Wednesday, May 01, 2019

A Very Jewish Week Roundup

I'm having a very Jewish week.

It started, mostly, with the column I published in Haaretz calling "bullshit" on the claim that the New York Times presents a greater antisemitism threat than contemporary mainstream conservatism.

That led to a completely out-of-the-blue call from none other than ADL chief Jonathan Greenblatt. Like, literally, I was sitting on my couch and the phone rang and it was him. We've never conversed or connected in any other way (I've bent the ear of the San Francisco ADL office more than a few times), and there didn't seem to be any other motive behind the call other than to say he liked the Haaretz piece.

Then today, I had another phone call with a different prominent Jewish public figure -- I won't say who, since the project she was asking my take on isn't yet public, but let's just say that if Greenblatt is part of the "establishment" wing of the Jewish community, this person is more on the "insurgent" side. Somehow, I seem to be bridging that gap -- at least a little bit.

Tomorrow, I have a conference call to discuss my participation on a panel at the Goethe-Institut on resurgent antisemitism and White nationalism. Then Friday, I'm meeting with a student who sought me out to discuss how one researches issues of antisemitism in contemporary academia.

Oh, and Jill and I went to Talmud study for the first time last night.

* * *

Jews are the religious group most likely to view Muslims favorably. And wouldn't you know it -- but those positive sentiments are reflected right back at us -- Muslims also overwhelmingly view Jews favorably!

Very interesting new article in the Yale Law Journal experimentally measures whether people feel free to refuse intrusive search requests. Answer: they don't, which doesn't surprise. What might surprise a little is that even explicitly telling people "you're free to refuse this search" doesn't move the needle much.

Radical settler Rabbis caught on type expressing admiration for Hitler and racism. Nice.

Robert Farley thinks Team Living actually had decent military strategy in the Battle for Winterfell.

Trump pick Stephen Moore might not have the votes to get a Fed seat --  which is weird because, if he's a crank extremist too far gone to even get through this pliant GOP Senate, how did he occupy all these respectable conservative sinecures for all these years? Such a mystery.

Artist behind NYT's antisemitic cartoon denies it's an antisemitic cartoon, says controversy is a product of the "Jewish propaganda machine." Checks out!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Big Media David: We Need To Talk About Right-Wing Antisemitism -- For Real This Time

I'm in Haaretz today, spitting fire on our collective failure to tackle mainstream right-wing antisemitism on the spurious grounds that "everyone knows its bad" (whereas we can obsess endlessly over an antisemitic cartoon in the New York Times because, apparently, people "defend" that). In reality, "not everyone knows" right-wing antisemitism is bad, the right is massive denial about the prevalence and danger of right-wing tropes it regularly deploys at the highest level, and the reason we don't talk about it isn't because it's redundant, it's because we are (in Max Rose's felicitious term) chickenshit.

The editors chose to headline the piece "The New York Times Fuels More anti-Semitism Than Trump and Republicans? That's Bullshit". That wouldn't be a problem, except on Twitter the headline is cut off well before the question mark and it is not redounding to my benefit. So if you only saw it there, and thought "oh God, when did David become a MAGA-apologist?" -- click through the link and breathe a sigh of relief.

Monday, April 29, 2019

TV Timeout

Quick thoughts on some of the television I'm watching right now. Warning -- spoilers ahead for any of these shows:

