Friday, June 2, 2017

The Alt-Right’s Jewish Godfather

How Paul Gottfried—willing or reluctant—became the mentor of Richard Spencer and a philosophical lodestone for white nationalists.

By Jacob Siegel

Tablet Magazine  - It used to be common even among assimilated Americans Jews from Central European backgrounds to look down on what they saw as the poorer, more provincial Jews from the Russian empire. You can see this prejudice in Hannah Arendt’s work, another author who blended “Teutonic pedantry and Jewish moral righteousness,” as a friend of Gottfried’s once described him. His classmates are clever but harried, whereas he has the aristocratic equanimity of Germanic high culture, which allows him true insight. It’s important to note not because this particular prejudice is more disqualifying than his others, but because of how deeply it informs his later writing. When Gottfried goes after the mostly Eastern-European-originating Jewish “neocons” and “New York intellectuals” he blames for kneecapping his career and refusing to give him his intellectual due, it’s not just the actual injury that wounds him, but the indignity of being laid low by his inferiors.

After graduation, Gottfried returned to Connecticut to attend Yale as a doctoral student, where he studied under Herbert Marcuse. A chapter of his memoir is devoted to Marcuse, one of the seminal intellectuals of the Frankfurt school whose critique of mass democracy profoundly shaped the new-left. Though he belonged to the Yale Political Union’s Party of the Right at the time, Gottfried “studied under Marcuse as a rapt, indulgent disciple.” In later years, one reviewer called Gottfried a “right-wing proponent of the Frankfurt school.” That description, while not strictly accurate, gives a sense of the overlap between Gottfried’s radical criticism of modern liberalism and a certain left-wing line of attack.

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