Friday, January 25, 2008

About Jonah's sources

-- by Dave

One of the yet-unaddressed issues regarding Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism is his sourcing and what it indicates about the quality of his "scholarship" (such as it is) as well as the role of his enterprise in the public discourse.

Specifically, you'll see, it suggests that not only is he (as I suggested in my review of the book) indulging in the methodology of dubious historical revisionists, he's endorsing the same sort of pseudo-historical logic we can see currently polluting the public discourse over global warming.

One point that has already raised eyebrows is his depiction, on pp. 378-379, of the Nazi attitudes toward homosexuals:
Nazi attitudes toward homosexuality are also a source of confusion. While it is true that some homosexuals were sent to concentration camps, it is also the case that the early Nazi Party and the constellation of Pan-German organizations in its orbit were rife with homosexuals. It's well-known, for example, that Ernst Rohm, the head of the SA, and his coterie were homosexuals. When jealous members of the SA tried to use this fact against him in 1931, Hitler had to remonstrate that Rohm's homosexuality was "purely in the private sphere." Some try to suggest that Rohm was murdered on the Night of the Long Knives because he was gay. But the Rohm faction posed the greatest threat to Hitler's consolidation of power because they were, in important respects, the most ardent and "revolutionary" Nazis. Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams write in The Pink Swastika that "the National Socialist revolution and the Nazi Party were animated and dominated by militaristic homosexuals, pederasts, pornographers, and sadomasochists." This is surely an overstatement. But it is nonetheless true that the artistic and literary movements that provided the oxygen for Nazism before 1933 were chockblock with homosexual liberationist tracts, clubs, and journals. [Emphases mine.]

As Brad at AlterNet observed, this characterization of the situation is "downright sickening."
Oh sure, he writes, "some homosexuals were sent to concentration camps," but it's also true that the early Nazi party was "rife with homosexuals." I'm sure the 100,000 men who were arrested for being homosexuals in Nazi Germany, as well as the thousands more who died in concentration camps, were proud to see their brethren so well-represented in the SS.

More to the point here, note who Goldberg cites here: The Pink Swastika and its authors, Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams. Bob Moser at the SPLC has the rundown on this text, which is nothing less than a work of Holocaust revisionism:
For decades now, "Holocaust revisionists" in the U.S. and Europe have published pseudo-scholarly papers and books claiming to prove that the Nazis never carried out a systematic extermination of Jews. In 1995, a book called The Pink Swastika made similar claims about the Nazis' treatment of homosexuals during the Holocaust.
Written by fundamentalist activists Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams, The Pink Swastika says that rather than being victimized by the Nazis, gay men in Hitler's inner circle actually helped mastermind the Holocaust.

"While we cannot say that homosexuals caused the Holocaust, we must not ignore their central role in Nazism," write Lively and Abrams. "To the myth of the 'pink triangle' — the notion that all homosexuals in Nazi Germany were persecuted — we must respond with the reality of the 'pink swastika.'"

Historians agree that this "reality" is utterly false. But many anti-gay crusaders have used the "gay Nazi" myth as proof that gay people are immoral and destructive.

The piece also sets the record straight regarding the Nazi policy toward homosexuals after 1933, which Goldberg carefully elides:
In fact, while the number of homosexuals who died in the Holocaust does not approach the number of Jewish or Gypsy victims, the historical record shows that between 50,000 and 100,000 men were arrested for homosexuality (or suspicion of it) under the Nazi regime. They were routinely sent to concentration camps and marked with a pink triangle on their prison garb.

... The myth that Nazis condoned or promoted homosexuality sprang up as a slander against Nazi leaders by their socialist opponents in the 1930s. Only one of the half-dozen leaders in Hitler's inner circle, Ernest Rohm, is believed by credible historians to have been gay.

The "gay Nazi" slander stuck, though, partly because German laws against homosexuals remained in place for a quarter of a century after World War II ended. That effectively silenced many homosexual victims of the Holocaust from telling their stories. A landmark survivor's memoir, The Men With the Pink Triangle, began to break that silence in 1972.

There is no question that the Nazis saw homosexuality as one aspect of the "degeneracy" they were determined to extinguish. When it came to power in 1933, the Nazi Party moved quickly to strengthen Germany's existing penalties against homosexuality. On Oct. 11, 1936, Hitler's security chief, Heinrich Himmler, went further, announcing that homosexuality was to be "eliminated" in Germany, along with miscegenation between the races.

In 1942, the death penalty was instituted for homosexuality. Offenders in the German military were routinely shot. "That wasn't a punishment," Himmler explained, "but simply the extinguishing of abnormal life. It had to be got rid of, just as we pull out weeds, throw them on a heap, and burn them."

