Posted by: L | July 6, 2007

A Comment on the Finkelstein tenure situation

Arguments about the use of the Holocaust in public debate don’t constitute an “intra-Jewish fight.” It would be much more accurate to say that they involve questions of state policy in this country (and in Israel) and of propaganda in the west at large — an issue which affects ALL writers, journalists, thinkers, intellectuals, scholars and even citizens who just want to be informed accurately — not simply Jews.

It amazes me how so many Anglophone intellectuals (even well-meaning ones) feel completely qualified to analyze atrocities and abuses anywhere in the world, loudly and superfically (if not downright incorrectly), often with the sketchiest and most second-hand knowledge (gleaned from the English language writings of their own DC-N. York journalist buddies or from scholars at various “prestigious” universities, all sharing exactly the same myopic viewpoint ).

A notable recent example is Martha Nussbaum, whose latest book on India (preparatory, I imagine, to humanitarian bombing, somewhere down the line) can only annoy anyone who knows anything about the subject. When it comes to their own backyard, however, these soi-disant arbiters of universal values frigidly ignore views that aren’t self-selected, insular and distinctly obsequious to their pet theories about life outside hard cover. Prizes, tenures, sinecures, reviews, cocktail parties and the rest of the glitz of intellectual life follow in lock step. A nice system….

Now, good for those who make their living from it – I don’t knock them.
As long as they remember that’s all it is – a living. A way of paying their bills that has little do with the real life of the mind — which might sooner take place in some scorching megapolis abroad or ghetto stink-hole here than at one of their blow-dried soirees. And might take place silently as much as it does vocally.

On the outside, we know this. On the outside, we know it is their self-regarding attitude that makes mainstream idealogues less than credible, less than admirable in the eyes of ordinary human beings. The criticism of these “smatterers” is always within a select framework, in which they and they alone are true subjects.

A fitting response is to hold their opinions in equal disdain. A favorable review from one of them should be treated much as one treats an alarming bug of some kind….you hope you’ll get through, but it might be the beginning of a fatal contamination…

Is this a viable position for a struggling writer? Yes, indeed.

Blogging makes it possible for books to sell and sell well even without reviews from the establishment. Fellow bloggers and dissidents are willing to say a good word here and there. A reader. An unknown collegaue. The pleasure of having the good will and encouragement of those who share your sympathies and your aloneness is something surely far more satisfying than the brittle praise of people whose main concern is pleasing the right people and stepping on the obscure in their frantic rush to the limelight.

In fact, a new ambition — I hope to forego a publisher altogether and publish directly. Perhaps those two lengthy chapter on media ownership in this country that were cut out summarily (would offend too may people, they said), will see the light that way.

So, what has this to do with Finkelstein?

Everything.

The central issue in this country and in many western countries is not globalization or imperialism; it is not torture or the CIA; it is not humanitarian intervention…or realpolitik…or peacekeeping.. or even war.

The central issue is brainwashing. Whether it is at universities or in the press or in think-tanks; whether in war or in peace-time. Whether the subject is Israel or imperialism or the family or women or money or IQ tests or immigration or race.

The issue now is how we think. Or don’t. And what we get to think about. Who does it for us. Why. And where it is leading us.

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