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Marconi was a fascist anti-Semite
March 19, 2002 4:26 PM   Subscribe

Marconi was a fascist anti-Semite, says The Age. Evidence has emerged that the father of wireless communications blocked all Jews from becoming members of the science-oriented Academy of Italy at the behest of Mussolini, long before Il Duce's racist laws became known to the rest of the world.
posted by brookish (34 comments total)

 
Good lord, who *wasn't* an anti-semite???
Henry Ford sure was..
Our president's grandfather sure was..
There is more to Italy than a-pizza-pie, Carlo Bergonzi and Giorgio Morandi.
I don't mean to get all Ezra Poundish on you but...
posted by Settle at 5:00 PM on March 19, 2002


Yawn.

Rather care about today's problems, not last century's.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:33 PM on March 19, 2002


Be nice triple F
posted by Settle at 5:46 PM on March 19, 2002


FFF: ;don't need yawns in my face. You don't like, don';t read and make remarks that suggest your indifference to history. Your smart-guy remarks make me yawn. ps: a bit of history mght do many people some good. Life did not begin with your birth.
posted by Postroad at 6:02 PM on March 19, 2002


So as not to totally derail the thread.... given the evidence of Marconi's anti-Semitism, it makes it somewhat astounding that he took David Sarnoff as his protege. The article linked doesn't go into a lot of detail, but one wonders what stunning new evidence there might be beyond his willingness to collaborate with the Fascists.

FWIW, anti-Semitism as a popular sentiment was really quite common for a very long time. As Settle implies, it would be stranger to find people a century ago (and even more recently) who did not harbor some anti-Semitic feelings. Racism runs deep, you know.
posted by briank at 6:21 PM on March 19, 2002


fivefreshfish writes:

Yawn.

Rather go out of my way to whine about threads concerning problems that I don't happen to be thinking about at the moment (ie problems other than splitting the $4.50 in quarters in my pocket between snickers bars and porno booths) than click on another thread.

Sorry I couldn't resist.
posted by Settle at 6:50 PM on March 19, 2002


Timely post, brookish. I'm deep into a biography of Nikola Tesla at the moment, and Marconi figures into it prominently as you might expect. He certainly comes off as somewhat of a glory-seeking hack who thought nothing of ripping off the patents of several other inventors (including Tesla) in the creation of his wireless transmission system.

As for his anti-Semitism, he may have been more virulent than some, but he was right in step with his contemporaries: Thomas Edison refused to hire Jews, and Tesla was also unabashed in his dislike for them, although he once counted Charles "Proteus" Steinmetz as a friend and one of his biggest supporters.
posted by MrBaliHai at 6:56 PM on March 19, 2002


And yet Jews have readily adopted, and some would say, control the media, which includes radio and television! And I am Jewish and have an amateur radio license (circa 1977). Amazing!
posted by ParisParamus at 7:30 PM on March 19, 2002


Amazing!

Ironic!
posted by MrBaliHai at 7:37 PM on March 19, 2002


Historians on Monday were divided over whether the discrimination was the personal initiative of a scientist who considered Jews inferior or whether it was the action of a man too weak to oppose the regime's edicts.

Or maybe he didn't like Jews, not because he thought they were inferior, but for some other reason. Maybe he thought they (we) were heathens. Maybe something about their culture made him uneasy. Maybe their reputation for greed bothered him. We're talking about a Nobel prize winner here. I think it's safe to assume he knew that Judaism doesn't make people mentally retarded.
posted by bingo at 7:53 PM on March 19, 2002


Maybe he said "Joules" and someone misheard him
posted by Settle at 8:06 PM on March 19, 2002


Maybe he said "Joules" and someone misheard him

Now that's comedy!
posted by jackiemcghee at 11:52 PM on March 19, 2002


Or maybe he didn't like Jews, not because he thought they were inferior, but for some other reason. Maybe he thought they (we) were heathens. Maybe something about their culture made him uneasy. Maybe their reputation for greed bothered him. We're talking about a Nobel prize winner here. I think it's safe to assume he knew that Judaism doesn't make people mentally retarded.

The question asked was legitimate, and it seems like you completely missed the point.

The somewhat weak manifestations of anti-Semitism (when compared to Nazi Germany) in Italy at that time were mostly racial. The Italian word 'ebreo' means 'Hebrew,' and not Jew ('giudeo,' strictly reserved for the faith). You're making a liberal, 21st century assumption that Marconi and others like him had conceived of the Jews purely in religious terms, and that's false.

Again, the question that you quoted was legitimate and appropriate because it attempts to probe how deep and racial Marconi's anti-Semitism really was.
posted by Stumpy McGee at 5:52 PM on March 20, 2002


You're making a liberal, 21st century assumption that Marconi and others like him had conceived of the Jews purely in religious terms, and that's false.

I certainly was making no such assumption. On the contrary, the liberal 21st century assumption that is apparently being made here (by you), is that the difference between the race and the religion, insofar as there is one, was discernible by non-Jews at the time and place we're talking about.

Jews were living in different neighborhoods, dresssing different, talking different, eating different, praying different. They (we) were allowed to charge interest on loans without it being a sin. They considered themselves the "chosen people." They didn't make a whole lot of effort to teach the goyim about their ways. These are the sort of factors that contributed to anti-semitism in many ages. The idea of there being a discernible division between the race and the religion, especially in the eyes of non-Jews, is very modern, and still not all that universal.

