that “MacDonald’s work examining the racial nature of Jews is considered crucial to understanding what the Alt-Right is about” (Anglin 2016). …

 Cofnas does not repeat this argument in the newer paper.

Now, Kevin MacDonald himself has written his own response to Cofnas’ paper in the current issue of Philosophia. 

And now an antisemite has been mainstreamed as a respectable philosopher.
How could have this been handled better?
I admit I only skimmed through the papers, but at first glance it appears that Cofnas made two errors. While his 2018 paper did an admirable job in showing how MacDonald was not intellectually honest – cherry picking sources, ignoring counter-proofs or even misrepresenting them as supporting his theories – he does not “go in for the kill” in that paper and point out that MacDonald’s errors are a direct result of his antisemitism. Anyone can find support for any position if they only choose to report the evidence that supports their position, or misrepresent other facts as doing so. This is propaganda. We see this all the time with anti-Israel propaganda. The reader is still left with the impression that MacDonald’s theories have some merit, even if he has clear biases.
The other error is that Cofnas presented his own alternate theory as to why Jews are disproportionately influential in Western culture. This now makes his theory a target for MacDonald – who indeed attacks that theory in the new Philosophia issue – and now MacDonald looks again like he has a valid viewpoint. He gave the opening for MacDonald to attack rather than put him on the defensive, and now it looks like a “he said, she said” debate. 
Making MacDonald’s antisemitism mainstream.
By not looking at and emphasizing the entire context of MacDonald’s antisemitism, Cofnas let MacDonald control the framing of the debate giving him an advantage to promulgate his antisemitic theories as legitimate.
Of course, Philosophia should not have published MacDonald at all, but in this context, of the pretense of pure philosophical debate, it would have ad a hard time denying a response without giving MacDonald more ammunition about how the Jews are controlling the debate.
These people might know philosophy, but they don’t understand the nature of antisemitic propaganda. And now the damage is done – an Israeli journal and an eminent academic have, without meaning to, spread an antisemitic theory.
Daily Nous adds:
Philosophia is edited by Asa Kasher (Tel Aviv). In response to questions about the publication of these articles, he wrote that the papers were refereed prior to publication, but that it was “a mistake” to publish them, explaining that he was “not aware of the general background of the debate” and that he is “sorry for treating the discussion as an ordinary philosophical debate.” He added that further comments from him may be forthcoming.
Yesterday, Moti Mizrahi (Florida Institute of Technology) who was until last night the associate editor of Philosophia, wrote on Twitter: “I had nothing to do with the publication of this [McDonald’s] paper in Philosophia. I’ve asked the EiC to reconsider its publication in Philosophia.” Later in the day, he announced his resignation from the journal.
So this is turning into a major debacle.
(h’/t Dan)

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