Thursday, March 15, 2012

Is it 2012 or 1955 in the United States? Postmodern antisemitism

While I've been living in Israel, working on my book, waiting for it to finally get warm here (It's warmer in Ithaca than in Jerusalem today - that is so wrong!), and worrying about missiles being fired at cities in southern Israel by Islamic Jihad, and on the longer term, worrying about whether there's going to be a war with Iran, the United States has apparently been obsessed with the crucial issue of whether women should use birth control, because if a woman uses birth control this means she's a slut, or something. Welcome to 1955!

I am sure that all my US readers know the details about Sandra Fluke's encounter with the unpleasant Rush Limbaugh, who called her a slut for the crime of being a young female. It turns out that the whole brouhaha about Fluke and birth control has descended completely into the gutter, more than you might imagine. I was just reading Marc Tracy of Tablet about a new wrinkle in this revolting story. Some right-wing agitator named Brooks Bayne posted a rant attacking her and her (supposed) boyfriend, who is Jewish. He attacks them both for being socialists, attacks Brandeis University as socialist (the boyfriend's family has given money to the university), while at the same time attacking them as members of the 1%. The boyfriend's great-grandfather was a wealthy man, and at one time headed the United Jewish Appeal, that terribly radical Jewish organization.

Bayne has thus succeeded in engaging in that unique trick of modern antisemitism - accusing Jews at the same time of being socialist agitators and very wealthy. I think I'm finally understanding why Jews can be smeared by such a ridiculously self-contradictory accusation - as socialist agitators, Jews are accused of undermining social stability and the correct hierarchy of society; as rich people, Jews are the enemies of the hardworking middle class. This rhetorical trick doesn't work if you think there's nothing wrong with rich people (the basic position of the Republican Party), but it is appealing to right-wing populists who can attack both the rich and socialists.

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