Kevin MacDonald is a retired professor of psychology at California State University at Long Beach who has authored seven books about evolutionary theory and child development. MacDonald, who currently lives in Medford, Oregon, but is thinking about moving to Maine, is best known for a trilogy of books published between 1994 and 1998—A People That Shall Dwell Alone, Separation and Its Discontents, and The Culture of Critique. In those books, he proposed that Judaism is a group evolutionary strategy that allows Jews to out-compete rival social groups. The specifics of the Jewish strategy on American soil, MacDonald wrote, include encouraging mass immigration and promoting cultural relativism and multiculturalism—which he describes as ideological tools that Jews use to fracture the organic cohesion of their white Christian host culture. MacDonald’s theories and writing inspired the slogan “the Jews will not replace us” which energized the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.
There are plenty of people who might argue that giving a platform to MacDonald, who speaks in soft, scholarly cadences but has shown little compunction about embracing Holocaust deniers and people who actively promote race-based violence between the so-called “white” race and others, is a stupid and dangerous exercise. How many more people have to die like George Floyd in Minneapolis, or the Charlottesville anti-racist demonstrator Heather Heyer, who was struck by a car driven by James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old white supremacist from Ohio, a group that fears being replaced by Jews, to prove that Kevin MacDonald’s words can kill people? So why not ban them?
Part of the answer can be found in Medford, which is a midsize city about two hours from Portland by plane. The surrounding vineyards and fantastic pear and peach orchards also provide a hospitable growing climate for marijuana, which is fast becoming the state’s largest cash crop, and provide a measure of employment to the city’s floating population of Oxycontin and methamphetamine addicts. Spend a day here, and it is not hard to see why Kevin MacDonald’s obsessions appear to be gaining traction among both white supremacists and some elements of the progressive left, among privileged urban whites as well as the urban poor.
Rural Oregon has many of the same problems as any American inner city, except it is overwhelmingly inhabited by people with white skin. Their problem isn’t police violence or structural racism but a more general collapse of the bonds that hold families and communities together, under the pressure of a new high-tech form of serfdom, with a class of extremely wealthy techno-oligarchs at the top and broad masses of dependents below. It is less frightening to imagine that some sinister person or group—the Jews, or white people, or black people, or Donald Trump, or Barack Obama—is responsible for the disempowerment of broad swathes of America than it is to accept the idea that our lives are being irrevocably reordered by machines.
As a reporter who has spent the past 25 years going back and forth between the lower and higher ends of the American class structure, from dog tracks and trailer parks to yacht clubs and the White House, I have encountered no shortage of racists and anti-Semites in all of these places. Yet I have found little evidence that their hatreds were the product of reading or hearing the wrong words—or that the censorship, shunning, or deplatforming of people, whether guilty or innocent of the sins they are charged with, makes even the slightest impact on what can best be understood as the social-emotional-psychological manifestations of the technologically driven reordering of the American class structure.
The solution that activists in the present moment propose, under a variety of names and rationales, is censorship—which seems to be a very effective way of identifying marginal and often disturbed purveyors of hateful manias as rebels and prophets, whose voices are so powerful that they must be silenced. The more powerfully such marginal views are repressed, the more power they seem to exert on the imaginations of their supporters, and the more power must be handed over from individuals to techno-monopolies, government surveillance agencies, and elite bureaucracies whose job it is to discipline and punish. As the lines between hateful or simply clumsy or inconvenient or unpopular ideas become progressively more difficult for even well-intentioned people to discern, and more and more people are identified as carriers of unacceptable thought, the wider social tolerance for dissenting opinions collapses, along with the entire rights-based structure that has made the progressive expansion of freedoms in America possible.
In a society divided between racists and anti-racists, openly irrational, hateful ideas are elevated to the center of public discourse. Which is, of course, exactly what people like Kevin MacDonald want.
Anti-Semitism is a conspiracy theory that draws its strength in part from the root operating systems of Abrahamic culture and epistemology. In healthy societies, it generally lies dormant. When societies start to disintegrate, the virus finds room to spread, and take over. It rots people’s brains just as surely as syphilis does, by substituting a fixed, obsessive, progressively degenerative fantasy world centered around “the Jews” for the world of observable causes and effects. Arguing with anti-Semites is like arguing with crackheads or schizophrenics; if you don’t see the invisible worms crawling on their skin, they will show you a row of Ziploc baggies on the window sill and say that the worms are also in there.
What strikes me as useful, therefore, isn’t to ban anti-Semites and racists, or to attempt to argue them out of their symptoms. Rather, it is simply to know what they sound like. It was in this spirit that I agreed to meet Kevin MacDonald in Medford for a beer.
What follows is a lightly edited version of our conversation, which was conducted in a hotel lobby and then a nearby bar, throughout the course of an afternoon, when it was still normal to get on an airplane. When we were done talking, MacDonald drove me to the airport, which was kind of him. On the way there, we talked about how beautiful the summers are on the coast of Maine, and how lonely the winters can be there. In the end, I wanted to help him. But I have no idea how.
Jews and Wolves
David Samuels: How did the subject of Jewish group behavior come to interest you?
Kevin MacDonald: I’ve been into a lot of different things in my career. I did a lot of research into personality and child development. I taught child development for 30 years. But I was an evolutionary biologist, and obviously the biggest question in that field, especially in the ’70s, was group selection, and that was a time when group selection was being absolutely pilloried. Then E.O. Wilson wrote his book, and that just really blew my mind. And in the wake of that, some people were making mathematical models of how it could happen—David Wilson most prominently.
You did your graduate work on wolves?
On wolves, yeah. My background was totally in the evolutionary biology arena, but before that, I was in graduate school in philosophy in the ’60s, I was on the left. So when I confronted socio-biology, the book that really blew my mind was Richard Alexander’s Darwinism and Human Affairs, because he was getting into law, morality, ethics, and other cultural things, and seeing them from an evolutionary point of view.
How these traits or beliefs contribute to the survival or cohesion of a group.
