Air Date 11/22/2022
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast, in which we shall take a look at three recent incidents of celebrities using their platforms to spread antisemitic tropes, all in the context of greater openness to antisemitism within the Republican Party in the age of Trumpism.
But first, just a quick thought to take with you. I want to acknowledge upfront the tension that sometimes exists between anti-Blackness and antisemitism. Concern over antisemitism can sometimes actually be a form of anti-Blackness in disguise and vice versa, in sort of a divide and conquer strategy. For instance, today's show addresses the perpetuation of antisemitic tropes by three famous Black men. And someone with racist motivations could take the same set of stories and use it as an opportunity to criticize Black antisemitism in order to stoke anti-Blackness. That's not what we are doing. The races [00:01:00] of Ye, Kyrie Irving, and Dave Chappelle certainly influence the dynamics of the discussion about what they each said, as you'll soon hear. For us, it's the celebrity and influence of these three that make their recent comments worthy of discussion and related to one another, not so much their races. I think the episode will speak for itself and it'll be clear where we're coming from, but I also wanted to set the stage now so that you know that we know what we're dealing with right from the start.
And now onto the show clips today are from All In with Chris Hayes, This Is Democracy, In The Thick, The Philosopher's Zone, Edge of Sports, CBS Mornings, Jamyle Cannon, and What's Wright?, with an additional members-only clip from Arts and Ideas. And stay tuned at the end where I describe exactly why I didn't include John Stewart's interview with Steven Colbert discussing Dave Chappelle and [00:02:00] antisemitism.
From Kanye To Trump: The Mainstreaming Of Antisemitism On The American Right - All In with Chris Hayes - Air Date 10-17-22
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN : This weekend the ex-president of United States threatened America's Jews. On Sunday morning, Donald Trump took to his fake Twitter website to brag about how no president has done more for Israel than him. But American Jews, he said, are not grateful. "U.S. Jews have got to get their act together and appreciate what they have in Israel before it is too late".
Now to some degree, we've all become inured to this kind of disgusting rhetoric. It's certainly not a new take from Donald Trump who has always, always been clear that he sees Jews, Jewish Americans, first and foremost as loyal subjects to the state of Israel, not fundamentally American - fundamentally foreign. He has repeatedly referred to Israel as American Jews' country, to its leaders as their leaders. Just listen to how he spoke to the attendees at a White House Hanukkah celebration in 2018.
DONALD TRUMP: I wanna thank Vice President Mike Pence, a [00:03:00] tremendous support, tremendous supporter of yours, and Karen, and they go there and they, uh, they love your country. They love your country. And they love this country. That's a good combination. Right? And David Friedman, who, I don't know if David's here, your ambassador. He's great.
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN : Now, just to be clear, he say this to American Jews: your country, they love your country and this country. And I should note that David Friedman, he's talking about David Friedman, he was the U.S. ambassador to Israel, not the Israeli ambassador, which is to say, at that point David Friedman was all of our ambassador as Americans. He represented our American government. He wasn't some special foreign Jewish dignitary. And of course, according to Donald Trump, American Jews who don't support him are not sufficiently loyal to Israel.
DONALD TRUMP: In my opinion, if you vote for a Democrat, you're being very disloyal to Jewish people and you're being very disloyal to Israel.
We have to [00:04:00] get the people of our country, of this country to love Israel more. I have to tell you that we have to do it. We have to get them to love Israel more because you have people that are, Jewish people, that are great people, they don't love Israel enough.
So, this has all been here in front of all of us from the beginning. It's all a natural culmination of all that, that antisemitism that Donald Trump lashed out like this weekend saying, Jews better appreciate what they have before it's too late. And again, you can interpret those exact words however you want. You can come up with defenses for why he was talking about this or that. The message and the threat are very clear. Get your act together American Jews. Again, you can see this and you can say, Well, look, it's Donald Trump. You know, he tried to ban a billion people across the world who were Muslim. He told American congresswomen to go back to their country. We all know what he's like. And we know the Republican Party will remain utterly devoted to him no matter what awful, awful, outrageous thing he says. [00:05:00]
But here's the thing, this is bigger than that, and I think it's genuinely much more disturbing. So take this tweet, uh, from the staff of the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee. They're the minority committee, although they have a good shot of being the majority. And they've carved out a niche, this particular Twitter handle, I don't know who runs it, of regularly tweeting like intentionally outrageous inflammatory things. And October 6th, they wrote simply "Kanye. Elon. Trump". Which is, I gotta say, actually a pretty effective, succinct, honest expression of their worldview. Like, that's what they like. That's their Mount Rushmore. Antisocial people who act like enormous jack-asses and bullies. That is actually the simplest version of the Republican MAGA worldview.
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN : Of course, that tweet came in a moment of peak right-wing celebration of one Kanye West after he wore a t-shirt declaring White Lives Matter and Fox News host Tucker Carlson flew across the country to go kiss his ring and was just delighted. He invited Kanye to show for a [00:06:00] fawning interview, introducing him as some sort of misunderstood, creative genius.
TUCKER CARLSON: The enemies of his ideas dismissed West, as they have for years, as mentally ill. Too crazy to take seriously. Look away. Ignore him. He's a mental patient. There's nothing to see here. But is West crazy? You can judge for yourself as you watch what we're about to show you. He has his own ideas, we can say that. Creative people tend to. That's why they're artists, not actuaries. But crazy? That was not our conclusion. In fact, we've rarely heard a man speak so honestly and so movingly about what he believes. But again, you can judge for yourself.
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN : And then Tucker had to sit there the whole time being like, Yes, yes, Kanye. More, more. By the way, Kanye West is a musical genius. Absolutely. You know, Bobby Fisher was a genius at chess. You know, genius is a complicated thing. But as it turns out, uh, the viewers of that show actually couldn't even do the thing they were set up to do, which was [00:07:00] judge for themselves. That's, remember the whole setup for this is they say he's nuts, take a look for yourself. What do you think? Because Tucker edited out several of West's most disturbing statements, including this antisemitic comment.
KANYE WEST: My kids are going to a school that teaches Black kids a complicated Kwanzaa. I prefer my kids knew Hanukkah than Kwanzaa. At least it will come with some financial engineering .
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN : You know, because the Jews, finance, they're good with money. But that wasn't in the interview, so you couldn't judge that, based on what he said. But again, that was just the tip of the iceberg. Okay? Because the very next day, Kanye tweeted that he was going to go "death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE". And then a, um, well, a fairly, uh, deranged, uh, thing about how Black people are the actual Jews, which comes from a whole complicated corner of the internet I won't get into.
But those same conservatives - who were praising [00:08:00] Kanye just days before, who just decry, they love nothing more than to go crazy about any perceived antisemitism for their political enemies, particularly Muslim women who are Democrats in Congress, the way Donald Trump does - they were all silent. Remain silent. As Kanye said, he's going to go death con 3 on the Jews, not only that, he hasn't stopped. Again, this is one day after the interview he's ramped up his rhetoric.
Yesterday he pops out on a podcast where he rants about Jewish control of the media, arguing that Jews control every influential industry and use it to exploit others while calling Disney a "Jewish platform" and blaming Jewish Zionists for spreading stories about his ex-wife Kim Kardashian and her ex-boyfriend Pete Davidson. Text book stuff, folks. Read a book. There is a reason why the people marching with the tiki torches in Charlottesville, the very fine people as Donald Trump once described them, claimed were defending their Confederate heritage, there is a reason those men you see there were chanting "Jews will not [00:09:00] replace us" and "blood and soil".
This is not a fluke. It's not, like, Oh, wow, weird antisemitism over there and antisemitism over there is, oh, popping up a lot. The kind of right-wing spaces, discourses that Kanye West and Donald Trump are occupying, I suspect the kinds of stuff they're getting fed into their brains by the parts of the Internet they're looking at, have always bent towards antisemitic conspiracies, specifically about Jews pulling the puppet strings and controlling the world. Controlling the media and Hollywood and finance. And right-wing politics as currently embodied by MAGAism, which is the dominant ethos of one of two of America's major parties, has always been and will always be fundamentally a threat to tolerance and pluralism that will inevitably target Jews.
