Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Gerald Kaufman's Superstanding

I've talked before about the idea of "superstanding", a term borrowed from Derrick Bell. Superstanding refers to the idea that while, in general, outgroups are taken to be untrustworthy exponents of their own experiences (they lack the "standing" to demand redress of their claims), in cases where an outgroup member speaks against his or her own, that person is given enhanced credibility and is seen as especially authoritative.

Gerald Kaufman is a British Labor MP, as well as a Jew. His opinions on other Jews in government are not exactly salutary. But look at how he phrases it:
"I’ll tell you (why) [the British government is allegedly becoming more pro-Israel] because I can tell you in a way which perhaps nobody else in this room can tell you. It’s Jewish money, Jewish donations, to the conservative party as in the general election in May, support from the Jewish Chronicle, all of those things, bias the conservatives,"
The emphasis is my own. This was a speech a Palestinian solidarity event, and so it's hardly the case that Kaufman's claims would be met with shock and surprise by the audience ("It had never occurred to me that it was the Jews' fault!"). Kaufman's entire point, though, is that he can say those words that the audience desperately wants to hear, because he's Jewish, and therefore is especially entitled to warn of a massive Jewish conspiracy responsible for setting British governmental policy. See also this post on a pair of anthropologists writing under a Jewish pseudonym to urge Israeli anthropologists be boycotted.

The related concept, of course, is the asajew, whom you've met if you've ever heard someone portentously begin a paragraph with "As a Jew ..." before proceeding to blast their fellow Jews as evildoers. It's a better replacement for the term "self-hating Jew", which is needlessly inflammatory and in any event usually inaccurate. The problem with someone like Kaufman isn't that he hates himself -- clearly he likes himself just fine. It's all the other Jews he has a problem with. And how fortunate for him, and all those who eagerly lap up his words, that he is blessed to be a Jew and thus perfectly positioned to point out the malignant nature of his coreligionists.

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