Yeah. How to understand ethical codes from an evolutional point of view. How do they develop? And one of the things that he talked about there was monogamy. As soon as I became aware of the evolutionary theory of sex, I said, “Why is Western society set on monogamy? That doesn’t make any fucking sense.” In societies in Africa, and in others like China, they all had as many wives as they could basically control. So, what’s going on with the West?
But the whole idea was that culture mattered. I kept emphasizing how social control was an ideology. Richard Alexander has his theory, but I had a different theory, and it was all about culture. I talked about how the kings were controlled, you know, how illegitimate children couldn’t inherit, all that kind of stuff.
But then later in the ’80s, I got a job and I started writing about child development. I wrote a book called Social and Personality Development, the last chapter of which is on the Spartans. And that’s when I really started thinking, “You know, these groups can really cohere together and have a strategy.”
Where does the “group strategy” reside within the group? It almost feels this idea anthropomorphizes the group, suggesting that “it” has thoughts and feelings.
Well, if you take the Greek situation seriously, I mean Lycurgus came up with this set of rules. This is how we’re gonna organize things. And there were strong social controls, and they had a totally militarized society. So everybody was on page.
I was already in contact by that time with David Wilson, and he was always doing this theoretical stuff, you know—mathematical models of how group selection could work. And it was all genetically based, but I started thinking about, “How could I expand on this?”
And then I said, “Well, who’s got more writing than anybody? It’s Jews.” So I went down to the bookstore, and I got Paul Johnson’s book, A History of the Jews, and I read it. And then the next thing was to read the Old Testament because I never read it before.
You grew up in a house where there was no Old Testament?
I’m Catholic. I never knew any of that.
So the first book was just on an idea of a group strategy, how Jewish groups got on in the world, how they regulated themselves, how they dealt with other people, and so on. That was the whole group strategy idea. And that was well received, by and large.
It can be hard to parse these discussions sometimes, because some people insist, “Oh, if you talk about groups at all, then by definition you’re some kind of racist.” Yet social groups clearly do exist. They define themselves. They are defined by others. They are legally defined.
On the other hand, talking about groups in a certain way can indeed be part of racist and or anti-Semitic discourse. And that’s where the word “strategy,” which you use, can be troubling, because it strikes people as an attribution of a group consciousness, or intent.
Yeah. It suggests that, doesn’t it?
I borrowed that term, by the way, from Richard Alexander. He had a theory of flexible strategizers. Humans are flexible strategizers. And that was anathema to evolutionary science people because they want to think of humans as just having modules and sort of acting out on them, and never having a cultural point of view. I never believed that. And I’ve elaborated that greatly over the decades.
I just don’t buy into the evolutionary psych model. So I’m a heretic there as well.
You know, I got published in great places, like the Psych Review. But for me, that whole thing about groups was that they could overcome the fundamental problem of group selection with animals. That is, they can expel or punish cheaters. Imagine military groups, and somebody is a traitor. He doesn’t do his assignment, or he spies, or something like that. You know, execute him right away.
I’m sure you know more about wolves than I do. But Jack London’s description of wolf pack behavior in books like White Fang suggested the wolves also had very clear codes of behavior or even morality, which they enforced.
You have examples where a wolf will be punished, yes.
In the first chapter of the first book I was basically quoting from the paper by Richerson and Boyd. With punishment, anything can evolve. And that really stuck in my head. With group controls, anything can evolve, as long as you control the behavior of the group.
But how you do see that kind of group dynamic functioning in modern Western societies, like the United States, where communal controls are completely absent?
Since the Enlightenment, in Western societies, Jews have confronted the West. And it was sort of traumatic for Jews, and in the end it was traumatic for the West.
According to John Murray Cuddihy and Paul Johnson, it seems true that with the Enlightenment, Jews were sort of regarded by Western intellectuals as backwards and primitive. The idea was that they had to get over their superstitions and should give up their communal identities and become citizens and individualists—and Jews oftentimes agreed with that. But at the same time, they developed these huge organizations, which became very powerful.
Jewish organizations, like their strong organization in France, I forget the name. And in America, you know, beginning in the early 20th century, you had the ADL and other Jewish groups. And the immigrants coming from Eastern Europe were mainly Orthodox and were very clannish, I would say, especially when they first got here. I think they retained a sense of identity and a sense of group cohesion, despite the lack of community control.
And of course, some Jews didn’t like that. They married somebody else. They decided they wouldn’t even want to be Jewish, and they left. But that certainly didn’t apply to the mainstream.
I would say that the thing that generally seems to distinguish Jewish communities to me is a much-higher-than-normal degree of disagreement and mutual loathing. Two Jews, three opinions—
Yeah, I’ve heard that one, yeah.
One Jew, three synagogues. I mean, if I was looking to find an example of a coherent, disciplined group of people operating in a strategic way, I’d look almost anywhere else.
Who Speaks For the Jews?
You suggest that Jews are a highly organized group of people. Jews as a group are very cohesive. Jews as a group have a clear, observable capacity for disciplining group members while pursuing conscious, top-down strategies. None of these statements rings true to my own experience of Jews.
Yeah, I get it.
I don’t ever want to say there’s a top-down master plan here or something. But, my view is that organizations like the ADL are where you have to look for influence. Or take the Israel lobby. In other words, there are groups of Jews who do pursue these strategies.
And if you look at the ADL, for example, there’s not like there’s a lot of fractiousness there in terms of the big policies, like on immigration, refugee policy, or even Israel. There’s much more unanimity of opinion. There is a consensus.
I meet many Jews who can’t stand the ADL. Nor does the ADL have any particular means of disciplining people who disagree with their political positions.
But they have power.
Compared to the American Association of Trial Lawyers or ATT? They don’t have much power.
Right, right. I get it. Well, two things. One is about the ADL, on things like immigration policy and refugees. I can’t think of any significant group of Jews that opposes the ADL’s position—
Stephen Miller is Jewish.
He’s a good example, yes. And I’m happy that he’s there, to tell you the truth. But again, if you’re looking at where the Jewish power and influence lie, it’s all in the other direction. Neocons, it’s the same way.
