Neocon Jew World Order


Did you pay attention to the Maureen Dowd-Paul Wolfowitz-“slithering neocon” controversy? If you have read this blog over the years you know I am particularly attuned to the sort of antisemitism that poses as anti-Zionism and anti-neoconservatism, but I have sort of reached the end of my rope on the latter.

One matter that I more or less avoid discussing with non-academics at this point is neoconservatism. There is so much wrapped up in the popular political imagination it is not at all clear what people mean when they use it. One safe assumption is when someone uses the term “neoconservative” or especially “neocon” in conversation at a social event, there is a strong negative association. After that, things get blurry. It can mean internationalist, as opposed to isolationist. It can mean Jewish. It can mean hawk. It can mean pro-Israel and/or Zionist.

To make things more complicated, some talk about the first wave of neoconservatives (Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz) and the second or contemporary wave of neoconservatives (Wolfowitz, Muravchik). Most think Dick Cheney or even John Bolton are neoconservatives. And to further muddy the waters, some refer to Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, and the rest of the conservative media echo-chamber as neocons.

One thing absent in most of these discussions is the neo element, which contains two primary dimensions. First, neoconservatism represented something new and important in realm of conservative ideas. Second, the neoconservatives brought a diversity in terms of ethnic background, to a primarily white, Anglo, foreign policy establishment.

One of the most important elements that originally made neoconservatives and neoconservatism such a challenge to post-World War II conservatism was the neoconservatives were not born and bred on the right. Similar to most of the influential anticommunists, there was a movement from left to right. It isn’t always from the radical left. Yes, some were Trots, others were FDR liberals, Muravchik was a social democrat. All were dismayed by the Democratic Party’s weakening defense posture in the 1970s. Another missing element is the neocons were neo because they were new and different, at that time. New to conservatism themselves. But also new for their insights. New for being white ethnics–especially Jews–rather than WASPS.

The people who are called neocons today–William Kristol, Max Boot, etc.–never went through that transition. They also are not saying anything particularly new when it comes to the mainstream conservative worldview (2012). If anything, neoconservative ideas about foreign policy–less about democracy promotion and more about the need for a projection of military strength–are the status-quo for the Republicans at this point.

I suspect at the core of the contemporary dislike of so-called neocons is this hawkishness. Despite what others may think about Americans, the notion that we might actually have to kill someone to maintain our security and way of life is not something we like to think about. We are socialized to dislike combat and war. Again, I know we have violent movies, video games, and all the rest. But the message we receive as we grow older–and especially after college–is war solves very little and it mostly leads to human suffering. In this context, use of the word “neocon”–especially the association with the supposedly failed policies of President George W. Bush–is a quick and fairly effective way for liberals to challenge hawkish foreign policy, broadly speaking. With this phraseology, President Obama is continuing neoconservative policies in the AfPak region.

Antisemitism is often involved as well. When someone goes into a tirade about supposed “neocon” influence and all the names they provide are Jewish, it is pretty obvious. It is one of those areas where the far-left and paleoconservatives, the old-guard isolationists and Nativists find common ground. However, unlike some of my conservative friends, I do not think this anti-Jewish sentiment is at the heart of liberal opposition to neoconservatism.

Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that a dislike of Israel, in particular Likud and any other party or project associated with the right,  is a sacred cow of the progressive and radical left at this point and intense dislike of Israel can dovetail with anti-Semitic tropes.

One example was the prevalence of the term “Likudnik” in the vocabulary of critics of the Iraq War. Anyone who supported President Bush’s policy was a “neocon” and if they were a vocal supporter of Israel, “Likudnik” was added for good measure. So when someone refers to Paul Wolfowitz as a “Likudnik” is that:

1) an anti-Jewish statement?

2) an anti-Israel statement?

3) an anti-right-wing politics statement?

All three or perhaps just one or two?

How can we be sure? How do we know? Does it depend on who is saying it? We run into the problem of self-identification and how we evaluate others.

At heart it is a inaccurate statement because Wolfowitz said he is not a supporter of the Likud and that he supported the two-state solution and peace with the Palestinians. I heard him say this with my own ears in front of an audience of hundreds of people in Manhattan, mostly Leftists. But this never gets brought up in relation to Wolfowitz.

Another important thing to consider is a perusal of Israeli sources at the time knows the actual Likudniks did not support the war in Iraq nor did they support the democracy promotion agenda in general. Their eyes then, as now, were on Iran.

On a peripherally related topic, I recently became aware of a supposedly anti-Semitic graffiti production in the Brick Lane neighborhood of London’s East End. The East End in the early twentieth century had a large working-class Jewish population, many involved in the needletrades, and a reputation for working-class radicalism. Rudolph Rocker, the so-called “anarchist rabbi”—who was not Jewish—was particularly influential.

Today the neighborhood is home to large South Asian and predominately Muslim population. It is also the epicenter of London’s “street art” scene and well in the middle of a gentrification process. While some describe the area as edgy, it seemed more hipster to me. Comrade Bob from Brockley gave me a tour earlier this year.

The piece, by MEAR1, depicts fairly standard New World Order conspiracy theory imagery including a group of old white men (The Illuminati?) assembled around a Monopoly board that is sitting on the backs of group of faceless people of color. In the background are ominous nuclear power plants and the gears of industrial capitalism.

What the piece lacks are the often obvious anti-Semitic trappings one associates with these conspiracy theories. So is this an anti-Jewish mural? I do not think so. Mainly because, in my experience with artists in general and graf writers in particular, if they want to make a controversial or even hateful image, they will. Another important thing to consider is what the artist has to say about the painting. In this case, MEAR states:

My mural is about class & privilege. The banker group is made up of Jewish & white Anglos. For some reason they are saying I am anti semetic. This I am most defenatly not. I believe in equality and brother & sisterhood on a global scale. What I am against is class. Ruling class, this is a problem and we need humanization.

