Tuesday, August 04, 2015

How Many Angels Can One Pinhead Support?

Conspiracy theories are a funny thing. They often start with a small mistake -- an implausible inference elevated to obvious truth, an unremarkable coincidence elevated to a dastardly plot, or just a simple mistake of fact -- and then build elaborate structures of belief upon that basic, but flawed, foundation. Done long enough, the core mistake can be buried under so much debris that it can be difficult to suss out again. But for those who were there from the beginning, it is an amazing thing to watch one tiny miscomprehension spiral into so much more.

A few weeks ago, I remarked on Lee Smith's astounding attempt to convert boilerplate rhetoric by the President against "Washington lobbyists" into an "anti-Semitic dogwhistle" regarding the Iran deal. Smith provided no reason why such generic, and commonplace, language should in this case be read as a sly attack on Jews, and I spotted none in my own analysis. The week following on Facebook, I tackled Smith's next layering of the charge. This time, in addition to bizarrely asserting that the release of Jonathan Pollard was an attempt to tar Jews with "dual loyalty" accusations, he misquoted Secretary of State John Kerry as saying Israel would be "to blame" for the failure of the Iran deal, when in reality he said Israel would be "blamed" for it. While I understand that grammar can be difficult, this is not a small distinction given that the former is dubious while the latter is unquestionably true to anyone who understands how anti-Semitism and Israel interact in international political discourse. But from the initial misplaced inference we now have a pattern for Smith, a pattern so obvious only a blind sheep could miss it.

And so we get to this week's entry, which contends that Obama is targeting three Jewish Democratic Senators -- Ben Cardin of Maryland, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Chuck Schumer of New York -- with "dual loyalty" accusations if they break with the administration on this issue. What's his evidence? A New York Times editorial entitled "Republican Hypocrisy on Iran" that does not ever refer to any of the three putative targets. This is a masterstroke of the genre: the proof that (a) the Obama administration is (b) targeting these three Jewish Senators is a column (a) not authored by the Obama administration that (b) doesn't even allude to the three Senators. Sprinkle in some unsupported talk of an Obama-backed primary challenge to any defectors, and the hysterical assertion that generic urgings that politicians evaluate the deal on its merits rather than be swayed by lobbyists (that word again!) is "'Jew-baiting' of the sort that one might associate with Father Coughlin back in the 1930s," and you've got a column worthy of a 9/11 troofer.

And yet no doubt for Smith each layer, enforces the others, until the whole thing carries an aura of invulnerability unbreachable by simply sniping at this or that element. Isn't it odd that the President would resort to anti-Semitic rhetoric in pursuit of a policy most Jews support? Not odd, says Smith, just even more "perverse". Is it weird that a President supposedly so hostile to Jewish influence would engage so directly with the Jewish community on this issue? Nay, it is merely so he can elevate his "good Jews" (which, to reiterate, is apparently "most of us"). From such tiny scraps such grand conclusions drawn. It's awe-inspiring, in its way. But it's not serious political analysis.

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