But who represents the Jews and their group strategy? Is it Stephen Miller? The ADL? The neocons? Who decides?
I think the polls at the time indicated most Jews were opposed to the Iraq war. But it is an interesting question about the neocons and the Iraq war. There has been a lot of writing about that, by Mearsheimer and Walt and by others. I wrote a long chapter on the neoconservatives, and I made the argument that people like Wolfowitz were a necessary condition for the war.
I didn’t have anything on Bush. But there was a quote on Bush, I think I threw in there, about when he was thinking of running for president or something. They went down to Texas and talked to him, and, and it’s sorta like they sort of said, “Yeah, this guy doesn’t know a thing about foreign policy. Great.” You know? It was sort of like, he’s a babe in the woods.
I think he’s not a very smart man in a lot of ways. And I think there was a lot of chicanery going on under Wolfowitz, and—
I’ve never met Paul Wolfowitz, so I have no idea. But I’ve interviewed Donald Rumsfeld at length. If I had to pick an outstanding personality trait of Donald Rumsfeld, from what I observed, I would say that he was one of the most supremely confident human beings I’ve ever met—
—with a very low tolerance for listening to other people’s stupidity, or listening to other people at all. He ran the Nixon White House when he was 30. Before that, he was a wrestler who flew fighter planes. Then he ran Searle, which was a huge drug company, and he became incredibly wealthy.
So the idea that Paul Wolfowitz or anybody else was telling Donald Rumsfeld what to do, and that Rumsfeld then robotically obeyed them, or was mesmerized by them, seems ridiculous.
Dick Cheney—also not a person who seems especially malleable, from what I can tell. Colin Powell—I interviewed him once. A very strong-minded guy. Those were the people who along with the president and Condoleezza Rice collectively decided to invade Iraq and impose their stupid Freedom Agenda. Not Paul Wolfowitz or Richard Perle. They were pikers.
That’s interesting. You know, I certainly didn’t take account of that, in my little section on Wolfowitz. I know he was a hero to the neocons, who was being idolized like some kind of a rockstar.
The neocons are their own weird cult, like Trostkyites.
When I read Walt and Mearsheimer’s book, one of the things about it that I found so funny was their use of AIPAC’s fundraising letters as some kind of super-secret proof of AIPAC’s sweeping influence.
You know, there’s a famous joke from the Warsaw ghetto. It’s 1942, and two friends meet each other on the street. They’re both starving, and dressed in rags, and one of them is holding a copy of Der Sturmer. And the other Jew, his friend, looks at him and says, “Why are you reading that Nazi crap?
So his friend says, “Well, you know, when I read our underground newspapers, they are printed on bad paper, and everything inside is about some terrible new edict, and how our entire community is being wiped out. But when I read their newspaper, everything is perfect—we dine on lavish banquets while Germans are starving, we control Stalin and Roosevelt, we run the banking system.”
So, if Jews are going to be accused of wielding some vast secret conspiratorial power, it makes sense that a Jewish organization is trying to profit from that by writing a fundraising letter to its donors that says “the U.S. Congress routinely does our bidding, thanks to your continuing support.” Then people like you or Stephen Walt imagine that’s true.
I don’t recall that section of their book.
But you have to admit that AIPAC has a lot of influence over Congress.
I think there have been moments where AIPAC has clearly been effective on their issues, and other moments—like the sale of AWACS to Saudi Arabia, or more recently the Iran Deal—where they were revealed to be a paper tiger. Obama just gutted them, and it didn’t look like much of a fight.
Obama was probably the best—the least pro-Israel president since Eisenhower, I think.
Maybe. Though I’d say Obama in his context was more pro-Israel than Jimmy Carter or George H.W. Bush.
That’s because Israel has alienated the left. You see that with Corbyn in the U.K., and I think that’s only going to increase in the future. So, yeah, AIPAC’s gonna have to really work at it.
Israel seems to be gaining some new support on the right, though.
Yeah, I think so. They’re cultivating support on the right. My understanding is that they’re now cultivating relationships with nationalists in Eastern Europe.
How do you understand people like Stephen Miller or Jared Kushner, within the context of your idea of a Jewish “group strategy,” then? Your original argument is that mass immigration is useful to this group because they fracture the cohesion of the larger society, which it encounters as an opposing, hostile force. But some of the leading anti-immigration voices in America are Jews—along with some of the leading pro-immigration voices.
Well, Kushner’s not opposing as far as I can tell. But Miller’s a godsend, right? I know he’s been castigated in the Jewish press and tossed out of a synagogue, and the whole thing. He’s terrific and it’s great that Trump has him around, because I think he may be the only guy I’d want to be listening to at this point. He’s a breath of fresh air.
So Stephen Miller’s great but I don’t see him being connected to a Jewish power, so to speak. He’s an outlier.
A big hero of mine when I was in high school was Noam Chomsky. Now, Chomsky had a very Jewish background, in terms of his knowledge of Jewish history and culture, and he spoke Hebrew, but he was certainly never a big supporter of the State of Israel, right? And there is no shortage of Chomsky-like Jewish universalists who would be extremely happy if Israel magically disappeared tomorrow.
Franz Boas is another example. In your books, you’re like, “Yeah, well, there’s a guy who sort of invents cultural anthropology, and it was a kind of relativistic valorization of the primitive and whatever, which in turn is directly tied to opposing immigration policy in that period, in opposition to Madison Grant.”
Yet, Franz Boas is influential mainly through his students, the best known of whom are Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict, neither of whom is the least bit Jewish or interested in Jews. So how does the discipline of cultural anthropology, and its promotion of cultural relativism, reflect a conscious Jewish group strategy?
It’s interesting. Especially around Jews in the left, I have mentioned the phenomenon of organizations are almost all Jewish but that would often put forward non-Jewish spokespeople. The same is true of the Freudians.
Margaret Mead was a lesbian or something. And I think that she gravitated to the kind of rebelliousness of that Jewish perspective, and I think a lot of other non-Jewish intellectuals do so too, for other reasons. Jews are exotic and they are so much more interesting than the uptight culture that they came from. So I think there’s a history of that.
