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Israel The Political Animal

A Second Look: The Uncanny John Mearsheimer

tech3The weekend found me in my cyber perambulations encountering greater than the usual concentration of anti-Semitic eruptions from the maw of the uncivilizing world. We withdraw from the end of history. It produced my own ironic rants in twitter eruption, first on Saturday, again on Sunday. Some meditation on the nature of that ur-hatred that is anti-Semitism has to follow. This put me in mind to republish a post from near a couple of years ago in which John Mearsheimer was just the carrier of the moment of that contagion that, if not literally airborne, seems always in the air. There seems something uncanny in the nature of its eruption, like a parasitic alien, I write below, its head bursting finally out of the host body. Here, then:

The Uncanny John Mearsheimer

Popularly understood as something eerie, strange, and supernatural, the uncanny in Freud retains that sense of the strange, yet adds to it the contrary feeling of the familiar. This clash of contrarieties is profoundly unsettling.

[T]his uncanny element is actually nothing new or strange, but something that was long familiar to the psyche and was estranged from it only through being repressed.  The link with repression now illuminates Shelling’s definition of the uncanny as ‘something that should have remained hidden that has come into the open’.

In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, we should recall of the novel, in contrast to the movies, Frankenstein is Dr. Frankenstein, the creator of the monster, and not the monster himself, who is a nameless dread, like a repressed element seeking to break through to the surface. In the novel, the monster and his creator are alternately in pursuit of, and flight from, each other, seeking in that exchange of positions both to know and to deny, to destroy, themselves.

I am not performing a psycho-blog-analysis of John Mearsheimer, anymore than Shelley analyzed the doctor. I merely note Mearsheimer’s creation, with Stephen Walt, of the past few years, and the emergence of the “something that should have remained hidden that has come into the open.”

Adam Holland brought to our attention Mearsheimer’s back-cover blurb-endorsement of the latest book by the notorious Jewish anti-Semite Gilad Atzmon. (We might think Jewish anti-Semitism, like the light-skinned “black” passing for “white,” a kind of ur-form of the uncanny – “something that was long familiar to the psyche and was estranged from it only through being repressed.”) Jeffrey Goldberg drew further attention over several posts to this latest development from the co-author of The Israel Lobby, and so did, Walter Russell MeadHarry’s Place over several posts, and others. Mearsheimer offered an unyielding defense of himself at Walt’s blog at Foreign Affairs. The defense, like the blurb, is a curious creature, an Alien bursting from the chest of John Hurt, strange and horribly disturbing, yet looking like very much like our own intestines, now headed, and headed somewhere, ultimately for us.

Mearsheimer’s first Maginot line of defense is that his blurb was for the one book only and not an endorsement of Atzmon’s anti-Semitic ideas in general. This is the argument of a country ready for conquest.

I am only endorsing this one work by (Vlad the Impaler, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Robert Mugabe, David Duke, Ratko Mladić), not what he stands for in life altogether, and the fact that I feel no discomfort associating myself with him, linking our names together in the indelible record of history, has no import to any understanding of who I am as person, and nothing should or can be made of it.

This is a most flimsy argument to make. Perhaps recognizing, while not acknowledging, this position’s bursting seams – perhaps feeling, even as he writes, his own entrails busting like an inner demon through the shell of his skin – Mearsheimer proceeds to do a most curious thing. Despite claiming that his blurbed endorsement was limited only to the current book, he proceeds to defend Atzmon against the most devastating charges against him, and of which there is abundant and damning evidence – that Atzmon is a Holocaust denier and a trafficker in the vilest anti-Semitic tropes and traditions. It is like watching a Jekyll become Hyde before one’s eyes.

Let me now turn to the specific claim that Atzmon is an “apologist for Hitler.” Again, I am somewhat reluctant to do this, because this charge forces me to defend what Atzmon said in one of his blog posts.

Are there no mirrors in Mearsheimer’s home? It wasn’t Goldberg’s charge that forced him to defend anything. It was his own careless disregard for the entailments of that for which he has come to stand, and extend through Atzmon, that apparently compelled him to further bring into the open what should have remained hidden.

