Jordan Peterson’s Hitler And Holocaust Obsessions – The Forward

Interesting and I find nuanced profile of Peterson. But equally true, fairly or unfairly, one is judged by the company one keeps and one’s supporters:

Jordan Peterson is a public intellectual adored by neo-Nazis, white supremacists and conspiracy theorists. The neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer called Peterson, a Canadian psychology professor-turned-self-help-guru, “The Savior of Western Civilization.” Paul Joseph Watson, a prominent conspiracy theorist for Infowars, has tweeted, “Jordan Peterson for Canadian Prime Minister.”

Part of why people on the far right like Peterson is because he is not afraid to talk about the Jews, and he has a lot of people to talk to. Peterson is on a 50-city tour of North America and Europe to promote his best-selling new book, “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.” His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers. He has answered questions about global Jewish influence several times, in person and online. In an April blog post, he attributed that alleged influence to Jewish intelligence —an old anti-Semitic dog whistle.

Yet Peterson rarely speaks about anti-Semitism itself, even though he says he’s been obsessed with the Holocaust since he was a teenager and lectures on it frequently. Critics say this omission may encourage anti-Semitism among Peterson’s followers, who range from avowed neo-Nazis communities like the Daily Stormer to frustrated young men looking for a scapegoat. In an interview, Peterson told the Forward he feels that he is battling anti-Semitism through his work.

“Part of your responsibility when you have a platform like that, especially when you present yourself as an academic, is to make sure that you’re giving those audiences the full truth,” said Jared Holt, a researcher for People for the American Way who studies far-right media. If Peterson were to be more forthcoming about the importance of anti-Semitism in the Holocaust, it “might allow some of his viewers to think about course correcting,” Holt added.

Peterson, 55, used to be an ordinary academic at the University of Toronto. His first and only other book, published in 1999, was a 600-page tome chiefly about Jungian psychology. He taught at Harvard in the 1980s before moving to Toronto; back then, his “audience” was his students. Now, he posts lectures on everything from Palestine to parenting, the Book of Genesis to psychobiology, on YouTube. Supporters gave him $70,000 through the website Patreon in April 2017, compared with $700 in April 2016. “12 Rules For Life” has sold over 700,000 copies since its publication in January, the Washington Post reported.

Peterson didn’t reach these heights because of his discourses on Jewish topics. His primary preoccupation is healing broken masculinity, and his main following is the young men with whom such a focus resonates. Peterson is nowhere near as toxic as various other internet cultures, like the “incels” who blame women — and sometimes murder them — because they’re not having sex. Yet behind the father figure role he affects lie darker preoccupations with Hitler, Marxists and the “radical left” on college campuses. That’s where his teachings can provide fodder for conspiracy theorists and bigots.

Peterson opposes Jew hatred, he says, and claims that leftist members of the media tried to hurt him by linking him to white supremacists. He has accused white supremacists of having a “pathology of racial pride,” and written that “identity politics” –- the idea that drives white nationalism — is “misguided.”

Peterson told the Forward he felt he had to answer the question of Jewish influence in order to undermine the far right’s anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Other scholars don’t think that’s a sound strategy.

He has addressed the subject several times in public and online, most recently in a blog post published on his website, when he talked about Jewish IQ. It’s higher than average, he said, and that’s true also for people in power. Therefore Jews are accurately represented among the cultural and financial elite of the world. Peterson didn’t mention anti-Semitism directly in this lecture, but he was thinking about it, he said.

“You can assume that they [Jews] are intelligent and have a culture of learning, or you can think that there’s some kind of cabal,” Peterson told the Forward. “So if I’m gonna hit the hornets nest, I might as well hit it on the side that takes the wind out of the sails of far-righters and their idiot anti-Semitism.”

Peterson’s willingness to answer questions about “Jewish success” and his interest in IQ literature is “suspicious” said Deborah Lipstadt, a professor of history at Emory University and author of “Denying the Holocaust,” who won a libel case in Britain against prominent Holocaust denier David Irving.