Besides, "Jew" which comes from "Judah," one of the Hebraic tribes, and refers in the most literal sense to the descendants of the Hebrews who were released from the Babylonian captivity circa 500 B.C.E. And "Hebrew" was first a dialect, then a language, then a group of wandering tribes, then finally a race (and a culture, and a religion, before there was an Israel and before there were any "Jews").

Historians on Monday were divided over whether the discrimination was the personal initiative of a scientist who considered Jews inferior or whether it was the action of a man too weak to oppose the regime's edicts.

...suggests a dichotomy where I think it's reasonable to suppose that one may not exist. And it's perfectly reasonable for me to say so.

We're talking about the motivations for a very intelligent man to blackball others whom he knew were also very intelligent men from the academy. Either he knew they were technically qualified to join, and he banned them anyway for some reason, or he had a reason to think that despite their apparent qualifications, their Jewishness was somehow a reason to ban them anyway. To say that his decision was simply "racial" is a drastic oversimplification even if it turned out to be generally accurate, which it may not.
posted by bingo at 3:21 AM on March 21, 2002


I certainly was making no such assumption. On the contrary, the liberal 21st century assumption that is apparently being made here (by you), is that the difference between the race and the religion, insofar as there is one, was discernible by non-Jews at the time and place we're talking about.

Maybe I misread what you said, but I got the impression that you were implying that no matter what Marconi's anti-Semitic prejuces were all about, it most probably did not revolve around some antipathy towards Judaism alone.

I've studied Italian culture and the status of Italian minorities, specifically the Jews in Italy, and I have to say that, in the period we're concerned with, most educated Italian anti-Semites fell for pseudo-racial theories a la Gobineau and Chamberlain, and NOT the traditional Catholic variety of anti-Judaism. Hey, Marconi may have been an exception, but it's an educated guess on my part to say that perhaps he leaned towards a more modern, racial variety of anti-Semitism.

Jews were living in different neighborhoods, dresssing different, talking different, eating different, praying different. They (we) were allowed to charge interest on loans without it being a sin. They considered themselves the "chosen people." They didn't make a whole lot of effort to teach the goyim about their ways. These are the sort of factors that contributed to anti-semitism in many ages. The idea of there being a discernible division between the race and the religion, especially in the eyes of non-Jews, is very modern, and still not all that universal.

Your description of the Jews reveals a certain ignorance of the status of the Jews in the post-emancipation western, northern, and parts of central Europe. Also, your comment regarding the Jews considering themselves the "chosen people" could be seen as quite misleading - the chosenness implies having particular religious obligations, NOT separatism or superiority as the anti-Semites claimed (and still do.)

As I've just said, the Italian Jews in this period were very well integrated into the mainstream of Italian society. Culturally, they were very similar to the mostly Catholic Italians, as they spoke the same language as the majority (unlike the Jews in many other parts of Europe). In fact, many prominent Italian Jews were high-ranking fascists. However, the new strain of modern anti-Semitism that was slowly gaining momentum in Italy was racial in nature. Marconi, as an educated academic, was most likely to have toyed with some of the more enlightened, and therefore racial, theories of anti-Semitism.

Besides, "Jew" which comes from "Judah," one of the Hebraic tribes, and refers in the most literal sense to the descendants of the Hebrews who were released from the Babylonian captivity circa 500 B.C.E. And "Hebrew" was first a dialect, then a language, then a group of wandering tribes, then finally a race (and a culture, and a religion, before there was an Israel and before there were any "Jews").

Actually, the tribe of Judah existed before the Babylonian captivity. Also, Hebrew as a distinct language, different from other Canaanite dialects, came about at the same time the Jews (a term used collectively by historians to refer to both the Israelites and Hebrews) began to settle down and started forming a collective consciousness. That took place before the Assyrian conquest of their land in 722 BCE (This date serves as a cut-off point. After the Assyrian conquest, the term 'Jew' is usually applied collectively to both the residents of Judea and Israel.) So, I think your dates and terms are a bit off.

We're talking about the motivations for a very intelligent man to blackball others whom he knew were also very intelligent men from the academy. Either he knew they were technically qualified to join, and he banned them anyway for some reason, or he had a reason to think that despite their apparent qualifications, their Jewishness was somehow a reason to ban them anyway. To say that his decision was simply "racial" is a drastic oversimplification even if it turned out to be generally accurate, which it may not.

The various theories of religious and racial anti-Semitism were more often than not accepted by and elaborated on by some pretty educated folks of the post-Enlightenment period. I don't think it's really a matter of oversimplifying Marconi's feelings and reducing them to something that can be described in one word - not at all. All I'm saying is that if Marconi, as a member of the enlightened world of academia, was receptive to anti-Semitic prejudices, then it's highly probable that he was influenced by the pseudo-racial theories of anti-Semitism then currently in vogue. We'll never know the truth, but at least that is a very plausible theory.
posted by Stumpy McGee at 7:52 AM on March 21, 2002


All I'm saying is that if Marconi, as a member of the enlightened world of academia, was receptive to anti-Semitic prejudices, then it's highly probable that he was influenced by the pseudo-racial theories of anti-Semitism then currently in vogue.

All right, you seem to know more about this specific situation than I do (i.e. anti-Semitism in Italy during this specific period). However, I was originally taking issue with this statement:

Historians on Monday were divided over whether the discrimination was the personal initiative of a scientist who considered Jews inferior or whether it was the action of a man too weak to oppose the regime's edicts.

