Monday, June 18, 2012

Atzmon-esque Islamophobia

Gilad Atzmon is a fringe anti-Semitic thinker, who spends much of his time savaging Jews for alleged schemes of world-domination and racist parochialism. For the most part, he owns this identity (calling himself, among other things, a "proud self-hating Jew"), but occasionally he tries to kick up some dust around it. One way he does this is by saying that when he attacks "Jewishness", he isn't referring to all Jews per se but rather a style of thinking or behavior that is wrong or immoral, which may be done by Jews or non-Jews (so, for example, he might say George W. Bush is behaving Jewishly). It's not a good faith argument (Atzmon's argument is more or less far-right hyper-colorblindness and his definition of "Jewishness" is anyone who maintains any sort of group identity. But he doesn't apply this "standard" universally, only to persons he dislikes), but even taken on its face it'd still be anti-Semitic -- using "Jew" as a pejorative is inherently hostile to that group "even if" one means to encompass non-Jews under its ambit (compare calling someone a "Jew" because they're allegedly cheap).

It's no shock to anyone that Robert Spencer is a racist bigot against Muslims. But his latest column might as well be taken from the Gilad Atzmon playbook, asking whether New York mayor Michael Bloomberg "is secretly a Muslim". Now, Spencer agrees that obviously Bloomberg isn't literally a Muslim. But, he says, by taking authoritarian actions (Spencer is referring to the big soda ban, rather than something like, I don't know, barring minority religious practices), he's basically "acting" Muslim. "Muslim" is a referent not to Muslims, necessarily, but to a class of behavior that Spencer finds distasteful (which he imputes to the vast majority of all Muslims but also to basically anyone else he disagrees with). That behavior is then transmuted into a sort of totalitarian impulse that desires to squelch liberty and dominate the world. So it's basically Gilad Atzmon with a new label. He can't even distinguish himself based on target profile -- after all, Spencer's targeting Jews too (who -- though probably not supporting soda bans -- tend towards the sort of liberalism that Spencer has painted a target over).

This isn't really all that surprising -- bromides about haters being haters aside, polling indicates that the best predictor of anti-Muslim sentiment is anti-Jewish sentiment. Spencer is just another practitioner of far-right hatred that, while casting itself as Islamophobic, really has its sights on essentially any minority group.


PG said...

Jews too (who -- though probably not supporting soda bans

While my sample is admittedly small, thus far I haven't talked to anyone Jewish who is opposed to regulating the size of container in which sugary drinks are sold. The FTC is doing a similar thing with Four Loko (requiring that it be sold either in resealable containers or in an actual single serving size when in a nonresealable container), which is surely far less intrusive than an outright ban. But maybe the FTC is Muslim too.

David Schraub said...

Well, the unitary executive holds that all federal agencies are just arms of the President. And President Obama is a Muslim. Ergo....

(Also, hi! I'm Jewish and I oppose the ban on large soda drinks!)

PG said...

Why do you oppose it?

David Schraub said...

Strikes me as overreach and culturally elitist at the same time.

PG said...

It's overreach to regulate packaging?

What I find most fascinating in the debate is the tendency to refer to Bloomberg's proposal as a "soda ban." Banning anything that can be consumed in moderation without ill effects is generally overreach. Regulating how it is sold -- its advertising, packaging, etc. -- strikes me as well within the appropriate powers of government, from municipal to federal. Requiring non-resealable containers to hold only single-serving size portions is reasonable for anything that's nutritionally "junk," whether alcohol or soda.

The charge of cultural elitism -- about Bloomberg's proposal, and similarly regarding reactions to BK's bacon sundae -- is not intuitive for me. It seems more like an economic paternalism: a concern that if things that are bad for us are too cheap, we will consume more of them than is healthy for us. People buy the super-sized sodas because they're sold as a bargain: two or three servings worth for only pennies more than a single serving. If you have to pay the same amount for an additional serving that you paid for the first serving, you're less likely to buy it and thus less likely to consume as much soda.

What the Burger King writer seems to have ignored is that even someone on an upper middle class/ lower upper class income can't afford to eat at fancy Brooklyn pork havens every night. You can eat a 2000 calorie meal at French Laundry, but even most of the top 10% can financially afford to do so only a few times a year. So there's a good reason why all of us, including the economic elite (presumably having significant overlap with the cultural elite), have an interest in cheap food's being relatively healthy.

And as Phoebe has been noting, even the elite don't always eat all that fancily.

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