Lipstadt said that Peterson’s statements on Jewish intelligence reminded her of Kevin MacDonald, a professor of psychology who the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as “the neo-Nazi movement’s favorite academic.” MacDonald has written several books criticizing Jewish intellectual culture. (Peterson links to a critique of one of MacDonald’s books at the end of his blog post on Jewish intelligence.) Lipstadt said that MacDonald’s academic language obscures the anti-Semitism behind his opinions. She worries the same is true of Peterson.

“It’s not [Holocaust] denial, but when people start asking questions like that, I begin to get leery,” Lipstadt said. “The question is, is he a self-help guru who find the Holocaust a convenient way of attracting attention, or is there serious thought going on here?”

Likewise, Lipstadt wonders why Peterson rarely mentions anti-Semitism in his work on the Holocaust. Peterson more often attributes the cause of the Holocaust to human nature.

“Anyone who really diminishes the importance of anti-Semitism — who says, ‘Oh it was an afterthought, a cover’ — I think has got it wrong,” she said.

Peterson says he has been preoccupied with the Holocaust since he was a teenager. He once told an audience that he wrote an essay about Auschwitz at age 13. In “Maps of Meaning,” his 1999 book, he writes that he based his career on trying to understand what drove fascist regimes like the Nazis. “I could not make sense of the human propensity for belief-inspired violence,” he wrote.

Peterson thinks that peer pressure is nearly always stronger than one’s inner moral compass. Anyone has it within them to be Hitler if given enough power, he claims.

“If you think that you wouldn’t be tempted by having 20 million people worship you, then you don’t know yourself at all,” Peterson told the Forward.

He also believes almost anyone would have become a Nazi if they were a German living under Hitler — that “everyone participated” in the Holocaust.

“His audience is without a doubt a large chunk of people in the ‘alt-right,’ and that’s the kind of signaling that would appeal to them,” said Heidi Beirich, the director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “If you play fast and loose with the issue, you’re going to be seen as a possible ally in Holocaust denial.”

Peterson admits he has a dim view of human nature. But he has a much rosier picture of humanity’s potential to learn from its mistakes. He believes that sufficient Holocaust education is the key to preventing genocide. In fact, he says, the reason genocides continue to happen is that Holocaust education is not good enough. People don’t understand that it was a feature, not a bug, of human behavior.

“It hasn’t been transformed into deep and practical psychological knowledge,” Peterson added. “You can tell by the rise of publicly accepted anti-Semitism in the last five-to-10 years. Whatever we understood of that education, it wasn’t enough.”

Holocaust education is not a silver bullet, according to Sander Gilman, a professor of history at Emory University who has written extensively about anti-Semitism. Teaching about Nazism and the Holocaust is extremely important, Gilman said. But it doesn’t explain – and can’t prevent – modern anti-Semitism.

“If you have a fantasy that that is going to be a kind of vaccination against hate, that’s wonderfully naïve,” Gilman said. “The rise of anti-Semitism today has to do with situations today.”

Joe Flanders, an assistant professor of psychology at McGill University who was mentored by Peterson as an undergraduate, says that Peterson is “bizarrely preoccupied” by the Holocaust, along with the Cold War. But he pushed back against the possibility that Peterson’s views were evidence of any anti-Semitic feeling.

“He’s interested in how it’s possible for something so evil to manifest in the world,” Flanders said. “It’s an expression of the darkest part of humanity, which we don’t have access to now in the news cycle we consume these days.”

Peterson has repeatedly said that instead of being suspicious of Jews, the world should be grateful that there are so many Jewish geniuses.

“They’re a resource you don’t want to squander,” he said.

via Jordan Peterson’s Hitler And Holocaust Obsessions – The Forward

‘Never Again’: Fighting Hate in a Changing Germany With Tours of Nazi Camps – The New York Times

Having visited Dachau, I can attest to the power of such visits:

It was not the execution wall or the electric fence or even the description of the smell of human flesh burning day and night that made the teenagers stop cold.

It was the bunk beds.

In their wooden ordinariness, they spoke to the 10th graders visiting the former Nazi concentration camp of Sachsenhausen as no history book had. “This is how they lived,” whispered Damian, 15, his eyes taking in the tightly packed rows of ladderless three-level bunks.

