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Malcolm Gladwell is afraid to address Israel in his new book

Israel/Palestine
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 Malcolm Gladwell photographed in New York, 2013 Photo: Dan Callister


Malcolm Gladwell photographed in New York, 2013 (Photo: Dan Callister)

Malcolm Gladwell seems to believe that Israel has become a Goliath but he doesn’t think American readers are “self-critical” enough to absorb this truth. Gaby Wood of the Telegraph interviews him about his new book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the art of battling giants.

[T]he truth is, he doesn’t go all that far. There’s something troublingly palatable about the new book. In the endnotes to one of the chapters on education, for instance, Gladwell has much stronger views than he expresses in the text itself. “So what should we do? We should be firing bad teachers,” he suggests. But he has buried that stuff at the back. “Yeah. It’s true. That’s absolutely the case,” he admits when I put this to him.

Far from being a purveyor of self-evidence, I suspect Gladwell is much more radical than he lets on. Why hide it?

“The problem is, in America, there are all these landmines,” he says. “Like, I wanted to do a chapter on terrorism, and the question is, which example do I use? The example you cannot use is Israel – not because there aren’t a ton of fascinating lessons to be learnt in how Israel has navigated these issues in the course of its history. But it would have gotten politicised – no one would read your book anymore.” So he chose Northern Ireland, because it was “safer”, and because “the willingness to be self-critical in England is much greater than the willingness to be self-critical in America”.

But if he has things to say about Israel, why doesn’t he want to say them?

“I actually don’t even know if I do,” he says. “I just worried too much. I didn’t want the book to be put in a pigeonhole. And I don’t know if I’m smart enough. What’s interesting with Israel is that in some contexts they’re always David, and in some contexts they have become Goliath.

“Depending on your perspective. If I were to write another chapter to this book I’d love to write about that tension – because lots of people wear two hats. Companies do this all the time – they start out as Davids and become Goliaths.”

I wonder if Gladwell is referring to Jewish readers when he says that American readers are not self-critical. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jewish readers, including ones in important editorial jobs, play an important role in making a book a bestseller. I recommend Goliath by Max Blumenthal. He knows what Israel has become, and is not afraid to describe it. P.S. You don’t have to be smart.

(h/t Michael Auerbach)

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60 Responses

  1. hophmi
    hophmi
    October 7, 2013, 10:30 am

    ” It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jewish readers, including ones in important editorial jobs, play an important role in making a book a bestseller.”

    Do you EVER get tired of your own self-contradiction? Do you EVER get tired of the Jew-baiting? Walt and Mearsheimer’s book was published by a major publishing house, Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It wasn’t published by Verso.

    Max’s book is published by Nation Books. I’m sure there are Jewish editors there too.

    And what in the hell do you mean when you say that it’s universally acknowledged that Jewish readers make books bestsellers? Says WHO? Based on WHAT?

    • philweiss
      philweiss
      October 7, 2013, 10:51 am

      We’re book readers– proudly people of the book. I’m proud of that. The folk wisdom in publishing, which I first heard from Hoag Levins 30 years ago, is that a bestseller required 40,000 sales, and 3/4 of those readers are Jewish. Almost all my editors have been Jewish. And given the large role of Zionism in Jewish life, there is an apprehension among writers and editors who are critical of Zionism of broaching criticisms of Israel in books or magazines. Does this stop people? Some, yes. I believe that’s what stopped Gladwell.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        October 7, 2013, 11:07 am

        “We’re book readers– proudly people of the book. I’m proud of that. ”

        So am I. But we’re about 2% of the American population, and we are not the only ones who read books. Any mainstream publisher that bases his strategy on how many Jews buy their books is a pretty bad business person.

        “The folk wisdom in publishing, which I first heard from Hoag Levins 30 years ago, is that a bestseller required 40,000 sales, and 3/4 of those readers are Jewish.”

        Emphasis on “folk wisdom.” That’s not a universally acknowledged truth. That’s what we call a myth. And a transparent one.

        How long are you going to repeat this folk wisdom myth? It’s outdated in a time when the NY Times Magazine is publishing Ben Ehrenreich pieces and Farrar Straus is publishing Walt and Mearsheimer.

      • philweiss
        philweiss
        October 7, 2013, 11:36 am

        Hophmi the problem is as usual that you want to slight our cultural importance. We’re significant way beyond our numbers in cultural production. I can’t give you precise statistics beyond my own experience, because it’s not something people scrutinize. And I’m generally proud of that presence, I regard it as an achievement; but in this case, that’s the factor that Gladwell surely perceives, and that you seek to mystify. The more that culturally empowered Jews like myself declare I’m not a Zionist, and here’s why, it serves to break down those fears. But: they’re fears. (CF Hagel on “the Jewish lobby” intimidating congresspeople.)

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        October 7, 2013, 11:52 am

        “Hophmi the problem is as usual that you want to slight our cultural importance. We’re significant way beyond our numbers in cultural production. ”

        Phil, it’s not a slight of our cultural importance to argue against the proposition that Jewish readers are an important part of what makes a book a bestseller. You may have traveled in some circles where you overheard one Jew say it to another, but that certainly doesn’t make it a universally accepted truth, anymore than it would be if you were Black and heard two Black people talking about how whites can’t dance or play basketball. You’re just trading in stereotypes here, not truths. I have no trouble admitting that Jews are “significant way beyond our numbers” in some fields. But I don’t need to buy into obvious stereotypes about them. I have no trouble admitting that there are a disproportionate number of Black players in the NBA. Does that mean I have to believe that white men can’t jump? I have no trouble believing admitting that there are a disproportionate number of Catholics on the Supreme Court. Does that mean that I have to believe that Episcopalians are poor lawyers?

        It’s funny; you frequently argue that Jews collectively have tremendous power in this society, and that antisemitism is dead, but yet again, you seem to buy into every possible stereotype about that power in the way an antisemite would. You always go out on the irrational limb.

