When Paranoia Meets Prejudice: Debunking the Notion of a Jewish Conspiracy

Published on Tolerance.org, 8/19/03

Several years ago, when I began to write essays on racism for a number of internet-based publications, I made the decision to include my e-mail address at the bottom of every article. This, despite my awareness that doing so would prompt any number of cranks to write me, expressing contempt for one or another column I had written. To condemn racism is to encourage the wrath of cyberspace-savvy bigots bent on expressing their nuttiness to any and all who will listen.

To these folks, offering my e-mail address is nothing less than an invitation for them to regale me with age-old racist rants about blacks, and to extol the virtues of so-called white culture and white “genetic purity.” Even more telling, are the things they say after the paragraphs about the greater cranial capacity of Caucasians as compared to Africans, or the inverse relationship between brain size and penis size, with whites leading in the first category and black males in the second. For after all the babble about race is completed, my internet pen pals turn to the real source of their hatred, and offer what they consider the ultimate refutation of anything I have written: namely, I am a Jew (usually a “dirty” one at that, they being quick with the adjectives), and this explains my desire to “destroy the white race.” To this way of thinking, if indeed we can call it that, Jews use multiculturalism, immigration and affirmative action to weaken the strength of whites, thereby increasing our own power. Although most Jews in the U.S. are from Europe, we aren’t white in this worldview, but rather seen as the ultimate social, cultural, and even genetic threat to white survival.

For years I’ve been told to ignore this stuff. “Why respond?” some would ask. “Nothing can change the minds of people this deranged.” But while the last point here may well be true, there are still good reasons to engage the arguments made by professional (or, for that matter, amateur) Jew Haters. Even the most absurd statements can become accepted if they go unrefuted by persons more concerned about remaining above the fray, than challenging stupidity from the outset. The belief that the Holocaust of European Jewry never happened, for example, which would have been considered evidence of cerebral damage a few decades ago, is now widespread throughout parts of Europe. Likewise, beliefs that Jews control the media and economy are increasingly heard on the internet and elsewhere.

So let us now dispense with the nonsense about Jewish power. For while the claim by some in the Jewish community that we are still perpetual victims of gentile persecution is also foolishly overstated, the opposite idea — that we run everything as evidenced by our “disproportionate overrepresentation” in media and finance — is nothing short of insane, even based on the “evidence” for such a claim marshaled by those who believe it.

For example, the founders of the website, Hoozajew.org (who claim their goal is to confront Jewish power and destructive influences), say they have developed a database program that can determine how many Jews are in a given organization by analyzing the names of people in the group. Putting aside the absurdity of trying to determine religious or ethnic heritage solely from a list of names, when this “program” is used to analyze key figures at three of the top media companies in the U.S., the number of Jews among top executives, directors and management totals eight out of eighty-eight: about nine percent. Though this is higher than the three percent of Americans who are Jewish, it is not such a disproportion as to indicate Jewish “control” of the media.

What’s more, the apparent disproportion is rooted more in statistical sampling error than anything else. For example, at AOL TimeWarner there are twenty-four key executives, so even though only five are Jewish, five as a share of twenty-four is 21 percent, giving the impression of a huge disproportion of Jews; likewise, Gannett, where only three of thirty-four board members or top management are Jewish, according to Hoozajew.org, but where this represents a seemingly disproportionate nine percent of the total. Because of low sample sizes, virtually any Jewish representation will appear disproportionate in a statistical sense. Imagine a company with fifteen executives. If even one of those is Jewish, the Jewish “representation” would be nearly seven percent–more than twice the share of Jews as in the population at large. But to think that one out of fifteen individuals somehow indicates Jewish domination of that company would be the very definition of lunacy.

Of course, even if there are many Jews in a given industry, this can only be problematic for one of two reasons: first, if one already believes Jews are inherently given to abusing power; or secondly, if Jews obtained their positions by way of injustice, having received unfair privileges relative to non-Jews. To accept the first of these is to engage in the ultimate circular logic: We know the Jews are bad because they “control the media,” and they control the media because they are bad. As regards the second possibility, while it is true that Jews in the U.S. have benefited from having mostly “white” skin, and thus, have been able to move ahead of persons of color in many industries thanks to white privilege, there is no evidence that Jews obtained positions in media or elsewhere because of state intervention on their behalf as Jews, over and above the opportunities provided for non-Jews.

