Saturday, June 24, 2023

Things People Blame the Jews For, Volume LXVI: The Wagner Coup

Seemingly as soon as it began, the "Wagner Coup" in Russia has come to an end. Shortly after taking control of the city of Rostov-on-Don and turning towards Moscow, Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin announced he was backing down in a deal brokered by Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko. (Prigozhin's safe transfer to Belarus has reportedly been "guaranteed" by Putin. Good luck with that).

But as brief as it was, things move quickly in the fast-paced ecosystem of the antisemitic conspiracy theory world (maybe why we had a two-fer today!). So in the short window when Wagner was on the march, we got some oh-so-typical content from sources close to the Kremlin:

The head of Russia's state-run television network RT said Saturday there was "no doubt" that the ongoing uprising by the Wagner mercenary group against the Kremlin was orchestrated by the secret services of the US, Britain and "perhaps one Mideastern country," a clear reference to Israel. 

RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan is notorious for trafficking in baseless conspiracies and spreading false information at the behest of the Kremlin.

The "irony" is that Israel, of course, has been among the more tepid supporters of Ukraine compared to most of the western world, and thus seems quite unlikely to wade into the fray by supporting regime change in Russia. But plausibility was never the antisemite's strong suit. 

Things People Blame the Jews For, Volume LXV: The Titanic (Again)

This series has, perhaps unsurprisingly, already covered the Titanic (twice). But given the recent news, it's perhaps equally unsurprising that this conspiracy has gained new life. Now, we can blame the Jews for sinking the Titan (to prevent people from learning that the Jews sunk the Titanic, naturally).

Far-right conspiracy theorist Stew Peters is pushing a conspiracy theory that the OceanGate submarine was purposely sunk “to keep people from visiting the Titanic wreckage” because doing so would supposedly reveal that the Titanic “was sunk by a newly created” Rothschilds-connected Federal Reserve and not an iceberg. Numerous Republican politicians and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. have appeared on Peters’ program.  

Peters is a white nationalist who frequently encourages violence against his perceived enemies. He has pushed a multitude of conspiracy theories, including those related to QAnon, COVID-19, Pizzagate, flat Earth, the moon landing, and the Uvalde and Sandy Hook mass shootings. 

Despite his toxic history, numerous politicians have appeared on his program, including Reps. Paul Gosar, Bob Good, Pete Sessions, and Andy Biggs; and Kennedy. 

It's always the people you most suspect. And you just know that any list which can be summarized as "numerous Republican politicians and Robert F. Kennedy Jr." is going to be for something amazing.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Woke Up This Morning

Over the past few days, there was an interesting series of developments in the Jewish communal world involving a video that lambasted so-called "woke antisemitism"

The video was put out by a group called the "Combat Antisemitism Movement", a somewhat opaque but sprawling organization that counts a wide number of Jewish communal organizations as "partners" (though what level of connection constitutes a "partner" is obscure). It is different from typical fare attacking left antisemitism in that it doesn't primarily focus on anti-Zionist activity, but rather claims -- in a manner reminiscent of David Bernstein and his JILV* -- that various "woke" concepts, like the idea of systematic oppression, are major sources of contemporary antisemitism. It even strikingly takes some prominent far-right incidents of antisemitism (e.g., claims by the Goyim Defense League that "Kanye is Right", a White supremacist-created flyer arguing that "Ending white privilege starts with ending Jewish privilege") and tries to shift blame for them onto left-wing actors.

The video generated backlash. That's not surprising. What is surprising is the scope of it. Several major centrist Jewish players, including the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, announced they were withdrawing from CAM in response to the video. CAM, for its part, has taken the video offline "temporarily" due to "concerns raised by some of our partners, and with the aim of fostering a broad consensus."

That, to me, is noteworthy. It was not that long ago when hippie-punching was essentially a free activity in mainline Jewish institutions. You'd never see them backing off based on concerns that they were being too hostile to their left flank. Groups like CAM would positively revel in liberal tears. Backlash would be ignored, if not taken as proof of some sort of bizarre "evenhandedness", where Jewish groups accounted for the fact that most Jews were liberal by bending over backwards to show they could mock liberals with the best of them.

The response here suggests that things may be changing. As I wrote in Haaretz last week, we're in the unfamiliar situation of the Jewish conversation on antisemitism largely being directed by an alliance of the Jewish center and Jewish left, as opposed to the Jewish center and Jewish right. Certain old presumptions of what was and wasn't permissible, that relied on outdated notions of who the key constituencies were, are no longer present. Groups like CAM, who no doubt assumed that this sort of video would have met with the usual reception -- fulsome praise from the right, tacit acceptance from the center, and easily-ignored criticism from the left -- are now forced to reckon with a new reality. That is a very welcome thing to see.

* Bernstein, who authored a book titled "Woke Antisemitism", said that he had seen an initial script for the video but characterized the final product as something that "could have been stronger and more nuanced." Much of the video has more than coincidental echoes of Bernstein's argument -- including the choice to pin the "Jewish privilege" flyer on the left instead of the right.

Comparative Enrollment in College-Level Holocaust vs. Slavery Classes

In an otherwise unrelated post recounting the life of a third-rate North Carolina Senator, Erik Loomis wrote something that jumped out at me:

So the U.S. has plenty of reason to feel shame about its actions or lack thereof in caring about the impending Holocaust, not that the college students who sign up for Holocaust courses by the hundreds but won’t touch slavery or Native American courses want to hear about their own nation’s complicity.

Is that last part -- suggesting that current college students "sign up for Holocaust courses by the hundreds", in comparison to presumably thinner enrollments in classes on slavery or Native American history -- true? Is it backed by any data regarding comparative enrollment levels across those sorts of classes?

Intuitively, it seems wrong to me. But I don't have any data either, so my intuition is just that. If others have harder numbers they could share, I'd be appreciative.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

While I'm Here....

I happen to be in Virginia right now, on my way to give a talk at UVA. But I completely forgot that today was Virginia's state legislative primary election day.

I haven't really been following the races too closely (with the minor exception of this post), but so far the results seem positive. On the Democratic side, Sen.  Joseph D. Morrissey, one of those random conservative anti-abortion Democrats who'd managed to hold onto his blue district forever despite constantly seeming on the verge of defecting to the GOP was finally ousted in landslide by Lashrecse Aird. Also, Del. Suhas Subramanyam (D) handily won the nomination for an open state senate seat against former delegate Ibraheem S. Samirah, who had a truly ugly relationship with the Jewish community in his brief time in office.

Across the aisle, at least two open insurrectionists lost in GOP primaries. Far-right Senator Amanda F. Chase was ousted by more traditional establishment-y foe Glen Sturtevant. And fellow Jan. 6er Del. David LaRock lost his bid for a promotion, placing second in an eight-way primary for state senate.

Others who know more than me can cheer and/or lament other developments. But on the whole, this seems pretty good to me!