As far as the “New World Order” fixation, I find it extremely problematic but I have known people who think like this for a long time. Some of them went down the road of seeing “Zionists” behind all the world’s problems and from there it is a short step to blaming “the Jews”. I get it. But there were many more people who did not undergo the same process. Instead they blame the Bilderbergs or the Council on Foreign Relations, or some other shadowy or not so shadowy group. In any event, not “Zionists” or Jews. Elites, yes. Old white men behind the scenes, yes. But Jews? No.

[Schematic New World Order]

The reason it is problematic is it is a political dead end. So you now have this supposedly secret knowledge about the Illuminati or whoever controlling the world. What is your next step? Does it lead to political mobilization and organization? Of course not. It is an excuse to disengage from the real difficult work of politics. After all, if these nefarious forces have always been around manipulating things what chance does someone like me have against the Leviathan? Like all forms of extremism, it also leads to a degree of distance between the person who has the inside knowledge and the mainstream supposedly clueless “sheeple”. In other words, the “New World Order” framework and those who adhere to it need to be challenged, but not via censorship.


10 responses »

  1. Good piece. As for the question whether NWO theorist (the painter in this case) is anti-Semitic: indeed, as you say, there is no way to get to a high degree of confidence about it. However, there is a disturbing affinity between the group including all NWO conspiracy nuts and the group including all antisemites. I would dare say that the two overlap quite significantly. Which saying, of course, doesn’t give us any tools re a specific person. Too bad.

    • Thanks, Snoop. There is a major overlap between NWO and anti-Zionism and then a small step to antisemitism. But it is important to recognize that there are a lot of people who do not take that last step. As I mentioned on the Trial by Jeory thread (linked) there was also a latent–sometimes explicit–antisemitism in the hip-hop scene of the late 1980s and into the 1990s which a lot of these graf artists came out of. Public Enemy, Cam, Ice Cube, and many other popular artists referred to Jews in negative ways, Crown Heights riots, etc. Then there is the role of groups like the Nation of Gods and Earths/Five Percent Nation regarding symbolism and rhetoric. The notion that 5% of us have “true knowledge” and that 85% are ignorant fits in well with the whole “sheeple” perspective:


  3. Very good article. In the past two years I’ve been encountering more and more people who subscribe to this idea of a New World conspiracy, and some people have a definite anti-Semitic view regarding it, but others, like a close friend of mine, see the Bilderbergs and CFR as the bogeymen. She avidly supports Ron Paul and seems to consider him the only “pure” political candidate who can challenge the “global elitists” that supposedly run America. But I pointed out the same thing to her that you mention — what’s the point of political involvement if everything is controlled by a shadowy, all-powerful elite that has all the politicians in Congress, the White House, etc. on puppet strings?

    • Thanks for the comment, Joan. I should have mentioned more about the groups and individuals on the right who have similar conspiracies about “globalists”, bankers, and the New World Order. Michael Savage, hardly an anti-Semite, is one example. Many of the populist supporters of Ron Paul also fall into this group.

  4. Thanks for this. Great post.

    re the first half, on Dowd etc, I started to post a comment with something similar at The Sad Red Earth, on the slitheriness of the term “neocon”, but didn’t finish it. It’s an important point. Dowd uses it in a somewhat sloppy way. Many of the people she cites are at best borderline neocons. The distinction between Likudnik and neocon is also important. Her main target is “neocon puppet master Dan Senor”. Is he a neocon at all? No, he’s a vaguely hawkish mainstream conservative Likudnik with very different positions from neocons.

    re the second half, I was up on Brick Lane today, and wanted to see if the graf had been removed yet, but didn’t have time to find it. The order for removal came from the mayor of Tower Hamlets, an Islamist. Like you, I was a little unhappy with the discussion of the image at Trial By Jeory, with its slimy philosemitism combined with exaggerating any Muslim angle, as if all Brick Lane is is a hotbed of Bangladeshi jihadists, when it’s more relevant that it’s street art capital of London.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Bob. The Likudnik-Neocon differentiation is pretty easy to see for anyone with open eyes and an open mind. In addition to the Iraq example, the neocons largely supported the Arab Spring. Likudniks were opposed. In the most simplistic sense, the Likudniks are realist hawks while the neocons are idealist hawks. It is an important difference, unless you are a dove, or a “revolutionary” (lmfao).

    • Thanks, Roland. I will definitely take a look at the book although I must admit the review does not entice me. Particularly this bit:

      “Thus the concern of the neoconservative is not with the freedom that capitalism brings but the social control it exerts and the hierarchy it reproduces; not with the spreading of liberal democracy but the maintenance of American hegemony. As Drolet argues, “it talks the language of freedom, self-determination and human rights to mobilise an anomic and hedonistic civil society for the cause of empire”. Drolet’s interpretation is of a cynical – and perhaps even nihilistic – ideology.”

      Comments: First, this is a fairly standard Marxist criticism of all ideology, that it is simply a mask to conceal, mystify or justify an exploitative class system. Dialectical and Historical Materialism, by contrast, were supposedly a science. You and I both know that is nonsense. Marxism is just another worldview (which is the way I use the term ideology) that tries to make order and sense out of a disorderly and nonsensical world. Second, the book seems seething in its animosity towards neoconservatism and I have not even read a single page. I would like to read an academic history that examines the movement on its own terms rather than through some critical framework cooked up in the author’s mind. I also tend to tune out when I read the words hegemony or empire in relation to contemporary IR.

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