Anti-Semitism - This is Democracy - Air Date 11-9-22
JEREMI SURI - HOST, THIS IS DEMOCRACY: How do we know that we’re seeing more antisemitism, more of the kinds of incidents that Zachary describes?
PETER BEINART: [00:10:00] The truth is we actually don’t. I mean we do know that, of course, that there have been some terrifying high profile violent incidents in California, in Pittsburgh, in Texas. And I do think we can say that it’s hard to find recent precedence like that.
But one of the challenging things about saying that antisemitism is rising in general, though people say it all the time, is first of all, that the data collection systems are not very good for various reasons. And secondly, that there is not actually a consensus definition of antisemitism. So there’s a very quite fierce debate about whether certain kinds of things, like opposing the existence of Israel as a Jewish state or wanting to boycott Israel, are antisemitic. And depending on how one comes down on those questions, that of course will influence how much antisemitism one sees. So it’s not actually as simple a question as one might think to say that antisemitism is rising.
JEREMI SURI - HOST, THIS IS DEMOCRACY: And what’s your perception, Peter, as someone who follows this [00:11:00] closely and I think is very fair minded about it? What’s your perspective?
PETER BEINART: I think that Donald Trump certainly trafficked in more antisemitic tropes: the idea that Jews only care about money, the idea that Jews are loyal to Israel, than any president in recent decades. You have to go back quite a while to find presidents who spoke that way, and I think that is significant. And I think that Trump also created a culture on the American right, parts of the American right, that kind of glory in transgressing certain norms of decency. And one way of transgressing those norms is to flirt with antisemitism. I also think that the backlash against globalization and against immigration and a desire for a kind of white kind of ethnonationalism that would make sure [00:12:00] that white Christian Americans remain on top, that often also blurs into antisemitism. So I think those things are significant cultural developments. I’m not saying I don’t think antisemitism is rising. If I had to bet, I would say it is. I just think it’s actually difficult to prove empirically.
JEREMI SURI - HOST, THIS IS DEMOCRACY: Right, right. And I guess for me, Peter, as someone who has spent so many years teaching about the horrors of antisemitism in Germany in our own country, and teaching to what appears to be a very receptive audience of students, and writing for what appears to be a very receptive reading audience, how is it possible that antisemitism remains so prevalent in our society? Why has it not gone away? Why are you not saying, Wow, I see a reduction in antisemitism because of all the work we’ve done as educators? Why have we failed?
PETER BEINART: Well, but I actually think you’re getting something which is really important for us not to forget, which is there is an enormous amount of philosemitism in the United States. [00:13:00] We shouldn’t lose track of that. In fact, there was some tolling, I think done by Pew recently, that showed that American Jews are the most highly esteemed religious group in the United States. One of the interesting things about American Jews is they’re actually quite highly esteemed, essentially on both sides of America’s partisan and ideological divide, although perhaps for different reasons.
Whereas if you look at evangelical Christians, they’re much less -- white, evangelical conservative Christians -- less esteemed by progressives, and sadly, if you look at more -- Muslims for instance -- they’re much less esteemed among conservative Americans. And American Jews are very firmly embedded in both American political parties, from really the bottom to the top. So I think it’s important for us not to lose sight of that.
But I do think that antisemitism, although it’s different than other, it has its own particular contours and features, also tends to rise and fall often with a general hostility to outsiders, whether it’s immigrants, [00:14:00] Muslims, Black Americans. And so you see that in a lot of these cases where you have these terrible, violent attacks, these people also had animus against other groups as well. And you see in some of the other cases, for instance, the terrible massacre in in Buffalo recently where Black Americans were killed, that that shooter’s manifesto had an enormous amount of antisemitism in it. So there is a kind of ideological stew here, which tends to often tell a story, and the story is often something along the lines of -- it’s a hideous story -- the story is basically that America is being invaded and taken over by nonwhite people, by Latinos, by Blacks, by Muslims. And the Jews are secretly aiding that because they are the kind of sinister evil geniuses, the kind of George Soros figure looms large in this, who are essentially organizing these hordes of Black and Brown people to come and destroy the United States.
ZACHARY SURI - HOST, THIS IS DEMOCRACY: I think what you’re talking about is in many ways an old story, and certainly one that seems very familiar to anyone [00:15:00] who is a serious student of history. But is there a way in which this is also a story of new technology and perhaps a social media or internet landscape that is not regulated or truthful as it should be?
PETER BEINART: Yeah, I mean, I think that the technology allows people to find one another and create online communities, that then can then reinforce their own pathology. So if we think about Henry Ford’s newspaper, what was it called? The Dearborn something, I think where he was basically publishing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. They're reading it for dealerships. So obviously the technology now allows you to be much more global and move much more quickly. And I think especially in an era where people are often isolated from their neighbors and certainly because of COVID, people then find these online communities. And then you sometimes have these algorithms which essentially take whatever you’re looking for online and give you even more pure and kind of more dramatic versions of that. And so [00:16:00] you can then see how people go down this rabbit hole. I’ve seen some interesting, some suggestions that this process of radicalization, when it comes to, let’s say white nationalist antisemites, has a lot in common with the process of radicalization that we see with people who end up in ISIS.
JEREMI SURI - HOST, THIS IS DEMOCRACY: And I want to connect this, Peter, to something else you’ve written a lot about: US views, American views of Israel. One of the things I find paradoxical is that in the last 10 to 20 years, it appears to me, and I know you’ve written about this, that Americans feel more support, they express more support for Israel. Whether they feel more connected or not, I guess, is more complicated, but they express support for Israel across a political spectrum, especially non-Jews, than they did before. But yet we also see these lingering antisemitic attitudes, sometimes in the same communities. How is that possible? How do we understand that?
PETER BEINART: I would say a couple of things. First of all, what’s happened to American support for Israel is that like so much else in American politics, it’s become bifurcated along partisan lines. So what you [00:17:00] see is that while overall US support for Israel hasn’t really changed that much, what’s happened is that Republican support has grown and Democratic support, particularly among younger people on the among self-described liberals, has gone down. And so in very progressive spaces, you now have a very live debate over the whole question of the legitimacy of, not just Israeli policy, but of a Jewish state, of a state that by law and by its own self-identification, privileges Jews over Palestinians. And also a move towards boycotting Israel, given that there seems, for people who are upset about the denial of Palestinian freedom, there seems no other way but to put pressure on Israel to try to change a human rights situation that I think they see and I would agree is intolerable.
Now this gets interpreted as antisemitism by many American politicians and also many American Jewish organizations. I actually don’t think it’s antisemitism. I don’t think calling for equality under the law between Israeli Jews and Palestinians is [00:18:00] antisemitic.
But what does happen is that sometimes people take out their hostility towards Israel on Jews. That they tragically kind of blur the line between Israel as a state -- who has policies and even who has an entire constitutional system that one might oppose -- and Jews who then become stand-ins and representatives for Israel. Whether it means that a Jewish student on campus is asked to justify or defend a position on Israel when they should not have to do that, or is held responsible, even worse, for a position, or even worse, in which Jews are actually attacked. And you see this perhaps more in Europe than in the United States, but it happens here, because people are -- and this particularly, there’s some studies that show that this rise in antisemitic violence tends to increase when in proportion to the number of Palestinians killed by the IDF. And so it is a terribly misguided, and indeed antisemitic way, [00:19:00] to take out your frustrations with the Israeli state.
JEREMI SURI - HOST, THIS IS DEMOCRACY: And what about on the right? My grandmother always warned that certain Christians, she thought, who wanted to see Jews back in Israel, and it wasn’t really to help the Jews. And that there was actually at the core of that something that was dangerous for Jews. Do you see some of that in this sort of religious dispensationalism, the evangelical desire to sometimes flagrantly support the state of Israel and its more belligerent policies?
