Saturday, March 05, 2011

When journalists dabble in the dark arts

A recent article in the Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/03/antisemitism-hatred-wont-go-away) decried the resurgence of anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, the journalist felt compelled to use hoary propaganda techniques. Was it to no avail that the philosopher had declared that a poor defense of the truth is detrimental to it? Countering anti-Semitism in the manner of this journalist does not promote liberty and tolerance.
  • In the space of a few days, a range of assorted eminences have dropped their guard and given voice to the Jew-hating demons in their heads.

This is rather emotional language and suggests that the journalist does not particularly care for academic distance from the subject at hand. Does the journalist’s world-view regard humans beings controlled by angels and demons? Does the journalist recommend the cultivation of exorcism studies? Is the journalist assuming a universal belief in some cosmos where the journalist’s God or Gods hold court with a range of angels, demons and other other-worldy beings?

Notice also the equating of “anti-Semitism” with “Jew-hating”. Let us look at the Oxford English Dictionary (http://oxforddictionaries.com/view/entry/m_en_gb0754270) for the meaning of the word Semite.

Semite, noun, a member of any of the peoples who speak or spoke a Semitic language, including in particular the Jews and Arabs.

So, the word Semite does not confine itself to the Jews. The term ant-Semite (defined by the OED to be "hostility to or prejudice against Jews") in the context of this article may and should therefore be replaced by anti-Judaism. This is not a particularly novel idea, as even casual Internet searches will reveal. However, it is an important one, for now we are beyond one level of complexity and countering anything that supposedly counters anti-Semitism appears to be in poor taste.
  • The latest subscriber to that centuries-old canard may turn out to be Julian Assange......
  • Assange later issued a denial.....
So where does that leave us? Did Assange or did he not? Our journalist does not appear to try to find out the truth. He is content to let others do the accusing for him (note the “may” in the suggestion above) and happy at his own sense of fairness for he also mentions that the accused did deny it. But fairness demands more. It demands that the journalist put the expense-account to good use and investigate what happened. If the journalist does not bother doing that, then we might anticipate the next Guardian article saying, “The Sherriff of Nottingham might have encouraged the burning alive of Jews last Friday, saying that they really finally need to pay for the death of Our Lord. The Sheriff’s office, however, denies that any mention of Jew-burning took place and also holds that it does not advance any religious views.” For this sort of juvenile gossip-mongering, the expense-account may be dispensed with.

  • So far only John Galliano has paid with his job, the "transgressive" designer dropped by fashion house Dior after delivering a drunken rant in a Paris bar to two women he took to be Jews: "I love Hitler," he began.
The “only” bit above appears to suggest that the journalist believes it to be meet and right that Mr. Galliano has lost his job. But also of interest is the fact that it was a “drunken rant”. What is the way forward for us as a society, according to the journalist? That all bars ought to have video cameras where we might ensure that everything people say under the influence of drink be recorded, posted on the Internet and examined by employers the next day to see whether there are any grounds for dismissal. If one insults one’s boss, for instance? Or suggests that one wouldn’t mind meeting Jones from Accounting in a dark alley, after having had a couple of pints of real ale? Perhaps job interviews ought to include binge drinking sessions where the truth comes out, in vino veritas and all that sort of thing?

But more worrying about the “only JG has paid with his job” and the previous “a range of assorted eminences have dropped their guard” is that the journalist appears to sport a mindset reminiscent of the Roman Church during the Inquisition – that we are all sinners, that there must be more sinners who are hunted out and burnt at the stake, that many sinners are continuously on the guard in order not to be detected by those noble ones chosen to hunt out sinners, but they can’t possibly keep up their guard all the time, sooner or later they must fall.

  • ….according to Mohammad Aliabadi, the head of Iran's National Olympic Committee who complained this week that the jagged-shaped logo for London 2012 clearly spells the word "Zion". That, the Iranian complained, was "a very revolting act".
Let us examine the double-quote device. The journalist uses a link (http://jta.org/news/article/2011/02/28/2743126/iran-protests-olympic-logo) to justify putting “a very revolting act” in double-quotes. This is how it should be, for it is a direct quote. However, the journalist also suggests that the “Iranian” claims that the logo “clearly” spells the word “Zion”. The link provided by our journalist (see above) does not have the Iranian do any such thing. “Clearly” clearly suggests that the Iranian is a man who is seeing things where there are none. But this is an old trick. Make your opponent appear ridiculous by false attribution, and the battle is half-won. Interesting, also, that the journalist chooses for his link a website calling itself “The Global News Service of the Jewish People”. Just a little ironic in an article decrying the allegations that the world media is controlled by the Jews.

  • If most people have so far failed to see "Zion" surreptitiously contained inside the graphic, well that, Aliabadi would surely say, only goes to prove the dark genius of the Jews – able to conceal their cunning ways when it suits them.
Now the journalist claims to read the mind and thinking of the “Iranian”, and shows it to be that of a fourteen-year old. This is how we want intellectual debate to be carried out. “Dark genius of the Jews” – this is the only bit in this sorry example of journalism that elicited a chuckle.

