Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Zionists see "Hatred" Even Amongst Liberals!

Ridiculous "Study" Supposedly Finds Widespread Anti-Semitism on Progressive Websites

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Posted on December 21, 2009, Printed on December 22, 2009
http://www.alternet.org/bloggers/www.alternet.org/144724/

Given how ubiquitous unsubstantiated charges of anti-Semitism have become in the debate over the Middle East conflict, I’m tempted to ignore the Institute for Global Jewish Affairs’ recent “report” supposedly exposing the liberal blogosphere as a teaming hotbed of raw Jew-hatred.

It's easy to dismiss. It may dress itself as some sort of empirical research project, but the "study" is transparently devoid of any informational value, intellectually bankrupt and clearly the product of working backwards from a conclusion arrived at on ideological grounds.

But I won't ignore it, because the strategic decision to pin one's political opponents with charges of anti-Semitism only dilutes the power of that word. Then, like the boy who cried wolf, when real anti-Semitism rears its decidedly ugly head the word loses its all-important power to shame. I'm Jewish, and I don't fear sharp-elbowed criticism of Israeli policy on websites, so it's not in my interest to allow it to be conflated with true anti-Semitism, which is absolutely no joke.

The gist:

Progressive blogs and news sites in the United States are a new field where Jew-hatred, in both its classic and anti-Israeli forms, manifests itself. This incitement is hardly monitored, as many of the most popular blogs are only a few years old and it seems counterintuitive that such anti-Semitic expressions would be found in this political milieu. Monitoring the media for anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli bigotry has so far almost exclusively consisted of reading the major American newspapers, magazines, and journals and attending to the three major news networks, as well as radio broadcasts. However, the huge amount of content in the political blogosphere makes such monitoring - which is increasingly necessary - much more difficult to achieve with any degree of thoroughness.

And they're not going to begin applying any thoroughness here. Ultimately, what the researchers actually found will come as a surprise to few readers: people tend to be mean on the internet.
That is undeniably true. They're mean, cantankerous, undignified, unrestrained and hyperbolic (obviously I don't mean you kids, who are always perfectly dignified). And that's true whatever the subject. For example, in addition to politics, I fancy baseball, and when Red Sox and Yankees fans go at it on the fan websites, it's as fierce as a member of Hamas debating an Israeli settler.

Progressive bloggers (and blog readers, which I'll get to in a moment) can offer some uncomfortable criticism. If one wants to marginalize them as fringe anti-Semites, it's easy enough to find a few saying mean things about their opponents on this issue, as one could with any other. Like baseball. Then if one works, say, at the Institute for Global Jewish Affairs, one merely extrapolates some larger, darker message about modern liberalism from that typically unconstrained rhetoric. It becomes more proof -- dubious, but eagerly accepted in some quarters -- of the rise of "new anti-Semitism" on the left.

Having established a point of agreement -- people are mean on the internet -- consider the flimsiness of the evidence the authors marshal in support of their larger thesis, at least when their ominous editorial flourishes are stripped away.


The report uses just three prominent blogs -- Daily Kos, Salon, and the Huffington Post -- as a sample supposedly representing the entire liberal online world. But it doesn't really use those blogs -- not a single front-page author of Daily Kos is cited. And only a single writer, Glenn Greenwald, represents Salon. In fact, Greenwald is the only blogger in the entire report whose name I've heard, and I've been reading and writing blogs for years.

There's certainly been no effort to categorize and qualify all the posts on these blogs in any empirical fashion -- the authors simply offer selective quotes showing that some people are mean on the internet when discussing Israel and Palestine. And, again, that's undeniably true.

The "researchers" used two profoundly stupid "methodologies" to obtain their results. Their worst crime was extensive "nut-picking," the intellectually-dishonest practice of selecting crazy comments left on a blog or news site by anonymous readers and attributing them to the site's authors.

They also took legitimate, if sharp, criticism of either Israeli actions, U.S. policy in the Middle East or right-wing Jewish commentary written by liberal bloggers, excerpted them out of context and conflated the little quotes with various traditional anti-Semitic narratives.

The clearest example of the latter tact is this, in reference to Glenn Greenwald:

Greenwald writes frequently about Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He often focuses on how the conflict plays itself out in American politics, and he makes claims - associated recently with Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer - about the power of the Israel lobby in this political debate.

This is how Walt and Mearsheimer were smeared. They never suggested that Jews played some dark role behind the scenes -- never accused Jewish Bankers of running the world. They're old-school foreign policy realists, and they analyzed the effects of the Israel lobby on U.S. foreign policy. The Israel lobby, while highly effective, is no different than the Cuban lobby or the Armenian lobby -- groups with a powerful affinity for a foreign country always hold disproportionate sway over policy towards that state. And the authors are very clear -- Greenwald is too -- that the Israel lobby is not Jewish. Its influence would not be so great if not for conservative Christian Zionists like John Hagee.

Then they note -- and this is really a disgusting smear -- that David Duke approvingly linked to a post by Glenn Greenwald. A more obvious example of frivolous guilt-by-associatio
n would be hard to find.