PETER BEINART: I do, but I think we should admit that Jews are not of one opinion about this, right? They’re a significant number of Jews, particularly in the orthodox community in the United States and in Israel, who are quite happy to have the support of people on the political right in the United States, evangelical Christians, and around the world. Victor Orban, for instance, although he’s expressed antisemitic tropes against George Soros in Hungary, is a big fan of Israel.
The way I would put it is this: I think that people on the right, whether they’re in the United States or in Europe [00:20:00] or even other places, really like the idea that states should be owned by a particular dominant, ethno-religious racial group. That’s what they want for their own countries. That often makes them very admiring of Israel, because Israel is such a state. It has democratic features, particularly for Jews, but it is an ethnocracy. It is a country that is built around the ethno-racial religious identity of one particular group. It has a very extreme immigration policy to maintain its demographic character, which is exactly what conservatives in Europe and the United States want. So this deep admiration and even seeing Israel as a kind of model.
On the other hand, often when those people look at the Jews in their own countries, they feel like the Jews in their own countries are part of the opposition to the political project they’re trying to create. Because those people oppose the idea of defining these countries in Christian terms and often ally themselves with [00:21:00] other marginalized groups, whether they’re LGBT folks or Black folk, folks who are immigrants, in pushing for a civic nationalism, which is based on the idea that no ethnic or racial or religious group should be able to claim ownership of the state. And this is what produces the dichotomy often in which you see a deep admiration and even love for the state of Israel. But often a kind of adversarial view towards the Jews in one’s own country.
Legacy Media Problems - In The Thick - Air Date 10-28-22
JULIO RICARDO VARELA - HOST, IN THE THICK: We gotta talk about this.
MARIA HINOJOSA - HOST, IN THE THICK: Another dude.
JULIO RICARDO VARELA - HOST, IN THE THICK: Yes, the, the problem with the dudes. I apologize for the dudes as a dude here.
Moving on to our second topic, which is about Ye -- the artist also known as Kanye West. So in recent weeks, Ye has been repeating hateful, antisemitic stereotypes about Jewish people in interviews and on social media. He was restricted from using Twitter, although he might come back now, I'm sure, like now that Elon Musk is letting everyone come back -- uh, I'm just having Twitter issues. Coming to terms with that. Also, he was also [00:22:00] restricted on Instagram as a result, and companies including Balenciaga, CAA, and Gap also cut ties with him. And on Tuesday, Adidas followed by terminating their contract with him.
We also saw an incident this past weekend where members of a hate group gave the Nazi salute and hung banners over a freeway in Los Angeles, one of those overpasses you see everywhere in LA, including one that read "Kanye is right about the Jews."
MARIA HINOJOSA - HOST, IN THE THICK: Oh Jesus Christ.
JULIO RICARDO VARELA - HOST, IN THE THICK: Ye is not new to controversy. You know, we understand this. In 2018 he calls slavery a choice. And Black folks have been calling out his anti-Black and racist behavior for years. I've been following it all. I don't wanna give this guy too much of a platform, but it is what people have been talking about. So Maria Hinojosa, what are you thinking?
MARIA HINOJOSA - HOST, IN THE THICK: Well, I'm sorry. I'm just not a Kanye West fan.
JULIO RICARDO VARELA - HOST, IN THE THICK: And I was you know, as a hip hop head when he came out, he [00:23:00] was transformational. So I'm just --
MARIA HINOJOSA - HOST, IN THE THICK: And I understand that. You know, I'm very picky about certain things, obviously, on my social media, but I did put a couple of things out about this, because it is a moment to address antisemitism straight up.
I was horrified by seeing that clip where he's like, "I can say whatever the hell I want."
KANYE WEST: The thing about it, me and Adidas, it's like I could literally say antisemitic [censored] and they can't drop me. I could say antisemitic things and Adidas can't drop me.
MARIA HINOJOSA - HOST, IN THE THICK: And I was like, You are so off [foreign language] but also, no, I don't really feel warm and fuzzy to him. I think we particularly, our team, wanted to single out Karen Attiah's Washington Post op ed this week, which really goes to a deeper level, right? Because as you say, Black people have been talking about this for a long time.
JULIO RICARDO VARELA - HOST, IN THE THICK: About, Ye, yeah, yeah, exactly. They've been slamming him for years.
MARIA HINOJOSA - HOST, IN THE THICK: For his anti-Blackness. And so then all of a sudden now is when white [00:24:00] structures are able to cancel, get rid of, move on from Ye. So she just says, I think she said it really great, "The only real victor in the antisemitism, anti-Blackness struggle Olympics is white supremacy. The rules of racial capitalist hierarchy" -- racial capitalist hierarchy, okay? -- "means that white men who traffic in anti-Blackness and antisemitism manage to withstand social pressure from the groups that they attack", i.e. she singles out Tucker Carlson.
JULIO RICARDO VARELA - HOST, IN THE THICK: And Joe Rogan, who said the N word.
MARIA HINOJOSA - HOST, IN THE THICK: And Joe Rogan.
JULIO RICARDO VARELA - HOST, IN THE THICK: And like he's still around, you know what I mean? And I will say one thing, Maria, I'm so sick of the phrase, "cancel culture" when it comes to making comments, and you have private agreements with major companies. Any person with a brain would know that a contract has a morals clause. And let's just say this: if I was saying these comments for Futuro Media, Maria Hinojosa would be like, Yo, you know what I mean? I'm done. Like I'm done. Like there's certain things that you have [00:25:00] to behave professionally. So I'm just done with this whole canceled -- it's like, you said these words; there are consequences.
Conspiracy theories, anti-Semitism and fun - The Philosopher's Zone - Air Date 5-29-22
DAVID RUTLEDGE - HOST, THE PHILOSOPHER'S ZONE: I'd like to turn to antisemitism as a particular branch of conspiracy theory. You've written about how the puzzle-solving aspect of conspiracy theorizing can often receive support from fantasy. What role does fantasy play in antisemitic imagining?
CHARLES BLATTBERG: Well, there is this figure of the "Jew," and once again, I'm using quotation marks there because it's clearly not actual Jews that are playing this role within the imagination of the anti-Semite, but it's this aesthetic entity, it's a figure with -- it plays the role of what I call a substantive symbol, which is distinct from formal symbols, the kind that you find in mathematics or logic. The substantive symbol of the Jew has both certain trans-historical formal properties, but these are combined with [00:26:00] evolving contents, and that's where you get these different myths and conspiracies such as that Jews enjoy killing babies and using their blood for religious rituals, or that they're behind engineering immigration policy in order to increase the non-white population. All of that seems to me to be indicative of the fantasy that is underlying a big part of conspiracy theorizing. And that, again, is one of the major modes of the aesthetic. When you use your imagination not to capture something real when, for example, you are in a conversation and you're trying to be empathetic to your interlocutor, but rather you just let it run free, well, that's fantasy, and that plays a major role in the enjoyment of conspiracy theories. [00:27:00] And the thing about antisemitism is that sooner or later, it always ends up taking the form of a conspiracy theory.
DAVID RUTLEDGE - HOST, THE PHILOSOPHER'S ZONE: Yeah. It seems to me that there's a connection here between the aesthetic pleasure you are describing and the kind of pleasure that people take in narrative -- you know, that being swept away by an exciting story, in this case, the various accounts of Jewish villainy that we see being told and retold down the centuries. It's very much like a literary encounter, isn't it? That pleasure that we all take in hearing a very conventional story told very conventionally with all the familiar elements in place.
CHARLES BLATTBERG: Yes. And once again, these stories are populated by this figure of the Jew, who is also someone that the Antisemite savors, savoring being one of the other modes of the aesthetic, the appreciation of beauty or even ugliness. So you can think of how antisemites savor the exaggerated hook noses, dark beady eyes, and drooping [00:28:00] eyelids of the ugly swarthy hairy Jew depicted in many relished caricatures and cartoons. Or you can think of the seductive allure of la belle juive, a figure either sinful or noble. Antisemites simply eat this stuff up because they enjoy it immensely. And so once again, we have fantasy playing a role in making conspiracy theories a source of aesthetic pleasure.
