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Sunday, April 02, 2017

Why Is This Hate Different From All Other Hate? - The New York Times

Hate and bigotry serves a social function similar to religion. It unifies people by a set of shared rituals which separate them from the "other". One days the hate is Mexicans, then Jews, Blacks, Muslims, whatever the manipulators of the anvils of power find utilitarian. Therefore this hate is not so different.

"The various strands of renascent bigotry in Mr. Trump’s America are intertwined, and anti-Semitism is only part of the tapestry. Yet Americans, for good historical reasons, tend to have a particularly heightened sensitivity toward anti-Semitism. All 100 senators signed a letter calling on the Trump administration to take “swift action” against the anti-Semitic bomb threats. There has been no similar political urgency in demanding protection for other harassed minorities.

The president and his associates mix anti-Semitic dog whistles with frank attacks on Muslims, immigrants and refugees. The paradox is that in today’s America, coded anti-Semitism is more of a political taboo than open Islamophobia. We spend a great deal of time and energy parsing the semiotics of Mr. Trump’s role in stoking anti-Jewish sentiment, while Muslims and immigrants can be defamed with impunity. The risk here is that we’ve been distracted by the anti-Semitism controversy from the ways in which other groups are being demonized as Jews once were.

In his definitive 1994 book “Anti-Semitism in America,” Leonard Dinnerstein describes American anti-Semitism reaching a high tide in the early 1940s. The country was traumatized by the Great Depression and apprehensive about war in Europe. Reactionaries imagined themselves squeezed between globalist Jewish bankers above and subversive Jewish refugee hordes below.

The America First Committee, formed to keep the United States out of World War II, was full of bigots and Nazi sympathizers; Mr. Dinnerstein quotes the chairman of the Terre Haute, Ind., chapter saying, “Jews were now in possession of our government.” There were widespread assertions that President Franklin D. Roosevelt was secretly Jewish; anti-Semites insisted his real last name was Rosenfeld.

Demagogues found popular support for their demand to keep Jewish refugees out of the country. Mr. Dinnerstein describes an anti-Semitic speaker warning of “200,000 Communist Jews at the Mexican border waiting to get into this country,” adding that “if they are admitted they will rape every woman and child that is left unprotected.”

"Today, these tropes feel familiar but in a new context. Mr. Trump started his political career by amplifying rumors that President Barack Obama was secretly Muslim. He resurrected the disgraced slogan “America First.” In October, he warned that Hillary Clinton was meeting “in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers.” Mr. Trump called for refugees to be kept out of the country, smearing them as agents of a sinister foreign ideology. Breitbart, the website formerly run by Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, has run a stream of alarmist articles about refugee rapists.

In the Trump administration’s conspiratorial nationalism, avowed anti-Semites hear their overarching narratives reflected back to them, their prejudices tacitly approved. Mr. Trump himself does not appear to harbor personal anti-Jewish animus: He has a beloved Jewish daughter and close Jewish advisers. Yet he and members of his circle have broken long-established social and political norms by mining the anti-Semitic far right for images and arguments.

During the presidential campaign, Michael T. Flynn, who would briefly serve as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, retweeted someone attacking CNN with the words, “Not anymore, Jews, not anymore.” (Mr. Flynn later apologized.) Mr. Trump himself tweeted an image, first circulated online by white supremacists, featuring Hillary Clinton’s face and a Star of David superimposed over a background of $100 bills and the message “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” (Mr. Trump insisted he’d done nothing wrong.) Under Mr. Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart defended online anti-Semitism as subversive good fun and published a column attacking the conservative writer Bill Kristol as a “renegade Jew.”

Why Is This Hate Different From All Other Hate? - The New York Times

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