When Jakob Hetzelein, a history teacher in a working-class district of northeastern Berlin, decided to take his students to Sachsenhausen, a short suburban train ride from the German capital, he was not sure how it would go down.

His lessons on Nazi Germany had met muted enthusiasm. In a mock election in class, several students had supported the nativist Alternative for Germany party. One boy was recently caught scribbling a swastika on a friend’s jacket. Another does Hitler impressions when he thinks Mr. Hetzelein is not looking. Left index finger under his nose, right arm extended.

And then there are Mahmoud and Ferdous, recent refugees from Egypt and Afghanistan, where anti-Israel sentiment routinely blends into anti-Semitism and sometimes Holocaust denial.

Mr. Hetzelein, 31, who used to teach in a vocational school where nine in 10 students had Turkish or Arabic backgrounds, knows about casual anti-Semitism. “Jew” is a popular insult on some soccer fields in Berlin.

“It has become harder to teach history,” he said.

Teaching history is a pillar of national identity in postwar Germany. That is why Sawsan Chebli, a Berlin state legislator with Palestinian heritage, recently came up with an idea that is radical even by the standards of a country that has dissected the horrors of its past like no other: make visits to Nazi concentration camps mandatory — for everyone.

“This is about who we are as a country,” she said in a recent conversation in Berlin. “We need to make our history relevant for everyone: Germans who no longer feel a connection to the past and immigrants who feel excluded from the present.”

Ms. Chebli’s proposal comes at a time when Germany is grappling with the creeping rise of two kinds of anti-Semitism and as the Jewish community, now numbering about 200,000, is once again nervous.

Neo-Nazis have been emboldened by the arrival of Alternative for Germany, the first far-right party to break into Parliament since World War II. And there are concerns that the recent absorption of more than a million immigrants, many from the Middle East and many Muslim, has inadvertently created incubators of a different kind of anti-Semitism — one hiding behind the injustices of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but often reverting to hateful old stereotypes, too.

It was the sight of Arab immigrants, including Palestinian-Germans like herself, burning an Israeli flag underneath the Brandenburg Gate in December while chanting “Death to Israel” that moved Ms. Chebli to speak up.

Since then, other disturbing stories have emerged in the German news media: an Afghan boy greeting his teacher with “Heil Hitler” and proclaiming that he, too, was Aryan. A group of Syrian refugees calling the Holocaust “a Jewish conspiracy,” explaining that they had learned that in school back home.

The reaction in Berlin, where there are strict legal prohibitions of Holocaust denial and Nazi propaganda, has been swift. The government announced that it was appointing its first-ever anti-Semitism coordinator. Some in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party have urged the immediate deportation of anti-Semitic Muslims.

Günter Morsch, the director of the Sachsenhausen memorial, says he does not think that is helpful. “We cannot allow this debate to create another form of racism,” he said. “What about the Germans who are anti-Semitic?”

Nine in 10 anti-Semitic hate crimes reported in Berlin are committed by German citizens. And for all the seeming contradictions, there is a common denominator between Muslims who espouse anti-Semitic views and those on the far-right (who also hate Muslims), Mr. Morsch said.

“Anti-Semitism correlates more closely with educational background than with ethnic background,” he said, citing empirical studies.

Ms. Chebli says that visiting a concentration camp is no panacea, but that it can help. She visited one as a young woman. The experience changed her, she said.

“It is a powerful way of keeping memory alive and giving meaning to our mantra of ‘never again,’ ” Ms. Chebli said. “But we need to get back to the essence of what this is about: It’s about standing up for human rights and the rights of minorities — all minorities.”

Muslims, too

During their visit to Sachsenhausen, the teenagers huddled around their guide in the vast triangular courtyard of the camp, its perimeter still dotted with watchtowers.

Sachsenhausen was no death camp, although tens of thousands of inmates are believed to have died here; those were built by the Nazis outside Germany. But it was the nerve center of two dozen major concentration camps run by the Nazis.

From an inconspicuous office building in one corner of the camp, civil servants decided what kind of medical experiments would be conducted, how many executions would take place and how much cyclone B gas would be delivered to the gas chambers in Auschwitz. “Desk perpetrators,” the guide, Mariana Aegerter, calls them.