What bothered me was the implication that if Marconi was crossing names of the list, it must have been because he believed Jews were inferior. It reminded me of what I consider to be the over-use of the word "homophobia;" i.e. whenever someone has a problem with homosexuals, the word is applied, literally suggesting that they must be afraid of gays. This bothers me, because it's possible to have an antagonistic relationship to something that is not based on fear. Similarly, it bothers me when, as in cases like this (I think), anti-semitism is automatically assumed to come from the obtuse ignorance of the anti-semite, especially if the anti-semite is, like Marconi, an intelligent and educated person.

You apparently know more than I do about the climate of anti-semitism in this part of Italy at this time, so I'll assume you're right in terms of it being mostly about race, at least on the surface. Still, I never mentioned race in my first comment. And we're not talking about some man on the street, we're talking about one of the most intelligent and educated men in the country. How could it possibly not occur to him that the men he was blackballing had already shown their qualifications, and that if Jews were racially inferior, then something queer was going on? Perhaps he had an agenda against Jews that is more sophisticated, or merely different, than what the article suggests. Perhaps it was race-based, but it wasn't about "inferiority." All I was really trying to say with that first comment was that the reporter should have just said "the personal initiatives of an anti-Semitic scientist" instead of "the person initiatives of a scientist who considered Jews inferior."

Also, your comment regarding the Jews considering themselves the "chosen people" could be seen as quite misleading - the chosenness implies having particular religious obligations, NOT separatism or superiority as the anti-Semites claimed (and still do.)

On the contrary, it's a separatism and superiority that is claimed by many Jews, including many of those who educated me as a Jew growing up, and I believe that it's an inherent part of the faith. In fact, I believe that this idea that "the chosenness implies having particular religious obligations" and nothing else, is another soft 21st century idea, and mostly a matter of wishful thinking on the part of modern Jews who identify with the culture but not the words of the Torah itself.

Actually, the tribe of Judah existed before the Babylonian captivity...So, I think your dates and terms are a bit off.

I don't see how anything you said in that paragraph conflicts with the info I gave about language and history myself. And I was responding to the penultimate paragraph of your response to my first comment, in which you were using word origin to explain the racist aspect of anti-Semitism in a way that I felt was an oversimplification.
posted by bingo at 9:04 AM on March 21, 2002


Perhaps he had an agenda against Jews that is more sophisticated, or merely different, than what the article suggests. Perhaps it was race-based, but it wasn't about "inferiority."

Bingo -- Could you provide an example of a "race-based" "agenda against Jews" that is not rooted in some notion of inferiority?
posted by Mid at 11:08 AM on March 21, 2002


Mid, just because you believe a race is problematic for you, doesn't necessarily mean that you believe they are inferior to your own.

Of course, as soon as I start giving examples, we risk getting into an argument over the meaning of the word "inferior"...was the author of the article talking about inferior intellect, or moral inferiority, or inferiority in the sense of their place in "God's kingdom," or some other, more abstract, inferiority? I don't think he knows, which is at the heart of what annoyed me to begin with.

We'd have to take a look at what exactly were the supposed racial characteristics that were attributed to Jews at the time. Since we have him here with us, and he has studied the subject, let's ask Stumpy what those characteristics were in terms of his statement: "... the new strain of modern anti-Semitism that was slowly gaining momentum in Italy was racial in nature." Surely there was more to this philosophy of race than "the Jewish race is inferior." Not an attack on Stumpy, but an honest question.

Just as in our PC multicultural world of modern America, there is a distinction made between differences in cultures, and a qualitiative heirarchy of those cultures, it's possible to say that, for example, you don't like Argenitinians, not because they are inferior, but because in general they are agressive, argumentative people, and that doesn't gel with the kind of people you want in your life. Of course, the big difference within the analogy of culture to race is that you and I both (I assume) are working on the assumption that other than certain physical traits, there are no racial qualities that inherently affect the personality of the individual. However, we're not talking about you and me, we're talking about people who believed (according to Stumpy) that race really made a difference in some discernible aspect of the person in question. In fact, since there has apparently not been any previous evidence of Marconi's anti-semitism, how do we know that he didn't cross out those names because he believed the Jewish scientists were too intelligent, and he didn't want them making him look bad?
posted by bingo at 12:02 PM on March 21, 2002


Bingo -- biggoted views, no matter how nuanced, depend on the premise that negative qualities attach to individual members of a particular group because of their membership in the group. Whether it is "inferiority" or just "un-gel-like" behavior, the bottom line is that there is something wrong with the group of people, and that bad qualitiy applies to all group members.

As for your theory that Marconi may have thought Jews "too intelligent" -- come on. Being intelligent is a good quality. Being "too intelligent" is a negative quality -- that's the "too" part. E.g., "X people are too good at math." Or "X people are too clever." People do not say these things fondly. Again, the biggoted view depends on the assumption of a negative (or inferior) quality.
posted by Mid at 2:41 PM on March 21, 2002


Mid: ...biggoted views, no matter how nuanced, depend on the premise that negative qualities attach to individual members of a particular group because of their membership in the group.

On the surface, I agree with this statement. Being a bigot does indeed imply a belief that the group one is bigoted against is somehow inferior to one's own group. However--and this was my whole point to begin with, and I'm not sure how I can make it any more explicit--- I'm not convinved that Marconi's crossing Jewish names off a list is sufficient evidence to conclude that he believed that Jews as a race are inferior to other races. And, therefore, I'm not convinced that his actions were the result of bigotry, as you are defining it.