One of the characteristics we see in a certain kind of modern critic of Israel – the kind who is not merely critical of settlement policy, let us say, but who is clearly unsympathetic to the state itself, and to the historical record and truth of its travails – is a defensive belligerence against the counter charges to the critic’s claims. The critique of these individuals seems inevitably to extend beyond Israel to a whole nexus of Jewish power and influence that is said to sustain Israel against what should be, these critics argue, the more natural opposition to what Israel really is, and how it has come to be harmful, along with its network of Jewish support, to host nations of that dangerous element with separate loyalties.

No entry into contemporary intellectual life more characteristically has represented this kind of criticism than Mearsheimer’s and Walt’s The Israel Lobby. The two have since demonstrated all of that characteristic defensive belligerence to their own critics. This is not an unusual response to criticism, one might say. Nothing necessarily telling in that. Except…except…some of these critics are drawn by the fury of the debate – to employ a term of current domestic politics – to double down on their position. They become – compelled, it does seem – to poke the beast of anti-Semitism, to see how far they can disturb the animal while still claiming they were just out for a walk in the woods meaning no harm to any Jew.

It is almost too perfect that an author of The Israel Lobby has associated himself with Gilad Atzmon, and now even defended him. It confirms all his critics have claimed, while he has locked himself in the laboratory determined to create bastard life from spare parts and electricity. What remains to be seen is whether he will pursue, in belated recognition, the monster all the way to the Arctic reaches, and if he too will die on the ship, the monster come for him.

AJA

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Israel

Anatomy of an Anti-Semite

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Ross Vachon (of Malibu, CA, he informs) has reappeared. A month and a half after I pinned him wriggling to the specimen board in ‘Anti-Semitism, the Ur-Hatred,” he has apparently taken time to emerge from his burrow and discover what I observed of him. He had originally written me privately, in response to “The Uncanny John Mearsheimer,” the sum total of his trenchant reply being to call me a “Jew hack.” I then performed my antisemitology.

Vachon, who has written for one of the anti-Semites of the moment – Gilad Atzmon – and who used to contribute to Semite loving Counterpunch, now by all indication prowls the internet attempting to play whack-a-Jew. He discovers that I publically replied to his ugly private communiqué, and he is compelled once more to respond. He rhetoriczes. He insults on the exhale. He quotes Danton, does standup shtick, descends for a roll in Yiddishkeit vernacular, and rummages around in his rucksack of adjectives. The one thing he does not do – of course – is think. Reacting defensively to my analysis last time of why he then wrote privately, he now posts a public comment.

We see that the earlier use of “Jew hack,” to end his original insult string “bilious anti-American neurotic Jew hack” has now had the “Jew” this time, again defensively, removed. We then are graced with an unselfconscious litany of Jew love that – I suppose we should all be grateful and (you’ll forgive the expression) observant – omits only “finance.” The only attempt at actual argument, at which Vachon is woefully deficient (there being a paucity of interlocutors in the burrow) is the simple claim

You’re afraid to address the central point – “The Israel Lobby” was 1. A best-seller 2. The American Foreign Policy Establishment could not help but take notice of it.

Of course, Mein Kampf was a bestseller, as was Valley of the Dolls, as is currently – you can look it up –  Kris Jenner…And All Things Kardashian. The monumentalized-in-all-caps American foreign policy establishment took note of The Israel Lobby in order to reject it (one can’t help but notice road kill either), and the reputations of its authors have suffered for it.

I am sure that there are things Vachon does well. He insults with enthusiasm. Still, even then he can be lamely puerile, resorting to “blogger kook who parades around in pajamas.” Only the tops, Ross – get it right. When he attempts to join insult with (only the veneer of unsupported) analysis, as in “[j]ust more callow sophistry,” he follows it up with the empty “bilious, clueless, horny, over-the-hill.” Nonetheless, while pretty stupid stuff, it isn’t, except in its aim at me, especially vile in character. But somehow this ejaculation did not suffice. Vachon did not subside in satisfaction. He pressed on to investigate me, and was compelled to comment again.

