Tuesday, October 30, 2018

"Fake Universalism" from the Trump administration about Pittsburgh massacre

Thread from Jeet Heer, on Twitter.
1. Let's talk about how the Trump administration is trying to erase the Jewish dimensions of a Jewish tragedy. The technical term is "de-Judaization" -- fake universalism in the service of suppressing a particular identity.
2. First we had the ineffable Kellyanne Conway saying that the synagogue massacre was an example of "anti-religiosity" spurred by late-night comedians:
3. Then Mike Pence invited a Christian "rabbi" to deliver a prayer -- one that didn't name the dead in the Tree of Life synagogue but rather Republican candidates
4. Jeff Sessions made a comment similar to Kellyanne Conway, that this was an assault on all religions. Again with the effect of removing the synagogue massacre from the category of an anti-Semitic crime to a more generic offense.
5. All of this adds up to a pattern, one seen earlier when Trump White House released statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day that didn't mention Jews.
6. So: let's be clear: the Saturday massacre was the most lethal anti-Semitic massacre ever on American soil. The alleged gunman from all evidence had deeply imbibed anti-Jewish hatred. His goal was a specific one of killing Jews, not generic anti-religiosity.
7. The particular idea that spurred on the killer (Jews as mastermind bringing in non-whites to destroy whites) is not generic anti-religiosity but an anti-Semitic trope with deep roots, a variant of Nazi myth of udeo–Bolshevism.
8. The Pittsburgh massacre can only be understood through the specificity of Jewish history and a very particular type of anti-Semitism. In their public statements, the Trump administration is intent on denying that specificity.
9. A good analogy is how foes of "Black Lives Matter" responded with "All Lives Matter." An adoption of a spurious universalism that is designed to shut down particular voices speaking of particular problems.
10. So what's going on here? Why this pattern of de-emphasizing the Jewish particulars? The worst case answer is anti-Semitism, either deliberate or unconscious. But there are other possible answers.
11. The most benign possible answer is that this is the common way that Gentiles of all stripes handle anti-Semitic crimes: try to make them more "relatable" and "universal" -- i.e. early version of Diary of Anne Frank which erased some Jewish references.
12. A more specific answer is timing and politics. We're a week out from the mid-terms. Talking about anti-Semitism doesn't help the GOP and could (given stoking of Soros conspiracy theories) hurt them. There voters are evangelicals. Make it about anti-religiosity.
13. I think it's really important for reasons to go beyond partisan politics to resist the erasure the Trump administration is engaged in. That resistance has to also oppose the tendency towards a facile ecumenicalism from some non-Trump people.
14. The proper understanding of the Tree of Life massacre is that it a Jewish event: fuelled by the particular anti-Semitism that scapegoats Jews for social unrest. We should oppose all forms of bigotry but can't fight anti-Semitism unless we name it as such.

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