DAVID RUTLEDGE - HOST, THE PHILOSOPHER'S ZONE: So if we go back then to our earlier discussion of atomism and monism, that metaphysical framework that undergirds conspiracy theorizing, how does that framework lead some people to focus on Jews in particular as the primary object of suspicion?
CHARLES BLATTBERG: Well, specifically when it comes to monism, I don't think that the mereology, the science of parts and wholes, and so atomism versus whole plays a major role here. But the monism/pluralism dichotomy does, and that's because [00:29:00] historically, Jews have been associated with non-monistic ways of seeing the world. That's true both of religious Jews and secular Jews.
So if you look at religious Jews such in philosophy such as Hannah Arendt or Emmanuel Levinas, Judith Butler, or myself for that matter, you have the idea that it's God who is one, as Moses purportedly declared. And the implication here is that since the world must be intrinsically different from its creator, then the world must be, if not pluralist, then at least disunified.
As for secular Jews, while there's not a few of them, at least amongst the leading intellectuals that have been monists -- so you can think of Spinoza to Marx, Freud, and Einstein -- many others have been otherwise, from Isaiah Berlin to Jacques Derrida, Judith Shklar, and Michael Walzer. [00:30:00] Or you can even look to Yiddish, secular Yiddish culture. I don't know if you like the show Curb Your Enthusiasm created by Larry David.
DAVID RUTLEDGE - HOST, THE PHILOSOPHER'S ZONE: I like it very much, yeah.
CHARLES BLATTBERG: The character he plays, a fictionalized version of himself, is a classic within secular Yiddish culture. It's known as the "schlemiel," which is essentially a bungler who's always either breaking things or stumbling on already broken ones in ways that make the situation worse. While much of the humor of the show revolves around conflicts over minutiae in daily social life -- in which Larry takes one side and some unfortunate friend or acquaintance or passerby takes the other -- and what happens, the outcome here is that you highlight that there are these small and seemingly irreconcilable gaps in the everyday. And in doing so, Curb Your Enthusiasm sends a message: it's a lot of fun, but there's also something [00:31:00] serious being said, and the message is that the world is broken. And that once again is a theme that runs through much Jewish thought.
And so if you're a monist, whether because you subscribe to the doctrine explicitly 'cause you're a philosopher, or just because you tend to approach the world that way without even ever having heard of the philosophy, if you think that the way things are meant to be is they're all supposed to fit together in a unified oneness, well here's this culture within the west that historically has stood for disunity rather than unity. And so there you go. That's why those who are monists and are vulnerable to conspiracy theories tend to focus on the Jew as their targets.
Unpacking Kyrie Irving - Edge of Sports - Air Date 11-7-22
DAVE ZIRIN - HOST, THE EDGE OF SPORTS: Thanks to Jeff Bezos, Kyrie Irving is using his giant NBA platform to promote a movie available on Amazon that luxuriates in the [00:32:00] heat of antisemitism like Steve Bannon at a cross burning. The film Hebrews to Negroes promotes the idea that the Holocaust, which affected my family intimately, was a lie.
It promotes the idea of a link between us modern Jews and Satan worship. It includes quotes attributed to Adolf Hitler about how fraudulent modern Jews are. We aren't real Jews. We are apparently instead Focused on world domination. And for what it's worth, I've never understood why if Jews are set on world domination, I've never been invited to any of the meetings.
To be clear, I've always advocated that athletes should feel free to use their platform to talk about whatever they like. I've written in staunch defense of Maya Moore and Colin Kaepernick and all athletes who do more than just shut up and play. But that doesn't mean I or any of us should just applaud every time an athlete has something to say about life outside the lines. That would be patronizing and deeply [00:33:00] condescending. We should take an athlete's idea seriously enough to question and challenge them if we disagree, especially if they promote hate.
Irving is not a wayward teen who needs to be protected and defended by not only his allegiance of followers, but also those dizzy with the romanticism of an athlete speaking out. He is a fully grown and exceptionally wealthy man who has made the journey from COVID denialism to posting a video by racist, antisemitic child massacre aficionado Alex Jones, to now promoting more lies that aim to divide and demonize.
Despite efforts to be coy, Kyrie knows exactly what he's doing. He knows his ideas are actually threats and doesn't seem bothered by this.
As he said in his disturbing press conference, two Saturdays back, "I'm only going to get stronger because I'm not alone. I have a whole army around me." If these views sound familiar -- real Jews and fake Jews, global [00:34:00] domination, Holocaust denialism, the work of Alex Jones -- it's because they're being widely propagated or hinted at by white supremacists and the right wing of the Republican party. Similar ideas have recently been expressed by Donald Trump, Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, and fascist lawyer-for-hire Jenna Ellis.
And that's what disturbs me the most about Kyrie, Ye, and the ways that these ideas are finding shallow purchase among a thin layer of black celebrities and athletes.
This is a fraught, intense time and there is a fraught, intense historical relationship between Black and Jewish people that demand serious and honest discussion. There's a history of Jewish radicals in the 1930s organizing against racism in northern cities and farmlands of the Jim Crow South. There is history of Black people wholeheartedly fighting against fascism, from volunteering for the Spanish Civil [00:35:00] War, just spilling blood in World War II, a war thought to be against the kinds of white supremacist politics represented by Hitler and the Nazi party. There is a tradition of Jewish participation and martyrdom in the Black freedom struggle of the 1950s and sixties.
Yet there's also another history. It's a history from earlier last century, of Jewish small business owners in Black areas of cities around the country. The monied class, and white Christian supremacists had few roots in urban Black neighborhoods, but Jews, the former residents of these same "ghettos" before migrating out as the Irish did before them, owned shops and small businesses, meaning that the face of economic power and authority was often a Jewish one. Even if that power was not the actual power wielded by industrialists and racist politicians, it became a part of Black politics that Jews were responsible for the burdens of racism in Black [00:36:00] life.
These ideas were prominent enough that there is no Black leader -- no Black leader -- who hasn't been confronted with the question of where Jews fit in the struggle for Black liberation. Malcolm wrestled with it. Martin wrestled with it. It is a confounding question, and understandably so because of the historical imbalance in the relationship between Jewish and Black communities.
But that's also why for over a century antisemitism has been referred to as the socialism of fools. It can come from a place of hating, exploitation and oppression, but when it comes to knowing your enemy, the word "Jews" becomes a stand-in for "exploiters." This is no different from many racial, ethnic, and immigrant groups in a country whose workers have historically, with grand, widely celebrated exceptions, been stubbornly resistant to class struggle. Instead of challenging ingrained issues of race and class that run [00:37:00] deeply in the marrow of this rancid economic system, we point fingers at each other. Divided and conquered.
Let's take the music industry, a deeply parasitic and exploitative business. Generations of Black performers were bled dry by this sordid business. That's not because there was a cabal of secret Jewish executives; it's because the music industry itself is exploitative and racist, no matter who is in the seat of power.
Or take the media, allegedly controlled by Jews. That would be news to Rupert Murdoch and Lachlan, his unabashedly racist son. Last I heard their name wasn't Murdochowitz.
It is further confused by fissures in the Jewish community. There are many liberal Jews who are for social justice, who marched in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd and who overwhelmingly vote Deomcrat. There were also a growing number of leftist Jews who would stand for the liberation of Palestine before they would ever make [00:38:00] excuses or justifications for the actions of the Israeli state. And there are the hardcore Zionist Jews, beloved by Trump, Ellis and friends, because they are the "real Jews," a trope that dehumanizes and endangers all of us. These Jews have traded rabid support for Israel in return for a blind eye and near silence when the GOP and its allies crank up the antisemitism.