        Of course, there are lots of editors who happen to be Jewish, just as there are many, many more who happen not to be. But then, you take that, and you turn it into what amount to a nefarious conspiracy theory about how Jewish readers influence whether books become bestsellers. Then, you take the conspiracy, and use it to argue that these powerful Jews are suppressing anti-Zionist voices, an argument that is looking more and more anachronistic in a time when the Times Magazine is publishing harshly critical stories about the West Bank and major publishing houses are publishing books about the Israel lobby.

        “The more that culturally empowered Jews like myself declare I’m not a Zionist, and here’s why, it serves to break down those fears. But: they’re fears.”

        Phil, what does declaring that you’re not a Zionist have to do with making unsupportable remarks about how Jewish readers determine what are bestsellers? No one fears Jews in the publishing industry. The fears are yours.

      • philweiss
        philweiss
        October 7, 2013, 2:29 pm

        Hophmi the problem with your response to my flippancy is that you would bar, and will always bar, any discussion at all of issues of Jewish power in the Establishment because you insist Jewish life is so diverse. When we live in an era of simply staggering Jewish achievement, which thoughtful people have a right to consider– in the way that Nick Lemann characterized a previous establishment as “the Episcopacy,” reducing it to a religious identifier, generalizing, as journalists are wont to do, and serve their readers by doing. Almost everywhere I got as a writer I got at the behest of Jewish editors. Excellent editors, by and large, but must I be completely indifferent to this terrain? Gladwell isn’t. He’s a keener student of success and how to make it than just about anyone I know; and what he’s saying here is that we’re not self critical about Israel. Americans aren’t? I think that’s a stand-in for the Jewish community and Jews in the cultural establishment. For me the issue in the end is one of self-criticism. Are we capable of it? With respect to the Jewish establishment’s relationship to Israel in particular (where dictatorial orthodoxy is exerted) but more generally, with regard to our cultural presence. I say a healthy community is capable of such scrutiny, and you are shutting it down because you hear Cossacks round every corner

      • Bumblebye
        Bumblebye
        October 7, 2013, 3:17 pm

        Your description of the editors who gave you a leg-up in your career reminds me of England’s “old boys network” aka “old school tie” where by young men who had studied at private schools were more likely to get jobs, which were awarded by middle or senior managers who had also attended (sometimes the same) private schools. Maybe the Jewish-American version should be the “old shul ties”? Then along comes a “war”, and the Regimental tie also plays a part – in the Jewish-American experience, maybe these are the “Zionist Campaign Medals” proudly lauded and displayed (as photos in the office with, perhaps, senior Israeli politicians?). I’d think it’s likely to be the latter, and the *perceived* potential power over something that may be contrary to certain beliefs that worried Gladwell?
        Anyhow, aside from my waffle, Hophmi cannot deny with a straight face that there isn’t a powerful kinship supporting network that has made it easier for some people to rise, which is not replicated in all other minorities.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        October 7, 2013, 4:46 pm

        “Hophmi the problem with your response to my flippancy is that you would bar, and will always bar, any discussion at all of issues of Jewish power in the Establishment because you insist Jewish life is so diverse”

        We’re talking past one another. I’m having the discussion with you right now. The problem is that some of the things that you say are either wrong or simply stereotypes rather than facts, and some are simply repetitions of pretty old tropes. I’ve never denied that Jews have power in American society. But I do not subscribe to the notion that they act collectively to wield that power in nefarious ways, and I find the argument inevitably boils down to argument that Jews as a collective group are wealthy, and other minority groups (who we’d never talk about this way) are not as wealthy, so we apply a different set of parameters to the discussion.

        I was taught not to make assumptions based on a person’s religious or ethnic background. And I find people here making those assumptions about Jews all the time.

        As it applies to me, at least, your statement is simply untrue. I have no problem discussing the issue of Jewish power; I’m a big fan of J.J. Goldberg’s book, which I read many years ago. But I’m also aware of the history of that discussion, and the ways in which it has been used by the bigots of the past to dismantle Jewish communities, including successful Jewish communities. I find people here deaf to that history. And I find strains of those previous discussions, complete with their lies and half-truths and stereotypical assumptions, frequent here.

        “Almost everywhere I got as a writer I got at the behest of Jewish editors. ”

        That’s great Phil, but it’s anecdotal, and it certainly doesn’t mean that it’s true of everyone. You’ve spent most of your career in New York. There are a disproportionate number of Jews here. It’s not surprising. Do you the same would be true if you had spent most of your career in Idaho? Do you think your religion is the reason you got ahead? You went to Harvard. Don’t sell yourself short, man. You need not walk around feeling so guilty.

        “Excellent editors, by and large, but must I be completely indifferent to this terrain?”

        No, but neither should you vastly overcompensate.

        “He’s a keener student of success and how to make it than just about anyone I know; and what he’s saying here is that we’re not self critical about Israel.”

        ““Like, I wanted to do a chapter on terrorism, and the question is, which example do I use? The example you cannot use is Israel – not because there aren’t a ton of fascinating lessons to be learnt in how Israel has navigated these issues in the course of its history. But it would have gotten politicised – no one would read your book anymore.”

        That’s Gladwell’s opinion. It’s not true, is it? Not when Walt and Mearsheimer are being published by Farrar Straus and not in a country where people live for controversies. See, it’s a stereotype. It may be a cultural belief. There are lots of people in this country who still think the President’s a Muslim. But it isn’t the truth.

        “Americans aren’t? I think that’s a stand-in for the Jewish community and Jews in the cultural establishment.”

        I don’t. Do you think that but for the Jewish community, American ARE self-critical?

        “For me the issue in the end is one of self-criticism. Are we capable of it?”

        Yes, I think we are, and we are, if anything, perceived as being much, much more self-critical than the average American. That’s why we vote Democratic. That’s why we’re vastly overrepresented in social justice organizations. That’s why you have your blog. The question is what happens when self-criticism becomes a form of self-mutilation brought on both by the internalization of generations of antisemitism and a misplaced guilt about our status in society that is endemic to people who have a history of suffering. Why should we be the successful ones when so many generations lived under oppression? Is it any wonder that we’re overrepresented in the field of psychology?

