Adventures in Anti-Semitic Implicature

by John Holbo on May 28, 2009

Have you seen this piece in the Boston Review? “Anti-semitism and the financial crisis”. I honestly don’t know what to make of it and would like your sober opinion. Kindly keep non-sober opinions to yourself, however. The internet already has more of those than it can consume locally.

Basically, a weirdly high number of responses to “How much to blame were the Jews for the financial crisis?” were in the ‘moderate’ to ‘a great deal’ range. 32% of Democrats and 18% of Republicans ‘blame the Jews’ at least moderately for the financial crisis. I realize there is such a thing as the crazification factor. But that’s still pretty high. (I’m guessing the Republican numbers are lower in part because high numbers of them don’t actually admit there’s a crisis. They might be more willing to blame the Jews if it were made clear that they weren’t thereby committed to conceding the existence of the thing the blame is for. But that’s just an unscientific guess.)

The weird thing, of course, is that people are willing to go with ‘the Jews’ as a cohesive, mass-noun sort of designation. In part, people must be responding the way they do on the basis of a vague awareness that there are lots of Jewish names in the stories about the financial crisis. Bernie Madoff, for example. That is, they are saying: among those responsible (if we assume those at the top of the financial world are responsible) there were a number of Jews. Yes. But suppose you asked people whether to blame ‘the Jews’ for all the bad movies Hollywood keeps making. All the vaguely unfunny romantic comedies that keep being inflicted on innocent Americans – on Mainstreet, if you will. Look at the lists of producer and executive names on these productions. See any Jewish names? I’ll bet you see a couple. I like my Blame The Jews For Unfunny Romantic Comedies as premise for a Mel Brooks movie. Kind of a cross between “The Producers” and “Good Night, and Good Luck”. Some sort of hysterical anti-semitic, McCarthyite rumbling across America. Innocent Jewish producers of unfunny comedies having to go into hiding. And Jewish producers of perfectly funny comedies suffering guilt by association.

Suppose you ask who gets credit for America’s first class higher education system. Would people be willing to say ‘the Jews are somewhat or mostly responsible’, just because lots of professors are Jewish. Suppose you asked people whether ‘people whose names start with ‘M’ are somewhat responsible for the financial crisis’. Literally, that’s probably true, in some analytically vastly uninteresting sense. Madoff. I’m sure I could find other bad actors with names that start with M in the financial sector.

Probably you don’t need me to tell you that ‘blaming the Jews’ for the financial crisis is a bad idea. But I’m really at a loss as to what the hell so many respondents thought they were saying. Did 30% think they should answer ‘somewhat’ if they merely believed there were a number of Jewish individuals in the financial sector in positions of authority? Or do substantial numbers of Americans seriously suspect that there might be Jewish conspiracies afoot?

UPDATE: Malhotra and Margalit respond to critics. See this newer post.

{ 179 comments }

1

John Holbo 05.28.09 at 3:38 am

The movie could be done, in part, as a mockumentary. All these angry Americans being interviewed in their homes. ‘It always goes this way. Americans have to sit through two hours of this stuff, and Hollywood gets to keep the money. And now they tell us there’s no money. It’s gone. How can it be gone? It doesn’t make any sense.’

And then interviews with stunned and chastened producers and creative-types. ‘We really thought we had a new kind of joke. We’d taken the risk out of comedy. We were the funniest guys in the room, and we knew it. But I guess we were just listening to our own laugh-track. A few comedy Cassandras were always out there, saying the jokes couldn’t go on being funny like that, year after year. But we just laughed at them. But they turned out to be right.’

2

bob mcmanus 05.28.09 at 3:50 am

Way to go, Berube.

Now I suppose when people read Simon Johnson or Yves Smith or Willem Buiter there can be just a little suspicion about why they are really criticizing Obama/Geithner/Summers and the policies toward Finance.

Now I am sure you will say that you are not accusing these particular people of anti-semitism, you are just noticing something that’s out there, something interesting and funny. Ha-ha. But the seed has now been sowed, the suspicion is out there. You, as far as I remember, are the very first to raise the subject in the big blogosphere.

This wasn’t necessary, has no real relevance, and strikes me as simply malice in service of Obama.

3

bob mcmanus 05.28.09 at 3:50 am

Holbo, rather than Berube. I can’t tell the difference sometimes.

4

David Wright 05.28.09 at 3:57 am

Here is an entirely sober, but also very politically incorrect, opinion: a large fraction of this discrepancy between Democrats and Republicans can be explained by the significantly larger fraction of Democrats who are black. There is a strong, persistent, and relatively unabashed level of animosity in the black community toward Jews. (The animosity flows the other way, too.)

I find it telling that, despite discussing cross-tabs on educational attainment and party affiliation, the article never once dares to mention race.

5

John Holbo 05.28.09 at 3:59 am

“Holbo, rather than Berube. I can’t tell the difference sometimes.”

Indeed, there are a lot of differences you can’t tell, Bob. But what seed do you think I’m planting? I honestly can’t tell from your comment.

6

John Holbo 05.28.09 at 4:06 am

Let me just add, Bob, that if you are hinting that I’m wrong to dismiss anti-semitic explanations because there might actually be merit to them, I don’t consider that to be an acceptable view. If you think that somehow I’m slighting Simon Johnson by suggesting that anti-semitism is unacceptable, then I think you don’t know Simon Johnson very well. He’s not anti-semitic. If you are hinting that I’m fostering anti-semitism by calling it bad crazy, then I don’t understand your reasoning. What do you call anti-semitism?

7

bob mcmanus 05.28.09 at 4:08 am

“The negative attitudes toward Jews reported here are not only dangerous in and of themselves, but they may also have bearings on national policy matters. ” …from the linked article.

There are many people who think Obama/Geithner/Summers have been too generous and gentle on the Investment Banks.

Aw hell, Holbo, I think you know what you are doing.

8

Proportion Wheel 05.28.09 at 4:09 am

Isn’t a lot of the problem here the framing of the question itself? People who are complaisant enough to answer a survey question like that at all are complaisant enough to buy into the categorization implied by the question. Suppose the question had been: Who is most to blame for the financial crisis: [a] mortgage lenders, [b] Wall Street investment bankers, [c] the Jews, [d] the last three administrations, or [e] irresponsible home buyers. Would “the Jews” still get a lot of votes?
And now that I’ve read a couple of comments that came in before mine, I won’t even apologize for the fact that I’m slightly less than completely sober at the moment.

9

bob mcmanus 05.28.09 at 4:10 am

Ok, I think you are disarming critics of administration policies by tossing out the possiblity that they might have anti-semitic motives. Not direct accusations, of course.

10

bob mcmanus 05.28.09 at 4:16 am

Stanford professors. Are they connected to the Hoover Institute?

This is just a foul and filthy subject of conversation, and has absolutely no place in discussion of “national policy matters”, how best to reform and recover from the Financial Crisis.

11

John Quiggin 05.28.09 at 4:16 am

Perhaps I’m insufficiently paranoid, Bob.

I’ve criticised administration policies repeatedly, including in a direct response to one of John H’s posts. But I completely missed the insinuation (detected by you) that I’ve thereby become the CT representative of Der Sturmer.

David W, I stopped at the words “politically incorrect”. Anyone claiming to be politically incorrect can safely be assumed to be just plain incorrect.

12

bob mcmanus 05.28.09 at 4:23 am

From the article:

“…group two was told explicitly that Madoff is Jewish; and group three received implicit information about Madoff’s religious affiliation. In a follow-up question, participants were asked for their views about providing government tax breaks to big business in order to spur job creation.

The responses of the members of the three groups are revealing and disturbing: “

It is pretty obvious what they are trying to do here. They aren’t worried about the anti-semitism, they are worried about the “tax breaks to big business.”

13

John Holbo 05.28.09 at 4:26 am

Bob you are making no sense whatsoever and are in violation of my request in the post that people not comment non-soberly. For the record, I think Simon Johnson has been talking consistently good sense (to the extent that I can judge.) And Giethner’s approach looks to be quite flawed (again, to the extent that I can judge). So whatever you are hinting I’m thinking should be consistent with what I actually think. Of course you aren’t making direct accusations. You are just insinuating that Holbo is guilty of some vague something you won’t specify, since I obviously know what my dark secret is. That’s very tiresome, Bob. Talk minimal sense or don’t comment.

14

David Wright 05.28.09 at 4:34 am

JQ @ 10 says “Anyone claiming to be politically incorrect can safely be assumed to be just plain incorrect.”

Well, that’s certainly the boiled-down essense of the poilticial correctness, isn’t it? I challenge you to actually read the post, which makes a statistically well-defined and in principal empirically testable claim, and then say publicly that you believe that claim to be false.

15

bob mcmanus 05.28.09 at 4:34 am

JQ, that’s because the meme wasn’t out there that current criticism of High Finance and criticism of pro-finance gov’t policy could possibly be a sign of anti-semitism. We all know the history, but I think economists long ago decided to analyze finance on its merits, pretty much ignoring the history. I have read hundreds of posts in the last few years, and Holbo’s is the first to connect criticism of Finance and anti-semitism (save for a few directly about Bernie Madoff).

Because the history just gets in the way.

16

mjb 05.28.09 at 4:40 am

I think a lot of what is going on with this is that the question will be coming out of the blue for most people (there aren’t yet, so far as I know, any cable news debates on the issue of “Jews: Threat or Menace?”). Poll questions about issues that people haven’t thought about tend to produce really unpredictable results, and also tend to be very sensitive to question wording. There used to be polls that came out occasionally showing that 40% or so of the country favored repealing the First Amendment or identified the phrase “from each according to ability, to each according to need” as coming from the Declaration of Independence. So in addition to whatever part of the responders were actual proud anti-semites, some probably thought that they were affirming that some Jews were among the responsible parties, and some I suspect simply thought that a flat denial of even a crazy-sounding thesis was a confession of either closed-mindedness or ignorance. If the poll replaced “the Jews” with “the Martians”, “the Malawians” or “the midgets” some people would undoubtedly pick what they took to be a noncommittal response from the middle of the range of options, on the assumption that there must be some reason to think the group in question was responsible or why would anyone ask in the first place.

If for some reason there were a lot of public debate about the degree of Jewish responsibility for the financial crisis fewer people would be confused upon hearing the question, and I’m reasonably confident that the anti-semites would lose the debate and the numbers blaming “the Jews” would be likely to decline pretty sharply.

17

John Holbo 05.28.09 at 4:44 am

In the hopes of recovering the thread, what I am really curious about is how to interpret results like this. What, if anything, do they actually say about what the respondents are thinking? How do people process it when they are nudged to talk in terms of ‘the Jews’. I would like to think that people don’t really think that way, but they may be nudged by the questioner into accepting a frame, so what they say if they accept the frame is really not representative of what they really think. That is, if you then asked them whether it is really right to generalize about ‘the Jews’ they would say ‘not really’, even though they just did it themselves.

This fits with a possible explanation of the notorious crazification factory. People just don’t listen to what they are asked and don’t think what they are saying. So they say crazy stuff. But, hopefully, they aren’t as sinister crazy as end up sounding.

I’d like to believe that, in a case like this.

18

bob mcmanus 05.28.09 at 4:46 am

Holbo, the Stanford writers are quite explicit about their concerns: they are worried that popular or populist pressure on gov’t will cost the Finance Industry money and profits. I quoted them at 7 & 11.

Since you posted the article approvingly, I can only believe you share their concerns and purposes.

19

John Holbo 05.28.09 at 4:49 am

Bob, cut it out. Mine isn’t the first. The “Boston Review” piece was written before I linked to it. (That’s how these things work.) I linked to it because it’s bizarre, not because I think I can undermine Simon Johnson (who I support). People are blaming the Jews. That sounds nuts in America, in this day and age. I don’t really believe the survey reflects what people think, so I’m asking what people think of survey results like this.

20

adamhenne 05.28.09 at 4:55 am

The main point of the post, i.e. “Who is this The Jews of whom you speak?” is an important for popular political thinking in general. Anti-semitism or other forms of ethnic hate are the classic examples, but this is an example of category errors very common in casual political thought, and well-fostered by media narratives, polls, etc.

But, political (in)correctness aside, I think David has a point in terms of explaining the disproportionately Democratic slant of this outcome. Unless we imagine individuals answering the question scratching their chins, “Hm, well Bernie Madoff is Jewish, and that other guy, so I guess there’s a pretty good number of Jewish financiers – maybe The Jews are to blame.” I would guess, based on nothing much, that anyone responding positively to a question about The Jews knows exactly who they think they’re talking about already.

21

John Holbo 05.28.09 at 4:56 am

“Since you posted the article approvingly, I can only believe you share their concerns and purposes.”

I didn’t link to it approvingly. I linked to it to ask people what they think. If the authors are part of some conspiracy to silence critics of the finance industry then I don’t share their concerns and purposes. I have now expressed my beliefs and intentions, and my personal high opinion of Simon Johnson’s judgment in this financial crisis. If you can ‘only believe’ that my beliefs are the opposite of what I say, even though you obviously have no good grounds for doubting my sincerity, then I think you are unduly suspicious, sir.

22

bob mcmanus 05.28.09 at 5:03 am

17:” I don’t really believe the survey reflects what people think, so I’m asking what people think of survey results like this.”

Ok, I think it is a piece of evil Republican wingnut bullshit, with the purpose as described in 16. Stanford. They have secondary purposes, like proving Democrats are more anti-semitic than Republicans.

” Interestingly, Democrats were especially prone to blaming Jews: while 32 percent of Democrats accorded at least moderate blame, only 18.4 percent of Republicans did so (a statistically significant difference). This difference is somewhat surprising given the presumed higher degree of racial tolerance among liberals and the fact that Jews are a central part of the Democratic Party’s electoral coalition. Are Democrats simply more likely to “blame everything” thus casting doubt on whether the anti-Jewish attitudes are real? Not at all. We also asked how much “individuals who took out loans and mortgages they could not afford” were to blame on the same five-point scale. In this case, Democrats were less likely than Republicans to assign moderate or greater blame. ” …article

This is rotten, dangerous, & contemptible stuff. Good night.

23

lemuel pitkin 05.28.09 at 5:04 am

It’s hard for me to imagine what a sensible comment here could be.

John, what kind of answer are you looking for here? Is there any fact about the world that you could learn, that would make sense of this to you?

24

Mark 05.28.09 at 5:16 am

Re post #20

If you believe this poll was designed to unfairly malign Democrats, how would you explain that Republicans asked the exact same questions were less likely to blame “the Jews”?