Odd that none of these facts managed to find their way into Goldberg's description. I gather he was just found the weight of historical evidence, which clearly shows a vicious anti-homosexuality as an expression of Nazi ideology in action, too "confusing" because it tended to obliterate the non-sequitur he wanted to publish.

Just as significant, though, is his willingness to cite Lively and Abrams as a credible source, vague demurrals notwithstanding. Yes, you could call their claims an "overstatement," but most people would call them a baldfaced pack of lies -- lies intended to obscure the realities of the Holocaust.

But Lively and Abrams are hardly the only dubious source Goldberg indulges. Indeed, another -- historian A. James Gregor, known for his contention that fascism was an ideology of the left -- is almost certainly the chief philosophical mentor of the book's central thesis, which makes the same claim. Goldberg cites him twice in the text and several other times in his endnotes. At his blog, he posted this:
For those who don't know, A. James Gregor is probably the single most respected mainstream academic making the case for the fascist nature of Communist regimes. From Mao's "Chinese way" to the inherent national-socialism of Stalinism, Gregor argues that once you sever radical Marxism from international Communism the result is much closer to classical fascism than some never achieved "communism." I'm simplifying, but that's the gist. It's heady, serious, theoretical stuff. He was a big influence on my thinking and a valuable resource. That he doesn't appear much (he is in there) in my pages stems from the editorial decision to show not tell in the book.

Actually, Gregor is generally treated by most of the scholars of fascism whose works I've studied as a dubious source at best. Paxton, for instance, does not mention him once in his 28 pages of bibliographical essay; while Roger Griffin, in The Nature of Fascism, does mention Gregor, but mostly as an example of the dangers of indulging precisely the methodology upon which Goldberg relies throughout his text -- an over-reliance on the words fascists used in their appeals as opposed to properly recording their actions. As he explains it (p. 14):
[A]pproaching fascism primarily in terms of political theory and the history of ideas is misleading because it detracts attention from concrete events which constitute the real 'nature of fascism' and moreover euphemizes the immense human suffering caused when nebulous fascist ideals and policies became translated into gruesome political realities.

We can further assess Gregor's reliability by noting that he has played a role in the past in similarly muddying the waters of public discourse -- particularly, as it happens, on the subject of race and racial segregation in the South.

The Wikipedia entry makes note of this:
Gregor was also an opponent of the United States Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision ending the practice of racial segregation in American schools. In recent years, Gregor has claimed that he supports desegregation in every respect, and that he merely opposed the use of the judicial branch's powers to engineer change. Instead, Gregor has argued that desegregation should have occurred through legislative action, witnessed in the Civil Rights laws that Congress passed in the years thereafter. According to Gregor, his primary concern with Brown lies in the threat of a judicial branch overstepping its constitutional powers. However, Gregor's own writings from that time do not seem to support such an argument.

Idus A. Newby's book Challenge to the Court: Social Scientists and the Defense of Segregation, 1954-1966 published in 1967 contains an extensive discussion of Gregor's works on race, which, Newby asserts, were among the main institutional centers of scientific racism in the 1960s. Nearly half of the book is a response by Gregor, in which he vehemently denies Newby's allegations that he is a racist or adopts a particular perspective on race. Gregor has regularly asserted that the intellectual climate that prevails prevents serious discussions about race, ethnicity and their relationship to genetics.

This episode in his academic background is explored in much greater detail by John P. Jackson Jr. in his book Science for Segregation: Race, Law, and the Case Against Brown v. Board of Education (New York University Press, 2005). The first chapter, available here, provides a rough overview of the book's contents:
The second chapter traces the origins of the conspiracy rhetoric in the professionalization of Boasian anthropology and its opposition by racial anthropologists, most notably New Yorker Madison Grant. Grant despised Boas as a Jewish leftist who was polluting the science of anthropology. A key figure here was Virginian Earnest Sevier Cox, who was a close associate of Grant. Unlike Grant, Cox was concerned with “the Negro Question” and, far more than Grant, saw the racial problems of the United States through the lens of the black/white binary. Cox also lived three decades longer than Grant, becoming a central figure in the racist underground in the postwar United States.

[Note: I discuss Grant here and Boas here.]
Chapter 3 explores the origins and ideology of that racist underground, which came up into the sunlight in the late 1950s. I trace the origins of different groups of activists who eventually joined together by 1959. First were the heirs to the anti-Semitic worldview of Madison Grant and associated with the “Northern League” a Nordicist group organized by British writer Roger Pearson and American political activist Willis Carto. The Northern League members published a series of interlocking publications such as Truth Seeker, Northern World, and Western Destiny. In these publications, Northern Leaguers held forth against the Jewish domination of the Western world and championed the Nordic as the true representative of the white race.