        “I say a healthy community is capable of such scrutiny, and you are shutting it down because you hear Cossacks round every corner”

        I say a healthy community is a community that is established enough and secure enough for long enough that self-criticism cannot possibly become self-mutilation. A community cannot be healthy two generations after more than a third of its people are wiped out. Slavery has been over for a century and half and Jim Crow over for two generations, and I would not begin to call the Black community healthy and suggest that they should be self-critical. There isn’t just historically instant healing. Look at the world we live in. Where is this healthy community of societal self-criticism? Is it anywhere? I know one thing – it is certainly, positively, not in the Middle East.

        I certainly don’t see Cossacks around every corner. I see your brand of self-criticism as a form of self-mutilation (and maybe our dialectic tradition, where no view is safe from rigorous cross-examination, encourages this). You feel guilty about your success and about Jewish success in American and Israel. And, at least in the Israeli context, you’re eager to tear it down.

        Unfortunately, in the process, your method of doing so suggests that you’ve internalized what happened in the past. That is why simply telling journalistic stories about Israel is never enough. It has to be accompanied by guilty feelings that you got ahead because of your religion, and the conjecture that everyone else did too, and that the same is true for other professions. You have to feature very broad critiques of the religion as a whole, from radical reinterpretations of holidays, to jeremiads about circumcision, to Israel Shahak writings, to Shlomo Sand writings, which tend to become sacrosanct here even as the rest of the world treats these works as highly controversial, if they treat them at all.

        You can’t stop at criticizing the views of Zionists on the merits; you have to take that next, Father Coughlinish step, and talk about Fifth Columns, and dual loyalty, and so on and so forth. And while you call for this self-criticism, you’re not what I would call especially self-critical about your own views, so much as critical of everyone else’s. You don’t examine the contradictions in your position, the strength of your assumptions, the veracity of the feelings you post as facts, and so on. You just keep repeating all of them. And of course, your commentators are far, far less self-critical than you are.

      • Sycamores
        Sycamores
        October 7, 2013, 9:08 pm

        at some point American Jewish cultural importance will be absorbed into the masses through assimilation and radical improvements in the education system, prehaps within the next generation or two.

        how did you put it: “My Jewish Problem: Jewish Superiority, Jewish Elite. http://mondoweiss.net/2006/05/my_jewish_probl-2.html

        “My friend is more intellectual. He said, What do you think will be lost if Jews assimilate into America? He answered his own question: the excellence that Jews have brought to any number of endeavors, science, the arts, finance, education, and so forth.

        I said, But what if these qualities are more widely shared with assimilation? Will our excellence pull up others’ mediocrity?

        He said, I think those qualities will be diluted. I.e., lost.

        I said I wondered if the process wasn’t inevitable. Jews are successful and prominent, and the more successful people get, the more sociological pressure there is on them to melt in, including pressure on their children to marry out. That is what happened to me. I went to the Ivy League because my family pushed me to excel and I met people who weren’t anti-Semitic. I liked the water.”

        relating to Jewish influence in the media (particular the writen media) and the “apprehension among writers and editors who are critical of Zionism of broaching criticisms of Israel in books or magazines”,
        from the article you wrote i can see why:

        “Do Jews Dominate in American Media? And So What If We Do?” http://mondoweiss.net/2008/02/do-jews-dominat.html

        “But in my experience, Jews have made up the majority of the important positions in the publications I worked for, a majority of the writers I’ve known at these place, and the majority of the owners who have paid me. Yes my own sample may be skewed, but I think it shows that Jews make up a significant proportion of power positions in media, half, if not more.”

      • Ellen
        Ellen
        October 8, 2013, 12:32 am

        Both you and hop, raise an interesting exchange.

        We’re book readers– proudly people of the book. I’m proud of that….We’re significant way beyond our numbers in cultural production.

        Phil, I do not know what to make of remarks like that One one hand, it comes across just as hophimi describes your comments. Buying into and peddling stereotypes. Stereotypes that can be ugly. And to be honest, stereotypes that are re-enforced in a single cultural bubble.

        Phil, I know Jews (practicing proud Jews) that have no interest in any books and never did. I know a Jews (practicing, proud and Orthodox Jews) who can barely read. Books give these Jews headaches! And this is not isolated examples, but reality for many Jews (just like other groups) around the world.

        Judaism is a religion of the book, yes. A book of rules and how to live. Early Christianity broke away from the book and then much later made their book, too….Islam started out as a religion of the book, so all Abrahamic faiths are of the book. But that is all another subject.

        Another thing: beyond our numbers in cultural production. What does that mean? What “culture.?”

        Don’t all groups have a culture, and produce culture? Do you mean the commercial culture coming out of the theaters and publishing houses of NY and Studio’s of LA? That is one kind of culture. But not absolute CULTURE. No way!

        Yes, there is a marked dynamic of supportive kinship in academia, media, arts among Jews. This dynamic may have many reasons and is not always specific to Jewish culture. But your comments reflect this dynamic and a sort of preoccupation with the “Jewish place in society.” At least that is how it comes across to me.

        As for Gladwell. He hit on a formula “Tipping Point,” “Blinking….” A very middle brow pablum. Airplane books to read and leave. It is safe and as said below, secures his place (and income). He seems neither really smart nor brave.

        Gladwell will never ever enter a subject that might have a hint of controversy or landmines. It is not his gig. The other stuff sells better.

      • Cliff
        Cliff
        October 8, 2013, 5:07 am

        hoppy said

        I was taught not to make assumptions based on a person’s religious or ethnic background.

        Judging by your comment history (which anyone can look up), your parents are failures.

        You are a racist and a Jewish supremacist, which means your parents are as well.

        You judge all Palestinians by the Mufti and by association, tar and feather them as ‘Nazis’.