The neocons certainly recruited a lot of non-Jewish adherents.
Well, as I said before, I understand neocons as a kind of creepy Washington, D.C., cult. I don’t understand them to be particularly Jewish, in terms of either their beliefs or their appeal.
I think that neocons realized that the Israel lobby, Jewish interests, can’t be invested in one party. The origins of it were in a meeting they had with Carter, that he was not pro-Israel, and they basically walked out of that meeting at the White House and left the Democratic Party.
I remember Sam Francis recounting his personal experience of the Reagan administration where there was a big battle between the sort of paleocons and the neocons, and the neocons were basically winning—and jettisoning these guys who had been part of the conservative movement back from the ’50s, and reshaping the Republican Party in their image. But yeah, there are a lot of non-Jews who were associated with that.
One of the things about neocons is that they’ve been able to—and I think this is true of Jewish groups in general—that they’ve been able to create an infrastructure where there are opportunities, there are jobs, there’s a profession, there’s a life being part of this. I mean, if you’re someone like John Bolton, this is the way to go. And I’m not saying he doesn’t believe it, but you know. If you fit into this group that is definitely going to promote you, it helps.
If a small political cult like the neocons have a politics that is diametrically opposed to the beliefs of the 70% majority of American Jews who vote Democratic, how do those people function at the same time as an expression of some larger Jewish group strategy? Is the right-wing part of their politics fake?
My view is that they’re different factions of Jews. But, you know, having said that, I mean, you can see since Trump came in that people like Max Boot and other neocons have just completely abandoned the Republican Party. A lot of them have. Jennifer Rubin has, I believe. And it’s because of the diversity and multicultural immigration issues being raised by Trump.
On the flip side, you see a lot of Jewish people on the left, who are for whatever forms of mass immigration and open borders in the United States, which you believe to be part of the Jewish agenda, but who at the same time are quite outspoken in their opposition to Israel, which is the other key part in your view of the Jewish agenda. How does that add up to a coherent “Jewish” group strategy?
There’s more of that I think now then there was. Like Philip Weiss and his website Mondoweiss. I think he’s great, by the way.
I like Philip. The two of you might get along.
He’s on the left, he wants an America that’s in tune with the left, but he’s very critical of Israel at the same time. And that’s becoming more and more common.
So you are a fan of Stephen Miller, and you also like Philip Weiss. But how are they both part of a unified Jewish group strategy, and how does that operate?
That’s my point, that they’re different power centers. You have to look at where the power and the money is. Stephen Miller, as I said, I think he’s an outlier. I don’t think he’s connected to any serious group of Jews that I know of.
Is Philip Weiss?
Yeah. Weiss is quite Jewish, a lot of references and so on, and he wants to be part of the Jewish faith, I think. But on his own terms, right?
I don’t get the sense that he’s religiously-inclined, no.
Are Jews White?
That insight of yours about Jews and immigration and multiculturalism was boiled down into a slogan that became pretty famous recently: The Jews will not replace us.
Oh yeah, yeah.
When you hear that slogan, which became famous in Charlottesville, what do you think? Do you think that is a valid bumper-sticker distillation of your larger argument about the Jews and multiculturalism?
Here’s the thing. To be frank, I started out this project based on sort of these intellectual interests. But by the time I started writing my chapter on immigration, I started to get sort of almost angry—because, as I said, I don’t think these people are on my side. I don’t think they want the America that’s in my interests. And that’s what the bumper sticker is trying to express.
So does this group of people, the Jews, to the extent that they have a collective consciousness or decision-making capacity, have the ability to respond to your arguments and accusations? How do they respond?
I wish they did! What I would want to see the Jewish community do is change their position on these things. Realize that what they’re doing is not fair to the white community, and that the world may not be very nice to them, either.
You know, in the multicultural paradise, whites are a minority. But whites are the least ethnocentric people on earth, and there’s a long history of philo-Semitism among a lot of whites.
Jews are just gonna destroy white power completely, and destroy America as a white country. I don’t think that’s necessarily in our interests, or their interests, and I think it’s shortsighted of them to think that.
You got these Muslims now in France and now Jeremy Corbyn is running on a totally anti-Israel platform, and they’re tolerating some anti-Semitism in the party for these people who come from these Muslim countries, hate Israel, and hate Jews. There are millions of them in Europe now. Is that going to be good for the Jews?
I mean, I’m not sure the Jews can manage this, in the long run.
Do you see whiteness as a cultural choice?
Meaning, if I’m a Jewish guy, or a black guy, or a really big, black Jewish guy, but I happen to love listening to Mozart, you know, and eating Napoleons for dessert—am I white?
Yeah, I mean ... I’m not, you know. Some people I know really dislike blacks and are—you know. I’m not like that.
Blacks are part of this country.
But can they become white through identifying with what you call “white” or European culture? Are Jews white?
It’s an interesting thing about whiteness, right? The Irish weren’t white—
—but then, after a few decades, they were white.
I don’t know. People disputed that.
From my perspective, and we’ve had talks about this, and I’ve written a couple things about it, can we make alliances with Jews?
The answer is, provisionally, yes. I mean, as long as they really subscribe to our interests.
The phrase that you just used is interesting because it was “make alliances with.” So Jews who have white skin color, and are on your side, still aren’t white, because they’re Jewish.
Well, they, they want—
“They should be separate from us, and we should separate from them.”
I don’t believe in setting up barriers, necessarily. But I would accept that. There’s a history of Jews subverting these kinds of movements. Andrew Joyce did a nice article on that in 19th-century Germany.
I think that Jews who really do take the interest of white people at heart, and identify as white, they should work among other Jews and try to convince them to be on our side.
So where did this distinctly Jewish groupness come from, in your view, and how does it operate?
I think you can see the groupness in the Old Testament and throughout Jewish history, prior to Christianity. And it certainly continued in Christianity. But I think a lot of Jewishness might be just about IQ.
Here, the general line you’re taking is comparable with Nathan Cofnas, do you know him?
I read his piece about your books, yes, and I agree with a lot of what he wrote there. I’ve never met him, though. As far as I know, we don’t belong to the same club or anything.
