I enjoyed reading Paul Gottfried’s review of my book The Slaughter of Cities: Urban Renewal as Ethnic Cleansing (“The Rest of the Story,” January), but I was puzzled by what he calls “the obvious counterarguments” to my position. The most obvious, he claims, is that “Catholic Democrats . . . were instrumental in bringing about the changes he deplores.” How is this a counterargument to what I say in the book? Catholic reaction to urban renewal was not uniform. In general, it differed according to class. The most resistance to social engineering came from Catholics who were still living in the urban neighborhoods that were targeted for extinction. The most support came from Catholics who had “arrived,” who had “made it” in a culture where making it meant moving to the suburbs.
In Boston, the dichotomy is expressed best by comparing Judge Arthur Garrity (the Catholic judge who was the author of the busing decision) to Ray Flynn and Louise Day Hicks (the Catholics who remained in the neighborhoods targeted for social engineering and fought it). The fact that many Catholics went along with social engineering does not change the fact that ethnic Catholic neighborhoods were its primary target. Nor does it change the fact that other ethnic groups—the East Coast WASP establishment and their liberal Jewish allies in such groups as Americans for Democratic Action—were the authors of that social engineering. No matter how many Catholics ended up being useful idiots, they did not create this policy. That honor goes to Jewish liberals such as Louis Wirth of the University of Chicago and enlightened WASPs such as Paul Ylvisaker of the Ford Foundation. The Catholic mayors Gottfried mentions fall along the spectrum between Judge Garrity and Louise Day Hicks. Richard J. Daley thought he could take federal money and use it to solve racial tension in Chicago by building high-rise ghettos. And Jerry Cavanaugh seems to have believed all the rhetoric about urban renewal as a solution to “blight,” etc.
All of these examples, however, miss a larger point—namely, that social engineering is, as the social engineers themselves noted, the engineering of consent. Although much of it seemed like rape, it was really seduction. Gottfried gives the impression that consent and social engineering are mutually exclusive; they are not. The average Catholic who left West Philadelphia and moved to Delaware County did so because of a combination of the stick of black migration (and the crime that came with it) and the carrot of upward mobility and assimilation, which invariably saw the suburbs as an improvement over the ethnic neighborhood. In some instances, there was more of the first than the second, and, in some instances, there was more resistance. To say that this wasn’t social engineering because the people, in some sense, consented to it is to miss the point of social engineering. This reminds me of the Man-chester School of thought on wages: Just because a man agrees to a wage doesn’t mean the wage is just; his consent can be “engineered” by financial necessity and a host of other factors.
Gottfried seems annoyed that “the despoliation of their neighborhoods did not provoke Catholic ethnics to flood into the populist right.” It’s difficult to know what he means by the “populist right,” but this “flood” is precisely what happened when Richard Nixon implemented the ethnic strategy that Kevin Phillips articulated in The Emerging Republican Majority. In reaction to the wretched excesses of the civil-rights movement, Catholics flocked to the Republican Party in the 1972 election, and, eight years later, they were largely responsible for the election of Ronald Reagan and the conservative Zeitgeist that has dominated political life from Nixon to George W. Bush. My point is that Catholics were badly served by both parties, because both accepted the city/liberal/Democrat-suburb/conservative/Republican dichotomy that doomed the Catholic neighborhoods that were the locus of Catholic political power in America. The suburbs, like the television and the automobile, are a form of social control. That people choose to live there does not change that fact; it only highlights how easily consent can be engineered.
—E. Michael Jones
South Bend, IN
One of the reasons we started the American Chesterton Society was because most people either don’t know anything about G.K. Chesterton or know something that isn’t true. Paul Gottfried falls into the latter category when he writes in his review, “The American left, in particular, has given fresh meaning to G.K. Chesterton’s aphorism that hate unites people more effectively than love.”