There isn’t some magical wording that forced these Democrats to take anti-Semitic views and Republicans not to, they simply responded to a question.

25

Dan Simon 05.28.09 at 5:21 am

John, let me see if you can help you out. Pretend, for a moment, that the survey was asking about gays, and the crisis in question was the decline in family values. Or that the survey was asking about Muslims, and the crisis in question was global terrorism. Would you still feel the need to ask, somewhat incredulously, about these people’s mysterious thought processes? If not, then why the bafflement about anti-Semitism?

26

John Holbo 05.28.09 at 5:28 am

Lemuel, thank you for asking. I would like someone to study the crazification factor and I wonder who has. Here’s how you might do it. You take a survey like this one and you supplement it with an attempt to study the people who gave the crazy (unexpected) response. You try to determine whether they differ from the sane respondents in terms of their whole style of response to surveys. For example, can you try to get them to say the opposite 10 questions later later? Are they inclined to give weird answers to all sorts of questions? Are some of those weird answers so unbelievable that they just can’t be reporting coherently? Are they just inclined to mouth off, in effect? Are they more nudgeable, suggestible? I haven’t exactly worked out a methodology but I think you could make some progress here.

If I found out that 20% of the population is guilty of having a bizarre style of responding to surveys, I would feel a bit better in this case. But in general I wonder whether someone has studied styles of response to surveys. (I’ve been sort of idly thinking about this methodological problem for a while, and this particular result just prompted me to wonder out loud. Of course, now I’ve put my foot in it, McManus-wise.)

27

John Holbo 05.28.09 at 5:30 am

“Would you still feel the need to ask, somewhat incredulously, about these people’s mysterious thought processes? If not, then why the bafflement about anti-Semitism?”

No, because I think homophobia is pretty common, but I thought expressed anti-semitism is pretty rare in the US these days. Obviously I could be wrong.

28

Omega Centauri 05.28.09 at 5:32 am

I think he’s just trying to understand the (surprising) result. When something seems anomalous -at least according to one’s worldview, asking why should be the way to further our understanding. Just because we don’t like the potential implications is no reason to avoid the question. In fact it makes it more important to get to the bottom of it.

Now, I can’t offer any real help, other then the rather old meme- connecting banker-financier types, and Jews. There is almost certainly a neural net, that connects bankers and Jews in nearly everyone’s head. Please note that a neural net hit, doesn’t imply that the brains owner if he/she thought about it would agree, but it does imply that the subconcious emotional part of our brain circuitry will make the connection.

As for the Republicans being somewhat less prone to whatever it is that is causing this disturbing result, let us remember, that a sizable chunk of the Republican base considers the Jews -or at least the Zionist’s as fellow co-conspiritors in the project to advance the date of the rapture.

29

Righteous Bubba 05.28.09 at 5:50 am

Did 30% think they should answer ‘somewhat’ if they merely believed there were a number of Jewish individuals in the financial sector in positions of authority? Or do substantial numbers of Americans seriously suspect that there might be Jewish conspiracies afoot?

Not just Jewish conspiracies but inept Jewish conspiracies, which sorta breaks the conspiratorial “WHO BENEFITS?” line of thinking.

30

Shawn Crowley 05.28.09 at 5:52 am

John, anti-semitism is far more prevalent than you seem to think and not just in the gun-show/militia crowd. The general backlash against “political correctness” fanned by the wingnuts has given a lot of bigots permission to be more overt about their biases.

The democratic bias in the poll is concerning. I wonder whether it reflects the disdain many democrats feel for Israel. Coverage of American jews being arrested for passing secrets to Israel may also contribute to an atmosphere favorable to conspiracy theories on finance.

Plug “federal reserve” into google and watch the craziness emerge. Financial problems get people who would ordinarily never even think about monetary policy trying to figure out what’s going on (who to blame). A lack of background knowledge with exposure to internet conspiracy sites could push a lot of naive individuals into anti-semitism.

It would be interesting to see a breakdown of responders by age. My guess is that anti-semitism may be high among younger (say, under 35) individuals. In 1978 I had a class assignment at the University of Washington that allowed me to show the film “Night and Fog” to a group of freshmen. These students had virtually no knowledge of WWII or the holocaust. I can’t imagine the schools are doing any better in 2009. As the events of the 1930s-40s blur into a generalized olden days when dinosaurs walked the earth anti-semitism becomes more acceptable torn from any historic context.

31

Dan Simon 05.28.09 at 5:52 am

Okay, John–let me see if I can follow your reasoning. You’re under the impression that anti-Semitism is rare in America these days (although you presumably are well aware that it was not always so). You see a study that suggests that even today, a higher percentage than you’d have expected give nakedly anti-Semitic answers to a pollster’s questions. Rather than accept the parsimonious explanation–that anti-Semitism in America is more prevalent than you’d thought–or even do a bit of quick Googling to check whether the numbers are in line with other recent polling data (in fact, they pretty much are), you instead post a rambling meditation on the inexplicable oddness of the results, complete with a plaintive request for someone to provide some kind of credible explanation (apart from the obvious one, of course).

It’s almost as if you have so much invested in denying Jews the sympathy associated with victim status that you simply can’t mentally process glaring evidence of the hardy persistence of a small-but-significant strain of anti-Semitism in America…

32

Colin Danby 05.28.09 at 6:01 am

John’s asking a perfectly plausible question.

1. Can someone ask them for their cross-tabs? It sounds like this is part of a bigger study with more data. Age would be interesting.

2. The obvious point is to conclude that yes, there’s a lot of antisemitism out there. Shouldn’t be a huge surprise. There must be other relevant literature and studies on U.S. antisemitism. Anyone have references?

3. You quickly learn, if you graze the ‘net or read student papers, that a lot of people have no appropriate conceptual tools or frameworks for “financial crisis.” In an important sense they don’t know what it is. So part of it is a grasping for folk models of how the world works.

4. One folk model is that finance is inherently unnatural, parasitic, and tricky, as opposed to making real stuff which is natural, wholesome, and straightforward. A comprehensive stereotype about Jews is a common way to think this model. (E.g. that’s what I think is going on in Werner Sombart’s _The Jews and Modern Capitalism_). This it’s possible analytically to distinguish the anti-finance folk model (silly but not evil) from antisemitism, but also think about ways they interact.

33

arc 05.28.09 at 6:05 am

Kindly keep non-sober opinions to yourself, however. The internet already has more of those than it can consume locally.

but, but… my drunken inebriated opinions are my greatest opinions!

they shure seem that way when I’ve been drinking at any rate

34

Ahistoricality 05.28.09 at 6:09 am

I honestly had to go look at the original, so I wasn’t taken in by some kind of name-substitution thought experiment/parody…..

I was going to comment that the level of anti-semitism in the US is high enough that I actually find the results credible, if a little dismaying. But lots of other folks got here first. Part of the perception problem is a social isolation one: if you move in circles with lots of Jews, you are highly unlikely to run into anti-Semitism expressed even among non-Jews. But, and there’s other literature bearing this out, in social circles with few or no Jews, anti-Semitic attitudes are not only fairly common, but much more openly expressed. This is true in the case of other minorities as well, including homosexuals: lack of exposure to the diversity and reality of a minority group tends to contribute to stereotyped attitudes.

But if you are looking for a way to talk around the results, it is possible that people answered a different question. Not “the Jews” but just “Jews” are responsible. Bit of a stretch, maybe, but it crossed my mind.

35

lemuel pitkin 05.28.09 at 6:11 am

29 shows I was wrong — it possible to say something useful on this subject after all.

36

Colin Danby 05.28.09 at 6:13 am

Just to add a quick example, since I missed the John-Dan exchange while composing the #29. To pick up on 24, I’ve almost never heard expressed anti-Catholicism in the U.S. — I honestly cannot remember hearing someone running down Catholics. But some years ago I taught a course on Latin Am history in which students read a pretty broad and nuanced set of readings, and I posed an innocent exam question having to do with the role of the Catholic Church in Latin American history. Holy crap. I was completely unprepared for the screeds I got. I mean genuinely surprised. So there’s stuff there that you don’t see.

37

John Holbo 05.28.09 at 6:21 am

“It’s almost as if you have so much invested in denying Jews the sympathy associated with victim status that you simply can’t mentally process glaring evidence of the hardy persistence of a small-but-significant strain of anti-Semitism in America…”

Dan, you’re like a bizarro Bob McManus. Bless you both, and best of luck to you making your way in a world in which making plausible assessments of the motives of others is an important life skill.

38

e julius drivingstorm 05.28.09 at 6:25 am

1. Can someone ask them for their cross-tabs? It sounds like this is part of a bigger study with more data. Age would be interesting.

Wealth would also be interesting. Democrats, more than republicans, may stereotype Jews as being wealthy, and blame the rich.

I can understand where mcmanus fears that it’s a push-poll from the get-go.

39

John Holbo 05.28.09 at 6:35 am

Colin, that’s an interesting point about folk models. And I suppose the social isolation point is a good one.

Here would be a relatively way to test the crazification factor in this case. Suppose, instead of prompting with Bernie Madoff you prompted with a historical parable about hysterical anti-semitism in times of financial crisis. Make it sound bad. See how much you can reduce the ‘blame the Jews factor’. (You’d have to be a bit delicate about designing the questions obviously.) Can you maybe even get the people who blame the Jews, in response to a Madoff prompt, to turn around and blame the anti-semites, in response to some other prompt. Showing that people have these weirdly shifting folk models, perhaps.

In general, suppose I’m wrong and this result just goes to show that anti-semitism is more prevalent that I think – probably because I’ve never lived in a place where it was considered remotely polite to express anti-semitic sentiments. Fine. I’m still interested in the general question of diverse styles of response to surveys, and how a minority of weird responders might produce the persistent impression that 20% of people will believe anything, no matter how crazy.

40

Yves G. 05.28.09 at 6:41 am

Bob McManus,

A century ago this sort of thing would have needed printed pamphlets or pulpit rants. These days talk radio and the Internet do the job far better. The meme was out there long before Holbo or the Boston Review caught wind of it.

http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasen/spages/1028069.html

41

John Holbo 05.28.09 at 6:44 am

“I can understand where mcmanus fears that it’s a push-poll from the get-go.”

If he were worried it was a push-poll he would want to expose it rather than suggesting it is wrong even to speak of it.

The thing is: even if this is what they wanted, for their (perhaps) nefarious purposes, I’m still surprised it worked. (But again, maybe I’m just naive about anti-semitism in America today.)

42

Colin Danby 05.28.09 at 7:01 am

At least as I understand the article, Madoff was not in the prompt for the main question.

I’m too lazy to look them up, but I do remember polls showing surprisingly large numbers of folks believing in alien abductions, so there may be some support for a crazification thesis. But even there, it’s not “anything.” Certain explanations remain and spread and work for people. “Crazy,” then, seems to me like the wrong way to go about it because it stops you asking how something seems like common sense to someone who believes it.

43

dsquared 05.28.09 at 7:13 am

There’s nothing to explain here; you prompt for a racial stereotype, and you’re going to get what you prompt for. If that was an unprompted question “Who do you blame for the financial crisis?”, you’d get the about 10% who are happy to identify themselves as anti-Semitic in polls. Springing a question like this on people gets them, plus those who don’t really understand much at all except vaguely remember that there’s some thing about Jewish people and Wall Street.

I hereby, therefore, award Dan Simon the Official Mantle Of Victimhood, although he may find that this mantle is less effective than he hopes it to be in shielding his comical and unpleasant views and personality from all criticism.

44

magistra 05.28.09 at 7:14 am

Two immediate points about the methodology of the poll that spring to mind. Firstly, do they includes any details about non-responders (either to this question or to the survey as a whole)? Because if they don’t count people who say ‘that’s a stupid/racist question’ and walk away/slam the phone down, that’s going to bias the survey.

Secondly, I’d like to see the results if you asked the same question about an ethnic group not generally seen as involved in the crisis. If you included a question on ‘who blames the Irish for the financial crisis’, for example, you might get some sense of how big the ‘pushing’ effect of the question itself is, regardless of the content.

(In the UK, of course, the interesting comparison would be ‘blame the Scots’ versus ‘blame the Jews’).

45

A. Y. Mous 05.28.09 at 7:28 am

My massively small intellect can’t fathom the equally massive tabulation fixation here at CT. However, I am surprised at the expressed surpise.

Any cohesive entity A has an equally cohesive entity B that is anti-entity-A. Global Warming. Government. Anarcho-capitalists. Socialists. Emacs users. The One True Editor Users. Of course, Muslims and Jews and Catholics.

Are Jews a cohesive entity in the U. S. of A? If yes, anti-Jews exist in the U.S. of A. What’s weird or crazy about it?

46

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.28.09 at 7:35 am

It depends on whether you categorize racial/ethnic stereotypes as racism or not.

If you ask: are the African-Americans responsible for inner-city violence? A lot of people will say – yes. Even a lot of the blacks agree. People like Bill Cosby will agree.

Correlation between race and socioeconomic status is mistaken for causation between the race and socioeconomic status, as usual.

That said, I think one should be much more concern when this phenomenon negatively affects vulnerable members of society than an affluent group.

47

anon 05.28.09 at 8:00 am

Anyone who spends time on internet aggregator sites, particularly news aggregators, particularly lefty news aggregators may start to question how uncommon anti-Semitism is. If you read the comments on these sites as well as news submissions, you will see a fair amount of anti-Semitism. You have to read between the lines–kind of a ‘the Jews this/the Jews that’ thing. Not a ‘kill the Jews’ thing. No links to the Elders of Zion, etc. I don’t know if the commenters are self-consciously anti-Semitic. I really think anti-Semitism is still imbibed from the culture by some people.

I would say it is not rare at all but who knows? My awakening to anti-Semitism’s persistent presence is based on experiences on the internet–where people are often a bit crazy.

There were quite a lot of those comments of this kind about the financial crisis. So I’m not surprised by these statistics.

I’m not Jewish. I have found this phenomenon curious but I don’t know enough about the phenomenon of anti-Semitism to give a good answer to your question. It’s made me wonder–what exactly is anti-Semitism and how does it differ from classic racism (which actually has a number of variants)? Racism is often about inferiority but some of the comments about Jews imply they are a magical group of people with special powers who have, through some wily or cunning means taken over (a) U.S. foreign policy and (b) the economy.