      • Eric
        Eric
        October 8, 2013, 9:06 am

        Actually, it is Jews who are over represented on the Supreme Court — three out of nine. There are no Episcopalians, or any other Protestant, though they’re still more than half the US population.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        October 8, 2013, 2:01 pm

        It’s also Catholics, Eric. There are six of them, and there are only 78.2 million Catholics. That’s a lot less than 2/3 of the country. There is also an overrepresentation of Black Catholics on the Court (11% of the Supreme Court, around 1% of the country (4% of American Catholics). There’s also an overrepresentation of New Jerseyians. And New Yorkers. And above all, Harvard and Yale. Sure three or four seats could be merit. But all nine (eight, if you don’t count Ginsburg, who only spend some of her education at Harvard)? It’s a vast conspiracy. These Harvard and Yalies clearly conspire to make sure only their own get on the Court.

      • Cliff
        Cliff
        October 8, 2013, 2:20 pm

        It’s not a conspiracy. Jews are overrepresented.

        That is a fact.

        The only conspiracy is when Zionist racists and Jewish colonists like you try to cover it up just like you whitewash the racist Rabbi’s racism by associating him w/ a hypothetical scenario where we here would do the same whitewashing for a Hamas guy.

        This is an endless stream of bullshit pouring out of your mouth. Whether it’s atrocities or human rights abuses or racism in Israeli society, you colonists ALWAYS make excuses.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        October 8, 2013, 3:28 pm

        “That is a fact.”

        Yes, Cliff. Now take your medicine, and read me the part where I denied it was a fact. I didn’t. So take it down a notch, buddy.

        And as I pointed out: so are Catholics. So are Harvard grads. So are Yale grads. So are New Jerseyians. So are New Yorkers. So are people who worked in the Office of Legal Counsel. So are unmarried women.

        You seem to only be concerned with Jews. Why is that?

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        October 8, 2013, 3:30 pm

        “Judging by your comment history (which anyone can look up), your parents are failures.”

        Judging by your comment history, nothing you say is worth taking seriously.

        “You are a racist and a Jewish supremacist, which means your parents are as well.”

        You are a bigot and a hothead, which means you’re a giant embarrassment to yourself and whoever raised you, assuming they didn’t raise you to be a jerk.

        “You judge all Palestinians by the Mufti and by association, tar and feather them as ‘Nazis’.”

        And you are a liar who repeats nonsense no matter how many times you’ve been told it’s a lie and not to do it. And the moderator, who has also been told multiple times not to allow you to make this false accusation, is, unfortunately, no great shakes either.

      • Eric
        Eric
        October 8, 2013, 7:29 pm

        I’d hardly call one black guy on the high court proof of over representation. The Jews have been represented since Justice Brandeis, and in recent decades have been over represented. Again, unlike the majority Protestants who today have no representation at all, which speaks to their lack of tribalism/ethnic cohesiveness or perhaps lobbying ineffectiveness. Don’t know why you’re disputing something so obvious. We’re not even talking about over representation in Congress, Wall Street, Hollywood, the Federal Reserve, or international organ trafficking, and already you’re in a lather. Hard to have a frank discourse with a Reality Denier.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        October 8, 2013, 9:27 pm

        I said Black Catholic, Eric, not black guy. The point is that if you want to do this sort of crude counting, you can find lots of groups overrepresented on a body of nine people.

        And for the umpteenth time, I’m not disputing the fact that Jews are overrepresented on the Court, a point that has been made here over and over and over and over and over again. I’m simply pointed out that they are not the only group that is overrepresented, and not even the only monotheistic one.

        And of course, your snide remarks of Wall Street and the Federal Reserve are the example A about how this sort of crude, bigoted thinking routinely turns into classical anitsemitism.

      • Cliff
        Cliff
        October 9, 2013, 5:37 am

        And you are a liar who repeats nonsense no matter how many times you’ve been told it’s a lie and not to do it. And the moderator, who has also been told multiple times not to allow you to make this false accusation, is, unfortunately, no great shakes either.

        Told multiple times? Told by who? You? You don’t control Mondoweiss. Get over yourself.

        Here is your slander for all to see:

        So does the Holocaust, Arab anti-semitism, Palestinian support for Hitler, the work of the Yishuv to build a democratic state, the use of suicide bombing by Palestinians, the hijacking of airplanes, 9/11, and US foreign policy. These all have consequences as well.

        http://mondoweiss.net/2011/09/campaign-to-end-military-aid-to-israel-enters-ny-underground.html/comment-page-1#comment-365447

        No where in the original discussion did you ever mention the Mufti or his ‘association’ with Hitler.

        You simply said ‘Palestinian support for Hitler’.

        It was only after you were taken to task for your slander did you eventually say that the Mufti’s influence was significant.

        It wasn’t. Hostage disproved your lie.

        The end.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        October 9, 2013, 8:26 am

        “And of course, your snide remarks of Wall Street and the Federal Reserve are the example A about how this sort of crude, bigoted thinking routinely turns into classical anitsemitism.”

        So it’s okay to discuss the over-representation of Jews (or Black Catholics) on the Supreme Court, but not in other occupations. I see. And who makes that determination as to which discussions are verboten? Let me guess: you.

    • marc b.
      marc b.
      October 7, 2013, 3:08 pm

      astounding. what a hodgepodge of contradiction and piss poor logic.

      hophmi ha[s] no trouble admitting that Jews are “significant way beyond our numbers” in some fields, and so apparently he has sufficient factual data to come to that conclusion, but there is also apparently insufficient data (and always will be) to analyze the impact of that ‘significance’. in other words we are left with the bare fact of Jewish exceptionalism, and you’d better leave it at that or suffer accusations of anti-Semitism or an admixture of that poison with self-hatred.

      and this nonsense:

      Weiss’s observations after decades in the newspaper business and publishing industry add up to the saw dust of irrelevant ‘myths and folk wisdon’, while hophmi’s bald conclusion that No one fears Jews in the publishing industry is based on years of . . . what, exactly?

      and so on, and on.

      what an effective investment of time and energy, engaging in a debate with hophmi.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        October 8, 2013, 9:46 am

        “hophmi ha[s] no trouble admitting that Jews are “significant way beyond our numbers” in some fields, and so apparently he has sufficient factual data to come to that conclusion, but there is also apparently insufficient data (and always will be) to analyze the impact of that ‘significance’. in other words we are left with the bare fact of Jewish exceptionalism, and you’d better leave it at that or suffer accusations of anti-Semitism or an admixture of that poison with self-hatred.”