Game of Thrones

  • The last episode was basically unwatchable. Not because it was bad -- although it wasn't great -- but literally: it was so dark and blurry you basically couldn't see anything.
  • It's rare one says this about Game of Thrones but -- they were too skimpy on the character killing. Pretty much every major character came out alive. The big exceptions -- Theon, Jorah -- were at the end of redemption arcs anyway. There were no "shocking" or even particularly tragic deaths. Jaime, Brienne, or Grey Worm would've worked fine. Maybe GoT has gone soft in its old age.
  • I like Arya killing the Night King. I'd have liked it more if she had directly used some of the shape-shifting assassin skill she'd been developing, rather than sort of jumping out of ... nowhere? How did she get there? Is that supposed to be the assassin skill?
  • While I continue to think this is one of the best shows on television right now, I must admit I'm not enjoying this season quite as much as some of the others. Chuck's plot, in particular, seems to be spinning its wheels a bit. But the Taylor/Axe fight, which I think holds a lot of potential, still for me seems to mostly involve them circling each other and sending out skirmishers. I want a real battle.
  • You know who's due for a plot? Sacker.
  • I also don't like the direction they've taken the Rhodes' sex life. Showtime has often been weirdly good about handling non-normative sexuality in the least likely places (see also: a gender-fluid teenager in "House of Lies"), and I appreciated how it treated BDSM as non-pathological. This season? Definitely pathological. And that's putting aside Chuck's reveal on  national television -- I'm talking about him physically mutilating himself because he "needs" the pain.
  • I do like that they quickly and, I hope, permanently disposed of the Russian oligarch character. One thing I've liked about Billions is that it resists the easy play that rich = utterly amoral such that they'd all just be willing to kill people to get what they want. Yes, they destroy lives via other means, but it is more realistic characterization that they think of what they do as very distinct from violent crime, and willingness to do the one does not translate to the other. The Russian plotline threatened to upset that, and I'm glad it went away.
  • Wendy is a straight-up monster, it turns out. Was she always so, or is this character development? I'm not sure, and I don't think that speaks well of how the arc has charted out. But Mafee sure earned that rant.
  • Speaking of Mafee, I'm worried about him. He's one of the very few "good guys" left on this show, which makes him a prime target for Axe to destroy/Taylor to betray. I don't want to see him get hurt.
  • Above notwithstanding, I absolutely do want to see him in a boxing match with Dollar Bill.
  • Taylor's dad = B+. Axe's new girlfriend = A+. Dollar Bill's "final solution" for the chicken problem = A++++.
American Ninja Warrior Junior
  • Just renewed for Season Two! This was a great show -- the kids were both adorable and talented, and the conceit of the show transitioned well.
  • While I won't say she's destined for a career on television, Laurie Hernandez worked as a sideline reporter. Also, placing Laurie -- who is basically defined by being "small" and "graceful" -- next to a bunch of nine-year-olds who make her look like a lumbering giantess is a never-ending source of visual comedy for me.
  • One point of adjustment: the pacing of the show on a season-wide level. The prelims lasted forever. And then there was no change to the course even in the semifinal or final round. Give those who advance a new challenge!
Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  • I'd say the jump to NBC is a success. There hasn't been a huge shift in tone, though it does seem like perhaps we're getting a bit more fan service than normal (hey -- we earned it for saving the show).
  • Oh, also NBC allows bleeping, which allowed the writers to set-up Santiago's fantastic "This B wants a C in her A" moment.
  • Obviously sad to see Gina go -- but happy that Scully and Hitchcock made the main credits!
Project Runway
  • I have to say, I like Karlie Kloss -- she who, as I've taken to putting it, "married one of the good Kushners" -- more than I thought I would. Like Heidi, she's sooooo pretty, but also seems fun and nice. She's doing a good job. Way to represent team Jew, Karlie!
  • The new judges are forgettable and should just let Nina run things. More surprising is that Christian Siriano isn't popping on screen at all. He's definitely no replacement for Tim Gunn.
  • I am enjoying the budding Hester/Tessa rivalry. I'm on Team Tessa -- I like her clean, sharp looks. Hester sometimes does cool things, but also sometimes seems like a Rainbow Brite doll who got locked in a rave for six years.
  • Surprisingly, the producers have done a decent job keeping the challenges feeling fresh and novel. Good job, producers!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Trump, Trumpism, and Antisemitism

Much like the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, the Poway synagogue shooter claims to not be a fan of Donald Trump because Trump is supposedly too deep in the pocket of the Jews. From this, Trump's defenders argue that it is a slander to tie Trumpism to the shooting or to associate him with any form of antisemitism whatsoever.

While there certainly is direct antisemitism in Donald Trump's behavior -- mostly centered around "globalists", Soros, and "Sheriff's stars", it is true that Trump in his own words is not aggressively antisemitic at the level he is Islamophobic or xenophobic. This, in my view, is almost purely a matter of familial fortune -- the brand of right-wing politics he promotes goes hand-in-glove with antisemitism, and if his daughter didn't happen to be Jewish, I think we'd see far more explicit forms of antisemitic appeals out of Trump.

One implication of that is that Trumpism, if you will -- the political movement of which Trump is an avatar but ultimately only one member -- is a lot more antisemitic than Trump himself is (to take one example: Ann Coulter). And so it is perfectly compatible for people who are in all relevant respects Trumpist, and who inspired by the political movement Trump help usher into the mainstream, to find Trump himself to have sold them out on "the Jewish question". They know what this movement actually stands for, and they know that Trump is holding back on living it out when it comes to the Jews.

The weird analogy I have might well be to Jon Lansman of Momentum. Momentum is an antisemitic movement. Lansman himself is certainly not good on antisemitism, but he has not personally joined in the sort of direct, vicious antisemitic harassment that has characterized the movement he founded. And because he hasn't -- and because he's Jewish -- many backers of Momentum, the movement, detest Lansman, the movement's titular founder. But it would nonetheless be weird to say that because this or that Momentum-esque antisemite publicly avows that they hate Jon Lansman, that therefore Lansman did not help inaugurate a deeply antisemitic movement in the UK. Of course he did.

And of course Trump did here in America. It is basically a historical accident that Trump is not personally more antisemitic than he is (just as it is a historical accident that Momentum happened to have been founded by a Jew). That accident has an effect -- but not as large of one as you might think. Ultimately, Trumpism is a movement that has done more than anything else to mainstream antisemitic violence as a feature of American Jewish life. The types of conspiracies and tropes and anti-"globalist" paranoia that Trump helps stoke -- aided by Republican allies like Steve King and Mo Brooks and Kevin McCarthy -- maybe doesn't go far enough for antisemitic extremists' tastes. But it definitely helps create the environment where they thrive.

Whether they like Trump or not, they're Trumpists. And Trump should be held squarely responsible for the threats he's created.