Chesterton never said anything like that. He did, however, say many things that express precisely the opposite idea. In fact, one could argue that the whole point of The Man Who Was Thursday is that we are shocked to discover that those whom we are convinced are our enemies turn out to be on our side after all, not because they hate the same things we hate but because they love the same things we love. In The Everlasting Man and St. Francis of Assisi, Chesterton argues for a brotherhood of man that extends not only across class lines but, much more interestingly, even across time. The things we hold in common unite us, making us of a “common mind.” In his book on Charles Dickens, Chesterton writes: “The common mind means the mind of all the artists and heroes; or else it would not be common. Plato had the common mind; Dante had the common mind . . . Commonness means the quality common to the saint and the sinner, to the philosopher and the fool . . . In everybody there is a certain thing that loves babies, that fears death, that likes sunlight . . . ”
The only time Chesterton ever refers to “two dingy classes of men united by their common contempt for the people” is in The Club of Queer Trades. The two groups in question? Railway engineers and philanthropists.
President, American Chesterton Society
Dr. Gottfried Replies:
Although I might have missed something while reading E. Michael Jones, I did notice the considerable space he devoted to explaining how sinister Protestants duped Catholics into “going along with” urban planning. My counterargument is that ethnic Catholics in the United States are entirely responsible for wrecking their neighborhoods and once admirable traditional culture. No matter where he puts them on the “spectrum,” their cumulative political influence has been anything but conservative. Catholic voters in the United States, like those in England and Canada, are situated preponderantly on the left; and it is foolish to worry about malign Protestants when predominantly Catholic voters have supported such self-described Catholic politicians as Teddy Kennedy, Joseph Biden, Mario Cuomo, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, and Christopher Dodd. My own Catholic students and colleagues, though regular Catholic communicants, are more often than not to the left of their Protestant counterparts, particularly on such Catholic concerns as gay marriage and partial-birth abortion. In Canada, as Kevin Michael Grace has shown in the Alberta Report, it was impossible to get the Catholic hierarchy to express moral support for an evangelical printer when the federal Human Rights court went after him for refusing to print an invitation to a homosexual party. The Catholic bishops would not break rank from their pro-homosexual leftist allies, who supposedly were protecting endangered minorities. Surely, there is enough evidence of Original Sin in Jones’s communion without having to worry about Protestant machinations.
I am further puzzled by Jones’s rhetorical effort to get ethnic Catholics off the hook for urban planning: “No matter how many Catholics ended up by being useful, they did not create this policy. That honor goes to Jewish liberals . . . and to enlightened WASPs.” Although there is plenty of blame to go around, it is not clear why those who advance an abhorrent policy are less to be criticized than those who had planned it are. Does Jones believe, for example, that foreign collaborators who helped the Waffen SS and NKVD murder victims were somehow less objectionable than the Germans and Russians who had “planned” the slaughters were? His reference to a continuing Catholic contribution to a “conservative Zeitgeist,” from Reagan to George W. Bush, fails to convince. In the last three presidential elections, most Catholic voters supported Democratic candidates.
While I understand Jones’s discomfort in comparing today’s Catholic ultra yuppies and feminist banshees to the Catholic extended families of his and my youth, it is important to note the fatal flaws that might have led from the old social style to the new. As I pointed out in my review, an intense dislike for the WASP Republican establishment, however understandable, led American Catholics toward the social and political left. In one long generation, the most prominent American Catholic political dynasty moved from the Irish American Anglophobia (combined with New Deal Democratic loyalty) of Joe Kennedy to the all-out radicalism of Teddy. It is not unreasonable to assume that, among these politicians and their followers, continuing social resentment and a sense of marginality fueled this movement toward the lunatic left.
I am pleased that Mr. Ahlquist pointed out my error in attributing to Chesterton a statement that was not his. Although, admittedly, I had not encountered that aphorism in his work, my friend and occasional advisor John Lukacs believed that it had come from G.K. Despite this slip-up, I have read much of Chesterton’s prose and faithfully subscribe to the Chesterton Review, a fact that Fr. Ian Boyd would no doubt happily confirm. I shall continue to treasure this aphorism that Ahlquist apparently objects to, whoever the perceptive author may have been.
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