Hate speech

Paul Krugman thinks the recent murder of abortion doctor George Tiller and yesterday’s shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC are related to an upsurge in extremism caused by irresponsible, inflammatory, Obama-is-leading-us-into-fascism rhetoric from the right, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.

Let me make it clear: I despise the “fascism is coming!” scaremongering.  That said, I think it’s ludicrous to suggest that 88-year-old neo-Nazi James von Brunn — who, as Jonah Goldberg puts it in his NRO column, was “considered a dangerous nut even within the dangerous-nut community” — was inspired by the likes of Limbaugh, O’Reilly, or Glenn Beck.  Von Brunn no doubt regards the conservative establishment as controlled by the Jews (The Weekly Standard was reportedly on his hit list).

Trends in anti-Semitic hate crimes make it hard to speak of a pattern linked to overall political trends.  However, it’s fair to say that a lot of anti-Semitism in recent years has been linked to, and fueled by, left-wing rhetoric against Israel and its supporters.  I think Jonah goes too far in suggesting that swipes at “neocons” are usually code words for anti-Semitism, but the connection, in many cases, does exist.  Discussions of “the Israel lobby” on the Internet certainly do draw the Jew-haters out of the woodwork.

That aside, Krugman’s a good one to talk about political hate- and panic-mongering, after eight years of hysterical warnings from the left about Republican fascism.  Remember Naomi Wolf’s “Fascist America” screed, followed by a book called The End of America?  Wolf was given a voice in such respectable venues as the Colbert report and National Public Radio, and her paranoid rants about Sarah Palin as “the muse of the coming Rovian police state” were hosted by The Huffington Post.  And that’s just one example.  Hate and hyperbole have become an endless cycle in American political discourse, and while there are stylistic differences between the left and the right, no one is innocent.

(Cross-posted to RealClearPolitics blogs.)


Filed under anti-Semitism, left and right

11 responses to “Hate speech

  1. Drew Pruett

    “However, it’s fair to say that a lot of anti-Semitism in recent years has been linked to, and fueled by, left-wing rhetoric against Israel and its supporters. ”

    Are there any sources for this statement? I’ve seen no studies (but I haven’t searched), and in fact, this week is the first I’ve heard of such a theoretical connection. Just curious.

  2. Russell Hanneken

    Drew, this doesn’t directly answer your question, but there is some evidence that Democrats are more anti-Semitic than Republicans:


    My hunch is that this is mostly because of blue collar workers and African Americans, but I do have a left-leaning friend who thinks the anti-Israel contingent is to blame.

  3. Here’s one interesting source:

    Anti-Semitic incidents during the 2008-2009 Israel-Gaza conflict

    Mostly in France and the UK, but also in the U.S. and Canada. (I’m editing my post to include the link.)

    There have certainly been other incidents in which anti-Israel protests have taken on explicitly anti-Semitic overtones. See this article, for instance.

  4. Drew Pruett

    The Maholtra/Margalit survey is very interesting, and does show a possible anti-Jewish bias that is greater in Democrats than in Republicans.

    Similarly, the list of attacks on Jewish synagogues etc. in the Wiki article is interesting, but doesn’t provide any link between rhetoric against the Israeli state and anti-semitism. In fact, the state responses in the first half of the article seemed overwhelmingly to favor being careful with the discussion so it couldn’t be confused with anti-semitism. One Turkish official made a quote that speeches tended to turn into “Damn Jews”, but the source had been removed from Boston.com. I think the more telling quote is the British Foreign Secretary claiming that extremist groups were trying to use the conflict to gain legitimacy.

    At no point in time does either of these articles provide any indication that left wing rhetoric against Israel is linked to any violence. In fact, left wingers aren’t mentioned at all in the second article, and the first, while interesting, has nothing to do with violence against Jews at all (I don’t recall any violent protests to Bernie Madoff, and the protests of the bailouts etc. were mostly concentrated among Conservatives, or at least people who consider themselves conservative.)

    Anything else? I’ve heard this meme repeatedly over the last several days, but haven’t seen anything definitive. I don’t visit the extreme left wing sites (anything from Kos left), or left-wing talk radio, but I’m sure someone out there can direct to a post or host.

  5. Drew, are we reading the same Wiki article?

  6. Drew Pruett

    Also, I’m not endorsing anything by Homeland Security, but if you read their report on left wing extremism, anti-semitism never shows up, nor do the words “Israel” or “Jews”.

    I’m NOT claiming this shows there are no left-wingers who espouse violence against Jews, I’m just saying that they’re not being picked up on the DHS radar.

    If you search the far right websites (Free Republic in particular) you can find groups, regular posters (vonn brunn was one), etc who are white supremacists and do espouse violence. What I’m trying to do is to find some evidence of the same on the left, but like I said in my last column, these sites are not my usual stomping grounds, so I don’t know what names to look for.

  7. Drew Pruett

    The protests listed were most severe in places with larger Muslim populations (Eastern Europe/Middle East, France, Britain, Canada. A centrist party representative in South Africa made some comments he later apologized for.

    The most interesting case of all was maybe the Italian trade union that called for a boycott of Jewish owned shops. It seems iffy to call this anti-semitic. Does this make Rush anti-American for calling for a boycott of GM and Chrysler?

    Where does any of the violence listed come from anti-Israel rhetoric? If all of the listed offenses were in response to Israel’s policies in Gaza during this campaign, and the media reports facts about the campaign (this many airstrikes, this many troops, this many rocket attacks) how is that anti-Israel rhetoric?

  8. Drew, if you believe that a boycott of Jewish-owned shops is not anti-Semitic, we obviously have very different definitions of anti-Semitism.

  9. Drew Pruett

    Is a boycott of French products, French names, and French restaurants anti-Frank in some racist way, or is it a statement against the policies of a country (impotent as such a boycott may be)? People protest how they may, and it doesn’t necessarily make them racist, or sexist, or any other kind of -ist.

    You’re missing my point, though. I’m not claiming that anti-semitism doesn’t exist, and I’m not claiming that it’s purely a right-wing phenomenon, just like white-on-black racism isn’t purely right-wing, or any other kind of racism. You said it was clear that left-wing rhetoric was fueling these incidents. You have presented a union rep in Italy, a low minister in Greece, and a Foreign Office worker in Britain. Where is the left-wing stoking of those fires?

  10. Gary

    And is there not religion, and reform,
    Peace, war, the taxes, and what’s call’d the “Nation”?
    The struggle to be pilots in a storm?
    The landed and the monied speculation?
    The joys of mutual hate to keep them warm,
    Instead of love, that mere hallucination?
    Now hatred is by far the longest pleasure;
    Men love in haste, but they detest at leisure.

    – Lord Byron, Don Juan (Canto XIII, St. 6)

  11. Gary! Would you mind if I said I love you? 😀 Seriously, Lord Byron, and Don Juan in particular, used to be a huge passion of mine, more years ago than I care to admit. I need to re-read it!

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