Should Philosophers Censor Kevin MacDonald?

According to the mainstream narrative about race, “white supremacy” is an all-controlling social force responsible for bad outcomes such as racial disparities. According to an alternative narrative popular on the far-Right, Jewish influence is a similarly powerful force, which explains outcomes disliked by those on the Right, such as multiculturalism and mass immigration.

Last year, I published a paper in the Israeli philosophy journal Philosophia arguing that both the woke and the far-Right narratives are wrong and rooted in similar errors. I focus on the work of Cal State Long Beach psychologist Kevin MacDonald. MacDonald argues that Judaism is a “group evolutionary strategy,” and that Jews were a necessary condition for the triumph of liberalism, which he sees as bad for white gentiles. His approach is similar to that of MSNBC anchors who cherry-pick (real or imagined) examples of racism and then spin fanciful stories about how these isolated cases illustrate a “system” of “white supremacy.” MacDonald points to examples of prominent Jews promoting liberalism, ignores prominent liberal gentiles, and claims to find evidence that Jewish liberals are secretly motivated to undermine gentile society for the benefit of their co-ethnics.

In my paper I address three specific false claims made by MacDonald and other advocates of the anti-Jewish narrative: Jews (a) are highly ethnocentric, (b) hypocritically promote liberal multiculturalism for gentiles/Western countries but not for Jews/Israel, and (c) were responsible for liberalism and mass immigration to the US.

Why bother refuting MacDonald? Why not just dismiss him as an antisemite? There are at least three reasons to engage with him. First, some respected scholars have (publicly or privately) endorsed his ideas. Second, Jewish influence is a legitimate topic for scientific investigation, and his theory cannot be dismissed a priori. Third, he has been enormously influential on the far-Right, and many of his readers interpreted the lack of a refutation as proof that there are no good arguments against his views. So both scholarly and political considerations dictate that he should be given a fair hearing.

On January 1st, MacDonald’s reply to me, “The ‘Default Hypothesis’ Fails to Explain Jewish Influence,” appeared online in Philosophia. I strongly agree with the decision to publish this. If there are compelling reasons to publish my side of the debate, then the other side should be given a chance to make its case. MacDonald’s response meets the normal standards of publishability, ergo it should be published. Mainstream scholarship in all areas with which I am familiar (philosophy, psychology, nutrition, etc.) often distorts sources, cherry-picks facts, and the like. The fact that MacDonald’s scholarship displays these flaws does not, therefore, seem like a sufficient reason to deny him (but no one else) the right to reply to criticism.

But many philosophers do not think that controversial ideas should be discussed—let alone defended—in academic journals. And so the backlash swiftly followed. On January 2nd, Philosophia’s associate editor Moti Mizrahi called on the editor-in-chief Asa Kasher to “reconsider” the publication of MacDonald’s paper, then resigned in protest.

For the record, I had nothing to do with the publication of this paper in Philosophia. I've asked the EiC to reconsider its publication in Philosophia. pic.twitter.com/ce8xWbKrhN— Moti Mizrahi (@motimizra) January 2, 2022

The next day, University of South Carolina philosophy professor Justin Weinberg, who runs a popular philosophy blog called Daily Nous, wrote a post attacking Philosophia, MacDonald, and me.

When I first started writing on conspiracy theories about Jews, I thought this would win me some political correctness points. After all, I say there is not a Jewish conspiracy! But, as I discovered, that’s not how it works. The only way you’re allowed to criticize a politically incorrect idea is to call its proponents a slur ending in “-ist,” “-ite,” or “denier.” If you try to provide evidence against it then you are guilty of taking the evil idea seriously and therefore just as doubleplusungood as someone who actually believes it. Luckily, I don’t care about gaining political correctness points, or I would live my life very differently.

The original version of Weinberg’s post (archived here) begins with the calumny that both MacDonald and I agree that “Jews insinuated themselves into positions of power and influence, ‘transforming America contrary to white interests.’” This is of course the opposite of what I argue. As I say in the abstract, one of the three main points of my paper is to refute the claim that “Jews are responsible for liberalism and mass immigration to the United States.” And I have never framed my critiques of leftism in terms of “white interests.” After I complained, Weinberg revised his opening sentence slightly. But his post still says that the fact that an Israeli journal published these papers must pose a challenge to “presumptions of [the] debate” that both MacDonald and I accept—as if I, too, believe in a Jewish conspiracy to censor discussion of Jews.