I can’t say I’ve figured it all out but I will say that an observer would notice one of the key components you allude to which is the kind of ‘hive mind’ thing. As if Jews think/act with some kind of hive mind rather than as individuals. I’m oversimplifying. It’s kind of hard to explain because I haven’t kept good track of the comments so I don’t have great examples. But essentially, the idea seems to be (1) when one Jew does something it is ‘the Jews’ doing that thing. Jews are all connected in some mysterious way. (2) when people do things of their own free will but Jews are involved, the Jews are entirely responsible. As if they exert power over other people’s will. So it would not be a collaborative choice with a lot of different people involved–instead the Jewish people’s involvement will explain everything. There’s a basic presupposition that that the Jews are powerful–I’m not sure if this extends to every individual Jew or how it is supposed to work, exactly. But every powerful individual Jew just adds to the power of ‘the Jews.’

I realize I’m probably not even explaining this in a very compelling way. I’m also not giving good examples because I don’t want to derail the post with the political debates where these type of comments arise.

Does anyone know any good analysis of what anti-Semitism is? It is disturbing to think about the history of it but it is also weird and interesting that it survives like it does. I think if one understood it more than it would be easier to explain why it is not rare–I too agree it seems like it should be rare. But a lot of deeply irrational things seem like they should be rare–but are not.

48

DanSeattle 05.28.09 at 8:14 am

Speaking as a member of the International Jewish Conspiracy, I’d like to point out that We Did It, On Purpose, and With Malice Aforethought. With our ill-gotten gains, we have bought blonde wigs, nose jobs, and trips to third-world countries where there are better future investment opportunities. Do not worry! We will stimulate the economy in our absence by donating both to the Republican (because Jews are neocons) and the Democratic (because Jews are ethnic urbanite liberals) Parties.

Our Nefarious Plan is about to go into action: indeed, go to any Jewish center on Thursday night this week and you will see us working through the night in preparation.

Thank you for your attention. And Shalom.

49

agum 05.28.09 at 8:23 am

I’m leaning towards the “Jews” vs. “The Jews” confusion as a partial explanation. It would be fairly easy to miss, especially if you don’t think of “The Jews” as a discrete entity, which might happen because you don’t hear anyone ranting about “The Jews” much anymore.

If you included a question on ‘who blames the Irish for the financial crisis’, for example, you might get some sense of how big the ‘pushing’ effect of the question itself is, regardless of the content.

That’s a lower bound. Except it would have to be a more exceptional group than the Irish…like Indian-Americans.

For an upper bound, you could ask a question with more of a connection to reality, like “How much to blame were the Jews for the Iraq war?”

/ducks and runs

50

bob mcmanus 05.28.09 at 8:30 am

“If he were worried it was a push-poll he would want to expose it rather than suggesting it is wrong even to speak of it.”

Because I have my own view of how politics works, which I think is at odds with many here. I don’t argue with Frum or Goldberg or Horowitz because I think even laughing at them gives them too much attention.

Here’s how it will work:

Question:Is secret anti-semitism a significant factor in attempts to restrict executive pay?

Now we can show that z, y, and z aren’t obvious anti-semites, but that will not completely answer the question or refute the assertion. It is a practically non-falsifiable assertion. That there might be good reasons to restrict executive pay is tangential to whether there are closeted antisemitic motives. And a significant group of people will simply not want to viewed as anti-semites. I’m not an anti-semite, but if I try to restrict executive pay, maybe somebody will think I am or call me one, and then I will have to prove I’m not, and I am not even sure how to prove I am not anti-semitic. Easier just to give in.

The Foreign Policy people really call foul when antisemitism comes up in discussions of Israel and Palestine, with very good reason.

This argument about anti-semitism and finance is really a complete waste of time, except for those who want to use it to disarm their opponents. As far as I can see at the policy level, it is so far from the reality that it doesn’t deserve attention. And every post talking about antisemitism is one that isn’t about executive pay or Glass-Steagall. The right is very good at this stuff, they know what gets liberals excited and distracted.

51

Jon 05.28.09 at 9:16 am

Not sure if this is worth pointing out or not – but South Park has been there and done this already, episode 3 “Margaritaville”

[Cartman to Kyle], “The Jews took all the money away … Just tell me where the cave is”

[Random guy] “We’d best speak with the council and tell them a young Jew is speaking heresy towards the economy”

52

ajay 05.28.09 at 9:53 am

If you included a question on ‘who blames the Irish for the financial crisis’, for example, you might get some sense of how big the ‘pushing’ effect of the question itself is, regardless of the content.

Well, the European Banking Commissioner is Charlie McCreevy, who’s Irish, and Irish banks have been rather involved in the property bubble… my god, it’s all making sense!
(And the leprechauns, of course.)

I am sort of shocked, though, that between a fifth and a third of Americans are quite so weird.
Of course, bob is almost certainly right, and this is just a way to smear critics by accusing them of only opposing Barack Obama* because he’s Jewish.

(*Or, as his real birth certificate reveals, Baruch Abramowitz!!!!)

53

mpowell 05.28.09 at 9:55 am

I see that Daniel at 39 already makes the point I was going to. What confuses me is why John thinks a significant percentage of the American public has the sophisitication to avoid implicating themselves as antisemitic in a strong push-poll. The crazification factor is probably pretty low: under 20%. But the clueless factor is quite high: well over 50% I would guess. This is just a sampling of the clueless.

54

soru 05.28.09 at 9:57 am

‘The thing is: even if this is what they wanted, for their (perhaps) nefarious purposes, I’m still surprised it worked’

Is there a documented example of someone trying this kind of thing and it not working?

The success metric of this type of poll is that the result should be “surprising, but not too far outside the bounds of credibility”. If anyone set out to measure some physical quantity, like the distance between New York and Boston, with an analogous goal, I am sure they would have a comparable level of success.

Just not a comparable level of publicity.

55

arc 05.28.09 at 10:36 am

just a thought, but even if mpowell @ 46 and dsquared @ 39 are correct in their assertions that there aren’t significant anti-semite attitudes in most of the poll respondents, and that their responses have been largely caused by the structure of the poll questions, it is nevertheless still the case that, regardless of their attitudes prior to looking at the poll, they have just attributed part of the financial collapse on “the Jews”. I don’t see that the fact (assuming it is a fact) that the poll structure is more causing the phenomenon rather than measuring it is necessarily much less worrying. Which is more disturbing – that significant numbers of Americans habour anti-semetic attitudes, or that significant numbers of Americans who don’t habour anti-semetic attitudes can nevertheless be easily made to make anti-semetic assertions?

I suppose if you want to be dismissive, you could say that they’ve got no idea what they just said. Perhaps that’s the case, but I’m wondering whether something else might be going on. Assuming dsquared is right and they’ve heard something vaguely about Jews and wall street, they’re given some responses that involve Jews and go “yeah, something about Jews and wall street, I heard that somewhere, so, sure, they must be a bit responsible”, having never thought along such lines ever before. Unconnected vaguely recalled facts have just become an opinion about a cause.

I’m not an expert in psychology, but aren’t people quite capable of rationalizing just these sorts of responses which aren’t really anything to do with them as though they were a product of the person’s own though processes?

56

dsquared 05.28.09 at 11:00 am

No, I do think that the poll findings pretty accurately reflect the incidence of anti-Semitic stereotypes, just that I think that these stereotypes are basically latent beliefs which are for the most part not reflected in any behaviour other than the answering of survey questions. Obviously it would be better if people didn’t harbour these stereotypes at all, because they are racist beliefs, but it’s not like these 25% of Americans go around every minute of the day blaming things on the Jewish community. This is the bit where Dan Simon accuses me of “trivialising anti-Semitism”, so for the benefit of clarity I will also admit that I don’t care very much about the homophobic and racist attitudes that an awful lot of people carry around in their own heads, as long as they don’t let it affect their behaviour either.

57

Phil 05.28.09 at 11:28 am

Colin @29 – crosstabs, schmosstabs, we need to see the questionnaire. What was the actual wording of the question? How were the options prompted? How was the question introduced? All these things could make a huge difference to the way people answered.

Daniel’s touched on one factor, which is that prompting any possible answer both brings that answer to mind and, perhaps more importantly in this case, makes that answer seem respectable: presumably the ‘No’ option was “No, I don’t hold the Jews responsible”, not “No, I don’t hold some mythical entity called ‘the Jews’ responsible in any way, shape or form, what are you, crazy?” Prompt with a construct and you can’t be too surprised if that construct is there in the answers. Also, there may well have been some equivocation – possibly unintended – between “Jews” and “the Jews” (“Some people are saying that Jews have played a prominent role in the financial crisis…”). Another factor is the tendency for people to avoid the ‘extreme’ answers, which in this case would include a flat “No”; I think you’d get similarly counter-intuitive answers if you asked “Is the colour black (a) white (b) mostly white (c) neither black nor white (d) mostly black or (e) black?”.

58

LizardBreath 05.28.09 at 11:31 am

Suppose you asked people whether ‘people whose names start with ‘M’ are somewhat responsible for the financial crisis’.

Melmotte, Merdle, Madoff — I think there’s a stronger argument than you’re admitting for steering clear of financiers with two-syllable names starting with ‘M’.

59

Stacy Watford 05.28.09 at 11:34 am

Two points:
1) When I was a girl of about 13 we left my small southern town and drove slowly to Michigan for a summer vacation. Along the way we stopped at my Uncle’s Uncle’s house in St. Louis, there sitting on the patio enjoying some very good B-B-Q ribs I heard the first anti-Semitic thing I’d ever heard. It went something like this: My Uncle, “How are things Uncle?” His Uncle, “Well they’d be fine, if it wasn’t for all the damn Jews in Hollywood making movies that ruin America.” Any further comments were lost on me as I was chocking on my B-B-Q rib which I had swallowed wrong in shock at such an outrageous statement.

For the record I did not learn any prejudice against the Jewish people in my small southern town, there are no Jews here. Since there aren’t any here there is no particular reason to discuss them hence no reason to slander them so children aren’t exposed to anti-Semitic language. Unlike say racism which I got plenty of exposure to, but largely escaped due to good parenting. My point, however, is that the movie example giving by Mr. Holbo might not be the best one.

2) I had a math teacher once who would say there are lies, damn lies and then there is Statics. I think this is one of those cases. The unscientific reason I have for this is the Republican/Demarcate percentage number, the “Bush Republicans,” tend to be mid-western/southern, mega-church going, “real Americans” who believe in family values and guns and so on. In short the very people most likely to make the statement in the example above. No it isn’t prejudice I have more than my fair share of experience with “Bush Republicans.” I therefor doubt the veracity of the poll. I also don’t like the question, “Do you blame Jews for the financial crisis?” It is an over simplified question for a complex topic and I doubt it captures how Americans really feel or what they believe. However it is designed to evoke the type of knee jerk prejudice shown above that often exist in humanity of all stripes.

60

br 05.28.09 at 12:43 pm

Hasn’t the left always had something of an underground affinity with anti-semitism ? … “anti-semitism as the socialism of fools” and all that. The key would be the tendency to think in class-warfare terms. Then it’s easy to slot jews into the fat slobbering top-hatted capitalist caricature. The lower ratio for republicans is easy to explain in these terms – whatever their other failings your average republican is much less likely to think in class warfare terms.

61

Uncle Kvetch 05.28.09 at 12:45 pm

Firstly, do they includes any details about non-responders (either to this question or to the survey as a whole)? Because if they don’t count people who say ‘that’s a stupid/racist question’ and walk away/slam the phone down, that’s going to bias the survey.

Precisely. As someone who would have simply ended the survey then and there, assuming it was either a tasteless crank call or something uglier, I’m very curious to know how my “response” would be tabulated.

62

hidflect 05.28.09 at 1:22 pm

“The weird thing, of course, is that people are willing to go with ‘the Jews’ as a cohesive, mass-noun sort of designation.”

Yes, and those people call themselves… Jews. No one’s going out into the street measuring noses and earlobes here. These are people who clearly and publicly define themselves as being different to everyone else. Even if they’re totally non-religious.

63

Todd Gitlin 05.28.09 at 1:25 pm

The researchers didn’t ask blame questions about anyone besides Jews–a serious oversight. Somebody should replicate with comparison questions. Blamers are legion and might be prepared to take the suggestion that any named group is culpable.

64

bianca steele 05.28.09 at 1:29 pm

Here’s my own survey: How many people who are Jewish, have Jewish ancestry, “look Jewish,” or have Jewish-sounding names:
1) Have experienced overt antisemitism?
2) Have overheard casual antisemitism (e.g., everybody knew the Jewish sorority was full of bitches)?
3) Have been hinted to by other Jews to “watch out” or that “this is not a good place for Jews”?
4) Have been sounded out by others, Jewish or non-Jewish, as to whether they are?
5) Have met with hostile or defensive reactions from people who want to ensure you know they aren’t Jewish, or who seem to fear others are treating them badly because they are believed to be Jewish?
6) Have been told they know nothing about Judaism, by either Jews or non-Jews, when they volunteered some information from their experience or their education?

65

Ahistoricality 05.28.09 at 1:40 pm

7) all of the above

66

rich 05.28.09 at 1:43 pm

David Wright @ 4:34 am wrote:

” I challenge you to actually read the post, which makes a statistically well-defined and in principal empirically testable claim, and then say publicly that you believe that claim to be false.”

That claime”
“Here is an entirely sober, but also very politically incorrect, opinion: a large fraction of this discrepancy between Democrats and Republicans can be explained by the significantly larger fraction of Democrats who are black.”

It’s not so much politically incorrect as it is plain wrong. To the extent it’s statistically testable, which is close to nil—you’ll lose on the facts. What’s telling and stunning is your instantaneous diversion from anti-Semitic prejudice to actively pushing another prejudice, this time broadly labeling blacks as prejudiced against jews, to such a degree you actually assert it’s the factor accounting for differences between Republicans and Democrats. It’s openly racist, sure, but it’s surely irresponsible to assign a predominantly white and Republican anti-Semitism to blacks. I’d suggest the difference is that more Republicans are aware of their own role in the systemic failures of the financial sector.

As a white male I can assure you right-wing anti-Semitism is virulent, broad and revolves around–guess what? — that’s right! Control of the banking system. I can equally vouch for the complete lack of reality in your statement about african-american culture.

So why this ‘blame the jews for the financial crisis’ element should be a surprise is beyond me. It’s a long-standing form of anti-Semitism, and it will hardly lose steam during a financial crisis riven with this much corruption.

