Paul Gottfried, the Jewish Intellectual Godfather of the Alt-Right

December 2, 2016 | Jacob Siegel
About the author:

A retired history professor, the child of refugees from pre-World War II Europe, a life-long secular Jew, a graduate of Yeshiva University, a critic of “white nationalism,” and a disciple of the New Left philosopher Herbert Marcuse, Paul Gottfried is not the man most would expect to be the leading theorist of the self-styled “alt-right.” But Gottfried claims to have “co-created” the term with his erstwhile disciple Richard Spencer, now famous for shouting “Hail Trump!” at a Washington, DC conference. (Spencer insists he invented the term independently, when composing a title for an article by Gottfried.) Jacob Siegel writes:

Paul Edward Gottfried was born in 1941 in the Bronx, seven years after his father, Andrew, immigrated to America. Andrew Gottfried, a successful furrier in Budapest, fled Hungary shortly after Austria’s Chancellor Dollfuss was assassinated by Nazi agents in the “July putsch.” He had sensed that Central Europe would be squeezed in a vise between the Nazis and the Soviets and decided to take his chances in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where the family moved shortly after Paul was born. . . .

[As a student at Yeshiva University in New York], Gottfried was put off by his “bright” but “clannish” outer-borough Orthodox Jewish classmates. New York was farther from Connecticut than he’d imagined. His fellow students, [in his words], “seemed to carry with them the social gracelessness of having grown up in a transported Eastern European ghetto.”

It used to be common among assimilated Americans Jews from Central European backgrounds to look down on what they saw as the poorer, more provincial Jews from the Russian empire. . . . When Gottfried goes after the mostly Eastern Europe-originating Jewish “neocons” and “New York intellectuals” whom he blames for kneecapping his career and refusing to give him his intellectual due, it’s not just the actual injury that wounds him, but the indignity of being laid low by his inferiors.

Read more on Tablet: