Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Scarlet Letter: "A" is for Antisemite

From the looks of the election season just passed, it seems we are returning to our Puritan roots -- labeling and seeking to ostracize those guilty of Antisemitism.

Or maybe its more like the Salem witch trials, using arcane tests to divine Antisemitic intent from articles and quotes on the one hand and the testimony of an ex-wife on the other, revealing membership in the cult of the alt-right.

Welcome to 2016.

It seems the usefulness of the "Nazi" comparison has its limitations.
Calling someone a racist in general or saying they are bigoted against African Americans and women - that works.
But labeling someone an antisemite, now there is something that has really caught on.

Who knew there were so many, who were so eager to be on the lookout to protect the Jewish community!?
From the screams of the media, you might be forgiven for thinking that antisemitism had disappeared -- and has now suddenly returned.
But we know that isn't true.

That is why Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone asks incredulously, Anti-Semitism is Back?
Being “woke” only when it’s convenient merely addresses a symptom of anti-Semitism, while letting the root cause fester. Be it from the far-right, or the left, hate in its myriad grotesque faces stems from ignorance and darkness.

President Elect Donald J. Trump. Wikipedia

Speaking of convenience, we were inundated with news that President-elect Donald Trump was supposed to be not only a racist but also an antisemite. Actually, we don't really hear as much about Trump's alleged antisemitism. Maybe that is because people have noticed, as per Slate Star Codex in You Are Still Crying Wolf, that Trump
Or maybe the reason is that there are easier targets.

Steve Bannon, Counselor Designate to the President Wikipeda

Steve Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, was appointed by Trump to be his chief White House strategist. And that is when the media really got excited. It wasn't long before they decided that Bannon was an antisemite too. The initial proof for the accusation initially came from a claim made by his ex-wife during his divorce, that he didn't want to send his children to a school that had Jews in it. But the media didn't have much trouble finding support for their claims that he was an antisemite, a racist, and other things to boot.

The Wall Street Journal took the apparently novel approach of actually interviewing Bannon about his views and about the Breitbart website in an article about Steve Bannon on Politics as War:
Anti-Semitic? “Breitbart is the most pro-Israel site in the United States of America. I have Breitbart Jerusalem, which I have Aaron Klein run with about 10 reporters there. We’ve been leaders in stopping this BDS movement”—meaning boycott, divestment and sanctions—“in the United States; we’re a leader in the reporting of young Jewish students being harassed on American campuses; we’ve been a leader on reporting on the terrible plight of the Jews in Europe.” He adds that given his many Jewish partners and writers, “guys like Joel Pollak, these claims of anti-Semitism just aren’t serious. It’s a joke.”
But just how serious is the media about uncovering and uprooting Antisemitism in America -- how wide a net are they casting?

Based on whom the media has since attacked for their apparent antisemtisim -- not very.

Ira Stoll writes about The Borking of Bannon by The New York Times and imagines what an article might look like if Hillary Clinton had won the election -- and had then decided to appoint New York Times Company chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. as counselor to the president.

Among the possible antisemtic actions of Sulzberger and The New York Times that Stoll's article come up with are that:
  • Sulzberger’s New York Times repeatedly dwells on the Jewish background of criminals
  • It has called for cutting aid to the Israeli military, a position far to the left of the political mainstream
  • The New York Times recently apologized after likening a drug dealer to a rabbi
  • It described a character in a news feature as a “decorous Jew
  • Sulzberger's newspaper editorialized against accommodating Orthodox Jewish women in New York public swimming pools by complaining about their “strong odor.”
And this is in addition to articles and events at the New York Times that reflect bias against women and African Americans as well.

Media, heal thyself!

Actually, the media has been selective in whom they tar with the antisemitic label as well. For example, it has been silent about Keith Ellison, who is in the running to become the new chair of the Democratic National Committee. Politico reports that opposition to Ellison has started to grow -- because he has not stated that he would quit his position in Congress in order to take on the job as chairman of the DNC full-time.

Congressman Keith Ellison - Next DNC Chairman? Wikipedia

What has not been focused on by the media are the charges of antisemitism that have surrounded Keith Ellison ever since he ran for Congress in 2006:
When can we expect the media to take a serious look Keith Ellison's positions and associations?

There is nothing wrong with the media pursuing and reporting on allegations against political leaders -- after 8 years of the media handling Obama with kid gloves, that would actually be a welcome change. However, the media seems to have already forgotten that the reason it has been losing the faith and trust of its readers is its partisanship.

If the media would have us believe that it is truly concerned about the rise of antisemitism -- not only on college campuses, in protests and in the media -- but also in American politics, then it is going to have to start covering it honestly, across the political spectrum.

Or become even more irrelevant.


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