In a remarkable but under-reported address, one of America’s most prominent and influential political figures acknowledged that the “immense” and “outsized” Jewish role in the US mass media and cultural life has been the single most important factor in shaping American attitudes over the past century, and in driving major cultural- political changes.
"No group has had such an outsized influence per capita as all of you standing before you, and all of those who went before me and all of those who went before you …"
“Think - behind of all that, I bet you 85 percent of those [social-political] changes, whether it’s in Hollywood or social media, are a consequence of Jewish leaders in the industry. The influence is immense, the influence is immense. And, I might add, it is all to the good,” he said. “We talk about it in terms of the incredible accomplishments and contributions” of individual Jews, Biden went on, but it's more profound than that “because the values, the values are so deep and so engrained in American culture, in our Constitution.”
Biden might also have mentioned that of the nine US Supreme Court justices at the time, three were Jewish, and that Jews have likewise been greatly overrepresented in other high-level federal, state and city government posts. He could have also mentioned that the chairman of the Federal Reserve System, and the mayors of America’s three most populous cities – New York, Los Angeles and Chicago – were Jewish.
“The Jewish people have contributed greatly to America. No group has had such an outsized influence per capita,” Biden also said. More specifically, he cited the Jewish role in shaping popular attitudes and in setting policies on race relations, the role of women in society, and “gay rights.” He went on: “You can't talk about the civil rights movement in this country without talking about Jewish freedom riders and Jack Greenberg ... You can't talk about the women's movement without talking about Betty Friedan.” Biden also praised the Jewish community's “embrace of immigration.”
“I believe what affects the [social-political] movements in America, what affects our attitudes in America are as much the culture and the arts as anything else,” said Biden. “It wasn't anything we [politicians] legislatively did,” he went on. “It was [such television shows as] ‘Will and Grace,' it was the social media. Literally. That's what changed peoples' attitudes. That's why I was so certain that the vast majority of people would embrace, and rapidly embrace” same-sex marriage.
It’s also true that, while Jewish opinions run the ideological gamut, they have clustered heavily on the left end of the political spectrum. When you combine that fact with the fact of disproportionate Jewish representation in politics and culture, you have a weirdly shared belief among philo-Semites and anti-Semites. As Biden proceeds to laud Jewish contributions to American politics, you can see the audience go from kvelling to shvitzing:
- “The embrace of immigration” is part of that, as is the involvement of Jews in social justice movements.
- “You can’t talk about the civil rights movement in this country without talking about Jewish freedom riders and Jack Greenberg,” he said, telling a story about seeing a group of Jewish activists at a segregated movie theater in Delaware. “You can’t talk about the women’s movement without talking about Betty Friedan” …
- “I believe what affects the movements in America, what affects our attitudes in America are as much the culture and the arts as anything else,” he said. That’s why he spoke out on gay marriage “apparently a little ahead of time.”
- “It wasn’t anything we legislatively did. It was ‘Will and Grace,’ it was the social media. Literally. That’s what changed peoples’ attitudes. That’s why I was so certain that the vast majority of people would embrace and rapidly embrace” gay marriage, Biden said.
- “Think behind of all that, I bet you 85 percent of those changes, whether it’s in Hollywood or social media are a consequence of Jewish leaders in the industry. The influence is immense, the influence is immense. And, I might add, it is all to the good.”
Biden’s intentions here are obviously as friendly as can be, but the execution is awkward. The civil rights movement today is so widely sanctified that mentioning the disproportionate Jewish role in it is in the same category as mentioning Einstein, Jonas Salk, and so on — look at all these wonderful things the Jews have helped bring us. Because Biden is liberal, it feels natural to segue into the Jewish role in the gay civil rights movement.