Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Anti-Semitism

Alexander Solzhenitsyn died yesterday at the age of 89. Much of the press coverage, obviously, focuses on Solzhenitsyn’s dissection of the Soviet Union. As Cathy Young once put it, “he probably deserves more credit than any other person for stripping away communism’s moral prestige among Western intellectuals.” On a personal note, reading The Gulag Archipelago was like a religious experience to me, and it may indeed be the best work of non-fiction of the 20th century as Time magazine once argued.

But as Young noted in the article I swiped that quote from above, there was a darker side to Solzhenitsyn that is being ignored by all the glowing obituaries and commentary, and that was his anti-Semitism,

Accusations of anti-Semitism are not new for Solzhenitsyn. Critics have long pointed to passages in The Gulag Archipelago that selectively list the Jewish last names of labor camp commandants. And Solzhenitsyn’s historical novel August 1914, published in English in 1972, emphasizes the Jewishness of Dmitry Bogrov, assassin of Russia’s reformist prime minister Pyotr Stolypin.

Solzhenitsyn has claimed that he was merely telling it like it was, but August 1914 embellishes history considerably: While Bogrov was a thoroughly assimilated revolutionary from a family of third-generation converts, Solzhenitsyn saddles him with a Jewish first name, Mordko (a diminutive of Mordecai), and the fictitious motive of trying to undermine the Russian state to help the Jews.

Then came the news that Solzhenitsyn was writing a major history of the Jews in Russia. The first volume of Dvesti let vmeste (Two Hundred Years Together), covering the period from 1795 to 1916, appeared in 2001; the second volume followed in 2003. According to Solzhenitsyn, the work was intended to give an objective and balanced account of Russian-Jewish relations: “I appeal to both sides — the Russians and the Jews — for patient mutual understanding and admission of their own share of sin.” This comment seems suspicious in itself, given that, for most of their history in Russia, Jews were victims of systematic oppression and violence. To talk about mutual guilt is a bit like asking blacks to accept their share of blame for Jim Crow.

Young describes how Western intellectuals tended to ignore or downplay Solzhenitsyn’s anti-Jewish statements, and Christopher Hitchens follows form in his obituary for Solzhenitsyn in Slate. But I think Young was on to something when she concluded her 2004 article thusly,

How to explain this leniency? Perhaps it is simply too painful to consider that the great moral beacon of the communist days might be tainted with bigotry. But while the writer’s role in Soviet-era history undoubtedly deserves respect, that does not require blindness to his flaws.

Solzhenitsyn’s anti-communism, it is increasingly clear, was never a defense of individual freedom. It was a defense of a different kind of collectivism: ethnic, religious, and traditionalist. This is far from the only time that such a mind-set — anti-secular, anti-modern, anti-individualist — has been linked to prejudice against those who don’t fit into the collective.

Cathy Young on Tammy Bruce

In an article for Reason magazine, Cathy Young does a nice job of exposing how little Tammy Bruce has changed in her transition from left wing feminist blowhard to right wing blowhard.

Young does an especially good job exposing Bruce’s blatant hypocrisies,

Probably the biggest contradiction is Bruce’s outrage at the left’s attempts to suppress politically incorrect speech and her long history of action that, to the untrained eye, might look like attempts to suppress politically incorrect speech. Bruce rails at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) for its boycott of sponsors of Schlessinger’s television show; yet in 1990, she led NOW’s boycott against Knopf over Bret Easton Ellis’ novel American Psycho. In her 2001 book The New Thought Police, Bruce explains that this was different because she never asked Knopf to cancel publication of the book and only wanted to raise public awareness of its violent content. (Actually, GLAAD did not demand the cancellation of Schlessinger’s show, to the dismay of some gay activists.) Yet Bruce also boasts that partly due to her protest — which included such strong-arm tactics as encouraging people to flood Knopf’s inside phone numbers with phone calls — no similar books have been published since, and the editor of Ellis’ next novel censored a particularly violent scene.