Further, PC and politically incorrect are both contradictions in terms, used to enforce ideological purity from both sides of the political divide. Anybody waving around that label is patently unaware that ‘political’ and ‘opinionated’ are one and the same thing, fairly arbitrary and pretty much the whole point of having an American democratic system that upholds the ability to express any opinion without regard to whether they’re ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

Finally, anyone with half a brain can call into question the notion your claim is ‘statistically well-defined’ or ’empirically testable’. You’ve got two numbers (32, 18), start with an untenable premise of bigotry against blacks, and assume a few polls can prove your view held prior to obtaining any results. Has it not occurred to you that poll respondents might lie? That poll results have been shown to hinge on sentence construction and the inclusion of loaded words that trigger the desired results?

And yeah, I’m sure many readers will leap to cry, “Did you hear what he said about statistics?!” But let’s get real here: someone made an absolutist statement about a single race (black), to assign all relevant anti-Semitism not only to the wrong group but, with it, responsibility for differences between Dem & Repub. And then sought to defend himself by counting noses, by resorting to statistics.

This whole question is a diversion from the question at hand. There is a culture of impunity on Wall Street, and it hasn’t gone away. Some folks know how to game the system, in this case virtually the entire financial sector decided it was easier to play along and take their bonuses than apply the lessons of 1929 and succeeding years. Not only have we not taken heed and insisted on even minimal accountability, we’ve consciously avoided talk of a system that sells off any remnants of a productive economy and sells out the rest of the country–and now wonder why no one can pay their mortgage. I understand it’s ‘putting the art before the coarse’, but then, the con ‘art’ists have always put themselves before the unwashed masses. And to think it’s only cost us upwards of $2 trillion. So far.

Had anyone listened to the many average voices out there asking for even a minimal degree of sanity, we wouldn’t be in this mess. Instead, we get this: a guy actually blaming the resulting surge in anti-Semitism . .. on the blacks. Unreal.

67

Phil 05.28.09 at 1:51 pm

3) Have been hinted to by other Jews to “watch out” or that “this is not a good place for Jews”?

After 9/11, a Jewish friend of mine confided in me that he had a sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop, and mentioned that security patrols at his son’s school had been stepped up.

I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. He was living in a world with a lot more anti-semitism than mine, and the fact that he’d be one of its targets isn’t quite enough to convince me that his assessment of the situation was right.

68

dsquared 05.28.09 at 1:53 pm

#54: The survey that would really interest me would be not so much “Have you ever …” (I’d guess that the answer would be “yes” to all 6 for even a moderately worldly respondent), as “How often do you experience …”, and whether the answers were consistent with anti-Semites forming 25% of the population.

69

bianca steele 05.28.09 at 2:08 pm

Ahistoricality@55:
See, my own answers would be: 1) no; 2) once, 25 years ago; 3) twice, doubtful, maybe 3x if you count the Interwebs; 4) not really (though I observed something similar on vacation once); 5) in a situation where there could have been many explanations; 6) a handful of times. With one or maybe two exceptions, in all of those situations, I can think of other things that might have been going on.

Maybe twice, I’ve heard people from other cultures say they admire Jews because of their business acumen, in a way that many Americans would consider antisemitic if the word “admire” were stripped off. I don’t really consider that antisemitism.

70

mollymooly 05.28.09 at 2:10 pm

Another phone-slammer-downer here. Aside from answering a few questionnaires in college for friends studying undergraduate psychology, I’ve never been surveyed for an opinion poll. Those I read about often strike me as containing questions I would not be able to answer Yes/No or a/b/c or even “none of the above”. How do social scientists deal with this in general? It must often be a massive selection bias.

71

Phil 05.28.09 at 2:28 pm

How do social scientists deal with this in general?

Gubmint survey-takers deal with it by trialling any new survey – or question – for months or years in order to make sure the wording isn’t having any of these effects. Political pollsters deal with it by having politically-literate people> crawl all over their results. Social scientists deal with it in the write-up – although of course anyone who wants to get another grant will make their results as solid as possible. But I’m not sure this poll falls into any of those categories.

72

Glen Tomkins 05.28.09 at 2:33 pm

No doubt these results would be a much more worrisome for “crazification” if 32% of the public had volunteered a theory that “the Jews dun it” when asked an open-ended question that required them to formulate their own explanation for the financial crisis. A step down from that, in terms of moving towards entrapping respondents into answering anti-Semitically, would have been a poll that offered pre-formulated answers, but a wider variety of explanations for the financial crisis, including at least some non-crazy explanations offered as alternatives to the anti-Semitic explanation. But the poll as described was several steps down even from that, in that it offered no non-crazy choices. Even answering “not at all” involved accepting the premise that someone was to blame, and that it is reasonable to posit “the Jews” as a unitary group that could, at least in some cases, if not in this one, act together to move great events on the public scene. Personally, I would have answered “not at all” because it’s those Dutch this time. I’ve never trusted them, and they even corrupted the noble Icelanders as part of their filthy scheme.

It is certainly not a problem limited to this poll, as reported, that they don’t tell you anything about how many people refused to accept these crazy premises. Everyday, respectable, political predictive polls routinely fail to report the rates at which they either fail to contact the people on their target list, or these people, once contacted, refuse to answer any questions. This is not some minor point. What some of the pollsters have told us suggests that lately 90%+ of folks in their random samples can’t be reached or won’t answer, a rate that creates a wonderful opportunity for biased results to creep into what should be a random sample. In this case, not only would those rates be of interest, but the rate of respondents who agreed to answer a poll, but then refused to answer this particular loaded question because they did not agree to its crazed premise, would be of great interest. It really isn’t surprising that a poll designed to filter out non-crazy respondents, or at least respondents paying enough attention to the question to notice its premise was crazed, or respondents who were not too polite to refuse to answer once they heard a question they recognized as crazed — would get results suggestive of crazification. They excluded sanity at the outset, and garbage in, garbage out.

Which is not to say that you should dismiss the results entirely. While a strong case could be made that the numbers they report, such as 32%, are meaningless as a reflection of any reality outside the mad world this poll constructed, it can’t be denied that some of their internal results, some of the differences between groups of people within the group that agreed to the crazed premises of the poll, are suggestive that we have trouble right here in River City. There’s the Dem vs Repub difference, and the difference they found between bailout vs no bailout depending on whether respondents were told Madoff was Jewish or not. While some of what they say about these differences is fatuous (They asked whether people who took out stretched mortgages were to blame, and when they got more Reps than Dems to say yes, they took this as proof that the Dem propensity to blame the Jews wasn’t just that Dems are conspiracy theorists in general, but had it in for the Jews in particular. Huh!? I think this just shows that both Dem and Rep respondents had a tendency to conspiracy theory, but Dem tin-foil hat-wearers tend to blame the rich, and Reps the poor, for all of the world’s ills.), yes there are differences, if only among the biased sample of people who thought their questions made enough sense to answer them.

I don’t think that there’s any doubt that people tend to think in terms of stereotypes, both flattering and otherwise, but I don’t think this poll adds anything to what we already know in that respect. A year ago, when our markets were riding high, this same tendency to see the captains of finance as Jewish would have been a positive, flattering, stereotype. Had they done a poll then, people would likely have said that “the Jews” deserved a lot of the credit for the strength of our markets.

What’s to complain about, being thought to be “the smartest guys in the room”? The American religion consists largely of the belief that wealthiness is next to godliness — hell — is godliness. Well, there’s nothing to complain about except that Fortune is fickle, and when the universe goes south, suddenly the Masters of the Universe become the Devil Incarnate rather than gods, at least to people who think that someone, something, must be in control of the universe, and it isn’t predominantly a matter of fortune and chance.

Good luck getting Homo theoreticus to stop thinking categorically, without stopping him from thinking at all . Until you succeed at that endeavor, we will think in terms of stereotypes, and even the most flattering of those stereotypes stands only a market crash away from flipping to its dark counterpart. That stereotypes about Jews in particular have this recent history of going so epically wrong, shouldn’t blind us to the ordinariness of the wider phenomenon, or think that the danger of such mental furniture lying about in the attics of people’s minds is a potential threat only of serving as the kindling for violent craziness against Jews in particular. If anything, the recent example of the Holocaust is likely to put people off excesses in the direction of anti-Semitism, and channel the madness down on some other group. The White Terror in a given society is always more excessive than its Red Terror, and on that basis you would say that the most worrisome finding in this poll is belief in the conspiracy theory that poor people taking out marginal mortgages are to blame for the crisis.

73

engels 05.28.09 at 2:39 pm

I don’t know the first thing about polling but I’d have thought it might be interesting to compare this with the results for a more open question eg. ‘Who do you think is most responsible for the financial crisis? Give up to 10 suggestions (individuals or groups).’ Would ‘the Jews’ appear in 20-30% of results, or with anything like that frequency? I’d bet it wouldn’t.

74

Joshua Cohen 05.28.09 at 2:41 pm

The post and subsequent commentary overlooks what is arguably most important about the Malhotra/Margalit article. They don’t only find the result about blaming “the Jews.” They also did an experiment that involved priming participants on Madoff and his religion. The result was a statistically significant (and substantive non-trivial) shift in attitudes on some public policy issues. To appreciate the details, read the article. But that finding on the policy side adds a great deal to the interest of the piece.

75

Dan Simon 05.28.09 at 3:04 pm

John, it’s quite true that I don’t really have any reliable means of gauging your motives. But perhaps a little context would help explain my concern.

Let us imagine, just for a moment, that some blogger (let’s call him “Hon Jolbo”) blogged at a site where opposition to gay marriage was quite prevalent–not expressed as anti-gay bigotry, mind you, but rather as part of a general ideological framework (“family values”, perhaps) under which gay marriage in particular came in for specific and frequent criticism. Let us imagine further that commenters there–with apparent support from at least some co-bloggers–routinely made dark references to supporters of gay marriage conspiring to control the US government. And let us imagine further that a co-blogger of Mr. Jolbo’s had a habit of banning people who so much as insinuated that the commenters making such dark references might be crossing the line into anti-gay bigotry.

And let us imagine that Mr. Jolbo then pipes up with a posting describing complete bafflement at a recent poll which suggests that there may actually be anti-gay bigotry out there, and wondering if there might be some alternative explanations for these strange poll results, given his belief that anti-gay bigotry is so rare.

Might one be inclined to suspect Mr. Jolbo of being perhaps, ever so slightly, in denial?

76

Tim Wilkinson 05.28.09 at 3:06 pm

When I hear a report of survey results, especially published straight to newspapers without peer review, published methodology, any detailed data, or full details of the complete study (let alone other discarded studies, etc), I like to subject the claims made to some scrutiny, at least before accepting them.

The Boston Review says the survey was ‘part of a larger survey of 2,768 American adults’ – I don’t know what else was involved, except that the respondents were according to JewishJournal.com ‘Primed with news articles related to the crisis, including one about Bernard Madoff’…

Then they were asked (according to both the above sources): “How much to blame were the Jews for the financial crisis?”, with responses falling under five categories: a great deal, a lot, a moderate amount, a little, not at all.

Others have already pointed out the lack of info on non-responders/resolute ‘don’t know’s, crazification/ignorance factors and the likelihood of helpfully charitable interpretations like ‘how much to blame were [some subset of] Jews’ or even ‘How many of those to blame were Jews’, or[…].

The use the word ‘moderate’ might also have had some influence, as might the fact that ‘a lot’ and ‘a great deal’ were separate options even though I’m not clear on the difference – except in position on the scale.

The results according to the BR were:
Among non-Jewish respondents, a strikingly high 24.6 percent of Americans blamed “the Jews” a moderate amount or more, and 38.4 percent attributed at least some level of blame to the group.

So:
Those (supposedly) acknowledging the existence of an entity called the jews which is apt for being ‘blanketly blamed’ (JJ.com) or exonerated: 100%
Of those:
Those blaming them(/it) ‘not at all’: 61.6%
Those blaming them ‘a little’: 13.8%
Those blaming them ‘a moderate amount’: 8.2% (estimate under uncertainty)
Those blaming them ‘a lot’: 8.2% (ditto)
Those blaming them ‘a great deal’: 8.2% (“)
(In fact I would suspect that ‘a moderate amount’, as both the middle and the ‘moderate’ item, would have attracted more than the two above it, but in the absence of any real info, I’ve shared the 24.6% evenly.)

Imagine ignorance (I didn’t know about that – er…), crazification and bafflement are all-pervasive. Then I suppose we might saliently ‘predict’ a flat or bell-shaped distribution. So remove some of those spoiling factors, and at some point you get the results as reported: which are basically very steeply down-sloping, probably more so than my ‘estimate’ suggests.

I don’t think much can be got from the overall results as published. As for Dem v Rep, dunno, but the difference in the combined ‘more than a little’ figures may not count as significant given the above considerations.

More interesting is the second survey reported in the BR – which reports that 1.implicitly and 2.explicitly alluding to Madoff’s Jewish ethnicity (they called it ‘religious affiliation’) was said to significantly increase the proportion of gentiles opposed to tax cuts for big business from a paltry 10% to (1) 14% and (2) 17% (or ‘almost twice’). Unfortunately even less detail is given about this one, so who knows.

FWIW I tend to agree – a lot, but probably not a great deal – with dsquared 49 on the relative importance of latent and unparticularised stereotyping. Here in the UK, I’ve come across expression of jewish stereotypes a couple of times I can think of, both times referring to supposed tightfistedness – and I’d categorise one as jocular ‘bull’ in the Harry Frankfurt (On Bullshit) sense. By contrast, I’ve very frequently encountered – or evidently intruded on an exchange of – actual, full-on, virulent, racist sentiment against black people.

(I missed a few thousand words of posts while tapping out mine…)

77

Kathleen 05.28.09 at 3:09 pm

It seems to me unfortunate that Bob McManus got into maligning John Holbo’s motivations early on, because it kind of derailed conversational attention to his more substantive point — a study comes out purporting to show Democrats are more anti-semitic than Republicans. Hmmm. Seriously, everybody: HMMMMMMMMM.

Should we maybe wonder about where that study comes from and what it might be trying to do, rather than the implications of the Truth it Reveals? It seems to me much more likely that it does not reveal a truth at all, and that maybe John Holbo’s initial premise that it does reveal a truth could stand some critical discussion. This is not to criticize JH: his gut feeling that this is a really weird result is right on. In other words, I think hurt feelings aside, Bob McManus’s and John Holbo’s positions might be reconcilable.

