I have been a journalist since 1973. I spent the bulk of my career at the Los Angeles Times before coming to The Huffington Post in 2011. Before The Times, I toiled at suburban newspapers in New Jersey. With the exception of sports, I can’t think of a subject I haven’t reported on. And actually, now that I think of it, I did cover one sporting event ― a George Foreman fight where I wrote about what women who sat in the front row wore knowing they would get blood and sweat splattered on them.
During all those years as a reporter, it goes without saying that I am hardly a stranger to being called unflattering names by disgruntled readers. But until the presidential election of 2016, my nose was never an issue.
For those who don’t speak code, I am Jewish. Semitic people like me often have prominent noses. The Nazis latched on to this feature of ours and turned the hooked nose into an overt propaganda tool. A German textbook from 1938 taught young students: “The Jewish nose is bent at the tip. It looks like the number 6.”
Bigotry ― whether it be anti-Semitism or another form ― has a simple formula, really. Create caricatures and rely on stereotypes and then make the narrative about us (good) and them (bad). Blame everything on the “them.” Understand that when you dehumanize people, it becomes easier to demonize them. So Jews are dirty. Jews are stingy. Jews are misers. Jews smell. Jews have small rat-like eyes. Jews have big noses. You get the idea.
Which is why when someone responds to something I’ve written with the word “nose,” I sit up and pay attention. And since I’m now seeing this happen fairly regularly from Trump trolls who clearly don’t seem to like my nose very much, I’ve decided to do something more than just ignore them. I am going to call them out in the memory of those who were persecuted in a campaign that began with mocking Jewish noses. I will call these people out, not just for Jew-bashing, but for gay-bashing, immigrant-bashing, race-bashing. Consider this me fulfilling my “never again” promise. I hope you will do the same.
So, as such, let me introduce you to my latest nose-basher ― a 21-year-old man-child, who tweeted this to me on Monday:
The young man lives in PA., according to his Facebook page, where he works in the family business. His dad did not respond to my request for an interview. Too bad; I was interested in hearing his parenting tips. FWIW, I’m going easy on this kid here because, well, he’s a kid and he did send me an apology tweet after I complained publicly. No sense shooting a gnat with a bazooka, and this guy? He’s a gnat.
Here’s what his apology tweet said before he took it down several hours after posting it:
@AnnBrenoff I would like to publicly announce my apology for being childish, I was not being antisemitic, just an ignorant child. I’m sorry.
He also said he did not know I was Jewish. He did not explain why that matters or what he meant when he brought up my nose. But he did say he works with lots of Jewish kids and has “nothing against them.” Good to know, right? “I like Jews,” he added, which sent me running to Google to find out when Trump last said the same thing.
What I found made my nose crinkle. In a court filing, the ex-wife of Trump’s campaign manager and chief strategist, Steve Bannon, said that Bannon had kept their twin daughters out of the Archer School in Brentwood, California because he said there were too many “whiny” Jewish brats there. The president-elect’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., retweeted someone described as the neo-Nazis’ “favorite academic;” and a Trump advisor was accused of discriminating against Jewish employees (and denying the Holocaust).
And it sure doesn’t help that Trump remains largely silent about the torrent of hate that his election and campaign have unleashed. But he does say that he has a Jewish son-in-law, so that must make all this OK. It doesn’t.
As far as me going off on an ignorant kid who has no idea what is appropriate and what isn’t ― I am choosing to be charitable. This time. But kid, if I catch you trolling me again, you will learn another life lesson: Don’t go picking fights with someone whose arms are longer than yours.
That’s what I learned from the George Foreman fight those many years ago. Trust me: The blood that gets shed doesn’t wash out.