Haven't you ever disliked someone without believing at the same time that they were inherently inferior to you?
posted by bingo at 4:58 PM on March 21, 2002


What bothered me was the implication that if Marconi was crossing names of the list, it must have been because he believed Jews were inferior. It reminded me of what I consider to be the over-use of the word "homophobia;" i.e. whenever someone has a problem with homosexuals, the word is applied, literally suggesting that they must be afraid of gays. This bothers me, because it's possible to have an antagonistic relationship to something that is not based on fear. Similarly, it bothers me when, as in cases like this (I think), anti-semitism is automatically assumed to come from the obtuse ignorance of the anti-semite, especially if the anti-semite is, like Marconi, an intelligent and educated person.

I must point out that the very methodical theories of racial anti-Semitism of that period were not merely predicated on the notion that the Jews are simply a racially inferior pollutant - everything about the Jews was considered wicked. Therefore, antipathy towards Jews was expressed in terms of them being a nuissance, not necessarily a fear-inducing element of society. This goes to show that the idea of inferiority can be articulated in various terms - ultimately, the object of hatred is still seen as less than a human being. That is what racial anti-Semitism is all about.

Now, I'm not a mindreader with unlimited powers of time travel, so I have no ideas what went on in Marconi's head. I'm just giving out some background info on the theories of racial anti-Semitism that were popular among the more educated elements of European society during the time frame that we're concerned with. As I've said in my previous post, I think it's more likely than not that our beloved Professore Marconi might have leaned in that direction.

On the contrary, it's a separatism and superiority that is claimed by many Jews, including many of those who educated me as a Jew growing up, and I believe that it's an inherent part of the faith. In fact, I believe that this idea that "the chosenness implies having particular religious obligations" and nothing else, is another soft 21st century idea, and mostly a matter of wishful thinking on the part of modern Jews who identify with the culture but not the words of the Torah itself.

May I ask what branch of Judaism you were associated with as a child? You don't have to answer my question if you don't want to. IMHO, those tribalist Jews you speak of do not have monopoly on truth or righteousness within Judaism, no matter how traditional and authentic they claim they are. Just my .02.

I don't see how anything you said in that paragraph conflicts with the info I gave about language and history myself. And I was responding to the penultimate paragraph of your response to my first comment, in which you were using word origin to explain the racist aspect of anti-Semitism in a way that I felt was an oversimplification.

I guess I misinterpreted what you had said, specifically your mentioning of Israel. I assumed that, due to the historical context in which it was given, you referred to the ancient kingdom of Israel. The seeming incongruity of such a claim threw me off. I'm assuming now that you meant the modern state of Israel.
posted by Stumpy McGee at 5:24 AM on March 22, 2002


I must point out that the very methodical theories of racial anti-Semitism of that period were not merely predicated on the notion that the Jews are simply a racially inferior pollutant - everything about the Jews was considered wicked.

Everything, including things that were not related directly to race?

I'm still unclear on exactly what ideas Marconi might have had about the race of these scientists that would have made him think they should not become members of the academy. For an ignorant hick from Salina, KS to say "We don't like yer kind around here...yer just not as good as everyone else" is one thing. Such a person lacks the education, motivation, perspective, and experience (and, maybe, the intelligence) to wrap his mind around the idea that "Because that's just how it is, doggone it" may not be a line of reasoning worth adhering to, in the face of evidence to the contrary.

However, it seems to me that we're talking about someone at the opposite end of the spectrum here. You said yourself that Jews were fully integrated into Italian society at this point, so there's a reduciton in the "Other" factor (at least compared to my Salina foil). As briank mentions above, he had a science-based relationship with the Jew David Sarmoff. Marconi was a Nobel Prize winner, and lest we should start to think that he lived in an insular world of Italian academia, he was also the diplomat that signed the treaties with Austria and Bulgaria in 1919. He also traveled to various parts of England, France, Russia, and America. His mother was from Ireland. Apparently, it was part of his job as an Academy member to actively examine prospective new members and to consider their qualifications according to specific criteria. Now, all this being the case, is it possible that his blackball was the result of this man buying into the idea that, as you say "everything about the Jews was considered wicked"? Yes, it's possible. Is it also possible that, being a scientist, a man of the world, an intelligent man, a man who would be intimately familiar with exactly what makes a good scientist, who was specifically charged with the task of determining who was qualified to get into the academy and who was not...is it possible that, if we were able to ask him why he didn't allow Jews, his response might have been somewhat more interesting and unexpected than a shrug of his shoulders and "Well, everyone knows that Jews are inferior"? I think it is possible.

Now, I'm not a mindreader with unlimited powers of time travel, so I have no ideas what went on in Marconi's head. I'm just giving out some background info on the theories of racial anti-Semitism that were popular among the more educated elements of European society during the time frame that we're concerned with. As I've said in my previous post, I think it's more likely than not that our beloved Professore Marconi might have leaned in that direction.

Fine. You may very well be right. All I was trying to say originally was that I wished the author of the article had framed his speculation in a similar way, e.g. "Perhaps Marconi had aligned himself with the idea, popular at the time in Italy, that Jews were racially inferior." Had the article said that, I never would have made my comment.