Vachon has attempted to pretend that this exchange is all about the The Israel Lobby, yet while I never bring it up, he cannot forget my Jewishness. He digs around amongst my several alma matae and seizes upon the one that enables a joke based upon a distinguishing Jewish physical characteristic. I guess none of my schools provided an acronym for hooked nose. And Vachon thinks identifying Jewish comic Lenny Bruce as the joke’s source obscures its psychic provenance in him. In truth, this brief outburst is a mine of material.

Vachon pretends that I last time identified the epithet “neurotic Jew” as a sign of anti-Semitism, while in reality it was the use of the mere “Jew” as insult that was the giveaway. I was quite clear about it. It is one of the characteristics of the racial and ethnic hater that he simply cannot recognize how objectionably he is perceived by others – how the hate brands and disfigures him in others’ eyes, and how visible it is. He will even show it off – hoods and capes, swastikas, “Jew!” – imagining that he is the uncanny eruption to the surface of the feeling everyone else still represses but receives with unacknowledged familiarity. And erupt it does.

A characteristic of the Ur-hatred is that it overrides other ideational tendencies: it is the ever disturbing, repeatedly, momentarily satisfying answer to all. This is why right and left anti-Semitism tend to merge, how David Duke can support Cynthia McKinney who joins forces more generally with white supremacists. So on the one hand Vachon accuses me of being anti-American – a typical far right criticism – and on the other he grabs from the bag of purer-than-pure farther left criticism of liberals by imagining my work in Indian country to have exhibited nonetheless “racism, and paternalism.”

It’s not the right. It’s not the left. It’s the hatred stupid.

Vachon closes with a quote from Danton: “Audacity, always audacity.”

But the quote is incomplete. The full statement is

“Pour les vaincre, messieurs, il nous faut de l’audace, encore de l’audace, et toujours de l’audace et la Patrie sera sauvée!”

“To defeat them, gentlemen, we need audacity, still more audacity, and audacity forever, and the Fatherland will be saved!”

Now, yes, this was Danton during the French Revolution. But given the context of this exchange, from whom else can we easily imagine these words – into whose mouth place them? It was an early and continuing discomfort among some during the days in which the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was created that the U.S. for the first time in its national vernacular made use of a term, common in other countries, that chauvinistically conjures up a volk and their nativist attachment to land. It is not a sentiment and language that has produced the best in human beings. It isn’t a good history.

When was the last time a people were urged to show audacity in order to save the Fatherland from Jews?

AJA

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The Political Animal

How We Lived on It (42) – Anti-Semitism, the Ur-Hatred

I’ve been thinking since I wrote “The Uncanny John Mearsheimer,” in which I by the way proposed Jewish anti-Semitism and black-for-white passing as Ur forms of the uncanny, that anti-Semitism is one of the Ur forms of hatred – the group form. Hatred of the other, expressed as demonization, is a primal emotion. In the individual or group manifestation, a process of alienation takes place, the demonized other made malevolent beyond the pale: outsider, foreigner, witch, blasphemer, even literally an alien – somehow dehumanized. While there may have been abiding group hatreds earlier in history than that of Jews, none was sustained in history as anti-Semitism has been. Of course, there is nothing intrinsic in Jewishness that causes this hatred – that would be, after all, the anti-Semite’s belief.

Rather than intrinsic, the circumstantial role of Jews in this Ur-hatred isn’t that surprising when one considers. We have a group of people who make their lasting mark momentously in the history of civilization by originating monotheism, and the foundational religious text of all subsequent Western religions, and who think themselves at the time, and so record it, rather remarkable (chosen) for the achievement. And then their monumentality in the founding of even those subsequent religions – and being assigned, too, by those successors, a quite controversial role in a succeeding group’s own founding narrative. Followed by a long history of stubbornly resisting – as small a contingent as they became – complete conversion, assimilation, and even eradication. Human beings, it is historically apparent, need other human beings to fear and despise – even, just like notions of an anthropomorphic God and devil were needed, a founding and essential human source of social ills, the scapegoat, was needed – and Jews momentously and circumstantially came to answer that need.

