Wednesday, April 22, 2009

That Ugly Anti-Semitic Canard Raises Its Head Again

I like Ben Tribbett a lot because he's one of the most entertaining people I know, but I think he went off the deep end with this accusation. To be sure, I don't agree with VA Blogger's conclusion in one of his posts on Too Conservative. But that's because I believe he's over simplified an extremely complex issue, where the facts are actually still unfolding. Some of that, though, is the fault of Washington Post writer Amy Gardner, whose on-line article, implicating one of Terry McAuliffe's donors in a possible scandal involving California congresswoman, Jane Harmon and AIPAC, provided the basis for VA Blogger's post. I'll write about what's wrong with Gardner's piece tomorrow because it deserves a detailed analysis of where it is factually incorrect, makes logical leaps that aren't there, and reaches what may be baseless conclusions. Let's just say, this wouldn't be the first time Gardner has disappointed those of us who expect real journalism from the Washington Post.

To return to Ben's charge that VA Blogger's post was an anti-semitic rant, it has to be challenged. But to do so, I want to remind people of a similar accusation thrown at Democrats a few years ago, which I also condemned.

For those who remember, back in the 2006 Democratic primary, a very funny trickster, Joe Stanley, designed a campaign flyer for the Jim Webb campaign, making fun of Webb's opponent, Harris Miller, a former lobbyist for ITAA, who supported the off shoring of high tech jobs to places like India, privatization of federal jobs, and H1-B guest worker programs, which have depressed wages by flooding the market with foregin It workers. The flyer portrayed Miller as a greedy lobbyist who was selling out American workers and Jim Webb as a populist hero, standing up for working people, especially those in the IT field who were losing their jobs because of Miller's efforts.

Unfortunately, because Harris Miller had very Jewish looking features, some GOP bloggers tried to claim that Webb's campaign was anti-semitic. They made parallels between the portrayal of Miller, in that particular cartoon strip, and the anti-semitic posters and art work that were so prevalent in 1930s Germany and throughout Europe during the rise of Nazism.

In retrospect, it was a dumb cartoon. And none of us in Webb's campaign picked up on the stereotype or the awful implication, which was incredibly embarrassing because so many of us are Jewish. That should tell you, though, how far from anti-semitic the actual intention was. We simply used an accurate likeness of Miller and were attacking what he stood for, certainly not his religion or ethnicity, which we in fact shared.

The only reason I'm bringing this all up again, probably to the embarrassment and consternation of many Democrats, is because, at the time, I argued that real anti-semitism, like racism, is such a serious charge that it should never be trivialized. As I stated at the time, especially to those Republicans who were so eager to tar Jim Webb with that feather, if you trivialize the charge of anti-semitism by throwing it around when it's not true, you desensitize the charge and rob it of its true impact when it really is accurate.

As a matter of conscience, therefore, I have to speak out again.

Ben is a bomb thrower. It's why I read him. It's why I socialize with him. Usually, his bombs are funny and most people know when to take him seriously - when he does his wonderful precinct by precinct election analysis. Why does he give that to us for free when it's worth a lot of money? We're lucky, but the truth is somebody should be paying for that numbers crunching.

On the other hand, when he puts up the pictures of Gerry Connolly in the hooker's costume (also courtesy of Joe Stanley's many talents with Photoshop) or he throws out an accusation in glaring 40 point font, with the promise that more is coming (and it never does), most people know to just laugh. It's a joke.

But charges of anti-semitism are never a joke. And even tongue in cheek, it's not an accusation somebody should throw around, because when the real David Dukes show up and we call them anti-semites, we need to be believed. And the public needs to be alarmed, not lulled by all the false charges. We simply can't afford to cry wolf because the risks are so great.

VA Blogger is no more anti-semitic than Jim Webb or the rest of his campaign was back in 2006. As a matter of fact, he's no more anti-semitic than was Jim Moran, who also attacked AIPAC. And come to think of it, I also defended Moran back then, when others accused him of anti-semitism.

All this needs to be said before the real issue, which is Amy Gardner's Washington Post on-line story can be tackled. And that's for a different post, hopefully, tomorrow.


Dan said...

Thank you for this post. It makes such an important point.

The English language gives us so many words to choose from to accurately convey our meaning. Yet it seems to have become the norm to go for the most inflammatory word even when it is out of all proportion to what is being described. Thus words that should be powerful are rendered meaningless.

For years I have watched as the word racist has been drained of its power by its constant misuse to describe behaviors that may be unpleasant or even repugnant but which are most certainly not racist.

In the recent presidential primary campaign we saw the same thing done with the word misogynist. Misogyny is an ugly thing. And throwing the term around as casually and frivolously as it was last year robs it of any real meaning. Which is a terrible disservice to the women around the globe who truly are victims of misogyny.

You are right to call Ben out on this. Throwing out the unwarranted charge of antisemitism is no substitute for a reasoned argument and it does real damage.

Brian W. Schoeneman said...

AIAW, as always, you are a class act. Calling VAB anti-semitic is absurd for his post, which focused only on policy, not race or ethnicity.

Anti-semitism shouldn't be tolerated, just like racism and sexism shouldn't be tolerated. And it demeans the efforts of many who fight legitimate anti-semitism to throw those charges around lightly.

As one of the regular commenters over at TC, if I thought for a moment that LI, Vincent or VAB had any racist or anti-semitic tendencies, I wouldn't look back. No one should.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Thank you Brian. Coming from you - definitely a class act yourself - that means a lot to me.

And I agree with everything you said :)

Anonymous said...

A fair and accurate piece that needed to be written. Racism (and all its sub-categories, including anti-Semitism, whether it be directed at Arabs or Jews) is a vile, odious, ignorant, and, all-too-often, fatal defect in the human condition. It has to be immediately and forcefully ejected from civic discourse by persons of good will. When gadflies cheapen its meaning by applying it to everything, they undermine our defenses against it. Thank you for taking the time to spell this out.

NoVA Scout

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Thank you Nova Scout!