This is not the first time Weinberg has spread such lies about me after I crossed an ideological red line. In 2020, for example, he published a guest post falsely claiming that I support racial segregation in education. Once again, thousands of philosophers will read an outrageous lie about me. Weinberg did this without even providing a link to my paper where people could see what it actually said and quickly discover that he was misrepresenting it.

Nor did Weinberg provide a link to MacDonald’s paper, which he portrayed as a mad, nonacademic, antisemitic rant. (I will say more about this misrepresentation in a moment.) Many philosophers in the Daily Nous comments section and on social media have said that MacDonald’s paper should be retracted and/or that this isn’t a legitimate topic for discussion in an academic journal. But no one produced good arguments for these positions.

In one of the most upvoted comments on Daily Nous, SUNY Buffalo philosophy professor Lewis Powell notes that MacDonald’s work “has been roundly rejected by his own former institution, at the level of his department all the way up to the entire academic senate.” For Powell, this is an important reason “why we shouldn’t engage [MacDonald] academically.” If you’re looking for an idea that’s not worth considering, I cannot think of a better example than we shouldn’t discuss X because X has been rejected by some faculty senate. (After I pointed out how ridiculous this is, Powell denied saying what he clearly said.)

Powell also blames me for “elevating [MacDonald’s] non-serious non-academic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories into more serious academic venues by engaging them.” Other commenters similarly compare MacDonald’s work to theories like flat-earthism that do not merit serious discussion. But here’s the thing: MacDonald’s work is not like flat-earthism, nor is it “non-academic.” I have suggested that his arguments are based on “systematically misrepresented sources and cherry-picked facts.” But, as I mentioned earlier, so is a great deal of mainstream scholarship that is published without controversy. MacDonald provides quotes and evidence—most of which are not completely made up—that on the face of it seem to support his case. An intelligent, informed reader cannot immediately know what’s wrong with his arguments. If MacDonald had employed his talent for misrepresentation and cherry-picking in the service of wokism—if he concluded that whites rather than Jews are the source all of the world’s problems—he would have had a distinguished career publishing in leading journals.

Lingnan philosophy professor Derek Baker suggests that “a journal could adopt ‘We’ll publish any controversial idea—except Nazi conspiracy theories’, as its editorial policy, and that would work fine.” Although this might sound good in theory, such a policy might not be so fine in practice. Virtually all conservatives have views that would be considered in some broad sense to be “Nazi conspiracy theories” by many liberal academics. Every Republican president and presidential nominee since World War II has been compared to Hitler by many on the Left. (It didn’t start with Trump.) The 2024 Republican nominee, as well as everyone who votes for him or her, will no doubt be seen by many academics as “literally Hitler.” Even liberals who deviate slightly from woke orthodoxy—such as Kathryn Paige Harden, who acknowledges that genes play a role in individual differences in ability and personality—are sometimes accused of holding Nazi views. Who is going to decide what views count as “Nazi conspiracy theories” that are disqualified from discussion in journals?

Under the editorship of Asa Kasher, Philosophia has been one of the few respected journals in the field that is open to publishing work defending genuinely controversial views. Not coincidentally, it has also featured some of the most interesting philosophy papers in recent years. The fact that it is an Israeli journal run by Jewish editors makes the publication of MacDonald’s paper a particularly bold statement: all sides of a debate should be heard, and we are not afraid of Kevin MacDonald’s arguments.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://quillette.com/2022/01/13/philosophers-want-to-censor-kevin-macdonald/
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Glad you are there to debate him and refute his falsehoods. I often hear it was “the Jews” who got the US into the Iraq War…you know the Jews;

  1. Pres. George Bush, 2.VP Dick Cheney 3. Sec of State Colin Powell, 4. Def Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. 5. CIA Director George Tenet, 6. Nat Sec Advisor Condelezza Rice.
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The notion that MacDonald should be censored is curious. An ideology which is essentially identical to the “the-Jews-run-the-world” version of anti-Semitism, except that it has been repurposed to attack a larger target (all white people) is currently riding high in academe and is the basis for most academic censorship these days (unless perhaps it’s been eclipsed by the ideology that holds that human beings with XY chromosome pairs in all of their cells can become “women” by making a simple announcement). Of course, maybe the original model has to be censored lest more people notice the likeness.

