In deference to its extremist, leftist intellectual constituency, the Obama administration is reversing American policy and signing on to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, an organization that spends most of its time and energy demonizing the Jewish state, legitimating dictatorships, and attempting to define criticism of Islam as a violation of human rights. This, of course, is not the first time in modern history that the intellectual left has aligned itself with the forces of authoritarianism in order to embrace anti-Semitism. In pre-war Europe, anti-Semitism was as fashionable among the intelligentsia as it was among the masses that followed totalitarian movements. And nowhere was this relationship so aptly symbolized as it was in the writing of Louis-Ferdinand Celine.
Celine’s Bagatelles pour un Massacre (Trifles for a Massacre, 1937) was considered one of the most anti-Semitic tirades ever written. A chaotic rant against Jews punctuated with boundless invective, Celine’s Bagatelles caricatured Jews in ways that even Goebbels would have envied. Celine, who believed that Hitler was not sufficiently anti-Semitic and whose paranoia saw Jews in every dominant social institution including the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, was ultimately to be outdone in his lunacy.
It was the European intelligentsia that Celine’s street vulgarity electrified, and it was the European intelligentsia that ultimately superseded even Celine. Celine had stripped away the Jewish question from the false social politeness of bourgeois society to the bare hatred that was intrinsic to European culture. Nothing was more important to the intelligentsia than to feast on the hypocrisy of bourgeois politeness and to embrace the raw, immoral, and vulgar character of Europe’s underclass and the totalitarian movements that mobilized it.
A quintessential absence of self-interest underscored the actions of the intelligentsia even as totalitarianism threatened the free production of art, music, literature, and science — the components of civilization that intellectuals should have both cherished and defended against the onslaught of totalitarian control.
The ideological alliance between the intelligentsia and the underclass in their mutual embrace of anti-Semitism is being repeated today throughout the West. In a world where Western campuses are entangled in draconian speech codes and any ethnic defamation, real or imaginary, will bring down the wrath of the politically correct bureaucracy to a point just short of drawing and quartering the accused on the quadrangle at high noon, anti-Semitism is immunized from concern. Whether demonizing Jews in the classroom, intimidating Jewish students, or characterizing Israel with imagery that Der Sturmer inspired, on numerous campuses there is no libel, slight, or racist characterization from which Jews can be protected.