May I ask what branch of Judaism you were associated with as a child? You don't have to answer my question if you don't want to. IMHO, those tribalist Jews you speak of do not have monopoly on truth or righteousness within Judaism, no matter how traditional and authentic they claim they are. Just my .02.

I was raised in a household that more or less falls under the heading "reform" in terms of the level of adherence to kashrut, observance of the holidays, etc. I went to Hebrew school at a synogogue in Kansas City that calls itself "conservative," but is really closer to reform. And one summer, my well-meaning but misguided parents sent me to an awful place called camp Ramah in Wisconsin, which calls itself "conservative" but was the closest thing to an orthodox environment that I have ever been in for a sustained period of time. But, I have done plenty of my own reading, I've been to Israel, talked religion with Jews in other cities and countries, etc.

My assertions above about the "chosen people" concept were not born of some strange sect of Judaic tribalism. Of course, here we get into the question of whether Judaism is something that we're making up as we go along, or whether it's actually a divinely inspired religion that is based in a series of events that really took place, with a message that was not meant to be up for interpretation. If we look at the Torah, which is of course the source text for the religion, it's quite clear that God tells Abraham he will spawn the "chosen people," and that Abraham is chosen not because God wants to throw another religion into the mix, but because all the other religions are flatly wrong. God says that he is the only god, that Abraham knows this, that nobody else does, and that therefore God is going to make good things happen for Abraham and his descendants, because they are the only people on Earth who are on the right track. Judaism was probably the first purely monotheistic religion (or at least, the earliest one that has lasted), in the sense that it not only advocates one deity, but it is an inherent part of the faith that there aren't any other deities to worship anyway. In Abraham's time (if there was such a person), evidence suggests that while many peoples had their own gods, none of them actually believed that the other peoples' gods didn't exist; they were simply not aligned with those gods. God told Abraham and his descendants, more than once, to occupy certain areas, and to kill the people already living there, and the justification was still that the invaders were God's chosen people, and the others were not. It is an inherently elitist religion. I'm not saying that's a good thing (I'm an agnostic, I want peace in the middle east, etc.), but that's how it is. To say that Jews in later eras have the right to modify the most fundamental part of the faith in order to make it fit more cleanly into modern ideas of morality and egalitarianism is also to say that it's not realy important whether the religion came from God or not. And I think it is important. The religion is either based on something, or it is based on nothing. Besides, if there is one aspect of the ancient religion that has successfully penetrated to modern Jews, I would have to say that it is exactly that same spirit of elitism. It is not always tied directly to theology in the mind of the individual, but it's there. I see it a lot here in Los Angeles, with the whole MOT (Member Of the Tribe) mentality, but I saw plenty of it growing up as well.

I guess I misinterpreted what you had said, specifically your mentioning of Israel. I assumed that, due to the historical context in which it was given, you referred to the ancient kingdom of Israel. The seeming incongruity of such a claim threw me off. I'm assuming now that you meant the modern state of Israel.

No, I was talking about the ancient kingdom of Israel, and I used the word Israel in this context :before there was an Israel. This was part of my response to your remarks:

The somewhat weak manifestations of anti-Semitism (when compared to Nazi Germany) in Italy at that time were mostly racial. The Italian word 'ebreo' means 'Hebrew,' and not Jew ('giudeo,' strictly reserved for the faith).

...and I was trying to suggest that the fact that the Italians were using the word "ebreo" as opposed to "giudeo" in their anti-semitic doctrine (if that's what you were suggesting), does not in itself mean that their anti-semitism was completely race-based, because it's not as simple as Hebrew being the race and Judaism being the religion.
posted by bingo at 12:29 PM on March 22, 2002


Everything, including things that were not related directly to race?

According to racial anti-Semitism, the teachings of which are based on the doctrine of biological determinism that was to become the core ideology of the German National Socialist state, everything was directly related to race. Nothing else mattered. The Jew could not redeem himself by converting - his very race, his very being was the problem. His religion was seen as a mere organic expression of his racial consciousness.

.... of their inferiority I'm still unclear on exactly what ideas Marconi might have had about the race of these scientists that would have made him think they should not become members of the academy.

Please refer to what I just wrote above outlining some key points of racial anti-Semitism. As I've said before, maybe Marconi just adhered to the various prejudices associated with traditional Catholic anti-Judaism. Maybe.

You keep maintaining that a man of such intelligence could not have become a believer and supporter of racial anti-Semitism. Well, most of our Founding Fathers were highly intelligent men - I think they all basically agreed that the American Negro was inherently racially inferior to them. The same dynamic could be observed among those educated Europeans who fell for the racial theories of the time - by the early 20th century the most popular and respected form of anti-Semitism was race-based. I don't know if Marconi believed in that specific strain, or even if he was an ardent anti-Semite as the sensationalized article suggests, but hey, that particular strain was popular at that time.

As for the Italian Jews being wholly integrated into Italian society - for the most part, they were. But that did not make all of Italy impenetrable to the spread of pan-European intellectual currents. Plus, as the article points out, there were powerful Catholic anti-Judaic elements that never went away. The claim that the Jews are collectively responsible for the death of Christ was only rescinded during the Second Vatican Council in 1965.

Fine. You may very well be right. All I was trying to say originally was that I wished the author of the article had framed his speculation in a similar way, e.g. "Perhaps Marconi had aligned himself with the idea, popular at the time in Italy, that Jews were racially inferior." Had the article said that, I never would have made my comment.

