As the distinguished scholar, Noam Chomsky, has noted elsewhere, even in open democratic societies such as ours, which lack the cruder forms of ideological control, there is still a public orthodoxy: a set of assumptions, ideas, and doctrines which is rarely, if ever, questioned. /1 A key aspect of the public orthodoxy is the psychosocial taboo. The latter can be defined as a private emotional aversion and a public social ban attached to certain modes of thinking and public criticism.
Specifically, if a belief deemed to be a component of the public orthodoxy is rejected, or even questioned, in public, the offender is liable to be labeled as "evil" and be subjected to social ostracism. There is a private, internal counterpart to this public inhibition if an individual who accepts the reigning public orthodoxy rejects, or questions, one of its tenets privately, he will likely subject himself to feelings of guilt approaching a kind of a holy dread." In the words of Sigmund Freud, "The violation of the taboo makes the offender himself taboo." /2
Examples of societies with public orthodoxies, which are in turn protected by psychosocial taboos, are not hard to find. For instance, consider the status of the Catholic Church and its theological doctrines in Medieval Europe and during the era of the Inquisition. To question the cardinal tenets of Christian belief was to risk not only ostracism but imprisonment, torture, and death. A more contemporary example is the case of Marxism-Leninism in the Soviet Union. Every Soviet citizen is aware that to criticize the Communist party or its ideological doctrines exposes one to charges of "bourgeois corruption," "anti-Soviet slander," and "retrogressive counter-revolution," and corresponding censure and punishment. Finally, every sentient, dutiful American citizen knows that to criticize Jews as a group, Jewish culture, Jewish behavior patterns, the alleged Holocaust, etc., is to partake of "immoral, anti-Semitic racism." Carefully nurtured by the public media, the taboo on criticizing Jewry is deeply lodged in the consciousness of the great majority of Americans, directly influencing their acceptance or rejection of criticisms of Jewish attitudes and behavior, irrespective of the truth or falsity of such claims.
Is direct criticism of the Jews anti-Semitism, and, by implication, morally and politically illegitimate, and thus unworthy of serious examination? If not, what is the true meaning of the label "anti-Semitic" applied to such criticism?
This paper is directed toward those who harbor the following beliefs:
- Criticism of the Jewish people, Jewish culture and behavior, etc., is synonymous with immoral racism;
- At best this criticism is only to be tolerated due to First Amendment protection of free speech, or, at worst, to be censured and censored.