Then:
Although, seemingly, such charges of the corrosive influence of "Jewish money" and insufficient American Jewish loyalty to the United States are typical of right-wing extremism and classic anti-Semitism, Greenwald has a liberal affiliation.

More evidence that Greenwald, himself a Jew, is of the "self-loathing" variety: he's harsh on right-wing pundits who happen to be Jewish.

Also of note are Greenwald's extreme accusations against well-known Jewish pro-Israeli commentators, using almost demonizing terminology. In one post he accuses Michael Goldfarb of The Weekly Standard and Martin Peretz of The New Republic of "psychopathic derangement" over what he characterizes as their insensitivity toward civilian deaths. He goes on to impute to them "sociopathic indifference," and says these are the same attributes as terrorists possess. Goldfarb and Peretz, he says further, seem to get a "blood-pumping excitement" from the suffering of the weakest members of society.

Let me second Greenwald on that description of Goldfarb and Peretz -- fits what they advocate to a T.

The authors make quite a bit of hay over the fact that people use Nazi imagery to criticize Israel. Let's set aside the obvious hypocrisy -- defenders of the status quo (I won't call them "pro-Israel") invoke Holocaust imagery constantly in advocating their positions; apparently that's only legitimate when some do it.

More to the point is Godwin's law: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1." In other words, Nazi comparisons are a regrettable part of our political discourse, whatever the topic.

Jonah Goldberg wrote Liberal Fascism. It's popular in some circles on the right to compare Obama to Hitler. Critics of abortion liken it to Hitler's eugenics program. Saddam Hussein was compared to Hitler. So, yes, we can all agree people should take more care throwing those analogies around in regard to Israel, but the idea that it is evidence of anti-Semitism is ridiculous as long as everyone's going around comparing everything they don't like to Nazi Germany.

Daily Kos is a diary site -- there's a small stable of writers who work for Kos and contribute to the front page. But anyone can publish a diary, and some on Kos have been harsh in their criticism of Israel. Again, there are no writers affiliated with the blog cited -- the evidence is simply that some of these diaries, left by anonymous users, contain what we might all agree is over-the-top attacks on Israel.

The only other piece of evidence offered is that a single, unknown Jewish diarist decided that Kos was a hot-bed of anti-Semitism and stopped posting there.

The authors also criticize Kos for not deleting diaries that they find offensive:

Apparently, those in charge of this progressive [sic] do not regard such comparisons between Israeli Jews and Nazis, or explicitly anti-Semitic descriptions of Jews and Israel as demonic forces seeking the destruction of the world, as either hateful or sufficiently inflammatory to be removed from the site.

There's an interesting irony here. Earlier, the study attacked Greenwald for holding that there's a "Jewish community that uses intimidation and smear tactics to stifle debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Greenwald never said that, of course, because he knows those defending the status quo don't represent "the Jewish community" at large. But after making the claim, the Institute for Global Jewish Affairs issue a report accusing a huge community with thousands of contributors of anti-Semitism based on some inflammatory rhetoric from a few diarists. That's called "stifling debate."

The evidence against HuffPo? Again, mean commenters, and some bloggers whose criticism of Israel were deemed beyond the pale by the authors. That's it.

It's a slanderous report, and just to bring home the point of how dangerous it is to minimize real anti-Semitism by bitching about mean commenters on websites: I'm on various list-servs with progressives who write about Israel and Palestine -- most of them Jewish -- and when the report was issued our reaction was: 'what do you have to do to get on this list -- why weren't we included?'

When you have progressive Jewish writers looking at charges of anti-Semitism as a badge of courage, it's time to re-think your tactics.

ADDED: One of the Kos diarists mentioned in the report adds his $.02 in the comments. Pertinent point:

It is Daily Kos policy to generally avoid deleting diaries, now matter how offensive they are and even after the diarist has been banned.

Thus, for example, the author of this diary insisting that "Obama is White" was promptly banned for being a troll -- but the diary was not deleted. That's not because the Daily Kos admins support the view that "Obama is White", it's because that's how Daily Kos's system of community moderation works. Offensive diaries and comments are not deleted: rather, offensive comments are 'hide rated' by other members and thereby become visible only to 'trusted users' of the site, while offensive diaries have their "Tip Jars" hide rated and, if necessary, the diarist is banned from the site.

Now, one can agree or disagree with this policy, but the point is that it is not applied specifically to antisemitic diaries. It is a general policy not to delete diaries for being offensive. Thus, Levick's attempts to insinuate from the continued existence of antisemitic diaries on Daily Kos that Markos etc. support antisemitism is totally baseless.

I should add that [the study's author] would have been able to discover all this instantly if he'd have just bothered to ask one of the Daily Kos admins before writing his "report".

I also cleaned up some typos after publication.


© 2009 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/bloggers/www.alternet.org/144724/

1 comments:

Moses Mordechai Levy said...

Oy vey. But why would the Socialists turn upon us poor Jews? Have we created a politically correct monster we cannot any longer? Ay gevalt! My life already! This after the horrible Nazis stole the sign at Aushwitz!!


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