Posted by: L | April 29, 2007

A Response to Wolf From Jewcy

Wolf’s piece drew this acerbic response from Joey Kurtzman:

I am including it here on the basis of Kurtzman’s confession to libertarian tendencies, and because I thought it was funny and well-written, although ultimately evasive. Even if Wolf is not right on every point or even particularly insightful from a historical viewpoint, she nevertheless voices that sense of rottenness-in-the-state- of-Denmark that hangs pretty thick in the air right now, no matter whom you blame for it.

American Fascism in Ten Hysterical Steps: Naomi Wolf in the Guardian:

During the six years I was marooned in the British Isles, I became, by necessity, an amateur taxonomist, like those dilettante Victorian naturalists who poked around looking for new types of dung beetles or butterflies. I wasn’t after dung beetles, though; I was cataloguing the diverse forms of obeisance with which American liberals try to elicit the condescending approval of Europeans, that sublime reassurance that “You, you’re not quite like most Americans, are you? You’re rather…European.”

I lovingly collected my specimens, and identified the occasional species—for example, Declinatio pessumus absurdus (Kurtzman, 2003), the warbly faux-British intonation with which the American Europhile triumphantly peppers the end of any sentence in which he’s asking a question. Or the dreaded Fellatio iratus michaelmooricus (Kurtzman, 2003), which sees the disgruntled American lecturing his European hosts on the exquisite sophistication of their own culture, and the hopeless barnyard vulgarity of American culture.

But every so often I would be so mesmerized by some virtuoso performance, some unclassifiable peacock display of American self-loathing, that I’d pine for a systematizing genius, a sociological Linnaeus who would catalogue the entire fauna of overseas American life and just hand me the multi-volume taxonomy necessary to describe the whole writhing ecosystem…


My Comment:

Yes, Wolf could have been more precise. But sometimes intellectual rigor is not a substitute for moral intuition. I offer this from Orwell, writing here about James Burnham (whose influential work described the inevitable ascendance of a managerial class in both fascist and socialist states that would make the two virtually indistinguishable):

“One cannot always make positive prophecies, but there are times when one ought to be able to make negative ones. No one could have been expected to foresee the exact results of the Treaty of Versailles, but millions of thinking people could and did foresee that those results would be bad. Plenty of people, though not so many in this case, can foresee that the results of the settlement now being forced on Europe will also be bad. And to refrain from admiring Hitler or Stalin – that, too, should not require an enormous intellectual effort. But it is partly a moral effort. That a man of Burnham’s gifts should have been able for a while to think of Nazism as something rather admirable, something that could and probably would build up a workable and durable social order shows, what damage is done to the sense of reality by the cultivation of what is now called ‘realism’. “



  1. Hey, Lila! Very glad you liked it, but no fair publishing the whole blog post! How about the first para or two and then a “read more” link?

  2. No problem.

    I didn’t know it was verboten to publish the whole post… anyway, I added you to my links in atonement, even though I disagree with your clever riposte.

  3. Much obliged! You’re very kind!

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