In this densely composed study, E. Michael Jones, editor of Culture Wars and outspoken Catholic traditionalist, tries to explain why American inner cities have been physically and socially devastated.  Investigating four metropolitan areas that he knows well—Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, and Boston—Jones argues that established urban neighborhoods did not deteriorate simply because of economic crises or demographic accidents.  Rather, from the 1950’s on, a combination of misnamed redevelopment programs and malicious social planning turned these areas into war zones and, finally, depopulated deserts.  

In every one of the cases Jones examines, similar circumstances emerge.  WASP do-gooders, such as pharmaceutical inventor Albert C. Barnes and anti-Catholic reformers Paul and Brand Blanshard in Jones’ native Philadelphia, sweet-talked politicians and the business community into pursuing projects for cleaning up and beautifying their cities.  Not coincidentally, the areas that lost their communal character during this transformation were heavily Catholic, populated by faithful blue-collar workers for whom the reformers had little use.

Jones notes the persistence of this cultural revulsion among the do-gooders, who, 10 to 15 years later, helped to export the civil-rights revolution to Northern cities.  He insists that what motivated such experiments as busing and scattered public housing, presented as urban renewal, was at least partly a disdain for urban ethnics—a point Christopher Lasch makes with equal emphasis in The True and Only Heaven.  Protestant elites and their Jewish liberal allies never hid their contempt for the white ethnics who resisted their plans for thrusting underclass blacks into ethnic Catholic neighborhoods.  Nor did the urban reformers whom Jones examines, such as Louis Wirth at the University of Chicago and the Blanshard brothers, conceal their intention of mainstreaming Catholic immigrants and their descendants, whom they viewed as a threat to their notion of a “pluralistic America.”  As a young professor, I found the same seething anti-Catholicism present among non-Catholic colleagues who railed against ethnic whites and turned down applicants for appointments because they had received “too much Catholic education”—had attended, that is, parochial schools.  While Protestants commiserated with Jews on what, by the late 60’s, was fictive academic antisemitism, both groups happily dumped on the Catholic “Neanderthals” who resisted the intrusion of blacks into their neighborhoods.  Needless to say, the Protestants and Jews, having already fled the inner city, were pontificating from well-policed, lily-white suburbs.

Jones, in his brief, never deals with the obvious counterarguments.  Catholic Democrats, as I observed in conversation with him while he was writing this book, were instrumental in bringing about the changes he deplores.  How can he make his theory fit such staunch mayoral advocates of urban planning as Richard Daley in Chicago, Kevin White in Boston, Robert Wagner in New York, Jim Tate in Philadelphia, and Jerry Cavanagh in Detroit—all staunch Roman Catholics who depended on Catholic Democratic voters?  While Jones speaks patronizingly about “a whole generation of Irish Catholic liberals who thought they had found a solution to the long reign of ethnic and racial struggle that had characterized American history,” did not these Catholics contribute decisively to the problems Jones analyzes?  And what about the Catholic Democrats who, like those in my native state of Connecticut, built alliances with civil-rights leaders and helped facilitate the mass entry of blacks into the Democratic Party?  In Philadelphia, such a process drove Frank Rizzo back into the Republican Party, an organization that had represented, in the City of (not quite) Brotherly Love, the Protestant patricians and Southern Italians allied against the Democratic Irish as well as, by the late 60’s, black race-hustlers.

 Significantly, the despoliation of their neighborhoods did not provoke Catholic ethnics to flood into the populist right.  They and their descendants still vote, for the most part, for the party of FDR and Bill Clinton, which is graced by such Catholic politicians as Joe Biden, Geraldine Ferraro, Ted Kennedy, Chris Dodd, Andrew Cuomo, and John Kerry.  Unlike Jones, these figures and their Catholic constituencies have not resisted liberal WASPdom but have embraced wholeheartedly the views that Jones despises.  The point is not whether these views conform to traditional Catholic social teaching (they do not), but whether American Catholics see themselves as victims of the liberal social manipulation that Jones argues was directed against them, postwar, in the cities.  There is simply no evidence that most of these Catholics share Jones’ historical perception or his conservative politics.

Jones, however, correctly understands the overshadowing role of ethnic hatred in political life.  And since the fall of Nazism, which combined European right-wing fixations with leftist ones, it is the left that has played the hate card to perfection.  The American left, in particular, has given fresh meaning to G.K. Chesterton’s aphorism that hate unites people more effectively than love.  One reason the left has held on to the Catholic majority is Catholics’ continuing propensity to identify the Republican Party with American Protestantism.  Among Irish Democrats in Massachusetts, Republicans, though usually bland Italian imitations of the opposing party, continue to be associated with the Calvinist, or lapsed Calvinist, Brahmins who had discriminated against the Irish and had tried to impose Protestant mores on them.  The left knows how to collect ethnic victims by nurturing their fears and dislikes; and, even though the Republicans are always obsequiously reaching out to leftist constituencies, the minorities they do attract seem far less hate-filled than those on the Democratic left.  Conversely, Republican voters who support the Republican Party, as Jones reminds us, know they are voting for an overwhelmingly WASP fraternity.  And this will remain the case until the Republicans can pull off what may be impossible: an ethnic reconstruction of their party.  In the meantime, the Republican Party remains, for ethnic minorities and people with kinky lifestyles, the party of exclusion.  Hatred of WASPs and the recollection of slights suffered at their hands—or, in the case of the Jews, associating devout American Protestants with the Ku Klux Klan or the czarist Black Hundred—are essential to the support system upholding the anti-Christian, social-engineering left.  Jones demonstrates that anti-Catholic Protestants have also contributed to this manipulative revolution from above, carried out in the name of fighting “prejudice.”  Their contribution, however, has been only one of many.


[The Slaughter of Cities: Urban Renewal as Ethnic Cleansing, by E. Michael Jones (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press) 670 pp., $40.00]