Young also notes that Bruce was one of the feminist activists who targeted Holly Dunn’s hit song “Maybe I Mean Yes” and that Bruce congratulated Dunn when she self-censored herself by removing the show from her live set and asked radio stations to stop playing it.

Bruce occasionally comes up with some good observations, but for the most part she’s just another member of the Club of Blowhards from Anne Coulter to Al Franken who substitute bombastic extremist pronouncements for serious debate.


Tammy Bruce’s Journey. Cathy Young, Reason, August-September 2003.

Is Male Promiscuity All In the Genes?

There was a great hue and cry in August over a study purporting to offer further evidence for the claim that men are more promiscuous than women due to evolutionary reasons.

Evolutionary psychologist David Schmitt presented the results of a study of 16,000 individuals from around the world. Schmitt surveyed the study participants about their sexual preferences, including how many sexual partners they would like to have in the next month and over the next 10 years.

Men, on average, wanted 1.87 sexual partners in the next month and 5.95 over the next 10 years. Women, on average, said they wanted 0.78 sexual partners in the next month and 2.17 in the next 10 years.

Schmitt, with his evolutionary psychologist hat on, argues that this is proof that men’s preference for more sexual partners is therefore universal across cultures and reinforces the evolutionary psychology explanation of male promiscuity as a behavior that maximizes male reproductive fitness. Schmitt told the Washington Post,

This study provides the largest and most comprehensive test yet conducted on whether the sexes differ in the desire for sexual variety. The results are strong and conclusive — the sexes differ, and these differences appear to be universal.

Not so fast say those who believe that this preference may have more to do with differing social and cultural norms for men and women.

In the other corner is Ohio State University psychologist Terri Fisher who has done some fascinating studies of how men and women respond to surveys about sexual behavior differently based on the conditions and type of survey being administered. Here’s how the Washington Post summarizes some of her work,

Because of society’s double standard, Fisher said, women are hesitant to report their true sexual desires. In one study, she asked men and women to report whether they masturbated, watch soft-core pornography or hard-core pornography. Each “yes” got a point. She found, on average, that men scored 2.32 and women 0.89.

BUt she also found that women’s scores changed depending on how confident they were of remaining anonymous. In the study, both men and women had been told to hand their questionnaires to a researcher. But when women were told to deposit their answers in a locked box supervised by a researcher, their average score jumped to 1.53. And when the women took the test alone in a locked room and then deposited their answers in a locked box — ensuring privacy and anonymity — their score shot up further, to 2.04. The men’s answers did not change significantly, indicating they were less concerned about their opinions being discovered.

In an article for Reason magazine, Cathy Young noted that Fisher did, in fact, find anonymity affected men somewhat, but in a slightly different way. Young writes,

For men, the results were virtually the same regardless of the setting in which they answered the questionnaire — except that men reported losing their virginity at an earlier age hen they were not assured of anonymity. In other words, men’s and women’s reports of their sexual behavior are influenced by stereotypical social expectations. Surprise, surprise.

I think Young is correct that there is likely some genetic-based variation between men and women as far as the number of sexual partners that they desire to have, but that, as she puts it, “there is no reason to believe that this legacy is impervious to social change.”


Desire and DNA: Is Promiscuity Innate? Shankar Vedantam, Washington Post, August 1, 2003.

Look Who’s Cheating. Cathy Young, Reason, August 12, 2003.

Free Clara Harris?

A Texas jury earlier this year convicted Clara Harris of killing her husband after she caught him with another woman. Harris repeatedly drove over her husband with her car.

In a short article about the trial and conviction, Cathy Young noted that during a segment about the case on The O’Reilly Factor some women wrote in via e-mail to express their support for Harris. But, to my knowledge, no prominent feminists took the absurd route of defending Harris.

Not so, however, for those nutty right wingers at WorldNetDaily.Com where Editor and CEO Joseph Farah devoted an entire column to singing Harris’ praise and saying that, if there were any justice in the world, Harris would be set free. Farah wrote,

I say: Free Clara Harris. We need more women like her. Live like her.