Yeah, well he typecast me as saying something about all Jews.
I’m not a moralist. I’d rather drink beer.
What does interest me, though, are your assertions about Jewish group identity, because I find myself living in an American society where people across the board are being increasingly defined not as individuals with their own experiences and sensibilities, but as members of groups within identitarian frameworks—whether those are presented as positive or negative. In general, I’d say that this approach strikes me as unbelievably primitive and stupid. Yet you can see it everywhere in the culture, on both the right and the left, and it is being written into our laws.
So you are a believer in a white European identity, and you define Jewish identity in opposition to that.
Yeah. I do.
That’s right-wing identitarianism. Meanwhile, the left is busy celebrating and promoting a kind of warfare against the “white” group.
Be careful what you wish for.
Look, I’m an American. I grew up in this country, I’ve traveled it, I write about it, I’ve studied American history. I like baseball, I love American music, I like American whiskey, I like rocket ships. I like American women fine, when they’re not being bonkers. So I have met plenty of Americans who think there’s a secret elite that controls everything, whatever the name for that group is the Bush family, Rockefellers, Freemasons, the Illuminati, the Jews, or the CIA. It’s a very American belief, which goes back to the founding of the country. My question is always “Really? They control all of it? How do they manage that?”
OK. You won’t tell me. Are Jews white people?
Well, two things. Population studies indicate there’s a Middle Eastern connection. But there’s also substantial European ancestry, probably 40% of the Ashkenazi gene pool.
If I’d seen you, I’d never say you look Jewish.
I think I look American, or maybe Russian.
Do you identify as a white person?
I am an American, which means that I am a free person with inalienable rights. That’s what I believe in. What does “white” mean to you?
Well, do you think of yourself, your people, your culture, as Europe? You know, the people of Europe, say in 1492, before there was any dispersal.
My ancestors on both sides come from Europe. I identify with that, the people and the culture of Europe. The history of Europe. I take a certain pride in that, and I’m aware of the warts, but I want the best for my people.
This is not something I ever had in the 1980s. This is something that has developed, and it’s a reaction really to living in California and this leftist rhetoric we see.
“If I’m gonna be white, then I guess I’m white.”
I guess I’m white and I might as well accept that. And the other thing, as I was reading that history, the history of my people, you know, I felt that these people, Jewish people, and the power of the organized Jewish community, is not on our side. It’s not on my side. It’s being used against me.
It’s not only just immigration—
It’s a big issue.
It’s also multiculturalism.
Yeah. Jews were the fathers of multiculturalism in America. They were the ones who literally said that we had to have a society where different groups can have their own, you know, organization and identities, but we’re all going to be in a big orchestra, playing harmoniously together. Like a utopia, even.
So, do you think American Jews are now being bitten in the ass by their own multicultural utopianism?
They may well be.
Or do you see this so-called Jewish strategy of multiculturalism as still advantageous to this group?
Yeah. The idea that this is how we have to perceive ourselves as Americans, that we are a separable group, that within this wider structure that we’re going to benefit, and everybody’s going to benefit together. And there’s a paranoia there, I mean—
It’s not paranoia if they’re really trying to kill you, right?
I remember Elliott Abrams writing about those issues, he’d talk about the sort of dark side of the Jewish community where there’s a belief that any moment the non-Jewish community could rise up, like back in Russia or Ukraine or something. That it could happen any time and that the most suspect people are fundamentalist Christians, you know, that kind of thing. I think that’s a tendency that’s pretty widespread in the Jewish community.
When you say “the Jewish community,” again, who or what are you talking about?
Well I’m trying to apply it to various disparate groups of Jews but, a lot of them have this same belief. We need to fracture the dominant group, so they don’t rise up and kill us.
The History of Whiteness
A lot of people on the left now would say, well, when you say America, that’s the history of whiteness. You would agree with that.
I would see it as the history of whiteness until very recently, accelerating greatly at least in the last few years. I do think that the history of America was a history of whiteness. We built the country, basically. We created the institutions, and we had the power.
You know, again, I come from Wisconsin, and we had no trace of racial animosity or anything of the sort. I saw a black guy once in a while, but it was once every several months fishing in the river. Nobody ever said the N-word, or anything. I didn’t grow up with that kind of attitude.
But, you know, lately, I mean the last 20 years, I really have had the idea that I am a white person. It’s part of my identity. A big part of my identity.
It could be that moving to Southern California in 1985 may have—
—exposed you to something different.
You know? Because I came from Wisconsin, which was totally white. We had different religions, but we didn’t have other races. Then I lived in rural Connecticut for quite a while, and it was basically white.
I remember going out to Southern California in the late ’80s for the first time. If you went out to Fullerton or Long Beach, there was a consciousness there among white kids of being beset by Mexicans, blacks, and whomever. I remember that feeling, meeting kids there.
I think maybe more of that is common among young people, because they are going to high school with different types of people, and stuff like that.
But I retained that basic liberal belief well into the ’90s I suppose. There was a certain time where I was thinking how odd it would be to identify as a white person. That this was somehow distasteful. I would think about it once in a while. But, it was a foreign idea, you know.
I mean, I voted for Reagan in 1980, but I didn’t certainly have any racial reasons for doing so. It may have been implicitly why, but I don’t know. I remember feeling relieved that he won and all that.
But I think that the identity thing is the way of the future.
What Do Jews Want?
I think the key moment in the relation between Europe and the Jews comes during the debates in the French National Assembly over the idea of citizenship. Is a Jew a citizen? And this debate goes on for three months. The answer is finally yes, at least in the French concept, which is then extended through all of Europe when Napoleon goes in and opens the gates of all the ghettos in Spain and Italy and elsewhere by force. I don’t know that you have modern European culture without that.
Yeah. I think that was a fundamental thing. And then the Jews were sort of unleashed on American society and European society, with the substantial cohesion and power that the Jewish community asserted in Europe in the late 19th-century setting. They accepted citizenship, but they weren’t thoroughly assimilated in the sense that they didn’t think of themselves having the same interests as their fellow citizens, necessarily.
