Fortunately, the economic
crisis in the United States has not produced a rise in anti-Semitism, as did
crises in the 1890s and 1930s. There are two good reasons for that.
The less important reason
is that the causes of the collapse are no secret; it was caused by the
deregulation policies of the second Bush administration, and particularly of
the home mortgage sector (and polls show that the public understands that). More
important, the United States has in recent years been relatively free of
anti-Semitism, except on the far fringes of the left and right. European-style
conspiracy theorists who harangue about a mysterious cabal of Jews who control
the world have not gotten much traction here.
At least they didn't
until Glenn Beck.
Beck, the former Fox
News personality, has devised a three-point strategy that enables him to
widely disseminate the old "blame the
Jews" meme without being dismissed as an anti-Semitic crackpot.
The first part of the
strategy is never to blame the Jews as Jews. Beck focuses on individual
Jews, one after another, as the source of America's misfortunes but carefully
avoids references to Jews as a group.
The second is that
when he does discuss "the Jews" per se, he emphasizes that he himself isn't
blaming them for anything but that unnamed others do. He is just offering a
friendly warning to Jews to watch their backs.
The third is that he loudly
professes his "love for Israel" which, to the gullible, means that he could not
possibly be anti-Semitic. (Jewish neoconservatives, in particular, tend to court
the friendship of anyone who claims the mantle of "pro-Israel," no matter what
that person thinks about Jews.)
But many Jews, and
others familiar with anti-Semitic tropes and themes, see right through Beck's
carefully constructed edifice of innocence. Writer Michelle Goldberg explained
Beck's tactics in a blockbuster article in the Daily Beast in which she
wrote that Beck's repeated references to Jews constitute "a symphony of
According to Goldberg,
receptive ears will understand who he is describing when he talks about a
liberal elite which runs a "shadow government" that, in Goldberg's words,
"manipulates regimes and currencies for its own enrichment." When he says that
group are simultaneously bankers and Marxists, and says they have made
President Obama "their puppet," his audience will know what he means.
Late last month,
Glenn Beck lost his daily gig on Fox News. His ratings were sliding and his advertisers
fled once they were apprised of the rancid ideas they were underwriting. Details
of Beck's new internet video venture aren't yet clear, but he has already announced
that he will kick off Beck II at a massive rally in Jerusalem on August 24th.
On Monday, Beck began
his advance work for the rally with a visit to the Knesset, where he was hosted
by a far-right parliamentarian and mobbed by a crowd of settlers and other
right-wing activists. (It is worth noting that Beck exchanged friendly
greetings with Baruch Marzel,
the former head of Kahane
Chai, an outfit on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations
and a man well known for his involvement in inciting violence.) Beck put out
his usual claptrap, likening himself to great biblical figures while demonstrating
his profound ignorance of Jews.
Perhaps Beck's most
offensive moment in a day of egregious offensiveness was what some would characterize
as a threat against American Jews.
After telling his
audience at a Knesset committee that anti-Semitism is "going through the roof" in
the United States, he declared that "the United States has an
economic problem and the Jews will be blamed." Note the passive tense. Beck
won't blame the Jews, but they "will be blamed."
It is not hard to
discern what Beck is really saying when one looks back at his attacks on Jews over
the past few years. Back in January, Atlantic columnist Jeff Goldberg
wrote about Beck's "Jewish problem." Goldberg, like any writer on
Beck and the Jews, had too much evidence to work with so he decided to go with
just one example. He wrote:
This is not...a post
about Beck's singular obsession with George Soros. ... This is a post about Beck's
recent naming of nine people — eight of them Jews — as enemies of America and
humanity. He calls these people prime contributors to the — wait for it —
"era of the big lie."
The particular Beck installment to which
Goldberg alluded revealed as much about Beck's attitudes toward Jews as anything
he has ever said publicly. He listed the nine people — an "intelligent
minority" — who infected the 20th century with the view that the
masses are "animals" who can be controlled through propaganda. According to Media Matters, Beck named AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, as well as:
- Propagandist and ad man Edward Bernays, who revolutionized 20th century public relations.
- Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, who was Bernays' uncle and influenced his method.
- George Soros, who Beck claimed shared Freud and Bernays' philosophy that people are "animals" who can be "experimented with."
- Cass Sunstein, who Beck insisted "is Edward Bernays" and has called "the most dangerous man in America."
- Former SEIU president Andy Stern, who Beck said is part of a self-proclaimed "intelligent minority" of powerful men trying to manipulate the "bewildered herd" of America.
- Walter Lippman, a prominent columnist of the mid-20th century, who Beck accused of viewing government "as a way to control people."
- Frances Fox Piven, professor at CUNY, who Beck accused of "sowing the seeds" of revolution.
- Ed Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania, who Beck said thinks of himself as "one of the elites that are there to guide the herd."
Of the nine, Trumka is the only non-Jew; the other eight are Jews. Other
than their ethnic backgrounds, the Beck 8 have little in common. Ed Rendell and
Sigmund Freud? Andy Stern and Walter Lippmann?
How can anyone, other than someone with a real hang-up about Jews, produce a
list of the people who epitomize the "era of the big lie" and come up
with this list of American Jewish writers, college professors, labor leaders
and a governor of Pennsylvania! I mean, think of the some of the 20th century's monstrously criminal liars...
The people and government of Israel need to understand what Glenn Beck is
trying to do. He is using them as a disinfectant to cleanse him of the stink of
anti-Semitism, racism, and proto-fascism. Without Israel, Beck is just another
right-wing bigot and crackpot. But with it, he becomes almost legitimate and so
does the dangerous and ugly portrayal of Jews that has become his trademark.
Beck is treif (unkosher). His very presence defiles.