So who among Jews is friend, and who is foe in the fight against oppression? Depends on what Jew you were talking to. There is no united Jewish thought or Jewish cabal. If there were, we'd only argue among ourselves.
What terrifies me about the current moment is that Kyrie's politics are migrating and finding a sick alliance among Nazis, fascists, nationalists and all manner of white supremacists who have long promoted these notions, but wanted no part of Black politics unless it was about expressing [00:39:00] common separatist ideas.
It certainly never manifested into solidarity, until now. This has expressed itself in the pro-Kanye social media posts by the GOP and that right-wing billionaire child of apartheid, Elon Musk. This has expressed itself in a white Nazi rally in Brentwood, California, which promoted solidarity for Ye's antisemitic rants.
Then over the weekend, the message "Kanye is right about the Jews" was projected on the outside of one of the end zones at the Georgia-Florida football game. This is also the case with Steve Bannon championing right-wing Black candidates as long as they call for confrontation against his shared enemies. It's ugly, cynical, and racist, and extremely dangerous.
Kyrie's film of choice wants people to wake up. But he's just perpetuating a nightmare of division and helplessness. We all [00:40:00] need to wake up, but we need to wake up to the fact that the same GOP politicians courting antisemites like Ye are also using unprecedentedly racist prime hysteria ads, which endanger the entire Black community.
Jews and all of us need to do more to speak out against that, and the racism that assails Black life every day. Jews also need to wake up to the idea that silent right-wingers like Representative Lee Zeldin and Ambassador David Friedman will sooner support white supremacists and christofascists than their own community, as long as their friends on the far right support Israel.
The fact that their buddies support Israel only because they think of united Israel is a precursor to an end time when all Jews go to hell is never a part of their political calculation. They would rather risk providing support to those who would spur on murderous attacks in our places of worship than link arms with their fellow reform-oriented Jews under attack.[00:41:00]
Let's all pledge to wake up and learn from the past, but to not be shackled by it. A system that feeds upon division is the problem. The only people who benefit from division are the mega-rich and powerful who come in all religions, frolicking on yachts while the world quite literally burns.
The christofascists won't stop with Jews. They'll just be names to check off on a list on their way to other targets. We will either be united in fear or we will be united against a common enemy. And I'm not sure what the future holds, but I don't think it holds much else.
A historic look at the ties between Black and Jewish communities - CBS Mornings - Air Date 7-22-20
JERICKA DUNCAN: Black and Jewish Americans have linked arm and arm in their fights for equality. Terrance Johnson is an associate professor at Georgetown who teaches a class called Blacks and Jews in America.
TERRANCE JOHNSON: There's something about religion and politics that are deeply ingrained within the traditions, both within Blacks and American Jews.[00:42:00] So when they see themselves fighting against, say, segregation, Jim Crow or antisemitism, in the back of their mind, they're thinking of Exodus motif. This idea that God is with them in history.
JERICKA DUNCAN: Their intertwined paths brought them together during the Civil Rights movement. During what became known as Freedom Summer in 1964, two Jewish men and one Black man, Andrew Goodman, Michael Scher, and James Cheney were murdered in Mississippi while trying to register Black Americans to vote. Their deaths and the subsequent media coverage sparked a major change in the portrayal of the movement.
RABBI JOACHIN PRINZ: America must not remain silent...
JERICKA DUNCAN: And at the historic 1963 March on Washington, it was Rabbi Joachin Prinz who spoke just before his frend reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
RABBI JOACHIN PRINZ: Bigotry and hatred unearthed the most urgent problems. The most shameful and the most tragic [00:43:00] problem is silence.
JERICKA DUNCAN: But the longstanding relationship has turned fraught at times, with some members of both groups feeling that their concerns were no longer a priority for their partners.
The Crown Heights riot of 1991 in Brooklyn saw tensions between Black and Jewish communities escalate to violence, including the murder of an Australian Jewish student.
TERRANCE JOHNSON: Both groups are trying to fight against racism, antisemitism, both are trying to assimilate, but both are having a very difficult time in the process. And both are actually pushed and forced into a kind of strange and asymmetrical relationship.
JERICKA DUNCAN: But someone who believed in the power of a good relationship was Congressman John Lewis.
SHERRY FRANK: We sponsored Black/Jewish young leaders retreats and Congressman Lewis would spend the evening with us helping Blacks and Jews.
JERICKA DUNCAN: Sherry Frank worked side by side with Congressman Lewis on the Black/Jewish Coalition in Atlanta.
SHERRY FRANK: We marched to mark important [00:44:00] events. We spoke out in support of renewal Voting Rights Act. I see the future of Black/Jewish relations even strengthened by the stress and the polarization and the bigotry and antisemitism and racism that's just flourishing in our world today.
JERICKA DUNCAN: As for Edward Mossberg, he says he will continue until his last breath to bring Blacks and Jews together.
Does it feel like African Americans and Jewish people should be more connected because of our plights?
EDWARD MOSSBERG: Not more connected. They should be highly connected. Because we went, the Jewish people, went through the slavery in Europe, and the people here was slavery here by their own people because it was wrong, wrong, wrong.
A word about the casual antisemitism thats growing and who it supports - jamylecannon - Air Date 10-28-22
JAMYLE CANNON: I was talking to a Black man in his early 20s about Kanye, and he said, "you know, what Ye said about Jewish people was true. They do control the media." I started to explain, that's just an old anti-Semitic talking point. Like nobody ever talks about how the energy sector is [00:45:00] controlled by white Christian men. People only mention Jewish people in the media to impact you in a certain direction.
He said, how can it be anti-Semitic if it's positive? We saying they got money and they stick together. A lot of times, when we talk about Jewish people in the Black community, Framed as if it's a positive. They don't waste their money. They build generational wealth. They invest in businesses. But those actually aren't our original ideas about Jewish people. Those are stereotypes that were given to us. Why would people who hate Jewish people pass down stereotypes that sound positive? When you think of the typical stereotypes about Black men, what are they? Dumb. Angry, volatile, wasteful. Only useful for physical tasks, not useful for using their brains. These stereotypes paint the picture of a group of people who are a drain on society unless they are broken, controlled, imprisoned, or enslaved. And that mentality justifies everything from throwing away our job applications to killing us in the streets.
Stereotypes about Jewish people are different. They control the media. They stick together. They keep their money to themselves. Those stereotypes paint a different picture, a picture of a group of people who can compete with, outperform, and even subjugate white people in the open market.
Why were white supremacist groups walking through Charlottesville, chanting "Jews will not replace [00:46:00] us"? Because while Black people are painted to be a drain, Jewish people are painted to be a threat, and they have very specific ideas about what to do with a threat. They just need more support for those ideas. But those stereotypes didn't come from us, and they're not meant to benefit us. They're meant to pit one group against another in support of white supremacy.
