Paul Gottfried Replies to His Critics

Paul Gottfried, American Renaissance, July 7, 2008

And explains his reservations about white nationalism.

Paul Gottfried, professor of humanities at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, raised the question of “white nationalism” in a thoughtful essay at Takimag.com. This produced a lively debate (see “Thinking About White Nationalists,” by Paul Gottfried, “The Sad Sorority of Skin,” by John Zmirak, and “Are Racialists Warm and Cuddly?” also by John Zmirak, on a site that is a staunch defender of Western Civilization but does not normally raise the question of race. The exchange at Takimag came to an end before Prof. Gottfried had written his reply, so his concluding observations appear below.

Most people who do not share a race-realist perspective simply vituperate against it. We are therefore especially pleased to offer our readers this well-considered critique.

Although I’ve neither time nor energy to respond to all of my readers’ informative comments about white nationalism, allow me to make a few brief observations:

The tendency to understand truth and morality as having universal validity is not exclusively Western or Euro-American. But this practice does seem to have an aspect of permanence in European civilization, and it belongs to those ancient traditions (classical, prophetic Jewish, Christian, and scientific) that have nurtured a recognizably Western consciousness. Whether or not my readers accept the actual axiological and epistemological claims that are deemed universally applicable, they do merit our respect, inasmuch as they are closely interwoven with the West’s achievements in philosophy, theology, the arts, and sciences. All the same, it is by no means the case that all naturally intelligent people everywhere embrace this quintessentially Western outlook. Far Eastern peoples and Rabbinic Jews have operated in more restricted cultures but nonetheless exhibit measurably high intelligence. At most it might be said that one could not build a civilization as rich and creatively eclectic as the Western one without first sharing its focus on what is universally true and just. Needless to say, such a focus does not require its bearer to adopt a global democratic missionary spirit.

I am bewildered as to why some of my readers think I approve of the dissimulation about racial attitudes engaged in by white liberals. I would agree that such people seem to be mendacious or else in desperate denial of reality; nonetheless, in my reflections I was trying to understand why those who know better persist in lying to themselves and/or others. And I did so without making moral judgments. Contrary to the assertion of one of my respondents, it should not be expected that these people put themselves in harm’s way by telling the truth or by saying anything different from what is currently PC. What is the advantage in speaking out? Most of my acquaintances, who are not associated with explicitly political websites, have no desire to hear politically incorrect truths, and are certainly not interested in expressing them at their peril.

I also find myself disagreeing with my respondents about the obviousness and immediacy of that danger faced by white Americans because of our present social policies. Note these policies are put into effect with the explicit or implicit consent of the white majority. If our administrative and educational policies, which are often admittedly demeaning to white people, were perceived as injurious to those affected, one might expect to see the public rising up in anger. But exactly the opposite is happening. Tens of millions of white Americans are eager to give their votes to a presidential candidate who spent 20 years ardently courting black nationalists. Obama’s wife, Michelle, who routinely targets whites as racists, enjoys far more enthusiastic affection among white Americans than do any or all of the white nationalists currently residing in the U.S.

While such behavior is bizarre, it seems that if white Americans felt as oppressed by racial minorities as white nationalists think they should, they would have noticed their plight and have tried to change it. The fact, however, is that those whom white nationalists consider white victims are not as numerous or as embittered as white nationalists would want us to believe.

This is not to deny that black and Latino nationalists harbor anti-white feelings that they are happy to express. And if the self-effacement and even self-loathing of the once dominant white Christian population in this country and in Canada and Western Europe continues to move along its present course, this might encourage non-white and non-Western minorities to vent their contempt even more openly. But in the meantime I don’t see disaster around the corner, even if high energy prices mean that our disintegrating, feminized families make fewer trips to the mall or to the local fast-food provider. The descent of white Americans into a self-despising and self-indulgent minority would certainly suggest there are problems for us ahead, but these are problems that the majority—while it remains a majority—should be able to address before they occur. If whites ignore them, then whatever suffering will ensue is fully and richly deserved.

As should be apparent, I do not have much sympathy for most of the white majority whom the white nationalists in their populist fervor celebrate; nor do I think this majority is being unfairly discriminated against, given the fact that they themselves support parties and politicians who enact the discrimination against them. Unlike my Jewish relatives whom the Nazis booted out of Europe, white Americans are a majority who would be able to control their destinies, if they chose to. That they behave differently is the result of two circumstances: one, they have not been abused to a point where they would notice or care what is happening to them; and two, the putative victims are too infantile and too eager to throw their ancestors under the bus in order to court liberal favor.

Finally, although I am flattered by one of my fellow-blogger’s reference to my patient winnowing of truth, and while I would be delighted to live in the kind of limited constitutional regime he advocates, there are two points he makes that require a critical response. Unlike him, I do not think that cognitive disparities are irrelevant to building civilizations or to the possibility of residing in a peaceful society. And one would have to be blind or struck insane by the gods not to notice that some races and ethnic groups have a greater capacity to produce culture, science, and civility than do others. Moreover, blacks almost always are found at the bottom of this list in terms of their real cultural accomplishments and their performance in building peaceful societies. And it is reasonable to think that this problem cannot always be explained by oppression, colonialism, an excess of heat, or too many lush plants in tropical climates—or to whatever fashionable theory for explaining away the underachievement of minorities the media and public educators are currently proclaiming. Genetics does matter, and I suspect that at some future time if we do emerge from the government- and media-created miasma of PC, we may be willing to look honestly at all of the reasons that some groups behave less productively and less peacefully than others.

Finally, unlike my interlocutor, I see no moral need to dwell on our supposed collective sins against minorities. This confessional mode is growing wearisome; what is more, there is too much responsibility on the black side of race relations to justify the appeal to white guilt. The violence in our cities, the dysfunctional nature of American education, the venting of racial bigotry, and the poisoning of academic discourse have all accelerated with the triumph of the civil rights movement. In fact I cannot think of any group that has used its equality—which has in this case led to special privileges—more abusively than have American blacks. Admittedly blacks were at one time victims of real discrimination but what they have done since does not indicate (with some notable exceptions) an individual or collective ability to exercise citizenship particularly well. And here too I would indict the brain-dead whites who have relentlessly abetted the politics of guilt, a situation that has done nothing to help blacks and everything to sap the forces of moral and social order. If demerits for wrecking our society are to be given out, I am forced to assign most of them to white Americans.

Lastly, I find no reason to respond critically to Jared Taylor, who has struggled valorously against political correctness. While we may disagree about the value of white nationalism, I remain struck by his Southern manners and classical liberal sense of fair play. In comparison to the generally shabby lot of journalists I have known, Jared is a true paragon of tolerance.

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Paul Gottfried
Paul Gottfried is the author of many books on European social and intellectual history and on the rise of the democratic managerial state, including Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt and Conservatism in America
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