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I can’t imagine a philosopher ever wanting to censor anything.

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You really have a one-track mind, don’t you?

Flagging is not censoring. The owner of this site has asked us to flag comments that violate community guidelines. She (or her designee) decides whether posts should be removed. I have not and will never flag a post because I disagree with its content, but I’ll continue to flag ad hominem attacks.

You might prefer that I respond in kind, but I won’t descend to that level.

Sorry.

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One would have to go far further back to see a pervasive and profound influence of Jewish culture on that of gentiles, and even then Jews would comprise only a portion of those engaged in such enterprises such as class struggle and the championing of the labour movement- even though their influence on such matters as workers rights has been outsized considering their numbers as a people. All of which makes the current spate of antisemitism rocking the British Labour Party all the more tragic, considering the foundational influence Jewish contributors had on the movement.

What is quite amusing, however, is that if Marx had been white (from the white supremacist viewpoint) his views might have found some sympathy in the current White Supremacist movement. For those who are unaware, he was a rabid racist, even by the standard of the time. One won’t find the evidence so much in his published works, but it becomes readily apparent in his letters. He believed for example that ‘inferior’ peoples should be subjugated, and the efforts of their enforced labours redistributed towards a more deserving white proletariat. It makes the idea that at least some of BLM’s leaders are ‘trained Marxists’ suggestive of the theatre of the absurd. Do they not realise that their hero was only slightly less odious than Hitler and would have seen all of Africa in chains, subject to the whip?

Of course, some would argue that Karl Marx was not a Jew. Although he had Jewish parents he was baptised at the age of six, and there is ample evidence from his writings that he was something of an anti-Semite himself.

As usual, my essays are to found on my Substack, which is free to view and comment:

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Do you disown the British empire and all its works?

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Well, I don’t think anyone today would argue with the idea that every child in a society needs an education, but before the British introduced the concept, education was either a matter of privilege or rare necessity.

Equally the British ended slavery, for the most part, although for a long while there reach didn’t necessarily fully encompass the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. In fact many don’t realise that much of the British Empire territories were taken over as a result of anti-slavery zeal.

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This is a very important article. I have been reading the social media website Gab recently and encountering a well-articulated narrative that Jews are seeking to “replace” non-Jewish Whites with other races in Western countries, by encouraging non-white immigration and racial-intermarriage, which is described as “White Genocide”. Jews are also accused of deliberately demoralising non-Jewish whites with a wide variety of other anti-white behaviour which I won’t detail here. It seems like hundreds of thousands of people, maybe more, are convinced of this. These views are also easily accessible on other sites online and are even nudging into the mainstream – for instance Tucker Carlson has flagged a conspiracy to replace US whites through immigration (although he did not mention Jews) prompting a furious response from the ADL. The absence of any refutation definitely makes these ideas look more credible than they otherwise would. I don’t think the current strategy by Jewish leaders of seeking to suppress these narratives through deplatforming, rather than debating the claims, will work in the long-term. Deplatforming targeting anti-semitism is actually highlighted by those attacking the Jews, as evidence of excessive Jewish power. As galling as it may be, those seeking to counter these narratives need to get out there address their arguments with facts. The linked Philosophia article by Mr Cofnas is literally the first thing I have ever read that specifically refutes any of these widely circulated claims! Well done Mr Cofnas. Hopefully more of your peers will wake up soon.

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Maybe a compromise is a more acceptable & thus practical option.
Look, it’s a fair call to say McDonald’s ideas don’t meet academic standards. If these ideas qualify then just about any nonsense can pass which diminishes the integrity of these standards. Why not just refute McDonald’s ideas without giving him equal standing by publishing them in academic journals with your own & thus further legitimising them? It’s not censorship if he’s free to put his arguments & response to you elsewhere that’s readily available.
Intellectuals that have opposing views are regularly punching on these days without having to publish in the same media outlets. There’s this thing called ‘the internet’ that’s quite useful for these conundrums.

The author says pretty clearly that any nonsense can and does actually pass in academic journals already. In fact, he indicates that the journals are groaning with papers making claims about non-Jewish whites that commit exactly the same sins as Mcdonald does against Jews.

He says: “If MacDonald had employed his talent for misrepresentation and cherry-picking in the service of wokism—if he concluded that whites rather than Jews are the source all of the world’s problems—he would have had a distinguished career publishing in leading journals.”