Perhaps the author of the article took for granted that people already know how widespread racial anti-Semitism was at the time. I don't think the author is a professionally trained social historian - the analysis given in this little newsbit, therefore, should not be expected to be too deep.

I was raised in a household that more or less falls under the heading "reform" in terms of the level of adherence to kashrut, observance of the holidays, etc. .... but I saw plenty of it growing up as well.

Bingo,

First of all, thank you for putting in the time and answering my question in detail.

The point that I was trying to make is that the act of interpreting the Tanakh and the Talmud is political and institutionalized - a hierarchy is definitely present. I'm critical of such politicization of doctrine and its proponents, and consequently, the effects it has on stifling opposition within Judaism, specifically the more liberal movements. The same regressive elements in Judaism resisted the Haskalah, but now we know truly crucial that period was in the development of modern Judaism.

As for the elitists among us, well, there are elitists among every other people. It's good to have a bit of healthy ethnic pride, as most other cultures and peoples think the same about themselves. Problems arise when healthy ethnic and cultural pride becomes too tribal and chauvinistic. The fact that there are Jews out there who fit that description and use the Holy Writings excuse I don't deny, but they can't claim that only they are "authentic" Jews! These people don't have monopoly on truth - they're not G-d on earth.

...and I was trying to suggest that the fact that the Italians were using the word "ebreo" as opposed to "giudeo" in their anti-semitic doctrine (if that's what you were suggesting), does not in itself mean that their anti-semitism was completely race-based, because it's not as simple as Hebrew being the race and Judaism being the religion.

Maybe not entirely racial, but definitely to an extent.

Hey, this was a nice chat!

Take care.
posted by Stumpy McGee at 7:38 PM on March 22, 2002


Hey, this chat isn't over! Hey, you don't have to respond anymore if you don't want to, but you haven't been talking to yourself, and I don't think you're paying me to be here!

Your "biological determinism" link is to an article that is mostly about IQ tests in America in the second half of the 20th century, and Gould's outrage that the land where "all men are created equal" could endorse such an institution. My reaction to this article:

a) I agree that IQ tests are over-rated, but

b) I do think that some people are simply smarter than others and I'm not afraid to say that

c) it's possible that intelligence, or certain aspects or types of intelligence, may be hereditary, regardless of what the Declaration of Independence says, but that at any rate,

d) the article says nothing that even by extension explains why a member of the Academy of Italy was thinking that Jews were racially inferior when he blacklisted Jewish scientists who wanted to join the Academy.

In fact, the Academy itself is/was an institution that implies by its very existence that some people are just plain better as scientists than other people. Here we are on the eve of the Oscars, spawned by an institution with the same idea at it's core...there is such a thing as quality, and there is such a thing as success, and failure, and these things can be judged by those who have already succeeded in whatever the applicable field is.

What I'm saying is, S.J. Gould would probably disagree with the concept of having an Academy of any sort to begin with (despite the fact that he himself is a pedigreed academic, etc. etc.). He doesn't like/agree with the idea that all human beings do not begin their lives as little "gods in the chrysalis," as Dale Carnegie would say. This is a popular opinion to have right now, with all the rampant multiculturalism, political correctness, etc. But I think it's wrong. What's more important, members of the Academy of Italy in Marconi's time no doubt would have said that Gould is wrong, whether they were anti-semitic or not. Academies are about judging people and their work. The whole point of them is that the people who are already members have the capacity to judge the talent/contribution/skill/worth/work of prospective members, and even of non-prospective members, not because members of the academy are experts on human nature, but because they are experts on being a scientist (or artist, or film director, whatever). All I was saying that spawned this argument, was that based on the information presented in the original linked article, it's making quite an assumption to say that either Marconi was an unwilling tool of the evil anti-semitic government, or he believed Jews to be inherently (and somehow, abstractly, "in general") inferior to other people. To which you responded with: The question asked was legitimate, and it seems like you completely missed the point.

Now, the issue of Jewish elitism may seem like a tangent, but after thinking it over, I'm convinced that in essence we are disagreeing again about the same basic thing: the question of whether or not elitism is inherently wrong, and whether or not institutional elitism can be an integral part of that institution.

It's true, there is a heirarchy within modern Judaism; there are different factions, there are different sorts of Jews with different sorts of cultural and political agendas. But, from the last couple full paragraphs of your comment, one might think that you view Judaism as a sort of mutable object, like a ball of clay, an entity that has substance but no inherent shape. Part of it is the Torah, part of it is the Talmud, part of it is the Haskalah and its ramifications; part of it is what Rabbi Joe at the temple down the street is in the mood for this week.

But none of this changes the fact that it all started with the idea that the first Jew was a man who discovered that there is only one God, and that he was then validated by that God and told that his offspring would be the chosen people, and that they would have rights and priveledges and obligations and a value to God that no other people on the planet would have.

It may be a matter of politics whether modern Jews choose to acknowledge this truth about the religion. But whether your politics compel you to like it, promote it, hide it, over-and under- interpret it to death, it's still there. It is a religion based on the idea...perhaps the first idea...that some people are just plain better than others, objectively speaking, period. The fact that Jews them(our)selves would later fall victim to the same sort of mentality, from the other side, may be disturbing, but that doesn't mean we have been given the ability to revise history and credit our people with, as Neil Young might say, a kindler, gentler, machine-gun hand. If you don't want to be in an elitist religion, you can convert...unless, of course, you believe that Judaism is not only a religion, but also an indelible set of racial traits...
posted by bingo at 7:58 PM on March 23, 2002


Hey, this chat isn't over! Hey, you don't have to respond anymore if you don't want to, but you haven't been talking to yourself, and I don't think you're paying me to be here!