“Does anyone here know who was imprisoned here?” she asked the class.

Nelson, a boy with shoulder-length hair, tentatively raised his hand. “Jews?”

There were Jewish prisoners in Sachsenhausen. But unlike in the death camps, they were a minority. Of more than 200,000 inmates over the years, some 40,000 were Jewish. Many died here.

The Nazi regime targeted many, Ms. Aegerter explained, like communists, clerics, homosexuals, Roma and the disabled. But also those considered “antisocial”: The homeless, the jobless, those on social welfare, and boys with long hair — Ms. Aegerter’s eyes lingered on Nelson — or with too many girlfriends, or with a weakness for American music, like Jazz or swing.

By the time Sachsenhausen was liberated, she said, nine in 10 prisoners were foreigners, coming from 45 countries. There were Muslims, too.

“Muslims, too?” Ferdous said later. “I did not know that.”

Building bridges

Ms. Aegerter, a young historian, says her central aim during tours of the camp is to bring to life what is an empty space, to make students visualize life there, and ultimately to create a bridge between the visitor and the prisoner, between the present and the past.

“Our most powerful tool,” she said, “is identification.”

Recently, a young Syrian had asked a fellow guide, “Why do you turn your torture chambers into a museum?”

To make sure we will never have torture chambers again, he had replied.

The boy had thought this over for a while. “We have torture chambers in Syria,” he eventually said. “Maybe, when the war is over, we should turn them into a museum, too.”

It is not always easy. Once, a Palestinian schoolgirl asked Ms. Aegerter, “Don’t you think that what the Jews are doing with the Palestinians today is the same as what the Nazis did with the Jews?”

No, she had explained, but that did not mean one had to approve of everything the state of Israel was doing. The girl seemed unconvinced.

Ms. Chebli comes across this all the time, she said. “I have Palestinians tell me: I had to leave my country because of the Holocaust and you want me to worry about anti-Semitism?”

She recounted the lukewarm reaction of one young man to her concerns about growing anti-Semitism. Born and raised in Germany, he does not see himself as German because, he says, Germans do not see him as German.

“Of course, anti-Semitism is important,” he had told her, “but what about the racism I experience every day?”

To win over young Muslims for the fight against anti-Semitism, Ms. Chebli said, Germany has to fight Islamophobia, too.

“It’s much easier for me to persuade a young Muslim of the relevance of the Holocaust if I acknowledge their own experience of discrimination and create that link,” Ms. Chebli said.

Sometimes, creating a link with young Germans is just as tricky, Ms. Aegerter points out.

Now 34, she grew up in the eastern state of Brandenburg in the 1990s. Swastikas were a common sight in her town: Scrawled on the inside of toilet cubicles. Graffitied onto walls. A boy in her class had tattooed one on his shin. It was only after she and some friends had complained that the boy had been asked to wear long trousers during sports lessons.

These days, Ms. Aegerter has teachers on the phone who share their concerns about far-right tendencies among their students.

One teacher told her before a class visit that he had planned the trip specifically because he worried about three boys drifting into neo-Nazi territory. But on the day, all three called in sick.

“Sadly, that is no exception,” Ms. Aegerter said.

In some cases, she said, it is the parents telling teachers they do not want their children to visit a concentration camp.

When students do come, it can be transformative, said Mr. Morsch, who has been director of the memorial for 25 years.

“It would be naïve to expect a two-hour tour to turn neo-Nazis into anti-fascists,” Mr. Morsch said. “But give us a little time, and we can achieve a lot.”

He recalled a recent group of students from a vocational school that had a persistent problem with neo-Nazi graffiti. They spent several weeks in Sachsenhausen renovating one part of the memorial — but also working in small groups, dissecting drawings and letters of prisoners and creating their own exhibition.

“After they spend some time with us, the problem went away,” Mr. Morsch said.

Mr. Morsch still believes that camp visits should remain voluntary. He fears an obligation to come would take away from the learning experience.

Mr. Hetzelein disagrees. Whether schools or the law make the call, students rarely get a say. He grew up in Bavaria, the only German state where visiting a Nazi memorial is already required.