        I think you can find number on this stuff if you look for it.

        As usual, you analyze what you want me to have said, rather than what I actually said. I did not say that ANYTHING about exceptionalism; you equate overrepresentation with exceptionalism. They are not the same. I specifically said that I have no trouble discuss “Jewish power,” but that I was not going to discuss it in the bigot way, by making stereotypical assumptions about people based on their religion, which is what goes on here.

        “Weiss’s observations after decades in the newspaper business and publishing industry add up to the saw dust of irrelevant ‘myths and folk wisdom.”

        Marc, that is how PHIL put it, not me. PHIL is the one who called it folk wisdom. PHIL is the one who said he didn’t have the statistics to back up what he termed a universally recognized truth.

        “while hophmi’s bald conclusion that No one fears Jews in the publishing industry is based on years of . . . what, exactly? ”

        Well, Phil’s a NY writer who went to Harvard. He’s arguing that he got ahead because of his religion, and because many of the writers and editors he knew were Jewish. And I asked him whether he thought this would be true if he worked in Idaho rather than NY.

      • marc b.
        marc b.
        October 8, 2013, 3:49 pm

        I think you can find (sic) number on this stuff . . . etc.

        hophmi, I have no idea what your last comment means. any of it. honestly.

    • Carowhat
      Carowhat
      October 7, 2013, 6:31 pm

      “Do you EVER get tired of your own self-contradiction? Do you EVER get tired of the Jew-baiting? Walt and Mearsheimer’s book was published by a major publishing house, Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It wasn’t published by Verso.”

      When a Jew responsibly criticizes tribal behavior by Jews it is enlightened self-criticism, not Jew-baiting.

      Secondly, despite Walt & Mearsheimer publishing a major work on a major issue, the New York Times did not see fit to review their book. If it hadn’t have been for the London Review of Books the world would not have known they’d written it. Someone in a position of power didn’t want this book to see the light of day. I assure you it wasn’t Italian-Americans.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        October 8, 2013, 9:50 am

        “When a Jew responsibly criticizes tribal behavior by Jews it is enlightened self-criticism, not Jew-baiting.”

        When you allege that Jews control the media, it’s Jew-baiting.

        “Secondly, despite Walt & Mearsheimer publishing a major work on a major issue, the New York Times did not see fit to review their book. ”

        Nonsense; the Times reviewed it in the book review. See, you’re simply WRONG.
        http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/06/books/06grim.html?_r=0

        And contrary to Gladwell’s claim that a book wouldn’t sell and Phil’s claim that a book critical of Israel wouldn’t sell, Walt and Mearsheimer’s book was a NY Times Bestseller.

      • Donald
        Donald
        October 8, 2013, 5:30 pm

        “Nonsense; the Times reviewed it in the book review. See, you’re simply WRONG.”

        Yes, and the review is a hatchet job. This is what the NYT has often done to books it obviously wishes it could ignore instead.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        October 8, 2013, 5:50 pm

        “Yes, and the review is a hatchet job. This is what the NYT has often done to books it obviously wishes it could ignore instead.”

        There was also an article covering the controversy surrounding the book. You complain that the reviewer didn’t like it. He was not the only one. Their thesis was, and remains, controversial.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      October 7, 2013, 8:00 pm

      @ hophmi
      After ten years, many Americans are still waiting for the great world-class writer SOLZENITZEN’S “200 Years Together to be published in English translation in full here in America. If you can read Russian, Amazon has a copy for you.

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        October 7, 2013, 8:16 pm

        Reminder, the base for Walt & Mearsheimer book, The Israel Lobby paper ,”The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”, was being published in longer form by the Kennedy School at Harvard, which then disowned it, and, after it had been rejected by the Atlantic Monthly (which originally commissioned it) the paper was published in shorter form by the London Review of Books. Also, both authors academic careers were not subject to destruction due to lack of tenure.

        Lastly, my own experience in American publishing mirrors Phil’s. I forget, hophmi, are you a born and bred American with personal knowledge about the publishing business here?

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        October 8, 2013, 10:04 am

        I’m American. I live in New York. It would, umm, not surprise me if there were Jews in the publishing/journalism industry in New York. But I find the “Jews control the media” line of reasoning to be abject nonsense. Phil’s critique sounds like Pauline Kael’s line about Nixon winning the election and not knowing anyone who voted for him. I worked for Jews and I’m a Jew, and I can’t imagine any other possible reality where one in journalism or publishing is not a Jew and does not work for a Jew.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        October 8, 2013, 2:01 pm

        Please put through.

    • Shingo
      Shingo
      October 8, 2013, 6:53 am

      Walt and Mearsheimer’s book was published by a major publishing house,

      In another country before it was published in the US.

      • Ellen
        Ellen
        October 8, 2013, 8:42 am

        Shingo, yes and to add that Walt and Mearsheimer only first published their book in another country and after their series (commissioned by either Harpers or The Atlantic) was killed for publication by their Editors, the gatekeepers.

      • marc b.
        marc b.
        October 8, 2013, 8:55 am

        ellen, harper’s may have done that? I can see the Atlantic, but would hope to see more spine from harper’s.

        PS ope. it looks like it was commissioned by the atlantic, at least according to wiki.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        October 8, 2013, 10:00 am

        It was not a series. It was an article that was commissioned by the Atlantic in 2002. The Atlantic rejected it, and wrote the authors a letter explaining why, which the authors have heretofore chosen not to make public; one thinks that if this were a big instance of gatekeeping, they gladly would have.
        http://www.salon.com/2006/04/18/lobby_2/

        It was later published as a working paper by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and in a condensed version by LRB. So the notion that it was published “in another country” before it came here is bunk, unless you consider Harvard another country.

