Alan Posener’s Column: In response to David Gelernter’s criticism of Old Europe


In his contribution to the symposion on Why are Jews Liberals hosted this month by Commentary Magazine, American neoconservative author David Gelernter charged that Old Europe has nothing to offer to mankind in terms of culture and spirituality. Now British-German columnist Alan Posener fires back in the following op-ed.

David Gelernter’s Piece of Bullshit on Old Europe

An op-ed by Alan Posener
Die Welt / Welt am Sonntag  / HIRAM7 REVIEW

David Gelernter’s contribution to the Commentary Magazine‘s Symposion on Why (American) Jews are Liberals was one of the most amazing pieces of bullshit I have ever read. And my job as a journalist forces me to read a lot of bullshit.

In his criticism of Europe – a kind of mirror-image of the typical French intellectual’s criticism of the USA and just as fact-free – Gelernter makes a number of astounding observations.

Gelernter writes: “The peoples of Western Europe have mostly lacked the religious intensity and genius of the Jews.” I realize that you don’t need to know anything about culture in order to become a computer scientist, but maybe Mr. Gelernter should take time out from studying bits and bytes (and raving) in order to visit a Gothic cathedral or to listen to one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s religious works – the Christmas Oratorio is quite accessible. So much for religious genius. And as for religious intensity, maybe Mr. Gelernter should study the history of the European religious wars, which led us to conclude that keeping religion out of government was a key to peace – a lesson enshrined in the US Constitution.

Gelernter writes: “America has a habit of despising intellectuals” (this is meant as a compliment), “while Europe worships and obeys them”. One would be hard put to find a single example of Europeans “worshipping and obeying” an intellectual. However, there are many instances of hatred for the intellectual – Nazi Germany, where “intellectual” was virtually synonymous with “Jewish”, and the Communist bloc, where “intellectual” was virtually synonymous with “petit-bourgeois class enemy” being two of the more recent examples.

Gelernter writes: “European sex seems to have developed the moral significance of an ATM transaction on a street corner.” I’ve no idea where Gelernter gets his data on European sex. I would like to point out, though, that, like the ATM machine, casual sex is an American import, via Hollywood movies and rock’n’roll. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Woodstock is a village in the State of New York. As it happens, I’m a great fan of Hollywood, rock’n’roll and ATM machines, unlike the cultural conservatives who tell us that these inventions of the decadent Americans are sapping Europe’s moral fibre in order to deliver us into the hands of American capitalism (i.e. Jewry). But I must say I find it rich that Gelernter should simply turn the argument around. Nice joke. But bullshit.

Gelernter says that Europe has “a love affair with death”. A strange comment from someone who lives in a country where infant mortality rates are higher and life expectancy is lower than in Western Europe. (Of course, the bullshitter then turns around and says wimpy Europeans are afraid of death, which is why they want to cut and run in Afghanistan.) As proof for his assertion, Gelernter cites low birth-rates and high immigration levels. To start with the second aspect: until very recently, European conservatives criticized the USA for being a “mongrel culture” due to ist high levels of immigration. Again, Gelernter seems to have imbibed these European ideas and now switches into “Yah, boo, same to you”-mode. Cute, but bullshit. People come to Europe, as they do to America, because it is a damn good place to live. The idea that Europe’s “nations will be gone within a few generations” (Gelernter) can only occur to someone who doesn’t actually bother to do a reality check before sounding off. All studies show that immigrants to Europe are fast adopting European mores. Their birth-rate is declining, too. There is no reason to believe that a Muslim French woman should be less patriotic than a Jewish American.

David Gelernter writes: “Mulling German history in particular, one wonders whether the Germans were ever more than half-Christianized, whether paganism hasn’t always appealed to the lofty German Geist.” As we’ve seen, Gelernter doesn’t really “mull” history at all, or if he does, he only mulls his own preconceptions of history, not bothering with actual facts. The idea that the nation that brought forth Martin Luther – no name but one exemplar of the “lofty German Geist” – was only “half-Christianized” is absurd. But it does serve to obfuscate one fact that none of the contributors to the symposion reflect: the millions of Germans who voted for Hitler and served him till the last, the hundreds of thousands who worked on the “Final Solution” were not “half-Christianized” pagans. They were – often devout – Catholics and Protestants. This is an uncomfortable truth, a truth that the current Pope (a former Hitler Youth member) tries to deny, but a truth nevertheless.

It is for this reason that Jews in Europe and America would do well not to rely too heavily on Christian goodwill. Just because many Christians are more afraid of the Muslims at the moment does not mean that they are natural allies of the Jews. Antijudaism is enscribed into Christian teaching. I imagine that Gelernter, who apparently knows nothing about the history of Europe, hasn’t actually got round to reading the “New” Testament or the teachings of the Church Fathers, or the Acts of the Spanish Inquisition, or the Anti-Semitic rantings of Martin Luther. (But maybe he remembers Father Coughlin?)

I’m no friend of reactionary liberalism. But throwing yourself into the arms of reactionary conservativism isn’t the answer. Thinking for yourself is.

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