If the journals exclude McDonald using a different standard, all they do is reinforce the narrative that Jews are receiving special treatment, and even driving the anti-white articles (which is exactly what the antisemites claim).

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Perhaps journals with a history of publishing one sided woke nonsense aren’t really the place for my proposal then? Surely they all can’t all have the same evidential standards?
If Philosophia hasn’t been one of the culprits here then it’s hardly hypocritical especially if the author genuinely portrays & steelman’s the opposing arguments before refuting them. No one’s stopping MacDonald from finding another publication to refute Cofnar’s refutation.

I meant ‘white’ from white supremacist viewpoint, who don’t consider even Ashkhenazi Jews ethnically white- but thanks for pointer, I will add a qualifier to the text. I consider all of my Jewish friends white- this is the problem when one is trying to treat groups like White Supremacists as a cultural entomologist might- sometimes one finds oneself getting too close to the subject you are studying, and forget to mention you are describing their views, not one’s own.

It’s important to allow anti-Semites to spew their evil venom.

Or you can think of it as a bottle of poison, which requires careful handling and great caution; or as toxic waste, as in “toxic waste management”. You have to take great care when dealing with poison and/or evil, and sometimes this will mean, you need to act. I’m not advocating an attitude nor practice of laissez faire. I for example would not want to see a gang of charged-up anti-Semites go attacking innocents in NYC, nor Paris, nor anywhere. Anti-Semitism is a threat - I do not mean to minimize it as I will explain.

Let’s back up a bit. Certain words are markers. For example, very often, a person who says “You’re so f***ing stupid!” is in fact quite stupid themselves. So, the word “stupid” is a very good mirror word. It, with a pretty high degree of reliability, tells you something very important about the speaker.

Certain memes are markers as well, and the very best one I know of is anti-Semitism.

First let’s start with a simple fact. Ashkenazi Jews as a group are smarter than all other groups that we know of, which has been known (and measured) for some 100 years. (Teachers in the early 1900s in NYC noticed that an unusually large share of their brightest students, were Jewish.)

Second, whether you agree or not with Jewish Rabbinic doctrine, complete with its 600 or so various rules, you have to recognize, that’s a lot of rules to follow. (By the way I’m aware that some Jews reject that tradition - I don’t know how many, I believe it’s a smallish minority). Now, “following rules” is closely related to “deferred gratification”. I suppose that readers here are aware of the famous marshmallow test. Begin able to defer gratification is key to success.

Then to complete the trifecta or hat trick, there’s the matter of collaboration. Anti-Semites often rail about Jewish clannishness. But even we non-anti-Semites observe this. It’s really true. It can be an irritant when you’re an outsider but so be it - sometimes reality irritates, sometimes people or groups of people irritate. Put on your big-boy or big-girl pants and get used to it. My point is, what can be called “clannishness” can also just as well be called “collaboration”. And, again, I suppose that readers here know, we as a species succeed only because we are able to collaborate. One individual Homo Sapiens plunked down anywhere on earth would not achieve very much at all. In unfavorable places, climes, situations, the individual would die a quick and miserable death. In favorable places the individual would do better but certainly never be able to create, for example, a pencil. Much less a jet plane.

To sum up the above three points, Jewish folk do well on all three of the way-most-important success factors: intelligence, ability to defer gratification, co-operation/collaboration.

(By the way, from what I understand of the Israeli military, Jews do fine in physical pursuits as well, when and where this matters.)

That means that they are kind of in a pretty favorable position to do well.

There is or can be a religious element here but I’m going to skip that for now - this is already long enough.

Each one of us as a human being has to decide what to do, and what attitude to hold, and how to feel about, and how to act toward, someone who is superior to us. We have to figure this out pretty quickly as kids growing up. Somebody’s always smarter, slimmer, faster, stronger, prettier/more handsome, … Pick any metric that’s important and you won’t be tops in it unless your group is small. So, shall you be envious, spiteful, hateful? Shall you scheme and backstab and try to bring down the person who beats you out? Shall you rail about your fate?

Obviously not. The correct attitude is to say (this is a quote from All In The Family) “Everyone is my superior in that I may learn from him.” The correct emotional attitude to hold toward that person, is to love and respect him/her. The practical thing to do with that person, is partner with them to the greatest extent you can, that mutually benefits.