What would be examples of that separate Jewish group agenda, and where did it come from, and how was it realized?
I don’t think that Jews had ever thought of immigration policy from the standpoint of what’s good for America, or what’s good for the majority of Americans. Whenever the issue of refugees comes up, the Jewish press is filled with stuff about the St. Louis. They see it in terms of Jewish history and they see it in terms of what’s good for the Jews, or how Jews were excluded at some point by England or America or someplace when they were legitimate refugees. Therefore, America must never prevent anybody from coming in.
As a historical question, the change in U.S. immigration policy that happened in the late ’60s and early ’70s had nothing to do with Jews or the St. Louis.
The main culprit, if that’s how you see it, was Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, a man I greatly admired, and worked for as a kid. He wanted to allow the immigration of as many Irish nannies and construction workers to Boston as possible. And then you had the interests of growers in the Southwest who wanted to ensure the free flow of cheap pickers from Mexico. I think you would have to look for a long time before you can detect the hand of the Jews in either of those two cases.
How about the idea of asylum?
As it happens, the category of asylum that we argue about today was also created by Sen. Kennedy in the 1980s. It came from two of Kennedy’s big foreign policy commitments, which were to Central America, because of the wars in El Salvador and Guatemala, and to Soviet Jews.
But that was as much or more about freeing Jews from the Soviet Union, and letting them immigrate to Israel, as it was about populating America with more Jews. And of course, the major American Jewish organizations opposed the Soviet Jewry movement, to their everlasting shame.
Well, I still stand by Chapter 7 of my book, that Jews were a necessary condition for the 1965 law and a couple of historians—brothers, it turns out, Graham Davis and his brother, they agree with that. After World War II, the Jews didn’t have any big need to have immigration policy set in their favor. There weren’t any Jewish refugees, once World War II was wound up.
Because they were dead.
The 1965 law by itself wouldn’t have changed the country, because it was very low numbers. It was after that that the numbers were gradually increased. I think that it was a complex process, but there’s no doubt that Jewish organizations were involved.
The main motive, as you know, of the 1965 law was to get rid of the Northwest European bias of the 1924 law which was, as you know, designed to keep America white. And when you get rid of that, then it’s a whole new ballgame. And the numbers are now outrageous, they’re beyond any practical need for anything except for changing the demographic balance of the country and getting more Democratic Party votes—and more cheap labor.
Do you find it funny that every other group except for the self-defined or historically defined “white” group is now officially licensed to speak about itself as a group?
Do I find it funny?
Sorry. Does it make you angry?
I think it’s producing incredible divisions. In a way, I’m sort of happy to see that, because it’s ultimately going to produce more white identity.
Just today I was tweeting this article from The New York Times about Trump being the origin of the huge increase in white identity and consciousness, because of the way he talks about things—and I think that’s probably right. But it’s not a hard sell, because of what you say. Everybody’s got a group now. Whites are a group, too.
I think it’s necessary and inevitable that we’re gonna do this. Sometimes it is small-minded, no question, and it’s aggressive, but I think that it’s gonna happen.
I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea. I think it’s a good idea. We can’t decree a world in which people stop having these identities. And more and more, you see this hate against white America. It’s a pejorative now.
And everything about our histories is presented that way. You’d think that all white people in the past owned slaves, and that’s what defines us culturally. And that is going to produce a reaction.
I find it hard to argue with that. On the other hand, that entire alphabet soup of fixed group identities, theirs and yours—
It’s not easy for a lot of people to process, but it’s the truth. And, ironically I’m talking about Jews, but where are the white people? They really have a hard time getting their minds around what’s happening. And there’s this whole conservative ideology that’s all about the individual, groups are horrible, etc. So it’s a huge, uphill battle.
I noticed you using the word white but not the word American. What’s the difference between those two groupings, in your view?
Well, one designates a certain subset of Americans, I think.
Charlie Parker’s IQ
The watchword of post-World War II America was integration.
Yeah, for sure. That was the war chant and I was totally behind it.
But integration means there is a dominant culture that other groups of people are to be included into. Was that idea flawed, in your view?
Well, part of what happened I think is that the ground zero of integration was the school system, and I think it just didn’t work. There’s probably more segregation now than there ever was. Parents just didn’t want their kids going to school with black kids, and I think for good reason. I’ve become a racial realist in a way I never was back then, but—
What does that term “racial realist” mean?
Well, it means that I do believe there are race differences in things like IQ. The black students have more problems with acting out in class and discipline. They don’t achieve well academically, and they’re not going to.
Huh. Well, I don’t know about that. Many of the teachers that I was close to, who really taught me stuff, like how to write, were black.
In school. In college. In graduate school at Princeton. They were black scholars, writers, academics. They taught me how to do the things I do now. None of them seemed to have low IQs, as far as I could tell. In fact, I’d say the exact opposite.
Now, I was the first American citizen in my family, and I lived in a lower-middle-income housing project in Brooklyn in the 1970s. So black people were the first real Americans that I knew. They knew the music, they knew the ropes. My first little girlfriend was black. She was really cute.
Well, I grew up in the ’60s, you know, and I got totally into jazz, I play jazz piano, and I love it, and I think it’s beautiful.
Right, but how can you say all that other stuff, then? Obviously if you listen to the great creators in that genre of music, whether you’re talking about Louis Armstrong creating jazz, or Duke Ellington, or Thelonious Monk, or Charlie Parker, you can’t look at those people and be like they lack—what? IQ points? A genetic ability to process complexity?
Charlie Parker lacked that ability? He was what, slow?
No, I don’t. Charlie Parker was—I mean, he was a genius, yes.
You played that music. It’s like a musical IQ test. So it’s hard for me to listen to you, as a person who appreciates music, like I do, and plays jazz piano, and even understand what you are trying to say.
The problem is, you know, you’ve got this black underclass and there’s been a bifurcation where the black middle class has moved out, basically, and they leave these people and they are ... I don’t see what can be done about it. And it’s a problem for America because, as you said, they are as American as anybody.
They’re more culturally American than I am. They’re core Americans.