Nick reacts to Kyrie Irving’s promotion of antisemitic film - What’s Wright? - Air Date 10-31-22
NICK WRIGHT - HOST, WHAT'S WRIGHT?: Kyrie Irving tweeted out a link to a movie that is based on a book. He then claimed in this press conference he had watched the movie. I thought it was totally in play. He had not watched the movie and was just gonna double down anyway. I'm still not convinced you watched the whole thing. And I think it is actually his best defense would be, I didn't watch it, man. I saw it, it seemed interesting. Something do with, you know, my name means Yahweh, as he explained, so I put it out there, my bad. But he claims, not only did he watch it, but he also implies he might have read the book. So in the most damning part of the movie, [00:47:00] and that book, which is why it's being called antisemitic, is because it has an alleged quote from Harold Wallace Rosenthal, and it's been debunked as a fake quote years ago, but that quote talks about how the Jews have established five major falsehoods to conceal their nature and protect their status and power. Included in those falsehoods is Holocaust denialism, according to this, again, fabricated quote. He goes on to, later in the movie there is a quote attributed to Hitler that says, Because the White Jews know that the Negros are the real children of Israel, and to keep America's secrets, the Jews will blackmail America. They will extort America. Their plan for world domination [00:48:00] won't work if the Negroes know who they are. So Kyrie Irving at this press conference talks about, it's on Amazon Prime, it's history, it's out there, but it's fabricated history. So now let's go a layer back. That Harold Wallace Rosenthal quote, sounds a hell of a lot like some things folks read a hundred years ago in a book called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. That again, that was one of the first documented instances of truly damaging fake news. So that was a book that the entire thing was wrote as a fabrication. So folks that wanted reasons to attack and dehumanize, use one of Kyrie's words, Jewish people, wrote a book that was [00:49:00] attributed to Jewish people about their plot for world domination and then pretended they discovered it. Do you follow me? So that's what that, and this Harold Wallace Rosenthal quote, that is not a real quote from that guy, and I'm not gonna get into the full history of that, but it's been since debunked many times over, it's a lot like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
So, Kyrie says, Did I hurt or harm anyone? Well, not directly and not yet. However, and Kyrie's big on history, but it's important, you know, the actual history. So The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, that book was in the 1930s taught to school children in, you guessed it, Nazi Germany as a way to prime these young people for the hatred and the coming purge [00:50:00] of Jewish people during the rise of Hitler and you know, Nazi Germany. Okay? So all of this stuff, Kyrie and Kanye and so many of these folks think they're discovering something, think they've uncovered real truth when it's the same playbook that other folks have been going by intentionally or unintentionally for decades, and in some cases centuries.
So this all hits close to, it's weird for me maybe to care so much about this, but it is such a symptom of a bigger problem. And I said this on Twitter, and I say it again here, I'm just an Italian-Irish White guy who was raised Roman Catholic. [00:51:00] However, my dear beloved grandfather who passed before you were born was a Polish Jew. And my wife and my three wonderful children are Black. And people have been trying to pit Blacks and Jews against each other for so long, and in so many ways it's been successful. Some of the most racially exclusive communities in New York City are the Orthodox Jewish communities that really have no time for Black folks. And some of the most racially exclusionary communities are these folks that march up the street [00:52:00] from this store. Some of the Black Israelites who echo all of this same antisemitic nonsense. And what's such a shame is we can keep to sports, we can go outside of sports, all of our civil rights leaders knew better. MLK marched with rabbi's and had no quarter for antisemitism. Jackie Robinson wrote a column for, I think it was the New York Post or New York paper, uh, long ago about confronting antisemitism. Kareem talks about it to this day and, and yet it still pervades. And I do empathize with Black Americans in that [00:53:00] not only was your history stolen from you, and not only do you not, we don't teach it in schools, if you wanna learn anything about your ancestors, you have to specialize in it. And even there, it's hard. It's hard to sort everything out. It's, the people say why, you know what I mean?, some of the bad actors, racist folks, be like, It's so ridiculous. Why can't I have White pride when there's Black pride? Well, there is White pride all over the place. It's just us White folks get to narrow it down to Irish-American pride or Italian pride or Polish Pride or Russian pride. Black Americans don't get that luxury. They had stripped from them, the continent of Africa and really their experience here in America. So you, it's different [00:54:00] and it takes, you gotta peel back the onion one layer to understand that. So I understand Black people wanting to feel like, Goddamnit, they're not teaching me this in school. I'm gonna go find my history. But this is where we all as a society are in such a dangerous place because nobody seems to have the goddamn ability to differentiate history from a well-produced YouTube video.
Pogroms and Prejudice - Arts & Ideas - Air Date 8-24-22
BRENDAN MCGEEVER: It's early morning October 25th, the eve of the 1917 Russian Revolution. Workers are taking up strategic points on the wind swept streets of Petrograd. In the Winter Palace, head of the provisional government, Alexander Kerensky, awaits his getaway car. There are no lights or phones in his room. From his window, Kerensky can see the Palace Bridge occupied by Red Guards. The Bolshevik seizure of power [00:55:00] is eminent. Eventually an American Embassy car is secured and Kerensky begins his escape from Red Petrograd. As the vehicle turns a corner, he notices graffiti freshly painted on the palace walls: "Down with the Yid, Kerensky. Long live comrade Trotsky". Down with the Yid, Kerensky, long live comrade Trotsky? This is absurd. It was Trotsky who was Jewish, not Kerensky.
What I find fascinating about this footnote of the Russian Revolution is that it captures the messiness of antisemitism and the way that it can find traction across political loyalties. Today, essentially on antisemitism sits at the center of British political debate like never before. The issue is explosive, but one that is often poorly understood. Perhaps part of the difficulty we have is that antisemitism has no single home. It's found across the political divide. [00:56:00] There's a long tradition of antisemitism on the right, particularly on its fascist fringes, which today encroach into the political mainstream across the world. But antisemitism has also been a recurring feature on the left, and to a great extent, it's this that generates controversy and confusion today.
Well, I think historical perspective might help us here. The story of a left wing party struggle to address antisemitism is not a new one. A century ago socialists in Russia grappled with a rising tide of anti-Jewish prejudice. Antisemitism was straightforward when it was over there on the political right, but what about when it was closer to home? What about when it was painted on the palace walls by a supporter of the revolution? When the Bolsheviks seized the Winter Palace in October 1917, they announced to overthrow the capitalist order. In promising a world free of class exploitation and domination, they also promised deliverance from the injustices of racial inequality. Antisemitism [00:57:00] belongs to the past, they announced. Under socialism, it will be eradicated. But a storm was coming.
Kerensky made his getaway from the Winter Palace in the early morning of October 25th. Later that very same evening, just a couple of miles down the road, Lenin and Trotsky lay on the floor of the Bolshevik HQ, dreaming up the kinda society they might wake up to. "Comrade Trotsky", exclaimed Lenin, "you will become People's Commissar for Internal Affairs and you will crush the bourgeoisie". But Trotsky hesitates. Won. Won't having a Jew in such a high profile position be a gift to the antisemites?
He was right to waver. The revolution was swiftly followed by civil war and devastating anti-Jewish violence. This was the age of the pogrom. The word "pogrom" derives from the Russian verb "gromit", to destroy. Alongside "kiosk" and "intelligentsia" it's one of the few Russian words to have entered the English language. It does [00:58:00] so at the beginning of the 20th century as news spreads of successive waves of anti-Jewish violence in Russia, but the Civil War programs eclipse all else.
What we are talking about here is the most significant assault on Jewish life in pre-Holocaust modern history. More than a hundred thousand Jews are murdered and many more left bereaved, orphaned, and destitute. This was a defining moment in East European Jewish history. Today the pogroms have faded from view, eclipsed by the Holocaust. In a way, they are a forgotten genocide.
The bulk of the atrocities are perpetrated by anti-Communist forces, the Counter Revolution. But to Lenin's dismay, 1 in 10 pogroms are carried out by his own Red Army. Workers and peasants, mobilized by the Bolshevik message to avenge their class injuries, had turned on Jews. In fact, the very first pogrom after the Russian [00:59:00] Revolution was a Red Army pogrom. So when Lenin's Bolsheviks confronted antisemitism - and confront it they did - they faced an antisemitism that had gained traction within sections of the party's social base. And this is what strikes you when you go to the Soviet archives to research the topic, as I did back in 2013.
Let me take you through the archives for a moment. The first thing you do in a Russian archive is show your passport and documents to a state security official. I remember my first encounter vividly. Turn right, you'll see the lift. But it's not the lift that catches my attention, but the severed heads of Marx and Lenin statues piled under the stairway leading up to the reading room. In Soviet times, these statues adorned the streets of the Russian capitol. Today the Putin government is unsure how to handle this radical past. The figureheads of revolution are tucked away under a stairwell gathering dust. Upstairs into the reading room.