That goes for groups too. Jews as a group are to be respected, maybe even revered, on the/their merits. If there are dislikeable individuals, fine, go ahead and dislike them, don’t hang out with them if you don’t have to, we don’t need to paint every individual with an overbroad brush. If Jews form a nation (Israel) and some actions of that nation are objectionable, go ahead - object. Even fight them on an issue if it’s important. “Revere” doesn’t necessarily imply “Let get away with”. People and groups have to be accountable, people and groups make mistakes that need to be called out for what they are, corrected, fixed, etc.

There’s an awful lot of qualification in that last paragraph - my central point is, the second sentence.

So here’s why it’s important to let anti-Semites spew their evil. It’s a certain marker that they have their heads lodged firmly up their ani. Somebody who holds such a stupid view, so clearly and badly polluted by simple envy, so much like a dislikeable 5-year-old brat who hates Johnny 'cause Johnny is smarter - just write that person off. Put them into the category of “people you don’t want any truck with.” And keep in mind every single time they say anything about any topic or person: this person needs to be treated with great suspicion, as the ignorant, malicious, evildoer and thought-polluter they very likely are.

Never trust an anti-Semite.

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When I first started writing on conspiracy theories about Jews, I thought this would win me some political correctness points. After all, I say there is not a Jewish conspiracy! But, as I discovered, that’s not how it works. The only way you’re allowed to criticize a politically incorrect idea is to call its proponents a slur ending in “-ist,” “-ite,” or “denier.” If you try to provide evidence against it then you are guilty of taking the evil idea seriously and therefore just as doubleplusungood as someone who actually believes it.

In other words, academic philosophers don’t behave any differently from the way my idiot aunt does on Facebook. Imagine my surprise.

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Speaking of Tucker from a couple years ago. It’s Paul Singer the Billionaire hedge fund guy who is the main cause of rural America losing jobs to China. Paul Singer!. The antisemites in Tucker’s fan base loved that piece.

Well, some entity is working hard to divide and rule and the Jews are certainly intelligent enough to get it done … if they had the motive to do so. But do they? The Jews are spectacularly over represented among the people who built western civilization so it seems strange to me that they’d want to destroy it. Rule it, sure, but burn it down? Nope, the Jews are whitest of the white in fact. Oh, and why denounce the idea that Jews are over represented among those who brought us liberalism? Jews are over represented in most good things and liberalism is one of them. Until liberals went crazy liberalism was … well, we were all liberals at one time, western civ IS liberalism. Nope, I’m shopping elsewhere for the conspirators who are ruining everything. I’m blaming global capital myself. Or the Lizard People.

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You make some great points, but here is a particularly salient one. We need to start to attack the very notion of intellectualism in the context where it becomes divorced from context. Don’t get me wrong- intellectualism when it is tethered to empirical evidence and the use of reason is a towering force for good in the world. But one thing we should notice about the current ideological nonsense, the Intersectional matrix of oppressor and oppressed, is that like so many of its predecessors, it operates solely within the world of ideas to construct an overriding narrative which ignores the wealth of evidence and empirical data which disproves the centrepiece of the argument- even though, like all good myths and legends, it contains enough historical and current truth to make some people believe it.

Funnily enough, one could say the same of Kevin MacDonald’s work. Yes, the Jewish culture contains more than its fair share of intellectuals and those of high intelligence, we see it in their amazing contributions to fields as diverse as Art, Literature, Science and Western Culture as evidenced by their outsized contributions rewarded through Nobel prizes. But if there is a flaw, then it is a flaw of intellectuals, not of Jews.

When one reduces the problem down to its core constituents then it’s a very simple process at play. We notice something. We hypothesise. If we are smart we will be able to recognise patterns and be more likely to be able to construct a system in our head which explains the phenomenon. However, without the mechanism of testing our hypothesis we cannot discern whether the beautiful intellectual model within our head survives the destruction test of plausibility.

And once one comes across a lovely set of ideas, one is loathe to give them up. It’s why people still subscribe to the ideas of Rousseau nearly 250 years after his death, even though almost all of the wealth of evidence we have collected since almost completely contradicts his ideas. If the intellectual has a weakness it is for the beautiful lie, and as many Jewish people are more prone to being intellectuals they are more likely to fall for the beautiful lie.

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Was anyone ever wronger in the history of the world?

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