. . .

People are no longer accountable to anyone. They don’t believe they are accountable to God. They don’t believe they are accountable to their spouses. And they don’t believe they are accountable to their children. They are not accountable to the state, as no-fault divorce laws have made certain.

. . .

If I were on that jury, I would find Clara Harris not guilty. After she was sprung, I’d give her a medal. She did the world a favor. She may have acted emotionally. She may be sorry for what she has done. But, frankly, she did the right thing. That creep deserved what he got.

In Harris’ case, fortunately, no one on the jury shared Farah’s views, but Young notes a Texas case where the jury did buy into this sort of ridiculous argument. In 1999 a jury convicted Jimmy Dean Watkins of murder after he shot and killed his estranged wife in front of his 10-year old son. But the jury sentenced him to just 10 years of parole after buying into his claim that he was acting on a sudden passion (even though Watkins had fled the scene after his gun jammed, then returned to fire the fatal shot after restoring his weapon to working condition).

Apparently a world in which men and women run around killing their philandering spouses without any sort of consequence may appeal to Farah, but Young is correct in noting that as much as we might sympathize with someone who commits a crime of passion, we should never allow that sympathy to be used as a justification for murder,

A certain measure of sympathy for people who commit crimes of passion is understandable. Many feminists have attributed this sympathy to the underlying belief that men “own” women; but they are wrong. Most of us can relate to feelings of anger, loss and betrayal caused by infidelity or rejection?in a way we cannot relate to the cold-blooded motives of someone who kills for greed. But we should never allow this emotional understanding to overshadow the horror of what happened to the victims.


Free Clara Harris! Joseph Farah, WorldNetDaily.Com, January 30, 2003.

She Done Him Wrong: Cowboy law, sexism mix in wronged wife’s trial. Cathy Young, Reason, February 4, 2003.

Cathy Young on Disparities in Punishing Male and Female Killers

As usual, Cathy Young weighs in the July issue of Reason with an excellent examination of disparities in how male and female killers are treated by the American justice system.

Of particular interest is the fact that feminists almost never speak out about such disparities — in fact feminists have actively promoted the falsehood that a man who kills his partner receives only 2-6 years in jail on average compared to a woman who kills her partner who supposedly gets 15 to 20 years. In fact, as Young points out, studies find that men who kill their partners spend about 10 years longer in jail than do women who kill their partners.

As Young writes,

As a result, if a man commits a violent crime against a woman and gets off lightly, an outcry from women?s groups often follows. If it?s the other way round, the only vocal protests are likely to come from the victim?s family and from prosecutors.

The Working case [where a woman received a one day sentence for luring her estranged husband into an ambush and tried to murder him], like the Wagshall case, received minimal publicity. Imagine the reaction if a judge had said publicly that a man who had ambushed and shot his estranged wife should have been spared prison because he was depressed over the divorce.

Of course that would require a real commitment to sexual equality which, so far, many women’s groups are opposed to.


License to Kill
Men and women, crime and punishment
. Cathy Young, Reason, July 2002.

Are Women Underrepresented In Medical Research?

Feminists have long claimed that women were underrepresented in federally-funded medical research, but as the National Center for Policy Analysis recently pointed out, new information has punctured this claim as yet another myth.

Although the National Institutes of Health proclaimed in 1997 that “women were routinely excluded” from federally funded research, it recently retracted that claim because it wasn’t supported by the evidence.

NCPA points to a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Sally Satel noting that in 1979, 268 of 293 NIH-funded clinical trials included female subjects, while in 1998 68 percent of subjects in all federally funded clinical trials were women.

When it comes to diseases such as cancer, women vastly outnumber men in clinical trials due to the vast overrepresentation of breast cancer research in such trials as compared to other forms of cancer. The NCPA cites Cathy Young, for example, as pointing out that from 1966 to 1986 there were more than three times as many clinical trials for breast cancer as there were for prostate cancer.


Women and Medical Research. National Center for Policy Analysis, March 21, 2001.