As a high school student, he went to Dachau, near Munich. Years later, he saw Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in what is Poland today.

The cast-iron gates, the barbed wire and the sheer scale of it still haunt him. “It’s not enough to read books about it,” he said, “you need to feel it.”

A week after visiting Sachsenhausen, Mr. Hetzelein asked his students whether they thought their children should one day be made to visit a camp.

Of 22 students, 21 agreed. Among them: Ferdous, Damian and Nelson.

via ‘Never Again’: Fighting Hate in a Changing Germany With Tours of Nazi Camps – The New York Times

When Hitler’s Henchman Called the Shots in Hollywood

Fascinating:

When Germany, Japan, and Italy formed the Axis alliance in November 1937, four months after Japan invaded China, the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo partnership appeared poised to take on the rest of the world.

With the Reich on the move, propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels tightened his command over his government’s image at home and abroad. In April 1937, he transferred control of all German film companies to the government and appointed himself as overseer of all productions. Henceforth, the content of domestic films would “fulfill with distinction the National Socialist idea.” As Fritz Wiedemann, now vice president of the Reich Film Chamber, boasted, “There is no such thing as public taste; we can shape that as we will. We have determined political taste; we can do the same with artistic taste.”

Goebbels wanted to keep the United States neutral for as long as possible. That meant stopping Hollywood from producing films intended to sway American public opinion against the Hitler regime. The propaganda chief knew there were many kinds of battles to be fought during the course of war, and he considered the battle to control the mind among the greatest. Goebbels understood a basic truth about the power of cinema: Movies matter the most about the things that people know the least. Many Americans got their first glimpse of what a Nazi rally or storm trooper looked like by watching movies or newsreels. Whether they thought of these people and their ideas as good or bad might well be determined by what they saw and heard on the screen.

By shaping the content of American films, Goebbels hoped to shape the ways in which Americans thought about Hitler and his policies.

With movies being seen by 88 million Americans a week in 1937, and by 150 million people throughout the world, Goebbels feared that a powerful anti-Nazi campaign by Hollywood studios could prove disastrous to German ambitions. Consequently, the propaganda minister turned to Georg Gyssling, German general consul in Los Angeles, for help in manipulating the American psyche. Gyssling cajoled, threatened, and did everything in his power to ensure that the Jewish-dominated studios followed Production Code Administration (PCA) regulations and made no film attacking Hitler or his government.

By 1937 the motion picture business reigned as the nation’s fourth largest industry, with over $2 billion in capital investments. Lavishly paid movie industry leaders accounted for 40 of the 63 Americans earning more than $200,000 in 1937. Topping the list was Louis B. Mayer at $1.3 million, making him the highest paid employee in America. The MGM head earned more in salary that year than the entire U.S. Senate combined. As the number of American films shown in Germany steadily dropped from 61 in 1933–34 to 36 in 1936–37, the moguls were forced to deal with Gyssling if they wanted to protect their studios’ bottom lines and their own high salaries.

During his first three years as consul, Gyssling repeatedly used the threat of imposing Article 15, which refused permits for any film deemed “detrimental to German prestige,” to hammer the moguls into compliance. As German military aggression increased after the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Gyssling became even more aggressive with Hollywood, intimidating individual actors and studio employees. When he heard that Malvina Pictures was preparing to release I Was a Captive of Nazi Germany in July 1936, Gyssling contacted the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association and demanded they stop the filming. Based on a true story, the movie recounts the harrowing experience of American journalist Isobel Steele, who was arrested and imprisoned by Nazi authorities on charges of espionage in August 1934. Steele spent four months in solitary confinement at Berlin’s infamous Moabit prison and was deported only after the intervention of the U.S. State Department. Upon her return home, the celebrated journalist wrote numerous stories describing her experiences in Nazi Germany.

via When Hitler’s Henchman Called the Shots in Hollywood

Indifference Kills: Roger Cohen

Good and strong reminder:

There is no direct analogy between the situation of millions of refugees today and the Jews who were deported from Milan’s Platform 21 (as the memorial is also known). The refugees are fleeing war — not, in general, targeted annihilation. They are victims of weak states, not an all-powerful one. Their plight often reflects the crisis of a religion, Islam — its uneasy adaptation to modernity — not the depredations of a single murderous ideology.

