I think that the book review by Richard Bodek which Jonathan Morse has
posted (quoted at the end) helps show how un-useful and un-helpful it is
to simply resort to simplistic labels as a substitute for fully
When we say, "Pound frequently made very shocking, indefensible, and ugly
anti-semitic statements," we are pretty much in the realm of factual
accuracy, despite the fact that the adjectives I have used all represent
judgements. Few of us would argue with these judgements.
But when we instead put a label on Pound, saying, "Pound was an
anti-semite," we are resorting to sloppy language which each reader
will interpret in his own way.
When we say, "Pound was anti-semitic," do we mean that he attacked Jews
on the street and took them hostage? As the book review by
Richard Bodek shows, this was characteristic of many anti-semites, but
there is no reason at all to believe that it applies to Pound.
Are we saying that Pound desecrated synagogues and Jewish cemeteries?
Are we saying that Pound organized anti-Jewish activites, eventually to
the point of helping send Jews to death camps? This is certainly what
many people think of when they think of anti-semitism.
The simplistic statement "Pound was an anti-semite," brings to mind all
sorts of images of activities of this sort, although there is no reason
to believe that Pound was involved in anything like this. Because it's
such a sloppy statement, it's not very useful except for creating
an emotional response.
Another question is whether Pound actually approved of these sorts of
attacks on Jews. Here, I don't know of any available information.
I certainly never heard him speak approvingly of attacks on Jews.
But there seems to be a tendancy of many on this list to believe
that they can confidently read between the lines and be sure that that,
since Pound was an anti-semite, even though he never actually said X,
nonetheless he meant it.
It is interesting the way people who are obsessed with a particular evil
(which anti-semitism certainly is) often start to become a mirror image
of that evil. Anti-semitism is an evil, among other reasons, because
instead of actually looking at a person and seeing who he really is,
the anti-semite instead only sees a label: "Jew."
And yet so many people who loudly condemn this sort of bigotry themselves
resort to exactly the same sort of bigotry themselves. It's just that
their bigotry has more socially acceptable targets.
I was struck by this when reading a message several weeks ago concerning
Pound's reaction on discovering that Alexander Del Mar had been (or at
least allegedly had been) Jewish. It was suggested that we could
ignore what Pound actually wrote and instead be sure he meant something
else, because "This is the way bigots think."
I.e. once we understand that Pound was a bigot, we don't need to look
at his actual words and behavior, because we already know everything in
If people were that simple, then biography and literary fiction would be
easy, because we could operate on the basis that there are really only at
most a couple dozen people in the world; it's just that there are
millions of copies of each of them. (Certainly some fiction writers do
work on this basis!)
I've been reading Don DeLillo's novel WHITE NOISE, and I came across a
passage that satirizes the bigotry of many anti-bigots in a way that I
found quite funny.
The passage follows. Murray Jay Siskind is telling Jack Gladney about
his good fortune in having a landlord who knows how to fix things.
"He's very good with all those little tools and fixtures and devices
that people in cities never know the names of. Too bad he's such a
"How do you know he's a bigot?"
"People who can fix things are usually bigots."
"What do you mean?"
"Think of all the people who have ever come to your house
to fix things. They were all bigots, weren't they?"
"I don't know."
"They drove panel trucks, didn't they, with an extension ladder
on the roof and some kind of plastic charm dangling from the
"I don't know, Murray."
"It's obvious," he said.
The preceding message has been in reply to Jonathan Morse, who wrote
(only partially quoted below):
>The discussion of the Talmud in the following review may interest members
>of this list, given Pound's slightly later obsessions with both the Talmud
>and _The Protocols of the Elders of Zion_.
>H-NET BOOK REVIEW
>Published by [log in to unmask] (October, 1999)
>Dirk Walter. _Antisemitische Kriminalitaet und Gewalt. Judenfeindschaft in
>der Weimarer Republik_. Bonn: Verlag J. H. W. Dietz Nachfolger, 1999.
>Pp. 349. Cloth DM 48.00 Euro 24.54. Illustrations, notes, bibliography,
>and index. ISBN 3-8012-5026-1
>Reviewed for H-Antisemitism by Richard Bodek
><[log in to unmask]>, College of Charleston
>In this well-researched and well-written study, Dirk Walter
>provides us with the first focused analysis of antisemitic criminality in
>the Weimar Republic. Walter's narrative traces illegal action over the
>course of the Republic's history, dividing it into three relatively
>coherent periods: 1918-23, 1923-28, and 1928-32. Violence marked the
>initial - or pogrom - phase. Although, as Walter shows, even then debates
>about proper tactics punctuated the flurry of street attacks and
>hostage-taking. The second phase saw a shift from real to symbolic
>violence, when desecrations of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries -- there
>were 200 such attacks between 1923 - 1932 -- largely replaced physical
>violence against Jews. The offenders' youth defined this era. It was in
>this period, according to Walter, that anti-antisemites came to view
>anti-Jewish activity as being also intrinsically antidemocratic. The third
>and final phase was marked by a return to violence against Jewish bodies.
>This violence was much more organized than that of the first phase, being
>largely under the direction of the SA of the NSDAP. Also of note in this
>period was an upsurge of interest in Jewish texts, both real and spurious,
>among antisemites. For example, a belief in the authenticity of the
>_Protocols of the Elders of Zion_ was conjoined with a renewed interest in
>the Talmud as an allegedly anti-Gentile work of lore and law.