  • Or perhaps, as the US journalist Jeffrey Goldberg blogged, the Iranians are wrong and the logo secretly spells out: "Mark Spitz is Jewish, and Jason Lezak is Too, So Go Drown Yourselves in the Caspian Sea."
This appears to be an endorsement by the journalist of a rather murderous, indeed, genocidal, sentiment. Or do we let the journalist and Mr. Goldberg off the hook, for they are attempting to be humourous? Why is that, though? Why do we automatically assume that Mr. Goldberg is being witty but Iranian sport-officialdom is not? Maybe they’re sitting around having a laugh. Or crying at being possibly forced to drown themselves and their children at gunpoint. Can anti-Semitic tirades about genocide be excused on the grounds of humour? Incidentally, the “US journalist” referred to refers to himself as being Jewish, in the same article. Possibly just a coincidence, of course. Maybe he even is of Iranian extraction, given the universe’s love of coincidences.

  • Puppets, snakes, masters of the global chessboard – it's a palette of imagery any Nazi propagandist would instantly recognise.
How do we test this assertion? Snakes have been used in other cultures as symbols, surely? Ditto for puppets, ditto for forces in the background. And, to make matters interesting, Nietzsche, in Also Sprach Zarathustra, claims the snake for a positive symbol. Can it be that the propaganda here consists in the use of the term “Nazi”? Associate your opponent’s devices with the Nazi movement and you weaken your opponent’s position. If one is being intellectually rigorous, then one would demonstrate how these symbols were a) used by the Nazis and b) used exclusively by the Nazis. The journalist does not bother.
  • One is the claim that Jews brand any and all criticism of Israel as antisemitic; another is the claim that Jews "cry antisemitism" in order to silence opposition to Israel. These cliches – which are belied by the sheer volume of criticism of Israel by Israelis and Jews themselves, let alone by everyone else
These might be clich├ęs, and these might be utterly false but the journalist’s reasoning here is not logical and does not hold water. Jews (some of them) might still “cry anti-Semitism” even if the volume of criticism of Israel by (some) Israelis (includes some non-Jews, by the way) and (some) Jews is high (or low). Does no one read these articles before they are published? Not just for spelling mistakes but for basic flaws in reasoning.
  • What most Jews object to is not, in fact, criticism of Israel itself, but when that criticism comes wrapped in the language or imagery of Jew-hatred.
Imagery of Jew-hatred is objectionable, certainly. However, I do not think that that makes the other bit, that most Jews (and a high percentage of Jews are Israeli; and many others, except for some orthodox ones, tend not to be against Israel) do not object to criticism of Israel, credible. Possible, of course, but the journalist does not tell us who he knows this. And it would make “most” Jews seem to be rational and civilized; members of the club, one of us, tolerant, steeped in the democratic tradition – and the other stereotypes the journalist appears to wish to cultivate.
  • Similarly, Jews are unnerved when they read learned essays by foreign policy experts alleging the domination of US affairs by the "Zionist lobby" – seeing in such arguments a veiled, upmarket form of the perennial conspiracy theory.
Well, which it is then? Are they essays really learned? Are the writers really experts? Because if they are, then either there is a conspiracy to malign the Jews (can we call it the Jewish Conspiracy?) or the writers are not intelligent, learned, academically sound etc. etc..
  • Viewed like this, Assange's remarks don't look so distant from Oliver Stone's assertion last year that there is "Jewish domination of the media", to say nothing of Richard Dawkins's breezy statement that "the Jewish lobby . . . more or less monopolise American foreign policy".
This is contemptible. The journalist had earlier mentioned that Assange had denied his having uttered the anti-Semitic remarks. But now the journalist draws upon them as if they were confirmed fact. Actually, perhaps because it is such a blatant prevarication, it is not, after all, contemptible. The journalist is merely checking if his readers are on their toes.

Interesting use of the word “breezy”, to describe Mr. Dawkin’s statement. What does it mean? The OED suggests that the secondary meaning of “appearing relaxed, informal” is meant here. So because it was “breezy” (in the journalist’s opinion), we can sort of ignore that it was a Professor at Oxford (in 2007, which is when the statement was made, according to the linked article) and a Fellow of the Royal Society (founded in 1660) who made the statement.

Notice also that the journalist does not say anything about whether or not there is a Jewish domination of the media. Something like, “Mr. Stone said that there is a Jewish domination of the media, but you see, that’s not quite correct, for the media (where?) is composed of these groups, and the main shareholders are non-Jewish.”. All the journalist does is be critical of Mr. Stone et al for expressing an opinion, without saying anything about the veracity of the opinion, which, by no means, is fantastical. It may be utterly, utterly, wrong, but it can be utterly, utterly right.
  • …..immediately after the revelations of the Holocaust confirmed the murderous place where antisemitic discourse could lead.
This is a gross oversimplification. “Anti-Semitic discourse” by itself did not lead to the Holocaust. What about theories of pure race, the strong man, nationalism, the terrorism on the streets which stifled intellectual debate, the reparations in the aftermath of WW1, the loss of political freedoms etc. etc.? And people other than Semites were murdered by the Nazis in the same period. Let us not forget that tragedy, merely because they were not Semites.
  • .......still crime novels with the conniving Jew as the arch-villain.
How do we want our arch-villains (in our crime novels) to be? Not to connive? Or not to be Jews? Can they be Chinese? Or Muslims? Is that all right? Or is the only decent thing for them to be is European aristocracy, born in Boston, preferably adhering to the Church of Rome?

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