Hey, what the fuck is your problem? Sorry for being so abrupt. This is going to be my last post. No more answers after this.

Your "biological determinism" link is to an article that is mostly about IQ tests in America in the second half of the 20th century, and Gould's outrage that the land where "all men are created equal" could endorse such an institution.

I just posted that link to provide a basic definition of the term biological determinism, not to further this nitpicking of Marconi's alleged anti-Semitism.

Now, the issue of Jewish elitism may seem like a tangent, but after thinking it over, I'm convinced that in essence we are disagreeing again about the same basic thing: the question of whether or not elitism is inherently wrong, and whether or not institutional elitism can be an integral part of that institution.

I never argued that elitism is not part of the faith. I simply argued from a "21st century, liberal perspective." It doesn't mean that those are my beliefs.


If you don't want to be in an elitist religion, you can convert...unless, of course, you believe that Judaism is not only a religion, but also an indelible set of racial traits...

Actually, I'm completely secular. I just argued from an opposing side to debate a little.

Take care, and this time I mean it.
posted by Stumpy McGee at 12:12 AM on March 24, 2002


I just posted that link to provide a basic definition of the term biological determinism, not to further this nitpicking of Marconi's alleged anti-Semitism.

The nitpicking on the nature of Marconi's anti-Semitism, and the issue of whether or not it was merely alleged or provable, was the kernel of the argument. You posted:

Please refer to what I just wrote above outlining some key points of racial anti-Semitism. As I've said before, maybe Marconi just adhered to the various prejudices associated with traditional Catholic anti-Judaism.

...and "what you just wrote above outlining some key points of racial anti-Semitism" could only refer to:

According to racial anti-Semitism, the teachings of which are based on the doctrine of biological determinism that was to become the core ideology of the German National Socialist state, everything was directly related to race...

...so your link was obviously intended as part of that very argument...are you on crack?

I never argued that elitism is not part of the faith. I simply argued from a "21st century, liberal perspective." It doesn't mean that those are my beliefs...Actually, I'm completely secular. I just argued from an opposing side to debate a little.

I'm going to go ahead and just call you a liar. You said some things that were flatly wrong, I put the time and energy in to explain why, and now you're saying that the whole discussion was meaningless because you didn't mean what you were saying. It's irritating and insulting, and it makes me sorry that I wasted my time formulating and writing my arguments. Perhaps you think that the tenets of Judaism are mutable, because you believe that the tenets of reality itself, and of your own personality, are mutable, that if you start to have trouble defending the things you say, then you can just act like a first-grader and convince yourself that you'd been playing a game up to that point anyway.

I regret that I wasted so much of my infinitely more valuable time and energy on this discussion with the vaguely-formulated entity that I guess could be generally referred to as "you."
posted by bingo at 10:03 AM on March 25, 2002


The nitpicking on the nature of Marconi's anti-Semitism, and the issue of whether or not it was merely alleged or provable, was the kernel of the argument...

...and "what you just wrote above outlining some key points of racial anti-Semitism" could only refer to

...so your link was obviously intended as part of that very argument...are you on crack?


Yes, I'm on crack, you arrogant son of a bitch. The only reason why I even decided to participate in this debate with such a concretely defined entity that is "you" is because I saw that you lack the knowledge to talk about Italian anti-Semitism during this time period. I offered some info on the development of a new current of anti-Semitism to shed some info on the social and cultural milieu of the interwar years in Italy. I did not even once suggest that Marconi's motives were either entirely monolithic or motivated solely by racial anti-Semitism.

Did you even read my posts to you, or did you just skim through? Apparently, you've got problems comprehending basic words.

I'm going to go ahead and just call you a liar. You said some things that were flatly wrong, I put the time and energy in to explain why, and now you're saying that the whole discussion was meaningless because you didn't mean what you were saying. It's irritating and insulting, and it makes me sorry that I wasted my time formulating and writing my arguments. Perhaps you think that the tenets of Judaism are mutable, because you believe that the tenets of reality itself, and of your own personality, are mutable, that if you start to have trouble defending the things you say, then you can just act like a first-grader and convince yourself that you'd been playing a game up to that point anyway.

I'm going to go ahead and just call you a stupid son of a whore who can't even fucking read what others write. I DID NOT argue about the very foundation and core of Judaism, I merely commented on the status of modern politicization within Judaism. Fucking learn how to read, then we'll talk.

I regret that I wasted so much of my infinitely more valuable time and energy on this discussion with the vaguely-formulated entity that I guess could be generally referred to as "you."

The feeling is mutual.
posted by Stumpy McGee at 6:59 PM on March 25, 2002


The only reason why I even decided to participate in this debate...is because I saw that you lack the knowledge to talk about Italian anti-Semitism during this time period.

In my view, you didn't "decide to participate" in "this debate," so much as you started this debate. All I did was criticize the author of the article. I was criticizing him for bad reporting, glossing over complex situations as simple and jumping to conclusions (or at least asking the reader to jump to them). I wasn't talking about Italian history; I was talking about a crappy article and a poorly advanced argument. You responded with the assertion that I had "missed the point," which still strikes me as bizarre. It was "the point" that I was taking issue with.

I did not even once suggest that Marconi's motives were either entirely monolithic or motivated solely by racial anti-Semitism.