        It’s just a complete fantasy to suggest that they broke some taboo. Michael Massing published a long expose about the Israel lobby in American Prospect in 2002. He wasn’t the first either.

  2. Krauss
    Krauss
    October 7, 2013, 11:24 am

    To be a public intellectual is not only about being highly intelligent.
    It is also about being courageous, to speak what others do not dare to speak.
    It is easy for us to speak truth; we have our daily lives that is divorced from any literary establishment(which is often less about talent and often about your opinions, who you know and so on).

    Why has Chomsky been banned from most of the mainstream media during his career? His intellect is astounding.
    It’s because he is an uncomfortable person; he views the media just as critically and he has no sacred cows.

    Gladwell is very concerned with his place in the establishment, and as such, prefers to write about meaningless pop psychology. In addition, while you’re right you do not have to be smart to see the obvious Apartheid in Israel, tt helps being highly intelligent to truly delve deep into the system. Go far back in history, cover the country from every angle over a period of years.
    Max Blumenthal does that.

    Gladwell prefers talking about blinking.

  3. tokyobk
    tokyobk
    October 7, 2013, 2:56 pm

    Phil you are missing Gladwell’s point, I think, which funny enough is Gladwell’s point.

    It is impossible to talk honestly about Israel in public because for the vast majority of people interested in the discussion only one list; either achievements or defaults, matters. Any mention of Israel as David or Israel as Goliath means to most close observers of this conflict that you are creating a polemic. A neutral statement is always going to be taken as Zionism or anti-Zionism.

    Gladwell is saying he wants to discuss ideas not get caught up in (explicit) politics so other cases are better suited.

    • Cliff
      Cliff
      October 7, 2013, 3:04 pm

      So he’s a coward and afraid to have an opinion, publicly, on a contentious issue.

      • tokyobk
        tokyobk
        October 8, 2013, 5:08 am

        Sure, perhaps. He wants to sell his kind of books and Israel/Palestine watchers decide in the first sentence if you are pure good or pure evil.

      • Cliff
        Cliff
        October 8, 2013, 6:12 am

        I don’t think he’s evil.

        I think he’s a coward. He writes this kind of book but leaves out Israel.

        It’s a glaring omission. Not very subtle.

        It’s pure cowardice. This is a tribal conflict. Not an issue like stem cell research.

        He is either a Zionist himself or afraid of what the topic would do to his career.

        In other words, he is a coward.

      • Philip Munger
        Philip Munger
        October 8, 2013, 11:31 am

        In other words, he is a coward.

        Well, at least he has the courage to admit he’s chickenshit.

        He’s afraid of going through what many of us have undergone for speaking truth to power about what a cesspool militant expansionist Zionism is.

        http://xferstoothers.blogspot.com/2007/12/bob-lynns-april-27-2004-denunciation-on.html

        He’s afraid of lots of things that could or would happen to him, not afraid of the message of his book reaching the wrong audience, or fear of it not reaching the right one. Doesn’t want to be blacklisted.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        October 8, 2013, 1:39 pm

        “He’s afraid of going through what many of us have undergone for speaking truth to power about what a cesspool militant expansionist Zionism is.”

        Yeah, it’s terrible. You write about US foreign policy and Israel, and you could get a book deal with Farra Straus and a NY Times bestseller or a NY Times Magazine cover. It’s positively censorship and oppression.

      • annie
        annie
        October 8, 2013, 2:07 pm

        hops, Philip Munger is an american composer and political blogger. i’m not sure any anti zionist could get on the NY Times bestseller list. that’s the point. or maybe you can name some. or some top journos hired by the major msm who are anti zionist or highly critical of israel.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        October 8, 2013, 2:24 pm

        “i’m not sure any anti zionist could get on the NY Times bestseller list”

        W and M did.

        “some top journos hired by the major msm who are anti zionist or highly critical of israel.”

        When you say journos, I assume you mean op-ed writers. Anthony Lewis was long highly critical of Israel at the NY Times, and Paul Krugman is too, although it’s not his subject. Charlie Reese wrote for the Orlando Sentinel for a long time.

        Glenn Greenwald worked at Salon until he made the choice to leave to work for the Guardian. He’s regularly on mainstream TV.

        Yosef Munayyer is a contributor to Open Zion at the Daily Beast, which is run by Newsweek. That’s certainly mainstream. As is Peter Beinart, who is certainly a critic of Israel. As is Emily Hauser, who is also a critic of Israel.

        We could comb the newspapers and find others, and if they’re not on staff, they’re certainly regularly published in the Times (NY and especially LA) and elsewhere.

      • Donald
        Donald
        October 8, 2013, 5:43 pm

        Palestinians are getting better treatment in the MSM than they used to. In large part this is probably because of the books by Jimmy Carter (simply for daring to use the word “apartheid”) and Walt and Mearsheimer. Tony Judt probably broke a few barriers in the New York Review of Books, though only with the comparative handful of people who read that.

        There’s always been a thin trickle of articles in the MSM that were sympathetic to the Palestinians–the NYT Sunday Magazine published a piece by Edward Said back in the 90’s, for instance. There was a brief spasm of criticism of Israel during the 1982 war in Lebanon (I remember that in part because back then I was still on Israel’s side and thought it was unfair. Kind of embarrassing to think about now.) But things quickly returned to “normal”.

        I gave most of the credit above to Carter and W and M for starting to change reporting, but it’s probably more the internet which is responsible for whatever good changes might be occurring. The NYT can’t act as gatekeeper anymore–you don’t have to go to a good public or university library or well-stocked bookstore to find out things they may not be reporting. In the old days someone like Glenn Greenwald would have been a columnist for some magazine with a comparatively tiny number of readers, such as “The Progressive” or “The Nation”.

      • Philip Munger
        Philip Munger
        October 8, 2013, 6:35 pm

        W and M did.

        Are you sure they are “anti Zionists?” I’ve never read them describing themselves as such.