78

Kathleen 05.28.09 at 3:15 pm

If a study came out showing that Democrats vs. Republicans are (surprise! puzzling! whowouldathunk!) the “real racists”, the “real sexists” and the “real homophobes”, we’d know what to make of it. It seems to me at least possible that a study labeling Democrats the “real anti-semites” could be taken with the same grain of salt.

79

sleepy 05.28.09 at 3:35 pm

DD: “There’s nothing to explain here; you prompt for a racial stereotype, and you’re going to get what you prompt for.”
Thank you.
It was a sleazy push-poll, and Colin Danby is pissed because J. Holbo played into it.

JH: “So whatever you are hinting I’m thinking should be consistent with what I actually think.”
He can’t know what you think, only what you say or write: the words not the intent. He read your sloppiness as something more malign.

“I would like to think that people don’t really think that way,”
Your naivete concerning others matches that concerning yourself.

80

Tim Wilkinson 05.28.09 at 3:37 pm

Kathleen: up to a point, yes. But on the other hand, how much prima facie evidence are you going to reject without specific rebutting or undermining reasons? And how many people’s minds will you change if that’s all you do? And how will your attitude to evidence be represented by opponents?

It is a genuine and general epistemological puzzle – what, or how much, evidence may you reject out of hand because prior knowledge tells you it must be misleading (and life’s too short, or it’s not worth dignifying it, or there’s no hope of exposing the suspected fraud, etc.)?

81

Chris 05.28.09 at 3:51 pm

I think people who are not accustomed to thinking of “the Jews” as a monolithic entity will interpret the question as not about the Jews as a monolithic entity but about, you know, actual Jews who actually exist.

It’s clear that some people are both responsible for the financial crisis and Jewish (whether or not those facts have anything to do with each other, and unless the stereotype of Jews being overrepresented in the banking industry is still true, they probably don’t), so if you interpret the question that way, you almost have to answer in the affirmative (at least “somewhat responsible”).

Democratic tolerance for nuance and avoidance of extreme responses might also explain the lower number of “not at all responsible” responses – lots of people and things were *somewhat* responsible, in Democratic theories of causation, but to (some) Republicans, an event can have only one cause and it was *either* the Jews *or* someone else.

Neither of these theories has much if anything to do with anything that could usefully be called “anti-Semitism”.

82

Kathleen 05.28.09 at 4:10 pm

Tim Wilkinson — I’m not sure what point you are trying to make, unless it is that the best response to anything you hear is to sit at home feeling ponder-y about it and not to mention your ponderments to anyone else. that’s kind of a genuine and general epistemological puzzle, but not one likely to lead to a sensible existence.

83

sleepy 05.28.09 at 4:32 pm

Where did I get Colin Danby!? I meant Bob McManus.
Holbo/Berube Danby/McManus, Let’s call the whole thing off.

84

chris y 05.28.09 at 4:38 pm

I think people who are not accustomed to thinking of “the Jews” as a monolithic entity will interpret the question as not about the Jews as a monolithic entity but about, you know, actual Jews who actually exist.

But such people, unless they’ve lived at the bottom of a mine all their lives, will also respond to questions about “the Jews” by wondering WTF anti-semitic set up is going on here, so, faced with a picture of Madoff and a question about whether the Jews were responsible for the crisis, they won’t say, “Well that one was”, they’ll say the question makes no sense, but that Madoff contributed to the crisis because he was a plausible crook.

I don’t think there are enough people are stupid enough to be provoked in giving ambiguously anti-semitic responses under these conditions to show up in the numbers. Unless they actually believe that the Central Committee of the Capitalist Conspiracy (which obviously operates out of Jerusalem) is behind it. In which case they might.

85

Brock 05.28.09 at 4:40 pm

It is a genuine and general epistemological puzzle – what, or how much, evidence may you reject out of hand because prior knowledge tells you it must be misleading (and life’s too short, or it’s not worth dignifying it, or there’s no hope of exposing the suspected fraud, etc.)?

I think this paradox was formulated by Saul Kripke*, something like this:

(1) If P implies Q, then if you are justified in believing that P, you are justified in believing that Q.
(2) P implies that all evidence against P is misleading.
(3) Therefore, if you are justified in believing that P, you are justified in believing that all evidence against P is misleading.
(4) If you are justified in believing that evidence is misleading, you are justified in ignoring/dismissing it.
(5) Therefore, if you are justified in believing that P, you are justified in ignoring/dismissing all evidence against it.

* I don’t recall reading this in any of Kripke’s publications, so the attribution may be apocryphal.

86

LizardBreath 05.28.09 at 4:47 pm

I don’t think there are enough people are stupid enough to be provoked in giving ambiguously anti-semitic responses under these conditions to show up in the numbers.

I think there are probably a fair number of people who are ambiguously anti-Semitic in a dopey kind of way, though. People who won’t actively reject the concept of “the Jews” as something that could reasonably be held responsible for an event if they’re prompted to think that’s a respectable answer, but probably wouldn’t have gone there on their own. And once they’re thinking “Well, is ‘the Jews’ responsible for the financial crisis? Madoff’s one, so the right answer must be ‘yes'”, that explains the responses.

87

Sebastian 05.28.09 at 4:47 pm

Kathleen, I wouldn’t be that surprised to find that among anti-Semites in the last decade or so, in the US, (please note the modifiers) that more, but not all,of them MIGHT be located might be located among Democrats. I can think of a few reasons this might be true.

First, more of the anti-Israel crowd in the US is found on the left, and on the extreme edges of the Democratic Party than is found on the right or in the Republican Party. (The mainstream of the national Democratic Party is of course not anti-Israel at all).

Second, Evangelicals have an interesting relationship with Jews. They of course believe that Jews are going to hell on the one hand, but they believe that of nearly everybody. On the other hand Evangelicals on average have quite a bit of respect for Jews as what Evangelicals think of as God’s first chosen people, or something like that. It is sort of like respecting one’s grandparents—you may think they are crazy or out of touch but you generally like them. Evangelicals are of course strongly represented in the Republican Party.

Third, Republicans are very open to the idea that making money doesn’t necessarily imply exploitation. As such they aren’t nearly as open to the “success equals Jews screwing other people over” concept which is implicit in much anti-Semitism.

Which is not to say that Republicans can’t be anti-semitic. They clearly can (individual cases abound) and are. But it wouldn’t be so completely shocking if fewer of them were than Democrats that any survey which suggests such a conclusion should automatically be thrown out as if it purported to show that gravity didn’t exist.

88

Salient 05.28.09 at 4:58 pm

John, your post has put me in a situation where I’m agreeing wholeheartedly with sleepy (!): It was a sleazy push-poll.

I don’t know whether Malhotra and Margalit intended to push-poll and to be charitable I’ll assume not, but I think that their approach to the research was sloppy (at best) and that their assessment was inappropriate (at best).

Here’s word for word what they asked:
“How much to blame were the Jews for the financial crisis?”

I think that’s kind of like asking:
“How much was John Holbo to blame for the rumors of greater anti-semitism present among Democrats than among Republicans?”

Either way, it’s a (mis)leading question. Frankly, I think all of your analysis falls under the heading ‘category error’ : you’ve been given compromised data from a push-poll, and trying to find social explanations for that data is fruitless and potentially very misleading.

89

Tim Wilkinson 05.28.09 at 5:17 pm

Kathleen: no, I didn’t mean the stuff you said about ponderyness. I was only saying that while it can be fair enough to ‘take things with a pinch of salt’ – i.e. pretty much dismiss them, it has its disadvantages, both practical and epistemic (assuming those are distinct).

Brock: Yes, you’re right- Kripke didn’t publish it. The attribution was by Harman in his Thought (1973). His version is (rather messily) rendered:

If I know that h is true, I know that any evidence that seems to tell against h is evidence against something that is true; so I know that such evidence is misleading. But I should disregard evidence that I know is misleading. So, once I know that h is true, I am in a position to disregard any future evidence that seems to tell against h. This is paradoxical, because I am never in a position to disregard any evidence.

I agree it is better put in terms of (internalist) justification, though the ‘justified’ as applied to believing may not be the same as that applied to ignoring/dismissing/disregarding.

The underlying issue might be expressed as something like: how can we have stable beliefs without falling into dogmatism?

90

Jacob T. Levy 05.28.09 at 6:27 pm

Dsquared’s “There’s nothing to explain here; you prompt for a racial stereotype, and you’re going to get what you prompt for” seems to me the right place to start, though not the end of the story, since it doesn’t account for either the Democrat-Republican divergence or for the more substantial subsequent results Joshua Cohen draws our attention to.

A few notes about the craziness revealed by the comment thread (distinct from the craziness revealed by the poll):

1) Neil Malhotra is one of the best young scholars of public opinion/ political psychology/ survey methodology. (To the best of my knowledge I’ve never met him, but his reputation in political science precedes him.) He does not do stupid sloppy push polls. He does *study* how framing and cues affect survey responses. That is, he’s not simply a pollster, he’s a professional scholar of the methodology of polls. And the article isn’t centrally concerned with the question of how much anti-Semitism there is; it’s concerned precisely with *how exposure to cues for anti-Semitism prompts other things.* I agree with John H that the raw amount of anti-Semitism revealed is disturbing; but I don’t find it deeply surprising.

2) I would think that the Boston Review, of all places, would have a little bit of accumulated credibility as *not* being the kind of place that is so in the pocket of finance capitalists that it would go out of its way to publish some hack piece aimed at pre-emptively tarring critics of finance capitalism with the brush of anti-Semitism.

91

koan0215 05.28.09 at 6:48 pm

The fact that Democrats are shown to be more anti-semitic than Republicans depresses me, but does not surprise me that much. Other commenters have mentioned that there is a chunk on the left that is very anti-Israel, and I’ve seen many a leftist 9/11 truther on the internet wrap their conspiracy theories up with wierd anti-semitism.

92

Righteous Bubba 05.28.09 at 6:57 pm

Other commenters have mentioned that there is a chunk on the left that is very anti-Israel, and I’ve seen many a leftist 9/11 truther on the internet wrap their conspiracy theories up with wierd anti-semitism.

Normally I think of those folks, left and right, as an interested fringe, not a fair chunk of a party. Goes with the internet overrepresentation of libertarians and objectivists. I hope.

93

Salient 05.28.09 at 7:17 pm

He does study how framing and cues affect survey responses. That is, he’s not simply a pollster, he’s a professional scholar of the methodology of polls.

Hm. All the more reason to decry his fourth paragraph:

Interestingly, Democrats were especially prone to blaming Jews: while 32 percent of Democrats accorded at least moderate blame, only 18.4 percent of Republicans did so (a statistically significant difference). This difference is somewhat surprising given the presumed higher degree of racial tolerance among liberals and the fact that Jews are a central part of the Democratic Party’s electoral coalition.

That doesn’t sound like a reasoned analysis of how the phrasing of this poll question contributed to the results. That sounds to me like an explicit acceptance of the results of this question as fair and representative.

And as for Jacob’s other comment:

And the article isn’t centrally concerned with the question of how much anti-Semitism there is

Interesting how the third, fourth and fifth paragraph got snuck in there by somebody else, then. And the graph. They read to me like… a breakdown of how much anti-Semitism there is (according to a poll that’s on its face problematic), grouped by different demographics.

(Of course, the article from the 6th paragraph on was good. It was also about a different, and an ethically sound, study.)

94

Tim Wilkinson 05.28.09 at 7:20 pm

Jacob T. Levy: (1)the article isn’t centrally concerned with the question of how much anti-Semitism there is; it’s concerned precisely with how exposure to cues for anti-Semitism prompts other things

No it’s not: the authors say they aimed first to assess explicit prejudice toward Jews and then to assess more deeply whether the tendency among a subset of Americans to blame the Jews is meaningful [sic]

They do mention a quite different study, which they say found that exposure to anti-Semitic stereotypes, even stereotypes that people outright reject (e.g., that “Jews are shady”), can have an indirect effect of making other, less patently offensive stereotypes of Jews (e.g., that “Jews are politically liberal”) more salient in people’s minds. This is a much more subtle (not to say ambiguous) assertion, which appears to go to the effects of an element of something very like suggestion.

Neil Malhotra does study how framing and cues affect survey responses. Is this just an appeal to authority, or an attempt to raise the stakes by forcing sceptics to endorse a ‘conspiracy’ theory? If the latter, at least it’s more subtle than the similar attempt in comment (2).

95

Salient 05.28.09 at 7:21 pm

Oh, and just to be clear, I think one ethical way to conduct essentially the same study would be to randomly choose between “Jews” / “Christians” / “Muslims” / “atheists” when asking the question, to see if the proportion who blamed Jews “somewhat” is out of line with the proportion who blame people-not-of-their-own-religion in general. There’s a difference, e.g., between xenophobia and anti-Semitic belief.

That still doesn’t fix the problematic wording, which assumes the Jews are at least partly too blame and asks us to evaluate how much, but at least it would be possible to distinguish more clearly whether this poll tells us what the authors claim it tells us.

96

Tim Wilkinson 05.28.09 at 7:30 pm

Salient: you got there first! On terminology: isn’t a push-poll one designed to (permanently) influence opinion? Not quite, or presumably not intentionally, what was going on here – though as pointed out above, the JewishJournal.com says that there was some ‘priming’ (a ‘push’ element) with news articles in the first poll. It could be misreporting, I suppose, but the author does claim to have spoken to Malhendra, and the first poll was ‘part of a larger study’, so who knows.

97

Tim Wilkinson 05.28.09 at 7:34 pm

correction: the author doesn’t unambiguously claim to have spoken to Malhendra…

98

Tim Wilkinson 05.28.09 at 7:35 pm

or Malhotra.

99

Colin Danby 05.28.09 at 7:37 pm

To pick up on #70 the framing and pushing becomes more of an issue in the Madoff experiment. If I’m right that a lot of respondents have no handle on “financial crisis,” then you’re prompting them with a folk model — giving them a question they can’t handle, and then suggesting how to answer it. This would also fit with the education cross-tab that the writeup reports.

100

Salient 05.28.09 at 7:39 pm

One last thing, and my apologies for not wrapping this all up in one comment. Responding directly to John:

The weird thing, of course, is that people are willing to go with ‘the Jews’ as a cohesive, mass-noun sort of designation.

We are not told how many people hung up the phone upon hearing the question.

