Monday, September 17, 2012

When Ignorance Attacks


Over at The Atlantic, national correspondent James Fallows displays simply stunning ignorance at his blog defending Maureen Dowd against Jeffrey Goldberg's (absolutely spot-on) response to her historically antisemitic meme-riddled column in The New York Times from over the weekend.

Goldberg says...

Maureen may not know this, but she is peddling an old stereotype, that gentile leaders are dolts unable to resist the machinations and manipulations of clever and snake-like Jews. (Later, [Foreign Policy managing editor Blake] Hounshell wrote, "(A)mazing that apparently nobody sat her down and said, this is not OK.")

This sinister stereotype became a major theme in the discussion of the Iraq war, when critics charged that Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, among other Jewish neoconservatives, were actually in charge of Bush Administration foreign policy. This charge relegated George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, Stephen Hadley and the other Christians who actually set policy to the status of puppets. 
And of course, there's the "slithering" and the "puppet master" stuff in Dowd's column, which I won't bother to quote here (the link is above).  All easily recognizable antisemitic tropes, to anybody who is even vaguely familiar with the world's oldest hate.

Mr. Fallows has worked in journalism since the early 1970s, and I find it astounding that he apparently doesn't realize that Jews are a people, that Judaism is a religion, and that of course, antisemitism and anti-Jewish hatred has never singled out only those who practice the religion of Judaism.

Just ask Hamas, for starters.

Mr. Fallows writes -
No one is identified by religion, Jewish or otherwise, in what Dowd wrote.
And this -

it has nothing to do with religion.

Leaving aside for now the fact that Mr. Fallows is doing exactly what every so-called 'anti-Zionist' at Daily Kos, the Huffington Post, the (UK) Guardian, and so many other (generally) progressive-left sites on the internet, does in deciding that they are the sole arbiters in defining what is and is not antisemitism, no matter what Jews tell them (do they insist on doing this when it comes to any other type of racism or bigotry?  I can't think of another example)... there's also, first and foremost, the stunning ignorance on display here.

A man who has worked at the highest levels of journalism in the United States for decades does not realize that the Jews are a people, and not a religious group?  Seriously?


  1. It's because they wanna be able to use antisemitic tropes at will with impunity. This, because their arguments are too thin otherwise.

    1. Or because they feel the need to take out life insurance. You know, just in case...

  2. Here I go the other way.

    I do not see the harm in Dowd's op-ed. Most would not make the association, and I question whether it was intentional. Goldberg's response brings attention in a negative way. There are bigger fish to fry.

    1. She ultimately gives the game away here, imo -

      "a duty to invade and bomb Israel’s neighbors"

      Were it not for that line, I'd be inclined to say, okay maybe she didn't realize what she was peddling.

      But viewing it from there, everything else falls into place.

      Goldberg's response was much kinder than necessary, if you ask me.

      There certainly are bigger fish to fry, but when stuff like this jumps right into the pan, there's no need to throw it out either....

    2. Oh, and also... there's the whole thing about Fallows' ignorance. ;)

    3. Still have to disagree here. She is obviously not a fan of Israel, but that does not make it antisemitic or her an antisemite. I would say the same for Fallows.

      Would rather see Goldberg use his platform to ask why no Arabs have stormed the Syrian embassies to commemorate 20,000 killed, rather than raise something that is far from certain and probably over the head of most people to begin with.

    4. Fallows has demonstrated that he thinks Jews are a religious group, rather than a people.

      I didn't call him an antisemite, I called him astoundingly ignorant.

      Do you really disagree with that?

      As for your second paragraph - I'll agree and disagree.

      I'll agree with the first part (storming Syrian embassies), but as for the second... I'll disagree that we should not point out antisemitic memes being spread in the media, simply because they're probably over the heads of most people...

    5. My belief is that Fallows is not a fan of Israel or an antisemite, even if ignorant.

      I think one has to pick the battles that are most effective and, in this regard, memes are too often matters for activist particularists to play inside baseball.

      This was not the media, just Dowd. In any event, if one cannot detect existence of a meme, then what is actually being spread?

    6. There is no "even if," the point is that Fallow is astoundingly ignorant.

      He either is or he isn't.

      That he believes Jews are a religion, rather than a people, proves that he is.

      Astoundingly ignorant.

      Period. There's nothing else here.

      As for memes - if they are only for those who play "inside baseball," then how and why are these so widespread?

      Should we dismiss rampant Arab Muslim antisemitism, since they're only playing to their inside base-ballers?

      Sorry, 'school. I love you, man, and I agree with you way more often than not, but I think you're totally off-base here.

    7. I know you think that I am off base. It's cool.

      But nowhere did I suggest dismissing antisemitism by Arabs, Muslims or anyone.

      I am talking about this particular case. I don't think it rises to the level. To me there is harm in addressing every perceived instance. Better to address the real, prevalent instances, than ones that may actually be supposed.

      This is an observation. All sides too easily take offense, often when none was intended, to prove how bad the "offender" is.

      As for the religion versus people thing, hate for Jews was based on religious differences, first and foremost. I can understand why Fallows said what he did here, even if crudely/ignorantly done, in the context of Goldberg making it about the religion, not the existence of the Jewish people.

      By "inside baseball" I meant the intellectual discussions that delve into every aspect of matters that are beyond focus of most. These insiders are generally decided and these episodes only serve to reinforce what is preconceived theoretical notions. To persuade most people, it's good to try and present concrete, practical information not generally in the media that goes to show the intent or specific actions of the sides.

      That's about it from this end.

    8. As far as hate goes, it doesn't matter what came first.

      The fact is that Jews are a people, not a religion, and that we have a journalist here who has somehow spent decades at the top of his profession in the United States, who isn't even aware of this simple distinction, declaring down to us little folk from his ivory tower (on a blog which he doesn't allow comments on, and right before he hops onto his luxury jet, first class, natch) that calling Jews snake-ish puppet masters isn't antisemitic, when it is.

      But okay, fair enough. Agree to disagree, then.

  3. Perfect!

    Daily Kossers have uncovered The Ultimate Joooo Scheme!

    Omg, a parliamentary system allows the ruling party to set the date of elections! So EEEEEEVILLLLLLL!

    These unbelievably ignorant stooges never fail to disappoint...

  4. I have to say, Jay, that I am not entirely certain just what to make of this one.

    I haven't read Maureen Dowd in ages because I gave up on the NYT when it shilled for the Iraq war under GWB with the assistance of Judith Miller.

    Dowd is... I don't know... the word that leaps to mind is facile.

    She certainly is snuggying right up to the borders of anti-Semitism and for the very reasons that you and Goldberg point out, tho.

    As for Fallows, he wrote this:

    It is fair to point that out; it has nothing to do with religion; and even if you disagree with this claim or Dowd's, it is not good for anyone to label such arguments as "anti-Semitic" without much stronger reason and evidence.

    You are right to point out that the Jewish people are a people and not just a religion, but I honestly do not know that Fallows would disagree with that.

    I guess this is just one of those little controversies that simply leaves me scratching my head.

    btw, thanks for commenting on the Times of Israel piece. I very much appreciate that.