What I was suggesting in “The Uncanny John Mearsheimer” is that the emergence of that Ur-hatred in an individual, group, or society is a manifestation of the uncanny, and that like any repressed psychic element rising to the surface, there will be a contest of compulsion and suppression. One will deny, yet one will make assertions belying the denial, followed by more denial. One will make charges in conveniently reconfigured terms – Israel, not Jew; (public) lobby, not secret organization – one will engender thereby suspicious accusations, one will deny them with outrage, and then one will begin to speak of good Jews and bad Jews, and then write book blurbs for a Holocaust denier, Hitler apologist and outright Jew hater. Then one will claim that the denier, apologist, and hater is not those things, and cry “Who me, how dare you.” BDS supporters and incorporators of Israel’s founding into the post-Columbian colonial narrative stink of this psychic turmoil. A monster is struggling to the surface, acidly searing the thin skin of civility, and the vapor is noxious.

I post, then, “The Uncanny John Mearsheimer,” and I receive from the gaseous reaches this email.

They can’t help themselves, you see. This pretends, too, to be supportive of the Israel-Lobby author, even as it contradictorily jettisons that author’s own phony defense of separating Jews from Israel. (There are good and bad, after all.)  There is more to be observed about this communication, though.

First, most apparently, in “bilious, anti-American, neurotic Jew hacks like you” there is a string of adjectives. All but one – Jew – are by definition pejorative. What, then, are we to make of the “Jew” in the midst of them? Did the author momentarily relent in his despite, recall some early longing for objective accounting? No – the “Jew” is pejorative, too.

I well recall – he recalled it for me as he re-envisioned it so vividly – my father’s account for me of an occasion in Poland when he was just a boy, around 1922 or so: a military officer standing on the steps of a public building struck my father in the face with his gloves and spit the word “Jew” at him. No actual term of insult was necessary. For the Jew hater, the word Jew itself is the insult.

So in defense of the man still running from the monster he created, we get the Doctor Frankenstein who dances with his around around a fire. He speaks of “an idea whose time has come.” But since he makes no pretense of Zionists or lobbyists, and talks directly and so clearly of Jews, we know what kind of idea he has in mind.

Finally, and most importantly, of the entity who writes under the name of Ross Vachon, and who has written in like manner for Israel Shamir and Counterpunch, too, we should consider that he might have left his comment here on the blog. Someone like Jeffrey Goldberg, who does not accept comments on his blog – and we can well imagine why he doesn’t – leaves a correspondent no choice but to write him directly. Vachon chose to write me directly even though he didn’t have to. Even if he believed that I would delete the comment, still what mattered to him was not that he publicly express his bigoted contempt, but that I receive it. Like someone who whispers the insult into your ear rather than pronounce it boldly, it is not for shame before the public that he does it – he has no shame – but because he imagines the whispered remark the more deeply wounding insult, like a blade inserted at close quarters.

So the anti-Semite imagines.

I imagine him now a specimen pinned to a spreading board.

AJA

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Israel

The Uncanny John Mearsheimer

.

Popularly understood as something eerie, strange, and supernatural, the uncanny in Freud retains that sense of the strange, yet adds to it the contrary feeling of the familiar. This clash of contrarieties is profoundly unsettling.

[T]his uncanny element is actually nothing new or strange, but something that was long familiar to the psyche and was estranged from it only through being repressed.  The link with repression now illuminates Shelling’s definition of the uncanny as ‘something that should have remained hidden that has come into the open’.

In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, we should recall of the novel, in contrast to the movies, Frankenstein is Dr. Frankenstein, the creator of the monster, and not the monster himself, who is a nameless dread, like a repressed element seeking to break through to the surface. In the novel, the monster and his creator are alternately in pursuit of, and flight from, each other, seeking in that exchange of positions both to know and to deny, to destroy, themselves.

I am not performing a psycho-blog-analysis of John Mearsheimer, anymore than Shelley analyzed the doctor. I merely note Mearsheimer’s creation, with Stephen Walt, of the past few years, and the emergence of the “something that should have remained hidden that has come into the open.”