And as for some people going along with it, I dunno. My father would have, come to think of it. And pretty much no matter what the identified category was — Jews, Singaporeans, astronauts, oak trees — he’d have said “somewhat” or “a moderate amount” figuring either (1) that’s the generic-sounding reply that’s the equivalent of “heck, I don’t really know” or (2) that’s literally true ’cause you figure everybody’s kind of responsible, in a moderate way, and it would be absurd to assume no Jews were involved, just like it would be absurd to assume Jews were mostly involved. “A moderate amount” sounds like the middle of the road answer, because of the poll’s phrasing.

Even given the poll as it is, the pairing of “a moderate amount” with “mostly” in the reported results is problematic. There’s a huge difference between these replies, and with only four possible answers there’s no reason I can see to pair the data into binary tabulation.

Really, a question like this should offer the option along the lines of “no more or less than anyone else” — if they really must use the question as phrased.

I’m not inclined to give much credence to the “he’s an Expert so you’re crazy to dismiss his study” argument, given that I’ve found at least three problems now that seem fairly compromising, not just nit-picks but deep concerns. At the least, a dismissal of my skepticism should include some counter-explanation that offers reason to believe this study as performed was ethical and sound, and that explains why my objections are crazy.

101

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.28.09 at 7:40 pm

…randomly choose between “Jews” / “Christians” / “Muslims” / “atheists”…

Huh? You think they believe the Hasidim caused the financial crisis by counting words in quarterly reports?

102

Salient 05.28.09 at 7:46 pm

On terminology: isn’t a push-poll one designed to (permanently) influence opinion?

Wellllll…. traditionally. Nowadays I hear the phrase “push poll” used to denounce any poll that guides its participants into making misleading statements that do not accurately reflect their beliefs, and seems to do so intentionally (or, at best, unintentionally due to sloppy work).

So, to be clear, I meant to accuse the two researchers who conducted this poll and wrote up the findings of (1) sloppy research and (2) misleading reporting of their results. I did not intend to accuse them of attempting to permanently influence the opinions of the poll participants, and if I mistakenly did, my apologies and consider that retracted.

103

Salient 05.28.09 at 7:47 pm

Huh? You think they believe the Hasidim caused the financial crisis by counting words in quarterly reports?

Uh, no. The point is to see whether the results indicate a clear anti-Semitic bias or are just noise.

104

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.28.09 at 7:50 pm

I understand, but why do you think it should have something to do with religion?

105

Salient 05.28.09 at 7:57 pm

I understand, but why do you think it should have something to do with religion?

I was assuming that “Jewish” referred to a religion rather than an ethnicity in the mind of an anti-Semite, which may or may not be very stupid of me. I don’t understand anti-Semitic beliefs very well and so I don’t know how they’re oriented; the only anti-Semitic talk I’ve ever heard is vague references to the “Holy land” and other religion-oriented talk. So sure, one could instead randomly replace “Jews” with names of various ethnic groups within the United States, if that would more clearly separate random noise from anti-Semitic belief.

106

bob mcmanus 05.28.09 at 7:59 pm

85:Therefore, we must take heed of prejudice and bigotry that have already started to sink roots in the United States. The negative attitudes toward Jews reported here are not only dangerous in and of themselves, but they may also have bearings on national policy matters. …Malhotra

What national policy matters, like Obama’s position on Israeli settlements?

I have been occasionally visiting Neiwert and others to keep track of rising anti-semitism as a sign of possible resurgence of right-wing extremism and quasi-fascism, but I consider myself a little crazy for doing so.

But I have been trying to remember a time in the last century when American antisemitism had a major influence on “national policy matters.” The 30s had some horrible manifestations, but whether “America First” (which wasn’t the Bund) kept us out of the European War for too long is still controversial. I do know a little about Midwestern populism and anti-semitism, but that was a very different country.

Look, I don’t want to trivialize anti-semitism, especially in it’s local or personal effects, but I think I need a little help on the “national policy matters” part, including maybe someone to school me on the history. Maybe things like the Federal Income Tax, the Bank Holidays, and SEC? What kind of anti-semitic gov’t policies should I watch out for?

107

sleepy 05.28.09 at 8:03 pm

The democratic vs Republican numbers don’t surprise me that much precisely because the democratic party is more ethnically diverse and includes immigrants who bring their biases with them. The democratic party also includes the majority I’m guessing of American muslims.

And I say that as a Jew who is opposed to ethnocracy in any state in the 21st century, including Israel.

108

Tim Wilkinson 05.28.09 at 8:10 pm

Salient: “A moderate amount” sounds like the middle of the road answer, because of the poll’s phrasing…pairing “a moderate amount” with “mostly” in the reported results is problematic. There’s a huge difference between these replies, and with only four possible answers there’s no reason I can see to pair the data into binary tabulation.

Five possible answers: so ‘moderate’ is literally the middle answer, too. Even less (good) reason to combine it with ‘a lot’ and ‘a great deal’ – but not with ‘a little’ (which should still be antisemitic by the authors’ logic) – see breakdown @ 71.

109

bianca steele 05.28.09 at 8:12 pm

Henri V,
I’m confused by your comment. Why do you associate “Jewish” with an ethnic rather than a religious group? Are you thinking of fourth-generation evangelicals with one Jewish grandparent who say they’ve come to think of themselves as Jewish? Of people who emigrated from the former Soviet Union and were labeled Jews though all religious practice was prohibited? Or of members of other religious groups in general, (including Christians and atheists) who were raised Jewish or whose parents were? Except for atheists, I don’t think many of them call themselves Jewish, though, and I don’t think they are the generally understood target of antisemitism.

110

Martin Bento 05.28.09 at 8:16 pm

There is no mention of this study I can find on Mr. Malhotra’s website. No publication, and no working paper. The Boston Review article is not mentioned either. So this is a fragment, presumably hot off the presses, of a study he hasn’t even got a working paper on yet. But he rushed this into print, in the mass media, circumventing peer review and other academic quality controls (like showing the whole survey to give context) and going directly to a mass audience. Why? What’s the mad rush? The only explanation I can think of is that he wishes to influence current political debates, lending apparent substance to charges that the strong critics of finance capital, especially on the left (democrats), are anti-semitic. Why else?

I would like us all to commit to revisting this when Malhotra actually publishes, or, if he does not, to start trumpeting that fact in about a year. In fact, why not try to get as much further info as we can now. In the meantime, when this study is used to substantiate charges of liberal, democratic, and anti-finance industry antisemitism, that its questionable status is repeatedly brought up. It may be that Malhotra has decided to treat his reputation the way Moody’s treated theirs: as something to be cashed in rather than protected.

111

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.28.09 at 8:20 pm

In the context of finances/banking it certainly has nothing to do with religion. These are “the Jews” in the same sense as Jack Nicholson is an Irish.

112

bob mcmanus 05.28.09 at 8:21 pm

Look, I’m a guy who has mentioned in the blogosphere that the NSDAP got 2.6% in 1928. I am, umm, inordinately worried and distrustful of the Right in America, and am not writing their epitaph or indulging in triumphalism until they are actually gone.

But the armbands and de jure rights restrictions are not exactly imminent, so I definitely distrust Malhotra’s motivations. And if he is cynically using a fears of anti-semitism to try to influence policy toward finance capitalism, that is pretty damn ugly.

113

bianca steele 05.28.09 at 8:24 pm

Do I have this right, Henri: only Hasidim (none of whom work in international finance or, if I understand your Jack Nicholson comment correctly, even live in the US) count as religiously “Jewish”? Or am I reading too much into a casual statement you didn’t really mean to be taken as a statement to be considered from a logical point of view?

114

Tim Wilkinson 05.28.09 at 8:26 pm

@108 pretty sure it’s the latter.

115

sleepy 05.28.09 at 8:31 pm

“The weird thing, of course, is that people are willing to go with ‘the Jews’ as a cohesive, mass-noun sort of designation.”

The Jews are a people. That’s where the mass noun comes in.
Jerusalem Post on Vanity Fair’s Top 1oo.

It’s a list of “the world’s most powerful people,” 100 of the bankers and media moguls, publishers and image makers who shape the lives of billions. It’s an exclusive, insular club, one whose influence stretches around the globe but is concentrated strategically in the highest corridors of power.
More than half its members, at least by one count, are Jewish.

Think of ethnic Chinese in indonesia etc.

116

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.28.09 at 8:36 pm

No, the Hasidim thing was a joke. The point is that when asked “are the Jews to blame for the financial crisis?” what pops up into their heads is “Goldman Sachs”, not the Torah and Judaism. Does this sound controversial for some reason?

117

Jim 05.28.09 at 8:57 pm

In Newcastle (County Durham) last weekend, for a friend’s birthday party, things were on the sprint–what with all the artists and doctors around. Unfortunately, things took an ugly turn when someone asked: Where do all the Jews in Newcastle live? The conversation then became a sewer for the antisemitic tripe and tropes which are an increasingly pollutant. Significantly, the drunken loudmouths clammed up when I pointed to my wife: her Jewish ancestry; and her looks (straight off the pages of Der Sturmer).

‘But suppose you asked people whether to blame ‘the Jews’ for all the bad movies Hollywood keeps making.’

THE JEWS OF PRIME TIME http://www.theoccidentalquarterly.com/archives/vol6no3/index.html

‘ In a few short years, essentially all-white shows like The Beverly Hillbillies, The Andy Griffi th Show/Mayberry R.F.D., Green Acres, and Petticoat Junction gave way to “hip, urban” shows that “pushed the socially engaged agenda into the ethno-racial arena.” In place of Andy Griffi th and Don Knotts, viewers were now watching characters from “ethnicoms” in shows like Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons, and Chico and the Man.4

Footnotes
4. Vincent Brook, Something Ain’t Kosher Here: The Rise of the “Jewish” Sitcom (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2003), 49. Incidentally, The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, and Petticoat Junction were all creations of Jewish Paul Henning. See Paul Buhle, From the Lower East Side to Hollywood: Jews in American Popular Culture (New York: Verso 2004), 263 (n. 39).

118

sash 05.28.09 at 10:32 pm

It seems to me that to understand that blaming “the Jews” (as opposed to “Jews”) is antisemetic you must be aware of at least 2 things: one, the history of antisemetism (in which Jews were viewed as a cohesive whole) ; and two, the gramatical distinction betwen the two expressions.

119

Kaveh 05.28.09 at 10:56 pm

@102
The democratic vs Republican numbers don’t surprise me that much precisely because the democratic party is more ethnically diverse and includes immigrants who bring their biases with them. The democratic party also includes the majority I’m guessing of American muslims.

I think you’re on the right track, but I seriously doubt Muslims would have a measurable effect here, partly because there are not many of them, but also because I don’t think immigrant Muslims are more likely to harbor anti-Jewish prejudice as other categories of immigrants, for example people from Eastern Europe. Some people seem to take for granted that Muslims widely share some kind of deep-rooted enmity towards Jews, I have no idea where they get that idea from, especially about Muslim immigrants in the U.S. who tend to be very educated and well-to-do.

I would suggest that, instead of people’s actual beliefs, a big factor is whether respondents are sufficiently immersed in educated middle-class American culture to recognize “the Jews” as a problematic formulation. When I hear somebody say “the Jews,” I expect them to start raving and foaming at the mouth, but people with less proficiency in English, or who simply aren’t as exposed to middle-class standards of politeness regarding generalizations about ethnic groups, might not immediately recognize “the Jews” as having a very different meaning from “some Jews”.

@101
That question bothers me as well: what national policy, exactly, could this possibly have bearing on? That statement is more than a little odd.

120

Jim Flannery 05.28.09 at 10:58 pm

No one seems to have noticed that Malhotra has responded in the comment thread @ BR, including the following:

“The question we asked has been used previously, and generally underestimates the level of racial prejudice. We were shocked that this ended up not being the case, most likely due to the anonymous Internet survey mode (as opposed to phone).” (emphasis added)

I’m baffled at the thought that a “best young scholar of…survey methodology” would actually think that an Internet poll produces data of more value than a steaming bowl of Merde d’elefant avec sauce lyonnaise, but whatever. It wouldn’t take much mention of the URL on one white supremacist site to produce this result, “wittily” ascribed by self-identified “democrats” for ratfucking purposes.

As to Dan Simon’s contention that the results are “in line” with the ADL’s data, the closest thing I could find on that site was a 2007 poll question asking whether Jews had too much power on Wall Street, and the Yes vote was roughly half the % in Malhotra’s survey. That’s a pretty fat line.

121

sleepy 05.28.09 at 11:44 pm

“a big factor is whether respondents are sufficiently immersed in educated middle-class American culture to recognize “the Jews” as a problematic formulation.”
It doesn’t necessarily have that much to do with middle-class culture. Black/Latino and Jewish relations in NY, Larry Harlow El Judio Maravilloso or no, are not about middle class competition.
Jews however upwardly mobile are still tied to the bread and butter economics of the working classes., as employers and landlords. Again, the parallel is to ethnic Chinese. I’m surprised that this isn’t more understood; as I’m surprised again and again, at those who think of Jewishness as a religious as opposed to ethnic appellation. Jews are comparable to Italians or Armenians, not Christians. Look up the genetics if you want. it’s not hard.
We’re a people.

122

Tim Wilkinson 05.29.09 at 12:44 am

Martin Bento 105 – yes I think our criticisms of the survey, combined with Jim Flannery 114’s well-spotted and rather juicy titbit, as well as the by now well-rehearsed points about ‘the Jews’ phraseology (which they couldn’t even keep up when labelling their pie chart) make it pretty clear that we will not be seeing this stuff published in any academic journal.

While I’m not particularly interested in speculating on the motives or even advertence of M&M, it seems pretty clear they’ve done a nasty, whatever the prior (im)plausibility of their conclusions. I hope someone from Stanford is watching, since this was presented in such a way as to suggest it had the imprimatur of that august institution.

123

Martin Bento 05.29.09 at 12:45 am

Re; #114. Jesus H. Christ on a hockey stick! This whole thing is based on an anonymous internet survey? Why are we even talking about it seriously? We all know how reliable those are. Still defending this, Jacob Levy? OK, to be fair, how about we invite Prof. Malhotra on here to explain and defend his methodology, and give a fuller picture of his results? Kind of peer review post-publication. Publish, then filter, as Clay Shirky says. If this is as bad as it looks, it may be appropriate to petition the Boston Review and Prof. Malhotra for a retraction. It would be fair to hear him out first.

124

Kaveh 05.29.09 at 1:17 am

@114 and 117
Why are we even talking about it seriously?

Well if anything, the thing to talk about is that “Boston Review” (whatever that is) published some pretty funky tripe, and given that the cost of putting up an anonymous internet survey is relatively low, I find it much easier to be suspicious of the researchers’ motives for running it.