Chapter 4 examines a second group concerned about the Boasian conspiracy. This group was composed of an older generation of southern scientists who had grown up under segregation. These men were born in the late nineteenth century or the first two decades of the twentieth century. A good example of this group was psychologist Henry E. Garrett, one of three scientists who testified in favor of segregation during the Brown litigation. Garrett was on the faculty of Columbia University for decades before retiring in 1956 and assuming a position in his home state at the University of Virginia. Also in this group was anatomist Wesley C. George, who had been on the faculty of the University of North Carolina Medical School since 1919. For this group, having grown up in the South during the height of Jim Crow, the dismantling of segregation represented the dismantling of their culture. They were fully prepared to use their scientific expertise to defend the old order.

In chapter 5, I look at how these two groups came together in a formal organization. They were joined by a number of what I have chosen to call the “idiosyncratic conservatives.” Ernst van den Haag, psychoanalyst and social philosopher, was one of the earliest critics of the use of social science in Brown. A. James Gregor, who was closely associated with members of the Northern League, published widely within the social science literature criticizing Brown, published psychological studies with psychologists R. Travis Osborne and Stanley Porteus, and wrote highly theoretical articles on racial thought. These writers rejected the notion that African Americans were biologically inferior to white Americans and instead based their arguments for segregation on notions of group identity. These disparate groups came together in their own professional organization, the International Society for the Advancement of Ethnology and Eugenics (IAAEE), founded in Washington, DC, in 1959. The expressed function of the IAAEE was objectively to investigate racial differences and to publicize their findings.

The IAAEE provided an organizational basis for the scientific attack on Brown, which is explored in chapter 6. The district court in the first of these cases, Stell, found segregation constitutional, justified on the basis of the inferiority of African Americans. The Stell decision was overruled by the court of appeals. The subsequent cases were forced to follow the rule laid down by the appeals court and the cases were denied a hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court cases died with a whimper after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which permanently ended de jure segregation in the American South.

In chapter 7, I look at how the mainstream scientific community struggled with the segregationist scientist attack. The mainstream scientific community needed respond to the segregationist appropriation of science when asked to do so by educational groups who were being bombarded with segregationist propaganda. Additionally, the scientific community struggled with notions of what it meant to be an objective scientist and the relationship between the production of scientific knowledge and the role of the scientist in the larger society.

That's right: Just as we're seeing today in such controversies as global warming and the debate over evolution, the debate over segregation attracted a handful of academics who were glad to lend their "expertise" -- which mainly involved distorting data and misleading the public in the process -- to the cause of defending the otherwise indefensible "conservative" position. And one of the academics involved in doing this was none other than one of Goldberg's major influences.

It's clear why Goldberg would have such an affinity for sources like these: Not just their ideas, but their dubious methodologies are the same as those found in Liberal Fascism.

UPDATE: Professor Jackson, with whom I've been corresponding, sends along this note discussing the further details in the book:
Gregor was associated with the third group, although was not ideologically identical with them. The Truth Seeker crowd was closely associated with Willis Carto and the National Renaissance Party as well as British anthropologist Roger Pearson, who is still the editor of the quasi-scholarly Mankind Quarterly which continues to publish a lot of scientifically racist material.

Gregor was closely associated with the Truth Seeker folks. He spoke at their lecture series entitled "Racist Forum." He worked with them to form the "Association for the Preservation of Freedom of Choice" to oppose open-housing laws in NYC in the late 1950s and the "International Association for the Advancement of Ethnology and Eugenics" a quasi-scientific organization to provide a forum for their writings. He also toured the south with Donald Swan, a self-proclaimed "American Fascist" in order to discover how the South was responding to the Supreme Court desegregation order.

Gregor also helped prepare legal briefs for subsequent cases meant to overturn Brown. I quote letters in the book where he writes of how proud he was to be associated with these people and how hard he has worked to preserve segregation. By the time these activities became public in the late 1960s Gregor was at Berkeley and had abandoned all this work.

A historian, I.A. Newby, wrote a book entitled Challenge to the Court, which described some of Gregor's work on behalf of segregation, and Gregor wrote a vicious response which downplayed his activities. Gregor pointed out that he had actually published a lot of criticisms of the Nordicism of the Truth Seeker variety, which is very true. His own arguments on behalf of segregation turned on the "natural" inclination of people to self-segregate by race. Gregor argued that forced integration would therefore be psychologically damaging to black children. My argument in the book was that Gregor was therefore a MORE effective advocate for segregation by abandoning the crude white supremacy of his fellow-travelers. His work was not biological racism but a social/cultural form of racism.

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