The second thing you [01:00:00] do in a Soviet archive is ask for the "opisi", the inventory that lists and describes the individual files. What tends to happen is the archivist asks you what your research area is, and they provide you with the inventories based on your answer. Well, my first go at this didn't turn out so well. Hi, I'm here to research antisemitism during the period of the Russian Revolution. Things immediately get tense. The archivist draws, breath and folds their arms. There was no antisemitism during that time and there are no files for you in this archive. This difficult exchange was a powerful and actually very helpful reminder that the past is not dead, and it taught me the valuable lesson of the need to take care when presenting a research project. But this is a one off. State archivists are tremendously knowledgeable and helpful. My difficulties lie elsewhere, in the files themselves. I manage to get ahold of those precious inventories. I sit down and scan for my keywords, antisemitism, [01:01:00] pogrom, Jews. Nothing, not a single one. And panic begins to set in. Is this a research project dead on arrival?
Another valuable lesson was in store. These inventories are political documents in and of themselves. The lists I was looking at had been compiled in the late Stalin era when there was little, if any, chance of the revolution being archived under the rubric antisemitism. So I take a chance, an order, some innocuous looking files on the Red Army. Surveillance reports from 1919 sent to Lenin from the front. They detail all sorts of things: how many weapons and how many pairs of boots the Red Army has, how many pairs it needs. But to my excitement, they also contain descriptions of the attitudes, feelings, and political beliefs of Red Army soldiers in a moment of revolution.
And as I read them, I learn that in Ukraine, one of the most common slogans of the Red Army in 1919 is "Smash the [01:02:00] Jews. Long live Soviet power". Smash the Jews, long live Soviet power? What is going on here? How could antisemitism find a home within a revolutionary project that had declared its opposition to all racisms? What were the historical, social, and cultural conditions that enabled this confluence between antisemitism and revolution? Well, antisemitism was deeply sedimented within the political culture in late Imperial Russia. Anti-Jewish sentiment had been cultivated through generations, not least by the Czarist government, which in many ways was defined by its antisemitism.
But there's something else happening here, and it takes us to the question of power. A key feature of modern antisemitism has been the way it has conjured an image of the Jew as an archetype, which stands above and in conflict with the laboring poor. As the late critical theorist Moishe Postone once noted, what makes antisemitism dangerous for the left is that it can appear [01:03:00] oppositional. It provides an easy personification of capital. It gives a visible face to less tangible global forms of domination.
Throughout the history of the left, certain anti-capitalist visions generated by socialists have overlapped and combined with this strain of antisemitism. When antisemitism appears on the left, it often expresses this oppositional quality. Yoked to the idea of social justice, it provides an outlet for discontent. It offers an explanation for injustice and presents an enemy for those who are in search of one.
And this is what happened in the Russian Civil War. Many within the Bolshevik social base fought for a popular conception of Soviet power, a power of the people of the laboring people. Against who? Against the capitalists, speculators, and exploiters. These were standard categories of revolutionary Bolshevism. And as far as the Bolshevik leadership was concerned, they were precisely the kinds of [01:04:00] concepts and ideas that were best equipped to cut through the politics of prejudice. However, in Ukraine in particular, the language of class was always inflected by ethnicity. Indeed the very words "Ukrainian" and "Jew" denoted not just ethnic or racial identifications, but class ones, too. In the popular imaginary, the Ukrainian was a true and honest toiler who put their hands to productive, concrete labor. You know, the kind of person that had dirt under their fingernails. The Jew, by contrast, was a non-laborer, a speculator, an extractor of surplus labor, not a producer of it.
And so the standard categories of class were vulnerable to an antisemitic interpretation. When the Bolsheviks mobilized class resentments, those resentments could sometimes be turned on Jews to the shock and dismay of the party leadership. The Bolshevik message was received in ways over which the party leadership [01:05:00] had little control. And this is why the slogan that I came across in the archives, "Smash the Jews. Long live Soviet power", could gain such traction.
The reading room is closing. Please return your files.
On my way out, I notice a small exhibition marking the anniversary of the Russian Revolution. There's a reproduced photograph of Lenin on display. As I approach, I realize someone, a reader?, has drawn a star of David onto Lenin's forehead. I take the lift downstairs and notice antisemitic graffiti etched onto the side panel. These archival experiences begin to shape the way that I think about the documents I've just consulted. Like all forms of racism, antisemitism never stands still, but some of the tropes in stereotypes have endured across time and space, which leads me back to the present day and to Britain where the controversy over antisemitism rumbles on.
There's one significant but unnoticed point of consensus in [01:06:00] this otherwise bitter dispute. Figures on all sides conceive of antisemitism as an exogenous force which contaminates the political body it inhabits. So for the Prime Minister, it's a virus. For the leader of the opposition, a poison. But having been to the Soviet archives and thought about this in a historical context, perhaps the problem is not some strange disease which erupts in different times and places, creating fully committed, fully fledged antisemites. Instead, perhaps the problem is a much more widespread one, one of negative and stereotypical ideas about Jews which have accumulated through the centuries and that are embedded deeply within our cultures. This is the perspective that my colleagues, David Feldman, Ben Gidley, and I have come to develop at the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck, University of London.
Instead of people who've been poisoned or who have caught the contagion which now possesses them, what we see from the Russian [01:07:00] Revolution to contemporary Britain from the right and to the left is people reaching for an antisemitic idea at a particular moment in time to provide a simple and apparently persuasive account of a problem that they care about.
If we should use a metaphor to comprehend this kind of antisemitism, it's not "virus", but "reservoir". A deep reservoir of stereotypes and narratives, which has been replenished over time, and from which people can draw with ease. The Russian Revolution is more than a century old now, but the injustices that produced it remain, and so to do the prejudices that scarred those historic events. As the left grapples with antisemitism in the here and now, the past may help us to rethink this urgent problem of our time.
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today starting with All In with Chris Hayes discussing antisemitism from both the pop culture side with Ye and the political side with Trump and the likes of Tucker Carlson. [01:08:00] This Is Democracy did a deep dive on the dynamics of antisemitism and the sort of love/hate relationship White supremacists have with Israel as an ethnostate. In The Thick discussed the dynamics of anti-Blackness and antisemitism in the context of Ye's recent comments. The Philosopher's Zone looked at some of the elements of storytelling that have supported antisemitic tropes through the ages. Edge of Sports discussed Kyrie Irving, conspiracy theories, and the need to resist the divide and conquer strategy. CBS Mornings produced a piece on the historical ties between the Black and Jewish communities fighting for social justice. Jamyle Cannon on TikTok laid out why some of the antisemitic stereotypes can sound positive on the surface, but still work to build anti-Jewish sentiment. And What's Wright? also dove into the debunking of the antisemitic video Kyrie Irving shared and, again, stressed the importance of resisting the divide and conquer strategy to squash [01:09:00] solidarity between the Black and Jewish communities.
That's what everybody heard but members also heard a bonus clip from Arts and Ideas, which laid out a fascinating story about antisemitism in the Russian Revolution, which claimed to stand against racism, but turned out to be a great example of the malleability of antisemitism. To hear that and have all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. And now we'll hear from you.
Policing gender norms - VoicedMailer John
VOICEDMAILER JOHN: Hi Jay, this is John.
I found your podcast a few months ago. The content in this podcast is exactly what I need in my life at this time.
I just finished the most recent podcast and want to share my gender policing story. This is a thread that travels through my life:
During elementary school in the [01:10:00] 1980's, I was at a friend's house when she suggested we play dress-up and role play. I decided I wanted to wear a skirt. She let me borrow one of hers. I put it on and it felt absolutely amazing! I wore it that entire day. Once my parents found out, I was immediately reprimanded and told that boys do not wear skirts because they are only for girls. I remember expressing my frustration at the injustice of gender inequality in clothing. I just accepted it as fact and moved on. I was, after all, just a child.
Fast forward to the 1990's. I was in High School when Good Morning America did a story on Men's Dresses. I expressed my delight in seeing men in dresses. My mother immediately reminded me that the Bible states men could not wear dresses. I pushed back, but how can someone argue with strong religious ideology? We were part of an Independent Fundamental Baptist, I.F.B., Church at the time.
