Rick Sanchez was canned from CNN this week. In a general whine about the discrimination he has faced–which apparently burdened him with fame and an enviable job–he said something about Jews, suggesting that the elitist, mean-spirited Jon Stewart had no idea what it was to be a real victim like the good-looking media-celebrity, Sanchez. I can’t say I was a huge fan of either man. But the lightning speed with which Sanchez was dispatched says a lot about which groups in our society cannot be criticized and, concomitantly, which groups have significant power in that society. Genuinely oppressed and hated people can be criticized with impunity.
While the merits of either man’s claim to victimhood is kind of ridiculous, Rick clearly hasn’t been paying attention. For all of the vaunted independence, iconoclasm, and general edginess of the media, there are certain pieties that must be respected, and one of the most important of which is the utter sanctity of Jews as a victim group in the pantheon of America’s victim groups. We’re supposed to pretend that wealthy media executives are little different from Stetl Jews in Ukraine shot in ditches by Nazis, just as we’re supposed to pretend that blacks who became President of the United States are the victim of ongoing oppression little different from that of Jim Crow.
Much of modern America’s cultural obsession consists of a race to the bottom whereby various groups–blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Indians–are all competing to be the biggest victim of all. The only group that cannot play in this game is the old American WASP, America’s historical majority people that is grouped alongside with Hitler for having exclusive country clubs and Ivy League quotas 75 years ago and slavery some 150 years ago.
Sanchez pointed out an easily verified fact: Jews, as a group, are successful and particularly over-represented and powerful in the TV and print media. This is one of those facts we’re not supposed to notice, just as we’re not supposed to notice various short-comings of other ethnic groups. The Jewish claim to historical victimhood in America today requires quite a bit of work. After all, unlike blacks, Jews came to America willingly and voluntarily. While once upon a time there were minor discriminations and sleights against Jews in America–exclusive clubs, Ivy League quotas–on the whole, America has been welcoming to Jews, and, more important, Jews have been wildly successful in America in spite of whatever obstacles their great grandparents may have faced. They have become the establishment in spite of the continuing self-identification as being an alienated, oppressed outsider. That success, once a source of pride, became a minor embarrassment in the great multicultural race to the bottom that began in the 1980s. Upon further inquiry, however, it becomes clear that multiculturalism is in fact an ideology to promote and protect the new elites emerging from the decline and displacement of the WASP since the mid-20th Century.
As Peter Novick put this in his work The Holocaust in American Life:
By the 1980s and 1990s many Jews, for various reasons, wanted to establish that they too were members of a “victim community.” Their contemporary situation offered little in the way of credentials. American Jews were by far the wealthiest, best-educated, most influential, in-every-way-most-successful group in American society–a group that, compared to most other identifiable minority groups, suffered no measurable discrimination and no disadvantages on account of that minority status. But insofar as Jewish identify could be anchored in the agony of European Jewry, certification as (vicarious) victims could be claimed, with all the moral privilege accompanying such certifications.
The multicultural order is inverted. Victim status is the currency of the realm, and the Holocaust of the Jews, through books, movies, and constant repetition is placed above all other possible victimizations in the consciousness of Americans, even comparable mass murders such as those of the Soviet Union, Cambodia, and Turkey, and even though this event was largely not done to American Jews nor perpetrated by Americans. The elevation of this European event of some 70 years ago is particularly useful when the “victim” in question is fast becoming the society’s elite, with its members constituting 30 members of Congress and 13 US Senators, 43% of the most influential opinion-makers, and some 21% of Ivy League admissions today. Frankly, Rich Sanchez is right: for Jon Stewart or any other American Jew to proclaim the status of victim is patently ridiculous and insulting to ordinary intelligence. But Sanchez is too self-pitying to realize that it’s ridiculous for him, a man until recently on CNN with a show named after him, also to claim victim status.
A better approach for both the Jon Stewarts and the Rick Sanchezes of the world, has been suggested by Steve Sailer: a self-conscious development among Jews and other emerging elites of a sense of noblesse oblige, that is a sense of self-conscious responsibility for what is now their society coupled with public expressions of gratitude for this society’s opportunities. But, events to date, suggest that this softening of attitudes is unlikely. More likely is the overplaying of this hand by the “victims,” as represented in part by the unmagnaminous firing of Sanchez. I fear the continuation of such events would lead to an eventual, tragic backlash.