@115
I agree with all your points, and in the sense you are using, it is perfectly reasonable to talk about “the Jews” (or “the Lithuanians” or “the Arabs” or whatever) to refer to members of an ethnic group, generally. However there is also a history of people using that precise formulation, “the Jews”, in a specific anti-Semitic sense, or at least there is such an association in many people’s minds between that usage and such beliefs, and I think this notion is particularly prevalent in American middle-class culture, which is why I suggest the discrepancy might be a matter of acculturation and language usage rather than beliefs.

125

George W 05.29.09 at 3:13 am

Just because you’re Abraham Foxman doesn’t mean that everyone’s *not* an anti-semite.

126

arc 05.29.09 at 3:44 am

folks folks folks just because it’s an ‘anonymous internet survey’ doesn’t mean it’s an unprotected poll on a website somewhere which can be ballot-stuffed by white supremicists with a wry sense of humour. Perhaps we can tentatively suppose that, until shown otherwise, that at the very least it’s been conducted with some minimum level of sensible polling methods? That would seem to be reasonable given these people do this for a living and don’t seem like complete and total cowboy muppets.

My guess is that they found a whole lot of respondents using the usual way of finding poll respondents (do you guys have electoral rolls over there?) and got them to go on to a website using a one-time key they emailed out to them, or something like that.

127

John Holbo 05.29.09 at 3:50 am

I have to say: if it’s an anonymous internet survey, we have a methodological problem. On the other hand, what Jacob Levy said about Neil Malhotra having a good reputation is true. I had vaguely heard of him (I don’t remember how or why.) So I was assuming this thing was fully credible on some methodological level. I am going to be surprised if it turns out that the survey was just some embedded HTML widget on some website, with who knows wandering in to push the little buttons. (On the internet, no one knows you’re a non-anti-semitic dog, just trying to mess with people’s heads.)

128

Martin Bento 05.29.09 at 4:42 am

arc, I don’t think what you’re describing would properly be characterized as “anonymous”, which is what Malhotra said. Perhaps he was speaking loosely, but at a minimum, some elaboration is in order.

129

John Holbo 05.29.09 at 5:56 am

Just to clarify, I don’t equate ‘I have vaguely heard of him’ with ‘has a good reputation’. It’s just that I’ve heard of him as someone with a good reputation, and it’s not as though I’m particularly clued into his field. So his name has somehow gotten around, in a favorable way.

But I agree with Martin that what arc is describing doesn’t sound like what I would call an anonymous internet poll.

130

dsquared 05.29.09 at 6:00 am

an “anonymous Internet survey” could mean something like YouGov.co.uk, which is a very well respected polling organisation these days (after having to get over a hell of a lot of prejudice against internet polling per se).

131

Tim Wilkinson 05.29.09 at 6:56 am

Anonymous bad, anonymised/not-face-to-face OK. Still bet it won’t be published – or not in anything like this form with the same conclusions firmly drawn.

132

dsquared 05.29.09 at 7:15 am

Count me as another vote for those of us getting a little uncomfortable with the slurs on this guy’s methodology, sight unseen, by the way.

In any case, I didn’t mean to suggest in #49 above that the fact that these responses were prompted for means that the results are bogus. You can’t prompt for something that’s not at least latently there. The famous Implicit Association Test is an anonymous Internet poll which prompts for racial cues, but it’s measuring a real phenomenon.

What I don’t like is the extension to an ad hominem argument that criticism of the financial sector or arguments for big business taxation are motivated by latent anti-Semitism. That seems like a huge leap to me, and it’s based on a lot of analysis of effects of “framing” which I think is actually quite controversial even in the marketing literature and on a much poorer scientific basis than it’s presented on being – the 10%/17% shift in attitudes to taxation reform based on the framing of the Madoff paragraph is being presented as “statistically significant” tout court with no exploration of how robust it is to changes in the frame, or whether it’s practically significant. I’m sure that the results were what they were, and am prepared to assume that there were no glaring flaws of methodology which would form the basis of a “Devastating Critique”, but I am not particularly enamoured with this whole subfield of polling.

133

Martin Bento 05.29.09 at 7:16 am

dsquared, yougov.co.uk is inconvenient for users, which they make up for by paying. I don’t see this happening from an academic. Also, Malholtra seems to be saying that the anonymity is affecting his results. He shows considerably more antisemitism than other surveys do with the same question, and he suggests that this is because of the “anonymous internet survey”. I assume he means that people will feel freer to express antisemitic views if their identities are untraceable – a plausible hypothesis – but I don’t think yougov is anonymous in that sense, just private. The people running the site know who you are, but the public won’t, which is like other surveys. (A greater level of privacy could be achieved, but it would be a lot of work. Hard for me to see it for a single academic study). Of course, another explanation of Molhotra’s results is that he got gamed, but presumably he himself is not arguing that.

134

bad Jim 05.29.09 at 8:07 am

It might perhaps be worthwhile to ask whether Jews are now, or ever have been, preponderant in the banking business, in the U.S. or elsewhere. Neil Gabler, in “An Empire of Their Own”, suggested that one of the reasons Jews were early predominant in movie-making is that it was one of the few opportunities from which they were not excluded, unlike banking which at the time was reserved for white-shoe Yankees. If this was the case, and if Jews were likewise shut out in Zurich, why was the contrary commonly assumed?

Jews are over-represented in some venues; Max Zawicky pointed with pride to congressional membership, and my state is represented in the Senate by Boxer and Feinstein, one of whom I like. California may have more Jews than most other states, but it probably doesn’t have that many more women, so the imbalance is likeliest due to the competence of the candidates and the tolerance of the electorate.

135

Tim Wilkinson 05.29.09 at 9:11 am

dsquared: sight unseen – well, quite…

136

ajay 05.29.09 at 9:34 am

It might perhaps be worthwhile to ask whether Jews are now, or ever have been, preponderant in the banking business, in the U.S. or elsewhere

I think the Rothschilds alone were preponderant in the UK banking business for quite a long time in the 19th century, which is probably where the legend got started. And then you have Goldman Sachs, SG Warburg, Lazard, Salomon Brothers… I don’t think they were ever preponderant in the US – as noted, that was the aristocratic bankers and industrial houses – but there were quite a few prominent ones. More, perhaps, than you might expect to find at the tops of other industries.

137

Jacob T. Levy 05.29.09 at 11:35 am

An earlier study by Malhotra, published in a leading top peer-reviewed journal in political science, here, describes its method as follows. I would guess that the present study was conducted similarly.
————————————————————————-
The survey was conducted by Knowledge Networks
(KN) over the Internet in May 2006, using a
nationally representative sample of 397 American
adults. KN recruits panel members over the telephone
via random digit dialing (RDD) and provides
them with WebTV equipment in exchange for their
participation in weekly surveys, which they complete
online. We sampled all Americans from the KN
panel, not simply those directly affected by Hurricane
Katrina, because the entire nation formed judgments
about the competence of the government officials
involved. Several studies have documented the validity
of Internet-based surveys, and in some instances,
their superiority to telephone-based methods.
Dennis and Li (2001) and Dennis et al. (2005) find
that KN panels do not create specific ‘‘panel effects’’
which would bias survey responses, nor does panel
attrition lead to selection bias. In a direct comparison
between a telephone-based RDD survey and an
Internet-administered survey conducted by KN, Chang
and Krosnick (2002) find that differences between telephone
and Internet samples in terms of distributions
of variables or data quality were rarely large and that
reports of attitudes collected over the Internet had
higher predictive validity than reports of attitudes collected
over the telephone. Further details regarding the
methodology of respondent recruitment and fielding
practices are provided in online Appendix A at http://
journalofpolitics.org/articles.html.

————————————-

138

jholbo 05.29.09 at 11:52 am

Thanks Jacob.

139

Salient 05.29.09 at 12:22 pm

Count me as another vote for those of us getting a little uncomfortable with the slurs on this guy’s methodology, sight unseen, by the way.

The problems I see with the initial poll, the graph, and the two paragraphs that delineate the results, are:

* My concern about the wording of the question was voiced in #83 and in engels’ #69 above, won’t reprise it here.
* No genuinely “neutral” response, i.e. “no more or less than anyone else” is available. Every possible answer to the question is absurd: given Madoff’s involvement, and the question’s problematic phrasing, the response “not at all” is literally less true than “mostly.”
* The neutral-sounding response (“a moderate amount”) is taken to be evidence of anti-Semitic belief. In this sense, the data is reported misleadingly: grouping the answer “a moderate amount” with “mostly”

If there’s some “sight unseen” that would render all of these problems moot, well, I’d like to see it (or at least hear it explained). For the record, I do not automatically see problems with a poll just because it’s web-conducted.

I’m flabbergasted that so many folks have looked at a poll that asks “how much are the Jews to blame for X?” and doesn’t offer the opportunity to say “about as much as anybody” and groups “a moderate amount” with “mostly” in order to make its point, and have actually found value in the data presented, and have not been immediately blinded and deafened by all the red flags and sirens going off in their heads. Truly, would nobody else here have taken “a moderate amount” to be the neutral response, meaning “no more or less than anyone”?

140

bob mcmanus 05.29.09 at 12:33 pm

133:”…and have not been immediately blinded and deafened by all the red flags and sirens going off in their heads.”

Outrage was my immediate reaction, to the degree I was surprised others weren’t uncomfortable with the article.

141

Salient 05.29.09 at 12:43 pm

Oops. Sigh. Reading through this blog post one more time, I find this in the opening paragraph:

Kindly keep non-sober opinions to yourself, however. The internet already has more of those than it can consume locally.

I’m sorry, John, I wouldn’t have opened my mouth if I’d remembered you said that. I’ll go be quiet now.

142

Neil 05.29.09 at 1:00 pm

The research shows that in general well designed internet surveys are as reliable as more traditional methods. We collect data because because making stuff up doesn’t always cut it. Just because someone thinks something is true doesn’t make it so and sometimes the data will show this. People might try to remember these facts when criticizing methodologies: it may be counterintuitive *and* true,

143

Kaveh 05.29.09 at 1:01 pm

@126 I agree you can’t successfully prompt for something that doesn’t exist, at least latently, in the first place, however the problem with apparently not accounting for people who refused to answer the question and other wording issues referred to @133 are still significant; also the fact that we don’t have comparisons to other ethnic or religious groups.

@131 That sounds like only the entry of survey data by respondents was done by internet, and I don’t see anything wrong with it. I guess I can’t really offer an informed opinion about what “anonymous” means precisely, in this context.

144

Doctor Slack 05.29.09 at 1:11 pm

Salient gets it right. This whole business does rather strike one as an egregious case of “lying with statistics.” Looked at closely, it actually says very little and conflates a great deal… and it even comes with a gee-whiz pie chart!

Moreover, though he was wrong to make accusations against Holbo, I actually think McManus has exactly the right take on what’s really going on here:

individuals explicitly told that Madoff is a Jewish-American were almost twice as likely to oppose the tax cuts to big business. Opposition to tax cuts for big business jumped from 10 percent among members of group one to over 17 percent among the members of group two, who were explicitly told about Madoff’s Jewish background. This difference is highly significant in statistical terms.

So, a third of the Democrats are supposedly disturbingly anti-Semitic when asked leading questions about “the Jews:” “a moderate amount” as opposed to “a little,” anyway, or maybe all the Dems’ anti-Semites Totally Blame the Jews For Everything and the famously tolerant and cosmopolitan Republicans are really hardly anti-Semite at all — hard to know, innit? And among mixed groups there were enough anti-Semites to produce a seven-point bump in anti-big business sentiment when the opposing view is tied to… Bernie Madoff (and whose anti-Semites were most responsible for that bump? hard to know, innit)?

Come on. This is a transparently obvious, and shoddy, exercise in trying to associate opposition to big business tax breaks with anti-Semitism.

145

novakant 05.29.09 at 1:34 pm

KN recruits panel members over the telephone via random digit dialing (RDD) and provides them with WebTV equipment in exchange for their participation in weekly surveys, which they complete online.

I think that there might be a bit of a selection bias using this method:

Who on earth would say “gee honey, the man on the phone just said they’re gonna give us WebTV equipment FOR FREE if we participate in weekly surveys, isn’t that just freaking AMAZING, I’m gonna sign up right away!”

146

dsquared 05.29.09 at 1:41 pm

No, guys, you’re chasing a red herring here. Neil is not blowing smoke – the internet polling companies work hard to ensure a representative sample and their record in things like election polling is pretty good.

147

bob mcmanus 05.29.09 at 2:12 pm

Look, there is a huge amount of information, that even if accurate ot true, is pernicious, distracting and counterproductive to bring into an argument or conversation. I am dismayed by the amount of Internet time & space the left blogosphere is spending discussing Sonia Sotomayor’s preferred foods, a speech she gave years ago, and her private finances.

This is what they do, and they are not at all unhappy if we waste our time refuting their arguments.

144:”though he was wrong to make accusations against Holbo”

“This is a transparently obvious, and shoddy, exercise in trying to associate opposition to big business tax breaks with anti-Semitism.”

Understanding my position outlined above, could there be just a slight dissonance to these two assertions?

148

Wax Banks 05.29.09 at 2:14 pm

A small speculation:

I suspect that anti-Semitism is thrilling for many adult non-Jews to talk about, even to ‘try on’ for a second, because to do so allows a kind of imaginative return to the simplicity of childhood thought; after all, who isn’t raised in this country without a little dose of anti-Semitism, from Disney to the Church to TV to the use of ‘don’t jew me’ as a schoolyard request for equity in dealings? To say nothing of everywhere else on earth.

Jewish perfidy and the heroic objection thereto is one of those conspiratorial Dan Brown-ish moral-history topics that Might Have Significance, suggesting dark deeds which happened long ago and yet reach with shadow fingers even into our! own! time!

Though – as this post suggests – it’s hard for us well-meaning types to tell what that significance is.

For those who’ve thought their way beyond childhood vestiges of Bad Ideas and Bad Feelings, or in any case would like to think so, ‘Look at all this _____ism!’ is the usual breast-beating, plus genuine thoughtful honoring of others, plus just a soupçon of Topics Not to Be Discussed, see above. A way of airing ideas that you don’t think rise to the level of ideas, or confirming your fears without admitting you feel them – like forcing your family to listen to your old Phish tapes on a road trip to castigate yourself indirectly, subconsciously, for overlooking the cheesiness of their pre-’97 stuff for so long.

