Dostoyevsky (and others equally clever)

Dostoyevsky is one of the sneakiest antisemites I’ve ever read. He spends the first half of his little essay on the subject (available in Mendes-Flohr’s The Jew in the Modern World) insisting that he does not hate Jews, that Russians in general do not hate Jews, that in Russia only drunkards and children ever make antisemitic remarks, that on the contrary Jews are A-okay with him — in fact, he loves Jews.

Then we get the second half. Given that Russians in general and he in particular love Jews so much, he cannot understand why the Jews are always complaining about being hated.  No one hates them, the complaints have no basis in fact, and yet they go on and on about it, in fact they never shut up about it, and it drives him absolutely crazy!  These people seem to think they’ve been put on earth to do nothing but complain!  What is it with these godforsaken people anyway?!  Honestly, he can understand why a person might hate them.  (Though, of course, he, and Russians in general, do not.)

See the nice tight logic?  Complain about it, and he’s got you.  Criticism is pre-empted, with brevity and even some brilliance.

I’m posting this now because I’ve just been reading pieces by a several new media librarians — you know, the ones who want to move all the university libraries onto Second Life — and finding that they too pre-empt critique, in a similar way and with similar panache.  The broad thrust of their argument is that books and digital media can co-exist.  That’s fine, but what’s interesting is that when they take up the complaints made by the book people (authors, publishers, and readers) to the effect that media culture is destroying the book, they refuse to give them serious consideration, interpreting the complaints instead as a generalized whininess beneath which is only the fear of losing their privileged status.  Their work positions me, a political radical who has serious doubts about the new media, as a representative of a curmudgeonly old elite.  In actuality, people like me are drowning in the academy, while others turn away and say “this complaining is driving me crazy.”


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