Since when is Gore Vidal an expert on anti-Semitism?

Nevermind that being the victim of anti-Semitism doesn’t automatically make you not a rapist, (thanks Melissa), let’s take a look at some of this man’s philosemitic work, shall we?

Vidal’s much-noted distaste for Jews and Judaism comes through most clearly in three essays written from 1970 to 1981. It is rooted in a standard Nietzschean genealogy of morals — Judaism was a slave-religion that, through Christianity, transmitted its ignoble principles to the whole West — and flavored with an aristocratic contempt for Jews as arrivistes. Admittedly, when criticizing the outrageously stupid comments on homosexuality made by Jewish neoconservatives such as Norman Podhoretz, Midge Decter, and Joseph Epstein, Vidal is in the right. But he puts himself in the wrong when he refers to Jewish writers as “Rabbi” and calls attention to “the rabbinical mind” of one; when he mentions “[Alfred] Kazin and his kind,” says that Hilton Kramer’s criticism of Garry Wills and himself must be “because we are not Jewish,” and calls Podhoretz “a publicist for Israel”; when he describes New York Jewish intellectuals as a “new class,” and then says that “no matter how crowded and noisy a room, one can always detect the new-class person’s nasal whine”; and when he repeatedly insinuates that it is “unwise” for Jews to criticize homosexuals because they “will be in the same gas chambers as the blacks and the faggots.” Every individual remark can be extenuated — at times it even seems that Vidal writes out of a disappointed love of Jews, whom he expects to be liberal on all issues — but the cluster of hostile, sneering, scornful references leaves a very unpleasant taste. There seems no reason, other than anti-Semitic compulsion, for three of the 14 essays in a book ostensibly about sex to be, in reality, attacks on Judaism and on individual Jews.

I do think that the writer is on to something here, at the end: this is a familiar pattern with anti-Semites. There is an admiration based on a kind of imagined camaraderie, for any number of reasons; Martin Luther, for example, was far more positive when he imagined our rejection of Christianity was more due to malfeasance from the Catholics than doctrinal or theological reasons.

However, more to the point: given what this man has previously written about Jews, why should anyone take his analysis of anti-Semitism seriously?

2 Responses

  1. [...] It seems like someone on the left is always making antisemitic statements. Gore Vidal has a checkered past and Helen Thomas’ recent outburst is another great example. That’s not to say that [...]

  2. Have you read Christopher Hitchens’ Hitch 22? If Hitchens’ recollection of Vidal is to be believed, Vidal was rife with the worst kinds of left-wing extreme analogies and dislikes (including calling the FBI “our KGB”). In the outer depths of the far left and far right, Jews are seemingly equated with the establishment and are therefore villanized.

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