Still, there are echoes, not least in that word, indifference.

The indifference of Hungary, with its self-appointed little exercise in bigotry: the defense of Europe as Christian Club. The indifference of Britain, where the prime minister speaks of “swarms,” the foreign secretary of “desperate migrants marauding,” and the home secretary of threats “to a cohesive society.” The indifference of a Europe that cannot rouse itself to establish adequate legal routes to refugee status that would stem trafficking that has left about 3,000 people dead this year in the Mediterranean.

Then there is the indifference of an America that seems to have forgotten its role as haven for refugees of every stripe. The indifference of a world unready to acknowledge that more than 4 million Syrian refugees absorbed by Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon need a massive program of economic and educational aid over the next decade to confront the crisis. “It’s a trend and not a blip,” David Miliband, the president of the International Rescue Committee, told me.

If the counter-indifference gesture of Milan’s Holocaust memorial were repeated myriad times across a European Union of more than half a billion people, the impact would be dramatic. One quarter of Lebanon’s population is now composed of Syrian refugees; the numbers reaching the E.U. constitute less than 0.5 percent of its population.

Another echo, for Jews, lies in their own situation in Europe a little over a century ago. They were often marginalized. As Rabbi Julia Neuberger pointed out in a recent sermon at the West London Synagogue, around 150,000 Jews, often fleeing pogroms, arrived in Britain between 1881 and 1914. An anti-immigrant group called the British Brothers’ League declared then that Britain could not become “the dumping ground for the scum of Europe.”

Sound familiar?

Yesterday’s “scum” often proves to be the invigorating lifeblood of renewal. Churchill opposed the Aliens’ Act of 1905, designed to control Jewish immigration, on the grounds that “free entry and asylum” were practices from which Britain “has so greatly gained.”

Europe is awash in small-mindedness, prejudice and amnesia. On Syria, the United States is not far behind.

Jarach, whose Jewish family arrived in Milan in the late 19th century, is assisted by Adhil Rabhi, a Moroccan immigrant. They showed me around the memorial, explained how each boxcar was filled with Jews and then shunted to an elevator that took them up to the platform.

Nobody saw the Jews. Nobody wanted to see them. Indifference kills. As Syria demonstrates.

Muslim Scholar, Looking to ‘Speak the Truth,’ Teaches the Holocaust and Islam – NYTimes.com

Always encouraging to read about people like this, who look beyond their particular community and background, and look for the universal:

… Dr. Afridi said, some Muslims called her a “Jew lover.” More troubling to her are the persistent rumors in Muslim circles that her scholarly work is being secretly funded by Jews.

Raked by those hostile crosswinds, Dr. Afridi keeps her address and the names of her family members confidential. Nothing, however, had led to self-censorship in her role as a public intellectual, she said.

“I have the empirical, existential understanding of my subject matter,” she said. “And I have the belief that if you speak for another, it means more than if you speak for yourself, for your own people. And when there’s so much daily tension between Muslims and Jews, it’s momentous for us to do this work, whether it’s me with the Shoah, or it’s a Jewish scholar speaking out about the Muslims in Bosnia or about Palestinian suffering. We are commanded by God to speak the truth.”

….For her course on “Religion and the Holocaust,” she faces one set of challenges — teaching about that terrible time in history to young people who often barely know it, and discussing Christian anti-Semitism’s role in the Shoah with students who are predominantly Christian. In her role as author, lecturer and director of a genocide center, she encounters Jews and Muslims, some supportive and others antagonistic, yet all, in her view, reachable.

“If a Muslim asks me why I’m not teaching about the Nakba, then I’ll say we already know about it, and what we need to learn about is the Holocaust,” she said. “And if a Jew tells me, ‘Muslims are Nazis,’ I’ll say, ‘Can we have lunch?’ These are the people we have to engage.”

Muslim Scholar, Looking to ‘Speak the Truth,’ Teaches the Holocaust and Islam – NYTimes.com.