149

Wax Banks 05.29.09 at 2:16 pm

‘Heroic objection thereto’ should be some more tortured thing like ‘heroic objections to the accusation thereof.’ Shit, can’t even type this morning. Shouldn’t try, obvsly.

150

dsquared 05.29.09 at 2:20 pm

I very much doubt that the respondents to this survey had a conspiracist theory in mind when assigning blame – compare, for example, the respondents to a survey “how much do you blame unemployment in this country on immigrants?”

151

Chris 05.29.09 at 2:22 pm

Even if responsibly conducted internet polling doesn’t have huge sampling problems, that doesn’t help the problems with the question wording and interpretation, though. This thread demonstrates that people on this thread can’t even agree on what “the Jews” means – so why should the survey responders be expected to all have the same concept of “the Jews”?

Let alone the, er, salient issue raised by Salient – the response most like “about the same as everyone else” is interpreted as proof of anti-Semitism? Seriously? In what universe is that a defensible interpretation?

152

Chris 05.29.09 at 2:26 pm

P.S. I forgot to mention: conservatives *know* that the crisis was caused by undeserving lazy poor people and illegal Mexicans buying McMansions, because they heard it on Rush. And everyone knows Jews are rich, right? So it couldn’t have been them.

Different parts of the political spectrum have *wildly* different theories of causation of this crisis specifically, which tie in very differently to the actual and/or perceived position of (the | some) Jews in society. That makes it a very bad data point on anti-Semitism.

153

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.29.09 at 3:04 pm

I suspect that anti-Semitism is thrilling for many adult non-Jews to talk about

Yeah, good point; they really should try associating opposition to tax cuts for big business with pedophilia or something. Shouldn’t be too hard for a professional pollster.

154

Tim Wilkinson 05.29.09 at 4:03 pm

It seems we’re in Sisyphean territory now – or maybe the conversation got completely reset by that brief foray into the ‘are telling me this was completely anonymous?’ question. (Or was it – ‘can internet polling ever be made to work as, say, a paper questionnaire does?’ – nah, no-one could have thought it was that.)

In case it’s the latter, I’d add to Salient’s another re-endorsement of all those points that have been knocking about since at the very latest #76.

In particular I’d add (to the reiteration) that not only does ‘moderately’ sound like a moderate answer for those who are baffled/’crazified’/eager to earn their free cable as quickly as possible, but it also occupies the middle position of 5 options – which (and this is I think actually a ***NEW POINT***) is a very important fact when we are talking about a longer questionnaire (which we almost certainly are) – internet or paper.

And in the light of that, some more reiteration that the ‘moderate’ answer was not just combined with the dubiously disnguishable top two categories, but nowhere specified on its own – so for all the info we have, the 25% were all ‘moderate’. (And we don’t know about the Dem Rep split either.)

All this stuff is why I know it won’t be published in anything like this form.

And still no-one has said much about the relatively intriguing bit – the second survey/experiment (also briefly described at #76 if that helps).

Ho hum.

155

Tim Wilkinson 05.29.09 at 4:21 pm

Sorry about #154 – sober but tetchy. The Channel’s looking inviting from here – time for a quick paddle I reckon.

156

Doctor Slack 05.29.09 at 4:34 pm

147: If you’re saying that Holbo is being suckered in paying attention to this bullshit, I’ll agree with you. That didn’t seem like what you were saying earlier.

157

Martin Bento 05.29.09 at 4:48 pm

The methodological concern isn’t that it was done over the Internet. It’s that it was done anonymously and that Malhotra himself has suggested (in comment #36 on the BR site) that this anonymity affected the result. Does KN mail people WebTV equipment without determining their identities? That strikes me as an illogical and highly unlikely business practice. So what does he mean by anonymity? That the survey respondents would not be identified publicly? That is normally the case, and so wouldn’t distinguish this from other polls. Perhaps KN has the identities but the researchers do not have access to the info? Even if this were the case, would the respondents know it, and would they consider a corporation knowing their specific responses more “anonymous” than having an academic know them?

As for “sight unseen”, he rushed to the mass media with sensational claims without going through peer review, and he’s not making his methodology transparent. People in the BR thread asked him to provide the exact text of the questions, and he did not. Is not criticism of methodology part of academic evaluation? Is methodology not expected to be transparent?

BTW, Jacob, I can’t find anything on the Journal of Politics website on Knowledge Networks. A search of their site for “Knowledge Networks”, “Knowledge Network”, or “KN” comes up with nothing, whether done through the site’s own search engine or through Google. I suppose the info was removed or is behind some kind of wall.

158

Martin Bento 05.29.09 at 4:56 pm

Looking at the Knowledge Networks website, their primary interest seems to be marketing research, and their privacy policy does say that personal information is kept from their clients. So I suppose that is what Malhotra meant by “anonymous” if he did indeed use that service for this survey. The responses were not anonymous, but the identities were shielded from him. Whether this type of anonymity would significantly change results seems doubtful to me, but perhaps that question has been studied.

159

sleepy 05.29.09 at 5:00 pm

There are two issues/responses differing between those who are surprised at the results (who are shocked by what many of us think isn’t news) and those who are bothered by the contextualization: Dr Slack put it well in #144.

The first group reminds me of those who were driven to fits of anguish over reports that some people during the last election were saying publicly that they were “voting for the nigger;” when everyone I know with an empirical experiential sense of the racism in this country considered it both hilarious and moving: a watershed moment. The self important focus on the word “nigger” the politically astute (and hence serious) look to the words “voting for.”
And which is more important, wounded pride or moral progress?

160

Tim Wilkinson 05.29.09 at 6:03 pm

MB 158 see #131: Anonymous bad, anonymised/not-face-to-face OK. Anonymised = identities are on a need-to-know basis; not-face-to-face = most plausibly what M was talking about, i.e. no embarrassment/shame factor.

or as the teacher in Peanuts would say: ‘wah wah wah wah’

161

Martin Bento 05.29.09 at 6:19 pm

Tom, well, “anonymized” is not what he said, but perhaps he’s just being sloppy with nomenclature.

Bob, Dr. Slack. Oh, I think we should pay very close attention to this. If we don’t, “Democrats are antisemitic”, and “blaming the finance industry for the financial crisis is antisemitism” will both become established “facts”. This study is going to enter the culture – either as a baseline fact or an acknowledged urban legend.

162

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.29.09 at 7:35 pm

“Democrats are antisemitic”

Brilliant way to defeat the Southern strategy!

163

Jim Flannery 05.29.09 at 8:22 pm

For the record, if Jacob’s quote from another study is relevant to this one, I’ll happily retract the kneejerk “elephant dung” characterization, although I still have troubles with the forcing aspects of the question itself (as others have noted).

164

Chris 05.29.09 at 9:22 pm

@154: All this stuff is why I know it won’t be published in anything like this form.

No, that’s why it *shouldn’t* be published in anything like this form. Publishing standards aren’t always as rigorous as they ought to be, just ask Alan Sokal. (And there are many less spectacular examples.)

165

Tim Wilkinson 05.29.09 at 10:18 pm

#164 Sadly I suppose you may be right – though I did leave implicit some pretty strong qualifiers, namely, mainly, it must be a (not dis-)reputable peer-reviewed academic journal in the relevant field. After all it has already been published in exactly this form. And this guy (and his silent partner) has a reputation to think of, especially at this stage of his career. Why he thinks that publishing this thing won’t adversely affect his professional rep to any significant degree is a somewhat interesting question though, especially if he’s right (in all the lemmas).

166

Martin Bento 05.29.09 at 10:21 pm

Well, if most of us are agreed that the study and its given interpretation is highly questionable on its face and that further information, such as what items may have served as “priming”, is needed, what do we do next? I guarantee that if this article goes without serious challenge, we will before long have the likes of Charles Gibson treating its conclusions as established fact. After all, the Boston Review article directly admonishes the media to “bear these findings in mind” in its coverage of the financial crisis. It’s not like attributing a political objective to this article is some outrageous accusation.

167

dsquared 05.29.09 at 10:28 pm

I don’t think we should be blowing this off in this manner and am distressed to see a lot of the tropes of Steven “Devastating Critiques” Milloy being used here. It really does look to me that a stylised fact (that latent anti-Semitic prejudices are really quite common, much more so than one might think) has been established here. I think any sensible critique of this work has to rest on the uses to which this result has been put, not the results themselves. After all, even if 30% of Democrat voters had specifically said to a pollster’s face something like “Yes, I blame the awful Jews, who I hate, for this financial crisis”, that still wouldn’t change a single fact about what actually happened, and the ad hominem arguments about taxation of the financial sector would be just as invalid as they in fact are.

168

Tim Wilkinson 05.29.09 at 11:08 pm

I’m sure my remarks haven’t distressed you, so I guess that isn’t aimed at me, but just in case: I’m not ‘blowing off’ (snigger), I’m criticising an article published in the lay press, and in particular pointing out that it falls far short of the standard of an academic article, which is pretty much how it will be treated by those citing it.

If you want to point out some more bits of the article that go wrong, geah head (one bit your concerns suggest you would want to address is the second poll/experiment). Then at least some substantial criticism will exist on the record somewhere, to which those asually citing the piece for the purposes you outline could be referred(or rather their audience could). And without getting into the realms of postmodernology, what you call the results already incorporate a fair bit of interpretation – so unless you advocate waiting for them to be cited then crying ‘ad hominem’, it would be better to lay out a counterargumnet.

Not that it’s for me to say; I’m just saying

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Tim Wilkinson 05.29.09 at 11:35 pm

…Just to explicate, above comments are premised on the fact that the whole article was written (or authored anyway) by the two guys from Stanford, with no distinction made between results and discussion or anything else, and not a single caveat in the whole thing. I don’t have any very strong preconceptions about the subject matter, but I do have a lot of criticisms of the article, none of which conflict with yours unless they are allowed to displace them thus implicitly suggesting that they are the only or best ones.

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lemuel pitkin 05.30.09 at 12:10 am

Since it looks like no one else is going to bring it up, I feel obliged to point out that Malhotra has previously held positions at Goldman, Sachs & Co., Citigroup, and A.T. Kearney.

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roy belmont 05.30.09 at 1:00 am

Holbo’s accurate and right to suggest the absurdity of blaming “the Jews”, or really by extension blaming anyone at all for the insipid banality of modern “entertainment” like movies and TV shows. Despite the fact they’re now essentially raising their fourth generation of Americans.
“They” being whoever’s making all that crap and shoving it down the increasingly passive and accepting throats of the citizenry/entertainment-consumeracy.
Impossible to tabulate the hydra-slither of ancient irrational hatred and canard.
Woe increases.
Light gets murky.
If only there were more Jews prominent in the auto industry, we could point there and say, “See. No bailout for Big Auto! Fair’s fair! It’s not about that it’s about the economy! Now stop that nonsense!”
But we can’t, because there aren’t hardly any, sadly enough. The legacy of mid-Western US industrial anti-Semitism. See viz i.e. Henry Ford, prominent early 20th c. auto-magnate anti-Semite.
Thank heaven Obama sat Seder this year prominently and publicly.
Otherwise it would look really ugly, that anti-Semitism thing I mean. Rising the way it is.

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John Holbo 05.30.09 at 1:45 am

I’ve posted a follow-up containing a lengthy response the researchers themselves sent me, addressing methodological concerns, and other concerns. So I think we might profitably relocate this discussion to that thread, from this point on.

http://crookedtimber.org/2009/05/30/response-by-malhotra-and-margalit-to-their-critics/

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arc 05.30.09 at 1:52 am

Maholta’s comment ‘anonymous internet mode’ was not actually referring to the methodology, anyway, but attempting to give an explanation as to why people seem more candid with their opinions on this survey than on others. They’re in ‘anonymous internet mode’ where they feel they can say any crazy thing they like without any kind of meangingful social reprisals (or rewards), rather than in ‘talking to another actual human being’ mode where they might fear the person on the other end of the line might start thinking they are, personally, an antisemite and a horrible person.

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Neil 05.30.09 at 3:05 am

Let’s see. Holbo is trying to immunize the current democratic administration against criticism by insinuating that criticism is anti-semitic. His strategy is to argue that democrats are anti-semitic. With that level of deviousness, he just must be jewish. The whole is an Islamo-fascist anti-semitic jewish conspiracy, run by a consortium of bankers and Osama bin Laden, in the service of promoting the protocols of the elders of zion. Either that or Mcmanus and Slack are crazy.

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bob mcmanus 05.30.09 at 4:02 am

174:You should have stopped at the first long sentence. There are claims above that Holbo didn’t know what he was doing . I am not the one making assumptions about his motives.

Barney Frank is writing legislation for the Gov’t to guarantee Municipal Bonds h/t Ian Welsh. VRDOs, variable rate demand obligations (VRDOs) specifically, Welsh compares them to CDOs’

The direct aid to states and municipalities was removed from the stimulus package. This move is more about protecting, once again, creditors and banks than helping municipalities provide services. It may help munis borrow, get further into debt. Meanwhile the taxpayers gain new obligations.

Yeah, I’m crazy with rage, at finance and our captured government. I think this current catastrophe is still a work in progress, closer to the beginning than the end. This is gonna get a lot nastier, perhaps even with a military distraction. Holbo can enjoy the abstractions of methodology while the rest of us back home are trying to find a roof and a breadline.

It is at very best incredibly irresponsible to link to the Malhotra piece.

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Neil 05.30.09 at 5:22 am

Bob Mcmanus wrote:

“Aw hell, Holbo, I think you know what you are doing” (@7)

and
“I am not the one making assumptions about his motives.” (@ 175).

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bob mcmanus 05.30.09 at 5:36 am

176:Nope, that was based on the facts. Giving him credit, I presumed Holbo read and understood what he linked. He provided no real critique of the substance. He explicitly tried to limit the range of discussion. And in any case, saying Holbo knows what he is doing is not exactly an insult.

Try to imagine not knowing the author of the post, or imagining this exact post & link on the Corner or Red State and see if you would react differently.

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Neil 05.30.09 at 7:24 am

Bob Mcmanus seems to think that making assumptions about motives = “exactly an insult”. He then backpedals furiously from the ‘John Holbo intends to defend the democrats by insinuating they are anti-semitic’ to the much more rational ‘John Holbo is a catspaw of the vast conspiracy to defend the democrats by insinuating that they are anti-semitic’.

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bob mcmanus 05.30.09 at 9:59 am

178:I have no idea who you think you are quoting but it isn’t me.

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