    • marc b.
      marc b.
      October 7, 2013, 3:38 pm

      Phil you are missing Gladwell’s point, I think, which funny enough is Gladwell’s point. . . . Gladwell is saying he wants to discuss ideas not get caught up in (explicit) politics so other cases are better suited.

      that’s an oversimplification and a mischaracterization of what gladwell says. first, what ideas would be worthy of debate if they don’t ultimately have the potential to impact politics? and this exchange completely undermines your interpretation, although to be fair to you, gladwell seems to be doing a bit of dancing and self-contradiction:

      But if he has things to say about Israel, why doesn’t he want to say them?

      “I actually don’t even know if I do,” he says. “I just worried too much. I didn’t want the book to be put in a pigeonhole. And I don’t know if I’m smart enough. What’s interesting with Israel is that in some contexts they’re always David, and in some contexts they have become Goliath.

      “Depending on your perspective. If I were to write another chapter to this book I’d love to write about that tension – because lots of people wear two hats. Companies do this all the time – they start out as Davids and become Goliaths.”

      so gladwell would love to write “about that tension” (the janus roles of david and goliath that Israel plays), if only the NYT best-selling author could squeeze another chapter out of his publisher. in any event, he doesn’t “actually know” if he has anything to say about Israel (because, you know, gladwell, who’s sorted out the problem of the failing educational system and the human subconscious, is probably “not smart enough” to expound on israel) but if he did have something to say about the subject, that’s much too complicated for his intellect, it sure would make an interesting chapter.

    • seafoid
      seafoid
      October 8, 2013, 2:38 am

      “Any mention of Israel as David or Israel as Goliath means to most close observers of this conflict that you are creating a polemic.”

      Like human rights are radical.

      It ACTUALLY means STFU. “The world’s most intractable conflict” is the preferred mode of thinking of the cultural guard dogs. Let’s not talk about it. And who wants to destroy their career by pointing out some home truths?
      And so Israel ploughs on towards the cliff.

      • tokyobk
        tokyobk
        October 8, 2013, 5:07 am

        You may be right about al that but my point is that if he says Israel is treats Palestinians in Apartheid-like ways, a true statement, he becomes an anti-Zionist not worth listening to for one group (I think Phil is right about book reading demographics too). If he says Israel has a comparatively good record on gay and woman’s rights, he becomes a liberal imperialist, pink washing Zionist to another group. Human rights is not actually his gig. As mentioned above he is more into the airplane read and so Israel is not a good choice for his niche.

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        October 8, 2013, 6:40 am

        I’d say it’s more like Israel is the anti Oreal- because it is simply not worth it.

        If he says what he thinks he might get the Chas Freeman treatment, the Ghassan Kanafani formula, the Goldstone process or the Norman Finkelstein therapy.

        And Chuck Hagel got 2 barrels of it recently

  4. ivri
    ivri
    October 7, 2013, 3:39 pm

    Well, alot of it is purely circumstantial. Technology advances give huge advantage to those who can use it well – whether in terms of setting organizations that can harness it effectively or through warfare asymmetry. It eliminates a past intrinsic disadvantage of the small – if you command hi-tech you can create advanced tools, for military purposes or economic one (and get prosperous); if you command cyber-tools you can get information (e.g. by able to spy on others) and disrupt other`s systems – no matter how big is the other entity; if you have an advanced air-force you can win wars against bigger rivals and then the ultimate warfare asymmetry tool – nukes. No matter how small you are if you have 100 warheads and long-range missiles you have a decisive advantage over entities far bigger than you. So real simply, Israel has been and still is a David by physical circumstances (it cannot change that) but has become a Goliath due to general technological advances (which it managed to exploit and create a compensatory trade-off).

    • Cliff
      Cliff
      October 8, 2013, 5:05 am

      No. Israel is Goliath at all times.

      It’s Israel doing the occupying and colonizing. Not the Palestinians.

      You want to be the victim. How sick.

  5. yrn
    yrn
    October 7, 2013, 3:48 pm

    “It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jewish readers, including ones in important editorial jobs, play an important role in making a book a bestseller. ”
    Lets hear some Non Jews point of view?
    wonder who will comment first.

    • ziusudra
      ziusudra
      October 8, 2013, 8:29 am

      Greetings yrn,
      Ich bin’s, a non Jew.
      Mr. Reich Ranicki, a literary critic just past away here in Germany.
      He was very much admired & respected for his talents of working only
      with mostly German literature, hence Germans not Jews.
      He didn’t have the Problem of choosing betw. koscher & non koscher
      works . His Polish Jewish backround ne’er entered the equasion.
      One once did he critizise Günther Grass, but for writing a bad Poem,but
      not a Poem about Israel.
      He was very entertaining for the German speaking audiences.
      He did a lot to keep German literature of Goethe, Schiller, Lessing etc
      alive for today’s audience.
      ziusudra

  6. seafoid
    seafoid
    October 8, 2013, 8:59 am

    “he doesn’t think American readers are “self-critical” enough to absorb this truth.”

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d0d02dda-7b79-11e2-8eb3-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz2h6tw0vR3

    “During last year’s election the group called We Are Change gathered internet videos of Obama supporters being coaxed into criticising Mitt Romney, his Republican rival, over various policies (including drone attacks and extending the Patriot Act, which limits privacy rights for suspected terrorists), and then being informed those policies belonged to Mr Obama. One fellow said “wow”, but more typical was the young woman who replied: “Well, I understand what you’re saying but there’s a lot of other reasons why I’m going to vote for Obama, and hearing that stuff honestly doesn’t change it …”

    http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/obama_supporters_actually_hate_obamas_policies/

    It is such a mess. And then the Republicans have their own parallel media vortex. Issues such as Israel or climate change are essentially off limits.

    Look at the Tea Party bringing the US to the edge of the fiscal cliff next week. The debate is so polarised. That is why progress on anything is so difficult.

    There is a fundamental difference between how American and British media operate and it relates to the history of each country.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/03/edward-snowden-files-john-lanchester

    “In Europe and the US, the lines between the citizen and the state are based on an abstract conception of the individual’s rights, which is then framed in terms of what the state needs to do.That’s not the case in Britain: although we do have rights, they were arrived at by specific malfeasances and disasters on the part of the state.”