By 2006, I was exiting the IFB cult. I bought my first kilts that spring. I wore one to the church we were attending for a mid-week [01:11:00] service. I was promptly told again that I was not "dressing like a man" and to never wear it to a church service again. It took many more years before my family and I left that place. We are currently part of a conservative Presbyterian Church.
In 2019, I started wearing skirts in public. Unless I am working, I wear a skirt just about everywhere I go. I do get some gender policing from members of the church we are a part of now, but I just go about my life and ignore most people.
Thanks for taking the time to read my story.
Keep up the good work. The podcast is absolutely amazing!
Final comments on Jon Stewart discussing antisemitism and Dave Chapelle
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Thanks to all those who called into the voicemail line or wrote in their messages to be played as VoicedMails. If you'd like to leave a comment or question of your own to be played on the show, you can record a message at (202) 999-3991 or write me a message to [email protected].
First of all, thanks to Jon for writing in and sharing that story. If you have your own gender policing stories, I'm happy to continue that conversation when we come back from the holidays. I [01:12:00] started at the conversation with a relatively low level offense from my childhood, so feel free to dig deep from the archives of your life or something that happened to you yesterday, big or small.
And now, to wrap up here, we're gonna address Dave Chappelle, who had a monologue on Saturday Night Live, which I agree with the critics who said that it helped perpetuate Jewish stereotypes and tropes that are antisemitic. What that says about Dave Chappelle's personal inner feelings and what's in his heart is much less interesting to me.
In response to that, Jon Stewart, unsurprisingly, who is both Jewish and a friend of Dave Chappelle, went on Stephen Colbert's show and discussed antisemitism amongst other things. And that interview also had quite a mixed reaction. [01:13:00] For instance, I just found two vaguely representative articles from forward.com, which I had not heard of before. It describes itself as Jewish, independent, and non-profit. And there are two articles: Jon Stewart is right about how to fight antisemitism — and should maybe be our ‘spokesjew’, and another article was titled Jon Stewart is not our ‘spokesjew’ — he normalized hate speech, just to give you a sense of the spectrum.
The first, basically just argued that Jon Stewart did a good job, was funny, made some really nuanced and thoughtful points, and that is true. But the second article focused on his missteps that he made in the process, pointing out that he minimized Chappelle's antisemitic remarks by comparing Chappelle's comments during the opening monologue of a nationally televised TV show two [01:14:00] internet comment sections, sort of saying that if it's normal in one place, then it doesn't matter if it's being perpetuated elsewhere.
JON STEWART: Everybody obviously calls me and you say, "did you see Dave on SNL? "And I'm like, yes. We're very good friends. I always watch and send nice texts. "He normalized antisemitism with the monologue," and I'm like, I don't know if you've been on comment sections on most news articles, but, uh, it's pretty f*****g normal,
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And he says this as if to normalize means to be singularly responsible for normalizing, which is of course not true. It is a phenomenon that is cumulative, which means that every instance of it is bad. He went on, and sort of, I mean this one was more squishy. Jon Stewart, through use of what I would call imprecise language, arguably perpetuated the stereotype that Black people are antisemitic. He doesn't say that exactly, [01:15:00] but It comes through in an implication.
JON STEWART: Look at it from a a Black perspective. It's a culture that feels that its wealth has been extracted by different groups, whites, Jews, things, whether it's true or not isn't the issue, that's the feeling in that community.
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And he also erased the existence of Black Jews, which, to be fair, basically everybody does. It is a small community. Not many Jews are Black, and not many Black people are Jews, but there are Black Jews, and so to describe these two groups as though there is a clean dividing line between them is an erasure, and so the article criticizing Jon Stewart has this quote that I think is illustrative. It says, "when influential people like Stewart speak over Black Jews as if they don't exist, it means they are left with the burden of [01:16:00] pushing back against anti-Semitism disguised as being pro-Black, and anti-Blackness disguised as fighting anti-Semitism.", which I think sort of goes to the core of the message that we've been trying to get through in today's entire episode.
Now, somewhat aside from exactly what was said, my take is that Jon Stewart just wasn't really a great choice of a person to discuss the issue for the exact reason that people were so anxious to hear his perspective. He's good friends with Dave Chappelle. I mean, asking someone to come on national television to criticize a close friend of theirs is never going to end well. They're either going to ruin their friendship in the process, pull their punches in order to preserve their friendship, which is basically what everybody in every friendship would do, or simply have a bad take in which they honestly deny that criticism is warranted.
But there's one last [01:17:00] thing that I think is worth criticizing that I have not seen addressed elsewhere. I'm sure it has been, but I just haven't seen it. Jon Stewart's take on why institutional reactions to antisemitism from people like Kyrie Irving, who was benched by the Nets is wrong because that's not the best way to get someone like Kyrie Irving to change his mind.
JON STEWART: Penalizing somebody for having a thought, I don't think, is the way to change their minds or gain understanding. This is a grown ass man, and the idea that you would say to him, "we're gonna put you in a timeout. You have to sit in the corner and stare at the wall until you no longer believe that the Jews control the international banking system." We have to get past this in the country, the ability to... look, people think this. People think Jews control Hollywood, people think Jews control the banks, [01:18:00] and to pretend that they don't and to not deal with it in a straightforward manner, we will never gain any kind of understanding with each other.
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: But what Jon Stewart is missing here is that changing Kyrie's mind is not, or at least should not be the driving force behind the actions of his team or the condemnations coming from the public, or any other public or institutional reaction The driving force should be to try to prevent the spread of antisemitism to others who may be influenced by people like, Ye, Kyrie Irving, or Dave Chappelle.
If those three dudes were quietly and personally antisemitic then it would be unfortunate, but not something that required a national conversation in an attempt to save these three lost souls from their terrible personal ideas. The whole point of the institutional reaction, losing sponsorships, getting [01:19:00] benched, being condemned by thought leaders—these are all because of the threat of spreading antisemitism, not because of their personal opinions and the need for those personal opinions to change.
So Jon Stewart started off early with a big logical fallacy, comparing Dave Chappelle on national TV to an internet comment section in order to downplay his influence. I mean, honestly, that was the response. But his biggest misdirection was the foundation on which his entire argument was made. His focus was on the best way to change the minds of the individual offenders. That is not the point. That doesn't mean that having greater open dialogue about antisemitism might not be a better way to address the problem, but we still need to go into the discussion with an understanding of what we're trying to accomplish, and Stewart got that exactly. Wrong.
The bottom line for me is that it's a [01:20:00] mixed bag. Both of those opposing articles made valid points and both fall short, just like Jon Stewart did in that interview with Colbert. The focus of most of the coverage has been about Stewart trying to take a more empathetic look, not at antisemitism in the abstract, but at why people fall into it and what may be better strategies for combating it. I applaud that kind of empathy when it's employed to gain greater understanding. And that interview was in the running to be included in today's show, but the more I listened to it, the more I found these poison pills in his downplay of the influence of these celebrities and the logical fallacies and misdirections throughout.
Jon's problem is that in parts of that interview, he's giving a good answer to the wrong question. If you want some thoughtful, nuanced ideas about what it takes to change an individual mind, and more specifically [01:21:00] what isn't likely to work, that's what his comments are about. That just isn't anything to do with the conversation about stopping the spread of dangerous conspiracy theories through celebrity influencers. So even though there's some value to be mined from that discussion, I couldn't justify playing it without tons of explanation and caveats. So now I've explained it and I've run out of time to be able to share it, but if you wanna hear it, it's not hard to find and you can check it out yourself.
As always, keep the comments coming in at (202) 999-3991 or by emailing me to [email protected]. That's gonna be it for today. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show, and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to the Monosyllabic Transcriptionist Trio, Ben, Ken and Brian for their volunteer work, helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic [01:22:00] designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at bestoftheleft.com/support, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple Podcast app.
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So coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay!, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com.