Adam Holland brought to our attention Mearsheimer’s back-cover blurb-endorsement of the latest book by the notorious Jewish anti-Semite Gilad Atzmon. (We might think Jewish anti-Semitism, like the light-skinned “black” passing for “white,” a kind of ur-form of the uncanny – “something that was long familiar to the psyche and was estranged from it only through being repressed.”) Jeffrey Goldberg drew further attention over several posts to this latest development from the co-author of The Israel Lobby, and so did, Walter Russell Mead, Harry’s Place over several posts, and others. Mearsheimer offered an unyielding defense of himself at Walt’s blog at Foreign Affairs. The defense, like the blurb, is a curious creature, an Alien bursting from the chest of John Hurt, strange and horribly disturbing, yet looking like very much like our own intestines, now headed, and headed somewhere, ultimately for us.

Mearsheimer’s first Maginot line of defense is that his blurb was for the one book only and not an endorsement of Atzmon’s anti-Semitic ideas in general. This is the argument of a country ready for conquest.

I am only endorsing this one work by (Vlad the Impaler, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Robert Mugabe, David Duke, Ratko Mladić), not what he stands for in life altogether, and the fact that I feel no discomfort associating myself with him, linking our names together in the indelible record of history, has no import to any understanding of who I am as person, and nothing should or can be made of it.

This is a most flimsy argument to make. Perhaps recognizing, while not acknowledging, this position’s bursting seams – perhaps feeling, even as he writes, his own entrails busting like an inner demon through the shell of his skin – Mearsheimer proceeds to do a most curious thing. Despite claiming that his blurbed endorsement was limited only to the current book, he proceeds to defend Atzmon against the most devastating charges against him, and of which there is abundant and damning evidence – that Atzmon is a Holocaust denier and a trafficker in the vilest anti-Semitic tropes and traditions. It is like watching a Jekyll become Hyde before one’s eyes.

Let me now turn to the specific claim that Atzmon is an “apologist for Hitler.” Again, I am somewhat reluctant to do this, because this charge forces me to defend what Atzmon said in one of his blog posts.

Are there no mirrors in Mearsheimer’s home? It wasn’t Goldberg’s charge that forced him to defend anything. It was his own careless disregard for the entailments of that for which he has come to stand, and extend through Atzmon, that apparently compelled him to further bring into the open what should have remained hidden.

One of the characteristics we see in a certain kind of modern critic of Israel – the kind who is not merely critical of settlement policy, let us say, but who is clearly unsympathetic to the state itself, and to the historical record and truth of its travails – is a defensive belligerence against the counter charges to the critic’s claims. The critique of these individuals seems inevitably to extend beyond Israel to a whole nexus of Jewish power and influence that is said to sustain Israel against what should be, these critics argue, the more natural opposition to what Israel really is, and how it has come to be harmful, along with its network of Jewish support, to host nations of that dangerous element with separate loyalties.

No entry into contemporary intellectual life more characteristically has represented this kind of criticism than Mearsheimer’s and Walt’s The Israel Lobby. The two have since demonstrated all of that characteristic defensive belligerence to their own critics. This is not an unusual response to criticism, one might say. Nothing necessarily telling in that. Except…except…some of these critics are drawn by the fury of the debate – to employ a term of current domestic politics – to double down on their position. They become – compelled, it does seem – to poke the beast of anti-Semitism, to see how far they can disturb the animal while still claiming they were just out for a walk in the woods meaning no harm to any Jew.

It is almost too perfect that an author of The Israel Lobby has associated himself with Gilad Atzmon, and now even defended him. It confirms all his critics have claimed, while he has locked himself in the laboratory determined to create bastard life from spare parts and electricity. What remains to be seen is whether he will pursue, in belated recognition, the monster all the way to the Arctic reaches, and if he too will die on the ship, the monster come for him.

AJA

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The Political Animal

Pejman Yousefzadeh: on Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer

from The New Ledger

The Case of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer

Want to gain respect and credibility in writing about Israel and the Middle East? Make it clear–crystal clear–that you will have nothing to do with the crazies who use your arguments to propagate their own racist rantings. If you say “oh, it goes without saying that I am not a racist, and don’t believe what the racists say,” and think that this will be enough, well, get ready to find out that it won’t be enough. If all of this is too much work for your fragile, little self, stop blogging about the Middle East. The subject should either get responsible commentary from a particular observer, or should get none; no commentary at all is preferable to irresponsible commentary that becomes indistinguishable from, and has the effect of rabble-rousing.

Read more

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