So we have to deal with that problem, but we have to deal with it in a realistic way. And realize that there are a lot of really talented black people who are creative and incredible, but, you know, there’s a problem. The black community is a problem. Big problem.
Every community has problems. Look at all the white meth-heads and Oxycontin addicts you have wandering around up here.
I know, but this is endemic, this is biologically related. IQ is so important in modern life. I mean you just can’t build a society with any kind of sophistication. You’ve got these people who can’t be educated, basically. And you’ve got an economy that’s based on high tech and computers. What are these people going to do? And they’re crime-prone.
Have you ever visited Israel?
They have a great immigration policy. Africans come in, and they throw them out, or they make life miserable for them. And many of our people, and I’ll write it—have held Israel as a model for what we should do.
But I’ve never been to Israel.
It’s very crime-prone, but it’s a great country. And when you look at the people there, one of the striking things is that, if you use your idea of race as a dominant category, it’s the ultimate multiracial society. The dominant skin tone there is an olive, coffee-colored tone, maybe, because they all intermarry, you know, and have lots of babies.
Miss Israel is Ethiopian. Really gorgeous. Very smart, too.
If there’d be an IQ test, they’re probably around 70 or worse.
Huh. I took a class in college with Richard Herrnstein, the author of The Bell Curve. Now, Herrnstein’s arguments in that book, which you seem to agree with then, are the opposite of what you identify as Jewish arguments. So how does that book by a Jew, who is now generally reviled, support the idea of a plot by Jewish intellectuals to repress the truth about group IQ?
[Laughs.] Look, it is legitimate for black writers and thinkers to see a book like The Bell Curve, and immediately have historical trauma awakened in them. Just as it’s legitimate for Jews to hear people talking about a Jewish lobby that controls the government of the United States and feel that they’re flashing back—because these are root traumas, right? They happen to people—in the Jewish case, they happened to people’s parents and grandparents. In the black case, people’s great-grandparents. It’s because their ethnic pride is being hurt. But I have to look at the reality and I think it’s overwhelming.
Is it pride, or is it a legitimate fear, rooted in history and personal experience? Like, “I get a bad feeling when you talk about gassing Jews because my grandparents were gassed to death.” Or, “your talk about low group IQ reminds me of a time when my recent ancestors were owned and sold like livestock.”
Yeah. I understand. I understand it. It’s just that you have to understand our interests too, right? I mean, the fact is our interests are being compromised by the idea that there are no racial differences.
Because, every time something goes wrong, every time blacks don’t do well, “Well, it’s because the white race did this or that.” We are blamed for every failure of blacks as a group. It’s not fair; it’s not real. So people need to understand our point of view too.
I spent a bunch of time at Cold Harbor Laboratory a few years ago, interviewing James Watson—
This is before he did his heresy on black IQ?
No. It was afterwards. Watson posed a problem for people because they wanted to exile him for his various idiocies and quirks. At the same time, he discovered DNA, so it was always possible that he could maybe also cure cancer – so you don’t really want to send him to a re-education camp.
Watson’s big fixation was that he loved to talk about group traits. He told me, “You’re an Ashkenazi Jew from Russia, David, and so you’re among the smartest group of people in the world.” To which I answered, “My uncle Myron used to have a saying about the Jews. He said, ‘They’re the smartest dumb people in the world.’”
The dumbest people in the world?
The smartest dumb people in the world. Which is how I feel about Jews. I mean, is there is a difference in group IQ between Ashkenazi Jews and other groups of people? Statistically, yes. But that’s also true of a bunch of other population groups throughout the world, like Nigerians from whatever tribe it is that moves to Long Island and gets perfect SAT scores.
Jews were the first real advocates of blacks in America, the NAACP, the whole thing was basically a Jewish organization. In the ’60s, you know, you had black nationalists who were anti-Jewish to some extent. And there was a history of blacks not liking Jews, you know. But the Jewish community was definitely a vanguard of the Civil Rights Movement. It was pushed by the organized Jewish community, which was extremely powerful.
Man, I wish I could take you on a tour of the shabby offices that make up this world of the all-powerful Jewish organizations like the ADL and the Bnai Brith. Even the phrase “organized Jewish community” itself is funny to me. Those people couldn’t organize their way out of a paper bag.
It doesn’t seem organized to you?
You don’t think Jews have that much influence or power in America?
No. There has never been a Jewish president of the United States. There is no Jewish American family like the Rockefellers.
Jews are 2% of the American population, and they are overrepresented in a bunch of professions because that’s their culture. They’re a population that historically has placed a premium on education. And people notice them.
The Malice of the Jews
There’s a feeling I got from your work of a Jewish entity that’s acting maybe for historically understandable reasons, but that is acting maliciously. You feel that Jews act with malice towards white European people.
I believe it, yeah.
So your feeling is that if groups have thoughts and feelings and strategies, then why shouldn’t some groups be acting maliciously?
Especially if they have a historical grudge on their shoulders. And that’s fundamental in my attitude.
Jews, when they look back at history, they see the Catholic Church as an oppressor. They think of the pogroms in Russia. They think of Nazism and the Holocaust. And they think of the 1924 Immigration Laws directed against them.
Jews have this historical memory. And I think the main thrust of Jewish influence really is motivated by that.
So the Jews are in fact malicious, because the world abused them?
Yeah. I don’t think that it’s the whole explanation, but I think that’s a big part of it. Whenever there is a new refugee issue in the news, Jews frame it through the St. Louis.
I want to come back again to this idea of evolutionary strategy because I feel that there is an explanatory power there for you that I don’t understand exactly. Let’s take George Soros as an example.
Yeah, I got him.
Soros is the ultimate Jewish funder of Democratic, pro-immigration, multicultural causes.
And he’s anti-Israel.
He’s also a person who openly and gladly has never had anything whatsoever to do with any organized Jewish community of any kind. His father taught the entire Soros family to speak Esperanto.
I don’t have to explain George Soros. I’m trying to explain the main parts of Jewish influence. But I do talk about him. I don’t think it’s at unreasonable to think he had a pretty strong Jewish identity. But, like a lot of Jews now, it just doesn’t necessarily expand to Israel.