    In the US the Constitution is worshipped – that wouldn’t work in the UK. There is no such thing as eternal perfection . The Constitution is just another document, after all.

    The UK experience has been about modifying as things change. Maybe it is because the UK has a much longer shared institutional history than either the US or Israel. I think the Brits understand contingency better than Americans do.

    Brits are possibly more questioning, more sarcastic and less likely to take PTB pronouncements at face value. They acknowledge opposing viewpoints more readily. I think there’s a big difference between the dynamic of the Republican party and that of the British Conservative party at the moment and that history has a lot to do with it.

    • marc b.
      marc b.
      October 8, 2013, 10:24 am

      “he doesn’t think American readers are “self-critical” enough to absorb this truth.”

      that’s probably an accurate statement by gladwell, seafoid. and perhaps our collective inability to be self-critical comes from being treated like children by politicians, authors and journalists. there’s a long list of apparent topics that smart guys like gladwell have decided are too complicated or anxiety provoking to spend time discussing in public.

      • marc b.
        marc b.
        October 8, 2013, 2:32 pm

        bits and pieces on gladgood. (it’s certainly what he smells like, the hipster intellectual for the status quo. ‘the cops stopped him because of his hair, man!’)

        Perhaps Americans would be less shocked by Malcolm Gladwell’s journalistic corruption if they were aware of his background. Gladwell was trained up in the same corporate-funded network of training and “education” institutes and outfits responsible for churning out the likes of Michelle Malkin, convicted criminal James O’Keefe, Dinesh D’Souza and countless other GOP corporate activists. The difference: Unlike Gladwell, they rarely hid their ideological willingness to take cash in exchange for promoting the corporate right’s agenda.

        While a student at the University of Toronto, Gladwell’s admiration for Ronald Reagan led him into conservative activist circles. In 1982, while still an undergrad, he completed a 12-week training course at the National Journalism Center, a corporate-funded program created to counter the media’s alleged “anti-business bias” by molding college kids into corporate-friendly journalist-operatives and helping them infiltrate top-tier news media organizations. To quote Philip Morris, a major supporter of the National Journalism Center, its mission was to “train budding journalists in free market political and economic principles.” Over the years the National Journalism Center has produced hundreds of pro-business news media moles, including top-tier conservative talent like Ann Coulter and former Wall Street Journal columnist and editorial board member John Fund.

        After graduating from University of Toronto in 1984, Gladwell spent a few years bouncing around the far-right fringe of the corporate media spectrum. He wrote for the American Spectator—notorious in the 1990s as the primary media organ promoting anti-Clinton conspiracy theories—as well as the Moonie-owned Insight on the News. From 1985-6, Gladwell served as assistant editor at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, which was created to bridge the gap between neoconservatives and Christian fundamentalists and help the two hostile factions to come together to counter a common enemy: activists fighting for economic justice. Rick Santorum was a fellow at EPPC until June 2011, when he left to concentrate on his attempt to secure the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.

        Ernest Lefever, who founded EPPC in 1976, explained his group’s purpose:

        U.S. domestic and multinational firms find themselves increasingly under siege at home and abroad . . . They are accused of producing shoddy and unsafe products, fouling the environment, robbing future generations, wielding inordinate power, repressing peoples in the Third World, and generally of being insensitive to human needs… We as a small and ethically oriented center are in a position to respond more directly to ideological critics who insist that the corporation is fundamentally unjust.

        But Lefever wasn’t just pro-corporation, he was also pro-white supremacy. In 1981, Ronald Reagan picked Lefever for the position of Assistant Secretary for Human Rights, but the nomination process blew up in his face after Lefever’s own brothers outed the man as a frothing white supremacist who believed blacks to be genetically inferior to whites. Gladwell, who is part-Jamaican, apparently didn’t mind working for a white supremacist who argued that people like Gladwell were inferior. Incredibly enough, Gladwell has continued to participate in events with EPPC outfit as late as 2005, and is currently listed on its promotional materials.

        http://technoccult.net/archives/2012/06/11/malcolm-gladwell/

    • tree
      tree
      October 8, 2013, 2:46 pm

      If you think British media is any better than US media, you might want to take a look at Jonathan Cook’s blog. He has several pieces on the banality and the power worshipping of British journalism these days. Here’s one on the BBC’s interview of Glenn Greenwald, which Cook calls “the most embarrassing news interview ever”:

      http://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2013-10-04/the-most-embarrassing-news-interview-ever/

      Greenwald makes an interesting point that he’d have less fear of returning to the US than he would have of returning to Great Britain because the US has stronger protections on freedom of the press. Watch the video at 9:58.

      Cook’s blog is here:
      http://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        October 8, 2013, 3:14 pm

        Culturally the UK is more used to elite ineptitude than the US is. I saw that Greenwald piece and he does have a point on that issue but there is a bigger point about how Brits think compared to Americans and there’s less mythology in it. They had their tea party over 350 years ago. They lost their empire and scaled down their megalomania 60 years ago. The US has a lot of therapy ahead.

        The Tory press can be vile but Fox is off the scale. Facts don’t tend to vary by ideology in the UK. Zionism struggles in the UK whereas it has a free pass in the US. Compare the LRB and the NYRB on Israel.

  7. MRW
    MRW
    October 8, 2013, 8:42 pm

    My author friend was told by his Manhattan agent that he stood a better chance of getting published if his last name was Jewish. It was said as a throw-away joke I’m told, but my friend said there was more truth in it than not.

    And I as told directly, “Any Jew can get a play on Broadway. It just depends on the Jews the Jew knows.” The guy who told me this with a hearty laugh was a big macher in the theatre world, a money man. I had been complaining to him about a play I saw that was horrific, school-level dialogue, way too many gratuitous holocaust references, I couldn’t understand how it got past dress rehearsal, I walked out before intermission. He said, “Nobody mounts on talent anymore.”

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