No, but the article did, and my comment was an attack on the article for making that assumption, and your first comment was an attack on me for "missing the point." You then proceeded to talk about the history of anti-semitism in Italy and how closely connected to race it was. Did you just start going off on that subject for no reason whatsoever, or could it be that you were backing up your original argument? And your original argument was a defense of the article, saying that I was wrong to assert that the author was assuming too much with his statement that because Marconi crossed Jewish names off a list, he must have either been a puppet, or believed Jews to be racially inferior.

Did you even read my posts to you, or did you just skim through? Apparently, you've got problems comprehending basic words.

On the contrary, I read them all, took them seriously, and convinced myself that you believed what you were saying and that you were working around some kind of point. All the more fool I.

I DID NOT argue about the very foundation and core of Judaism, I merely commented on the status of modern politicization within Judaism.

Technically this is true. And yet, your comments did not (unfortunately) occur in a vacuum; they were responses to MY assertions about the foundation and core of Judaism. Therefore, one might be tempted to read your comments in some sort of context. A radical idea, I know, but it's catching on.

Your whole point seemed to be that there is no foundation and core of Judaism. Take for example:

As for the elitists among us, well, there are elitists among every other people. It's good to have a bit of healthy ethnic pride, as most other cultures and peoples think the same about themselves. Problems arise when healthy ethnic and cultural pride becomes too tribal and chauvinistic. The fact that there are Jews out there who fit that description and use the Holy Writings excuse I don't deny, but they can't claim that only they are "authentic" Jews! These people don't have monopoly on truth - they're not G-d on earth.

...only too soon to be followed with...

I never argued that elitism is not part of the faith. I simply argued from a "21st century, liberal perspective." It doesn't mean that those are my beliefs.

...and the bombastically condescending...

Actually, I'm completely secular. I just argued from an opposing side to debate a little.

I understand that delusionary schizophrenia can be very difficult to live with; and I wish your loved ones the best of luck as they do what they can to help you in your struggle.
posted by bingo at 12:05 AM on March 26, 2002


I understand that delusionary schizophrenia can be very difficult to live with; and I wish your loved ones the best of luck as they do what they can to help you in your struggle.

Thank you for your diagnosis.
posted by Stumpy McGee at 4:32 AM on March 26, 2002


As you can see, I'm here to help.
posted by bingo at 12:14 PM on March 26, 2002


As you can see, I'm here to help.

That's part of the problem - I couldn't really tell that you were trying to help me. My delusionary schizophrenia renders me completely incapable of understanding reality. I really have to thank you for having the courage to accurately describe my condition, because my faculties of judgement are obviuosly impaired.

Thanks, Doc!

What kind of meds would you recommend?
posted by Stumpy McGee at 12:28 AM on March 27, 2002


What I'd prescribe, instead of medication, is for you to read over the thread until you can come to some sort of coherent point of view. If you think you already have one, try reading two or three other threads just about anywhere on this site in order to establish a definition of "coherent point of view," and while you're at it, "thread." As is typical of the way you've handled the whole discussion, you're responding to my last comment as if it had no connection to your last comment, and you're making each comment without much interest in how it connects to your last. That isn't the way people talk here. I'm totally serious. Since thus far, this is the only thread you have commented on more than once, maybe you truly don't get it.

p.s. Remember this?

Take care, and this time I mean it.

Or was that an order, and not a promise? Or does it not apply anymore, since you said it more than one post ago?
posted by bingo at 3:41 AM on March 27, 2002


What I'd prescribe, instead of medication, is for you to read over the thread until you can come to some sort of coherent point of view. If you think you already have one, try reading two or three other threads just about anywhere on this site in order to establish a definition of "coherent point of view," and while you're at it, "thread." As is typical of the way you've handled the whole discussion, you're responding to my last comment as if it had no connection to your last comment, and you're making each comment without much interest in how it connects to your last. That isn't the way people talk here. I'm totally serious. Since thus far, this is the only thread you have commented on more than once, maybe you truly don't get it.

Actually, you make a lot of sense. I got defensive without realizing why you said certain things. I went back, re-read this whole thread, and compared its "flow" to other threads. I must admit that I was all over the place, especialy when we got to our discussion of Judaism.

So, thanks for pointing out the difficulty of maintaining a decent conversational flow. What basically happened is that, instead of addressing your comments point by point, I resorted to verbal acrobatics in order to drag the entire thread back to our discussion of my original comment. In other words, I wasn't listening to what you were saying - I was fixated on my first comment and wanted the entire conversation to revolve around that specific comment.

Basically, you thought you were having a conversation with someone who wants to participate in an actual debate and has a formulated point of view. I obviously didn't give two shits about the conversation - like a self-centered, obdurate child I wasn't paying attention to the actual debate that was taking place. Hence, I did not acknowledge the fact that most of your arguments made perfect sense and that it was I who's being very ambiguous.

I'm being honest here.

p.s. Remember this?

Take care, and this time I mean it.

Or was that an order, and not a promise? Or does it not apply anymore, since you said it more than one post ago?


That was a stupid remark made by a 5-year-old who suddenly realized that the whole conversation stopped revolving around his original comment. That's all.
posted by Stumpy McGee at 5:12 PM on March 27, 2002


Um. Okay. Congratulations on the courage and honesty necessary to submit that last comment.
posted by bingo at 12:53 PM on March 28, 2002


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