Looking at claims of Jewish media domination, bigots imply that Jews have evil intentions to manipulate information for the sake of “Jewish” interests. Yet, there are many logical reasons for the significant Jewish media presence. Most importantly, media outlets (as with financial institutions) have always been concentrated in urban areas, and especially New York City. Likewise, Jews in America have mostly been an urban people, with a large share of the Jewish community residing in New York. As such, the proper way to evaluate the extent of Jewish “overrepresentation” is not to compare the percentage of Jews in a given company or industry with the overall Jewish population, but rather, to compare the Jewish level of representation with the Jewish share of the population in places like New York. In other words, in social science terms, one must control for geographic concentration of certain industries, in order to determine what the expected level of Jewish representation in finance or media would otherwise be.

According to the American Jewish Committee, there are 1.45 million Jews in New York City, and according to the Census Bureau, there are roughly eight million people living in New York City overall. Thus, Jews would comprise approximately 18 percent of the population of New York: six times greater than the national average. Other estimates place the Jewish share of the New York population at around ten percent, still more than three times the national average. Thus, the “overrepresentation” of Jews in various companies or industries is no overrepresentation at all, and occasionally an underrepresentation.

As for the banking and financial industries, even based on the analysis of “Jewish names” by Hoozajew.org, (which, it should be noted is one of the more “sophisticated” chroniclers of so-called Jewish power), fewer than six percent of the directors and officers of seven of the largest banks or brokerage firms in the country are Jewish. Even this number is a bit deceptive and largely the result of sampling size. With only 255 directors and officers at these seven institutions combined, even a small number of Jews — in this case fifteen — adds up to almost six percent, which again seems “disproportionate” to the share of Jews in the U.S., but which can hardly be seen as meaningful given the small number of persons involved. And of course, since the share of the population that is Jewish in New York, where these entities are located, is much larger, this percentage is actually an underrepresentation compared to the numbers of Jews in the area.

At Morgan Stanley, nine percent of directors and officers are identified by Hoozajew.org as Jewish, and this, according to the website, indicates a “very important over-representation” of Jews. But nine percent of directors and officers at Morgan Stanley represents a whopping two people, because there are only twenty-three such officers at the firm. Likewise, at Citibank, the presence of five Jewish persons among the company’s directors and officers ends up totaling nine percent of such officers, because there are only fifty-nine such persons in all. But it is laughable to suggest that these five control the institution against the wishes of the other fifty-four.

In the section of the Hoozajew website entitled, “Jews on Wall Street,” the site director notes that for the New York Stock Exchange there are thirty-two members of the Board of Directors. Hoozajew.org seems to think it’s important that thirteen percent of these are Jewish. But thirteen percent of thirty-two people is only four people: hardly enough to indicate Jewish domination of the NYSE.

Of course, in keeping with the logic of anti-Jewish bigots, perhaps one should ask the following: If media or financial wrongdoing is Jewish inspired, since Jews are prominent in media and finance, should the depredations of white Christian-dominated industries (like the tobacco or automobile industries) be viewed as examples of white Christian malfeasance? After all, 400,000 people per year die because of smoking-related illnesses, and tobacco companies withheld information on the cancerous properties of their products. Likewise, should executives at Ford and Firestone be thought of as specifically white Christian criminals, due to recent disclosures that defective tires were installed on SUV’s, resulting in the deaths of over 150 people worldwide? Is their race, religion or ethnic culture relevant to their misdeeds? If not, why is it suddenly relevant when the executives in question are Jewish?

That nothing I have said here will matter to those whose vitriol regularly fills my inbox is testimony to nothing so much as their deep psychological need to project their own authoritarian tendencies onto others. To find Jewish scapegoats for whatever miserable failures their lives have turned out to be, is the ideological holy grail of the anti-Jewish bigot. And of course it will lead them to view this column as merely more proof that a Jewish conspiracy exists, and that I am part of it: my denials only prove my guilt, in the warped worldview of persons so hate-besotted.

So be it. But at least the introduction of facts into a debate otherwise top-heavy with innuendo and paranoid ranting can perhaps inoculate some against the spread of the virus of anti-Jewish bigotry. At the very least, we can now rest assured in the knowledge that just as Nazis have never been very good with history, they are equally bad at understanding things like statistical probability and even the most rudimentary strictures of reason.


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