The point is, George Soros never had any connection to any Jewish structures or organizations of any kind. He doesn’t attend a synagogue or perform any Jewish rites. He doesn’t seem to be engaged in any way by Jewish history or culture.
Well, yeah, I used to have a quote in there. You can look it up. I forget where it is, it’s such an extensive back and forth there. But it was something like ... “Jews are most safe, you know, in a country that accepts this kind of thing.” I do think that he has some kind of residual Jewish sense. I do.
I think that’s probably right in that vector of, “How am I at risk?”
Yeah. How am I at risk. I mean in Culture of Critique, I try to show that these Jews identify with Jews and they consciously saw themselves as doing something to help the Jewish interest, combating your example.
Did the Frankfurt school refugees you write about have a sense of themselves as endangered on account of their Jewishness, and did they therefore pursue strategies that they thought would remove or mitigate dangers for people like themselves, including themselves? Absolutely. That’s the most normal motive I can imagine.
Yeah, it’s primal.
It’s all about how hard you tighten that screw, though.
Well, my problem is, why apply to America? We just saved you in World War II. And now you’re going to start casting doubt on what percent of Americans should be white? It’s outrageous. At that same time, the Jewish community ramped up their activism against white America. What the fuck?
Waitress: You guys feel like any dessert or anything? Any room for that?
David Samuels: I think I’ll have another beer.
Your point is that Jews should have been more grateful to America, particularly when you imagine the alternative.
Yeah, Americans weren’t fucking Nazis.
I generally like Russian and French Jews much better than American Jews. But the idea that American Jews are pursuing a rational group strategy to subvert white people, or that there’s some coherent body that guides that strategy, I haven’t seen any evidence of that, in their conclaves and such, to be honest with you.
What do Jewish kids learn in the synagogue about Western history?
I don’t think anyone learns very much history in American synagogues. The rabbis are generally more like social workers.
I do think that most Jews believe that America is a blessed country, though.
A Blessed Country
Do you believe that America is a blessed country?
It is. It has been. I’m not sure how long it’s going to last, though.
It’s incredible that it’s lasted this long.
I’m writing a book. I’m just proofreading it now. About us, Americans.
White people. Not Americans. Europeans from the beginning. We have sort of that tendency. The Civil War’s a great example.
Have you ever read one of my favorite books ever, by Edmund Wilson? It’s called Patriotic Gore.
You should read it. It’s a fantastic book, by a white man who also happened to be a literary critic for The New Yorker. It’s basically a set of biographical studies of guys like Oliver Wendell Holmes, the philosopher Charles Pierce, and others who shaped post-Civil War American intellectual culture, up to the 1920s and beyond. Wilson’s thesis is that all these guys were young officers during the Civil War. And he looks at what happened to them in the war, what their experience was, and how it then shaped their philosophies and ideas about society and whatever. The thing that you get a very heavy sense of in that book is this wave of heady idealism that gets drowned in a river of blood.
That’s exactly my theme. I have a chapter on the Puritans. And it was that Puritan legacy, of fighting for moral idealism. And you know, slavery is actually evil. And they all have militias coming out of New England, backed by the transcendentalist intellectuals.
There’s a book called Redeemer Nation by [Ernest Lee] Tuveson, a great book, which shows this incredible sense of moral righteousness leading up to the war. And then it absolutely destroyed them.
That’s our tendency, as white people. We tend to see things as moral absolutes, in black and white. Then we go to war over it. We kill if someone doesn’t agree with us.
Do you think Donald Trump is going to win or lose the election?
I think he might win. The demographics are against him. He won narrowly, and so I think he could maybe, definitely lose. I wouldn’t want to put a lot of money on it either way.
Do you see Trump as someone who speaks for the group of people that you feel emotionally connected to, who you call white?
I’m less down on him than these other people in my cohort. I think that he has raised the right consciousness. And he’s brought the issues to the fore. If it had been Jeb Bush against Hillary, they wouldn’t have mentioned immigration. It wouldn’t matter who won.
But Trump won. And I think he can win again, because I think more white people may vote for him. Especially, you know, if the Democratic candidates identify with Medicare for illegal aliens, and abortion up to the time of birth, and open borders. I mean, it’s just not going to sell to the broad American public, I don’t think.
But the hate against Trump is just palpable.
I think what Trump did in 2016 was that he used the wiring and the style of social media technologies against the people who thought that landscape was theirs.
Trump is the tweeter-in-chief. The problem is, you now have a guy who lives and dies by that sword, and who’s never shown any real interest in managing anything. So, can he pull off that same trick twice? I dunno.
Yeah. I agree. The demographics are against Trump. Texas probably will still be Republican in 2020. But not much longer.
What do you think happens if Trump loses?
I know what’ll happen if he wins. There will be riots in the streets in every major city.
If he loses, there will be a lot of very unhappy people. But I don’t think they’ll riot. They never have. I suppose they’ll just lump it.
But I think that Trump may have changed the Republican Party forever. The next guy who comes along has to appeal to that base.
It scares me that the language that you have been using for the past 25 years, identitarian language, the language of race and group identity, has now become the dominant language in American politics, on both the right and on the left.
Yeah. Well, you know, when you’re in the university setting, I mean, you see all these departments, and the whole reason for their existence is their identities—black studies. Jewish studies. Asian studies. American Indian studies. Then we have the LGBTQ. And all these people appreciate identity. I always think it’s a top-down thing. You source it academically. And then it spreads out through the elite media.
There’s no such thing as elite media anymore.
I mean, that’s how Trump got elected in the first place.
I think we are seeing the inherent volatility of a society where you’ve eliminated that stabilizer, and plugged us all into machines that amplify difference and conflict.
There was truly a consensus. An elite consensus that filtered down, that was dependent on controlling consensus in the media, which was formed by the critical class, whose power is now broken.
That is too bad for you. I hope that it can still be good for us.
David Samuels is the editor of County Highway, a new American magazine in the form of a 19th-century newspaper. He is Tablet’s literary editor.