Friday, January 27, 2023

On Khazarian Vulgarity...,

unz  |   I read with interest a recent column in The Tablet by David Mikics (Professor of English, University of Houston) on Jewish vulgarity or, as the piece otherwise explains it, “the once-vibrant Jewish trait of not caring what the goyim think.” Although touted as a three-part series, only the first part has been published thus far, and this first essay is a kind of focused review of elements within John Murray Cuddihy’s The Ordeal of Civility and Yuri Slezkine’s The Jewish Century. In the following essay I want to expand upon, and challenge, some of the ideas raised in the piece by Mikics.

I have to agree with the basic premise of the opening remarks of Mikics’s column. He writes that “the charge that Jews are vulgar now seems almost quaint. … Jewish lack of manners was once taken seriously both by Jews and by their gentile neighbors and competitors. The vulgar, unmannerly Jew was a countercultural force, and not just a reason for shame and repression.” The overall state of contemporary culture has indeed degraded to such an extent that Jews no longer stand out as singular producers of cultural obscenities. And yet there is a deep history of Jews as the agents of vulgarity in the West, stretching back to Roman accounts. Mikics doesn’t seem concerned with this deep history, focusing only on the twentieth century as covered by the works of Cuddihy and Slezkine.

Historical Jewish Obscenity

Jews have often been regarded by host cultures as both inherently obscene and as promoters of the obscene — a corrosive force acting against group morality, and therefore group cohesion. In Unclean Lips: Obscenity, Jews, and American Culture (2014), Josh Lambert points out that in the ancient Mediterranean Jews were referred to as “an obscene people.”[1] Such comments may have been as much observations as aspersions, since we know that in later centuries obscenity became an integral part of Jewish linguistic culture. For example, Bernard Dov Weinryb writes that in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Poland, “many erotic or obscene expressions and metaphors appear in Hassidic writings. …They reflect the way the average Jew in those times used obscene language, mainly of an erotic character, in his conversation.”[2] On more recent contexts, Jonas E. Alexis has written that,

Jewish actors tend to gravitate towards shows with sexual themes. … Israeli-American Natalie Portman tells us in the movie No Strings Attached that “monogamy goes against our basic biology.” And [Jewish singer] Adam Lambert says, “When I’m on stage there’s definitely a sexual energy that goes into it.” In 2009 Lambert performed ‘For Your Entertainment’ at the American Music Awards. During the performance Lambert dragged a female dancer by her ankles and pushed “a male dancer’s head into his crotch and simulated oral sex.”[3]

As well as being represented and self-representing as having an intrinsic relationship to the obscene, the historical record is also replete with examples of Jews involving themselves heavily in the trade in obscenity. In his pseudonymously-published Letters from England (1808), the English Poet Laureate Robert Southey remarked on Jewish peddlers who wandered nineteenth-century England hawking “miserable and obscene prints.”[4]

In 1886 Édouard Drumont warned of a “pornographic war” being waged on France by Jews.[5] In 1913, a “filthy press” in Warsaw “belonging to a certain Zimmerman,” was confiscated by Polish police after it was discovered disseminating pornography throughout the Russian Empire — activities described by the newspaper Przegląd Katolicki as a “Jewish atrocity.”[6]
Estonian police raided a building in 1909 belonging to the Jewish Benjamin Mikhailovsky, one of the richest merchants in Narva. One of Mikhailovsky’s side projects, apart from the trade in precious metals, was printing, and during their search police seized “11,119 cards they considered pornographic.”[7] And in Poland in 1910, the Polish Archbishop Pelczar would write, “I consider it my duty to warn Christian society against those Jews who intoxicate our people in the tavern and destroy them with usury; against those who maintain houses of debauchery in the towns; who trade in live goods [i.e. selling women into prostitution], who poison our young people with pornographic prints and periodicals.”[8] In the U.S, it is well-established that Jews have had a prominent role in the porn industry since the late nineteenth century.

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